Bug Jokes

Living on Impulse
Hardcover | ISBN 978-0-525-42137-5 | Dutton Books | August 2009
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Part One

I have a mad impulse to smash something… to commit outrages.
-Herman Hesse

In early April, Mia hits the department store downtown on the Commons. It’s a school day. Lunch hour. Going round the revolving door she gets that feeling—an energy passes through her, like an electrical charge. She likes it. She wants to close her eyes, just spin and go dizzy inside the carousel of glass. Her choices spinning round her.

To steal or not to steal. Let the door decide. If she lands inside she’ll take what she came for. If she’s left on the pavement outside she’d call it all off. Today, she only goes around once, because as soon as she sees the marble floor and cool glass counters, it’s as if the polished shine of the place beckons her in.

She never goes straight to the target. Control is key. Taking her usual route, Mia dabbles in cosmetics and buys a peach colored lipgloss with cash. She ponders a display of gold and silver earrings, lifts a pair of hoops to her ears, vetoes them with a glance and moves on. She’s careful not to rush. Rushed is nervous. Deeper in she faces a sea of denim. Racks of stonewashed, diesel grungy, incredibly expensive and daringly low-waisted jeans tempt her. She has a dozen pairs at home. She casually fits herself into a cropped jacket, reads the price tag as if she wants it, then sheds it off her shoulders like a skin she no longer needs and places it back on the hanger. She’s a shopper with some time, just looking. It’s all fine.

The shoes wait on the second floor. She steps onto the escalator. There’s that charge again, like a buzzing zap. The heat is all in her face. She checks herself in the wall of mirrors as she rides up, relieved it doesn’t show.

From the landing she can see what she came for. Now she must count her steps to slow down. One Mississippi and two…She counts the people in the shoe department…three working the floor and a fourth at the cash register. Five, six, seven women shopping. Getting closer, she sees one older lady who has several open boxes at her feet. She’s holding a fluffy white dog that looks like it just came from the groomer.

Everyone shops at lunch. That’s what makes it safer. That’s why it’s a green light. That’s why she cut out of school to be here now and why, if she chooses quickly she’ll be able to get back in time for her next class.

She hunts now, eyes eagle sharp. There are sandals for a new pedicure, for impressing a first date on a hot night, for lounging by the hotel pool, for becoming someone she is not but could be—jeweled flipflops and wedges and pointy slingbacks. But she’s hoping for something extra-special. Today, she’s looking for the wear-them-on-your-sixteenth-birthday pair. Shoes that say, “Watch out world. Mia Morrow is here.” She has no idea what that might look like.

And then, from the corner of her eye she spots silver leather straps, spaghetti-thin, crisscrossing a bleached wooden platform.

Go slow.

So slowly now, she walks over and picks up the shoe, holds it in front of her face. There is a throbbing in her temple and voice in her head that says, “Perfect for you.” Mia reads the price tag. Two hundred and twenty-five dollars. The voice says now, “Even if you can’t afford them.” Mia shivers, knowing that the sandal is already hers; it had just been waiting there for her to arrive. She looks around for a salesperson and seeing no one ready to help her, she slips the sandal inside her large black patent leather handbag.

Got it.

She’s done this before. Sometime soon, the floor manager will notice a shoe missing from the display racks and after pointlessly nagging his salespeople to find it, he’ll accept the fact that it’s gone and that he has to put out another. Why not the mate? Mia will just come in and pick up the other shoe from the very same shelf. Maybe even tomorrow.

No need to linger now. She has the perfect, perfect thing for the Mia she wants to be, a person who might have been lost to her but now was found. Her sixteenth birthday, which is less than three months away, is going to be perfect.

Excerpted from Living on Impulse by Cara Haycak, Copyright © 2009 by Cara Haycak. Excerpted by permission of Dutton Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Thank you.

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