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by Jerry Spinelli

p.10 Mica Area High School--MAHS--was not exactly a hotbed of nonconformity. There were individual variants here and there, of course, but within pretty narrow limits we all wore the same clothes, talked the same way, ate the same food, listened to the same music. Even our dorks and nerds had a MAHS stamp on them. If we happened to somehow distinguish ourselves, we quickly snapped back into place, like rubber bands.

p.11 We wanted to define her, to wrap her up as we did each other, but we could not seem to get past "weird" and "strange" and "goofy." Her ways knocked us off balance. A single word seemed to hover in the cloudless sky over the school:


p.44 "I pledge allegiance to the United Turtles of America and to the fruit bats of Borneo, one planet in the Milky Way, incredible, with justice and black bean burritos for all."
     Handwritten across the bottom were these words: "This is how she says the Pledge of Allegiance."

p.93 She seemed to have been dipped in sunlight and set out to dry.

p.101 I picked up Barney, the Paleocene rodent skull. I wondered if someone would be holding Cinnamon's head 60 million years from now.

p.101 "Do you believe in enchanted places?"
     He took the pipe from his mouth and looked straight at me. "Absolutely."
     I was confused. "But you're a scientist. A man of science."
     "A man of bones. You can't be up to your eyeballs in bones and not believe in enchanted places."

p.102-103 "You know, there's a place we all inhabit, but we don't much think about it, we're scarcely conscious of it, and it lasts for less than a minute every day."
     "What's that?" I asked.
     "It's in the morning, for most of us. It's that time, those few seconds when we're coming out of sleep but we're not really awake yet. For those few seconds we're something more primitive than what we're about to become. We have just slept the sleep of our most distant ancestors, and something of them and their world still clings to us. For those few moments we are unformed, uncivilized. We are not the people we know as ourselves, but creatures more in tune with a tree than a keyboard. We are untitled, unnamed, natural, suspended between was and will be, the tadpole before the frog, the worm before the butterfly. We are, for a few brief moments, anything and everything we could be. And then..."
     He pulled out his pouch and repacked his pipe. Cherry scent flew. He struck a match. The pipe bowl, like some predator, or seducer, drew down the flame. "...and then--ah--we open our eyes and the day is before us, and"--he snapped his fingers--"we become ourselves."

p.171 To the student body at large, Raymond Studemacher did not have enough substance to trigger the opening of a supermarket door. He belonged to no team or organization. He took part in no school activities. His grades were ordinary. His clothing was ordinary. His face was ordinary. He had no detectable personality. Thin as a minute, he appeared to lack the heft to carry his own name. And in fact, when all eyes turned to him on the dance floor, those few who came up with a name for him frowned at his white jacket and whispered, "Raymond Something."

p.189 On the way home to St. Louis after winning the heavyweight title, Sonny Liston looked forward to a hero's welcome, looked forward to receiving affection from the people who had regarded him as a hoodlum and a monster. When he stepped off the plane, not a soul was there to greet him. It broke his heart. I'd like to ask him about that day. I'd like to dump a teacup of confetti on his head.