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Bringing the Boy Home

Bringing the Boy Home by N. A. Nelson
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"I've seen what the world does to the weak. It'll eat you alive."

Tirio was cast out of the Takunami tribe at a very young age because of his disabled foot. But an American woman named Sara adopted him, and his life has only gotten better since. Now, as his thirteenth birthday approaches, things are nearly perfect. So why is he having visions and hearing voices calling him back to the Amazon?

Luka has spent his whole life preparing for his soche seche tente, a sixth-sense test all Takunami boys must endure just before their thirteenth birthday. His family's future depends on whether or not he passes this perilous test. His mother has dedicated herself to making sure that no aspect of his training is overlooked . . . but fate has a way of disturbing even the most carefully laid plans.

Two young boys. An unforgiving jungle. One shared destiny.

HarperCollins; June 2009
224 pages; ISBN 9780061957260
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Bringing the Boy Home
Author: N. A. Nelson

Chapter One


12 Years, 357 Days
The United States

He's going to fake left.

The boy with the number one on his jersey fakes left.

I crouch protectively in the goal area as he dribbles the soccer ball closer. With only a few minutes left, the Miami Mavericks are relying on this boy, their captain, to tie the game. Number eleven is open. Captain Maverick positions himself to pass."Hey!" Coach Smalley yells, flailing his arms. "Who's got eleven? Someone cover eleven!"

My best friend, Joey, steals the ball, but Captain Maverick regains control and opens himself up again.

Like a hunter trying to figure out which way his prey is going to bolt, I focus on the shift in the boy's muscles and the darting of his eyes. Is he going to pass or shoot?

His teammate, number eleven, inches closer.

Coach Smalley runs along the boundary line. "Left, Tirio! Watch your left!"

I start to move, but something makes me stop and step back. Captain Maverick's not going to pass.My eyes search the boy for signs to back up my hunch. Nothing. Four boys guard him now. Eleven stands alone, waiting.Coach is screaming at me to watch eleven.

Instead, I keep my gaze locked on the boy with the ball.

The captain faces number eleven, rears back his leg—and, at the last minute, pivots his body toward me and shoots.Without stuttering in either direction, I catch the ball and torpedo it out of the goal area. The ref blows the whistle. Game over.

I hear Sara's signature whoop and see her standing on the bleachers, giving me a double thumbs-up. I return the gesture."Unbelievable." Joey runs up and high-fives me. "How did you know he was going to do that?"

I grin uneasily as my teammates slap me on the back. "I just had this feeling. It was kind of weird actually, I—"

"Weird, shmeird . . . who cares? We're going to the championships!" he crows, throwing his arms in the air as we jog over to shake the other team's hands. "How's the foot?"

"Good." I lower my voice and look for Sara in the crowd. "I'm not even wearing my brace."

"Why not?" Joey asks. "After the way you played, Coach is gonna keep you as goalie, brace or not."

"It's not about Coach," I say as we walk toward the parking lot. "I just don't need it, that's all."

Joey gives me a sidelong glance. "If it's not about Coach, then who's it about?"

"I told you," I say, irritated. "I don't need it."

"This isn't about your dad, is it?" he asks. "About proving him wrong? He's not here to see you, T, so I don't know why you're risking getting reinjured—"

"Yeah, well, speaking of dads," I snap, "I didn't see yours in the stands."

My friend turns to look at me with a hurt expression.

Hanging my head, I regret my words. I know Joey was watching for his father the entire game. Mr. Carter's an airline pilot and although he always promises to be here, he hasn't seen Joey play once all season. "Delayed flight" or "bad weather" are the excuses he always gives.

I look up at the perfectly blue sky and bite my tongue.

We've finally reached the parking lot, and Joey's mom waves at us from her car. Joey storms away.

"Hey, I'm sorry." I hurry to catch up with him. "I'm sure your dad will be here for the championships, Joe. No way he'd miss that." I grin to show him I'm not mad anymore. "And if he doesn't, who needs him? We'll win anyway, right?"

Climbing into the car, he grabs his earbuds from his backpack and puts them on. "You know what, Tirio? Maybe that's the way they do things in the Amazon, but it's not the way we do things here."

Bull's-eye. Best friends always know where to hit you the hardest.

"I'm not like them," I mumble, as Joey slams the door. "I'm not." The wind blows my words back to me like a butterfly. A pierid butterfly. I'm not like them. . . .

I close my eyes and my life rewinds to when I was five. My first hunting lesson with the Takunami warrior Wata. I had just pointed out a pauq-pauq bird that was camouflaged in the brush when Wata cupped his hand around his ear. His eyes grew big and he sprinted away, waving silently for me to follow. I loped after him but tripped over my bad foot and fell.

Trying not to cry, I untangled myself and limped toward my teacher. Fifty paces ahead, I found him staring at a flock of pale yellow pierid butterflies drinking at the river.

Without acknowledging my presence, he squatted and pulled a pierid out of the group. Holding its body gently, he plucked one wing and returned the insect to the ground. I forced myself to watch, knowing this must be a very important lesson. Gradually the forest got darker, but Wata didn't move. I bit my tongue to ignore my throbbing foot. Suddenly, the butterflies flew away, all except the pierid with the missing wing. It lay still, and I was sure it was dead.

"Wata . . ."

He silenced me with narrowed eyes. Finally he nodded. A horned frog hopped out of the forest and ogled the butterfly. The pierid fluttered frantically, but the frog jumped twice and snapped it up. Without a word, my teacher stood and started back to the village; the hunting lesson was over. I followed him and as I passed by the frog, I searched for a stick to kill it, but Wata looked back and I hurried to catch up.

Lying in my hammock that night, I couldn't sleep. Although I was excited about what I had learned, uneasiness hung over me like early morning fog. The pierid. Was Wata showing me that as a hunter I should go for the weakest, injured animal? Or . . . was he showing me how similar I was to the one-winged butterfly? How I too had no chance to survive in the Amazon?

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