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Reading Matters

Doug Wilhelm is a full-time writer and an independent publisher in Weybridge, Vemont. His newest book is the novel STREET OF STORYTELLERS (Rootstock, 2019). His 15 previous novels for young adults include THE REVEALERS (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), which has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools.

Here's a scene from True Shoes

Here's a brief scene from True Shoes. Early in the story, Richie has shown up unexpectedly at Russell's house one evening. Richie of course punched Russell out a couple of times in The Revealers — and now Russell has a new reason to be nervous about him. I won't say why, but it's there. Here's what happens:

Outside he stood in the shadows, hands jammed in the pockets of his black army jacket, just beyond the yellow glow our porchlight cast on the lawn. He’d worn that same jacket all the way through middle school. Back then it had been like his uniform — his armor. Now it was tired- looking, and frayed at the wrists.

Richie was looking at the ground. He didn’t seem mad, he seemed different. I stepped outside, feeling more puzzled, suddenly, than scared. He motioned with his head to follow him.

It was chilly out, a damp night. I followed Richie into the shadows.


“How you doin’,” he said.


“Been a while.”

“Yeah. Everything all right?”

He shrugged. “I need a favor.”

“From me?”


“Okay ... ” He turned, toward our garage. “What’s in there.”

“In the garage? I don’t know. Stuff.”

“Yeah? A car?”

“No, just stuff. Boxes. That’s our car,” I said, pointing to our silver
Honda, parked in the short driveway. Our garage was always too full for the car.

“Anybody go in there much?”

“Not really.”

“Any blankets or anything in there?”

“Um ... I don’t think so. Richie, what’s this about?”

He shrugged. “If I crashed there, just one night. You wouldn’t say

“Well ... no ...”

“I’d be gone in the morning. No muss no fuss.”

I looked at this shadow with eyes, and I understood: he couldn’t be home right now. I didn’t get why, and he wasn’t going to tell me — but even so, I had some clue. I knew something wasn’t totally okay at Richie’s house.

One time last year, after we got to know each other a little, I said to Richie that he talked like a dad from hell, because sometimes he did — and then suddenly there was this rage. It came up from inside him like volcano lava. Even for Richie it was scary. He didn’t want the rage, you could tell, but he had it. I figured it must have something to do with his family, but we never ever talked about it. We’re guys.

“I’ll bring some blankets out,” I said. “No problem.”

“Nobody can know.” He glared at me. “I mean it.”

“Don’t worry. My mom’ll start bugging me pretty soon about the garbage — I’m supposed to take it out before I go to bed. Then I can sneak some blankets out to you. No muss, no fuss,” I added hopefully.

“Okay. Cool.”

We walked over to the garage, to the side door. I quietly let him in.

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