From Where The Sidewalk Ends, p 50.
“The googies are coming, the old people say, to buy little children and take them away.”
But I’m not afraid. My mother says I’m too valuable, she would never sell me, not for even like a thousand silver coins.
But I don’t really know if that’s all true. I heard that last year, when the googies came to town, Tommy Spickoza’s mom told them that they could have him for two thousand, and they thought it was a deal. The whisper campaign they sent round after said they would have paid five or more. So if they would pay five thousand for Tommy, how much more do you think I could get? Ten thousand? I’m so much better than Tommy. He’s kind of a mean little guy. He pokes cats with sticks and tells bad jokes. I’m not like that. I hold the doors open for my sister and I don’t chew with my mouth open and I make sure to always write my name on the top of my homework.
My mama says not to worry, because I’m too valuable to her, but I don’t think she understands economics. I may be only thirteen by now, but I understand it much better than her. All us kids do. We’ve been watching the googies come into town and buy some kids, and not others, for a decade now, and we can’t make sense of it. Sometimes they want just the fat ones, and that year they take like the six fattest kids in the whole town. So the next year all the kids were real skinny (we starved ourselves for like three weeks before they showed up, just to help our causes), and that was when they wanted the shortest ones. They took Caroline, and Suzanne, and Jonah, and Zeb, but left chubby Marco, who’d been crying the whole time that he just couldn’t do it, couldn’t lay off the candy bars, and we all understood, Marco’s home wasn’t that great anyway, and even the googies would have probably been a welcome change.
So then the year after they bought the short ones everyone was stuffing their shoes with papers, and hanging by their arms from trees for days at a time to get taller, and wearing short pants to make their legs look longer, and that was when they too two girls, twin sisters, and that was that. We didn’t understand, but still we keep trying to figure out their system.
Braydon thinks he’s got it figured out. He thinks this year they’re going to take three boys and two girls, out of the thirty or so of each who are all under eighteen. “One runner,” he says, “and one smart kid. And the other three are people who do music.”
That’s the part that scares me, the music. Because my flute has been sounding really good this month. Mama says not to worry, I can fake it, or I can just pick up the guitar when they arrive and just be real bad at that, and then they’ll pass me by. I don’t believe her, because those lineups aren’t when they actually choose, Braydon says. He thinks they’re monitoring our every move already, so they know before they even get here what they’re gonna do.
I asked my Mama once about why they (they being the parents in this town, stupid them), have been selling their kids to the googies, and she really didn’t have an answer. Something about opportunities for all to be better, but I think she’d rather just pretend not to know what’s going on. That way, if the googies come for me, she can pretend like it’s this great big tragedy, and get the sympathy votes and pity looks from all the other women in the village, and at the same time her life will be a little easier ’cause I’m not around.
I don’t like her very much, my Mama, and like I said, she might not understand much about economics, but she sure does know that ten thousand silver pieces would feed two mouths a lot better than zero pieces feeds three.