Ruby and Oli

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Five-year-old Ruby and her best friend Oli, age six, have come from Kalamazoo with their folks to see the shark exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium here in Chicago, but the sharks disappoint. The kids were expecting bigger. Fortunately, they’re preoccupied with other matters—they’re forming a band.

“It’s called the Dragons,” Oli says. “I’m the founder of it. We have two drums—rock drums—and three guitars. You can be the lead singer,” he tells me, unwittingly indulging my neither secret nor unique fantasy. Then he points to my boyfriend and adds: “Ben can play the drums. We’ll have three drums. It’ll be sweet.”

Ben asks Oli who his influences are while Ruby tries to clean her brand-new mermaid doll’s already grimy face with her thumb and some spit, mom-style.

“I like the White Stripes, DJ Shadow, Mogwai. Mostly I like to rock out,” Oli says.“I like Björk,” says Ruby. She also likes the movie Amélie. “Except for the part where the scary guy goes like this,” Ruby says, slowly drawing her hand down the side of her face.

On the way to dinner, Ruby says, “Hey-what’s-up-guys?” to a group of strangers on the street.

I ask Oli how he spells his name.

“K-I-N-G-A-R-T-H-U-R,” he says.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Elizabeth Crane

Elizabeth Crane is the winner of the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award and teaches in the School of Continuing Studies at Northwestern University. Her debut story collection, When the Messenger Is Hot, was published by Little, Brown in January 2003. Her second book, All This Heavenly Glory, is due from Little, Brown in 2005. She lives in Chicago.

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