{Excerpt} Before the Ever After by:Jacqueline Woodson

Memory like a Movie
The memory goes like this:

Ollie’s got the ball and he’s running across my yard when
Dad comes out of nowhere,
soft tackles him to the ground.
Then everyone is cheering and laughing because
we didn’t even know my dad was home.

I thought you had a game, I say, grabbing him.
It’s a half hug, half tackle, but
the other guys—Darry and Daniel—hop on too
and Ollie’s escaped, so he jumps
on top of all of us jumping on my dad.

Yeah, Mr. J., Darry says. I thought we’d be watching you
on TV tonight.

Coach giving me a break, my daddy says. He climbs out
from under,
shaking us off like we’re feathers, not boys.

Ah man! Darry says.
Yeah, we all say. Ah man!

Sometimes a player needs to rest, Daddy says.
He looks at each of us for a long time.
A strange look. Like he’s just now seeing us.

Then he tosses the ball so far, we can’t even see it anymore.

And my boys say Ah man, you threw it too far!
while I go back behind the garage where
we have a whole bunch of footballs
waiting and ready
for when my daddy sends one into the abyss.

Everybody’s Looking for a Hero
Once, when I was a little kid,
this newscaster guy asked me if
my dad was my biggest hero.
No, I said. My dad’s just my dad.

There was a crowd of newscasters circling around me,
all of them with their microphones aimed
at my face. Maybe I was nervous, I don’t remember now.

Maybe it was after his first Super Bowl win, his ring
new and shining on his finger. Me just a little kid,
so the ring was this whole glittering world,
gold and black and diamonds against
my daddy’s brown hand.

I remember hearing the reporter say
Listen to those fans! Looks like everybody’s
found their next great hero.

And now I’m thinking back to those times
when the cold wind whipped around me and Mom
as we sat wrapped in blankets, yelling Dad’s name,
so close to the game, we could see the angry spit
spraying from the other team’s coach’s lips.
So close, we could see the sweat on my daddy’s neck.

And all the people around us cheering,
all the people going around calling out his number,
calling out his name.

Zachariah 44! Zachariah 44!

Is your daddy your hero? the newscaster had asked me.

And all these years later, just like that day, I know
he’s not my hero,
he’s my dad, which means
he’s my every single thing.
Release: 9/1/20
Ages: 10 And Up, Grades: 5 And Up
Get the Book: (Kindle); (Audiobook); (Hardcover)

Excerpted from Before the Ever After by:Jacqueline Woodson. Copyright © 2020 by Jacqueline Woodson. Excerpted by permission of Dutton Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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