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Also by Jon Pineda


Sleep in Me


The Translator’s Diary



a novel

Jon Pineda

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

© 2013, Text by Jon Pineda

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher: Milkweed Editions, 1011 Washington Avenue South, Suite 300, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415.

(800) 520-6455


Published 2013 by Milkweed Editions

Cover design and graphic by Brad Norr

Author photo by Amy Pineda

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First Edition

Milkweed Editions, an independent nonprofit publisher, gratefully acknowledges sustaining support from the Bush Foundation; the Patrick and Aimee Butler Foundation; the Dougherty Family Foundation; the Driscoll Foundation; the Jerome Foundation; the Lindquist & Vennum Foundation; the McKnight Foundation; the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Target Foundation; and other generous contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals. For a full listing of Milkweed Editions supporters, please visit www.milkweed.org.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Pineda, Jon, 1971–

Apology : a novel / Jon Pineda. — 1st ed.


ISBN 978-1-57131-892-3

I. Title.

PS3616.I565A85 2013



Milkweed Editions is committed to ecological stewardship. We strive to align our book production practices with this principle, and to reduce the impact of our operations in the environment. We are a member of the Green Press Initiative, a nonprofit coalition of publishers, manufacturers, and authors working to protect the world’s endangered forests and conserve natural resources. Apology was printed on acid-free 100% postconsumer-waste paper by Edwards Brothers, Inc.

For Emma and Luke

. . . the sum of these events

I cannot draw, the ledger I cannot keep, the accounting beyond the account:

—A. R. Ammons, “Corsons Inlet”













Tom remembered having to take his red windbreaker. He and his friends had gone to the huge field by the edge of the neighborhood. It was perfect for a game of football. The grass still thick in patches looked like scattered green pillows. You had to climb over a chain-link fence to get there, or else brave the thicket rich with sumac and hornets and slip through a flap that had not been properly secured.

Jumping off the fence, Tom removed his jacket, slinging it. It was tough work climbing. He had broken a good sweat. He also knew his friends. In the game they would have grabbed at the stray hood to rip it from him, use it against him. He didn’t want them to have that advantage.

In the distance construction vehicles sat abandoned. Most were monstrous and rigid, rusted. Some yellow as teeth. His friends joked about going over there and seeing if any of those fools who operated them during the day had left the keys in the ignition. They could crank the engines. They could lift the shovel of the excavator, elevate the blunt shield of the bulldozer. “Let’s go tear it up,” one of them crowed. Another joined in, echoing until it became their chanting. Tom remembered laughing along. He was amazed these kids, most the same age as he was, would feel entitled to do so. Especially when none had dared go that far. Every one of the boys in the neighborhood knew the site was off limits.

Mario, a dumpy kid with a bowl cut, was pointing.

“Hey, Fino, isn’t that your sister?”

Tom’s twin had found the loose panel in the fence. She was standing over by his red windbreaker, which she lifted from the grass and held in her hand. She twirled it into a ball of fire. She called his full name—Thomas X. Serafino, Thomas X. Serafino!—and then that it was time for dinner and that he needed to come home. She was already acting like the bossy teacher she wanted to become.

Now his friends were laughing.

“Get out of here, Teagan,” he said.

She just stood there and waited for him. She even tapped her foot.

“Get out of my life!” he yelled.

He looked back at his friends, their collective smirk.

The brief disruption in the game gave one of them a chance to take the ball and beam it at anyone who wasn’t paying attention. When Tom stared back at Teagan, he took one in the head. The ball wobbled away.

Some of the others scrambled for it. Tom dove, but he wasn’t fast enough. Now Mario had it. Tom ran in circles to avoid him, the next hit. They all did. When he looked back at the fence, Tom saw the jacket suspended in air. Teagan had taken one of the sleeves and fished it through the fence’s lattice and tied it there like a giant ribbon. But Tom didn’t see her. Not at the far corner. Nor beyond the fence to the street leading back into their neighborhood.

He took another one in the head.

As Tom made his way home through the cooling darkness, the game still smeared against his skin, his throat itched with burning. He thought he would find his sister glowering at him, sitting obediently at the kitchen table, but it was his mother, Elinor, who met him at the door.

“Where were you two?” his mother said.

“Just playing ball,” he said.

His mother looked past him.

“Is Sissy coming?” she said.

She went to the end of the porch and stared down the street. As if his twin would suddenly appear, as if mere insistence could make it so.

It stayed put. There, in the throat of the pit. The last person to touch it had been a

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