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"Money Walks," a serial novel by 16 Los Angeles writers who will be appearing at this year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, runs Monday through Saturday until April 24. The festival takes place at UCLA on April 25 and 26.
Bertha "Bunny" Hortense had been a looker. Back when she was dancing in Vegas with a pair of gams that Dino, Sammy and Frankie had kissed and licked, everyone said her kneecaps tasted like Fuji apples.
Now she didn't like being out in daylight because of how old and hunched she was. Her legs had shriveled into useless twigs and her knees were scarred from multiple operations. She was always mid-wheeze, even with the oxygen tank. Her situation embarrassed her, so she made it a point to conduct all her business at night.
But on this day Bunny had braved the sunlight because the world had gone topsy-turvy. She had come to the bank with the intention of withdrawing all her cash, only to discover -- along with the others who had had the same idea -- that the bank was not opening its doors and that the ATMs had all been declared out of order.
And to make things worse, there was a blond woman standing in front of her quoting from the Bible. It was one of Bunny's favorite passages, Matthew 19:23, but this blond was screwing it up.
If Bunny had been able to catch her breath, she would have corrected her, but it was too much effort. Instead she silently forgave the woman her mistakes and let her finish. Since Bunny had gotten sick, found God and sobered up, she had also found patience.
"It's the end of days," the blond said.
Bunny nodded. It wasn't hard to agree when there were people in the parking lot sobbing. Some were walking around dazed, mumbling to themselves. Others were taking garbage cans and bare fists to the bullet- and shatterproof glass windows of the bank, trying desperately to get to their money.
"I don't know what we're all going to do," the blond said. "I just want to get the money from our church account."
"Are you with the church?" Bunny asked between labored breaths.
"Angie, from Holy Redeemer," the blond said.
Bunny didn't know that church, but what she did know was that God had created the world in seven days, and Jesus had died for her sins. That was the same everywhere.
She also knew that a church, any church, was a place of salvation. Bunny figured that if she could get this church lady to help her, maybe she'd be able to ride this financial crisis to the end and survive it in one piece.
There were a lot of things that Bunny had done back in the day to survive. Things done in alleys, limos and utility closets that would shock even that Margaret Cho girl from TV. There were drugs, so many that they should have killed her: injected into veins, popped into her mouth and snorted up her nose. And there were the men she'd destroyed with her smile. The one who'd left his family. The one who'd given her all of his money. The one who threw himself to his death.
Those days were behind her. She was a different person. All had been forgiven. Jesus had saved her.
But what a sinner knows, and can never forget, is that the world is kill or be killed. The only thing that matters is to live. In the end you can always say a few Hail Marys to get back your salvation.
Besides, was it really a sin to want to survive?
Bunny didn't think so.
Castellucci's novels include "Boy Proof," "The Queen of Cool" and "Beige," as well as the graphic novel series "The PLAIN Janes." She will be on the "Growing Up: Young Adult Fiction" panel at 10:30 a.m. April 25 in the Fowler Museum's Lenart Auditorium at UCLA at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.