The Orange Houses Summary
the book begins, we get a glimpse of an eighteen-year-old veteran named Jimmi,
who's hanging out with his friends Fatima and Mik in a cave. They're injured
and need help. In an hour, Jimmi will be hanged… And then we jump backward, to about
a month before.
girl named Mik is sick of everyone talking to her about her hearing. She knows
her mom wants the best for her, but she doesn't see what the big deal is. Her
old hearing aids are muffled and give her ear infections, but who cares? She
can turn them off when she wants to block the world out. Even her manager (at
her after school job at the local convenience store) offers to pay for a
special surgery to give her more hearing. She feels badly taking his money, but
a young African refugee named Fatima arrives in New York City, excited to
finally be in the city that never sleeps. First up on her agenda? The Statue of
Liberty. She has to find a job and housing before she can go sightseeing,
though, and she lands herself gigs as a papergirl and volunteering at the VA
hospital teaching kids.
she runs in to Jimmi at the hospital. He's already been to war and back and he's
only eighteen—he saw some pretty messed up things overseas, so now he's
depressed and on drugs. Fatima befriends Jimmi and makes him paper angels to
give him hope.
school one day, Mik meets Fatima selling newspapers. The girls become fast
friends and start spending more time together, and Fatima convinces Mik to go
to the doctor about her ears. It turns out the money her manager gave her can
cover new hearing aids that are clearer and won't get her ears as infected.
Sounds perfect, right? Wrong: Mik hates the idea of hearing all the time. She
likes being able to turn the sound of the world off when it bugs her, so she
gets the hearing aids, but she doesn't use them.
laws are getting stricter and more severe in NYC. Fatima is worried she'll be
deported, so Mik and her mom take her to an immigration lawyer. He agrees to
help them out… for a hefty fee. They hand over every penny they've ever saved
and cross their fingers that Fatima's application will be accepted soon so they
won't have to run from the police anymore.
home from school one day, Mik gets stopped by a mean girl named Shanelle and
her posse. They cut Mik with a box cutter. Why? It turns out the guy Shanelle
digs has been flirting with Mik, and Shanelle wants to put an end to it. Mik's
hurt and confused, and to make matters worse, Shanelle is rallying her troops
Jimmi comes to her rescue and takes her away from all the people. In the
shuffle, though, everyone thinks Mik's been kidnapped by war-vet-turned-drug-addict
Jimmi—so a mob starts forming to look for the guy who is hurting a
hearing-impaired girl. Ugh.
mob catches up with Jimmi, they tackle and punch him, eventually hanging him
upside-down. Fatima sees all this and wants to put an end to it, so she stands
between Jimmi and the crowd, demanding they put him down. Eventually, the
police show up, save Jimmi, and take the girls to the station for questioning.
It's too bad Jimmi is drugged at the hospital where he's recovering, because he
accidently spills the beans that Fatima is an illegal immigrant, and the police
her mom visit Fatima in the detention center, but instead of being upset, she's
calm and peaceful; she's glad she got to come to America. Mik is down in the
dumps about losing her friend and feels the whole thing is unfair. She starts
using her new hearing aids so she can hear more of what's happening around her,
and though they still bug her, she's getting used to them.
- We start at the very end: James Semprevivo, a.k.a. Jimmy Sixes, is an eighteen-year-old war vet who just left the military.
- Of course, when we say left,we mean he was kicked out after psychiatrists figured he couldn't do his job any more.
- All we know is that he's in a cave with his friend Tamika Sykes who is injured; Fatima Espérer is there too.
- Jimmy writes a poem quietly. An hour later, the vigilantes hang him.
- In a Bronx high school, twenty-seven days before the hanging, Tamika is asked to spell taphophobia
in a spelling bee. Um, okay.
Tamika was five, she contracted meningitis and lost most of her hearing, so now
she uses hearing aids.
when she doesn't want
to hear. Tamika likes blocking out the world by turning them
off—that way she doesn't have to hear the screeches and screaming of the city.
was up late last night drawing. It's the way she escapes from the real world.
- Back at
the spelling bee, she writes the word taphophobia,
fear of being burned alive on the chalkboard after watching her
teacher's mouth when she said it.
lunch, Tamika, or Mik as her friends call her, rushes to her place under the
stairs. Too bad some kid who calls himself "The G" is there already.
- He's a
loser (according to Mik), but she likes him anyway; she's got a thing for him.The G
asks her to do his homework, and she agrees—for a fee. She tries to help people
out by taking on homework assignments and stuff, but she doesn't work for free.
- She asks
for three bucks, but she takes one and some change since that's all he has, and
then they arrange the details of the drop off for when she's done with the
- Then the
G tells her she's beautiful, and she calls him "blind." He runs off,
and she gets to work on his homework. It's a piece of cake… For her.
- On an oil tanker approaching New York harbor, twenty-six days before the hanging, thirty-four refugees huddle together in the backup engine room. They are sneaking into the country in hopes of a better life.
- Most of
them are headed to Camden, where immigration police don't bother to go. Except
Fatima Espérer—she's dreamed of going to New York City, and that's where she'll
- It's a
long shot, but she hasn't gotten this far without hoping for the impossible. Heck,
even the last name she chose—Espérer—means hope in French.
biggest dream is to visit the Statue of Liberty. She knows it's a tourist trap,
but she wants to see it up close.
- As she
gets off the boat, she can see Lady Liberty off in the distance; even if that's
all she sees, she knows her trip will be worth it.
everyone feels the same way, though, and another woman claims if this is all
she sees, she wants her $2500 back. That's how much each refugee paid to get to
- At the Bronx West housing project, a.k.a. the Orange Houses, twenty-five days before the hanging, Mik hurries out of the rain.
hikes up ten flights of stairs to get home, only to find NaNa passed out on the
couch with Tostitos crumbs all over her. Mmm… Tostitos.
fills us in on who NaNa is. You might think with a name like NaNa, that she'd
be Mik's grandma, but actually that's just a nickname; NaNa got it because she's
always willing to watch the kids for the neighborhood, as long as a free meal
and a beer are involved.
started watching Mik years ago, and has basically never stopped, even though
Mik is fifteen and doesn't need a babysitter anymore. Mik's mom just doesn't
have the heart to tell NaNa to split.
turns on her hearing aids but hears a bunch of stuff she doesn't want to: NaNa's
snoring, the television talking about reward money for reporting on illegal
immigrants… you name it.
- So she
turns her hearing aids back off. She'd rather the silky silence.
- As Mik
starts to draw, she can hear her mom in her head telling her it's a waste of
time. She's always saying drawing is a waste of time and Mik should be studying
so she can get in to a good college. College?
Ha. If Mik has anything to say about it, she's done after high school.
keeps sketching to take her mind off everything.
- In a Bronx halfway house, twenty-four days before the hanging, Jimmi recounts his life story for us.
- His dad
split when he was young, so it was just his mom and him growing up. He enlisted
in the military when he was seventeen, and left for training before finding out
his girl was knocked up.
- By the
time he found out, he was overseas, but he planned to come back to America and
marry her when he got the chance.
- One day,
a five-year-old ran past Jimmi at the city market. She had an IED strapped to
her and it malfunctioned and killed her—Jimmi talked to the girl as she died.
- He woke
up a couple weeks later in the vet hospital recovery wing. He'd been hit by
rubble and was pretty shaken up by what he'd seen.
went back home and looked for his girl, but it was too late by the time he got
there, and she'd lost the baby and killed herself.
months later, Jimmi works at the hospital as a sweeper, and does drugs to keep
his mind off things.
- He's not
sure if life is worth living, but he writes little poems to keep him going.
- On a noisy Bronx street, twenty-three days before the hanging, Fatima meets up with a newspaper guy.
- He offers
her a job selling newspapers, but she's got to pay for them upfront.
coughs up the five hundred bucks—all the money she has saved—and hands it over;
then she gets a laundry list of what not
to do while there.
- It goes
something like this: Never let the police see you. Be careful of rats. Don't
get into any trouble.
she's in the country illegally, it's rough finding work and housing, but newspaper
dude sorts it out for her.
- When he
finishes his instructions, Fatima asks how to get to the Statue of Liberty, but
he warns her not to go there.
- Her new
home is small and dark, but to Fatima, it's a dream.
- One day,
Fatima starts crying while outside. When a little girl asks her what's the
deal, she explains that it's because she's happy.
- Then she
makes three paper angels out of old newspapers. She folds them a bunch of times
until they have wings, then she gives two to the girl: one for her and one for
gives the other one to a man who is crying. It turns out he's happy as well. Yay
for happy tears.
- The guy
introduces himself as Jimmi and then takes her over to the Vet hospital to meet
up with his friends.
there, someone asks Fatima if she's interested in teaching English there. The
job is volunteering, but Fatima takes it since she taught the refugee girls and
- At the market, twenty-two days before the hanging, Mik inventories the stock while Joe Knows has a cigarette.
works there part time after school, and Joe pays her more than he should since
she's saving up for her ear surgery.
not even sure she wants the surgery, but her mom is working overtime and saves
every penny so she can get it.
- Even Mik
contributes to the fund. She keeps her homework money to herself, though—that's
just for her art supplies.
- A woman
takes a carton of milk to the counter, but doesn't have enough pennies to pay
for it. While she's taking it back to the fridge, Jimmi shows up and gives her
the extra cash. At first she doesn't want to accept, but he insists.
remembers a couple years back asking the police captain if he could paint over
the graffiti in the city to make it more welcoming. Surprisingly, the cops went
painted colors and lines from poems all over the city. A bunch of them are
painted over now, but he sees one that reads: "Love kills time."
- Has Mik
ever played the "If game"? Nope. Jimmi explains to her that if she
imagines a place and then puts an "if" in front of it, she can be
closes her eyes, stands on the skateboard and imagines she's on a train. He
rocks her back and forth a little and it almost becomes real.
- When Mik
opens her eyes, she's not sure what she sees. There's her mom, yelling to get
away from that crack head, then there's Jimmi running away from her, plus a
newspaper girl standing there watching everything.
mom scolds her for playing with Jimmi and tells her to get home.
newspaper girl stops and uses sign language to talk to Mik. She says "Hello,
goodbye, I love you." Then she gives Mik a paper angel before she leaves.
home, her mom says sorry for freaking out… But that doesn't mean she can hang
out with Jimmi.
knows her mom hates Jimmi, but she doesn't think he's as bad as everyone says.
She asks if the newspaper girl can come over to dinner—she felt a connection
with the newspaper girl even though they just met.
she knows sign language, and Mik's pretty excited by that.
- In a diner, twenty-two days before the hanging, Fatima eats French fries and writes to her sister back home.
- The only
thing she knows how to sign is "Hello, good-bye, I love you."
asks the waitress how to get the Statue of Liberty, but she's not sure; you
probably have to take a boat, another mentions.
- One of
the other waitresses whispers they might shut the diner down since the
immigration police are here and they might not like what they see.
hides her face in her scarf and asks for her check.
- On the train tracks, twenty-one days before the hanging, Jimmi weaves in and out. He's low on money, but he can't go back to get his check until he's off drugs.
- He wants
to get sober, but he's had a tough time dealing with withdrawal.
- As he
walks along the tracks, he imagines the faces of people he saw in the war: a
suicide bomber, a girl in the market, and many others.
wonders whether his baby wouldn't have died if he hadn't gone overseas, or if
his life would be different.
burns his fingers making soup, but he doesn't care, and then he drifts off to sweaty
- In Mik's room, days before the hanging, she sketches the city skyline. She drifts off to sleep picturing herself soaring over the Bronx.
wakes up in a panic, seeing a bombed sky with her paper angel on fire. Scared,
she goes to her mom's room, but that makes her feel sad; it smells like stale
donuts in there from the donut shop her mom works at.
- Then she
goes to the living room, but finds NaNa conked out there.
- The next
morning, her mom asks her if she finished her homework, and she says yes,
though actually, she was doing someone else's homework.
- She asks
her mom why she always makes an effort to look nice when no one notices her.
- On the
way to school, she sees the papergirl and says hello—Mik wants to ask her over for dinner,
but she's too nervous.
chooses the very last row in English class, and then—click—her hearing aids are off and she's dead
to the world.
speech therapy class, the girls all hang around the new boy Jaekwon. One girl,
Shanelle, hates when Mik arrives and makes fun of her.
walks up to Mik and helps her with her books; meanwhile, Shanelle flips Mik off
before heading into class.
- At work,
Joe offers to pay for Mik's surgery for her. He thinks she's a good kid, and he's
got none of his own, so how about he shells out the dough for the operation?
not sure what to say, but she knows she can't accept.
- On the
way to school the next day, Mik sees Shanelle and pretends not to hear her
taunts. Shanelle yells out that Mik better stay away from Jaekwon if she knows
what's good for her. Gulp.
school, Mik goes to the place where the papergirl usually is. She's about to leave
when she catches a glimpse of her friend off in the corner of her eye.
follows her until she eventually winds up at Fatima's home. Fatima is surprised
to see her, but offers to walk Mik home so she doesn't get lost.
tells Mik that some kids were hit by bombs back at home—that's how she learned
sign language, though she left before she could learn more.
invites her over for dinner and Fatima offers to buy cake. When Fatima asks
which room they live in, she's surprised to learn they have the whole apartment
- At the Orange Houses, twenty-one days before the hanging, Fatima rides the elevator to Mik's place. She's impressed with the speed of the thing. More accurately, she's impressed with electricity in general.
- When she
gets to Mik's place, Mik's mom and NaNa question Fatima. What's her religion?
Where are her parents? Why does she live alone?
- At first
Fatima is reluctant to answer all of their questions, but pretty soon she opens
up. She's been trying to convince herself to live alone, but if she's honest
with herself, she misses her sister—it's nice to hang out with a family.
dinner, Fatima helps clear the plates, and Mik takes her new friend to her
room. Mik shows her the drawings she's been working on.
loves them, but she asks where the people are on the streets.
mom comes in with some clothes for Fatima.
- All she has
are some ratty old clothes, and the ones from Mik's mom fit her nicely; Fatima
is grateful. So is Mik. She fiddles with her hearing aids so she can hear
everything that's happening.
- In his cave, twenty days before the hanging, Jimmi creates night-vision goggles out of colored construction paper.
- As he's
making them, he has a flashback to the battlefield in the desert.
- Then he's
back to New York. He wishes he hadn't gotten rid of all his drugs.
hungry and going through withdrawal, so he heads to Joe's pad.
always makes Jimmi breakfast and coffee when he comes around, and this time is
- He asks
Jimmi to go with him to the hospital, but Jimmi won't go, and he slips out the
door before Joe can even get him more coffee.
- At Mik's place, twenty days before the hanging, Mik's got an ear infection; she rinses her ears out and puts peroxide in them.
- On her
way to school, Mik sees Fatima with papers and asks when she'll see her again.
How about dinner tomorrow?
agrees and says she'll see Fatima at her place this time.
supposed to tell someone when the speech therapist doesn't show for class, but
Mik doesn't bother—she'd rather practice making paper angels from the
class, she heads to the bathroom to fiddle with her ears. They stick out so
much, which she hates. She wishes God would give her some normal ears.
she hates when people feel sorry for her, even though she doesn't mind feeling
sorry for other people.
- In art
class, Jaekwon sits across from her. They have to sketch each other, and she
gets him pretty close.
- He draws
footballs for her breasts, and then tells her she has a nice body; he also says
he almost can't tell she's deaf since she talks normally. Mik wonders whether
he's telling the truth.
lunch, everyone crowds around Mik: Jaekwon and his crew, along with Shanelle
and her peeps. There's lots of whispering that Mik can't quite make out with
her hearing aids, but she gets that Shanelle wants all of Jaekwon's attention.
- Too bad
he's more interested in Mik's drawings and chatting her up. This doesn't go
over well with Shanelle, who can't understand why her man would even talk to
everyone leaves, Shanelle warns Mik to watch her back.
school, Mik walks home with her mom, and they run into Jimmi releasing hundred
of paper doll angels into the breeze.
- It looks
like they are flying all around, and it's a beautiful sight.
turns to her mom and asks why she hates Jimmi so much. Her mom doesn't really
answer her, but we can see everyone thinks this is a kind gesture of Jimmi's.
- Joe sets
up a bank account for Mik for her operation. He also tells her, though, that he
knows she's not sure about the surgery.
night, Mik pulls her mom's old guitar out of the closet. She asks her mom to
play, but her mom claims she doesn't remember how.
- Mik asks
her why she strings it up then, if she won't play, but her mom claims she has
to get back to work.
- At the Vet hospital, nineteen days before the hanging, Fatima's class is getting popular. At first there were only two people, but pretty soon, ten chairs are full, and the number keeps going up.
her class, Fatima rushes over to the school to walk Mik home. Mik's nervous they
might run in to Shanelle—even though she was suspended from school for
threatening Mik, she still might hang around.
tells Fatima she's lucky she doesn't have to go to school, but Fatima wants to
learn more, and she's even been dumpster diving for books over by the college.
- It's the
same story with apples. They see some as they walk, and Mik thinks they are not
that great. To Fatima, though, apples are like a dream. They don't get apples
where she's from, and in New York they have a bunch of different kinds.
stop to eat a snack and Fatima asks Mik to teach her sign language. Mik's not
so sure at first, but Fatima explains that she wants to teach the kids in her
girls chat about the color of the plants, the Statue of Liberty (which neither
of them have ever been to), and a bunch of little things before arriving to the
topic of the surgery.
not sure she wants it and Fatima tells her that she has to decide for herself.
tells Mik the story about how her mom died: They were walking home with her
younger sister when they heard some men coming their way; figuring they wouldn't
make it back to the camp, their mom told them to run.
- The only
problem was that their mom ran the other way so the men would chase her
instead. That's the last time she saw her.
thinks the story is really sad, but Fatima tells her it's okay—her mom is in
the sky now, watching down on her. Then she signs to the sky: Hello, Good-bye, I love you.
- In Mik's room, eighteen days before the hanging, Mik can't sleep.
- She goes
to her mom's room and holds her mom's hand.
- When her
mom wakes up, she asks Mik what's wrong, but Mik asks if she can just stay
there, holding her hand.
- In the cave, eighteen days before the hanging, Jimmi whispers a poem he wrote to himself, about how everyone in life is just spinning their wheels.
- Then he
writes on his arm that life is shiny to cover up the messy moments.
- In the apartment bathroom, seventeen days before the hanging, Mik is humming.
- Her mom
tells her to be careful—people might think she's happy if she's humming all the
dressed up and off to church. Mik tells us she only goes to church because
otherwise NaNa gives her a hard time about being possessed by demons.
- On their
way home, they see Jimmi sitting outside Joe's place—there's police tape all
around, and they're not sure what's happening.
fills them in: Joe died last night with a lit cigarette in his mouth.
starts screaming and has to tell herself to stop. Her mom tells her to breathe.
- The next
day, she goes to the doctor to find out about the surgery, and learns that
there's an experimental implant she could try, though there are no promises.
- If it
does work, it will cut down on her ear infections, be more comfortable, and
help her hear better.
- But here's
the catch: She can't turn it off.
not sure she wants something that she has to leave on all the time, and she
likes the option of turning her hearing aids off once in a while (or, um, every
- When she
tells Fatima about it that evening, she tries to explain that sometimes it's
too much to hear everything.
turn on the radio to listen to some music. Mik enjoys the sound, but slowly it
starts to fade. She realizes her hearing aid batteries are dying.
- At the Vet hospital, fifteen days before the hanging, Jimmi wonders what the world will be like without Joe—he just can't imagine it.
not on drugs anymore, but he wishes he were since he feels so lost and empty.
- He looks
up and sees Fatima and Mik waving to him. They offer him a hot shower and some
food, but he knows Mik's mom won't approve.
worry, Mik says, she's at work.
realizes he's never heard Mik talk so much, and tells her she's got a nice
- He asks
them what they're working on, and they say "nothing."
- Then Jimmi
skates away from them, out of the sunlight.
- In a classroom, fourteen days before the hanging, Jaekwon tells Mik she's sexy.
- She wishes
he would leave her alone—his attention only causes trouble with Shanelle—still,
though, she likes Jaekwon, especially when he gets close to her like he's going
to kiss her. Which he does now.
closes her eyes and waits for the kiss… but when she opens her eyes, Shanelle
is standing in Jaekwon's place.
back from suspension with perfect timing. Shanelle snaps a pic of Mik and
promises to send it to everyone she knows, making fun of Mik. Uh-oh.
the G comes up to her and thanks her for doing his math homework.
takes him around the corner to the dumpster and kisses him.
surprised, but happy. Why'd she do that?
- She just
wanted to and it felt good; he loved it, too.
- He tells
her the G stands for Gale and that he loves her. Mik's not sure how to feel
about that—she likes him and all, but she can't be in love with him if she feels sorry for him. Ugh.
- In a courtyard, fourteen days before the hanging, Fatima writes a letter to her sister; it's been two weeks since she's heard anything from her sis.
comes up to her and says her day was "perfect" but Fatima knows
better, and she asks to see Mik's sketch.
- On it,
Mik's teacher pointed out that there are no people on the streets ever.
tells her the streets need people to be complete.
- At the VA hospital, fourteen days before the hanging, Fatima introduces Mik to the guy in charge.
- He says
Mik can hang out with Fatima in class if she wants, so she follows Fatima to
her class and watches her teach the kids how to fold the paper to make a
Fatima asks Mik to lead the class for a little while. Mik's all no way, but Fatima
doesn't listen, and instead tells her to help out the kids one-on-one.
not so sure. She tries, but she doesn't see the point.
class, Fatima tells Mik she was great with the kids and says next time she'll
teach the whole class.
been smiling so much at the hospital with Fatima that her face aches.
Sunday, her mom tells her she needs to get dressed for church and pray for Joe.
the point? Mik says. It's not like he'll come back.
- Her mom
leaves in a huff.
- At church, ten days before the hanging, Fatima wakes up extra early so she can sell her papers before church.
meets up with Mik, her mom, and NaNa, and Mik wonders why Fatima would choose to go to
explains that it's fun.
Monday, they head out to the Statue of Liberty. The weather is cold and damp,
but they are determined to go since it's a holiday so Mik has off from school.
packs them lunches to take, and tells them to be careful.
- On the
way there, a homeless man begs them for food, so they hand over NaNa's
asks if Mik thinks Jimmi is okay, but when Mik says yes, she knows her friend is lying.
- They sip
beer and flirt with cute boys on the ferry over to Liberty Island.
- After a
while, someone makes an announcement on the PA system: The weather is awful so
they'll have to turn around.
- They won't
make it to the Statue of Liberty after all, and both girls are bummed since
neither has seen it.
- From far
away, they can see Lady Liberty covered in fog. Or her feet, anyway.
says they should laugh about it.
- In the Bronx, nine days before the hanging, Fatima and Mik walk arm in arm, laughing.
comes up and calls Fatima a terrorist but she shrugs it off; Mik suggests she
loses the scarf, but Fatima says it was her mom's.
- Just don't
call the police, Fatima instructs her.
girls duck into a store to get away from the guys taunting Fatima and, while in
there, they notice a sign saying the store is hiring.
- Mik asks
for an application, but Fatima knows she can't take one unless she gets a green
- A guy
walks past with a German shepherd and Mik goes to pet it, but the dog snaps at
- The owner
explains the dog is working, so the girls figure out the man is police, and the
dog is sniffing for drugs.
- It turns
out the cops are narcs (i.e., drug police), but it still worries Fatima.
doesn't want Fatima to leave, so she tells her to call NaNa and explain that
Mik will stay at Fatima's place tonight.
sneak into an abandoned NYPD warehouse and look around the graffiti on the
wall. There, they decide to paint the Statue of Liberty.
and Mik study the brochure to make sure they get her features right. Then they
paint her on the wall, along with the poem that is at her feet.
- As they
use their flashlights to look along the wall, they notice another mural that
says, "love kills time." It's Jimmi's painting of hearts and clocks.
give a stray cat some food and watch it eat in front of Lady Liberty. (Not to
be confused with this cat.)
- In his cave, eight days before the hanging, Jimmi thinks about the afterlife. He doesn't believe there's anything waiting for us when we die, but he does feel like Joe
is watching him somehow.
- He goes
to buy drugs, but then remembers he's broke, so instead he decides to wait for
the dealer to leave and then raid the stash.
- The only
problem? There is no stash tonight. But there is a gun behind a bag of sugar.
- He takes
the gun and thinks about how he has no one to talk to anymore.
starts walking along the train tracks, with the gun in hand; he sings "Amazing Grace" while he walks, thinking about the gun.
- At school, eight days before the hanging, Mik thinks about her new hearing aids. They're ready for pick up.
knows they spent a lot of Joe's money to buy them, and wonders if there will be
any left over for an immigration lawyer to help Fatima.
gives her a present and she opens it to find a really nice pen—it's even nicer
than the one she wanted.
feels badly and says she can't accept it; after all, she doesn't love him so it
wouldn't be right.
doesn't care, though, and he wants her to have the pen because he loves her and
that's all that matters.
agrees to keep it, but on one condition: She'll do his homework for free for a
- She and
Fatima get back to Mik's place and take out the hearing aids. Fatima thinks
they should wait for her mom—this is a big moment and her mom would want to be here.
- But Mik
has her own ideas, so she turns them on and listens—but she doesn't like what
she hears. It's too much sound; too clear; too perfect.
tells her it might be better later, suggesting she try again a different time.
annoyed. Why does her mom make her get new aids?
- When her
mom gets home, she complains to her mom that the doc lied and the new aids are
- Her mom
tells Mik that her feelings are hurt. If she doesn't want the aids, fine, but
how could she turn them on without her mom there? She's been working for this
moment for years, and Mik just ruined it.
- In Jimmi's cave, eight days before the hanging, Jimmi holds the gun up to his heart and pulls the trigger.
- It's not
loaded, but he's practicing for the real deal.
thinks about his time with Joe and remembers the guy laughing when Jimmi
brought him a cake for his birthday.
puts the gun down and decides to do one more thing for Joe.
- At McDonald's, seven days before the hanging, Fatima asks Mik when she will lead the class.
time" is the answer she always gives, and this time is no different.
shares that the lead guy kind of creeps her out—Fatima thinks he's cool,
- Two cops
come in and look at Fatima's headscarf. They aren't interested in arresting
her, but Fatima wants to leave all the same.
- As they
walk to the hospital, the girls notice a sign recruiting informants for
they pay people to rat out illegal immigrants, just like Fatima.
- Mik rips
the sign down.
- In Mik's room, seven days before the hanging, Mik looks at all the paper dolls she's made at the VA hospital with Fatima and the kids.
imagines a world without walls where animals could roam.
she's dreaming of this world, her mom comes in and says goodbye before heading
off to work, though not before eyeing the new hearing aids on the dresser.
takes NaNa her dinner and reads her a Bible passage.
asks her to talk about the reading, but Mik says she's got homework. Then NaNa
explains that Mik's got to learn to forgive people—especially herself.
planning on retaliating against Mik with the help of her posse, so Mik asks Jaekwon
to leave her alone—and then Gale comes up and makes the point perfectly clear: Beat
- As Mik
is leaving school, Shanelle starts yelling out that Mik doesn't have any friends
except a terrorist.
mocks Mik for a while and then threatens her again, until someone tells her to
cool it at school.
- At the
hospital, Fatima announces that Mik will lead the class today.
- The kids
ask to make angels when Mik suggests they make butterflies. She gets sick of
making those, though, so instead she suggests the try making each other.
- The kids
think it'll be too hard, but Mik convinces them to do it, and within the hour,
they have new paper dolls.
- At Joe's store, six days before the hanging, Jimmi breaks in and grabs some of Joe's ashes.
- It's not
long before the cops show up and arrest Jimmi.
- The cop
tells Jimmi he'll write it up as trespassing so he doesn't lose his veteran's
benefits, but Jimmi doesn't care all too much.
- The cops
let Jimmi shower, which makes him feel all fresh and new, and as he leaves the
police station, he's given back his backpack with Joe's ashes in it.
- Outside the courthouse, five days before the hanging, the girls wait for Jimmi to come out—Fatima doesn't want to get any closer in case there are cops around.
Jimmi sees them, he asks what they're up to, and Fatima explains that Mik's
helping teach the kids at the hospital, and she's great at it, too.
- They beg
Jimmi to let them take him back there, but it's no use.
- He's not
interested in being drugged up and told everything's going to be okay. It's all
rushes off, and Mik asks Fatima if she's okay.
- Um, not
really, but she guesses she'll just have to be.
- At Mik's apartment, three days before the hanging, Mik's mom asks her why she's showered and dressed already, when it's not even 4:00AM.
explains that she wants to help Fatima with her papers.
- As she
does, she hears the television talk of the new immigration bill that would force
local cops to report illegal immigrants to immigration.
- When Mik
gets to Fatima's, she's not sure if she should tell her friend about the bill
work on the papers and then leave for church to meet NaNa and Mik's mom.
tells her mom she's worried about Jimmi, which her mom doesn't like to hear.
sing some songs and Mik's mom says Fatima has a lovely singing voice—Mik's
still using her old hearing aids, though, so she can't hear it.
- At the park, two days before the hanging, Jimmi searches for a place to put Joe's ashes.
- He plans
to put them by the cliffs because it's peaceful over there, but when he gets
there, he finds needles and trash instead of the serene atmosphere he
- On his
way home, he stops by the abandoned NYPD garage where his old mural was, and he
sees the Statue of Liberty painting by Fatima and Mik.
amazed. It's not the painting itself that impresses him, but the fact that he
got the girls to do it.
decides to bury Joe the following night—and then use the gun to finish himself
- In an immigration lawyer's office, the day before the hanging, Fatima meets with a guy who wants to help her.
- He can't
make any promises, but he'll try to get her the right paperwork to make it
official for her sister to come to America—that way she doesn't have to hide
from the police any more and she won't be afraid of someone ratting her out.
lawyer will work for free, but there are still a bunch of fees. In total, the
bill will be sixty-five grand. Yikes.
mom says they can cover it for Fatima.
what? Fatima is touched by their gesture, but she knows they don't have that
kind of dough.
passed the collection plate at church. Plus, they cashed in all their savings.
says they can't do this—she won't allow it because it's way too much money for them, plus there are no
guarantees she will even get to stay.
mom and NaNa convince Fatima to let them help her.
- Once it's
all agreed, the lawyer tells Fatima to keep her head down and stay out of
- At school the day of the hanging, Mik gets a text from Gale that he can't make it to school today because he's sick. Bummer.
she can even text back, she's gagged from behind and shoved in the janitor's
- When she
opens her eyes, she gets a text saying "Sha gonna smiley you."
knows that's not as happy as it sounds because a smiley is when you get a cut
from ear to ear.
- When she
tells the principal, he instructs her to stay in his office until she gets
picked up from school—that way Shanelle won't bug her anymore.
school, Mik does as she's told, but when she gets to the principal's office,
his secretary tells Mik someone set a cherry bomb off in the toilet so the
principal's dealing with the police.
heads out and notices Shanelle's posse of three has multiplied, and now there
are thirty people hunting her down.
have box cutters and stare at Mik with big, menacing eyes.
grabs Mik and pins her. She complains that Mik stole her man and turned her
crew against her, but Mik doesn't think any of that's true. Just
then, Jimmi shows up. He explains that Shanelle's posse was swarming the woods,
so he helps
Mik get away from Shanelle and then tells her to turn her hearing aids off for
way, she can't hear the screams and loud noises.
- Mik does
as she's told but she feels so dizzy and sick from all the commotion that she
- At Mik's school, the day of the hanging, Fatima shows up to walk her friend to the VA hospital.
when she gets there, Mik is nowhere to be found; she hears from the secretary
that Mik left already.
tries calling Mik's phone, but no one answers.
worried since she's supposed to teach with Mik today, so she hurries to the VA
- In Jimmi's cave, on the day of the hanging, Mik wakes up and sees that Jimmi cleaned her wound.
remembers being on morphine after a really serious ear infection one time.
words are all around the cave, talking of angels, bombs, truth, and light.
looks around and sees Jimmi using a morphine stick in his arm. He tells her he's
just taking the edge off.
says he's going to look for Fatima now. He doesn't want those kids with box cutters
to get her.
should stay down there where she is safe, but Mik really wants to go with him.
leaves before she gets the chance.
- The day of the hanging, Mik's mom gets called over the PA to the manager's office.
not sure what she's done wrong, but when she sees her manager, she knows
something is terrible wrong.
hears on the television that a war vet kidnapped a deaf kid from the school and
authorities are looking for them.
mom rushes home to be with NaNa. Both of them are worried sick about Mik, and they
tell each other that Jimmi is crazy, that he has snapped—but they're actually not
sure what to think.
- The day of the hanging, Jimmi comes back to the cave to check on Mik; he hasn't found Fatima yet.
- Mik sees
that Jimmi has a gun, and she's afraid he'll use it on himself.
- He tells
her he just wants to be bright and clean.
reminds him that she wouldn't have met Fatima without him, or seen everyone
watching the paper angels that day.
tells Jimmi to close his eyes and imagine that they are flying over the world,
wherever they want to go.
- His baby
and girl can be with them, too.
Jimmi asks her what she hears, and she tells him: She hears what's real.
- Jimmi and Mik head to the streets to try to find Fatima. They figure they'll go over to the VA hospital and hopefully find her there teaching.
- They can't
ask the cops since they're mandatory reporters now for illegal immigrants.
tells Jimmi they were going to create the most beautiful thing in the world
together, but Jimmi thinks they already did—the Statue of Liberty mural was
people start swarming to two of them.
grab Jimmi, rope up his ankles and string him up.
- The mob
hates him and takes their anger out on him, even though they don't know him.
thinks that he would like to live.
- Jimmi falls onto the crowd, which only makes them angrier.
screams, and doesn't know what else to do.
joins up and shoves people in the crowd, managing to get between Jimmi and the
tells them to stop harming Jimmi. People yell out that she's a terrorist and
fight her, but she doesn't leave Jimmi's side.
- Then she
signs goodbye to
- At the NYPD stationhouse, Fatima gives the details to the police about the mob and the hanging.
want to take her to the ER to get checked out, but she says she's fine.
she's done with her story, an immigration officer comes inside.
- He has
to take her away to be deported. He got an anonymous tip about an illegal
immigrant from the country's watch list.
- Mik is
furious—Fatima just saved Jimmi's live, and now she has to leave?
- The cops
don't like it much either, but they have to do their jobs. Who did this?
doesn't want to know who ratted her out.
- In the ER, Mik and her mom check on Jimmi.
alive, but he has broken bones and bandages all over.
tells them he messed up.
when he was on drugs, he was asking everyone if Fatima was okay—he knew she was
there and helped him, and he wanted to make sure she was alive.
- He was
really worried about her, and then some guy was sitting there and started
asking questions about who Fatima was.
was on drugs, and he didn't mean to… but he thinks he told the guy she was an
illegal immigrant and described her.
- The guy
must have called the immigration tip line for a payout.
- Mik and
her mom can't believe it: Fatima risked her life for Jimmi, and then he had a
hand in turning her in. It's not fair.
- A couple
days later, Mik asks the kids in Fatima's class to make a goodbye book for
Fatima. It's filled with drawings and cut outs so she can remember them.
- On Saturday, Mik and her mom visit Fatima before she leaves for her home country.
has to see them one at a time.
tells Mik's mom not to worry—it was an incredible opportunity her for to come
to America, and she's glad she was able to.
- Mik puts her new hearing aids in before going into the visitor's room—she wants to be able to hear everything clearly.
- She goes
in to see Fatima, giving her the book the kids made for her. Fatima loves it.
thinks about what Jimmi said about making the most beautiful thing ever. She
realizes now that he wasn't talking about the Statue of Liberty mural; he was
talking about the friendship she and Fatima share.
- Then Mik
makes Fatima promise to come back someday.
gives Mik some earrings she made out of old gum wrappers—now Mik's ears can be
guard comes in and says it's time for Fatima to go.
- As she
leaves, she signs: hello,
goodbye, I love you.
- On the plane heading east toward Fatima's home country, she looks out the window.
captain announces that if everyone looks to the left, they can see the Statue
watches with excitement until they are super close to the Lady, and then she
closes her eyes so she can remember what the statue looks like as she flies
- Mik looks at what she and Fatima painted and notices people have already written graffiti all around it.
- Then she
goes to Fatima's place and takes the dolls she left behind. There is nothing
notices a new woman selling papers in Fatima's old spot.
- The next
day, Mik goes to the VA hospital, but Jimmi's not there. The guy who is in
charge of volunteer programs asks if she'll take over Fatima's class, though,
and Mik says she'd be happy to.
- The next
week at school, Gale asks Mik if she's heard from Fatima. Nope, the phones over
there aren't the best, but Mik's sure Fatima will write really soon.
asks her if she's okay, and Mik says she's better around him.
- When she
gets home, she hears her mom laughing for the first time in a long time.
they hear Jimmi blabbering outside about people and life. Mik's mom picks up
the phone to call an ambulance, but Mik asks her mom if she will just listen to