The American Girl by Monika Fagerholm

This is where the music begins. It is so simple. It is at the end of the 1960s, on Coney Island in New York. There is a beach and boardwalk, a small amusement park, some restaurants, fun slot machines, and so on.

There are a lot of people here. She does not stick out from the crowd. She is young, fifteen–sixteen, dressed in a thin, light-colored dress. Her hair is blond and a bit limp, and she has not washed it in a few days. She comes from San Francisco and, before that, from somewhere else. She has all of her belongings in a bag she wears over her arm. A shoulder bag, it is blue and has "Pan Am" on it.

She walks around a bit listlessly, talks to someone here and there, answers when she is spoken to, looks a little bit like a hippie girl, bit that is not what she is. She is not anything, actually. She travels around. Lives from hand to mouth. Meets people.

Do you need a place to crash?

There is always someone who asks.

And you can still live like that, even during those times.

She has a few dollars in her hand, ones she has just gotten from someone. She asked for them, she is hungry, she wants food. Really she is just hungry, nothing more. But she is happy otherwise, it is such a beautiful day here, outside the city. The sky is endless, and the world is large.

From The American Girl by Monika Fagerholm, translated by Katarina E. Tucker. Translation copyright 2010 © by Katarina E. Tucker. Excerpted with permission of Other Press.