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Authors: Pam Withers

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BOOK: Bungee Jump
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“It’s dubious,” Mr. Roth says, studying my cell-phone shot. “You’re on to something, Chris. You don’t want shoddy work on something as important as a bungee-jump platform. Lives are at stake.”

“What do I do?”

“Call city hall. Ask for an inspector.”

“Will that cost money?”

“No. The permit your dad took out covers that. Also, have your dad confront him. This engineer is working for you guys, after all.” He shakes his head. “Seems strange someone with those qualifications would make such a big mistake. But good for you, Chris, for being so sharp.”

We’re interrupted by my cell phone buzzing.

“Sorry, Mr. Roth.” I turn away and put the phone to my ear. “Hey, Gord. What’s up?”

“You put stuff about leprosy on the bungee-jump site!”

“Yeah, it’s part of the history of the island. So?”

“Chris, you’re going to have snoops and looters crawling all over the island, not coming for jumping. And I’m living there!”

“Sorry, Gord, if you don’t like what I put on the website. Dad said it was great.”

I push
end call
as he starts shouting at me. It’s rude, but what’s with him? It really isn’t any of his business. Why get so upset about a little history?

Anyway, it’s time to call an inspector. And order Gord to redo that weld.

Chapter Eight

“School picnic day!” Caitlin says in a singsongy voice, skipping beside me on the way to school.

“Yup. Who’d have thought they’d choose Hospital Island for our spring picnic?” I ask. “But it’s good. It’s a chance for us to remind them about the bungee-jump opening next week.”

Someone at city hall arranged for the inspector after I called. Gord redid the weld on the hairline crack without complaining, and everything’s good on the bridge.

“Bungee-jump opening!” Caitlin sings in her annoying voice.

“I wonder why Mrs. Dubin didn’t volunteer to come on the picnic as a chaperone,” Caitlin says.

“Yeah, well, she didn’t need to rage about it to the principal,” I reply. “She’s really got a thing about no one visiting that place.”

“You mean about not disturbing history,” Caitlin sings.

“She’s a grump,” I say. “She chewed me out about my website. Like it’s any of her business.”

“Well, you got some of the history from her.”

“So what? It’s our property. And our website.”

Caitlin makes a face, wags a finger and lowers her voice to imitate the librarian. “You wrote things people don’t need to know! Plus, it’s not respectful enough.”

“I thought she’d like that I included history in it.”

“Chris! Caitlin!” Mr. Roth appears. “Hey, everyone, the Biggs are here! Everyone’s got their picnic lunch, right?”

“Yes!” the kids shout, lifting water bottles and knapsacks and such.

“Do we get to go on the bungee rope today?” Tom asks.

“Next week,” I respond, drawing myself up proudly. “But you can see it from the picnic place.”

A bunch of parents who’ve volunteered to take us on their boats are waiting for us at the dock. There are six boats in all, enough to take all the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders of our tiny school.

“I want to go on the Thompsons’ cruiser!”

“Please, can I go on the Smiths’ runabout?”

“We get the dinghy!”

“That rowboat’s only going to take four!”

“Do we have to wear lifejackets?”

“Hey, stop pushing!”

“Chris,” Tom calls out. “Come in our boat!”

“Thanks!” I climb into Tom’s parents’ eight-passenger ketch and smile at his dad, who’s operating it. Mr. Roth and half a dozen kids clamber aboard too. Including Caitlin, Bella and Anya.

On the way across the channel, an eagle flies overhead. Everyone points and starts talking at the same time. Soon we come within view of the pipe bridge. A couple of kids get so excited, they lean over the railings.

“Stand back and settle down!” Tom’s dad orders, and they do.

“It’s like shiny new!” Tom exclaims. He hasn’t seen the pipe since he and I snuck up and crawled along it months ago. His parents grounded him when they found out.

“It’s so high,” says Bella with big, frightened eyes.

“Is that diving-board thing where we jump from?” Anya asks, pointing to the newly installed platform.

“Of course,” Caitlin tells her.

“What if you land in the water?” a tall girl from my grade asks.

“You can’t, because the rope stops you before then,” I say.

The boat slows, and Mr. Roth leans over the side.

“Craven, good morning. How are you? Catch anything this morning?”

“How could I catch anything with you bunch stirring up the water?” Craven grumbles.

“We’re on our annual school picnic,” Mr. Roth replies, his voice cheerful. “Join us if you like.”

Craven looks confused. “Not on Thorn Island,” he rasps.

“Yes, on Hospital Island,” Mr. Roth replies, nodding at Tom’s dad to carry on to shore. “The Biggs have generously given us permission.”

Craven rises in his boat, causing it to rock. “Don’t you go there!” he roars.

The younger students cower. The others look from Craven to Mr. Roth to Caitlin and me.

“Don’t worry,” Mr. Roth says in a polite tone. “We won’t disturb anything. And we won’t leave any garbage behind. Right, kids? See you later, Craven. Have a good day!”

The boats beach. Kids jump out and run to shore like soldiers on D-Day. They ignore Craven’s protests.

“He’s not having a very good day, is he?” Mr. Roth says to me, smiling reassuringly. “But we’re going to have a super picnic anyway.”

The adults keep the kids from wandering into the ruins. Probably just as well, since Craven beaches his boat and keeps watch from the shore. We spread blankets on a rise, and someone pulls out a Frisbee. We toss that around and play some games. Someone points out a family of otters in the water.

“Time to eat!” Mr. Roth finally announces. We pull out our bags of food.

I wander off to eat with my friends. We skip flat stones into the water.

Owooo
. A weird voice floats over the picnic area.

“What’s that?” Tom asks.

“A kid pretending to be a ghost,” I say, ignoring the younger students’
scared faces and searching for the source of the sound.

“Mr. Roth,” Anya calls out just then. She’s standing over us, holding a half-eaten sandwich that smells like tuna. Her face looks pale to me.

“Yes, Anya?”

“I don’t feel so good.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Anya. Would you like—”

She bolts away for some bushes. She sprays them with vomit.

“Gross!” Tom exclaims. Other kids cover their mouths, giggle or stare at the poor girl.

“Oh-oh,” Mr. Roth says as he and a mom-volunteer hustle over to Anya.

A boat with two adults and Anya leaves early. The rest of the kids try to play Frisbee again, but no one seems into it.

“Anya has leprosy,” I hear someone whisper.

I leap up to challenge them. I notice a bunch of kids stampeding for the boats. Not Tom or any of my friends, of course. And the kids leaving seem more excited than scared, like they’re thrilled by the drama. But I don’t like the way they look back at Caitlin and me.

No way. They don’t really think…
That is the stupidest rumor anyone could start. But it’s not like anyone asks me. And just like that, the annual school picnic is over.

Chapter Nine

“A couple of kids are saying it’s your fault that Anya got sick,” Tom warns me over lunch the following Monday. “And three other kids are home sick today.
I
know it’s stupid. And all of our crowd is sticking up for you. But you should know that everyone is saying you shouldn’t have invited the school to a contaminated site.”

“It’s not a contaminated site!” I say louder than necessary. “Anya’s mom even called my mom to say it was the mayonnaise in her sandwich.”

“Yeah right. Trying to cover it all up?” says Bella, seated down the table from Tom. “And that island is haunted too. Something was wailing during the picnic.”

I shake my head, wanting to laugh, except it’s not funny. “You fell for some kid sneaking away and trying to scare us?” I ask. “And there are always a few kids absent for being sick. Anyway, it can take months or years for leprosy to show up—”

Oops, dumb thing to say.
Now even my friends are looking at each other like they’ve got something new to get worried-excited about.

“Leprosy is where your arms and legs fall off!” someone declares as they walk by.

“And you die,” says a younger student.

“No one will go anywhere near you.”

“There’s no cure,” someone adds.

“Not true!” I protest. “There is a cure. Has been since 1982.”

It seems like everyone has an opinion. Things get loud.

That’s when Mr. Roth appears. He must have heard some of the comments. He walks over. He rests his hand on my shoulder.

“Need some scientific clarification here?” He eyes the students at my table and beyond.

I hunch over and stare at my lunch bag.

“Teacher’s pet,” someone hisses.

Mr. Roth removes his hand and narrows his eyes. “There will be a special assembly later this morning to address some rumors we understand are
going around. Don’t miss it,” he warns. His stern eyes rest on each student.

Just what I need, a spotlight on the whole thing. Oh well. Whatever it takes to put things right before the bungee-jump opening.

I’m headed for the assembly when a hand reaches out from nowhere. It closes around my wrist. It yanks me through a doorway.

Okay, not any doorway. Into the school library. I’ve never seen Mrs. Dubin look so fierce. She points to a chair. She all but pushes me into it.

“You asked for this,” she begins.

“For what?” I ask. What will she do if I bolt? I’m not scared of an old lady, am I?

She puts her face right up to mine. So close that I can see two hairs growing out of a mole on her cheek.

“You woke them up. I warned you, over and over. That island is theirs, no
matter what you think. When someone troubles them, they make trouble.”

Troubles, trouble.
Wow, that’s almost poetic. What other crap is going to come out of her mouth before I dash to the assembly? I’m going to get in trouble if I don’t attend. That’s for sure.

“They didn’t like our picnic. Is that it?” I ask. “And they made that girl throw up?”

She picks up a ruler from her desk. For a moment I think she’s going to hit me with it. Instead, she taps it on a row of dictionaries.
Tap, tap, tap.

“They’ve earned their right to peace, Christopher Bigg. Peace, quiet and respect. Your website messed with that. Your picnic upset them. And the bridge project is really stressing them. Imagine what that stupid ride you’re working on will do.” The ruler slams down on the desk so hard that I jump.

“It’s not a stupid ride. It’s a bungee—”
Oh, what’s the use?
I’m half tempted to say that the jump won’t even take kids onto Hospital Island. The platform simply straddles our peninsula and their—I mean, the island.

I could ask, “Do they tell you all this?” Or, “Who do you think you are, a ghost interpreter?” But I’m not in the mood to go head-to-head with Mrs. Dubin.

My mind flashes back to the picnic. Mr. Roth was polite and respectful to Craven.

“I appreciate the historical information you helped me find, Mrs. Dubin,” I say.

The librarian drops the ruler. Her eyebrows shoot upward for a second.

“I’m sorry if you felt I put too much information on the website,” I continue. “And I am very sorry the leper children suffered all those years ago. But the
bungee jump is going to open. So stop threatening me.”

With that I leap up and sprint for the door and some fresh air. Air to evaporate the sweat pouring from my armpits.

In the gym, Mr. Roth is giving a lecture on leprosy. It’s almost as good as my report. The principal stands to one side of him. Anya and her mother are on the other side, looking sheepish.

Everyone turns and stares at me. I step through the doorway and head for where Tom and my friends are sitting. I spot Caitlin. Her arms are wrapped around herself like she’s cold. Her eyes lock on mine. A smile of relief plays across her face.

“So, as I’ve explained, it’s impossible to get leprosy from visiting Hospital Island. And there has been a cure for this historical disease for a
long time. That’s thanks to the work of scientists. Finally, as Anya’s mother has so kindly explained, her daughter’s brief illness had nothing to do with the picnic’s location.”

There’s a ripple of dutiful clapping. The principal and teachers direct us back to our classes. Tom and other guys around me clap me on my shoulders.

“Can’t believe anyone believed…”

“Bummer that a couple of stupid people caused…”

“We totally stuck up for you but…”

“No problem,” I reply. We head down the bleachers and onto the gym floor.

“Nice website.”

“Thanks!”

“So who gets to go first at the bungee-jump opening?”

I laugh as a bunch of students press close to us.

“Me!”

“Me!”

“Me!”

“We’ll see,” I reply.

Chapter Ten

“It’s not the official opening, you know.” I’m addressing a crowd of two dozen kids. They’ve shown up for the bungee jump’s first test. We tried to make today’s event hush-hush. Lot of good that did.

“Yes, the real opening is next week, if all goes well today,” Gord says from beside me.

Next week
. I hope Dad can make it. Mom promised to take the afternoon off work. Bummer that she can’t be here today.

“But we can watch, can’t we?” asks Tom, standing beside eager-looking Bella and Anya.

“Of course,” Caitlin says, “but everyone has to stand back behind this gate.” The gate opens onto the catwalk. “Except Gord, Chris and Chuck.”

“Chuck is the jump master,” I explain.

The safety guy smiles and waves at everyone. He’s dressed in jeans, a Hospital Island T-shirt and army boots. The T-shirt order arrived yesterday, and the three of us are wearing the first ones out of the box.

BOOK: Bungee Jump
10.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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