Read Chasing Redbird Online

Authors: Sharon Creech

Chasing Redbird (9 page)

T
he next day was Saturday, and after breakfast I slipped out of the house. “I'm going to Mrs. Flint's to put up the notice,” I called behind me.

“Zinny! Wait!” Bonnie shouted. “Mom needs some milk. She gave me the money—”

“Okay, I'll get it.”

“I'll come with you,” she said.

I nearly choked. “I can do it, Bonnie.”

“I
know
you can do it, Zinny. Don't be a goof. I just want to come, that's all.”

My brain was galloping as Bonnie chattered. “Maybe Bingo is sniffing his way home right now. Dogs can do that, you know. I heard about a family who gave away their dog before they moved all the way across the country, two thousand miles, and do you know what that dog did, Zinny?”

I had a pretty good idea of what that dog did, but I wasn't in the mood for guessing.

“That dog followed that family's trail all the way across the country. Two thousand miles! Isn't that amazing? How do you think it did that, Zinny? I bet some of the family's smell was on the car and the dog sniffed his way along. At least Bingo won't have that far to sniff. Maybe he's sniffing his way home right now, don't you think, Zinny?”

I was relieved to see that Jake's truck was not at Mrs. Flint's store. “Bonnie, you get the milk and I'll put the notice up. I'm in a hurry to get back,” I said.

“And which one are you?” Mrs. Flint asked Bonnie.

“I'm Bonnie. And that one is Zinny. She's putting up a notice on your board. Is that okay? Do we have to pay to do that?”

“No, it's a perfectly free service,” Mrs. Flint said.

I tacked the notice to the board so that it was partially hidden by another one.

“Do you want to know what we're putting the notice up for?” Bonnie said to Mrs. Flint. “Zinny is very upset. She's lost her dog.”

I could have strangled her.

“What a shame,” Mrs. Flint said.

“It's a little beagle puppy and his name is Bingo—”

“A beagle? My, my, everyone seems to be losing their beagles these days.”

I grabbed Bonnie's arm. “Bonnie,
please
—”

“Okay, okay, okay! I'm coming. You don't have to pinch me. I want to see the notice. Zinny! No one can see it
there
!” She removed it and replaced it front and center. “There—much better!”

“'Bye, now,” Mrs. Flint called. “I hope you find your puppy.”

We were passing the school when Bill Butler drove by, honking his horn and waving at us. I turned back to see him pulling up in front of Mrs. Flint's store.
Please, please, please
, I prayed,
do not let him see that notice
.

“Bonnie! I forgot something. You go ahead. I'll catch up.” I tore back to the store and dashed to the notice board.

Bill Butler turned from where he was standing at the counter with Mrs. Flint. “Hi there—which one are you—?”

“Zinny,” I mumbled, as I ripped the notice from the board.

“Are you taking your notice down?” Mrs. Flint asked.

“Yes,” I said. “We found what we were looking for.”

“Already?” Mrs. Flint said. “Aren't you the lucky one?

And I understand you found your beagle, too, isn't that right, Bill?”

“‘Too'?” he said.

“The Taylors lost a beagle, too, isn't that right, Zinny?”

I pretended I hadn't heard her and headed for the door just as Bonnie entered, saying, “I almost forgot! Mom needs butter.”

I slapped the notice back on the board as Bonnie went in search of butter.
Please
, I prayed,
please do not let Mrs. Flint or Bill Butler say anything to Bonnie about the ‘newly found' puppy.
This one prayer, at least, was answered, for by the time Bonnie got to the counter, Mrs. Flint was busy telling Bill about her gall bladder. She interrupted herself only once, as Bonnie left. “'Bye there, Bonnie, and I'm real happy for you—”

“Me, too,” Bill said.

As soon as we were out the door, Bonnie said, “Why were they happy for me?”

“Must have you confused with someone else.”

“Maybe they found out I won the spelling contest,” Bonnie said.

“Probably—”

“How do you think they found out? Who do you think told them?”

I wasn't listening after that. All I could think about the rest of the way home was that notice sitting there on the board. What if Mrs. Flint saw it—after she'd seen me take it down and after I'd told her we found the puppy? What if Bill Butler saw it? What if Jake saw it?

I was too miserable to think, and so I went up to the trail. For eight hours, I furiously pulled weeds and scraped stones. I plunged through nettles and thorns, pawing at the ground like a crazed badger. Two rain showers passed over me, soaking me to the skin, but I kept on going.

I found one clump of mushrooms and gobbled them down, hoping they were poisonous and that my punishment would be swift and violent. I'd probably feel dizzy, gag, throw up, tremble violently and fall dead right there on the path. My family would send out a search party. They'd find me there on my trail and they'd feel terrible. They'd wonder if I'd been murdered. They'd carry my pitiful body down the hill and clean me up and buy me a white dress and lay me in a quilted coffin surrounded by red zinnias. I hoped they wouldn't put me in the drawer.

They'd have a sweet service at the church and then take me to the cemetery. Jake would be there, weeping loudly. He'd say, “It's all my fault. It's all my fault.” Then he'd tell everybody about stealing Bingo and how I had protected him. Everyone would say, “Wasn't that Zinny the most noble thing on this earth?”

The mushrooms, however, were quite tasty, and I didn't die. I figured I'd have to go back to Mrs. Flint's and retrieve that notice.

Too late, too late.

I was limping back down the trail and had just rounded the bend from where I could see our house below, when I spotted Jake's truck leaving. I crumpled in the grass.
Please do away with me now,
I prayed,
the quicker the better
.

“Zinny, Zinny,” Bonnie called. “Guess who was here, and guess what he brought?”

“Don't tell me—”

“Jake! Jake was here and guess what he brought? He brought
Bingo
back! I knew he'd help. Jake saw the notice in the store and went out looking, and what do you know, he found him! Isn't that a miracle? Bingo was just walking along the road. Isn't that amazing? I bet he was sniffing his way back home, don't you think? Zinny? What's the matter, aren't you happy?”

“Zinny, guess what? You're late for school. Hurry up.”

I moved in slow motion, waiting for everyone else to leave for school and for Mom to take Uncle Nate's breakfast in to him. Then I scooped up my books and Bingo and set off. I'd be fiercely late for school, but I'd deal with that later.

I stopped at Mrs. Flint's store and tied Bingo up outside. Mrs. Flint was surprised to see me. “Don't you have school?” she asked.

“I'm a little late,” I said, ripping my notice from the board.

“I thought you already took down your sign.”

“Had two of them up here. Forgot this one.”

“The funniest thing is that Mr. Butler was just in here. He's lost his beagle again! Look there—he put up another notice.”

Sure enough, at the top of the board was a familiar sign:

LOST: 2-MONTH-OLD BEAGLE PUPPY.

ANSWERS TO NAME OF GOBBLER.

PLEASE PHONE 266-3554. ASK FOR

BILL BUTLER. HIDDLE FARM, MORLEY ROAD,

JUST PAST THE METHODIST CHURCH.

As soon as Mrs. Flint turned her head, I ripped down his sign as well.

At the Hiddle Farm, I was once again greeted by the broom-waving Old Mrs. Butler. Bingo-Gobbler howled, and the mother beagle responded with louder howls as she raced toward us. Over these howls came Old Mrs. Butler's fearsome whinny, followed by, “Gobbler, Gobbler, Gobbler!”

I dropped Bingo and was out of there so fast I split the breeze. As I tore past the high school which May and Gretchen—and Jake—attended, I was steaming. I halted in my tracks, tore a sheet of paper out of my science book and wrote on it. Inside, I handed it to the secretary. “You must be a Taylor,” she said. “Which one—”

I lied. “Bonnie. Could you please see that Jake Boone gets that? It's important. It's from his mother.”

I headed lickety-split for the middle school, a block away. I sure hoped the secretary wouldn't read the note. I had written:

IF YOU BRING THAT DOG BACK AGAIN,

I'LL PUNCH YOUR BRAINS OUT.

I had signed it “Z. T.” I wanted Jake to know exactly who he was dealing with.

CHAPTER 16

B
OOGIE-WOOGIE

E
ven before I went in the house, I heard the music. It was that wild, crazy jiving beat of the boogie-woogie that I hadn't heard since Aunt Jessie died. She and Uncle Nate had played their favorite boogie-woogie record on special occasions: their anniversary, their birthdays. They'd dance up a storm to this music, twirling and wiggling and spinning to beat the band. It was so unlike the quiet, gentle way they usually were.

Aunt Jessie would laugh her head off, her red hair bobbing and the fat on her arms jiggling. Uncle Nate adopted a serious look when he was dancing, as if he were in a contest and didn't want to mess up, but when the record stopped, he put his hands on his knees and laughed—how he laughed and laughed, until tears rolled down his cheeks.

They sure loved that boogie-woogie. They even had this thing they'd say to each other, from
The Boogie-woogie Bugle Boy
song. If Uncle Nate was leaving the house, he'd say,
Tootle-ee-ah-dah!
And Aunt Jessie would say,
Make the company jump!
They'd do this all the time.
Tootle-ee-ah-dah! Make the company jump!

As I came in the house this time, I realized I hadn't heard Uncle Nate say
Tootle-ee-ah-dah!
lately, either. Hearing that music again made me feel so pitiful I could hardly stand it.

I went through the kitchen passage and down the hall to Uncle Nate's room, where the record player was blaring away. His door was slightly ajar. Inside, he was dancing like a wild man with an invisible partner.

CHAPTER 17

T
RESPASSING

F
or a week, there was no sign of Jake. May asked me if I'd said anything to make him mad, because he was ignoring her at school. “He won't even look at me,” she said. “What'd you do, Zinny?”

“Not a ding-busted thing,” I said.

Everyone else was heartbroken over the lost-again Bingo. We had several searches, and they made me put up another notice (which I promptly took back down) at Mrs. Flint's store. Bill Butler stopped me one day as I was walking to school and said his puppy was back, but he'd heard ours was missing again. He was sure sorry about that. He wished he could give us his, but his mother was too attached to it.

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