Authors: Peg Kehret
AN EERIE CALM . . .
Jonathan noticed again how quiet it was. No magpies cawed, no leaves rustled overhead. The air was stifling, with no hint of breeze.
Moose barked. Jonathan jumped at the sudden noise. It was Moose’s warning bark, the one he used when a stranger knocked on the door. The dog’s eyes had a frantic look. He was shaking.
“What’s wrong, boy?” Jonathan asked.
Jonathan looked in all directions. He saw nothing unusual. There were still no people and no animals that would startle Moose and set him off. Jonathan listened hard, wondering if Moose had heard something that Jonathan couldn’t hear.
Abby stopped walking. “What was that?” she said.
“What was what?”
Jonathan listened. He heard a deep rumbling sound in the distance.
OTHER BOOKS BY PEG KEHRET
Don’t Tell Anyone
The Ghost’s Grave
I’m Not Who You Think I Am
Searching for Candlestick Park
Terror at the Zoo
The Pete the Cat Series
The Stranger Next Door
Published by the Penguin Group
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by Cobblehill Books, an affiliate of Dutton Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc., 1996
Published by Puffin Books, 1998
Reissued by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2006, 2011
Copyright © Peg Kehret, 1996
All rights reserved
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE COBBLEHILL EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
Earthquake terror / Peg Kehret.
Summary: When an earthquake hits the isolated island in northern California where his family has been camping, twelve-year-old Jonathan Palmer must find a way to keep himself, his partially paralyzed younger sister, and their dog alive until help arrives.
[1. Earthquakes—Fiction. 2. Survival—Fiction. 3. Brothers and sisters—Fiction. 4. Physically handicapped—Fiction.]
[Fic]—dc20 95-20462 CIP AC
Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
For Nancy McGriff, Kathy Schultz, Beth Elshoff, Desiree Webber, Terri Street, Chapple Langemack, Ruth Shafer, James Fox, Linda Hoke, Linda Mapes, and all of the others who give time and talent to produce awards for children’s books.
he deserted campground seemed eerie, like a ghost town. It’s too quiet, Jonathan thought. Where is everyone?
Even though the purpose of a camping trip was to get away from the city, it seemed unnatural to hear no boat motors, no radios, and no human voices except for his family.
On previous camping trips there had always been a few other people around, even late in the year like this. Today the only sounds were the cawing of an occasional magpie and the dry leaves crackling underfoot as Jonathan and his golden retriever, Moose, walked along the trail.
Apparently the Palmers were the only family in Northern California who chose to visit Magpie Campground that day. Of course it was a Tuesday, which made a difference. Campgrounds
were always busier on weekends. Still, Jonathan thought, it was weird, and he walked faster despite the heat.
The weather seemed more like July than October. Maybe everyone else chose to stay in their air-conditioned homes and watch the World Series game on television. Jonathan would have preferred that, too, but his parents had insisted he come along on the overnight outing. Today and tomorrow were planning days for teachers, so Jonathan did not have school.
“Wait for us, Jonathan.”
When he heard his mother’s voice, Jonathan stopped. He rubbed the toe of his tennis shoe into the dusty trail, dislodging a stone.
Wait for us, Jonathan. Wait for us, Jonathan.
Jonathan looked back at his parents and sister. Sometimes it seemed he spent his entire life waiting.
Moose tugged impatiently at his leash.
Jonathan picked up the stone and tossed it into the trees. A squirrel chattered its displeasure.
“Sorry,” Jonathan said.
Moose sat and scratched his ear with his hind leg. His tags jingled. Jonathan did some leg stretches to keep limber and then glanced down the trail again.
Mr. Palmer had stopped, too, and was looking behind him.
The whole family waits for Abby, Jonathan thought. We have already wasted half the morning, waiting for Abby. He wondered if his parents ever got as frustrated by it as he did. If so, they didn’t show it. No matter how long it took Abby
to maneuver her walker, they encouraged her to move around by herself, while they waited.
Grandma Whitney said it would be simpler for all of them if Abby used a wheelchair. Abby preferred to crawl. She placed her forearms, from elbow to wrist, on the floor and pulled herself forward, with her legs dragging behind. Because her arms were strong, she crawled quickly and with surprising grace. “Her Marine crawl,” Mr. Palmer called it.
Mr. and Mrs. Palmer let Abby crawl only at night, between bathtime and bed, when she was tired and cranky. The rest of the time they insisted on the walker, refusing a wheelchair altogether. They said Abby’s leg muscles would grow stronger if she used them and weaker if she didn’t.
Jonathan did some knee bends and thought about how vacations used to be. Before Abby’s accident, the Palmers climbed mountain trails and slept in sleeping bags under the stars. He remembered two camping trips where he and his parents had hiked for an entire day, with baby Abby in a backpack.
He remembered how good it felt to rest on a rock, high on a hill, and look out over the treetops. He used to push himself to keep up; he sometimes got short of breath.
His sister was born when Jonathan was six, and she had her accident two years later. Now it took more than an hour just to stroll the short, level trail that wound along the riverbank from their campsite to the lake. Now they slept in a small trailer because Abby needed a real bed, with a mattress, not a sleeping bag on the ground.
The Palmers never came to Magpie Campground during the popular summer months anymore, when the lake was a favorite destination for swimmers, and fishermen clogged the riverbanks. It was too difficult for Abby to get around when the trails were crowded; other people were not as patient as her family.
It isn’t Abby’s fault that her legs are partially paralyzed, Jonathan reminded himself. She can’t help it that she isn’t able to walk alone. He watched as Abby lifted the metal walker and put it down, then leaned on it to balance herself while she stepped forward.
Jonathan’s mother walked behind Abby. When Mrs. Palmer saw Jonathan watching, she smiled and waved at him, a signal that he could proceed.
As soon as he reached the lake, Jonathan took the leash off Moose. The big dog immediately splashed into the water, jumping and running along the shore. Jonathan found a piece of driftwood, yelled, “Moose! Fetch!” and threw it into the lake. Moose swam to it, grabbed the driftwood in his mouth, and swam back to shore. He shook the water off his coat, dropped the driftwood at Jonathan’s feet, and looked at Jonathan expectantly, as if to say, Well? Aren’t you going to throw it again?
Jonathan tossed the driftwood again and Moose plunged after it. Jonathan took off his shoes and socks and waded in ankle-deep, curling his toes around the small stones that covered the lake bottom. The cold water felt good on such a warm day, with the sun beating through his T-shirt. Jonathan
removed his Giants cap and put it on backward, so the bill would protect the back of his neck while he looked into the water. He was glad his mother had insisted he rub sunscreen on his face and arms before they left the camper.
Behind him, he heard his parents and Abby emerge from the trail.
“Jonathan’s in the water,” Abby said. “Be careful, Jonathan!” she yelled.
Abby’s parents had taken her many times to the public swimming pool near their home, thinking that water exercises would help her leg muscles. Many people can move their arms and legs better in the water, they told her. They can do things in the water that they can’t do otherwise.