Authors: Christine Heppermann
For Audrey, who gives me
inspiration and only charges
fifty centsâC. H.
For Bianca and Jan, who
work for freeâR. K.
For Esther, my very own
Ms. MâD. M.
adie didn't want to hear one more word about Moose Butt Lake.
Really it was Moose Head Lake, but Jess said “Moose Head Lake Moose Head Lake Moose Head Lake” so many times that Sadie couldn't stand it.
Moose Butt Lake, where Jess and Maya
would make s'mores after dinner or maybe walk to the little store near Jess's grandparents' cabin for super-special Moose Butt ice cream.
Moose Butt Lake, where Jess and Maya would lie on the dock at sunset and watch the bats come out of Moose Butt Cave.
“You know,” said Sadie, “bats have rabies.”
“Not at Moose Head Lake,” Jess assured her.
Of course, thought Sadie. Special Moose Butt Lake bats.
Moose Butt Lake, where there were two kayaks, one for Jess and one for Maya. They didn't need a third for Sadie because Sadie wasn't coming.
“This is the first year they've let me bring a friend to Moose Head Lake,” Jess reminded
her for the billionth time that morning as the three girls huddled in the window seat in Sadie's den. “Maybe next summer I can bring you, too.”
Maya stopped scratching Sadie's cat, Wilson, under the chin and patted Sadie's knee. “We'll only be gone four days, which in geologic time is like a nanosecond. Like a fraction of a nanosecond. We're practically already back!”
“Trust me, you won't want to come back,” Jess said. “When I was five, I hid in the boathouse when it was time to go home. BeMaw and BePaw had to drag me out of there kicking and screaming.”
Sadie felt like kicking and screaming at that very moment. But, of course, she didn't.
“What Jess intended but neglected to say,” said Maya, “is that we won't have nearly as much fun without you.”
“Well, duh, Ms. Dictionary,” said Jess. “But, Sadie, I swear I begged themâ”
Sadie cut Jess off mid-excuse. “Don't worry about it. I'll be okay.”
“I know you will.” Jess reached for Sadie's ponytail, divided it into three sections, and started to braid.
“At least I won't get rabies,” Sadie mumbled.
“What?” asked Jess, tugging the hair perhaps a little harder than absolutely necessary.
“I said, just don't forget to write me. A postcard or something.”
“And one for Wilson, too,” Maya promised.
“Hey, down there!” Sadie's mother's voice boomed from the top of the stairs. “I just talked to Jess's mom. Time for you girls to get a move on.”
Which is how Sadie found herself standing at the front door watching her two best friends, arms slung around each other's shoulders, start down the sidewalk. She waved. Maya waved back. Jess blew theatrical kisses. Then they rounded the corner onto Oxley Street and disappeared.
Sadie contemplated the rest of the day. And the day after that. And after that. All the lonely hours ahead closing around her like a collapsed tent.
She drifted back to the window seat and curled next to Wilson, who was watching a single brown bird peck at the dirt. “Good thing one of us is easily entertained,” she said, petting him.
She tried to read, but it wasn't easy, what with Jess and Maya probably already in the minivan, speeding toward adventure. Though, really, what was so special about their plans? Burned marshmallows? Nasty flying rodents pooping in their hair? Not that she wanted that to happen, but . . .
Beside her, Wilson startled. He jumped to his feet, skittered across her lap, and pawed at the glass.
“What?” Sadie said, setting down
More Tales from Grimm
. “It's only the backyard.” Only the grass her mother mowed, only the flowers her father watered. Only the green patio chairs. Only her old playhouse over by the garage.
Wilson's tail twitched. He mewed.
“Okay, I'll let you out. But don't bring home anything gross.”
Sadie lifted the window.
Zip! Wilson was gone. He streaked across the flagstones, past the petunias and Queen Anne's lace, right to the playhouse. Well, not
, exactly. He stopped a few yards away and froze except for his tail, which swished back and forth like a windshield wiper.
Why was he acting like that?
Then she saw it. An almost invisible wisp of smoke rising from the playhouse roof.
Maybe she had imagined it. She blinked.
The smoke was still there.