Read The Menagerie Online

Authors: Tui T. Sutherland

The Menagerie

BOOK: The Menagerie
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Dedication

F
OR
A
DAM
, S
TEVE
, E
LLIOT, AND
J
ONAH
,
for whom we'd happily brave dragons, kelpies, and griffins. As for manticores, you might be on your own there.

ONE

L
ogan Wilde noticed the feathers as soon as he woke up.

There were five of them scattered across his gray carpet like autumn leaves. Logan stared at them, rubbing his eyes as his third backup alarm clock went off.

He climbed out of bed and picked one up. It was huge, and in the sunlight it glowed as if it were sprinkled with gold dust, bright against the pale brown of his palm.

He tried to remember if anything weird had happened last night, such as, say, a giant golden bird flapping through his room. The problem was that he was a really,
really
deep sleeper. His dad joked that he could set off a car alarm beside Logan's head without waking him up.

“Huh,” Logan said. “Do I want to know what happened to the rest of this bird, Purrsimmon?”

He turned and noticed that his cat wasn't lounging sleepily across the bottom of his bed, where he could usually find her.

“Purrs?” he called.

A movement on Logan's desk caught his eye. Warrior, his Siamese fighting fish, was swimming frantically back and forth, swishing his long purple fins. The terrarium next to the fishbowl looked empty. Logan crossed over to it and peered in.

Normally his two pet mice ran up to the glass when they saw him, hoping for food. But today Mr. and Mrs. Smith were huddled in a corner under a pile of wood shavings. They refused to come out even when he shook their food canister at them.

“What the heck is going on?” Logan asked.

“Rrreow,”
said a small voice from inside the closet.

Logan pulled open the door and found his cat hiding on the top shelf behind a pile of sweaters. Her gray and white fur was standing on end, and she gave him a wild-eyed look.

“Aw, what happened?” Logan joked. “Did a big bird fly in here and scare you?”

“Rrrrrreeow,”
she grumbled. Her baleful glare said,
Well, YOU clearly weren't going to wake up and save us. Go ahead, snore away while I get eaten. I'm sure your tears at my funeral will be very heartfelt.

Logan spotted long threads of blue, green, and red yarn tangled through her claws and realized that Purrsimmon had spent the night anxiously shredding his sweaters.

“Oh, man,” Logan said. “Thanks a lot, Purrs.”

“RRRRREOW,”
she protested indignantly. He reached for her, but she flattened her ears and took a flying leap over his head. He spun around in time to see her tail disappearing out the open window.

Logan sighed. “Someday I'll have a dog,” he told his fish. “One that won't run away in a panic over every little thing.”

Warrior flapped his fins at Logan as if he were saying,
Hey, I'm on the cat's side here!

Logan got dressed, picked up the note and lunch money his dad had left for him in the kitchen, and hurried out the door, grabbing a Pop-Tart to eat on the way to school.

It never occurred to him that his nighttime visitor might not have left.

 

Xanadu, Wyoming, was a small, sleepy town surrounded by mountains. It was not the kind of place Logan had ever expected to live. But then, he'd also never expected his mom to ditch them via postcard or his dad to quit his fancy lawyer job to move west and search for her.

“Look at this place, Dad,” Logan had said that summer as their U-Haul bumped past what appeared to be an actual saloon, with a pair of long horns burned into a wooden sign. “It's like the opposite of Chicago. Does this mean I can have a horse? I bet everyone here has a horse.”

“Sure, you can have a horse,” his dad answered, “the day you go to school wearing a cowboy hat, chaps, and spurs.”

Dad thought he was pretty hilarious.

Logan wasn't nearly brave enough for a cowboy hat, never mind anything else. Certainly not as the new kid in seventh grade.

It would be pretty cool to ride a horse the ten minutes to school instead of his bike, though. Logan coasted down a hill, steering around the potholes. He still missed the deep-dish pizza smell that hung around his block in Chicago, but he didn't miss most of the other smells of the city. The air here smelled like pine trees and faraway snow.

At the bottom of the hill, his bike zipped past the Xanadu Savings Bank. He spotted a cluster of people in suits on the front steps. He didn't have time to stop, but out of the corner of his eye, it looked as if the front door had been shredded like grated cheese.

No way. I must have seen that wrong
. Logan shook his head and kept pedaling.

Logan liked Wyoming better than Chicago so far, even if he hadn't made any real friends yet. People actually did ride horses down the main streets sometimes, and the town newsletter was printed—not online—in an old-timey font like a Wanted: Dead or Alive outlaw poster. In Wyoming Logan had an actual yard—well, a strip of grass around the patio of their ranch house—which meant there was hope that one day he could have a dog. The best part was that his dad let him bike around alone.

Plus, here there weren't memories of his mom, waiting to ambush him everywhere he looked. He couldn't imagine why his dad thought he'd find her anywhere nearby. Xanadu was way too dull for her; there wasn't even an airport within fifty miles. Logan didn't mind the quiet, but his mom would have lost her mind in the first week.

He rounded the last corner and nearly crashed into a trio of kids standing in the middle of the road, arguing.

“AAAAAH!”
he shouted, steering wildly as two of the kids scattered. His bike rammed into the curb and sent him sprawling into a pile of raked orange leaves on someone's lawn.

“Watch where you're going!” a girl's voice yelled.

“Me?” Logan said, sitting up. “You're the ones standing in the street!” His elbow ached, and his palms were scraped. He could feel a thin trickle of blood sliding down his shin. He unclipped his bike helmet and leaned over to roll up his pants.

The girl who had yelled at him was still standing in the road, glaring. She was the only one who hadn't tried to move out of the way. Her dark hair hung down in two long braids. He realized he'd noticed her before, yelling at another sixth-grade girl on the soccer field; but he didn't know her name. The other two were in his seventh-grade class.

“Whoa,” said the guy, squinting at Logan's bleeding knee. “Sorry about that.” Blue Merevy was tall and blond and sleepy looking. Girls were always smiling at him and hanging around wherever he was. Logan wasn't sure why, although it probably had something to do with his green eyes and the really slow way he talked.

“It's all right,” Logan said. He glanced at the other girl—Zoe Kahn, the weirdest person in the seventh grade. Her chin-length red-brown hair was tucked behind her ears, and her green flannel shirt was buttoned wrong. She was staring across the street at the post office, frowning.

“Keiko,” she said as if Logan wasn't there, “come on, please. We need your help.”

“No way,” Keiko said, tossing her braids back. “Stupid thing will probably bite me if it sees me. This is your problem. I'm staying out of it.” She narrowed her gold-brown eyes at Logan, then whirled around and stomped off toward the school.

“We're going to be late,” Blue pointed out.

“But we have to check,” Zoe said desperately. “What if he's gone by lunchtime?”

“It'll be all right,” Blue said, lowering his voice.

Logan felt like he was intruding. He climbed to his feet and was about to slink off, but then he glanced at Zoe's face again and noticed that she was on the verge of tears. Even Blue looked kind of stressed, which was not a normal Blue expression at all.

He'd feel like a jerk if he walked away without asking if he could help. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, it's nothing,” Zoe said, swiping at her eyes.

“You sure?” he asked. “Is, uh—is there anything I can do?”

Zoe met his gaze for the first time, as if she'd finally realized he was there. “Oh, thanks,” she said, “but no, it's okay. It's just my—my dog is missing.”

“Oh, no!” Logan said. “What kind of dog? How long has he been gone? What's his name? Did you check the shelter? I can help you make flyers if you want. Is he microchipped? Has he run away before?” He stopped. Blue and Zoe were both giving him very strange looks. “Um,” he said. “I like dogs, that's all.”

“Don't worry about it,” Zoe said. She gave him a tired smile. “But thanks.”

The warning bell rang in the school yard.

“We'd better go, quick,” Zoe said to Blue. She dashed across the street and disappeared into the post office. Logan noticed a few feathers scattered across the big stone steps—enormous feathers like the ones in his room, only these were dark brown instead of gold.

“Why would her dog be in there?” Logan asked.

“Uh . . . he
really
loves mailmen.” Blue shrugged. “He's kind of a weird dog.”

“What's his name?”

Blue's forehead furrowed thoughtfully. “Uh . . . Six. No, Finn. Nah, let's go with Six. See ya.” He turned to follow Zoe before Logan could ask any more questions, such as “Did you just really obviously make that up?”

Logan sighed as Blue disappeared through the post office doors. This was why he still didn't have any friends four months after moving to Xanadu. It wasn't only that he was totally awkward when he tried to talk to people. And it wasn't that he looked different from almost everyone here—Walter Barnes, the other African American guy in the class, was a mega-popular football star with an eighth-grade girlfriend.

The truth was, the kids here already had their set groups of friends. There were only twenty-four students in the whole seventh grade—ten boys, fourteen girls—and all of them were impossible to get to know.

The first week, he had tried sitting with Walter at lunch. But Walter had ignored him, talking to his football buddies and acting as if his lasagna was far more interesting than Logan. He didn't seem to care about the Bulls or the Cubs or how many games Logan had gone to in Chicago.

Logan had tried a different table of guys the next week, hoping that he'd have better luck with the band guys than the jocks since he was a decent saxophone player. But when he brought up Charlie Parker, he got blank stares. Nobody liked the same things he did. None of them had ever watched
MythBusters
or
The Amazing Race
. As for Siamese fighting fish, he might as well have said he kept a small, boring alien in a fishbowl on his desk.

They spent most of lunch quoting old
South Park
episodes to one another, which was a show Logan's dad wouldn't let him watch. After that, Logan kept sitting at the same table, but he stopped trying to participate in the conversations.

Basically it was hopeless. But his friends back in Chicago hadn't been that awesome, either. They all said cheesy, unhelpful things when his mom left and then didn't want to talk about it. And from their two-sentence emails, it sounded like he was lucky to be missing all the middle school drama of who liked whom and who was sending around embarrassing pictures of whom. Here he might be invisible, but at least he wasn't in everyone's in-box squirting grape juice out of his nose.

He slouched into homeroom and drew feathers on the inside of his notebook until the bell rang. Mr. Christopher was just starting to take attendance when Zoe and Blue were escorted through the door by an irate guidance counselor.

“These two were playing hooky!” Miss McCaffrey announced, then paused dramatically before adding, “In the POST OFFICE!” as if that made it much, much worse.

“Ooooooooooooooo,”
said Jasmin Sterling from the back of the room. “Zoe and Blue, sending each other love letters! That's soooo cute.”

Blue's mellow expression didn't change, but Zoe shot her a withering look. Everybody, even Logan, knew that Jasmin was the one with the world's biggest crush on Blue. Zoe and Blue acted more like brother and sister, at least as far as he could tell.

The overhead loudspeaker crackled. “Miss McCaffrey,” said the disembodied voice of the principal, “please report to the cafeteria. We have a . . . situation.”

Zoe gave Blue a frantic look as the guidance counselor went out the door. Logan saw Blue shake his head a tiny bit and nudge her toward her seat.

Zoe slid into the chair beside Logan, running her hands anxiously through her hair. She dropped her backpack on the floor between her desk and Logan's. He wondered if she knew how peculiar her bag smelled. It was as if wet dogs and hippos had been wrestling on it. He glanced down and saw a couple of brown hairs stuck in the zipper. They were too long and dark to be Zoe's; her hair was more reddish and barely reached her chin. So they must belong to her dog, which meant he was shaggy with a bizarre odor.

Well, he'd rather have a dog with a bizarre odor than no dog. Logan tried to think what kind of dog would have fur like that. A Saint Bernard?

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