Authors: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
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OTHER YEARLING BOOKS BY
PHYLLIS REYNOLDS NAYLOR YOU WILL ENJOY
THE BOYS START THE WAR
THE GIRLS GET EVEN
BOYS AGAINST GIRLS
THE GIRLS’ REVENGE
A TRAITOR AMONG THE BOYS
A SPY AMONG THE GIRLS
THE BOYS RETURN
THE GIRLS TAKE OVER
BOYS IN CONTROL
To Michael Oldaker and his bookstore
t was the day after the Fourth of July. The sun was warm, the air was breezy, and time was moving slowly, just the way Wally liked it. No clock telling him to get up, no bell ringing for class—just twelve hours stretching out before him, with only a wisp of leftover firework smoke in his nostrils.
But Wally Hatford had come to a decision. Since he was ninety-nine percent sure that the Malloy girls would be moving back to Ohio when summer was over, he didn’t want any guilt feelings hanging around once they were gone. So he was going to be super-nice to them.
Well, maybe not
. Maybe not even nice, exactly. But he would probably be polite. Okay, maybe not
polite, but he certainly wasn’t going to do anything to make them mad. Especially Caroline.
Wally had just finished reading the first book on his
summer reading list,
A Ghost’s Revenge
, and it was one of the creepiest, scariest stories he had ever read.
The book said that each person has a ghostly self that shadows him all the time, whether he knows it or not. When the person dies, the ghost takes over, but even when the person is alive, that ghostly self can make its presence known if it gets mad enough. Sometimes it even latches on to that person’s enemy and haunts
for a while.
In the story, a man cheated his neighbor, and after a time the neighbor moved away, but the neighbor’s ghost didn’t. It hung around to get even. Everything the man tried to do went wrong. His vegetables wouldn’t grow, his car broke down, his dog got sick, and his roof caught fire.
This worried Wally a lot.
It was only a story, of course. Wally
that. But if the Malloy girls moved back to Ohio, where they used to live, Wally did not want their ghostly selves, if they had any, hanging around
. If they moved away, he did not want one of those ghostly selves—especially Caroline’s—trying to settle a score with the boy who maybe hadn’t treated her as well as he could have. It was only a piece of nonsense, but it didn’t stop Wally from dreaming that he heard a
scritch, scratch, scritch
in the cellar. Then a soft
thump, thumpity, thump
on the stairs. Then a
creak, crickety, creak
of the floorboards in his bedroom, and then an icy hand.…
“Yipe!” Wally said aloud, suddenly snapping to attention as his twin brothers came out on the porch.
“What’s the matter with you? Got ants in your pants?” said Jake as he flopped down on the glider and Josh took a wicker chair. Wally had been sitting on the floor, leaning against a post.
“Something like that,” said Wally, giving his head a shake.
If Mom and Dad knew all the tricks he and his brothers had played on those Malloy girls, Wally thought.…! Of course, the girls had played their share of pranks too, but the truth was, the boys had started it. And though Wally had usually gone along reluctantly, he had definitely been involved. He had most certainly done things he shouldn’t have. A ghostly presence would remember that. Wally didn’t care if their vegetables didn’t grow, but he didn’t want their car to break down or their roof to catch fire, just because he hadn’t been nicer to Caroline Malloy.
Jake stretched his long legs out in front of him and pulled a sheet of paper from his jeans pocket. After unfolding it section by section, he pointed to the print at the top of the page. “Listen, Wally,” he said. “You want to be in on something? If Josh and I put out a neighborhood newspaper, that counts as three books on our summer reading list. You want to help out?”
By now, Wally had learned that whenever Jake had an idea, alarm bells should go off right, left, and every which way from Sunday. Still, a newspaper might be fun.…
“Just any kind of newspaper?” he asked.
“It has to be three issues of a newspaper about
historical stuff in Buckman. That shouldn’t be too hard,” Jake answered.
It did sound sort of interesting. “So what would Iget to be?” asked Wally. “Manager? Photographer? What?”
“We thought maybe you could be the spell checker. You know … go over the stuff we write,” Josh explained.
“Forget it,” said Wally, and settled back against the post again. If there was a least attractive job to do, it was always Wally who got to do it.
Jake pulled a Three Musketeers bar out of his pocket and held it out toward Wally. “You’d be good at it,” he said.
Wally knew he was a good speller. Whenever he came across a new word, it lit up in his brain like a neon sign. But he didn’t like the idea of Jake and Josh having all the fun; he wanted to be something more than spell checker.
“No deal,” he said.
“We’ll have a great time,” said Josh.
“So, have a blast,” Wally told him.
Jake held the candy bar a little closer. “Okay, you can be spell checker and distributor. How about that?”
“What does the distributor do?” asked Wally.
“Sees that the newspaper gets around,” said Jake.
“You mean, take it door to door,” said Wally.
“Well, that, too,” said Jake. The candy bar came closer still. Wally guessed it was an old one left over from last Halloween. Tucked away in a sock drawer, maybe.
“You’d also get your name on the masthead along with ours,” said Josh.
That was more like it. Wally reached for the candy bar, unwrapped it, and took a bite. It tasted like old socks too!
“The only problem,” said Josh, “is that even with you and Peter helping out, it’s still going to be a lot of work. We’re wondering if maybe we should ask the Malloys to go in on it with us.”
Wally closed his eyes. Hadn’t they gotten in enough trouble with Eddie, Beth, and Caroline over the past year? Why did they have to go
for disaster? “Are you nuts?” he asked.
“It’s just a thought,” said Jake.
“If they move back to Ohio, Eddie won’t get summer reading credit for putting out a newspaper. Why would she want to help? Why would Beth and Caroline want to be in on it at all? They’re not even in the same grade as you,” Wally said.
Jake and Josh had been in sixth grade along with Eddie Malloy, Beth had been in fifth, and Wally had been stuck down in fourth grade with Caroline. The last thing in the world Wally wanted to do was to spend a summer around her.
“Maybe they’d just like to do it for fun. It’s one way to spend July,” said Josh.
“As if they couldn’t find stuff to do on their own,” said Wally. “If they get to be on our newspaper, Eddie will try to be boss and you know it.”
“I’ve already thought of that,” Jake told him. “So I’ve named myself editor. I’m going to write up stories, and Josh will draw some comics. We’ll tell the girls they can choose any job they want on the newspaper except editor, illustrator, or distributor.”
Well, maybe that wouldn’t be too bad, Wally thought. No reason the girls couldn’t do their part on their side of the river, and the Hatfords could do their work over here. If anyone crossed the swinging footbridge that they used to go back and forth, it wouldn’t have to be often and it wouldn’t have to be Wally.
He looked across the river at the white house on Island Avenue. The Malloys were renting it from the Bensons, the best friends the Hatford brothers had ever had. The Buckman River flowed into town on one side of Island Avenue, circled around under the road bridge leading to the business district, and flowed out again on the other side.
“Man oh man, if the Bensons were back, we could sure put out a good newspaper,” Wally said. “We could have a production line going you wouldn’t believe.”
“Yeah, well, they’re not back, because Steve and Tony signed up for a bunch of summer stuff down there, and so did Bill and Danny and Doug,” said Josh disgustedly.
“We figured they’d be back here the second that school let out in Georgia. We figured wrong,” said Jake.
Wally could hear seven-year-old Peter come banging in the back door. The screen door slammed, the refrigerator
door thumped, and there were footsteps coming down the hall; then the front screen door flew open. Peter was trailing sand from the sandbox Mrs. Hatford had brought home from the hardware store.