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Authors: Richard Peck

Fair Weather

BOOK: Fair Weather
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ALSO BY RICHARD PECK

Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt

Dreamland Lake

Through a Brief Darkness

Representing Super Doll

The Ghost Belonged to Me

Are You in the House Alone?

Ghosts I Have Been

Father Figure

Secrets of the Shopping Mall

Close Enough to Touch

The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp

Remembering the Good Times

Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death

Princess Ashley

Those Summer Girls I Never Met

Voices After Midnight

Unfinished Portrait of Jessica

Bel-Air Bambi and the Mall Rats

The Last Safe Place on Earth

Lost in Cyberspace

The Great Interactive Dream Machine

Strays Like Us

A Long Way from Chicago

Amanda/Miranda

A Year Down Yonder

Photo on preceding page: Court of Honor, 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (by permission of the Chicago Historical Society)

Published by Dial Books

A division of Penguin Putnam Inc.

345 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

Copyright © 2001 by Richard Peck

All rights reserved

Designed by Lily Malcom

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Peck, Richard, date.

Fair weather / Richard Peck.

p. cm.

Summary: In 1893, thirteen-year-old Rosie and members of her family travel from their Illinois farm to Chicago to visit Aunt Euterpe and attend the World’s Columbian Exposition, which, along with an encounter with Buffalo Bill and Lillian Russell, turns out to be a life-changing experience for everyone.

ISBN: 978-1-101-66439-1

1. World’s Columbian Exposition (1893: Chicago, Ill.)—Juvenile fiction. [1. World’s Columbian Exposition (1893: Chicago, Ill.)— Fiction. 2. Chicago (Ill.)—Fiction. 3. Family life—Fiction. 4. Buffalo Bill, 1846–1917—Fiction. 5. Russell, Lillian, 1861–1922—Fiction. 6. Humorous stories.] I. Title.

PZ7.P338 Fai 2001

[Fic]—dc21 00-055561

To Jean and Will Hobbs,
in love and admiration

Contents

An Invitation From Aunt Euterpe

The Curve of the Earth

Christmas in July

Faster Than a Galloping Horse

Flying to the Moon

Bright Lights and Bad Women

The Worst Day in Aunt Euterpe’s Life

Part One

The Worst Day in Aunt Euterpe’s Life

Part Two

The Greatest Day in Granddad’s Life

Part One

The Greatest Day in Granddad’s Life

Part Two

An Invitation for Aunt Euterpe

After the Ball

After the Fair

A Note from the Author

A
N
I
NVITATION
F
ROM
A
UNT
E
UTERPE

I
t was the last day of our old lives, and we didn’t even know it.

I didn’t. It looked like any old day to me, a sultry summer morning hot enough to ruffle the roofline. But then, any little thing could come as a surprise to us. We were just plain country people. I suppose we were poor, but we didn’t know it. Poor but proud. There wasn’t a blister of paint on the house, but there were no hogs under the porch.

I was sitting out in the old rope swing at the back of our place because the house was too full of Mama and my sister, Lottie. I wasn’t swinging. I thought I was pretty
nearly too old to swing. In the fall I’d be fourteen, with only one more year of school to go.

I was barefoot, bare almost up to the knee. And I wasn’t sitting there empty-handed. We were farmers. We were never empty-handed. I was snapping beans in the colander.

After I’d gathered the eggs and skimmed the milk, I’d been out in the timber with a pail for raspberries, wild strawberries, anything going. I’d kept an eye out for mulberries the raccoons might have missed. They loved mulberries. I’d worked up a sweat in the cool of the morning. Now I was enjoying a little quiet here in the heat of the day.

It was all too peaceful to last.

My brother, Buster, was creeping up behind me. He meant to scare me out of my swing and send my beans flying. I snapped on like I was alone in the world. But I knew when he was lurking behind the privy. I knew when he made a dash for the smokehouse. Now I could hear him come stealing up behind me.

Twigs broke. Birds flew off. You’d have to be a corpse not to know. But a boy will pull the same fool stunt over and over like he’s just thought of it. He’d be carrying a dead squirrel.

By and by I felt boy-breath on the back of my neck. My hair was in braids. On the nape of my neck I felt a tickle. It might have been a woolly caterpillar off the tree.
But it wasn’t. It was the tip end of a squirrel tail. It itched powerfully, but I didn’t let on.

He kept it up as a boy will. Presently something hot and clingy dropped over my shoulder. I looked aside and I was eye-to-eye with a dead squirrel, draped there with his little paws dangling down.

As if I hadn’t seen every kind of dead animal there is. Many’s the time I’d watched Dad gut a pig.

I brushed the squirrel off into the weeds and went on with my work. Buster darted forward, showing himself, and grabbed the squirrel by the tail.

He wore bib overalls and not a stitch else. Fumbling in his pocket, he drew out a folding knife. He had to hold the squirrel by the tail in his teeth to get the blade open.

Squinting, he gripped the squirrel upside down by its hindquarters and made a cut with the knife just above the tail. Then he dropped the squirrel on the ground and tramped his bare foot on the bushy tail to keep it in place. He stooped over, working his fingers into the slit he’d made. Then he stood up right quick, lifting the skin off that squirrel in a single move. A squirrel skins easy. The carcass, pinky-white like a chicken thigh, fell back in the tall grass. Buster held up the pelt, all in one piece like a doll’s winter coat.

He was testing me.

Skinning an animal never had fazed me. Neither had killing a snake or shooting a rat in the rain barrel. But I
was getting on for fourteen now. Buster wondered if I was getting like our older sister. Was I about to start twitching my skirts and telling him how dirty his ears were? Was I going to get skittish and ladylike?

Lottie herself could wring a chicken’s neck off with her left hand while whistling “Dixie.” And nobody had yet called her dainty. But I knew what Buster was thinking. I always knew. He wondered if I was fixing to grow up and leave him behind.

He flung the squirrel pelt away. There was no use for it. He killed squirrels for the tails. He sold them a penny apiece to the Mepps Lure Company to make spinning lures for fishermen. We’d eat the squirrel, of course—have it with the beans.

BOOK: Fair Weather
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