Authors: Lauren Baratz-Logsted
"That is," Marcia said, for once sounding dark, "if there even is a note this time. The note leaver's been wonky lately."
We ignored her and raced to the drawing room. Even Petal raced. She may have been more petrified of Rebecca than ever, but the notes were always a high point for us.
"Will there be a note or won't there? Will there be a note or won't there?" Marcia kept muttering when we were all standing in front of the loose stone in the drawing room.
"Cut it out," Georgia said. "You sound like you're playing he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not with a daisy. The loose stone is
"See if there's a note! See if there's a note!" Zinnia cried with excitement, hands clasped together.
Rebecca slid the loose stone out, and this time, unlike the last time...
There was a note back there.
"Read what it says!" Zinnia cried. "Read what it says!"
I always knew you were a fiery girl— nice work!
"'A fiery girl,'" Rebecca echoed. "I rather like that."
"And I rather like," Marcia said, "that the note leaver isb ack—yippee!"
Rebecca continued reading.
Thirteen down, three to go.
"But wait," Marcia said. "I think the math is all wrong this time. Rebecca got two powers: superhuman strength and now this fire thing."
"You got superhuman strength too?" Will asked Rebecca, his eyes wide.
"Yes," Rebecca said. "Would you like me to lift something really large for you?"
"I don't think now's the right time for that," Pete said.
"But what can this mean?" Marcia said. "Does the note leaver not realize Rebecca now has two powers? Does the note leaver not know about the superhuman strength?"
"Who cares what the note leaver knows or doesn't know?" Rebecca shrugged.
"I care!" Marcia was outraged.
"So?" Rebecca said. "Maybe it's like I said before. Maybe the superhuman-strength stuff is just me being me and not a power at all."
"Oh no!" Petal cried. "Does this mean that even after July is over, you'll still be Wife-Carrying me?"
We ignored Petal.
"I know one thing it means," Zinnia said.
Now this was shocking: Zinnia saying she knew what something meant without first claiming that one of the cats told her in one of her imaginary Zinnia-to-kitty conversations.
"It means," Zinnia said, "that Rebecca has managed to hog two powers instead of the usual one." Zinnia crossed her arms, and her lower lip came out. "I suppose when my month finally arrives there won't even be one single power left for me, not even a measly one."
"Oh, I'm sure that won't be the case," Durinda said, placing an arm around Zinnia's shoulders.
"Of course not," Jackie said, placing an arm around Zinnia's shoulders from the other side. "I'm sure you'll get a fine power and probably the best present anyone's had yet."
Zinnia was slightly mollified by all the hugging, but not much. "We'll see about that," she said glumly.
"Does anyone else see there's a P.S. at the bottom of Rebecca's letter?" Mandy asked.
"A P.S.?" Zinnia zoomed straight from glum to excited again. "I don't know if we've ever had one of those before. Have we?"
"That's funny," Annie said, rubbing her chin as though she expected to find a fake beard there even though she'd only ever worn a fake mustache. "Right now I can't remember if we have or not."
"I hope it's not bad news," Petal said.
"Read it! Read it!" Zinnia shouted at Rebecca.
"Perhaps if you'd stop shouting," Rebecca said. "Oh, fine."
P.S. Remember, Rebecca: Always use your power for good, not evil.
" Rebecca said, crumpling up the note. "What a silly note leaver. Of course I'm going to use my power for evil. Why, this is just the beginning of my world domination. I think when I'm done, I'll rename whatever country we live in Rebeccaland. Or maybe I'll rename the whole planet that. The universe even!"
"Well, you'd better hurry up and dominate then," Georgia said. "July's over in seventeen days, and with it goes your power."
"You're right," Rebecca said, a dark gleam entering her eye. It was the darkest gleam we'd ever seen there. It scared us all, even Annie. "I'll need to begin right away. Now, what should I set on fire first so I can dominate it..."
Rebecca left the room then, her ten fingers outstretched menacingly; we could only imagine that she was looking for something to burn and that wherever her cat, Rambunctious, was, the cat had probably set something on fire too. We hoped the cats had their own fire extinguisher. We were certainly going to need ours.
"Did anyone else notice that the note wasn't signed?" Mandy asked.
"They never are," Will informed her.
"How rude!" Mandy said.
We ignored Mandy.
"What does this mean?" Petal asked fearfully.
"Which part?" Annie asked.
"All Rebecca's talk about using her power to do that dominate thing she mentioned," Petal said. "What does it all mean?"
"Power corrupts," Pete said, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
"That's not helpful," Petal cried. "Because I don't know what
We weren't sure we understood it completely, but we had the feeling that whatever happened next, it was going to be worse, much worse than Rebecca carrying Petal around the front yard.
"I think what Mr. Pete is trying to say," Jackie said, "is that Rebecca has become absolutely corrupted."
Oh dear. That couldn't be good.
"Perhaps it won't be that bad," we said to ourselves as we stood in the drawing room wondering what Rebecca was up to.
"Perhaps it won't be that bad," we said to ourselves as we went to sleep that night, Mandy and Will long gone.
At least we didn't smell anything burning.
But the next morning, not long after we arose, it began to dawn on us that, yes, it really was going to be that bad.
"What do you mean," Rebecca demanded of Durinda, "you've made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast? Didn't you get the memo I left you last night saying I wanted pink frosting for breakfast from now on?"
"What memo?" Durinda asked.
"Okay," Rebecca said. "Perhaps I forgot to leave one because I was too busy making a list of the things I need to burn down in order to take over the world. Still..."
And Rebecca raised her ten fingers, pointed them at the dining-room table, on which lay ten servings of chocolate chip pancakes, and let fly with her power.
A moment later, the table was engulfed in flames.
"See?" Petal said. "I told you children shouldn't be allowed to play with fire, but does anyone ever listen to me? Oh, no. All you people ever say is 'Poor Petal, what a crazy girl with all her silly little worries that never amount to anything.' Well?"
That was odd. It almost sounded as though Petal were angry and standing up for herself.
"I was hungry," Annie said.
"Couldn't you have waited," Georgia complained, "until after we'd eaten to set fire to the dining-room table?"
"Those flames are shooting rather high," Marcia observed.
"I'll go get the fire extinguisher," Zinnia offered.
"Well, I'm hungry too," Rebecca said angrily, raising her fingers again.
"Wait right here," Jackie said before Rebecca could do anything with those ten fingers. "I'll go get you a can of pink frosting."
In what seemed like a second, certainly much faster than it would have taken any of us, Jackie was back with the can.
"Here you go," she offered, extending the can to Rebecca along with a spoon.
"Why don't you watch some TV?" Durinda suggested soothingly to Rebecca as Zinnia sprayed the fire extinguisher at the table, replacing flame with foam.
We wondered about Durinda using that soothing voice. Yes, Durinda was soothing by nature, just as Georgia was anti-soothing. But it seemed to us that for most of July, she'd been annoyed with Rebecca. Then it hit us. Rebecca was carrying ten lethal weapons now, and Durinda was wisely choosing not to rock the boat.
"That's not a bad idea," Rebecca said. "Maybe if I watch TV I'll get some more world-taking-over ideas."
"So what shall we have for breakfast instead?" Annie asked once Rebecca was gone.
"I don't feel like cooking pancakes a second time," Durinda said.
"Besides," Marcia said observantly, "we no longer have a dining-room table to eat them on."
"How about Razzle Crunchies?" Jackie suggested. "That's always easy."
"I like Razzle Crunchies," Zinnia said, having finished with extinguishing the table. "They razzle. And they crunch."
"We don't even need a table to eat them at," Georgia said. "We can just put them in bowls and go eat them in the TV room, like uncivilized people."
"Razzle Crunchies it is," Durinda said.
Soon we were all gathered in the TV room, even the Petes, eating Razzle Crunchies and watching Rebecca change the channels with the remote.
"Blast!" Rebecca cried at the TV. "There's nothing helpful on!"
What Rebecca did then was worse than what robot Betty had done, grinding Razzle Crunchies into the carpet when she didn't like what was going on in that late-night movie.
"So much for having a TV in the house," Annie said as we watched flames shoot back at us from the middle of what was once our television set.
"Well," Pete said with surprising calm, "it's probably for the best. They say that TV rots the brain."
?" Georgia said.
"I suppose we'll never know about the brain-rotting thing," Marcia said, "now that we no longer have a TV."
Georgia sighed. "I would have liked to know what it's like to have a rotting brain."
"Do you people
what I mean?" Petal said.
"I'll go get the fire extinguisher," Zinnia said.
As Zinnia exited the room, we saw Zither hurry by the open doorway with a tiny fire extinguisher on her back. We wondered where she was going. Perhaps Zinnia would ask her.
That almost made us laugh. The idea of Zinnia thinking she could communicate with the cats—that got us every time.
Still, we hoped her imaginary conversation with her cat didn't take too long. The whole room could catch fire in the meantime.
"Rebecca," Jackie suggested, "while we, er, clean up in here, why don't you go into one of the seasonal rooms and play for a bit?"
Playing for a bit in one of the seasonal rooms—that sounded like a good idea. Playing for a bit could calm any person down, even Rebecca. Jackie was always coming up with good ideas.
And this would have been a good idea if Rebecca had chosen to go to Winter or Summer or Spring. It would have been a good idea if Jackie had thought sooner than she did to shout after Rebecca, "Just don't go in Fall!"
As it was, Jackie's shout came too late.
Fall was always so dry, being Fall of course, with all the things that went with Fall. Fall was the driest room in the house. Really, Fall was just one big conflagration waiting to happen.