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Authors: Lauren Baratz-Logsted

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BOOK: Rebecca's Rashness
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"We have to go now," Durinda said.

"Bye!" Jackie said.

It was always so odd, seeing educators outside of school.

"Did you notice the Mr. McG was holding the McG's hand?" Durinda giggled. "It was so sweet. Of course, I'm mostly never sure if they even like each other."

"Does it seem to you like everyone in the world is here today?" Jackie wondered.

"If Petal were here right now," Durinda said, "she'd probably say, 'Oh no! If everyone in the world is here today, then all the evil people must be here too!' "

Yes. Yes, she would.

***

We all finally met up at the line of registers.

"What do you think of making fresh-squeezed orange juice this week?" Annie asked Durinda.

"Are you sure we can't find room in our house for one small birdcage?" Petal asked.

"I've finally calculated how many square inches various items in this store take up," Marcia said, "just in case anyone wants to know."

"Can someone help me get this bag of kibble on the conveyor belt?" Zinnia asked, struggling under the weight of it.

"We saw the McG and the Mr. McG holding hands," Jackie said.

"It was shockingly sweet," Durinda said.

"We saw the Wicket hogging up all the fruitcake," Georgia said.

"But I'm pretty sure our mere presence scared her off," Rebecca said, dropping an armload of cans of pink frosting into Zinnia's giganto cart. Then she added, "Why is this line taking so long? Don't people realize I need to get home in order to—"

That's the moment we noticed the back of the head of the person standing in front of us, a hairless head, like one of the eggs from the carton last night before Rebecca cracked it open and drank it raw.

Principal Freud.

Or should we say
Frank
Freud, since he was no longer our principal.

"I thought you said he was going to Australia," Annie said in an urgent hushed whisper to Jackie.

"He was," Jackie said. "He did."

But evil always returned. We should have known that by now. It happened with Crazy Serena, it happened with the Wicket, and now it was happening with Frank Freud.

Just when you think it's safe to go shopping again...

Frank Freud must have sensed sixteen eyes staring at the back of his head, because he turned then.

We were sure he was shocked to see us there. And we were sure that he was really shocked to see Annie wearing a man's suit, a fedora, and a false mustache.

But we knew he wouldn't rat her out. Like all evil people we'd encountered, he'd learned to be somewhat fearful of us.

Still, running out of food, running into the Wicket, running into Frank Freud...

What else could possibly go wrong in our world today?

FOUR

"You know what's odd?" Annie said after we were all safely buckled in and she'd put the key in the ignition and started the car.

"Let's see," Marcia said, "odd ... well, there's one, of course, and then there's three, five, you wouldn't want to forget seven, and then nine, eleven—"

"You," Rebecca added with a sneer toward Marcia, cutting off the numerical onslaught.

"Yes," Annie conceded, "half the numbers in the world and Marcia are odd, as are we all, but what I was referring to was the smoke pouring out the back of the Hummer."

"Smoke!" Petal screamed, unbuckling herself and throwing her little body from the car. "We're on fire!"

Petal's reaction may have been viewed as extreme by some people—okay, by all of us—but the smoke pouring out of the back of the Hummer was alarming, meaning that even the bravest among us eventually flung her body from the Hummer.

"I wonder if it has anything to do with that pinging noise I heard earlier?" Marcia said, scratching her head.

"We're all going to die!" Petal screamed, hurling her little body to the ground and covering her head with her hands, causing passersby to stare at us.

"This is bad," Jackie said. And for Jackie to say that, we all realized, it
must
be bad. "For the Hummer to be belching dark smoke when Mommy retooled the Hummer so that it would be an environmentally friendly vehicle ... Well, let's just say it doesn't look environmentally friendly at the moment."

"I'll call for help," Annie said, opening the door of the Hummer and reaching inside for the car phone.

"Don't!" Petal screamed. "You could die!"

"It's just her arm, you little idiot," Georgia pointed out. "The rest of Annie should be fine."

"'You little idiot.'" Petal echoed the words. "Did Georgia say that out loud, or am I still reading minds, or did I imagine that?"

We all ignored Petal as Annie speed-dialed a number.

"Hello, Pete's Repairs and Auto Wrecking?" she said. "Could you put Mr. Pete on, please?" Annie covered the mouthpiece of the phone with her hand. "That's odd," she said, "another man answered. I always thought Pete worked alone."

Who could blame her? We'd all always thought that.

"Mr. Pete," Annie said a moment later, "could you please come to the parking lot of the Super-Duper Food Ex—well, you know the place. We're having some trouble with the Hummer." Annie paused and we assumed it was because Pete was talking. "No," Annie said, "I don't think it's sabotage this time, or at least I have no proof, but the Hummer is belching dark smoke..." Another pause. "Fine. We'll wait for you right here."

Seven of us thought that last little bit was unnecessary. What else were we going to do, leave our only vehicle and a dozen or more bags of groceries behind and walk several miles home? It was hot and it was July, as Rebecca kept reminding us.

"I can't believe," Rebecca said, peeking in to look at the display of the digital clock inside the Hummer, "that we're ten hours and seventeen minutes into July and I still haven't—"

We could only thank the universe that Pete arrived quickly enough to save us from Rebecca going on and on about having to wait so long for her power. Really, Pete arrived so quickly, it practically felt like magic.

"What seems to be the problem, ducks?" Pete said, hopping out of his flatbed pickup truck in all of his blue-jeaned glory.

"We've got a Really Big Shop's worth of groceries to get home before it spoils in this heat," Durinda said.

"And while it may be safe to drive the car in this condition—" Annie started.

"Which I'm sure it's not!" Petal screamed from her position on the ground, arms still over her head.

"—it can't be good for the environment for us to drive a vehicle in this condition," Jackie finished.

"No," Pete said, shaking his head as he studied the smoke-belching Hummer, "I can see that."

"Would you like to know, Mr. Pete," Marcia offered, "how many square inches of shelf space are taken up by a box of Razzle Crunchies?"

"Not at the moment, pet," Pete said, still studying the Hummer. Then he glanced up and caught Marcia's crestfallen look. "Perhaps later on," he suggested. "I'm sure that later on I'd love to hear all about ... whatever it was you just said."

Pete proceeded to pop the hood on the Hummer and look inside.

"Hmm," he said after a long moment. "I don't think the problem's in here. I think I'll need to look under the beast."

"How do you propose to do that?" Georgia asked. "Do you need me to go back to the house and get the spear for you?"

Georgia was obsessed with the spear that was normally clutched by Daddy Sparky, the suit of armor we dressed up to make it look like Daddy was at home, moving it around from room to room.

"No," Pete said. "I don't think such extreme measures are called for. I'll simply put the old Hummer on cement blocks so I can get a clear view of what is going on."

Pete then disappeared into the back of his pickup, eventually emerging with four very heavy-looking cement blocks, which he laid on the ground in front of the Hummer. The blocks were slanted, so it took us a long time to figure out what Pete was doing. It helped that he told us.

"See," he said, "I'm driving the Hummer up on the blocks, like so, in order to get a better view of the underside of the vehicle."

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Petal advised from her position on the ground, just barely peeking her head out from under her arms. "You couldn't pay me enough to crawl under a Hummer propped up by a few measly cement blocks."

"It's perfectly fine, pet," Pete said cheerily as he slid beneath the Hummer, "I just slide in like this, get my toolbox out, and—"

It was at that very moment, as Pete positioned himself beneath the Hummer with his tools, his wrench or some other item we couldn't name right then at the ready, that the front wheels of the Hummer slid off theirb locks a nd—

"Oh no!" Petal shrieked. "Mr. Pete is going to get pancaked!"

And
that
moment—that instant, really—as the falling Hummer was bearing down on Pete's startled, raised head, Rebecca impulsively leaped out and grabbed the bumper of the Hummer.

We'd seen the Grinch on TV. We may have been confused sometimes about our religious identity, but we'd seen the Grinch, as all kids everywhere have, and we felt that we were seeing the Grinch again that day as Rebecca grabbed the bumper of the Hummer and lifted the car straight over her head.

"Is this okay now, Mr. Pete?" Rebecca asked with a rare show of respect. "Am I raising it high enough for you to do the work you need to do?"

"That's fine, pet," Pete said. "That's better than fine. As a matter of fact, it's too fine, so if you can lower the car a bit so I can actually reach what I need to fix..."

Rebecca heeded his instructions, lowering the Hummer a few feet so Pete could work on it properly but not letting go of it until Pete was finished and had given her the go-ahead.

When he did, she gently lowered the vehicle and then shifted it a bit so that this time it was resting securely on the blocks.

"Once again," Pete said, "I find myself moved to say that if I hadn't seen this with my own eyes, I'd never have believed it. Do you realize that you saved my life, Rebecca?"

"Oh, I'm sure I didn't..." Rebecca started to say in a rare show of modesty.

But just then we realized something. We weren't the only ones to witness Rebecca's superhuman show of strength.

"Did you just get your power?" Pete asked Rebecca. "Is that what happened?"

And just as he spoke, we heard a passerby say, "Did you see what that little girl just did? She saved Pete's life!"

Well, of course everyone in town knew Pete.

Before we knew what was going on, more passersby were stopping to stare, and then a reporter from the local newspaper showed up with a photographer who insisted on taking a picture of Rebecca holding the Hummer over Pete's head.

"What a story!" the reporter said.

"'Little Girl Saves Big Blue-Jeans-Wearing Man's Life!'" the photographer said, envisioning the headline.

"Let's get out of here," Durinda suggested.

"Before worst comes to worst," Georgia said.

"Besides," Zinnia said, "the cats must be eager for their kibble."

"I still can't believe," Pete said, "that Rebecca saved my life. I could have been pancaked!"

"I know," Zinnia said, speaking for a second time and brightening. "Let's go home and read the note that has no doubt been left behind the loose stone in the drawing room for Rebecca. Getting a new note always cheers us all up!"

***

But when we arrived back at home, Pete in tow, and sped to the drawing room, we didn't find the note we were expecting behind the loose stone.

The note we were expecting should have said something along the lines of:

Rebecca,
Outstanding job getting your power! Thirteen down, three to go.

Of course we were fairly certain that the notes had never used a word as grand as
outstanding
before—we were embellishing—but the notes were typically very encouraging. And after Rebecca's powerful feat—after her
superhuman
feat—we were certainly expecting some encouraging words.

There was just one problem.

The space behind the loose stone was dead empty.

There was no note.

Not to be ominous but...

What could this possibly mean?

FIVE

"We should plan a party," Zinnia suggested.

We ignored Zinnia.

"I know what this means," Annie said.

We all waited. And waited.

"Well," Georgia finally said, "do you think you'd like to share your knowledge with us?"

"It simply means," Annie said, "that Rebecca hasn't gotten her power at all."

"I haven't?" Rebecca said, cracking her knuckles. "That's funny. I still feel strong."

"Perhaps you do," Annie said, "but I'm sure if we went out to the Hummer right now you could never lift it."

"I couldn't?" Rebecca said, cracking her knuckles again.

We did wish she would stop that.

"No, of course you couldn't," Annie said. "In times of crisis, people are sometimes capable of incredible feats of strength. But as soon as the crisis is over? The strength is over too."

"Oh, yes," Marcia said eagerly, "I've heard of that. It's like a mother stopping a train or something to save her baby."

BOOK: Rebecca's Rashness
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ads

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