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Authors: Marthe Jocelyn

The Invisible Harry

BOOK: The Invisible Harry
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OTHER BOOKS BY MARTHE JOCELYN

The Invisible Day
illustrated by Abby Carter

Hannah and the Seven Dresses

For Tom
M. J.

For Carter and Samantha,
and our dog, Willie
A. C.

1 • The Offer

T
he phone rang. I was at the kitchen table, eating peanut butter on a rice cake really slowly, so that it would be time for supper before I’d even started my homework. My mother’s hands were wet, rinsing the broccoli, so I answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hi, it’s me. Did you do the homework yet?”

“Who’s on the phone, honey?” asked my mother.

I turned my back. Who appointed
her
the phone monitor?

“Hi, Hubert,” I said to my best friend. “Uh, no. I haven’t started yet. Why?”

“You know the history assignment? The coat of arms? The one we have to create for our own family?”

“Yeah?”

“The word is ‘yes,’” said my mother.

“Do you think this is good?” asked Hubert. “I’m going to use a Chinese dragon, you know, for my heritage. And a ship, because that’s how we got here. And I need something else, to symbolize me. What do you think?”

“You should use a package of Banana Bubbalot Gum,” I said.

“Billie, that’s perfect! You’re so smart sometimes! What are you going to do?”

“Probably a cracked heart, for my heritage, for my broken home.” I noticed my mother had no comment on that statement. “And, I don’t know what other stuff yet.”

“How about a book?”

“A book isn’t exactly thrilling,” I said.

“Isn’t it about time to start doing your
homework instead of just talking about it?” asked my mother.

“I have to go, Hubert,” I said. “See you tomorrow.”

I hung up. The rice cake was gone. I opened my binder. I rearranged the pencils in their pencil loops. The phone rang.

Lucky for me, my mother’s hands were wet again, rinsing the basmati rice.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this Billie?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Hi! It’s Jody! I haven’t talked to you for so long! How was your summer? Do you even remember me?”

“Sure.” How could I forget?

“Who’s on the phone, honey?”

I turned my back and hunched over.

“Oh, my God, I had to go away on a nightmare vacation with my parents to the shopping capitals of Europe. The only good part was
going to the Museum of Science and Industry, in Paris. Um, anyway, do you remember my dog, Pepper?”

“Of course.”

“Well, Pepper had an adventure out in the world. She ran away one night, and I was going completely crazy walking around the streets calling and calling her name. I even phoned the police to see if anyone had reported a dead dog, but it turns out that she was just off having a good time, and about a month ago, she had puppies!”

“Puppies!”

My mother glanced up. “In your dreams …” she murmured.

I dropped my voice to a whisper. “How many?”

“Three of the cutest little furballs you ever saw. My mother is having a nervous breakdown. Of course she never bothered to realize that Pepper was a girl, and suddenly her closet turns into a birthing room. She opened the
door one morning and there was Pepper, curled up on Mom’s tangerine cashmere sweater, licking her pups.”

Listening to Jody is like hearing someone talk in Fast Forward. She uses up words at twice the pace of anyone else.

“Anyway,” she kept on going, “my cousin Amy is hopefully taking one of them, if her brother’s not allergic, and there’s a kid at school who might … but I was wondering if you might want the other one?”

“Oh, yes, totally!” My brain was letting off sparks, I was trying to think so fast. “I’m going to call you back, okay? I just have to work things out.”

“Is that code for begging your mother?”

“Uh-huh.” I dropped my voice to the slightest whisper. “But save one for me, okay? I’ll call you in a couple of days.” I hung up quickly. I flung open my books in a fever of industry.

I’ve been dying to have a pet for about five
years. My sister, Jane, doesn’t count, even though she spends a portion of every day down on her knees, panting or whinnying.

A dog would be best, but a cat would be okay. I’m not going to be ridiculous and ask for a horse or a monkey.

Apparently someone gave me a goldfish the summer Jane was born, and I forgot to feed it and it turned belly-up; my mother has told me ever since that I am not old enough to be responsible for another living creature. Plus I guess she doesn’t want me to be.

The last time I tried the pet subject with my mother, I didn’t get very far.

“Well,” she said, “I suppose we could get a toad. It would be useful for eating the cockroaches.”

“Mom, we don’t have cockroaches. I’ve seen one about twice in my life.”

“Well, then, it wouldn’t be fair to the toad, would it? The poor toad would starve to death here. Sorry, no toads.”

“Mom! I don’t want a toad! I want a dog!”

“I’ll be happy to get a dog, as soon as we move to a farm.”

And guess what? We don’t have any plans to move to a farm.

But now Jody was offering me a puppy! Free, and no doubt really cute. Pepper is white, sort of a terrier, with brown freckles all over her nose.

“Who had puppies?” asked my mother.

“Oh, uh …” I couldn’t even lie and say “some kid from school,” because my mother is the librarian at our school, and she knows every kid and every parent and probably every dog who goes there.

“Uh, a friend of Hubert’s family,” I said.

“Nothing better than a new puppy for messing up your life,” said my mother, looking me straight in the eye. “I’m so glad we don’t have to deal with that.”

2 • Duping Dad

M
y dad lives in an apartment way uptown, over near the Hudson River. He moved there four years ago when my parents decided that “till death do us part” was too long to wait. They parted so they wouldn’t have to yell at each other anymore. And now my mother can barely trust him to have us for a weekend. She thinks we’ll have too much fun and want to live with him all the time.

Dad’s apartment is very small, but the building is fancy, compared to our loft downtown. To begin with, there’s a doorman who wears a navy blue uniform with gold epaulets and brass buttons. He looks almost royal, and his name is Octavio, which sounds more like an Italian duke than a doorman.

Octavio always pretends to be surprised when we visit, like he hasn’t seen us in two
years instead of two weeks, and we’ve grown so much that we’re ready for college or something.

But he’s funny, and he twirls his mustache at Jane and carries our bags all the way into the elevator as if we need help. Then he tells our father how lovely we are, and my dad tries to get us upstairs before Octavio pulls out the photographs of his two round sons. He thinks we’re going to marry them someday.

The elevator is lined with gleaming wood and has stars painted on the ceiling, as if the passengers are on a voyage to outer space. My dad lives on the eleventh floor.

He has a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a balcony about the size of a bathtub. The sofa in the living room folds out into a bed, and that’s where Jane and I have to sleep when we stay with him every other weekend.

This time, Dad was getting an extra night because my mom was going to the American
Librarians’ Conference. He would have to take us to school on Monday, all the way from uptown, and stay at our loft on Monday night.

I hate sharing a bed with Jane. She is a wiggler and a blanket hog. She claims that I talk in my sleep. But neither of us wants to sleep on the floor, which is what my father always suggests when we complain.

Dad hit the button on the answering machine almost as soon as we walked in the door, just like he always does. Instead of a beep, his machine has a little whistle, like a baby’s toy.

Click. Whirr. Whistle.

“Hello, Alex.” It was my mother’s voice. “I guess you’re still out for supper. I just wanted to say good night to the girls.”

“Mommy!” squealed Jane. “I want to talk to Mommy!”

“I’m going to a movie with Susan so I won’t be here later,” her voice continued.

“Oh, no!” Jane threw herself on the couch in a sulk.

“I’ll talk to them in the morning before I leave for the conference. I’ll be back around noon on Tuesday. Please remind them to brush their teeth at least once while they’re with you.”

My dad rolled his eyes.

“Good night, Jane, honey, be a good girl.”

“Okay, Mommy.” Jane decided to be brave.

“Good night, Billie.”

Click. Whirr. Whistle. New message.

“Er, yes, Alex, this is Phil here.”

“Uh-oh,” my dad said.

“… Look, the graphic you did yesterday looks terrific, really terrific …”

“But”
said my dad.

“But,” said Phil’s voice, “believe it or not, the client has changed the name of the product, as of last night, and wants the whole job ready with the new name in time for the presentation on Monday morning. I know this
is inconvenient, but I’m going to have to ask you to come in tonight and do it. Sorry and thanks. See you Monday, pal.” Click. Whirr. Whistle.

“Pal?” My dad was shouting at the answering machine.

“Pal?” He stuck out his tongue at the blinking light. “My kids are here for the weekend, pal, and we rented
E.T.
, and we were going to eat junk food and not brush our teeth, and now I have to go into the office and work, just because some dumb guy changed the name of his product?”

“Oh, Daddy,” cried Jane, “it’s not fair! Do you have to?”

He slumped onto the sofa and sighed in a gust. “Yes, sweetie, I have to. That man, Phil, is the boss at my job. I have to do everything he says until it’s my turn to be boss.”

He moaned as he stood up. “I guess I’d better call Mrs. Ewing in 8B, to see if she can come up and sit with you.”

“Dad! She’s about ninety years old!”

“And she’s smelly,” added Jane, “like moss.”

“Well, how about Octavio? He’d probably be thrilled to let you watch TV in his office.”

BOOK: The Invisible Harry
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