The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days (9 page)

BOOK: The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days
2.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

She nods. “Chemicals in their skin. People might be able to make medicines from them.”

Okay then.

“Did you know there are thousands of species of frogs in the world?”

“Um, no.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Jorie sitting on plaid guy's lap, laughing hysterically. Her real laugh, not the fake one she did with Eli. I feel a pain in my stomach.

“Cookie?” Sariah offers.

I pull an apple from my bag. “No, thanks.”

Sariah looks away. Maybe I've hurt her feelings, not being so interested in frogs. But c'mon, it's a little strange.

I touch her arm. “Your drawings are amazing. You're really talented.”

She smiles. “Thanks.”

Number thirty.

Jorie laughs; Sariah chews. It feels like I've crossed over to the other side of something. And I'm not sure it feels right. But the other side didn't either. So where am I supposed to go?

wo people have told me I'm an old soul. Mr. Pontello and Grandma.

It's not as creepy as it sounds.

An “old soul” is a spiritual person who is wise beyond her years. A soul who has lived before. A person who sees everything in the universe as part of one great interwoven tapestry.

First, Mr. Pontello. There were times when he'd be lecturing about World War II or Vietnam, and I got things on a deeper level, more than just the facts and figures we needed to know for the test. People fell
asleep in his class and laughed at his cowboy boots and buzz cut, but he made me love history. Showed me how we can learn from our mistakes. On my last essay of the year, Mr. Pontello wrote in the margin,
You are an old soul

Grandma told me when she taught me how to sew. She said she could tell by my stitches.

She said they were too even and steady for a young person and I was much too comfortable with a needle and thread.

“But I'm only ten,” I said.

“Don't worry.” She peered closely at a tablecloth she was repairing. “It's a good thing. A very good thing.”

“I don't get it.”

“You will one day. Something will happen.”

Old souls, she explained, may not be the most light-hearted people in a room, but their hearts have the kind of light that stays on for a long time.

That sounded a little scary. It made me think of E.T.'s glowing red heart.

But now I think I'm getting it. I wish I could tell her. Something happened the day I planted Mrs. Chung's marigolds.

hen I get off the bus, Mr. Millman is helping Mrs. Cantaloni carry in the grocery bags piled in the back of her minivan.

I stand in the middle of the street and watch Mr. Millman pick up two bags in each hand and follow Mrs. Cantaloni inside. She's getting so big, she waddles. He comes back out for the rest of the bags, whistling.

Wait. Whistling? Are my little efforts rubbing off on someone else? Maybe doing good is contagious, like stares.

Perhaps for Mr. Millman, but not Mrs. Millman. She's standing in her driveway, holding Beanie on a tight leash, tapping her beige loafer. When Mr. Millman finishes with the bags, he walks toward her, and she says, “I can't remember the last time you helped
with the groceries.”

“Is it my fault you do the shopping when I'm at the office?”

“And what's with the cigars all of a sudden?” she snaps. “You're going to get tongue cancer.”

Mr. Millman stamps his foot. “Myrna, live a little.”

“I live just fine, thank you very much!”

All this time, Beanie's been pulling at the leash, sniffing something in the air. Suddenly, she breaks free and bolts into the Dixon weeds.

Mrs. Chung starts coming down her driveway, swinging the crutches fast.

The weeds are moving where Beanie must be nosing through them. Mrs. Millman runs to the edge. “Beanie, darling! Come out of there right now!” She stands on her tiptoes. “Stan! Do something!”

“What do you want me to do?” He has a little smile. I think he's enjoying this.

Mrs. Chung reaches Mrs. Millman just as Beanie darts out of the weeds, howling with that awful hurt dog sound.

“She's bleeding!” Mrs. Millman shrieks.

I knew this was coming.

.” Mrs. Chung nods. “Fox in those weeds. She waits. Watches.”

“What are you talking about?” Mrs. Millman says, scooping up Beanie, who's yelping in pain. “Stan! Take me to the vet!
bit Beanie! That place is a menace!”

He motions toward their garage. “C'mon!”

Thomas, in his driveway, raises his sword. Jack Cantaloni and his brothers run out as the Millmans leap into their car and back out of their driveway. Mrs. Chung is staring at the weeds, nodding.

In a second, the Cantaloni boys have hit a baseball into the weeds. Haven't they figured out how to hit closer pop-ups? But then the balls would land in Mrs. Millman's yard. What a choice. Weeds with a
or the crazy woman of the neighborhood.

Mrs. Chung turns and starts toward her house. “Bad sign.” The boys just stare at her.

We need a good thing. This very minute.

I approach Mrs. Chung. “Some legends say foxes are wise and can be faithful guardians,” I tell her. “You know, watch over everyone.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“I read it on the Internet.”

“And so you believe it?” She shuffles away.

Well, I tried.

“Can you get the ball?” Jack asks me. “Did you see where it landed?”

“Yeah.” I find the ball and toss it to him. What could have bitten Beanie? I don't see or hear anything. Maybe a spider.

Jordan tosses his mitt into the air. Jack says, “Thanks” and nudges the middle brother. “Jeremy, outfield. I'm batting. Jordan, you pitch.”

Thomas is still in his driveway.

“Hey, guys, so who's catching?” I ask.

Jack shrugs. “We don't have a catcher.”

“Thomas?” I wave. “They need a catcher.”

He walks over, hesitant.

Jack sizes him up. “Can you catch?”

Thomas puts down his sword. “Yeah.”

“Okay.” Jack points. “Stand right there.”

Thomas's brown eyes are shining. Thirty-one.

he tiny flame in my heart is getting stronger.

32. I use $2.17 of my own money to buy a tasty-looking bone for Beanie. That poor dog was definitely bitten by something,
she has to live with Mrs. Millman. I leave it on their front step.

33. I wrap up two slices of banana bread in foil and drop them off at Mr. Dembrowski's. Mrs. Bennett made a loaf for me as a thank-you for watching Thomas that day. No one's been eating it except me.

34. Mom has about fifteen unopened bottles of lotion in her bathroom, a miniature beauty supply
warehouse. She can't possibly use all of these. I wrap one with a ribbon and give it to Jack Cantaloni.

“I think your mom could use a foot rub,” I tell him. Mr. C. always gets home late, and travels a lot for his job.

Jack looks at me like I'm as crazy as Mrs. Millman. He unscrews the top, sniffs it, and then squeezes the bottle. A big glop of lotion squirts out and lands on his shoes.

“Yuck,” he says. It's all over his hands, too.


“Maybe I should take that back,” I say.

He hands it to me and heads inside, shouting, “Mom? My shoes are full of smelly girl stuff!”

Does an attempt still count?

Speaking of Mrs. Millman—Beanie has been wearing one of those dog lampshade cone things. She had to be shaved on her back and get five stitches after what Mrs. Millman calls “the attack.” She contacted an animal control service, but since there's no one living in the Dixon house, they said they couldn't set a trap without permission.

Eli hasn't been around much. But Jorie is zooming ahead with her homecoming plan. She asks me to go to the mall with her. “I want to show you the dress,” she says. I think she had a fight with Antarctica.

Jorie's mom drops us off. “Don't leave your purse in
a dressing room if you go out to get a different size,” she says as we get out of the car.

Jorie rolls her eyes, which are pale blue, like faded jeans. “Bye, Mom. Love you.” She tucks her arm through mine and lets out a contented sigh. “I love the mall.”

I laugh. She's in her second home.

We go into this store with way-too-loud music and a fake-friendly girl handing out coupons and spritzing us with perfume. Jorie takes a dozen dresses into a room. Colors called Morocco and Miami. (Red and yellow.) Jorie comes out and models them for me.

“How would I wear my hair with this one? What about shoes? What goes with yellow? The red one makes me look like I have more on top, don't you think? Do you know Eli's favorite color? The boy has to match his tie to the girl's dress. I probably should eliminate Miami. Eli wouldn't want to wear a yellow tie.”

“Are you going to let me answer, Jor?” I smile at her in the mirror.

“Which is your favorite?”

My nails still have little bits of the light pink polish she did weeks ago. I hold them up. “I'm pink; you're red.”

“You're absolutely right. I just want to try on that purple one.… ” She goes back into the dressing room.

I walk around the store, trying to avoid the perfume girl (who doesn't remember she already sprayed me), and I see Sariah, with a woman who must be her mom.

Uh-oh. I don't want to hear any more about frogs. And if I say hi and Jorie sees us talking, I know she'll do that half smile with the corner of her lips pulled up. A
Who's she?
smile. I morph into not such a nice person, pretending to be absorbed in a rack of tank tops.

This erases, like, ten good things.

Luckily, Sariah and her mom leave the store, and I don't think she saw me. Or if she did, maybe she also spotted Jorie coming my way in a ruffly purple dress (Maui) and got it.

Then I see it. A dress. I pull it out. Blue. Not even really blue, more like a hint of the lightest blue you could ever imagine. I have to summon vocabulary words to describe it. Words like “gossamer” and “ethereal.” If I was going to homecoming, I wouldn't have to try on a dozen dresses. This would be it. If I got asked. Which is unlikely. Closer to impossible.

On the way home, in the backseat of her mom's car, Jorie turns to me. “I have a serious question. Why do you never text me back? Are you ignoring me or something?”

“It's my phone. It's possessed. Texts don't always come through.”

“Nina Ross. How can you live without a phone? Sometimes I just do not

I know.

“But,” she says, leaning her head on my shoulder, “I love you.”

I know.

“Remember at camp, when we jumped off the cliff together into that freezing lake?” she says.

“Together? You made me.”

BOOK: The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days
2.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Darkin: A Journey East by Joseph A. Turkot
Desert Angel by Pamela K. Forrest
El curioso caso de Benjamin Button by Francis Scott Fitzgerald
Rewinder by Battles, Brett
The Resurrection Man by Charlotte MacLeod
Maker of Universes by Philip José Farmer
Brides of the West by Michele Ann Young
A Tangled Affair by Fiona Brand
Jace by T.A. Grey