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Authors: Amy Herrick

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BOOK: The Time Fetch
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“Watch out!” Feenix yelled in warning, but he was paying no attention to her or the twister. He was staring upward. He held the Fetch lightly in his fingertips pulled close to his chest. He seemed to be waiting for something.

But what? What did he think he was doing?

Feenix followed his gaze up into the bare branched oak tree. Something was happening to the beat-up bird’s nest, which hung out over the void. It looked like a ribbon of golden flame was racing around its rim. The twister was fast approaching Eddie, but he continued to ignore it. He kept his eyes fixed on the nest. In seconds the whole thing was engulfed in the white-hot fire, and soon the branch it hung from was burning as well. The twigs and mud of the nest seemed to melt with the heat, while the branch crumbled into ash and fell away. In a few moments, all that was left was a molten golden hoop suspended high in the darkness, hanging over the Nothing.

Eddie, of all the improbable klutzes in the world, bent his knees, held the Fetch out in front of himself, and sighted toward the sky.

The twister was right there on his behind.

“Go for it! Shoot!” Feenix shouted at him.

He took no time to turn around, but she thought she saw him nod. He bounced slightly, as if testing his knees, then he jumped nearly straight upward, launching the Fetch into the air. The Fetch flew toward the sky, glowing brighter and brighter, a small fiery tail shooting from its back as it approached its destination. Up it arched. Then down it came on the other side. It dropped effortlessly through the golden hoop and vanished.

There was an immediate and deafening silence. The twister came to a stop right where it was. For a moment it shuddered and wobbled, and then it crumpled in upon itself. In the next instant, the little island they stood on grew as dark as the inside of a boot. Feenix couldn’t see her hand in front of her face.

“You still there?” she called out to Eddie.

“Yes,” he called out. “I’m over here.”

The only thing still visible was the hoop hanging suspended in the air over their heads. It was shrinking rapidly. Soon it was only the size of a bracelet. Then a golden wedding ring.

The smaller it grew, the hotter and brighter it seemed to burn. In the next moment its rim was so shrunken that its sides had melted together. It was no bigger than a tiny golden bead, a bead that blazed so brightly it was burning a hole straight into the darkness.

“Watch out!” Eddie yelled.

Watch out for what?

The explosion that followed was unbearable—blinding and deafening and suffocating all at once. There was no time. Whether Feenix was thrown to the ground or up into the air, she had no clue.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Aunt Kit’s Party

When Edward finally gathered the courage to uncover his head and open his eyes, the sun was just beginning to lift over the eastern edge of the world. The sky was flushed gold and rose in that corner. The rest of the heavens were a tender robin’s egg blue.

He stood up and wondered why the ground looked so close. Then he realized, with a pang of regret, that he was shorter again. Feenix, not far off, was examining her arms and legs and grumbling.

“Rat crud,” he thought he heard her say. She stamped her boots and brushed off her long coat. Her dark hair was wild, and when she caught sight of him staring at her, she glared back.

He looked away and, to his enormous relief, saw Danton and Brigit untangling themselves from the pile they had landed in together. Danton unfolded himself and helped Brigit to her feet. She stood there, once again freckled and short, gazing quietly around.

Edward saw they were standing on top of a small snow-covered hill. The Long Meadow rolled away white and untouched in every direction. There wasn’t a footstep or birdtrack to be seen. Along every tree branch ran a sugary ruffle of glistening snow. Beyond the trees rose the still sleeping buildings of Brooklyn. The air had that clean, bright smell that comes the morning after a snowstorm, as if the whole world were new again.

For a long time they all just stood there checking things out, getting used to themselves again. Then finally, Danton spoke up. “Well, we did it, didn’t we? Looks like everything’s back in its place. Everybody all right?”

“Hunky dory,” Feenix answered.

“Eddie? You OK?’

“I’m good,” Edward told him.

Edward noticed how when Danton turned to Brigit, he hesitated for just a moment. “Brigit? Are you all right?”

Brigit couldn’t seem to take her eyes off the morning—the trees and the white-blanketed hills and the great arch of the blue sky, but finally she turned to him and she smiled.

Danton waited again, but still she said nothing. At last he smiled at her gently. “Well, let’s go home then. I’m starving!”

Down the hill they went and then across the open meadow, plowing through the deep powdery snow. It was slow walking. As the sun rose, the park glittered and glistened, but everyone seemed to be wrapped up in their own thoughts. Edward kept running over the night in his mind, trying hard to remember what it was that had happened.

At last, when they arrived at where the trees began, Feenix broke the silence. “Did you see—when that thing exploded—did you see that—?”

“Yes!” Danton exclaimed. “It was amazing, right? Like a giant circus tent without the tent. All those lights—”

Feenix interrupted in surprise. “No—that wasn’t what I saw at all.” She seemed to struggle with some thought. “It was a bird, I think, and it was on fire.”

She turned to Edward. “Wasn’t that it, Edward? Did you see the bird?’

Edward didn’t think what he’d seen was either a bird or a circus tent. It had looked something like a giant glistening spider web, but this image seemed mixed up with all the other memories of the night, and as he struggled to untangle them, a big blob of melting snow fell from a branch and landed on the back of his neck.

“Hey!” he protested, shaking his fist at the tree. Then, while Feenix was laughing, another heap of snow landed with a wet plop on
her
head. Edward started laughing at
her
and she picked up a handful of snow and threw it at him and, in a minute, they were all running toward the Ninth Street park exit, chasing one another and throwing snowballs.

When they tumbled out onto the sidewalk outside the park, they all stopped to catch their breath. No one seemed to look at anybody else and nobody seemed exactly ready to say good-bye and go home. It was then that Edward remembered his aunt’s party.

“You’re all coming tonight, right?” he blurted out, not knowing what had come over him. He had never invited anybody to this party before. “My aunt won’t let me hear the end of it if you don’t,” he added lamely.

When Edward walked into the kitchen, the pots were already simmering on the stove. The air tasted of cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar. His aunt stood with her back to him, stirring a pot. He had been working nervously on some reasonable-sounding story all the way home, but when she turned and he opened his mouth, she merely said, “Did you bring the vanilla beans?”

He stared at her in confusion for a moment; then he reached into his pocket and felt around. He pulled out the clear plastic tube with the two beans rattling around inside and handed it to her.

She took it with a nod. “Just in time for the custard. You’re a mess,” she said. “Take off your wet clothes and then come take over here. You’ll stir the pot while I get the pie crusts going. When the custard is done, you’d better go out and shovel.”

Edward was extremely relieved that she wasn’t going to make him explain where he’d been. He wasn’t exactly sure he knew.

She kept him hard at work all morning and afternoon—shoveling the sidewalks, helping in the kitchen, moving furniture around, bringing out plates, bowls, and silverware. It felt like too much effort to try to think about what had taken place, and he was actually glad to have so many little ordinary tasks to attend to. He kept expecting something to happen. But nothing did. Everything was back to normal. An hour before the party, she released him from bondage and let him go upstairs for a shower and a nap.

When he awoke, he could hear that things were already in full swing. The front doorbell kept ringing, and scraps of music came floating up to his room. His aunt always asked anyone who played an instrument to bring it, and he could hear someone with a fiddle and someone banging on the piano and a not very good harmonica player trying to keep up.

Halfway down the stairs Edward stopped, reluctant to go any farther. There would be all that chitting and chatting. He gazed at the scene. The house was filling up fast. His aunt kept up an exhaustingly busy social life. There were friends and neighbors from the block, students and cooking colleagues, people from her book group, her African Dance class, and the chorus she sang with. Probably half the Park Slope Food Co-Op was there, too.

Every spare inch of the house was hung with sweet-smelling pine boughs. The tree, with its bizarre collection of ornaments, was lit from top to bottom. Edward stuck his head out over the banister and saw the long table draped with the red tablecloth. Every inch was covered with platters and bowls and baskets of food. On this one day in the year, his aunt permitted friends to bring fish dishes and even roast turkeys or chickens if the proper thanksgiving prayers were made. These forbidden dishes were always tempting to Edward, but then there would also be the potato pancakes and the blintzes, the roasted pumpkin soup, blacked-eyed peas, and collard greens. On the table right beneath him he could see the plates of cheeses and hummus and jeweled arrangements of pineapple, berries, and sliced melon. Next to them were the loaves of homemade bread, the fresh butter, and the hot little puffed triangles of spinach and feta. And, of course, there would be the desserts, a mountainous bowl of whipped cream encircled by pies—cherry, apple, pumpkin, and pecan. Beside these were the pfeffernusse and the lemon squares and the plates of special solstice sugar cookies in the shapes of moons and stars, babies and kings, and reindeer.

Edward caught a brief glimpse of his aunt flitting and bubbling, kissing and commanding. The mistletoe ball hung from the passageway between the dining area and the kitchen, so people were constantly stopping there to kiss and embrace, friends and strangers alike.

It seemed to Edward that everything was as it always had been. He drew a long breath of relief. It was wonderful to think tornadoes were not going to appear from out of nowhere and drag him in, that no rivers of darkness were going to open up at his feet.

When the doorbell rang again, Edward saw Danton come in and hang up his coat and begin to make his way through the mob.

“Hey, Danton, man! Over here!”

Danton spotted Edward and waved, then came up the stairs two at a time. He sat down on the steps next to Edward. “This is some party! Thanks for inviting me.” Then he caught sight of the food in the dining room. He let out a gasp. “Don’t pinch me, anyone. If I’m dreaming I don’t want to ever wake up.”

The doorbell chimed again and there was a rush of fresh cold air as a small group of people came in. Brigit was right in the center of them.
Must be her parents and her grandfather,
Edward thought. He remembered something about his aunt saying she was going to invite them. Brigit was holding what looked like a plate of fresh-baked brownies. They all stood there a little awkwardly and then his aunt went sailing over. She threw her arms around the elderly man and began talking to him excitedly, though Edward couldn’t hear what she was saying over the noise. When she was done, she stopped and introduced herself to the other two, and then she took the brownies from Brigit and kissed her. She pointed up to where Edward and Danton sat on the stairs. Shepherding the adults in front of her, she left Brigit standing there alone.

Edward nudged Danton, who was still gaping at the food.

“What is it?” he said impatiently. “I’m very busy. This is going to require some planning. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t start with a piece of that cherry pie, you know, just to get the gastrointestinal juices flowing. I’ll want my digestion in peak form.”

“Look who’s here,” Edward said.

Danton turned impatiently, but when he saw who it was, he froze.

“It looks like she brought her parents and her grandfather, but my aunt’s already got hold of them,” Edward said. “I think her grandfather sings in my aunt’s chorus.”

“Oh, yeah,” Danton said uncertainly. “Don’t I remember her telling us that? But when was that?”

“It was yesterday, I think,” Edward said.

“Are you having trouble remembering stuff?”

“Are you?”

“Yeah, well, sort of. It all seems so much longer ago than yesterday. It was some night, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Edward answered slowly. “Yes, it was.”

“Well, anyway, I guess everything’s back to normal and that’s the most important thing, right?” Danton said.

“Sure,” Edward replied.

Neither one of them seemed inclined to say anything more on the subject, and this was fine with Edward. Danton hadn’t taken his eyes off of Brigit. “All right, do me a solid. Let me go down to her by myself. You know how shy she is. I’ll bring her over to the table in a few minutes. Meet us there.”

“No problem,” Edward said, trying to hide his smile. “You go get her and I’ll find you by the food in a little while.”

Danton unfolded himself from the steps and took a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll see you in a bit.”

“Right.”

Danton crossed the room slowly, in his giraffelike way. Edward saw how when Brigit spotted him, she lit up like someone had switched on a little lamp.

She started to move toward him.

Edward was startled by a loud voice in his ear. “Well, here you are! Still sitting around like a giant tree sloth, I see.”

Where had she come from? She was standing on the step below him in all her usual over-decorated glory. Today, she had her hair in some elaborate holiday hairdo with lots of sparkling barrettes. She had taken off her black coat for the occasion, but she was wearing her boots and something red and very short and all glittery with tiny black mirrors. The whole thing looked more like a costume than a party dress. Her strangely off-kilter eyes shone with excitement.

“Like it?” she asked and twirled around. “Very sixties, don’t you think?”

“I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t born yet.”

She sat down next to him.

“You know, Edward, I keep trying to remember, but I can’t seem to—” Here she trailed off and stared into the distance. “I guess I’m just tired. It was a long night last night, wasn’t it?”

He was staring at her. Something was different. What was it?

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Nothing,” he said, shaking his head.

She gave him a puzzled once-over, then turned back to the crowd.

Danton and Brigit were standing there at gazing each other. The crowd just went around them good-naturedly as if they were some sort of natural scenic wonder that had appeared suddenly in the middle of the living room.

Brigit smiled. Danton smiled. Neither of them seemed capable of speech.

“They can’t go on like this,” Feenix said. “It can’t be healthy. All those hormones backing up in their bloodstreams. It’ll weaken their immune systems. KISS HER ALREADY!” she yelled down to the crowd.

Danton looked up, confused, trying to see where the voice had come from. While he was searching the room, Brigit ducked and slipped away into the crowd.

“What is it with her, do you think?” Feenix asked.

Since Edward had no clue, he did not bother to reply.

“It’s supposed to snow again tonight,” she said.

“More shoveling,” he groaned. But the thought was actually not unpleasant. Not that he wasn’t glad to be here inside the warm house, with a fire going and people playing music and the table covered with food.

Beside him, Feenix let out a weird half noise.

He looked at her questioningly. Her mouth gaped open.

“Please tell me that is not what I think it is,” she whispered finally.

When he followed her gaze, he saw she was staring down at the dessert table.

“What?”

“Where’d that gingerbread house come from?”

Without another word she stood and plunged down the stairs. When he caught up with her she was standing there, staring at it with the strangest expression on her face.

It stood on a silver platter sprinkled with fluffy snow-white coconut flakes. The house was, as always, a thing of awe-striking over-the-topness. The eaves of the roof were outlined in the glassy jeweled colors of Life Savers—yellow, red, green, orange—while the roof itself was slated with squares of chocolate. The chimney was built from bricks of caramel. The sugar icing walls were dotted with gumdrops and flower-shaped sucking candies. The windows were framed in red licorice. The path leading up to the door was lined with lollipops. The front door was frosted a bright raspberry red. It stood wide open.

BOOK: The Time Fetch
8.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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