Thursday, January 25, 2007

Drafts: Frog Haven, Chapter 16

Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8 ,Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15

Chapter 16: The Ladybird Beetle

In the morning, Sissy couldn’t wait to talk to Garryd. But Garryd wasn’t home. No one answered when she pounded on the door. Garryd didn’t come to the bus stop, and the bus left without him. Before she went to her room, she ran down to Mr. Sharpe’s room. Mr. Sharpe was busy talking to the principal, so she couldn’t ask him, but Garryd was nowhere in sight.

After school, she went back over to Knudsons’, but no one was home. She wanted to go back to the cabin, even though it meant disobeying, but she didn’t want to go alone. And she eager to share her news.

Sissy felt something crawling on the back of her neck. She reached up to swat it, but something made her stop. It didn’t feel like a mosquito. Carefully, she picked the insect off her neck. It was a ladybug, or, as her mom insisted, a ladybird beetle. Sissy lay on her stomach on the grass on the little hill between her house and Garryd’s. The ladybird beetle crawled across her hand. She let it crawl from one hand to the other over and over, watching its small round shape move forward on tiny black legs. Her head was hot and she took off her baseball cap. The ladybug crawled across the cap and right across the white letters that said DODGERS. It shone brilliant red and black against the white and blue cap. Twice, it lifted the little curved plates that her Mom had told her made it a beetle and unfurled the black transparent wings underneath, but did not fly. They folded so neatly back. So smooth and shiny.

There was a thumping plop beside her, and Paul LeFevre was lying on his stomach next to Sissy. He spotted the ladybug and reached out to squash it with his thumb.

“No!” screeched Sissy, snatching the cap away, and looking down to be sure that the ladybug was safe. Paul had an evil expression.

“Look, Paul, look at this ladybird beetle. It’s little, but it’s alive. It looks like a toy, all shiny and new, but it’s alive like me and you. Watch its little legs. They’re so tiny, but each one of them can move. What would happen if you squashed it? It would just be an orange and black spot on my cap. It would never move again, never walk or fly or shine in the sun.” Sissy reached out her hand and the ladybug crawled onto it. She lifted her hand to her mouth and blew, and the insect lifted two curved red plates and unfolded tiny transparent black wings. It flew up, circled around, and landed on Paul LeFevre’s hand. Sissy jumped up, holding her breath, but Paul stared at the little insect as it crawled up his thumb. Once again, it lifted curved wing-plates and unfolded its thin wings. This time it flew away, and they watched it until the tiny speck disappeared from sight.

“That was neat, Sissy,” Paul said, “You’re okay. I don’t think I’ll ever kill anything again, at least, not on purpose.”

Sissy looked sharply at Paul. She couldn’t tell if he was serious or if he was being mean and teasing her.

“You know,” Paul continued, “that initiation thing with the frogs was just something I dreamed up to freak you and Bill out. And Garryd, too! We don’t usually do stuff like that. Not that we never kill anything. Just not that often. We have other things to do.”

“What about the time you were killing frogs with spears?”

“We saw you coming and I wanted to gross you out. I don’t usually like to kill things either, but I wanted to get even with you.”

“Get even with me, why?”

“Because you’re so bossy. You think you’re the queen of the world. You’re always telling us what to do and you get mad if we don’t do things your way.”

“That’s not true,” Sissy cried, hotly.

“Yes it is, ask anyone.” Sissy sat quietly and thought about it. She thought a lot of angry thoughts. Paul was a real jerk, anyway. But the feeling that he might be right, at least a little, wouldn’t go away. She saw herself with Garryd, always telling him what to do. Well, not ALWAYS, but . . . LOTS of times.

“Well, I don’t think I am ALWAYS bossy,” Sissy said, “but I’ll tell you what. If you are really serious about not killing any more frogs, I mean any more animals of any kind, including insects and worms, I’ll try really hard not to be bossy. But you might have to remind me. Deal?”



“Shake!” They shook on it.

“Listen Paul, can you keep a promise, cross your heart and hope to die?”

“What, about Frog Haven and the Dead guy?”

“How’d you know about that?” Sissy asked, indignantly.

“Everyone in the whole neighborhood knows you’ve been carting off frogs somewhere. We saw you a long time ago—you’re not exactly invisible, you know. We followed you to see where you were going.”

“I never saw you following me.”

“You were so busy jabbering to Garryd you never even looked back. That’s how we know you call it Frog Haven—we heard you blabbing on and on about it.”

“Oh, and all this time I thought it was a secret,” Sissy moaned.

“Don’t worry, we didn’t hurt any of your precious frogs. Marc and I thought about sticking them on stakes for you to see, just to laugh at you for thinking you were so great, but Michael and Kelvin talked us out of it. They said it would spoil the secret of our following you. I think they were tired of killing frogs, too, to tell you the truth, but didn’t want to admit it. But you know what, we found the dead guy before you did. We went to check the cabin while you guys were having your dumb old sign language lesson.”

“Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

“Are you kidding, my parents would KILL me if they knew I went there. I can’t believe you told. Didn’t you get grounded?”

“No, I didn’t. I just got a speech about disobeying, about not ever disobeying again. But I want to go there again; I want to look around more. Will you go with me?”

“Are you serious? You’d go back there after all this? You must be nuts.”

“Please, Paul, please. Please?”

“I don’t know. If we ever get caught, we’ll be grounded all summer.”

“We won’t get caught. We’ll be careful.”

“All right, I guess so. We’ll have to be a lot more careful than you and Garryd were!” Paul’s face was so serious and worried-looking that Sissy had to work hard to keep from laughing. He didn’t look at all like a tough guy. She had never seen him looking so serious.

“Let’s hurry, because we have to get back in time for supper. Let me get my watch, okay?”

Paul scouted around to make sure no one was watching. Sissy came out with her watch on and two pairs of glove-liners stuffed in her back pockets. They walked to the end of Van Vleck Road and ducked down the steep hill to the butterfly field, cut into the woods behind the field, and followed the stream. It led, as Sissy had guessed it would, right to the ponds. They were out of view the entire way. Paul looked back often and never saw anyone following.

Chapter 17, P365-07W

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