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Jacob and His Melting Bike
Jonathan Kravetz
Illustrations by Johanna Li


Go back and read Chapter 1 !

Why I Miss Plainville

A big drop of rain just missed hitting my bike as I got to the stairs.

"We have to get inside," I said. "Hurry!"

"Jacob, it's only rain," Mum said. But she grabbed my bike and carried it inside anyway. Mum was good that way.

We climbed up the stairs that led to our apartment just in time. My bike was safe. As we got to the top I heard a clap of thunder. Then the rain started pouring down. I grabbed a towel from the bathroom to wipe down my bike. You can never be too careful about things.

Our apartment was pretty small. We had a dining room and a living room, but there was no wall separating them. I'm not sure why we called them different things, except that Mum seemed to think it was important.

Michael and I each had our own bedrooms. That was one thing that was better than in our old place. We used to share a room. That gave Michael all kinds of chances to torture me. One time he put a live frog in my bed. There's nothing as scary as a frog climbing up your leg while you sleep! I guess Michael hated sharing a room with his younger brother. He liked our new apartment much better.

Michael was sitting on the floor of our "living room" reading one of his Great Brain books. Those were Michael's favorite books because they were about a super smart kid. I guess Michael thought he was super smart. Mum sat on the couch with her nose buried in her mystery.

I started telling Michael about what I'd seen at the bottom of the hill. Nothing much exciting had happened that summer. But this seemed like it could make up for it.

"Isn't that cool?" I said. "Maybe you’re right. Maybe he is a spy."

"He probably is," Michael said. He rolled onto his back like he was looking at clouds on our ceiling.

"He was hiding a shoe box," I said. "Who knows what he's hiding in there."

"That really is strange," Michael said. He looked interested for the first time.

"And he was burying it!"

Michael smirked. "You'd really better be careful," he said. "That kid could be a spy. Or worse. You'd better not get yourself killed."

"Stop being silly," Mum said, looking up from her book. "I'm sure there's nothing to worry about."

But what if Michael was right? Like I said, he was right about a lot.

I decided I would spy on the new kid. Better safe than sorry. That was one of my favorite sayings.

Mum went into the kitchen to cook dinner. Probably meat loaf, which none of us liked, but pretended we did because Mum worked so hard at cooking it.

I stared out the window in our living room and wondered what the new kid had buried. I wanted to run down the hill and dig it up right away. I knew I would have to wait until it stopped raining, though. I'm not allowed to play in the rain even though jumping in puddles was one of my favorite hobbies in Plainville.

I knelt on the floor. The raindrops made a clicking sound against the window. I pressed my finger against the foggy glass and drew a picture of a kid jumping in a puddle. It made me really miss Plainville. Even more, it made me miss having someone to talk to. I could have tried getting Michael to play. But he always said he was too old to play with an eight-year old. That might not have been the real reason, though. Mum always said Michael was jealous of me because he was the first born. He wanted all the attention to himself. That's why he was always getting into fights back in Plainville, too. He couldn't stand anyone being right about things except him.

Hali was my best friend before we moved. She still sent me e-mails almost every day, but it wasn't the same as seeing her. And there was no one like her in Winslow.

Hali and I used to play baseball together. She was a hard throwing lefty, the best eight year old pitcher in Plainville, better than any boy. I played right field. They always put the worst player in right field and it was true that I had trouble catching the ball. One time a kid hit a high fly to me and just when I thought it was going to land in my glove it flew right by and plunked me on top of my head. But Hali said they put me in right field because I had the best throwing arm on the team, except for her of course. Hali always looked on the bright side of things.

I really wished I could see Hali. She would know what to do about the new kid. And she would definitely know what to do with a rainy day.

I went into my room and closed the door. My room was much smaller than my old one and the view was terrible. I used to have a view of our whole neighborhood, trees, houses and everything, from my window. Now all I could see was a stupid brick wall.

I sat at my computer to write an e-mail. Whenever I wrote to Hali I pretended she was in the room listening to me tell her something. She would sit on the floor, chewing gum and smacking a baseball into a mitt. She would wear the same dirty old tee shirt that she always wore. Her mom tried to throw it away one time and Hali and I had to spill over the garbage pails in their garage to find it. We picked over old milk cartons and soup cans. I was the one who finally found it. A jar of tomato sauce had stuck to the front and left a little red ring. I thought it was gross, but Hali loved it. "It's better than ever," she said.

I typed her email name "SuperGirl3" in the "To" box of my e-mail screen and started writing as fast as I could. I told her all about the strange shoe box and the rain and how close my bike came to being melted right down the drain. I even told her what Michael said about the new kid.

"What do you think could be in the box?" I asked her. "Mum doesn't think it's anything bad, but Michael thinks it might be."

To my surprise, an answer came back ten minutes later. I was glad. It made me think that maybe Hali was inside her house, missing me as much as I was missing her.

Here's what Hali wrote:

"Jakie. I'll have to think about that box a little. It does sound weird, like you said. You should watch it! Everything is cool here. I'm about to eat some supper with my parentals. They keep hinting they have something big to tell me. It's all very mysterious. After supper I have a big grudge match with Mark Small. The kid really thinks he can take me! He's in for it! Wish you were here, pal. Hali."

Hali and Mark Small were always wrestling. Some of the kids said it was because they loved each other, but I didn't believe it. Hali was too smart for that mushy stuff. I really wished I could be there to see the match. But I was glad I got Hali's advice about the box, at least. Hali was smarter than my know-it-all brother.

I started to wonder what her parents were being so mysterious about when suddenly my door flew open and Michael came into my room and jumped right on my bed.

"Did your bike get melted out there today?" he asked. "I heard you had a close call."

"Bikes don't melt," I said. I didn't want Michael to know that I believed him.

"Sure do," he said. "My first bike, a tricycle, melted right out from under me during the big blizzard. You were too young to remember that." That was his favorite thing to say. According to him, anything cool always happened when I was too young to remember.

"I think that new kid maybe buried a tiny little monster today," I said.

"There's no such thing as little monsters," Michael said.

"What do you want, Michael?" I hated it when he barged in my room for no reason.

"Mum and Dad want you to come out in the living room," he said. Dad must have gotten home from work.

"Well, I'm busy," I said. I didn't feel like jumping up every time Michael said so. I was his brother, not a dog.

"Suit yourself," Michael said. "I think it's important." He stood up and walked past my desk. "Man, you're stupid." He slammed the door on his way out.

I drew a big picture of Michael being eaten by a little monster. I wished Hali could see it. She loved my pictures. I imagined her in her gross tee-shirt, eating a grape popsicle and laughing.

I tucked the picture in my top drawer to save for Hali. I would show it to her in person very soon. My parents were letting me spend the first two weeks in August back down in Plainville with Hali and her family. I was bored in Massachusetts and could hardly wait.

There was suddenly a loud knock on my door. I figured it was Michael again and ignored it. But then the knock came again.

"Jacob, could you come out here?" My dad called. "There's someone I want you to meet," he added.

I wondered who it could be and for a second I was excited. But then it hit me: maybe it was the new kid. I wasn't ready to face him. Not yet. I had to find out what he was up to first before he figured out that I was spying on him. I definitely didn't want to go out there.

"Do I have to?" I yelled through the door.

"Yes," he said.

My heart was kicking against my chest. But I opened the door just a crack and peeked through to see who was there.


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DUCTS summer issue 2001
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