Cassidy's Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation)

Eleven-year-old Cassidy has just inherited a gift from her late great-grandmother. Unfortunately, that “gift” turns out to be a summer trapped in etiquette school. What good are manners, anyway, for a girl who dreams of living life on the road as a hobo—er, “knight of the road”?
 
As if trying to remember to keep her elbows off the table isn’t bad enough, Cassidy’s best friend, Jack, suddenly seems more interested in doing chores for the new teenage girl who’s moved in next door than in fishing with Cassidy down by the river. Not even her classic epic pranks seem to be saving Cassidy from having her worst summer ever. It’s time to face facts: growing up stinks.
 
Veteran middle-grade author Sue Stauffacher returns with a cranky, pranky, laugh-out-loud tomboy heroine who might just learn the hard way that manners do matter, and that people can change.
 
CHAPTER 1
Unwanted Gifts
“Of course there are worse things than being born a girl.” Instead of kissing me good night, Mom was still trying to make her point.
“Name one.”
“Well . . .” She smoothed my hair--the hair that just so happened to be sticking to my face because I’d been crying. Not baby tears. “No fair, life stinks, go jump off a bridge” tears. And all because stupid Great-Grandma Reed had died!
“You could have been born the hunchback of Notre Dame,” Mom said.
I pushed my face further into the pillow. “He didn’t have to go to school. He lived with bats.”
“How do you expect me to understand what you’re saying when your mouth is in that pillow? Should I draw some letters on your back?”
Now she was trying to distract me. I lifted my head. “Not unless they spell N‑O.”
“For heaven’s sake, Cassidy, you can’t say no. It’s only a five-week course and it was her dying wish.”
I rolled over and covered my mouth, faking a big yawn. “I’m tired.”
“Nice try,” Mom said. “You never cover your mouth when you yawn.”
“I bet that’s one of the lessons. Will you turn out the light, please?”
Mom tried to put her hand underneath me to reach my back.
“Not that one. Only Dad can turn that one off.”
When he was home, Dad always stopped in before he went to bed to see if I was having trouble falling asleep. Then he’d rub my back a little, between my shoulder blades, before flipping off the switch. But tonight he was at a sales conference, learning all about vitamins. Dad manages the biggest grocery store in the Great Lakes Groceries chain.
After the news Mom delivered at dinner, I was pretty sure I’d lie awake even if he was home to turn off the light.
“Don’t be so dramatic, Cassidy. Try to think of it as an opportunity. Your sister is.”
“But it is an opportunity for Magda. She’s going to forensic camp at Greer College!”
“Well, try to be more positive, then. It was my grandmother’s dying wish.”
My only answer was to squeeze my eyes shut and keep them that way until I heard the door close.
There was only one person who would understand the unfolding tragedy that began yesterday, otherwise known as May twenty-second, when the box containing Great-Grandma Reed’s will was dropped on our front porch. I’d been waiting for my copy of Rolling Through Life: Hobos in America, which Mom had let me order for one cent plus $3.99 shipping, so I saw it straightaway. My excitement and anticipation quickly turned to horror when Mom read us what was in the will after breakfast.
Only Jack would understand. Jack, my fellow Knight of the Road, my comrade-in-arms, my best friend since kindergarten, when we learned that heavier objects travel faster and he could steer the sled and I could use my legs as a brake, which I hardly ever did, but was sometimes required to avoid a collision with the school Dumpster. Jack had been gone all day at his grandma Mimi’s.
After Mom left, I crawled to the end of my bed to my stack of old-timey suitcases. Yanking open the top one, I sorted through my best junk for my slingshot. Mostly, I put tinfoil golf balls in it and shoot them at the crane mobile my sister, Magda, made for me the year Mom forced us to exchange homemade Christmas presents.
No slingshot. But I did find a sugar-candy skull left over from Halloween and made a mental note in case Mom decided to torture us with another broccoli-and-mushroom casserole. Next, I mined for my slingshot in the Lego tub next to my bed, kicked around in my favorite clothes pile (Detroit Tigers hoodie, patched Levis, red flannel underwear that doubled for pajamas) and finally found it in the hollowed-out stump Dad let me cart to my room to use as a stool. Now all I needed was my metal lunch box full of skipping stones, which I kept at arm’s reach under my bed in the event that I woke up and surprised an intruder.
Opening the window, I loaded the slingshot and let one fly.
As soon as Jack pulled back the curtain, I shone my flashlight--dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot. SOS. Only to be used in cases of extreme emergency. Shivering, I’d grabbed the book I’d also inherited from Great-Grandma Reed to keep the window propped open then I zipped my hoodie over my pajamas. Even in May, it was still cold after the sun went down, and I wanted to watch Jack’s progress.
It took him a minute to get his gear, but soon enough he was lowering himself from his bedroom window with a rope tied to the grappling hook the Taylors kept in their bathroom as part of their emergency fire-escape plan. Then he tossed the hook into our oak tree, hauled himself up until he was over our sunporch and dropped down onto the roof as easily as a cat. From there, all he had to do was grab the drainpipe and pull himself up to my window ledge. I once heard my dad tell my mom he’d anchored that drainpipe to the side of the house with industrial screws so Jack didn’t kill himself.
“Of course I don’t like that he does it,” he told her. “But I can’t stay awake all night to prevent it.”
“Impressive, huh?” Panting, Jack kissed the grappling hook and held it up like it was a trophy.
“Maybe.” I wasn’t in the mood to be impressed. I jumped back onto my bed. “How do you feel about running away?”
“Bad timing. Dad’s helping me make the harness I need to practice falling out of buildings.”
Jack’s goal in life is to be a stunt man for the movies. His fallback: escape artist. If there’s a fear gene, he got shorted, and he has the broken bones to prove it.
“What’s up, Cass? When I saw the SOS, I figured--”
“Great-Grandma Reed died.”
“Oh. Sorry.”
“Well, I’m not! She had chin hair and she snored.”
Jack put his hand over my mouth. “Quiet down, will you? I don’t want to get caught again. Wasn’t she the one you visited last summer? You disconnected her oxygen tube or something?”
“I was trying to wheel her outside to show her the squirrel tail I’d found. It still had some blood on it!”
“Hard to appreciate squirrel tails if you can’t breathe.” Pulling my arms until they stuck straight out in front of me, Jack used them as guides to rewrap his rope. Why he needed to do this when he was just going to use the rope again on the trip home I didn’t understand; Jack is picky about his tools. I held still, my arms exactly twelve inches apart.
“Besides, it was only for a few seconds.”
“I thought you said she turned blue.”
“A minute, tops. You’re not helping, Jack.”
He finished wrapping and set the loop of rope on the floor with the grappling hook in the middle. “You probably shouldn’t talk trash about her, either, seeing she’s dead. It’s bad for your karma.”
Jack’s mom, Janae (that’s juh-NYE), is a yoga instructor. She was always reminding us about our karma. “So that’s what the SOS was for? Great-Grandma Reed?”
“Yes. No! I mean, I didn’t want her to die but she was headed in that direction. Even she said so. It’s what I inherited.”
“Wow. There was a will? Did you have to put on a suit and go to a lawyer’s office? Were people weeping?” Jack jumped onto my bed and let his head hang over the side. Like me, he couldn’t sit still for long. I climbed up next to him.
“She lived in Tennessee, remember? Last I checked this was Michigan. We got it in the mail. What are you doing?”
“Gotta practice hanging upside down . . . you know, keeping my wits about me when my head is full of blood. Can I see the will? Does it have a bunch of official stamps on it? Did she have loads of money under her mattress?”
I had to lean way out to look him in the eye. I wanted to see his expression when I told him. “Check out what’s propping open the window.”
Jack followed my gaze. “The dictionary?”
“Sort of . . . dictionary of politeness, maybe.”
“Sorry. Not following.”
“That book is by a lady named Emily Post. That book and etiquette lessons are what I scored when my rich great-grandma died, Jack Taylor. A boring book the size of a lunch box and ten sessions with some stuffy lady in a hat and gloves teaching me what fork to use.”
“Ten weeks of summer school?”
“No! Geez . . . five weeks is bad enough. It’s every Monday and Wednesday, from June fourteenth to July fourteenth. You’re turning red, by the way.”
“How long was that, do you think? Sixty seconds?”
“Jack!” I grabbed his leg and attempted a Polish hammer, one of the moves I’m famous for when we wrestle.
“Hey! Cassidy!”
“Shhhh! We’re supposed to be quiet, remember? Go on . . . say it, then.”
Jack wriggled free. “You know I’m not going to say it.”
I knew. I was just trying to distract myself. In all the time I’d known him, Jack had never said “uncle.” The word was not in his vocabulary. He wouldn’t even call his uncle Bob “uncle.”
Jack reached up to massage his leg. “Don’t tell me you’re gonna miss the Fourth of July picnic.”
“No, I get that Monday off, but we have to make it up with an extra class. You okay?”
Putting his hands on the floor, Jack flipped his legs over his head and rolled himself into a sitting position again. “What about Magda?” Reaching over to the window, he yanked out my manners book.
“She got Cause of Death: Forensic Files of a Medical Examiner, and a week at sleepover camp studying dead bodies. Where is the justice?”
Riffling through the pages, Jack said, “You got the short end of it, Cass. Wow, you can learn how to do anything the polite way in here--I never knew there was a right way and a wrong way to open presents at a birthday party.”
“It’s only because I stepped on her tube.” It was so unfair! “Well, that and her precious sand dollars from the Florida Keys. How was I supposed to know they weren’t coasters?”
“Didn’t you say there was an accident at her swanky club?”
The mad tears threatened to make a showing for Jack. “She said I needed instructions in the rules of polite society or else I’d be the death of my parents.”
“She was probably still sore about you cutting off her oxygen.”
“Cassidy?” Mom knocked on the door. “Janae is on the phone requesting that her son return home via normal human conveyance . . . otherwise known as the stairs. Tomorrow’s a school day, after all.”
“So busted.” Jack handed me the book and looped his rope and grappling hook over his shoulder. “You never could talk in a normal voice about your great-grandma.”
After he left, I got back under my covers, wondering if he was right about the karma thing. Was karma what made you a boy or a girl?
There were worse things than being born a girl. There had to be. I could be buried in a fish tank full of worms like they did to that lady on Fear Factor, for example.
Manners lessons only made sense if my goal was to become a princess or a movie star or something wacko like that, but I think I made it quite clear to my great-grandma that I planned to be a Knight of the Road. What did hobos need to know about etiquette? Or pirates, for that matter--my fallback. I mean, she remembered Magda wanted to be a scientist. Why couldn’t I go to a camp that taught me how to jump off a speeding train without losing any limbs? Or to sleep in an alley without getting my shoes stolen?
“Cass?” Now it was my older sister knocking.
I covered myself in blankets. “I’m hibernating,” I said from my burrow.
“I’m coming in anyway.” I felt Magda take a seat on my bed. “You’re reading this already?” I heard the sound of riffling pages. “Interesting. If you’re divorced, there are rules for who gets to go to the spring concert. And, here’s how to tell someone you don’t want to go to their party after all. Hey . . .” Magda must have remembered she had a sister, because she added, “You’re going to suffocate under there.”
“Good. Then you can stuff me and put me in a dress and send me to my etiquette class.”
“A point of clarity, Cass. Forensic science is not about embalming. It’s about the mystery of decomposition.”
I poked my head out of the covers. “Even embalming’s better than solving the mystery of how to curtsy.”
“For me, maybe, but not for you.” Magda’s glasses were so heavy she had to push them up her nose at least four times during a normal conversation. Even her new “rimless” glasses, which Mom swore made her look much less like an egghead, required repositioning. “You could never be around dead bodies. You hate the smell of rotting and you’d freak if you saw a maggot.”
“Magda!”
“What? No one else can hear us.”
It’s a little-known secret that bugs, especially squirmy, scuttly ones, creep me out--in a big way. Little-known, as in Jack . . . and Magda. And, okay, Mom and Dad. My future occupation and all my fallbacks--pirate, mutineer, voodoo doctor, etc.--involved bugs, and plenty of them. When I’m a hobo, I’ll have to deal with bugs in my bedroll, bugs in my hair, bugs in my soup. I knew I had to get over this problem, but that’s what high school is for, isn’t it? The hard stuff?
Magda kept going with her list. “Did I mention larvae, which are by nature squirmy? It is a well-known fact that dead bodies are an ideal host site for--”
“Okay, okay! Thanks, Mag. I feel loads better!” I fell back on my pillows and started to snore.
“You’re not the only one who has to deal with onerous tasks,” Magda said, pushing back on my legs as I tried to inch her off the bed. “Mom says I have to introduce myself to our new neighbors.”
“What? The new people moved in already? The Fensters just left. I was going to practice breaking into their house.” The Fensters’ house was directly behind ours and kitty-corner to the Taylors’.
“Yup.” Magda was chewing her thumbnail, something I’m pretty sure you get executed for in etiquette class. “I watched the movers bringing in suitcases this afternoon. It all matches and it’s all--”
© Roger Gilles
Sue Stauffacher is a children’s book author who writes the Animal Rescue Team series. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona in Tucson. In addition to writing books, Stauffacher has worked as a journalist, book reviewer, and teacher. She lives with her husband, Roger, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. View titles by Sue Stauffacher

About

Eleven-year-old Cassidy has just inherited a gift from her late great-grandmother. Unfortunately, that “gift” turns out to be a summer trapped in etiquette school. What good are manners, anyway, for a girl who dreams of living life on the road as a hobo—er, “knight of the road”?
 
As if trying to remember to keep her elbows off the table isn’t bad enough, Cassidy’s best friend, Jack, suddenly seems more interested in doing chores for the new teenage girl who’s moved in next door than in fishing with Cassidy down by the river. Not even her classic epic pranks seem to be saving Cassidy from having her worst summer ever. It’s time to face facts: growing up stinks.
 
Veteran middle-grade author Sue Stauffacher returns with a cranky, pranky, laugh-out-loud tomboy heroine who might just learn the hard way that manners do matter, and that people can change.
 

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1
Unwanted Gifts
“Of course there are worse things than being born a girl.” Instead of kissing me good night, Mom was still trying to make her point.
“Name one.”
“Well . . .” She smoothed my hair--the hair that just so happened to be sticking to my face because I’d been crying. Not baby tears. “No fair, life stinks, go jump off a bridge” tears. And all because stupid Great-Grandma Reed had died!
“You could have been born the hunchback of Notre Dame,” Mom said.
I pushed my face further into the pillow. “He didn’t have to go to school. He lived with bats.”
“How do you expect me to understand what you’re saying when your mouth is in that pillow? Should I draw some letters on your back?”
Now she was trying to distract me. I lifted my head. “Not unless they spell N‑O.”
“For heaven’s sake, Cassidy, you can’t say no. It’s only a five-week course and it was her dying wish.”
I rolled over and covered my mouth, faking a big yawn. “I’m tired.”
“Nice try,” Mom said. “You never cover your mouth when you yawn.”
“I bet that’s one of the lessons. Will you turn out the light, please?”
Mom tried to put her hand underneath me to reach my back.
“Not that one. Only Dad can turn that one off.”
When he was home, Dad always stopped in before he went to bed to see if I was having trouble falling asleep. Then he’d rub my back a little, between my shoulder blades, before flipping off the switch. But tonight he was at a sales conference, learning all about vitamins. Dad manages the biggest grocery store in the Great Lakes Groceries chain.
After the news Mom delivered at dinner, I was pretty sure I’d lie awake even if he was home to turn off the light.
“Don’t be so dramatic, Cassidy. Try to think of it as an opportunity. Your sister is.”
“But it is an opportunity for Magda. She’s going to forensic camp at Greer College!”
“Well, try to be more positive, then. It was my grandmother’s dying wish.”
My only answer was to squeeze my eyes shut and keep them that way until I heard the door close.
There was only one person who would understand the unfolding tragedy that began yesterday, otherwise known as May twenty-second, when the box containing Great-Grandma Reed’s will was dropped on our front porch. I’d been waiting for my copy of Rolling Through Life: Hobos in America, which Mom had let me order for one cent plus $3.99 shipping, so I saw it straightaway. My excitement and anticipation quickly turned to horror when Mom read us what was in the will after breakfast.
Only Jack would understand. Jack, my fellow Knight of the Road, my comrade-in-arms, my best friend since kindergarten, when we learned that heavier objects travel faster and he could steer the sled and I could use my legs as a brake, which I hardly ever did, but was sometimes required to avoid a collision with the school Dumpster. Jack had been gone all day at his grandma Mimi’s.
After Mom left, I crawled to the end of my bed to my stack of old-timey suitcases. Yanking open the top one, I sorted through my best junk for my slingshot. Mostly, I put tinfoil golf balls in it and shoot them at the crane mobile my sister, Magda, made for me the year Mom forced us to exchange homemade Christmas presents.
No slingshot. But I did find a sugar-candy skull left over from Halloween and made a mental note in case Mom decided to torture us with another broccoli-and-mushroom casserole. Next, I mined for my slingshot in the Lego tub next to my bed, kicked around in my favorite clothes pile (Detroit Tigers hoodie, patched Levis, red flannel underwear that doubled for pajamas) and finally found it in the hollowed-out stump Dad let me cart to my room to use as a stool. Now all I needed was my metal lunch box full of skipping stones, which I kept at arm’s reach under my bed in the event that I woke up and surprised an intruder.
Opening the window, I loaded the slingshot and let one fly.
As soon as Jack pulled back the curtain, I shone my flashlight--dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot. SOS. Only to be used in cases of extreme emergency. Shivering, I’d grabbed the book I’d also inherited from Great-Grandma Reed to keep the window propped open then I zipped my hoodie over my pajamas. Even in May, it was still cold after the sun went down, and I wanted to watch Jack’s progress.
It took him a minute to get his gear, but soon enough he was lowering himself from his bedroom window with a rope tied to the grappling hook the Taylors kept in their bathroom as part of their emergency fire-escape plan. Then he tossed the hook into our oak tree, hauled himself up until he was over our sunporch and dropped down onto the roof as easily as a cat. From there, all he had to do was grab the drainpipe and pull himself up to my window ledge. I once heard my dad tell my mom he’d anchored that drainpipe to the side of the house with industrial screws so Jack didn’t kill himself.
“Of course I don’t like that he does it,” he told her. “But I can’t stay awake all night to prevent it.”
“Impressive, huh?” Panting, Jack kissed the grappling hook and held it up like it was a trophy.
“Maybe.” I wasn’t in the mood to be impressed. I jumped back onto my bed. “How do you feel about running away?”
“Bad timing. Dad’s helping me make the harness I need to practice falling out of buildings.”
Jack’s goal in life is to be a stunt man for the movies. His fallback: escape artist. If there’s a fear gene, he got shorted, and he has the broken bones to prove it.
“What’s up, Cass? When I saw the SOS, I figured--”
“Great-Grandma Reed died.”
“Oh. Sorry.”
“Well, I’m not! She had chin hair and she snored.”
Jack put his hand over my mouth. “Quiet down, will you? I don’t want to get caught again. Wasn’t she the one you visited last summer? You disconnected her oxygen tube or something?”
“I was trying to wheel her outside to show her the squirrel tail I’d found. It still had some blood on it!”
“Hard to appreciate squirrel tails if you can’t breathe.” Pulling my arms until they stuck straight out in front of me, Jack used them as guides to rewrap his rope. Why he needed to do this when he was just going to use the rope again on the trip home I didn’t understand; Jack is picky about his tools. I held still, my arms exactly twelve inches apart.
“Besides, it was only for a few seconds.”
“I thought you said she turned blue.”
“A minute, tops. You’re not helping, Jack.”
He finished wrapping and set the loop of rope on the floor with the grappling hook in the middle. “You probably shouldn’t talk trash about her, either, seeing she’s dead. It’s bad for your karma.”
Jack’s mom, Janae (that’s juh-NYE), is a yoga instructor. She was always reminding us about our karma. “So that’s what the SOS was for? Great-Grandma Reed?”
“Yes. No! I mean, I didn’t want her to die but she was headed in that direction. Even she said so. It’s what I inherited.”
“Wow. There was a will? Did you have to put on a suit and go to a lawyer’s office? Were people weeping?” Jack jumped onto my bed and let his head hang over the side. Like me, he couldn’t sit still for long. I climbed up next to him.
“She lived in Tennessee, remember? Last I checked this was Michigan. We got it in the mail. What are you doing?”
“Gotta practice hanging upside down . . . you know, keeping my wits about me when my head is full of blood. Can I see the will? Does it have a bunch of official stamps on it? Did she have loads of money under her mattress?”
I had to lean way out to look him in the eye. I wanted to see his expression when I told him. “Check out what’s propping open the window.”
Jack followed my gaze. “The dictionary?”
“Sort of . . . dictionary of politeness, maybe.”
“Sorry. Not following.”
“That book is by a lady named Emily Post. That book and etiquette lessons are what I scored when my rich great-grandma died, Jack Taylor. A boring book the size of a lunch box and ten sessions with some stuffy lady in a hat and gloves teaching me what fork to use.”
“Ten weeks of summer school?”
“No! Geez . . . five weeks is bad enough. It’s every Monday and Wednesday, from June fourteenth to July fourteenth. You’re turning red, by the way.”
“How long was that, do you think? Sixty seconds?”
“Jack!” I grabbed his leg and attempted a Polish hammer, one of the moves I’m famous for when we wrestle.
“Hey! Cassidy!”
“Shhhh! We’re supposed to be quiet, remember? Go on . . . say it, then.”
Jack wriggled free. “You know I’m not going to say it.”
I knew. I was just trying to distract myself. In all the time I’d known him, Jack had never said “uncle.” The word was not in his vocabulary. He wouldn’t even call his uncle Bob “uncle.”
Jack reached up to massage his leg. “Don’t tell me you’re gonna miss the Fourth of July picnic.”
“No, I get that Monday off, but we have to make it up with an extra class. You okay?”
Putting his hands on the floor, Jack flipped his legs over his head and rolled himself into a sitting position again. “What about Magda?” Reaching over to the window, he yanked out my manners book.
“She got Cause of Death: Forensic Files of a Medical Examiner, and a week at sleepover camp studying dead bodies. Where is the justice?”
Riffling through the pages, Jack said, “You got the short end of it, Cass. Wow, you can learn how to do anything the polite way in here--I never knew there was a right way and a wrong way to open presents at a birthday party.”
“It’s only because I stepped on her tube.” It was so unfair! “Well, that and her precious sand dollars from the Florida Keys. How was I supposed to know they weren’t coasters?”
“Didn’t you say there was an accident at her swanky club?”
The mad tears threatened to make a showing for Jack. “She said I needed instructions in the rules of polite society or else I’d be the death of my parents.”
“She was probably still sore about you cutting off her oxygen.”
“Cassidy?” Mom knocked on the door. “Janae is on the phone requesting that her son return home via normal human conveyance . . . otherwise known as the stairs. Tomorrow’s a school day, after all.”
“So busted.” Jack handed me the book and looped his rope and grappling hook over his shoulder. “You never could talk in a normal voice about your great-grandma.”
After he left, I got back under my covers, wondering if he was right about the karma thing. Was karma what made you a boy or a girl?
There were worse things than being born a girl. There had to be. I could be buried in a fish tank full of worms like they did to that lady on Fear Factor, for example.
Manners lessons only made sense if my goal was to become a princess or a movie star or something wacko like that, but I think I made it quite clear to my great-grandma that I planned to be a Knight of the Road. What did hobos need to know about etiquette? Or pirates, for that matter--my fallback. I mean, she remembered Magda wanted to be a scientist. Why couldn’t I go to a camp that taught me how to jump off a speeding train without losing any limbs? Or to sleep in an alley without getting my shoes stolen?
“Cass?” Now it was my older sister knocking.
I covered myself in blankets. “I’m hibernating,” I said from my burrow.
“I’m coming in anyway.” I felt Magda take a seat on my bed. “You’re reading this already?” I heard the sound of riffling pages. “Interesting. If you’re divorced, there are rules for who gets to go to the spring concert. And, here’s how to tell someone you don’t want to go to their party after all. Hey . . .” Magda must have remembered she had a sister, because she added, “You’re going to suffocate under there.”
“Good. Then you can stuff me and put me in a dress and send me to my etiquette class.”
“A point of clarity, Cass. Forensic science is not about embalming. It’s about the mystery of decomposition.”
I poked my head out of the covers. “Even embalming’s better than solving the mystery of how to curtsy.”
“For me, maybe, but not for you.” Magda’s glasses were so heavy she had to push them up her nose at least four times during a normal conversation. Even her new “rimless” glasses, which Mom swore made her look much less like an egghead, required repositioning. “You could never be around dead bodies. You hate the smell of rotting and you’d freak if you saw a maggot.”
“Magda!”
“What? No one else can hear us.”
It’s a little-known secret that bugs, especially squirmy, scuttly ones, creep me out--in a big way. Little-known, as in Jack . . . and Magda. And, okay, Mom and Dad. My future occupation and all my fallbacks--pirate, mutineer, voodoo doctor, etc.--involved bugs, and plenty of them. When I’m a hobo, I’ll have to deal with bugs in my bedroll, bugs in my hair, bugs in my soup. I knew I had to get over this problem, but that’s what high school is for, isn’t it? The hard stuff?
Magda kept going with her list. “Did I mention larvae, which are by nature squirmy? It is a well-known fact that dead bodies are an ideal host site for--”
“Okay, okay! Thanks, Mag. I feel loads better!” I fell back on my pillows and started to snore.
“You’re not the only one who has to deal with onerous tasks,” Magda said, pushing back on my legs as I tried to inch her off the bed. “Mom says I have to introduce myself to our new neighbors.”
“What? The new people moved in already? The Fensters just left. I was going to practice breaking into their house.” The Fensters’ house was directly behind ours and kitty-corner to the Taylors’.
“Yup.” Magda was chewing her thumbnail, something I’m pretty sure you get executed for in etiquette class. “I watched the movers bringing in suitcases this afternoon. It all matches and it’s all--”

Author

© Roger Gilles
Sue Stauffacher is a children’s book author who writes the Animal Rescue Team series. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona in Tucson. In addition to writing books, Stauffacher has worked as a journalist, book reviewer, and teacher. She lives with her husband, Roger, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. View titles by Sue Stauffacher