December 29, 1965
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky for the last time in 1965. In a couple of days I’ll have to start trying to remember to put 1966 on all my papers. I can hardly believe it’s almost a new year. I’ll be 15 next year. 15! That’s a while away since my birthday isn’t for months and months, but still, 15. That sounds so much better than 14, don’t you think?
Christmas was last week. I love Christmas. I told you that last week. And guess what I got under the tree? Books! I love books. And a new ink pen. I loved that too. Now if I could just get a new typewriter, but Dad says I’ll have to just keep using the one I have. That I don’t need one that plugs in. I can hit the typewriter keys. It’ll be good for my finger muscles. Zella says, yes, indeed, if anybody gets a new typewriter, it will be her!
But I’m the one writing a book. Of course, Zella is the one working for Dad at the paper. And my book is just for fun. So I guess I’ll be happy with the typewriter I have.
See those book covers up top. That’s my story. Not the one I’m writing, but the one I lived. It’s free right now if you’ve got some kind of modern something or other that lets you download, whatever that means. I feel like somebody is visiting me from the future. (http://amzn.to/1hVVRDc) But I’ve been told it might not be free after a few days, so if you want to read about what happened to me last year, this is a really good chance.
By the way, which front of the book do you like best? You can probably guess the one I like best. Right. The one I got to be on. Same book. Different front.
Gee, I can’t wait to have a book published with my name on it too. That would be even better than my picture on it. I’ll have to think up a good cover for Bailey’s Bug. I guess it’s time to see what they’re up to. Last time, they’d just crossed the road and were heading into the dark beyond.
BAILEY’S BUG by Jocie Brooke
(Continued from a couple of weeks ago. See the whole story under the Bailey’s Bug link up top.)
Once Bailey was away from the road, the dark stopped being so black. He didn’t have any trouble picking his way through the trees. He hurried up in front of Lucinda to lead the way. After all, it was his hum that was telling which way to go. Even so, it was nice having Lucinda and Skelley close behind him.
Bailey stopped in his tracks and Lucinda and Skelley caught up with him.
“What’s that?” Skelley lifted his head and cocked up one of his ears.
“An owl,” Lucinda said.
“Are they very big?” Bailey couldn’t imagine what sort of animal might go with that noise. “They sound like they could be very big.”
“Big enough.” Lucinda peered up toward the tree tops.
Bailey heard the owl again. The sound made him shiver. “What do they eat?”
“Mice.” Lucinda kept walking. “Maybe even cats if they could catch one which they couldn’t. Never a dog as big as you so stop walking on my tail.” Lucinda jumped to the side to keep Bailey from stumbling over her. “What would eat a dog?”
“My master used to warm me that lions and tigers would.” Skelley spoke up. “Boa constrictors too.”
“Boa constrictors?” Bailey’s voice came out in a squeak. He had no idea what boa constrictors were, but they sounded scary.
“Snakes big as tree trunks.” Skelley lowered his voice as though one of the snakes might be listening from up in the trees. “They swallow whatever they eat without chewing and squeeze it to death inside them. Awful things, they are.”
A bush rattled and Bailey almost jumped out of his skin. He looked around. “Are they here in the dark?”
“Oh no, they live in zoos,” Skelley said. “Nothing out here but owls and such. Right, Miss Lucinda?”
The cat muttered under her breath. Skelley, not knowing Lucinda as well as Bailey did, took that as encouragement to keep talking.
“Owls and mice and raccoon and skunks,” he said. “I crossed paths with a skunk once. Looked a bit like a black and white cat, but begging your pardon, Miss Lucinda, it had a horrible odor. Worse than anything ye can imagine and he turned tail and squirted his nasty stink all over me. Me master dunked me in tomato juice before he’d let me back in his tent. A nasty business, it was.”
Bailey stared around him. The moon had come up to make shadows that shifted and swayed under the trees. Horrible things could be hiding out there in the night.
Owls that hooted. Skunks that stunk. Raccoon. Bailey was afraid to ask what raccoon did, but whatever they did, he wanted to wait until the sun came up to face them.
“I think we better rest here until morning. It might be better to cross rivers of cars at night, but we need light here in the woods.”
Lucinda was more than ready to stop. She jumped up on a fallen tree trunk and curled into a ball in a spot of moonlight. Skelley and Bailey scratched out a hole beside the log and snuggled down together.
Bailey had no more than closed his eyes when howls brought him to his feet. “What’s that? Dogs?”
“No dog that I’ve ever heard.” Skelley was on his feet beside him.
The hair on Bailey’s spine inched up as the yips and yowls went on.
Even Lucinda was on her feet, her tail straight up. “Coyotes.”
She sounded really scared for the first time since they left the Robinsons’ house.
That scared Bailey more than the howling. “What are coyotes?”
“Something like dogs.” Lucinda stretched her head up to listen. “Only wild and smart. My mother warned me about coyotes. Told me to get right up in a tree or the top of the barn if I ever saw one.”
All at once, as if on cue, the howling completely stopped, and the night around them went silent. It was almost as if everything in the woods was holding its breath to listen the same as Lucinda was listening.
“Don’t worry, Miss Lucinda.” Skelley edged over to stand in front of her. “We won’t let the varmints get close to you.”
“That’s gallant of you, but I think it will be safer for all of us if I do what my mother said and climb a tree.”
She was on the bottom limbs of the nearest tree before all the words were out of her mouth. As she climbed higher, there was a crash of wings. A bird that seemed almost as big as the bulldozer monster had that morning, swooped down out of the tree. It fixed its great shining saucer eyes on Bailey and dived straight at him.
(To be continued)