Following leads can be tricky and dangerous...PI Whitey Roode...
Sunday, March 23, 2014
The Haunted Field Trip
Home sweet Home, San Diego, California
name is Cassandra but with a K, and
only one S. That’s big K, little a,big S,
little a-n-d-r-a, get it? If you live
in San Diego and you have a kid at DeerCanyonElementary School you may
have heard of me and my team, Winifred, Claire, and Daniel. We got a small
write up in "Echoes" our school newspaper when we solved The Cookie
Caper and unmasked the Lunchito Bandito.
Actually, The Cookie Caper wasn't that newsworthy as the bandito turned out to
be Chester the
hamster, our class mascot. But hey, it was fun and nobody got hurt. Well,
except maybe for poor Daniel who has been teased non-stop for wigging out over
a furry and fat oversized rat.
didn't make the Union Tribune or get on TV or anything like that, but that's
okay, we're supposed to be spies anyways. That's right, I said spies! Me and
the team work for S.A.M. which stands for Secret Agents for Moms. It's a
government agency that recruits brainy kids like us to sorta keep an eye on
things. It's kinda hard to be super secret spies if everyone already knows you're
spies, duh. Just because we are spies
doesn't mean we're tattle-tales though. We just help to keep little problems
from becoming big ones. We help kids find their way to the right adult who can
help them fix whatever's wrong. I guess you could say that we're the eyes that
moms claim to have in the back of their heads.
to recap, I'm a 4th grader at dear old DeerCanyonElementary
School in sunny San
Diego, California. I
live with my Mom, my big sister Katrina and my little brother Luc. My Dad went
to Heaven when I was three and I miss him a lot. But Mommy raised us to be
strong and besides, Father Nick says I'll
see him again when I get up there my own self, and that's all I have to say
12 and goes to the Middle School just around the corner from my school. She'll
be going to High School after that, lucky duck! I think she's really pretty and
way cool, but I still give her a hard time cause hey, that's what little sisters
are supposed to do, am I right? My brother Luc is 6 going on 4, nuff said. I know he's cute and I really
do love him, but eaven
he's such a pill sometimes! Anyway, all
things considered I think that we're a pretty normal family, even with these
yucky cancer cells running around my body right now. Don't freak out though, I
don't. I'm not alone ya know, I've got people! I've got my family and friends
down here, and God and Daddy up there, so I'm not worried, and you needn't be either.
That's all I want to say about that too.
that's my bio so far, short and sweet like me. Uh oh, I need to scoot, I can hear Mommy calling me from
downstairs. My mom believes in saving energy. Why should she run up and down
the stairs and get all tuckered out when she has a perfectly good set of lungs
and a voice that can break glass!
"KASANDRA!" Mommy hollered from
the foot of the stairs.
"Coming Mommy," I holler back (like mother, like daughter), stuffing
my homework into my backpack.
"Let's go smalls, you're gonna miss the
bus," she added.
appeared suddenly at my door and peeked in on me. She grabbed my heavy backpack
and handed me my crutches.
"I'll take this down for you slow-poke.
Be careful coming down the stairs, okay?"
"Okay, thanks," I said, smiling at
her random act of kindness.
the time I get downstairs Katrina is already long gone and Luc is sitting at
the table whining about having to wear shoes instead of flip-flops. That meant
it was exactly 7:46am because Mommy and my brother had the same battle five
days a week during the school year.
Mommy yells as she stuffs my brother's lunch into his "Lightening McQueen"
backpack and zips it shut.
hobbled over to the table and picked up the handful of meds Mommy had set out
for me. I put them all in my mouth at once and washed them down with a glass of
orange juice. My mom watched me out of the corner of her eye like she always
does (she thinks I don't notice, but I do). She started to say something but
thought better of it; thankfully, I
didn't feel like a lecture this morning. I slipped my backpack onto my
shoulders and made my way out the front door.
"See ya later Mommy," I said as I
"Don't forget I'm picking you up after
school today for your appointment with Dr. S, okay," she hollers after me.
"OKAY," I holler back as I reached
the end of the driveway.
right and walked toward the bus stop at the end of our street. I was running
late as usual and waddled as fast as I was able. I couldn’t wait to get to
school, it's my sanctuary.
DeerCanyon Bus Stop
It wasn't a long walk
really, but when you have only two speeds, slow and slower, it can take a
while. I was last to arrive as usual and just as usual, Mr. Beadle our crazy
bus driver was waiting for me at the bottom step of the bus. He always waits an
extra few minutes for me. He's not supposed to but he does, it's our little
secret. Only Cullen Wainwright III ever notices. And unfortunately he never
misses the opportunity to point it out to EVERYBODY! One day when I'm better I
am gonna give that kid an atomic wedgie!
Beadle is so cool, wacky, but cool.
He always has a funny comment or two to share. He's never mean to us when he
needs to get our attention, even when he probably should be! He's pretty old I
think, maybe forty or forty-five. And he's not very tall at all. Winnie is
taller than he is. Well, to be fair Winnie is tall for her age, but still, he
seems pretty short for an adult. He also plays along with my changing wig
colors by painting his very bald head or wearing a matching ball cap. I just
"Hustle up Miss Britches, the clock's
ticking," Mr. Beadle said as I reached the bus. He tipped his throw-back
Denver Broncos ball cap, the Orange Crush version as he sort of smiled at me.
"Sorry, thanks for waiting, again," I replied huffing and
"Not a problem child, now, hand me those
sticks and climb on board," he replied, taking my crutches.
"Hey, you remembered Mango Monday," I said, tapping my
orange-ish wig as I reached the top step and turned down the aisle to take my
seat next to Claire.
Beadle hopped back into the driver seat and started the engine. The bus made
funny spurting sound at first then roared to life and he checked on us in the
mirror before pulling away from the curb.
"Hang on children, we're on the
road," he said closing the door and shifting gears.
waited until I sat down. Claire was already asleep as usual. She rested her
head against the window using her balled up sweater for a pillow. Winfred was
busy finishing her math homework, as usual as well, and barely looked up when I
"Hey KK," she said in a monotone.
"Hey Winnie," I replied.
"Word problem?" I asked.
"Yes. I hate em so much," she
"Me too," I said.
"Me three," chimed in Claire
without opening her eyes. Guess she wasn't sleeping after all.
bus lurched forward as Mr. Beadle drove away from the curb. My street was the
last stop so we would get to school in about twenty or thirty minutes give or
take twenty minutes depending on the crazy parent traffic, and how many cars
were blocking the driveway dropping off kids when we arrived, sheesh!
"Did you bring your permission slip KK?"
asked a familiar voice from the seat in front of me.
"What?" I answered, peering
over the seat to see who was quizzing me.
"Your permission slip for the field trip
silly," Daniel said, popping up like a jack-in-the-box and startling me.
"Don't do that! You scared the bejeezus
outta me," I hollered, scolding him and catching my breath.
"YEAH, knock it off Daniel," Claire
added stirring against the window.
"EVERYBODY zip it okay, I'm trying to
figure out who gets to St Louis first then back here, train A or train B,"
"Sorry," Daniel muttered, popping
back around as quickly as he had popped up. We might have hurt his feelings,
poor kid, so touchy, boys, go figure!
"We're going horse-back riding at the
stables in CarmelValley tomorrow,
remember," he added meekly.
"Duh, you know my mom. Do you think she
would let me out of the house before checking off everything on her white
board," I answered annoyed.
"Good point," he replied.
"I'll say," chimed in Winnie,
slamming her math book shut!
"Oh yeah, just in case you're wondering,
train B got there first," she added, sounding pretty pleased with herself.
"So, did Dr. S or Dr. L say you could
ride with us KK?" Winnie asked.
"No, not this time," I answered
trying to sound like I didn't care.
"Sorry," she said sincerely.
"Don't be, I'm okay with it. Maybe I'll
get to ride this summer, we'll see," I said cheerfully
"Okay, cool beans," replied Daniel.
"Yeah, way cool," added Claire as
she stretched. She always woke up ten seconds before the bus arrived, weird!
Beadle pulled up to the curb and the bus made its usual squeaking sounds as it
jerked to a stop. The doors whooshed open noisily and Mr. Beadle turned in his
seat to shout at us.
"Alright munchkins grab your gear and
exit here," he bellowed.
"He always says that," Claire said
as she put her backpack over her shoulder.
"It's his thing Claire," Winfred
answered doing likewise.
"I guess," I added, turning
sideways in the seat to let Claire pass.
always went ahead of me to grab my crutches and wait for me at the curb while
Winifred followed me to help me down the steps. Daniel even jumped up to help
clear a path; that was nice of him.
"I had a dream about a ghost," he
said out of the blue.
"That's weird, so did I," Winnie said as we walked down the aisle.
"Hmmm, that's really weird cause I did
too," I added.
"What if Claire did also?" Daniel
"If she did, I don't want to know about
it," Winnie said shuddering.
"Hmmmm," I said under my breath. "I wonder?"
Dear ol' Deer Canyon Elementary
"Alright kids, settle down," Mrs.
Ryan said yawning.
we should have had a new teacher for fifth grade since we had Mrs. Ryan in the
fourth grade last year. But I guess she must have taught us real good and got
promoted right along with us. That was okay with me though, I like her and
besides that means we don't have to break in anybody new, hehehe…
are the worst, everybody knows that! No matter how good you sleep on Sunday
night you still have to get up early and face Monday, ugh! Oh well, at least we had a field trip we could look forward to
tomorrow, that'll shorten up the week a little bit. There were posters all over
school advertising the Shetland Stables in CarmelValley,
which was where all the 5th grade classes were going to learn about horses and
see some real cowboys on a real ranch. I suppose I would be more excited if I were
going to get to ride too but that was gonna have to wait until next year, stupid cancer! Note to self, try not to
pout at Dr. S's appointment this afternoon, it's not her fault.
"So, I'm sure everyone is real
disappointed that we will have to reschedule the math test tomorrow due to our
field trip," Mrs. Ryan said sarcastically.
class broke into wild cheers, celebrating for all of ten seconds while Mrs.
Ryan walked over to the blackboard. Slowly she raised the map covering what was
underneath, ending the celebration suddenly. The woman is ALL TEACHER, and we
should have known she had something up her sleeve with that sly teacher grin on
her face. The whole class groaned in unison when we saw what was hidden
"As you can see I've assigned a little
extra reading for all of you. And, there's a quiz in the morning that you can
take on the bus ride to Shetland Stables," she said, her sly grin turning
into a big smile as she was clearly pleased with herself!
"OH MAN," I mumbled as my neighbor Zoë
tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a note.
"It's from Winnie," she whispered.
"Thanks," I replied under my breath
without turning in my seat.
unfolded the note in my lap and glanced down off and on to read it while Mrs.
Ryan took the roll. Winnie has perfect penmanship, I hate that! Not really,
that was mean; I'm just a little jealous, hehe.
Claire said she dreamed about
ghosts too, weird huh?
Want to know what's weirder? So did Zoë and
that was weird? No, not just weird
but freaky weird! Hahaha, we sure say
weird a lot, I just noticed that. It’s
one thing if my team is having the same dream, but Zoë and Ali too? I glanced over my shoulder at Zoë and she gave
me a puzzled look. I'd have to think about why we all were dreaming about
ghosts later cause attendance was almost over.
"Connie Zypher," Mrs. Ryan called
out finally as she checked off the last name on her list.
"Present," replied Connie
"Alrighty then, let's get to work
people," Mrs. Ryan said reaching for her teacher's edition of our Social
all complied, groaning audibly. The sounds of our textbooks hitting our
desktops with a thud echoed off the walls, and were quickly followed by the rustling
of turning pages. I scribbled a quick reply to Winnie's note and stealthily
handed it back to Zoë.
as it made its way to the last row where Winnie sat and waited for the signal
that the message was received. Two seconds later Winifred coughed once and a
couple seconds after that Claire sneezed. Perfect, a lunch meeting was now
official. We could tell Daniel about it when we got outside, he still hasn't
grasped the playbook yet. We'll learn him…
was the longest 120 minutes ever! Two hours of mind numbing learning, ugh and double ugh! Don't get me wrong, I love school and all, but why do
we need to know anything about Ponce-de-Leon,
Magellan, or Genghis Khan anyways? Those guys lived like a jillion years ago! What could they
possibly mean to a bunch of 5th graders in 2009 from the US of A, I dunno,
weird? Hehehe, there it is again.
Weird must be on the top ten list of kid words!
well, you can't fight city hall according to Mr. Beadle. He says that whenever
he's going on about "the man!"
Which man he's talking about I have no idea, seriously, he never actually says?
Oh well, it doesn't matter, grown-ups are just wacky. Mommy thinks he was a hippie
back in the day. Which day, again, I
don't know? She also said that when he's on a rant I should just smile and be
nice, smiles sooth the savage beast. By the way, I don't know what a hippie is either,
but I do hear a rant here and there, like whenever somebody gets on Mommy's
list! That's all I better say about that, hahaha.
stomach growled suddenly, loud enough for the whole class to hear. How
embarrassing! Mrs. Ryan looked my way from over the top of her glasses.
alright class, sounds like KaSandra's starving. Why don't we break for lunch a
little early today," she announced.
nanosecond later the room erupted with the sound of scooting desks and chairs
as thirty-one students simultaneously raced for the coatroom and their lunches.
Mrs. Ryan stopped the jailbreak with a whistle that she kept in her desk
drawer. Like I said, a born teacher!
"Freeze!" she hollered, as she
stood up, sternly wagging a finger slowly at the room.
"That's better. Now, let's try this
again like good little humans and not wild little beasties," she said
slowly filed into the coatroom, one by one, and grabbed what was ours then ever
so quietly exited the classroom. Of course once outside the mad rush began all
over again. As usual I was last out the door and I heard Mrs. Ryan sigh as she
collapsed in her seat, grateful for a moment's peace. Note to self; make
something special for her on National Teacher's Day next May, maybe a nice set
of ear plugs, hehehe.
the time I reached our lunch table Claire had already made a lopsided trade
with Daniel for one of his desserts. That girl's sweet tooth is legendary! She
had managed to talk Daniel into giving up a Hostess Fruit Pie for a bag of
veggies. I suspect she convinced him that boys needed more nutrition in order
to be football stars, and he bought it, probably after asking to see his
muscles. Boys are so easy! Winnie was grinning at them when I walked up and sat
"What'd I miss?" I asked nobody in
particular, opening my lunch sack and taking out a tuna sandwich, a bag of
veggie chips, and a Fuji
"Nothing much, Claire was just being
Claire," Winifred answered.
"Claire thinks I could be a football
star," Daniel blurted with a mouthful of celery and carrots, gross! Claire smiled and winked as she noisily
peeled the wrapper of the berry pie.
"Nice," I replied, nibbling on my
"So, what's up with all this ghost
stuff?" I asked.
"I dunno, looks like everybody had a
ghost dream is all," Claire mumbled, licking purple berry filling from her
"Well, that's not too crazy, I mean
Halloween is just a week away," I replied.
but let me ask you this first. What was your
ghost dream about?" Winifred asked sipping on a juice box.
"Just a regular ghost dream, you
know," I answered shrugging my shoulders?
"Was there a nice old lady in a big
green house?" asked Daniel.
"Was she wearing a blue and white
checkered dress with white apron?" asked Claire.
"Did she give you cold milk and gingerbread
to snack on in her kitchen, and were there two scruffy guys eating bacon and
eggs at a round table?" asked Winifred.
"Were they cowboys?" Daniel asked
"Wait a minute, are you telling me that
ALL of you dreamed the exact same dream?" I asked puzzled.
"Yes, we all did, and Zoë and Ali too, all of us, and now you too," Winnie added.
weird. I think I may have read a story like this once? Anyway, dreams are just
dreams my mom always says, nothing to be scared of. Like the boogey man, no
worries, he's only a story. Vampires aren't real either (even if Luc thinks Katrina
is one because she reads all those books), and Santa is just a nice guy at the
mall. But still, six kids, one dream, I don't know, maybe we should call our
boss at S.A.M. and see what he thinks? But, then again maybe not, he might
think we're nuts and demote us all back to regular kids! I looked up just then;
Winnie must have been reading my mind.
we should call the boss?" she whispered.
"Let's not panic people," I said.
"Okay, so what should we do then?"
the three of them asked in unison.
"I dunno yet, but like I said, let's not
panic yet. Hey, maybe this was just a freak of nature thing, ya know?"
"Wait, I know, how about a cell phone slumber party tonight, after all our
parents go to bed? We'll stay up all night and make sure nobody dreams anything.
Then tomorrow we can decide if this is anything worth worrying about, what do
you think?" I asked the team.
That's your plan KK?" Winifred asked sarcastically.
"That's all I can think of right now. You
know I can't concentrate very well before my check-ups," I replied.
"That's right, sorry," Winnie
"No worries Winifred, we're friends.
Okay, conference call at 11:30pm, remember; my mom's a night owl so don't call
in before that," I explained.
"Remember to turn off your ringers and
put your headsets under your pillows, okay?"
"What about Ali and Zoë?" Daniel
"Oh, that's right? Well, Ali's your
buddy Daniel. You tell him about tonight, he has a cell right? I will touch
base with Zoë, she sits right behind me," I answered as I took the last
bite of my tuna sandwich.
We ate the
rest of our lunch in silence trying to save as much chatter as we could for the
slumber party later tonight. I watched a bunch of kids playing kickball on
field number one. Ali was pitching, well technically he was rolling. He liked
to roll that rubber ball hard and deliver his famous bouncy ball pitch. I
remember when I could play, last year before getting sick. I was one of the
only kids who could kick the bouncy ball pitch. Ali's lucky I'm not playing
to self, never schedule a conference call after 8pm, especially on a school
night. Oh we were all ready and willing. It was the able part we had a little problem with. Translation, PARENTS! I
blame myself; the plan was doomed from the start. Why you ask, well, have you
ever heard of any kid who was eager for bedtime? Well, neither did any of our
parents. They were on to us from the get go. I'm pretty sure it was Claire's
mom who unraveled the plan first based on what I overheard when she called my
mom. They're all connected you see, parents I mean.
In my mind I jumped out of bed, in reality I slowly swung my legs over
the edge and reached for my crutches. Katrina peeked into my room on her way
"Why do you do that?" she asked in
a frustrated tone.
"You know what! Why do you always wait
until Mommy yells before you move?"
"Oh that, I dunno, just lazy I
guess," I replied straining to stand up.
"Wait, let me help you," Katrina
said walking over to steady me.
"Thanks," I said.
"I'm still mad at you ya know. When you guys
wind Mommy up, I get it too, that's not fair," she replied, helping me get
to the bathroom.
"I'll work on that sis, I promise,"
I said, really meaning it. She sensed that I did and smiled that big smile of
hers. That made me smile too. If we can make Mommy smile too we'll be golden!
rushed through my morning routine and got dressed quickly, well, quickly for me anyways. As I waddled down the stairs I heard
Mommy laughing with Luc in the kitchen; that was a good sign. I put on a big
smile of my own and walked over to the table to take my meds. My mom waived to
me from the kitchen where she was rinsing off a cereal bowl.
"Sit down and eat your scrambled eggs
KK, I don't want to catch you sneaking out of the house without eating, you
got it," my Mom said, pretending to be mad, and winking at me
while she finished the dishes.
"Okay Mommy," I said, taking a seat
and starting on my breakfast.
"So, are you excited about the field
trip today?" she asked.
"Yeah, I guess. I wish I could ride the
horses with the other kids though," I whined.
"Next year honey, next year. Doctor S
was pretty impressed with your MRI results, so things are looking up," she
was nice to see my mom in such a good mood; it had been a while, what with all
this medical stuff to deal with. She is such a great mom, and I love her so
much. I don't know what we would do without her. I watched her out of the
corner of my eye while I ate. She was softly singing a song to herself, it
sounded like "Amazing Grace,"
one of her favorites.
"Okay, I can wait until then Mommy. All
done, I have to scoot or I'll miss the bus," I said getting up to leave as
she came to take my plate.
"Let me give you a ride this morning
honey," she said.
"No, I want to take the bus, I need the
practice walking. Besides, everyone will wonder what happened to me if I don't
show up like usual," I replied, pulling on my backpack. My mom sighed and
opened the front door for me.
"Alright, be careful then. I love you,"
she said, waiving.
"I love you
more," I replied as I walked out the door and across
the driveway to the sidewalk.
I made it to the bus stop in record time
surprising everyone. Mr. Beadle was still in the driver's seat when he saw me
waddling up to the steps. He jumped up and trotted down the steps to help me.
"Well look who we have here. What
happened sugar, did your bed catch fire this morning," he teased.
"No, I just didn't want to be late for
the field trip today is all," I answered smiling.
"Alright then, let's get you on board
and get on down the road," he said as he took my crutches and helped me
climb onto the bus.
I reached my seat Claire, Winifred and Daniel were waiting for me, wide awake.
Ali and Zoë were there as well. I wondered if we were going to have a repeat of
yesterday, another dream co-winkie-dink?
"Okay I know what you're thinking, KK
dropped the ball, right," I said. They shook their heads no.
"Alright, what's with the silent
treatment? So we missed the call, I think we all know why, right Claire," I said shooting Claire the look.
"Hey, it wasn't me! Daniel called my
house and asked my mom what time I usually went to bed," Claire replied defending
"Are you serious? Daniel what were you
thinking?" Winnie asked in disbelief.
I forgot what time to call, and Ali lost his cell phone privileges so he spent
the night at my house, and I called Winifred first but her Grandpa answered and
I don't understand Chinese! He just kept saying 'wei' and I just kept saying 'what'," Daniel rambled!
"OMG Daniel, I don't even know what to
say to that," I said scolding him, instantly sorry for sounding mean.
"Never mind Daniel, forget about it, no
harm done, right? So, did anyone dream last night?" I asked, changing the
shook their heads no, interesting? Really,
nobody, I wondered? I debated with myself for a second whether or not I should
share my dream. They all looked so relieved, no news was good news, right? Heck,
I didn't want to jinx the field trip. But my mom always says that honesty is
the best policy. She's usually right 99% of the time. IN FACT she finishes most
sentences with "am I right!"
"That's funny because I dreamed a lot
last night," I said finally. That opened the flood gates and they all
started talking at once.
"So did I KK, I just didn't want to be
the first one to say so," admitted Claire, sighing with relief.
"Yeah, me too," Daniel said chiming
"Me three," said Winifred joining
"I guess me and Ali make four and five
then," added Zoë, grinning. Ali didn't say anything, which was unusual for
him, he just nodded and blushed, I wonder why?
"The same little old Grandma?" I
asked. They all nodded yes.
"The same two cowboys too?" I
continued. They all nodded yes.
"Cookies and gingerbread, bacon and
eggs?" I asked.This time they all shook their heads no.
"Good, that was a test," I
"Lemonade?" I asked. They all nodded yes. Weird…
we were more than just curious, we were a little bit scared, at least I was.
Looks like the Boogeyman theory was being put to the test. The bus suddenly lurched
as we turned off the highway and onto a long dirt road. We had been so busy
wondering what was what that we didn't notice that we had been driving all
along. I looked out the window as we drove under a big wooden arch that read "SHETLAND STABLES," we were
of the kids had wandered over to our side of the bus and were chattering about
the cows and horses they could see as we drove up to a huge barn and corral.
The yellow school bus kicked up a lot of dust as we came to a stop beside the
corral and we quickly slid the windows up, closing them before the dust cloud
came into bus.
was the only kid still on the other side of the bus. I was about to call him
when he turned, white as a sheet and pointed out the window he was looking
through. Winnie and I stood up and looked his way to see what had frightened
him. We gasped as we saw what he saw. There, about half a football field away from
where we were parked was a big old fashioned green house, with one of those
porches that wrapped around the whole place.
porch, rocking in an old white chair was a little old lady in a gingham
(checkered) blue dress with a white apron. And while I couldn't swear to it
because she was pretty far away, resting on the table beside her appeared to be
a pitcher of ice cold something or other, lemonade
We ain't afraid of no ghosts!
I could say anything Mrs. Ryan blew her trusty whistle. All the kids started
making their way down the aisle while I sat in my seat and waited for the crowd
to thin. Winnie and Claire waited with me while the Daniel, Zoë, and Ali went
along with the others.
"Meet you at the table," Daniel
said, still a little shaky from the shock of maybe seeing his dream come true.
"Take this for me," I said, tossing
him the FLIP camera that Mrs. Ryan gave me to film the event.
think she felt sorry for me, and she wanted to make sure I had something to do
beside stand around and watch everyone else having fun. Sometimes that sort of
bothers me. I know that people mean well; and that they don't pity me, but love
me, at least most of the time anyways. It's just that I'm tired of being
different and I can't wait to be normal again! Mrs. Ryan was pretty cool when she
told the class about me filming them though, made like it was no big deal.
"Okay people listen up," she had said.
"KaSandra is going to be our official
videographer today, so make sure you smile big and smile often for her,"
"Alright," Daniel replied, taking
the FLIP and stuffing the camera into his back pocket.
"HEY, be careful with that, you think
I'm a millionaire," I hollered after him.
waived without looking back and disappeared out the door. Claire and Winifred
were chattering about the old lady on the porch. I waited for a lull in the
conversation before chiming in. The kids were stalled in the aisle waiting for
everyone to exit single file while an adult checked their name off on a list.
We always travelled with parent volunteers, sometimes my mom is one of them,
when she can get away from work that is.
Dad was one of the parents with us today. But he was sorta working, taking
pictures for the school paper, "Echoes"; he's a real photographer! You
could tell that on account of the way he carries around ten different cameras
in big chunky bags that hang from every limb of his body. It sorta made him look
like a Christmas tree full of shiny ornaments! Anyway, I know Mrs. Ryan is just
keeping me busy, I'm okay with that. I'll have all kinds of fun adding captions
later when I edit the video on Mommy's computer. Maybe Katrina can help me;
she's a wiz on the computer!
"So what do you think KK? That old lady
is exactly how I dreamed her both nights," Winnie said, concerned.
"Me too KK, she's the same, right down
to her shoes," Claire added, chiming in.
"I know. She's what I saw too. We gotta
figure out a way to get over to that house and check her out," I said.
"No we don't," Claire said
"What are you talking about
Claire," I asked annoyed.
"Look, she's coming this way,"
all stood and watched as the old woman in the blue gingham dress walked right
up to the bus. She disappeared as she went around the front and reappeared on
the other side next to Mrs. Ryan. The two of them chatted for a moment and then
Mrs. Ryan turned to look our way and pointed at the bus. What was she doing?
What were they saying? Claire walked down the aisle as it cleared, Winnie and me
following. When we reached the steps Mrs. Ryan was waiting for us.
this is Mrs. Dexter. She and her husband own this ranch," Mrs. Ryan said,
introducing us to our host.
"Hello young ladies," said Mrs.
"Hello ma'am," we replied together.
"My, such polite children,"
commented our host with a smile that didn't match the look in her eyes.
something wasn't right, but I'll be darned if I know what? We stepped down off
of the bus and walked over to join the others by the corral. Daniel walked up
and handed me the FLIP, pointing at Mrs. Ryan and Mrs. Dexter.
"Who is she KK?"
"That's Mrs. Dexter," Claire said,
answering for me.
"She's the lady in my dream,"
Daniel said still pointing.
"Daniel! Don't you know it's not
polite to point you Neanderthal," I hollered, scolding him.
"Sorry," he said meekly, retreating
a few steps to stand behind Zoë.
"She's the lady in all our dreams,"
"Did you notice the way she looked at
us," Winnie asked?
she already knew us?" I asked, speculating.
We've got a mystery to solve people. Why her I wonder? We need to figure out how
were going to find out what's what, without Mrs. Ryan catching on that is,"
"Alright kids listen up. We'll be
getting a tour of a real working ranch today. You're going to drive around on
that hay wagon attached to the big green tractor over there," Mrs. Ryan
explained, pointed toward the big red barn.
"Hey, how come she gets to point,"
Daniel asked pouting.
said Winnie and I together, shushing him.
tractor fired up and belched a small puff of black smoke from an exhaust pipe
sticking up in the air from the engine. And, in the driver's seat was none
other than dream cowboy number one. He
shifted the big machine into gear and it jerked and rolled forward, the two
giant wheels in back pushing it forward on the two tiny wheels up front, weird!
An old grandpa cowboy walked out of the barn and shouted at the tractor.
"Pull the rig up by the corral Hank and
we'll see if we can't get these kids loaded on board and show em around the
place," hollered grandpa cowboy.
must be Mr. Dexter I figured, and then, adding two and two figured that dream
cowboy 1 and 2 were his grandsons. We'd made contact! Claire, Winnie and I
started walking with the other kids toward the bale wagon when Mrs. Ryan
"Hold on a minute girls, Mrs. Dexter
asked if you three wouldn't mind helping her to prepare lunch for us up at the
house," said our teacher.
looked at one another and gulped. I don't know what Winnie and Claire were
thinking but as for me all I could think of was that old "Hansel and Gretel" story, and everyone knows how that
turned out! Well, we'd been wondering how we were going to find out what was
what anyways, I guess that now the wondering was over. The three of us stared
at Mrs. Dexter, waiting for her to say something, and she did.
"I'd be tickled if you children could
follow me yonder to the house. I'm not as spry as I used to be and a few extra
hands would really be helpful," she said even more sweetly than before, maybetoo sweetly?
of us could seem to find a voice and she had to settle for a three way head
nod. Mrs. Dexter smiled but Mrs. Ryan gave us a stern look and fought the urge
to wag a finger at us.
"Now girls, don't be rude, and answer
our guest properly," she insisted. We did instantly.
"Ah, yes ma'am, we'd love to help,"
I said, answering for all three of us.
wait a minute, I wanted t…," Claire started to complain.
"Claire wanted to tell you how much she
loves cooking," Winnie said, jumping in quickly.
"That's wonderful. Why don't you girls follow
me down this path then, alright,"
Mrs. Dexter said. She paused before starting for the old ranch house.
"Sweetheart will you be able to make it
on those things?" she asked me pointing at my crutches.
"You know I can get Clay-boy over there to
put you in a quad and drive you on up to the house," she offered, pointing
at dream cowboy number two standing
by the string of horses that all the kids were waiting to ride. The expression
on her face seemed to change from strange to compassionate all of a sudden, but
I wasn't feeling it?
Clay-boy? Oh never mind, that's okay, my friends can help me. They've had lots
of practice helping me get around from point A to point B," I replied
politely, making a mental note, dream cowboy number two's name is Clay.
"Alright sweetie, suit yourself,"
she replied turning to lead the way up to the big green house.
"Well then, I'm going to catch up with
the rest of the class. You girls behave and mind what Mrs. Dexter says, okay," Mrs. Ryan instructed as she
turned toward the corral.
"We will," we replied together.
helped me adjust my crutches then took my backpack from me. She handed it to
Winnie who slung it over her shoulder and the three of us followed Mrs. Dexter.
The old lady was faster than she looked so we had to scoot. The house got
bigger and older as we got closer and we could see that it could use a paint
job pretty badly. The windows were odd like the mirrors at a carnival funhouse.
I was starting to feel weird again and judging by the look on my friends faces,
so were they. When we finally reached the front porch Mrs. Dexter was waiting at
the top step. She gestured at a small table next to a white rocking chair.
"Would you like some lemonade before we
start?" she asked with a suspiciously sweet smile.
she say lemonade?" Claire whispered.
"Yep," I answered.
"Freaky," sighed Winnie.
Beware sweet old ladies!
passed on the lemonade offer and followed Mrs. Dexter into the old house. The
floors inside creaked even more than the rickety old steps out front, spooky! The
living room was huge and furnished with a bunch of really old stuff, like in a
movie or something? There were two over-stuffed chairs with lace thingies draped
over each arm, and a plump sofa and a high back with the same thingies on the
arms. The wood floor was covered by odd shaped rugs that didn't match and at
the far end of the room was a long dining table set like it was Thanksgiving?
face was a question mark and I gave her the hush up look before she blurted
anything out. To be fair, we all had questions, and we would ask them soon
enough. Question number one might go something like this: exactly how many ghosts are around here anyways? Well, that would
be question number one if Claire asked it. Before I could think any more about
that, we entered the kitchen. It was as old looking as the living room and was almost
as big. In the center of the room was a large butcher block island like the one
at my Auntie's house. It was for prepping food, like cutting and chopping vegetables
for soup and stuff. Mrs. Dexter stopped at the island and picked up an apron
that was folded neatly on top. She put it on quickly and turned to face us.
"Well, have any of you ever cooked with
your mothers at home," she asked, her hands on her hips?
"I've made Christmas cookies with my
Mom," Claire offered with a big smile.
"Me too, cookies," added Winifred,
a little less enthusiastically.
"Um, my Mom doesn't bake, I meekly
"I see, well, come on over here and
we'll get started with lunch. First things first, go over to that sink yonder
and wash up. Never touch food without washing up first," she explained.
made sense; my Mom always says that too. The three of us went over to the sink
to wash but stopped short when we couldn't find the faucet? We were about to
ask when Mrs. Dexter suddenly appeared behind us. Winnie jumped, faintly
shrieking! The old grandma smiled and excusing herself stepped past us. She
reached for a big lever on what looked like a skinny fire hydrant. When she
pulled down on the lever water rushed out of a spout and splashed into the
sink. Claire giggled and walked up to wash her hands. Winnie and I looked at
each other puzzled and then followed her lead.
"It's an old house child, and we've kept
some of the old ways as well. Don't worry though, we have running water in the
bathrooms, and as you can see we have electricity," Mrs. Dexter explained,
giggling as she walked back to the chopping table.
finished washing and rejoined her. While we were washing up she had laid out several
loaves of bread, some lunchmeat (ham, turkey, and roast beef), lettuce,
tomatoes, pickles, mustard and mayo. Looked like we were making sandwiches, a
LOT of them! We didn't need much instruction and in no time we had a little
assembly line going.
had bread detail, alternating mustard and mayo with each wave of the butter
knife as she spread the condiments. Mrs. Dexter portioned out the meats on one
slice of bread while Winnie stacked the veggies on another. I was at the end of
the line putting the two slices together and stabbing them with a long toothpick
to hold it all together, simple right? We were getting into a rhythm when the
old grandma surprised us.
know, I dreamed of you girls the last two nights," she said without
stopping her work.
"You're exactly how I pictured you too,
except there was a boy as well," she added nonchalantly.
assembly line grinded to a stop as Claire gasped and tore through a piece of
Wonder Bread with her butter knife. Winnie shrieked as a blob of yellow mustard
from Claire's knife landed in her hair. And I yelped, stabbing myself with a
long toothpick! We passed from curious to scared in a single heartbeat.
"You have a classmate, blonde, clumsy,
and a silly heart?" she asked.
about Zoë and Ali," whispered Winifred, too frightened to speak out loud.
"I'm afraid I don't know who those
people are dear," replied Mrs. Dexter, wiping her hands clean with a
"Why not, they dreamed about you too. We
all dreamed about you," Claire insisted.
"I know you did sweetie," the old
grandma said, softly stroking Claire's blond hair.
"How?" Winnie whispered,
moving close enough to me to share the same shoes.
"Because we're still dreaming," I
are you talking about!" Claire exclaimed.
"Think about it, Zoë and Ali aren't on
the team and Daniel is too new. That's why they aren't in the house with us
right now," I explained, my brain struggling to sort out the rest.
"KK's right! And here's another clue.
Aren't those the same clothes you were wearing yesterday Claire?" Winnie
"I know it is because this is the exact
same outfit I wore yesterday! And what about KK's wig?" Winnie said
"What about it?" asked Claire.
"It's her Mango Monday wig! If we were
really on the field trip it would be Turquoise Tuesday, right?" observed
"I thought Tuesday's were purple?"
Claire asked puzzled.
was so last year Claire! Don't you remember when we all picked Turquoise at
the "Cat-in-the-Hat" store in the North Hills Mall when our moms took
us shopping for school clothes together," Winnie replied, agitated.
"Oh yeah, I forgot," said Claire.
OMG, we're still asleep!" Claire shouted.
"Yes, I suppose you are child,"
offered Mrs. Dexter.
"And I think I know why," she
I whispered, suddenly recognizing Mrs. Dexter.
old grandma had given me the willies from the very beginning but I couldn't
figure out why. She seemed sweet enough but there as something dark about her,
like a shadow. Wait a minute! That was it! My mind raced backward, replaying
every moment with Mrs. Dexter, from the time we first saw her rocking on the
front porch to this very moment. It was obvious now; I didn't understand why I
didn't see it from the first.
cast no shadow, even now in this big kitchen with all this sunlight streaming
in from the huge window across from us. She cast no shadow. I looked behind me;
none of us had a shadow. Everything else in the room cast long shadows that ran
along the floor and up the wall on the other side of the room. We didn't
because we were dreaming. She didn't because she was dead!
"I saw you at the hospital, didn't I
"No child, it was not I."
"Yes I did, you were getting chemo too,
"No dear, I was not."
"I'm sure it was you, I remember your
husband. His name is Walter isn't it?"
"No dear, I have no husband."
"He was nice to me."
"Who was sweetie?"
"Never mind then. You died that day
"No child, I did not."
a second, am I the only one dreaming right now?"
"Yes dear, I'm afraid so."
"Oh man! I don't get any of this! Why
are you in my head? What do you want from me?"
"That poor old man, he works much too
hard to notice the grandsons plotting to take his ranch away from him,"
"Do you mean the two cowboys in this
"Yes of course silly. I never had kids of
my own you see. These two boys, they aren't very nice," she said without
really looking at me.
the grandsons, they're a tricky pair. Heed them not lest your dreams
disappear," she said as if in a trance.
"What the heck does heed mean? What dreams, you mean the ranch? Are they going to steal
"Come upstairs with me child, there's
something I want to show you," Mrs. Dexter said, passing me on her way to
the living room.
I turned to follow her I noticed that Claire and Winnie weren't in the kitchen
anymore. They never had been. I hesitated for a couple of heartbeats
before following the old grandma out of the room.I wasn't exactly sure that I even wanted to
see whatever it was she was going to show me. But I was sure that I wanted to
wake up. I sensed myself straining to open my eyes as I followed her. But I had
to know, I had to help Walter or whoever; that much I was sure of!
morning I was going to have to live this day all over again, and convince the
team that I'm not bonkers! We were going to need to pull together to out smart
those cruddy cowboys!
Time to hatch the plan…
clock screamed at me again, reminding everyone that it was 6:30am and time for
school. This time it was really today, Turquoise Tuesday, and not a dream-peat
Monday. I rolled over, untangled myself from the cocoon I'd made in my sleep of
my blankets and swatted off the alarm. The house was quiet except for the sound
of the heater coming on, and a warm breeze washed over me. I lay there a moment
and stared at the dream catcher hanging the ceiling above my bed. Mommy would
be up in couple of minutes, and I could hear Katrina in the shower. Lucas would need the usual persuasion to get
him up and ready for school.
sister Katrina is always first one out of bed on school days. She loves school.
But on weekends she usually hibernates until noon, unless Mommy plans a
shopping trip of course. If you ask me though I think she gets up early to beat
Luc to the bathroom. She knows better than to let him get there first to do his
business, but we won't go there! Mommy will be surprised to see me awake
up out of my warm bed I wobbled over to my closet and picked out today's outfit.
First I grabbed my Turquoise Tuesday wig, then a pair of jeans, a red and black
checkered shirt and my unmentionables and made my way to the bathroom to get
ready for school. Katrina opened the door as I was about to knock, and nearly
ran me over. She gasped, startled to see me so early.
"What are you doing up already?"
"Today's my field trip, remember, I told
you about it," I answered.
"That's right I forgot. I went to that
ranch when I was in 5th grade too. It was fun, you'll like it," she said, as
she passed me and went into her room to finish dressing.
was my turn so I went inside to shower and stuff. While I bathed I replayed my
dream in my brain, then again as I brushed my teeth and gargled with yucky
mouthwash. By the time I was finished I had pretty much figured out what we
needed to do next. It won't be easy convincing everyone that I'd had a
conversation with a ghost, but I would, I had to!
"KaSandra, quit playing around and
let your brother in there, he really has to go honey," Mommy pleaded,
rapping on the door.
"OKAY," I hollered over the
running water as I put the cap back on the tube of toothpaste and opened the
door. Mommy was standing there with her hands on her hips waiting for me. I
think she was curious what had got me out of bed so early.
"Is there something you want to tell
me?" she asked. My Mom is always
suspicious of everything and everyone. Finding me up so early was
setting off alarms in her Mommy brain.
"Did you finish all your homework last
night? Is there a note or something from school that you forgot to give me?
Wait, is it Report Card time again?"
"No, no, and no Mommy," I
said, answering all three of her rapid fire questions.
"Today is the field trip,
remember," I said pretending to be hurt by her suspicious nature.
"Oh, that's right. Well good for you
honey, thanks for being so responsible," she said ignoring my pouty face.
"LUC! Get out of that bed right now
mister, you're gong to be late! Honestly, why do we have to have this scene
every morning," hollered my Mother, turning back toward me and winking.
"Get your things and come downstairs,
I'll have breakfast ready in two shakes of a lamb's tail," she added, as
she jogged down the stairs to the kitchen.
"Okay," I replied as I went back
into my room.
brother was sitting up in his racecar bed and staring out the window. He
ignored me as I went over to make my bed. Well I didn't actually make the bed,
just sort of re-spread the comforter over the rumpled sheets. It was as close
as any of us got to making our beds. Bed making wasn't one of Mommy's top
priorities. I heard Luc get up and leave the room. A second later the bathroom
door slammed. That was my cue to slip on my socks and scoot downstairs.
made down in time to eat breakfast with Katrina which was a treat as she's
usually gone by the time I make it downstairs. She's getting older and doesn't
go to my school anymore. We don't get as much sister time as we used to, I miss
that. I guess that's pretty normal. Still, I miss goofing off and being silly
"Well, I gotta get going," Katrina
said picking up her plate and busing the table.
"Do you want me to walk you to the bus
stop KK?" she asked.
"Sure, thanks! Hey, are you going to be
'Hello Kitty' for Halloween," I asked?
"Yea, Mommy is making my costume this
weekend. Alright, let's get going speedy," she said teasing me.
"Alright," I replied, handing my
dish over the counter to Mommy who was busy making Lucas some scrambled eggs.
"You girls be careful," she said as
Katrina and I walked out the front door.
"WE WILL," we replied together,
giggling as we scurried down the drive.
and Winifred were about to climb on board the bus when they noticed me
clippity-clopping down the sidewalk toward the stop. Daniel poked his head out
of a window near the back and hollered.
"Hey, check it out, KK is like fifteen
minutes early," he bellowed, loud enough to wake up the whole darn
Beadle appeared at the door holding the sports page in his hand and shaking his
head. He could hardly believe his eyes.
"Well look who we have here. What
happened sugar, did your bed catch fire this morning," he teased.
stopped in my tracks and gasped slightly. That was exactly what he said in my
dream? I noticed that Claire and Winnie had already got on the bus and were in
our usual seats. I looked hard at the bus and sure enough, they were all
bunched together waiting for me, just like my dream? This was a little freaky?
"Come on now Miss Britches, hand me
those sticks and get on board," Mr. Beadle said cheerfully, pointing at his
sort of turquoise baseball cap.
it was a teal colored Florida Marlin's cap but it was close and it was the
effort that counted. I smiled at him as I handed him my crutches and got on the
bus. A moment later I was in my seat facing the team, showtime!
"What's up KK, you've never made the bus
early before?" Winifred asked.
"Yeah, what's up?" chimed in
"Do you guys believe in ghosts?" I
asked, deciding to cut to the chase.
Winifred answered, puzzled by the question.
"Nope," said Claire tossing in her
"You mean like Casper?" Daniel asked.
a cartoon Daniel," I quipped.
know that, I was just teasing," he replied.
"I'm serious guys! Does anyone believe
team looked around at one another, wondering if I was crazy or what! I waited for
an uncomfortable minute for a reply, and was about to ask again when Ali spoke
up all of a sudden.
"When my Nana died last year I thought I
saw her in my room after the funeral," he said meekly, not looking at
anyone in particular. Nobody said anything for a second.
"Once when I was four, I thought I saw
my cat Whiskers in the window even though she died a week before," Daniel
whispered, looking at each of us one at a time.
"Were you scared?" asked Claire
looking at Ali and then Daniel.
"No," answered Daniel.
"Yes," answered Ali.
"Why do you want to know KK? That's such
a strange question," said Winnie.
that note I told them about everything, from beginning to end. From my strange
dream and how they were all in it, to Mrs. Dexter and Walter and the rotten
grandkids. They listened patiently and politely, never interrupting or making
fun of me. When I was through they all sat there quietly as the bus arrived at DeerCanyon.
And while the rest of the kids were scrambling down the aisle they asked
"What's the plan
Real cowboys are kinda nice
arrived at SHETLAND STABLES at nine o'clock, as Mr. Beadle drove the big yellow
bus slowly up the long drive. It was a really long driveway and all of the kids
had moved over to one side to ooh and
ahh at several horses tethered to a
big white fence surrounding the corral. Not everyone was looking at the horses
though. Me and Winifred were on the opposite side of the bus checking out a big
green house that looked like it had seen better days. It was pretty old and
sorta scary looking. Maybe it was because Halloween was just around the corner,
who knows. But maybe not, that old house would be scary looking anytime of
"Is that her?" Winnie asked
pointing at an old woman rocking in a chair on the porch.
"Could be? Wait a minute can you see her
too," I asked puzzled.
"Well yeah, she's kinda hard to miss KK,
don't ya think?" Winnie answered sarcastically.
"No, I didn't mean can you see her, I meant how
can you see her," I replied, confusing even myself.
"She means how can you see someone from
a dream you didn't have," explained Zoë, chiming in from left field.
do that! You scared me to death Zoë," I exclaimed.
"Sorry KK," apologized Zoë.
"That's okay, you didn't mean to,"
I replied smiling.
a sweet kid and didn't deserve to be snapped at. I felt bad about that and
flashed her an extra big smile to make up for it. She smiled back and we both
"Are you saying the old lady on the
porch isn't really there?" Winnie asked Zoë.
"No, I see her too. It's just weird is
all I'm saying. I mean look at her, she's exactly how KK described her and this
is the first time any of us have laid eyes on her. Pretty weird, right," said Zoë?
was right, it was strange but there wasn't time to wonder about it, we had work
to do. Mrs. Ryan came back onto the bus and tweeted on her whistle to settle us
down. The bus got quiet quick and everyone sat down with eyes front. She had us
trained pretty good. Like I said, the woman was all teacher!
"Alright kids listen up. When we get off
the bus I want you all to line up next to the fence with your travel buddy. As
soon as Mrs. Dennis and I finish counting noses we'll meet Mr. and Mrs. Dexter
and begin our day at their lovely ranch," Mrs. Ryan said, filling us in on
what to expect.
thanked Mr. Beadle for getting us here safely and asked the class to give him a
round of applause which we did enthusiastically, everybody liked Mr. Beadle! He
tipped his turquoise Marlin's cap and winked at me knowingly as the kids
started down the aisle, following Mrs. Ryan off the bus.
"Okay team, time to buddy up," I
said to Winifred, Claire, and Daniel, as well as Zoë, and Ali. Looks like the
team grew by two today. Note to self, call the boss tonight and let him know
about that, the man hates surprises!
plan was simple. Well, of course it was, we're just kids after all. We needed
to get Mr. Dexter, Walter, alone and
pick his brain. We had no idea what the grandsons had up their sleeve, but the
only way to find out was to be as nosey as only a cute kid can be. That's where
Zoë came in. Adults can't resist squeaky clean kids like her. Buddy her up with
a poor handicapped kid (like yours truly) and we'd have Walter singing a tune
in no time!
tricky part was going to be keeping Clay-boy and Hank occupied. I was pretty
sure Daniel and Ali could ask enough crazy boy questions to drive those two
cowboys bonkers by lunch. Claire's job was keeping Mrs. Ryan busy. She was our
official lookout, partly because she could talk a blue streak, a Mrs. Ryan term
and partly because she could whistle loud enough to crack glass!
we needed now was a little bit of luck to get the ball rolling. We were going
to use plan X where I pretend to be nauseous, not a big stretch given my
condition, and ask Walter if Zoë can sit with me up on porch of the big green
house while I get some air. If we played it right Mr. and Mrs. Dexter would
take us up to the house while Clay and Hank tended to the rest of the class. Then
Zoë and I would get to the heart of the matter. We had to know what was what
before we could figure out how to help Walter keep his ranch, and as for
whether or not Mrs. Dexter was an actual ghost or not, that question was about
to be answered as Mrs. Ryan introduced our hosts.
"Listen up children, this is Mr. and
Mrs. Dexter, the owners of SHETLAND STABLES, a real working horse ranch,"
"Howdy kids, the mother and I are right
happy to have ya'll visit this morning," said Mr. Dexter with a huge
"Why does he call her mother?"
"Shhh!" Winifred and I
replied, shushing her.
"That's right children; father and I
have been looking forward to your visit. We enjoy showing off the place even if
it does need a coat of paint here and there," Mrs. Dexter added sweetly.
"She looks real to me," Daniel
"Shhhh!" replied Winifred,
Claire, and I, shushing him.
"Over yonder are our sons Clay and Hank.
The boys will be showing ya'll around and then taking you on a little tour of
our spread. Some of you will be on horseback if you brought the signed release
forms your teacher gave you. The rest of you will ride in the hay wagon on the
tour. How does that sound?" asked Mr. Dexter.
"You said those guys were his grandsons
KK," whispered Winifred.
"I know, I don't get it either," I
"Do you have any bucking broncos Mr.
Dexter," shouted a kid I didn't recognize from another school.
me Walt son and no I'm afraid we haven't got any wild ponies for you to see
today. Most of the livestock on this ranch are bred for domestic use by
families with kids like you who might enjoy learning to ride. Horses make
wonderful friends boys and girls, you're going to love learning about them
today," Walt answered cheerfully.
time like the present I always say, and I let out a little moan, cueing Zoë.
She turned out to be a natural born actress and rushed over to my aid, calling out
to Walt directly and bypassing Mrs. Ryan. Nice touch I thought to myself.
"I think KK needs to sit down
Walt," Zoë said pouring it on thick.
"Holy smoke young lady, she sure does!
Mrs. Ryan if you don't mind mother and I are going to take this child up to the
house and get her a cold drink," Walt said kneeling beside me looking
"Must be the blamed heat; its uncommon
warm today for October. Ain't that just the way in San Diego? Seems like a feller never knows what
to expect come daybreak," he added.
was a real deal cowboy I thought, smiling inside. Mrs. Ryan walked over to
check me out. She had her cell phone at the ready with a finger on the speed
dial key for 9-1-1.
"KaSandra are you alright? Should I call
your mother?" she asked.
"I'm okay; I just need to rest a little
bit. I think I rushed too fast to catch the bus this morning," I replied,
not actually lying.
"Well alright, but I'll be back to check
on you after I get everyone started," she said pointing her cell phone in
"You go on back with Clay-boy, Mrs.
Ryan. Mother and I will take of this young-un," Walt said.
"Alright, thanks," she replied.
we could even ask Walt looked over at Zoë and gestured for her to come with us.
Talk about a lucky break!
"Young lady, would you mind helping me
with your friend here?" Walt asked Zoë.
"Sure," she replied winking at me.
divide and conquer was complete. Time
for phase two, the inquisition…
Spirits can be tricky
and I settled into two of the six wicker rocking chairs spread out on the big
front porch. They were all painted white and were in lots better shape than the
house itself. Mrs. Dexter, (she told us to call her Emma) went inside to fetch
a cold towel for me and some fresh squeezed lemonade for all of us, while Mr.
Dexter, Walt, pointed at an old fashioned
fan our way to help cool us off.
"Thanks, we have a fan just like that at
my house, but it doesn't work, it's just for show. My Mom loves antiques! WOW!This house is huge," exclaimed Zoë.
"It is at that young lady. But it is as
old as it is big and it keeps me pretty darn busy what with fixin this and patchin that," Walt said with a wink.
"Emma's old Daddy, Henry was his name, left us this ranch when he passed away. Clay-boy
was just right around two I recollect and little Hank wasn't even born yet, he
was still cookin in the oven," Walt continued, settling into a seat beside
"My goodness, that was over forty years
ago Father," Emma added, appearing out of nowhere with a tray of tumblers
and a big picture of ice cold lemonade.
it been that long? Yes ma'am, I reckon it has. Old Henry loved this ranch,
it was part of him. You know we named our Hank after him," Walt pointed out.
"Why this old ranch has been in Emma's
family since the turn of the century," Walt continued.
"WOW, that's a long time," I
"Hey, I thought you went in that door over
there," Zoë said to Emma, pointing at the front door?
"Yes dear, but I came out from the
kitchen around back. This porch goes all the way around this old house,"
Emma explained, filling our glasses.
"Oh, okay. Thank you," Zoë replied taking a sip of lemonade from the
tumbler Emma handed her.
"You're welcome dear, and here is one
for you too little one," said Emma handing me a glass as well.
"Now, let's see if this cool towel will
help you feel a little better," she said placing the cold terrycloth on
the back of my neck. She was right. It felt really good, even if I was faking? Grandmas are magic!
was no time for chit chat, it wouldn't take Claire long to annoy the socks off
of Mrs. Ryan, to the point of ditching her and coming on up to check on me. I
cleared my throat loudly to get Zoë's attention. She had veered off track
slightly after she noticed the snacks Emma brought with the lemonade. The girl
was power chewing a mouthful of tollhouse cookie large enough to make a
"Okay, shoot," Walt said with his smiling
"Ahem! Well, actually had a question
for you. We were wondering about Clay and Hank."
"What about em?"
"Well, somebody told us that they were actually
your grandsons," I blurted.
Zoë quickly choked down the cookie she was working on and washed it down with a
big gulp of lemonade. She wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her hoodie and got
back on board with our fact finding mission.
"Who would say such a thing I
wonder?" Emma asked puzzled.
thought it was you," answered Zoë.
"Me? Why I've only just met each of you,"
Emma replied, surprised.
"Yeah, but KK dreamed about you, twice! Right KK?" Zoë added.
"Is that true dear?" Emma asked
looking me square in the eyes.
sort of. I mean now that I see you up close you do seem a little different?
Like your eyes are blue and the old grandma in my dreams had brown eyes?"
"And, come to think of it, you're
wearing glasses, the grandma in my dreams didn't," I answered studying her
"She was wearing a blue gingham dress
and a white apron wasn't she?" Walt asked suddenly.
"Yeah, how did you know," I asked?
"It's Abigail," answered Walt
looking down at his boots.
Dexter, why I never,"
"No, its true Mother, I've seen her too,
in my dreams I mean," he replied.
"Who's Abigail?" I asked.
"Abigail was my twin dear, she passed a
few of years ago," Emma explained staring at her husband.
"She was a bitter woman Emma. Mule
headed and angry after your Daddy left us this place. The poor thing just never
seemed to have a sunny day, always a dark cloud over her head," Walt said.
"Don't you speak ill of the departed
Walter, it's just not right," Emma said sternly.
"My Daddy left this ranch to us because
Walt and I had children, and because Walt grew up on a working ranch,"
"Abigail was my older sister by 8
minutes, but she never liked it here. She was always dreaming of the big city. When
she ran away to New York
it broke Daddy's heart," continued Emma.
"Wow! All the way to New York, huh," whispered Zoë.
"Yes, she had big dreams Abbey did. She wanted
to be an actress you know. Daddy thought she was foolish and told her so. They didn't
speak for years after that. Things never really worked out for her though. Big cities
can be cold and hard," Emma said, sadly remembering.
"She never did marry so she never had
children of her own. But my stars, how she spoiled our boys, they loved their
Aunt Abbey," Emma reminisced as she gently rocked in her chair and stared
out at the day.
don't get it? Do you think your sister is haunting Walt, and me. I can see why she might haunt
Walt, but why me?" I asked interrupting Emma's stroll down memory lane.
"I'm not saying anything of the sort KK.
I don't believe in spirits. But if Walt says he's seen her then there must be
something to it, I've never known him to lie or tell tall tales," Emma
"Did Abbey talk to you too Mr.
Dexter?" I asked.
"No, can't say as I ever heard her say
anything young-un. She just appeared
there in the hall outside our bedroom," he answered.
"She spoke to you, did she?" he
"Yeah, I remember she said: 'Beware the grandsons, they're a tricky
pair. Heed them not lest your dreams disappear.' Or something like that,"
"And you thought she meant Clay and
"I thought so, I'm not so sure anymore."
"Neither of our boys have families, why
would she warn me about kids they don't even have," Walt wondered?
"I think I know what she meant," Zoë
said, jumping out of her chair suddenly, like it was on fire!
we all just stared at her and waited for whatever she was going to say next.
She was silent for a few of seconds, making the face she makes whenever she has
an answer on the tip of her tongue. Zoë walked toward the front steps and then
spun around quickly, both her hands held up like she was stopping traffic.
"What if Mrs. Dexter's sister wasn't
looking for Walt?" she asked.
"Who else would she be looking for? Emma
and me are alone in this big house," asked Walt.
Zoë replied, gesturing with her hands like she was playing charades.
I exclaimed as the light came on in my brain.
"Mrs. Dexter, I don't remember you
mentioning your mother. Where was your mom when Abbey ran away?" I asked,
finishing Zoë's thought (teammates can do
that you know).
"Well, let me think. Daddy and Mother
divorced when we were just little girls. I didn't see any reason to bring
Mother up. She'd run off with a travelling salesman, Leo Jordan was his name, in nineteen hundred and eighteen. It was while
Daddy was overseas in the First World War," she replied.
"Did she ever remarry?" I asked
"Why yes, as a matter of fact she did. Why
do you ask?"
"I'm not sure yet. Where did she run off
to? Did she have more kids?"
"Well, Daddy's sister Martha came to
take care of us until he came home from the war. Aunt Martha stayed in touch
with Mother over the years. She said that she had remarried and became Mrs.
Helen Jordan, and settled in Austin Texas where she gave birth to one child, a
"Interesting," I replied.
"He would be around your age, right?"
"No, maybe 4 or 5 years younger,"
"Double interesting," I muttered.
"Have you ever met?"
"Yes, once come to think of it. It was at
when was that?"
"Oh, about twenty years ago, right
"Yes, December 24th, 1989," Walt
"Of course, that's right, 1989. We ended
up spending Christmas in Austin
that year. Her son David was very nice to us," Emma remembered.
"Did you stay with him?"
"Oh heavens no, he had a full house! His
two boys were very young at the time, and wild little Indians as well as I
recall," replied Emma.
"Yes, I think their names are Robert and
Richard," she answered.
"Is that important?" asked Mr.
"I think so Walt. One more question. Mrs.
Dexter, did the room you're sleeping in now once belong to your parents?"
"Yes of course, there's only one master
bedroom in this house, why do you ask?"
KNOW, I KNOW!"
"I think I do too," Walt said as
"Abbey wasn't looking for me Mother, she
was looking for old Henry, your Daddy,"
Walt said, getting up suddenly and walking into the house.
"Where are you going Walter?" Emma
called out to him.
didn't answer. I was pretty sure he just realized the connection between Abbey's
haunt and her Mother's second family. Whatever Walt went into the house for was
going to be the missing piece of the puzzle. Mrs. Ryan appeared at the porch steps
as he disappeared inside the house. She walked up and over to where we were
seated and stood in front of the fan, cooling off.
"Oh my gosh! It is so hot today," she exclaimed.
"Well I see you girls are nice and comfy.
How are you feeling KK?" she asked giving me the teacher eye.
"Much better Mrs. Ryan, I think that the
sun was just making me a little dizzy," I replied, peeking around her to
see if Walt was coming back yet.
"Well I'm sure your mother will be
relieved. I called her you know, and she's on her way to pick you up right
about now," Mrs. Ryan explained.
"Okay," I replied secretly hoping
that Mommy wouldn't get here too soon. At least not until this mystery was
"How about you Zoë, are you ready to join
the other kids? I'm afraid you missed out on riding a horse today though,"
said Mrs. Ryan.
"Well, maybe I should stay here with
KaSandra, at least until her Mom gets here, don't you think so KK," she
asked looking over at me hopefully?
"Um, yeah, would that be okay Mrs.
Ryan," I asked with my best sad puppy eyes?
suppose, your mother should be here anytime now anyway," she replied
with a loud sigh.
"I hope these two haven't talked your
ears off, they've been known to do just that on more than one occasion,"
Mrs. Ryan asked Emma.
"Heavens no, they've been delightful,
really," Emma replied as Walt jogged over to us with some mail in his hand.
"Pardon me ma'am, but I need to show
these gals something," Walt said waiving an envelope excitedly.
sat back down in his chair, retrieved a pair of reading glasses from his shirt
pocket and put them on his face. Holding the envelope up to his lips he gently
blew it open, and removed a letter. He shook it open and looked at each one of
us before reading it aloud.
"I got this here letter the other day
and didn't pay it no never mind at first. A working ranch is always getting official
looking mail from government offices, City and State, you name it," he
started.Zoë and I nodded our heads,
pretending to understand.
"Usually when they are full of lawyer
words like these I send them over to Amos, he's our attorney. Amos Holtz out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I send em, he reads em, then he explains em to me in smaller words," Walt
"Who's the letter from Father,"
"Well that's just it. When you started
talking about your momma and her other family, it came to me that I had heard
those names before. And danged if I didn't! This here letter is from the Law
Offices of Jordan and Jordan. That'd be
Robert and Richard Jordan," Walt said, nodding his head knowingly.
"Well I'll be," Emma replied.
"The letter also says that this ranch is
smack dab in the middle of some planned highway development and that those two
boys have been hired by the State of California
to buy up every property between here and the Interstate," continued Mr.
"Our ranch isn't for sale is it
Walt," Emma asked concerned?
"No, of course not Mother, but the
letter says that it doesn't really matter if it is or it ain't. The State can just
make us an offer and then we have to sell," answered Walt.
"Can they do that?" Emma asked.
answered Mrs. Ryan.
"Excuse me, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to
butt in like that," she added apologizing.
"That's quite alright dear. Are you sure
about that?" asked Emma.
"Yes, it happens all the time. There's a
term for it too but I can't seem to remember it just now," answered our
said Zoë matter-of-factly.
Mrs. Ryan exclaimed, snapping her fingers!
"How do you know that?" I asked.
I shouldn't be surprised though, the girl has a mind like a steel trap.
"What can I say, I read a lot,"
"I think that maybe you should call Amos
right away dear, this sounds serious," said Emma.
"Actually it sounds a little fishy,"
Mrs. Ryan said in a curious tone.
"What do you mean ma'am," Walt asked?
"Well, my husband is actually on the
Planning Commission for the City of San
Diego, and he's never mentioned any plans to connect
Hwy 56 with Interstate 8," replied Mrs. Ryan.
"That's very interesting, are you sure
about that young woman," asked Mr. Dexter?
"Positive! Besides look around you,
you're surrounded by neighborhoods. I seriously doubt that the State would
uproot all of these tax paying families?"
"No ma'am, I reckon not," Walt
said, rubbing his chin whiskers.
that's what Abbey was trying to tell us. It wasn't your grandsons it was Helen's!"
"Who's Helen? Who's Abbey? What am I
missing?" Mrs. Ryan asked puzzled.
"It's a long story, we'll fill you in on
the ride back to school," I answered politely.
"Why those rascals, I'm going inside
directly and call Amos Holtz, pronto!" Walt announced, getting up quickly.
Excusing himself, he left the front porch and went inside the big green house.
"This is so bizarre. I can hardly
believe my ears. My sister speaks from the grave to help save the home she ran
away from for a father that she shunned in life?" wondered Emma aloud.
Mrs. Ryan and me, just sat there silently and waited for Mrs. Dexter to snap
out of it. Which, she did after a moment, noticing that we were trying hard not
to stare. She smiled and got up to pour Mrs. Ryan some cold lemonade.
"My goodness, where are my manners? I'm
sorry dear, I should have offered refreshments when you first walked up here,"
she said handing a tumbler to our teacher.
"Oh, that's really not necessary, but
thank you," replied Mrs. Ryan accepting the cold drink.
"Nonsense, you looked positively
parched," Emma replied.
"Excuse me, Emma," I said softly.
"Yes dear," she replied?
"If you don't mind my asking, why do you
think Abbey didn't appear to you?" I asked.
"Yeah, why not," asked Zoë, chiming
"GIRLS!" scolded Mrs. Ryan.
"No, it's alright dear, I was actually
wondering the same thing," said Emma.
got up and walked over to the banister that framed the wrap around porch. Emma
leaned upon the railing and looked around the property, at the barn, the
corral, the cattle in the field beyond the corral, and at several children
feeding apples to a couple of mares with their foals. Clay-boy looked up,
sensing her gaze, and waived to his mother as he gently held the reins of a
Palomino mare chewing on the tasty treats from the kids. Emma waived back and
turned to face the three of us.
"You know, I've never been a very good
listener. I've always been too quick to judge or give my opinion. Maybe that's
why Abbey came to the two of you," she reflected, looking through a window
at her husband who was sitting at his desk, talking on the telephone.
"My Walter is a kind man, a true gentle
spirit. And KK, I'm guessing that in you Abbey sensed an open heart and a
curiosity that would make a cat nervous," she added with a smile.
"I am grateful to you and all of your
friends for your courage, and for believing in the unbelievable. You know, it
says in scripture that to have true faith one must believe as a child. I can
see the wisdom in that now," Emma said sincerely.
"Well, all we really did was ask a lot
of questions. You and Walt had the answers all along. I guess you just needed
to hear yourselves think," I said sheepishly.
"I suppose dear, I suppose," Emma replied, sighing.
"Just the same, thank you for helping us
sort things out. All of you thank you,"
she said, nodding at the three of us.
Ryan's cell phone rang suddenly, startling us with its loud old style ring
tone. We jumped and looked her way.
"Sorry, I need to take this," she
said, flipping open her phone and placing her hand over her mouth as she said
"It's your mom KaSandra, she just got
here," she said looking up at me.
"Okay," I replied grabbing a crutch
Zoë and Emma helped me to the steps while Mrs.
Ryan gave Mommy directions to the house. Walt waived to us through the window
as Emma gave us each a hug before we went down the steps. She watched from the
porch as we made our way toward the bus. We followed Mrs. Ryan down the path that
led back to the corral.
saw Mommy drive up in our mini-van, a thick dust trail following her, and wondered
how I was going to convince her to give the team a ride back to school so that Zoë
and I could fill everyone in. No worries, I'd think of something. When we
reached the corral I turned to take one more look at the big green house and
gasped. Mr. and Mrs. Dexter were on the porch together waiving goodbye, and
right beside Emma was her sister Abigail, floating on air and waiving to me as
"Do you see that!" I exclaimed
"See what?" asked Zoë.
"I see a grandma and grandpa waiving at
us," Winifred said, climbing into Mommy's mini-van.
"That's all I see too," said Claire
"KASANDRA!" hollered Mommy.
I hobbled over to the passenger side and let
Mrs. Ryan help me climb into the mini-van. As I fastened my seatbelt I took one
more look at the house. Walt and Emma had gone inside, but Abbey remained. She
waived once more and I waived back. Mommy looked out the window then back at