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The yggyssey how iggy wo.., p.8
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       The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts, p.8

           Daniel Pinkwater
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  "And we don't even know which way downtown is," I said.

  "It's that way," someone said. We looked around. There was a girl, about our age, but taller and wider. She had long brown hair, nice eyes, and whiskers like a cat. "Was it Labrador retriever cops who took him?"

  "They looked like Labrador retrievers," I said. "Are all the cops here Labrador retrievers?"

  "Lots of them," the girl said. "They make good cops. They're polite and friendly, never give up, and they don't mind getting wet."

  "Why did they arrest our friend, and where did they take him?" Seamus asked.

  "Did he do anything?" the girl asked.

  "We just got here," I said. "He didn't do anything. He didn't have time to do anything. The cops were already looking for him. They had a picture of him."

  "Did they show you the picture?"


  "Did they show your friend the picture?"

  "I don't think so."

  "They always have a picture. Labrador retrievers are very smart, but one picture of a human looks pretty much like another to them. They go more by scent."


  "Where did you come from, some other plane of existence?" the girl with the cat whiskers asked.

  "You know about that?" I asked.

  "Oh, sure. Lots of tourists come here."

  "Here being New Yapyap City?"

  "Right. My name is Big Audrey," the girl said. "Probably your friend is at Juvenile Hole."

  "Juvenile Hole? What is that?"

  "It's where they take kids."

  "Oh, I get it. Juvenile Hole is the street name for some official facility, probably Juvenile Hall, or Juvenile Holding, something like that," Seamus said.

  "No, it's an actual hole," Big Audrey said. "They lower you into it."

  "Then what happens?"

  "Nothing bad, usually. They keep us for a couple of days and then let us out—most times. They ask us a lot of weird questions that don't make any sense, and then turn us loose, except in special cases."

  "Why do they do that? Don't they like kids here?"

  "Not much," Big Audrey said. "I didn't catch your names."

  Seamus Finn and I introduced ourselves.

  "So, I bet you're lost, don't have anyplace to stay, and don't know how to get home," Big Audrey said.


  Uncle Father Palabra

  "You may as well come home with me," Big Audrey said. "I see you're wearing rubber-soled shoes. That's good." We were both wearing basketball shoes.

  "Why is it good?" I asked.

  "Not afraid of heights, are you? Not scared of climbing something tall?" Big Audrey asked.

  "Not me," I said. "I have been known to make my way along window ledges at the Hermione Hotel, which is eight stories high, and Seamus here is the son of the greatest swordsman in Hollywood, and an athlete in his own right."

  "Good," Big Audrey said. "My uncle, Father Palabra, doesn't like people using the stairs or the elevator."

  "Your uncle is your father?" Seamus Finn asked. "Or a father?"

  "He's my uncle and he is a retired monk," Big Audrey said. "He is also a professor of mountaineering. You'll meet him in a few minutes. Follow me." We had been walking through the streets of New Yapyap City with Big Audrey.

  Now she led us down a narrow space—it was too narrow to call it an alley—between two buildings. We had to turn sideways and squeeze between two brick walls just far enough apart to pass through. The space between the two walls got a bit wider all of a sudden—not a lot wider. There was a rope hanging down.

  "What we have to do now is called chimneying," Big Audrey said. "What you do is take hold of the rope, brace your shoulders against the wall behind you, and place the soles of your feet against the opposite wall. Then you just walk up the wall, using your arms and the rope to help you, and keeping your shoulders firmly against the wall behind you. It's easy. Think you can do it?"

  "Nothing to it," I said.

  "Piece of cake," Seamus said.

  "I'll go first," Big Audrey said. "We're going up twelve stories, so don't get confused and fall to your death, okay?"

  Chimneying up twelve stories turned out not to be a piece of cake. Seamus admitted this. I admitted there was not nothing to it. But it was doable. We did it. It wasn't that it was physically so hard—it was more the idea that the higher we got the farther there was to fall. When we got to the top, Big Audrey helped us onto a ledge. There was a sloping copper roof rising from the ledge.

  "Now that the easy part is over, we need to rope up," Big Audrey said. She showed us how to loop the rope, which was waiting on the ledge, around us, and how to clip onto rings set in the sloping roof. "See, you clip onto this one, and then as you get past it, you clip onto the next one, unclip from the first one, and move that thing—it's called a carabiner—to the next ring beyond. This way, if you fall, it's only a few feet. When we get to the top of the roof, we will move along the ridge and then descend straight down when we come to the end. I'll show you how to do that when we get there."

  Going straight down is called rappelling, and it is a little like chimneying, only you don't have anything to lean back against. We only had to rappel a few feet to get to Uncle Father Palabra's terrace, which was covered with pebbles and tufts of grass. There was a little penthouse, made of wood and looking like an Alpine cottage, and from the terrace there was a view of rooftops, looking like mountain peaks.

  "You brought friends home, Audrey?" a voice called from inside the penthouse. "Anyone want pancakes?"

  "I brought them the easy way, Uncle Father," Big Audrey said. "They're from another plane of existence and not experienced climbers."

  "That was the easy way?" I asked.

  "Well the easiest way would be to come up in the elevator," Uncle Father Palabra said. "But that would be an insult to any able-bodied person."

  "I wouldn't have been insulted," Seamus Finn said, rubbing his palms. We both had rope burns.

  "Well, you are a polite and considerate young man," Uncle Father Palabra said. "What brings you to New Yapyap City from some other invisible world?" Uncle Father Palabra was short and strong-looking, and bald, with yellow eyes like a cat.

  "All the ghosts in our ... world ... have been sneaking off to Old New Hackensack to attend some kind of witch's hootenanny or supernatural whoop-de-doo. We followed one and wound up here," I said.

  "Their friend got picked up by a couple of Labradors," Big Audrey said. "He must be in Juvenile Hole."

  "What did he do?" Uncle Father Palabra asked.

  "Didn't do anything," Big Audrey said. "Didn't have time to do anything. They just now arrived through some rabbit hole."

  "Well, everyone sit down and have some gooseberry pancakes," Uncle Father Palabra said. "We'll see about getting your friend out of the Hole a little later."

  "Why do they arrest kids here and put them in Juvenile Hole?" Seamus Finn asked.

  "Just to be mean," Uncle Father Palabra said. "We don't like kids here in New Yapyap City—I don't mean me personally, but as a society."

  The bottom floor of the penthouse was all one big room, and Uncle Father Palabra was in the kitchen area, making gooseberry pancakes. They smelled wonderful.

  "Our schools are no good, kids aren't allowed to use the better parks, we feed them junky breakfast cereal that's full of sugar, sell their parents a lot of defective toys and expensive clothing, and give them stupid books to read, and stupid television programs, and throw them into Juvenile Hole for any reason at all, or no reason."

  "You have television?" I asked. "We are just getting started with it in our world."

  "I hope it's better than ours," Uncle Father Palabra said. "Ours would not keep a mouse's mind alive." I noticed an odd expression appear on Uncle Father Palabra's and Big Audrey's faces when Uncle Father Palabra said "mouse's," and thought about the fact that she had cat whiskers and he had cat eyes.

  "You said we could see about getting Neddie out of Juv
enile Hole a little later," I said. "And these are wonderful pancakes."

  "Yes, once it gets good and dark," Uncle Father Palabra said. "We might be able to do something."



  While we ate our gooseberry pancakes and had cups of flowery tea, Uncle Father Palabra and Big Audrey asked us questions about where we came from, how we got here, and where we were going.

  "If the ghostly bunny you were following is going to the supernatural wing-ding, she will have headed to New Old Hackensack," Uncle Father Palabra said. "That's the closest town to the Devil's Shoestring, a mountain with many interesting features. I've climbed it lots of times."

  "Is New Old Hackensack far away?" I asked.

  "Not very far," Big Audrey said. "But you have to cross the Mahakahakakatuk River to get there, and the Mahakahakakatuk is wide and scary, with things in it. And there are many strange places with strange inhabitants between here and there."

  "That's a heck of a name for a river," Seamus Finn said. "Is it an Indian name?"

  "No, it is named for an explorer, Henry Mahakahakakatuk. The thing is, you will have to cross it in a coracle."

  "What's a coracle?"

  "Little round boat made of skin stretched over wooden branches. They're hard to steer and tippy. And you'll be crossing at night."

  "Why a coracle? Aren't there any bigger boats that cross the river? And why at night?"

  "A coracle because we have one, and you can't take a bigger boat, and it has to be at night because you will be fugitives from justice."

  "Fugitives from justice? What did we do?"

  "It's what you are going to do that will make you fugitives."

  We heard voices and the sound of boots shuffling in the pebbles on the terrace. Two men with beards and pointy ears came in.

  "These are our friends, the Farblonget brothers, Kevin and Kyle. Kevin and Kyle, meet Yggdrasil and Seamus. They are visitors from an alternate plane of existence, and their friend Neddie is a prisoner in Juvenile Hole," Uncle Father Palabra said.

  "We ascended the east face of the Feeney Building," one of the Farblonget brothers said.

  "Then we did a hand-traverse across the clock tower and leaped across to the roof of the Platt Building," said the other Farblonget brother.

  "Then we belayed to the peak of the roof of this building, crawled along the ridgeline, and rappelled down to your terrace," the first Farblonget brother said.

  "The brothers are studying mountaineering with Uncle Father," Big Audrey said. "It's urban mountaineering—we climb the buildings because we don't have any mountains."

  "Very good work, boys," Uncle Father Palabra said. "Would you like some pancakes?"

  I saw a head with curly golden hair appear at the edge of the terrace, and a woman with a small black nose and fuzzy cheeks and chin pulled herself up over the parapet.

  "This is Gwendolyn Marshrat," Uncle Father Palabra said.

  "I ascended the north face of your building, free-climbing all the way," Gwendolyn Marshrat said.

  "Excellent," Uncle Father Palabra said. "Have some pancakes. A little later we are going to help a boy escape from Juvenile Hole."

  "Mmmm! Do I smell gooseberries?" Gwendolyn Marshrat said.


  Why Exactly

  "Why exactly did you come here?" Big Audrey asked us.

  "Well, we heard about this big wing-ding or whoop-de-doo that was going to take place."

  "On the Devil's Shoestring."

  "Yes. All the ghosts were going. Ghosts love a good party. And since the ghosts weren't telling where they were going or how to get there, I decided I would find out." It was me telling this to Big Audrey.

  "And you found out."

  "In a way. In a way, I found out. This one ghost, a ghost of a bunny, named Chase, told me I ought to follow her."

  "Which you did."

  "Which we all did. And we wound up here. And now, I think it's very important for us to find Chase."

  "So she can lead you to the big doings on the mountain."

  "Well, now it's more so she can tell us how to get home. We have no idea."

  "And since you know Chase was planning to head for the Devil's Shoestring..."

  "That's where we'd better go too."

  "This makes perfect sense to me," Big Audrey said. "After we get your friend Neddie out of Juvenile Hole, I will help you get started in the direction of New Old Hackensack, where we hope you will catch up with the ghostly bunny."

  "That is very nice of you."

  "I am a very nice person."

  "Can we really get Neddie out of Juvenile Hole?"

  "It so happens, you have run into the very people who can do it."

  "Is it like a prison? Do they beat them and starve them? Have you ever been there?"

  "I have been there. Mostly they try to persuade you to behave in an acceptable manner, and make you look at television so you will develop acceptable values. They make you look at a lot of commercials, so you will want to buy the things being advertised and become a useful member of society with a job to make money..."

  "So you can buy the things in the advertisements."


  "Does it work?"

  "It works better on older kids and adults. In my opinion, this is why they don't like kids here. We don't fit into the commercial routine so well. New Yapyap City is all about commerce. What they say is that kids are messy and sloppy, leave food wrappers on the street, make noise, and play loud music. But that is just an excuse to treat us mean."

  "So you think they throw kids in jail just 'cause they don't want to buy..."

  "The latest shoes, clothing, music, movies, junky foods, things like that. Some kids fit in with no trouble, and some do after a few visits to the Hole. And some never do, and never will—that's me."

  "Excuse my saying so, but it doesn't sound like a very nice place to be a kid."

  "Not just New Yapyap City, but this whole region is ruled over by a tyrant. The city is the worst, though."

  "A tyrant? What kind of tyrant? What's the tyrant's name?"


  "Uncle? Just Uncle?"

  "We call him Uncle—not sure of the name—it may not even be the same uncle all the time. It could be the uncle, and his sons, or someone elects or appoints a new uncle every so often. I remember Uncle Rudy, Uncle Michael—there have even been female uncles."

  "And they are called Aunt?"

  "No, Uncle. It's like a title, like president, or mayor. Anyway, Uncle is strict and serious and not friendly to kids, all about keeping everything in perfect order, and protecting the people who own the most. They say he controls the police by witchcraft."

  "I'd think you'd want to get out of town, especially if the tyranny and all that isn't as bad outside of town."

  "Well, of course, I love Uncle Father, and being an urban mountaineer, and gooseberry pancakes, and there are nice things about the city too—but ... you're right, it sort of stinks. Which is why I was thinking of going with you and your friends to find the ghostly rabbit and see the big supernatural party and everything ... if that would be all right with you."

  "We'd be delighted," Seamus Finn said.


  Shoofly Pie

  While we waited for it to get dark enough to rescue Neddie, Uncle Father Palabra, the Farblonget brothers, Gwendolyn Marshrat, Big Audrey, Seamus Finn, and I ate gooseberry pancakes, drank cups of tea, and listened to Uncle Father Palabra tell stories of mountains and mountaineering. We also sang mountaineering songs—that is, everybody but Seamus Finn and I sang mountaineering songs. We didn't know any mountaineering songs. Seamus and I sang as much as we could remember of "When They Drop the Atomic Bomb." Everybody said it was a good song. Then we sang "Nature Boy." They liked that even better, and said it was like a mountaineering song.

  It was cozy and friendly, sitting around eating pancakes and drinking tea and telling stories and singing songs. The Farblo
nget brothers and Gwendolyn Marshrat coiled lengths of mountain-climbing rope and arranged pitons, carabiners, ascenders, descenders, D-rings, and various other metal gimmicks on loops of rope they attached to their belts. They also had big rubber suction cups to be used when climbing on windows and skylights.

  "This is the plan," Uncle Father Palabra said. "Seamus and Yggdrasil will take the elevator down to street level. I know it is an inelegant way to descend, but you children are inexperienced, and teaching you to travel from building to building would take too much time. Audrey, you will go with them, and the three of you will walk downtown. On your way you will stop at Ogburn's Bakery and get a shoofly pie."

  "A shoofly pie?"

  "It's a kind of pie. Very good. And sticky," Uncle Father Palabra said. "You will also go to our garage, which by good luck is not far from Juvenile Hole, and get the coracle. Carry that with you. It's quite light, and you shouldn't have any trouble. Try to avoid meeting any police. The rest of us will be waiting for you at the Hole."

  "Then what happens?" I asked.

  "Then we rescue your friend and you children take the coracle down to the Mahakahakakatuk and set out. It's quite straightforward."

  "Yep," Big Audrey said.

  "Nothing to it," I said.

  "Piece of shoofly pie," Seamus Finn said.


  New Yapyap at Night

  I have to say, New Yapyap City had some nice buildings. And the deserted streets at night were like deep canyons.

  "It's even better from the rooftops," Big Audrey said. Ogburn's all-night bakery smelled wonderful. In addition to the shoofly pie, we got three large cookies to munch as we walked. They were chocolatey and salty, and still warm from the oven.

  Big Audrey told us the names of some of the buildings as we passed them. They were all named for big companies. And there were a lot of stores with lighted display windows, lots of things for sale.

  "This is Shin Bone Alley," Big Audrey said. "We have a garage here." We turned down a dark, narrow little street lined with low wooden buildings with wide doors. Audrey dug out a large key and opened the padlock on one of them. The inside was full of outdoor equipment, snowshoes and skis, coils of mountaineering rope, canvas bundles, ice axes, pots and pans, lanterns, and a big black thing that looked like some kind of enormous kitchen pot.

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