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James to the rescue, p.1
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       James to the Rescue, p.1

           Elise Broach
 
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James to the Rescue


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  Table of Contents

  About the Author

  Copyright Page

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  For Christy Ottaviano, whose wondrous editing has rescued me again and again

  —E. B.

  For Gretchen, a friend always to the rescue

  —K. M.

  CHAPTER ONE

  Collecting

  Marvin is excited. Papa and Uncle Albert are going collecting. Collecting is what the beetles call it when they crawl around the Pompadays’ apartment looking for things they can use.

  A button can make a pretty table.

  A doll’s shoe can be a nice chair.

  A cap from a tube of toothpaste can hold a giant feast.

  For the first time ever, Marvin and Elaine get to go collecting. There’s no telling what they will find. They are so excited that they do a happy dance, like this:

  Mama is not so excited.

  “Please be careful,” she says. “Collecting is dangerous! You must listen to Papa and Uncle Albert.”

  “We will,” Marvin promises.

  “We’re going to have the BEST time!” Elaine says. “I know we’ll find something really good.”

  “I hope so,” Marvin says.

  Marvin thinks about what he would like to find.

  He might find part of a crayon …

  Or a tiny piece of wrapping paper …

  Or something to put inside his secret hideout.

  “Ready?” Papa says.

  “YES!” Marvin and Elaine shout.

  Papa and Uncle Albert have a little sack that they drag by the string. It’s blue and silky. It used to hold a pair of Mrs. Pompaday’s earrings. Now it’s the perfect bag for collecting.

  “Let’s go,” says Uncle Albert.

  Papa, Uncle Albert, Marvin, and Elaine sneak out of their home in the kitchen cupboard.

  William, James’s baby brother, is in the kitchen. He’s banging a spoon on the floor.

  Bang! Bang! Bang!

  The beetles do not like William. They hide near the leg of a chair.

  But William sees them.

  “Ba ba!” William says.

  Uh-oh! He crawls across the floor, banging his spoon.

  The beetles race away from him.

  William crawls after them.

  “BA BA!” he yells.

  William raises his spoon over their heads.

  “Stop, drop, and roll!” Papa cries.

  The beetles all roll into little balls.

  But then they hear Mrs. Pompaday.

  “Shhhh, William,” she says. “It’s time for your nap.”

  William starts to cry. She picks him up and carries him away, her high heels clicking on the floor.

  Click, click, click.

  “Phew!” says Uncle Albert. “That was a close one. Let’s go to James’s room.”

  “Wait,” Elaine says. “I found something.”

  Marvin sees crumbs under the table, but those are nothing special. The beetles find crumbs all the time.

  But then he sees something else, something that Elaine is already racing toward at full speed.

  Something shiny.

  Something silver.

  CHAPTER TWO

  Something Good

  It’s a dime!

  Elaine is so excited she runs in circles.

  “Well done, Elaine!” Uncle Albert says. “That will make a fine silver platter for your mother.”

  “I know!” Elaine says. “She’ll love it.”

  Elaine looks smug. Marvin feels bad. He wants to find a present for Mama, but there is nothing else in the kitchen.

  “A dime is heavy,” Papa says. He and Uncle Albert huff and puff as they roll it into the blue sack. Then they drag the sack behind them, still huffing and puffing.

  “Let’s go to James’s room now,” Papa says. “We always have good luck there.”

  The beetles crawl down the hallway to James’s bedroom.

  “My dime is beautiful,” Elaine tells Marvin. “I knew I would find something really good.”

  Marvin is quiet. He wants Elaine to stop talking about the dime.

  But she doesn’t stop.

  “I bet I’ll get to go collecting again,” Elaine says, “because I found something special.”

  When Marvin doesn’t answer, she asks, “Don’t you wish YOU had found that dime?”

  Now Elaine is really pushing it. Marvin glares at her.

  “I’m going to find something even better,” he tells her.

  “Well,” Elaine says, “I can’t think of anything better than a dime.”

  Marvin rushes ahead, through the door of James’s room. He wants so badly to find something really good.

  James is lying on his bed reading. Marvin is always happy to see James. He wishes he could climb up on James’s desk to say hello, but he knows Papa and Uncle Albert don’t want James to notice them.

  The beetles crawl over the carpet to the wastebasket. When James throws things away, sometimes they fall on the carpet.

  Papa finds a bright orange tack from James’s bulletin board. He puts it in the sack.

  Uncle Albert finds an old piece of gum. It’s still a bit sticky.

  “Perfect,” he says. “We can use this to hang pictures in the living room.”

  Marvin hasn’t found anything.

  He sighs. Maybe he’s not good at collecting. Maybe Papa and Uncle Albert will only take Elaine next time.

  But then, just as he is about to give up, he sees something.

  It’s small and black and has a pointy tip. He runs over to it as fast as he can, before Elaine can grab it.

  “Look!” he says, lifting it with two of his legs. It’s heavy.

  “What is that thing?” Elaine asks.

  Papa and Uncle Albert come over to take a look.

  “Hmmm,” Papa says. “I have no idea. What do you think, Albert?”

  Uncle Albert shakes his head. “It’s smooth,” he says, touching it. “And it has a sharp tip. But I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

  “Huh,” Elaine says. “I don’t know what anyone would use that for.”

  “It’s interesting,” Marvin says.

  It is interesting—shiny and black and smooth, with a sharp point.

  “Put it in the sack,” Papa says.

  “But what’s it good for?” Elaine wants to know.

  Marvin is mad at Elaine. “It’s good for something,” he says, putting the sharp black thing in the blue sack. “And it’s different from a regular old dime.”

  “Okay, you two,” Uncle Albert says. “That’s enough. Let’s look in the bathroom.”

  Marvin wishes they didn’t have to leave James without saying hello, or good-bye. But Papa and Uncle Albert are busy collecting. They lead the way down the hall to the bathroom.

  “I can’t wait to give my mother that dime,” Elaine says to Marvin. “She’ll be so happy.”

  Marvin tries to ignore her.

  “T
oo bad you haven’t found anything good yet,” Elaine says.

  “I did find something good,” Marvin says. But he doesn’t really believe it. If he gives the pointy black thing to Mama, what will she do with it?

  At last they reach the bathroom.

  They crawl across the cold, slippery tiles. The tiles by the toilet are wet, because the pipe behind the toilet leaks.

  Marvin slips and slides.

  “Yuck,” Elaine says, wiping her legs on her shell.

  They are just starting to look around the bottom of the sink when Uncle Albert shouts with joy.

  “Eureka!”

  “What?” Elaine asks. “What is it?”

  “He’s found something,” Papa says excitedly. Uncle Albert races over to a tiny pair of scissors that are lying on the floor behind the toilet. They’re made of metal and very shiny. They are the smallest scissors Marvin has ever seen.

  “Nail scissors!” Papa cries. “What a find. Good work, Albert.”

  Marvin remembers Mama saying how wonderful it would be to have something she could use for cutting. The beetles can chew through soft stuff, but they can’t cut in a straight line. Only scissors can do that. Scissors can cut paper, or string, or a piece of cloth. They can cut things into small pieces, with no messy edges.

  Marvin wishes so badly that he had seen the scissors first.

  “Look at these beauties!” Uncle Albert says. “I can’t wait to show them to Edith.”

  He tries to put them in the sack, but they won’t fit.

  “Hmmm,” he says. “They’re too big. Marvin, you and Elaine will have to pull the sack. Your father and I will carry the scissors.”

  But just as Uncle Albert is bending over to lift the pointed end of the scissors, his back legs slip on the wet floor.

  Whoosh!

  He falls against the sharp point of the scissors.

  “Ooomph! OHHHHHH!” he cries.

  CHAPTER THREE

  Uncle Albert in Trouble

  Oh no!

  The sharp point of the scissors has pierced Uncle Albert’s shell. Marvin can see thin yellow goo oozing out.

  “Uncle Albert!” Marvin cries. “Are you all right?”

  Papa rushes over and tries to help Uncle Albert stand up.

  But Uncle Albert rolls on the floor. He wraps his legs around the hole in his shell.

  “I’m hurt,” he moans.

  To his horror, Marvin sees that beneath Uncle Albert, there is now a small puddle of yellow goo.

  “Oh, my poor father!” Elaine screams.

  “Marvin! Elaine! Quick, get a tissue,” Papa says. “We need to stop the bleeding.”

  There’s a tissue box on top of the toilet. Marvin and Elaine run up the side of the toilet as fast as they can.

  There is a tissue sticking out of the box. They each grab a corner of it. They pull and pull.

  “Hurry!” Papa calls.

  “Quick, Elaine,” Marvin says. “Pull as hard as you can.”

  They pull on the corners of the tissue. They pull harder.

  Suddenly, it comes flying out of the box!

  “Hold on tight!” Marvin tells Elaine.

  “I am!” Elaine cries.

  Gripping the corners, Marvin and Elaine sail through the air. The tissue billows over them, like a parachute.

  Far below is the bathroom floor, where Papa and Uncle Albert are waiting.

  Marvin and Elaine flutter down, down, down until they reach the floor. It’s like they are jumping out of a plane. A rescue plane.

  “Nice work,” Papa says.

  He tears a strip of tissue and gently wraps it around Uncle Albert’s shell. “This will stop the bleeding,” he says.

  “Oooooohhhh,” Uncle Albert moans. His eyes roll back in his head.

  “Okay,” Papa says grimly. “Let’s try to move him.”

  Papa picks up Uncle Albert’s head.

  Marvin and Elaine pick up his two back legs.

  They try to lift him.

  “OOOOOOHHHHHHH!” Uncle Albert screams.

  “Stop! Stop!” Elaine cries. “We’re hurting him. Oh, my dear father … what are we to do?”

  “I can’t move,” Uncle Albert says. “You’ll have to go back without me.”

  “No, Albert, we won’t leave you,” Papa says. “There must be a way to get you home.”

  “Oh, there must be!” Elaine cries. “But how?”

  They all gather around Uncle Albert.

  What are they going to do?

  Then Marvin has an idea.

  “I’ll get James!” he says.

  “Do you think that’s safe?” Papa asks.

  Papa and Mama know all about Marvin’s friendship with James. They know that Marvin trusts James more than anyone in the world. But because James is a boy, and Marvin is a beetle, they still worry.

  “Yes, Papa,” Marvin says. “James will help us.”

  Papa looks at Uncle Albert. He looks at Marvin. “Then go, son,” he says. “There isn’t much time.”

  CHAPTER FOUR

  James to the Rescue!

  As fast as he can, Marvin runs across the tile floor and down the hallway, to James’s bedroom.

  He crawls across the blue shag rug. James is still lying on his bed reading. Marvin crawls up the bedpost and over the open pages of the book.

  Of course, James sees him.

  “Hey, little guy,” he says, smiling. “Where have you been?”

  Marvin is desperate. He runs around in a circle.

  “What’s the matter?” James asks, sitting up.

  Marvin flips onto his back and waves his legs in the air.

  “Something’s wrong,” James says. “Are you hurt?” He reaches down with one finger and rolls Marvin back onto his legs.

  Marvin scrambles onto James’s finger and runs to the very tip. This is how he tells James where to go.

  James stands up. “Okay, where to?” he asks, holding out his finger, with Marvin on the tip.

  James walks out of his room, carrying Marvin on his finger. But then, uh-oh, James turns right toward the kitchen, instead of left toward the bathroom—the wrong way! Marvin crawls down James’s finger, to the palm of his hand. This is how he tells James he is going the wrong way.

  “The other way?” James asks. He turns and starts down the hall toward the bathroom. Marvin races back to the tip of his finger.

  Now they are at the bathroom door.

  There, on the floor by the toilet, are Papa, Elaine, and Uncle Albert.

  As soon as Papa and Elaine see James, they run behind the toilet. But Uncle Albert is badly hurt. He lies on his side, not moving.

  James looks around the room. “Why do you want to come in here?”

  Marvin begins to jump up and down on James’s finger.

  “Do you want me to put you down?” James asks. “Okay, little guy. Show me what you want me to see.”

  Gently, he sets his finger on the floor so that Marvin can crawl off. Marvin runs to where Uncle Albert is lying. Marvin can see that more yellow goo has oozed onto the tissue that Papa used to bandage Uncle Albert’s shell.

  “Oh!” James says. “Who’s this? One of your friends?”

  Slowly, James bends down.

  “What’s wrong with him?” James asks Marvin. “Is he dead?”

  Behind the toilet, Elaine gasps. Uncle Albert waves his legs weakly.

  “No, look, he’s moving,” James says. “What happened to him?”

  Marvin crawls over to the tiny silver scissors and taps the sharp point with his front legs.

  “Oh!” James says. “He’s hurt! He cut himself on the nail scissors. I’ve done that before. They’re sharp.”

  Uncle Albert moans again, and closes his eyes.

  Marvin stands next to him, full of despair. He looks up at James and wonders how in the world James can help them.

  “Marvin!” Elaine cries, peeking around the edge of the toilet. “We have to save my father! Do something!”

 
; James is already kneeling on the floor, leaning over Uncle Albert.

  Gently, he picks him up. Uncle Albert groans, but this time, James says to Marvin, “Don’t worry. I have an idea.”

  And just like that, Marvin stops worrying. He knows that James will be able to help.

  James holds Uncle Albert in his hand.

  He peels off the old tissue. He takes a new tissue and puts it in the sink. He turns on the faucet just a little.

  Drip, drop, drip.

  With the new, wet tissue, he dabs the hole in Uncle Albert’s shell.

  “Owwwww! Owwwww!” Uncle Albert cries.

  “Marvin! James is killing him!” Elaine shouts.

  “No, Elaine, it’s okay,” Marvin tells her. “James knows what to do.”

  James opens the medicine cabinet over the sink. He takes out a small green-and-white tube.

  “This is what we put on cuts,” he tells Marvin, “so they don’t get infected.”

  Marvin doesn’t know what infected means, but it sounds bad. James takes the cap off the tube and squeezes it. A tiny, clear blob comes out.

  Carefully, with the tip of his finger, James pats the blob over the hole in Uncle Albert’s shell. The yellow goo stops oozing out.

 
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