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Mr gedrick and me, p.11
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       Mr. Gedrick and Me, p.11

           Patrick Carman
 
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  “Your kid’s got a chain saw!” Huxley yelled out the window. “She’s cutting down a tree in your backyard. Wow, this is crazy.”

  Amelia was halfway through the trunk in nothing flat and the tree started to sway.

  “Hey,” Huxley said, backing up a few steps. “That thing is headed right for us. Your kid is trying to kill me!”

  Huxley dove out of sight and Mom jumped to one side. As the tree came down, it broke through the roof and landed somewhere between the island and the stove. I looked at Mr. Gedrick and he flicked his index finger to one side, then the other. Then I looked back through the kitchen window and saw Mom’s computer crushed under a branch. The arts center plans were flying up in the air, struck by a branch. They danced down onto the stove. Then the stove turned on, because it had been struck by another branch, and the plans started burning up.

  “Fire!” Mom yelled. She was trapped between the wall and the tree trunk, but Mr. Gedrick walked right up the flattened tree, avoiding limbs as he went, and placed his green felt jacket over the small fire. Then he turned the stove off.

  There wasn’t much smoke, not enough to cause any damage, but Mom’s computer and the plans were destroyed. Fergus and I climbed along the tree and jumped down into the kitchen.

  “This is bananas,” I said.

  Huxley stumbled out from under the table, brushing himself off. “That was some very exciting stuff. Really woke me up!”

  He saw that the plans had burned up and shrugged his shoulders. “You’ll have to start over, I guess. But I’m certain you can do it.”

  Mom couldn’t even speak.

  “I’ll be back in a week with the big boss,” Huxley said, stepping over part of the tree on his way toward the front door. “I’m sure you’ll do fine. Let me know if you want to finish up at headquarters. This might not be the best place to work for a while.”

  Huxley took one more long look around and shook his head. “The only way of finding the limits of what’s possible is by going beyond them, into the impossible!” Huxley said.

  He always said the weirdest things.

  “Thank you for those inspiring words,” Mr. Gedrick said. He was brushing the ashes off his green felt jacket. Huxley waved off Mr. Gedrick and wandered out toward the living room.

  “Boy, that was something else,” Huxley said with a laugh. “Wait till they hear about this at the office. Classic.”

  Fergus and I went to the backyard to find Amelia. She’d been holding the chain saw the whole time, frozen from shock. She set the chain saw down on the grass and looked at the disaster she had caused.

  Fergus walked up to her, shaking his head, and I followed close behind. I expected Fergus to yell something mean and lose his marbles, but he surprised me.

  “When Mom comes out here, say I cut it down,” Fergus said. “I’ll take the blame for it.”

  “No, let me do it,” I said. “She won’t get as mad if it’s the youngest. Right?”

  But inside I wasn’t so sure. I imagined the rest of the summer spent grounded with no TV, no movies, and no video games.

  “Thanks, you guys,” Amelia said. “But I can’t let you take credit for my catastrophe.”

  We all looked at the house and shook our heads.

  “Wow,” I said. “This is bonkers.”

  “You said it, brother,” Fergus agreed.

  Mr. Gedrick and Mom came out of the kitchen. The moment I saw Mom I knew it was even worse than I had imagined. She was crying.

  “Everything is ruined,” she said. “My whole life. It’s all ruined.”

  She continued to cry, and something about the words she said really bummed me out. I knew what she meant. Dad was gone and he wasn’t coming back. That was the real problem. It felt like an all-time low. All the progress we’d made had crashed to the ground, just like the tree.

  “I’m sorry, Mom,” Amelia said. “I cut the tree down. It was my mistake.”

  “But we helped,” I said. “Right, Fergus?”

  “We totally helped,” Fergus agreed.

  Mom sat down on the bench next to the dead tree and shook her head. “I’m glad you’re all safe, but what a mess. My plans burned up. And the kitchen . . .” She couldn’t come up with anything else to say.

  We looked at Mr. Gedrick. We didn’t speak. We didn’t have to because our expressions said everything we needed to say.

  Why did you make us cut down this tree? This is all your fault. You’ve ruined everything.

  A DREAM OF DAYS PAST

  Fergus and Amelia scattered to their rooms, but Mom kept sulking on the bench. Mr. Gedrick took a fine linen cloth from his pocket and began wiping down the felt fabric on his jacket. It cleaned up miraculously well, and he put it back on. Then he sat next to Mom on the bench and stared into the yard. I stayed over by the fallen tree trunk, picking at the bark, and the two of them started talking.

  “I sat on this very bench with my husband many months ago,” Mom said. “Do you know what he said to me?”

  “I do not,” Mr. Gedrick answered quietly.

  “He told me he didn’t think he had a green thumb, and I agreed with him. The dead tree was strong evidence.”

  “He was self-aware, it sounds like,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  “He told me the tree would have to come down some day, but not on that day. Then he said something strange. He said maybe the tree would fall when I least expected it, when I needed it most.”

  Mr. Gedrick didn’t say anything, and after a long pause, Mom kept talking. “I told him I couldn’t imagine a time when I would need a tree to fall in my backyard, and yet here we are, these many months later, and the tree has fallen very unexpectedly. I wonder what it could mean. Maybe he’s speaking to me from somewhere far away.”

  Mr. Gedrick put his hand on Mom’s, just for a moment. It seemed like he was trying to say something to make her feel better, though he didn’t talk. And then he left for the kitchen, leaving Mom and me out in the backyard.

  I got up off the stump and sat next to Mom. We looked at the remains of the dead tree. Mom sniffed away a few more tears, and I let one fall down my cheek. She put her arm around me, squeezing me close to her.

  “Let’s go talk to your sister,” she said as she got up and breathed a heavy sigh.

  “Seems like a good idea,” I said.

  We walked through the house and stood in front of Amelia’s door. Mom knocked quietly but didn’t enter. “Can I come in?”

  “Sure, I’m just sitting here being miserable,” Amelia answered. “And you know what they say about misery.”

  Mom opened the door and peeked inside. “It likes company?”

  I slipped into the room and leaned against the wall by the door. Amelia was sitting on her bed, looking like she was worried about how much trouble she was in.

  “Mind if I sit?” Mom asked.

  “Misery likes to sit,” Amelia said. “I should know.”

  Mom flopped down on the bed and let her shoulder fall against Amelia’s. “Your dad could never get anything to grow in the yard.”

  “Remember the gardens he tried to plant?” Amelia asked. “How can anyone fail at tomatoes? I thought that was impossible.”

  They both laughed, and Amelia let her head rest on Mom’s shoulder.

  “I’m sorry I cut a tree down and it fell on the kitchen,” Amelia said.

  “I wanted to thank you,” Mom said, and boy did that surprise me.

  “For what?” Amelia asked.

  “Those plans I had weren’t what I really wanted to do,” Mom said. “But I would have turned them in anyway. That would have been settling for something lousy when I know I can do better. Now they’re gone and I can’t get them back, and that’s very good news.”

  “But you’ll have to start all over,” Amelia said. “Don’t you hate when that happens? I hate when that happens.”

  Mom shook her head. “Sometimes it’s hard to let go of things, even if you know you have to.”

  Ameli
a hugged Mom, and seeing them there I realized they hadn’t hugged in a very long time. Amelia started crying. “I miss Dad,” she said. “I miss him a lot.”

  “I know you do,” Mom said. “I miss him, too.”

  I started feeling crummy and wished I could get in on the hug, but I stayed where I was.

  Mom held Amelia by the shoulders and looked at her. “It’s okay to go forward, but I know it’s hard. It doesn’t mean we don’t love him or that we will forget him. It just means we want to keep on living. You’re like me. You like to be alone sometimes. You like to work on your own things. You like to draw and plan. I like those things about you.”

  “I like those things about you, too,” Amelia said.

  “Me, too!” I said. I could only keep my mouth shut for so long.

  They both looked up and smiled at me.

  “Let’s make sure we take time to talk like this more often, okay?” Mom said to Amelia.

  Amelia nodded and wiped away a tear. “I think that would be super.”

  They sniffled and smiled even bigger at each other, and Amelia got a thoughtful look on her face. “Why do you think Mr. Gedrick is so sad?”

  I knew what Amelia was talking about; we all did.

  “I don’t know,” Mom answered. “But I have a feeling we’re going to find out someday. He’s got secrets, but they want to get out. I can tell.”

  “Sometimes, when we all get along better, he seems less sad,” Amelia said. “Do you think that’s true?”

  “I do. I think it’s very true indeed.”

  I heard a commotion in the kitchen. “What’s that?” I asked. “Let’s go check it out!”

  We all decided we’d better see what was happening. When we got in the hallway, Fergus was just coming out of our room.

  “How much trouble did you get into?” Fergus asked Amelia.

  “Tons,” Amelia said, winking at me. “I don’t recommend felling a tree into the house.”

  “Harsh,” I said. “But hey, if you do end up getting grounded, I’ll play board games with you all day. No problem.”

  “And I’ll play catch with you in the backyard,” Fergus said.

  “Actually, she went easy on me.” Amelia smiled. “But I’m still going to hold you guys to catch and board games.”

  DARROW FAMILY MAGIC

  When we arrived in the kitchen, we found Mr. Gedrick putting away his pointer in the inside pocket of his green jacket. The tree was gone, the ceiling was fixed, everything was back to the way it was.

  “But this is impossible,” Mom said.

  “Mr. Gedrick is magic,” I whispered to Fergus. “I think he’s a warlock.”

  “I know,” Fergus whispered back. “Pretty cool, right?”

  “You know it, bro.”

  “How did you do all this?” Mom asked as she tapped on the countertop to make sure it was real.

  “It’s a matter of physics,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Really quite simple. Although we do still need to cut that tree into firewood.”

  He gestured toward the backyard, where the tree lay on its side.

  “I’ll do it!” I yelled.

  Fergus stepped forward and put a hand on my shoulder. “How about we both do it. I don’t think Mom would ever forgive us if you lost a finger out there.”

  “Deal, roomie,” I said.

  We were about to race each other to the chain saw, but Amelia stopped us. “Maybe Mom could help us finish the plan,” she said. “We could all finish it together.”

  The room went silent as we looked on, waiting and wondering what our mom would say. Amelia took Mom by the hand.

  “Will you help us?” Amelia asked.

  Mom looked at her table, obviously thinking of the work that needed doing, all that inspiration that wasn’t showing up as she tried and tried again.

  So she said the only thing that made any sense.

  “I’d love nothing more.”

  Mr. Gedrick said he had stuff to do in his room, and everyone wished he could come help us. But he insisted, so I went into superspy mode and followed after him. It was time I got a look inside my old room, and this seemed like my best shot.

  When I got there, it was almost like he wanted me to peek inside. He’d left the door open anyway, so I took it as a sign. I crept closer, and when I got one eye around the doorjamb, I was surprised to find that Mr. Gedrick wasn’t in there. I opened the door a little wider and took a step inside, hoping a booby trap wouldn’t get me. There was a desk and a blow-up mattress on the floor. The wood on the desk and the chair was polished and there were parts that were brass and copper.

  I went to the closet, where six sets of clothing were hung. There were six felt green jackets, six green vests, six red ties, and six crisp white shirts. There were also six pairs of pants, but there were no extra shoes. Apparently Mr. Gedrick only owned one pair of shoes, and he took very good care of them.

  “Hello, Stanley,” Mr. Gedrick said from behind me. I jumped so high my head nearly hit the ceiling.

  “Don’t scare me like that!” I yelled, holding my chest.

  “I warned you it was dangerous to come in here. At least you didn’t fall through the trapdoor on the floor.”

  “The trapdoor? Oh man.”

  Mr. Gedrick walked past me and took a small wooden box from the closet. Then he sat down and took his shoes off.

  “These are in need of a good cleaning,” he said. “No time like the present.”

  “Is there really a trapdoor?” I asked. I was thinking about the pathway I’d taken into the room and hoping I could follow it back out.

  “Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Who can say?”

  Mr. Gedrick opened the small box, took out a brush, and began buffing one of the shoes. The shoe was deep black and shiny, and this seemed to make him happy. He stopped what he was doing and looked at his desk. The field guide was there, full of notes and drawings. I followed his eyes and looked at the desk, too.

  “Hey, what’s that thing?”

  It looked like a small globe sitting on a pedestal, but I was too chicken to walk over and grab it. Mr. Gedrick picked it up and dropped it in his jacket pocket.

  “That’s for another time, another place,” he said.

  There was some kind of puzzle to all this, but I couldn’t put it together. Mr. Gedrick went back to shining his shoes. I started to feel like maybe he wanted to be alone, so I carefully followed the same way I’d come in until I got to the door. Then I ran for the garage to see what was going on there. I found Mom wandering around in a daze while Amelia and Fergus worked. She looked right at me when I showed up.

  “You did all this?” she asked.

  “Mr. Gedrick helped,” I said. “But he made us do most of the work.”

  “He’s a real taskmaster, that guy,” Fergus agreed. “But it was fun. And Amelia’s design was kind of amazing, I have to admit.”

  “Was that a compliment?” Amelia asked.

  Fergus shrugged. He looked at Mom. “We still need help to finish it.”

  “Lead the way,” Mom said, and we all crowded around Amelia’s plans.

  “Oh my,” Mom said, surprised at what she saw. “Amelia, this is really good. Wow.”

  I could tell Amelia was melting from all the praise she was getting, because she couldn’t peel the smile off her face.

  “Take it easy, Mom,” Fergus said. “Any more compliments and her head won’t fit through the door.”

  I laughed and acted like my head was ten times bigger than a normal head. I wobbled around the garage like I could barely hold it up.

  “Where do we start?” Mom asked. She was excited to pound nails or cut wood.

  The day disappeared in a fog of sawdust and paint fumes. We laughed a bunch as we worked and after a while we all smelled a roast cooking in the kitchen. Tired and covered in grime and paint, we raced into the kitchen and found the table set and a dinner fit for kings and queens.

  “I thought you might be hungry,” Mr. Gedri
ck said. He wiped his hands on his apron.

  “Let’s eat!” I yelled, and we all sat down together.

  We talked and joked and laughed and ate until we were so full we couldn’t eat another bite.

  “Why don’t you come out and help us, Mr. Gedrick?” Mom asked. “We’re nearly done.”

  Mr. Gedrick waved her off. “I have many things to do inside the house. I’ll come see when it’s finished.”

  I thought this was odd. Mr. Gedrick was like part of the family now. We wanted him to help. But he insisted, so we let it go.

  When we returned to the garage, I asked everyone to wait before they started working. They all got together and stared at me.

  “We have to do something for Mr. Gedrick. He’s done so much for us.”

  “I agree,” Amelia said as Fergus nodded. “But what?”

  I had my thinking face on, rubbing my chin with one hand. After a second I had an idea.

  “We have to work some Darrow family magic. I think it’s the only kind of magic that will do the trick.”

  THE PLAN REVEALED

  The next morning we did something special for Mr. Gedrick, and then I went down the hallway to find him.

  “Hey, Mr. Gedrick!” I yelled from the other side of my old bedroom door. “We have a surprise for you. You’ll never guess what it is.”

  I heard some shuffling around in there, and then the door opened a crack and his green eyeball was staring down at me. “Give me a moment, I’ll be right out.”

  “Don’t take too long. Our surprise is getting cold,” I said.

  Finally, after about two hundred hours, Mr. Gedrick opened the door and slipped through, closing it behind him.

  “Come on, lazybones!” I said, grabbing his hand and pulling him toward the kitchen. “We’re going to be late.”

  “Late for what?” Mr. Gedrick asked.

  “Oh no, you don’t,” I said. “You’re not getting me to tell you about the amazing breakfast we made for you.”

  I stopped in my tracks. “Aw, man. You tricked me!”

  “I suppose I did,” Mr. Gedrick said. “I’ll act surprised all the same.”

  “Thanks!” I said, pulling Mr. Gedrick harder toward the surprise.

 
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