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Mr gedrick and me, p.12
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       Mr. Gedrick and Me, p.12

           Patrick Carman
 
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  When we arrived in the kitchen, everyone was standing around the table beaming and excited.

  “Surprise!” they all yelled.

  “We made breakfast for you,” I said as I stood at Mr. Gedrick’s side, leaning into him. “What do you think about that?”

  Mr. Gedrick sniffed the air and examined the table full of waffles, strawberries, whipped cream, and sausage.

  “We shall see,” Mr. Gedrick said, but then he laughed. It was the first time I’d ever heard him do that, and we all laughed along with him, because Mr. Gedrick had a laugh that sounded like a duck.

  We ate waffles covered in whipped cream and talked about the project in the garage and Mr. Gedrick enjoyed himself very much.

  “This is the best breakfast I’ve had in a long, long time,” Mr. Gedrick said. He had whipped cream stuck to the end of his long nose.

  “We have an even better surprise,” Amelia said. “Unless you want another waffle first.”

  “No, no,” Mr. Gedrick said, patting his stomach like Santa Claus. “Six is my limit.”

  “I’ll clean this up later,” Fergus said like it was no big deal.

  “You’re going to clean the kitchen?” Mom asked. “Who are you and where did you hide my son?”

  “Har har har,” Fergus said.

  I jumped out of my seat and pulled on Mr. Gedrick’s jacket. “Come on! We finished the project. You have to come see.”

  Mr. Gedrick wiped the corners of his mouth and the end of his nose. “Lead on, young Darrow—I can hardly wait.”

  “Close your eyes,” I said. “I’ll show you the way.”

  I accidentally pulled Mr. Gedrick into a chair and a table on the way out the door.

  “Almost there!” I said.

  Mr. Gedrick seemed to know the garage was lower than the kitchen, and when the door opened he stepped down and stood on the concrete.

  “Don’t open them yet,” I said. “Just stay right there for a second.”

  There was a lot of noise as we moved things around and the lights were turned off and we ran all over the garage doing last-second stuff. I could tell Mr. Gedrick wanted to peek, but he didn’t.

  “Okay, open your eyes,” I said.

  The main light for the garage had been turned off. There were white Christmas lights hung in long rows along the ceiling, drooping down like ropes filled with lightning bugs. They all led to the same place—the Airstream trailer—and they came together above the door. The trailer was covered in tiny sparkling lights, too, but they were every color of the rainbow.

  Mr. Gedrick’s breath caught in his throat, and I wasn’t sure why. Was it because of all the amazing work we’d done, or because we were all together, standing in front of him, with big dumb grins on our faces? Even Bob was grinning, resting in my hand.

  Behind us, the Airstream had been polished to a shiny silver. It was really old and super new at the same time.

  “Welcome to my new office,” Mom said. “And thank you for all you did to help make it possible. If it weren’t for you, I’d be stuck in the kitchen for the rest of my life.”

  Mr. Gedrick took two steps forward. He messed up my hair and stared at the amazing new office we’d created.

  “It’s marvelous,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Just marvelous. Can I see inside?”

  “You bet!” I shouted. “That’s the best part because Mom helped.”

  Mr. Gedrick walked to the door and opened it.

  “I do believe this is the most creative work space I’ve ever seen,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  He sat down at the curved desk that was shaped like a big, flat egg. There was a sleek new computer on top of it. We all piled in behind him and were forced to stand close together.

  “I’m so glad you like it,” Mom said. “I thought you’d be particularly fond of the curtains.”

  The curtains were made of green felt and they looked warm and soft. The floor was done in red tiles to match Mr. Gedrick’s tie, and the surface of the egg-shaped desk was a bright white. On the desk sat a photo of our family, including my dad. Some of Amelia’s work was piled up there, too, and the first baseball Fergus had ever hit out of a ballpark.

  Mr. Gedrick turned in the swivel chair and looked at all of us. He spoke like he was very happy and very sad at the same time. “The Darrows have found their melody once again.”

  From somewhere inside his green felt jacket—was it hidden in his sleeve, folded into sections? Who knows? But there it was: the small globe, along with a glass stand for it to sit on.

  “May I add something to your desk?” Mr. Gedrick asked.

  He set down the glass base, which was thin and clear as water. Then he placed the small globe on the metal pin and gave it a little spin.

  SWOGHOLLOW

  “Hey,” I said, moving in for a closer look. Bob was still in my hand, and the little lizard also stared. “That’s just like the big one we have.”

  “Indeed it is,” Mr. Gedrick said. He got up without any warning and walked out of the Airstream. When we all got out into the garage, he was staring at the large globe on the floor.

  “What gives, Mr. Gedrick?” Fergus asked. “Why do you have the same globe our dad did, only smaller?”

  Mr. Gedrick didn’t answer. He went to the large globe and placed his hand on its smooth surface. It was really big, too big for him to get his arms all the way around, and it sat on a pedestal made of wood. The pedestal was like the smaller glass one in the Airstream, with a pin that ran up through the middle and held it in place. Mr. Gedrick spun the globe softly, so it turned one full rotation.

  “Stanley,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Do you happen to have that rope you found under the house?”

  We were all looking at Mr. Gedrick like something big was about to happen.

  “Sure I do,” I said, turning to Fergus. “Could you hang on to Bob for me?”

  Fergus took Bob and I went into the corner of the garage, where I kept the leather rope coiled up on a nail I’d pounded into the wall. I carried it to Mr. Gedrick and held it out.

  “Oh, I don’t want it,” Mr. Gedrick said. “It’s yours, and only you can put it to its proper use.”

  “I don’t understand,” I said. “You mean like this?”

  I looped it back and forth like an Indiana Jones whip. It tangled up in the air and the end landed on Amelia’s foot.

  “You’re really getting good with that thing,” Amelia said. “Be careful though. I’d like to keep all my toes.”

  “What’s this all about, Mr. Gedrick?” Mom said.

  “Do you see this groove here?” Mr. Gedrick asked, pointing to the middle of the globe. There had always been a deep, empty space that ran around the middle of the globe. It was about an inch wide, cutting the globe into two halves.

  “Sure I see it,” I said. I had an idea what Mr. Gedrick was thinking, because I had a small collection of yo-yos. I could imagine the rope working on the globe like a yo-yo string.

  “I think I know what he’s getting at,” Fergus said. He took the other end of the rope in his one empty hand. Bob the lizard watched what we were doing like he was actually interested. “Come on, I’ll help you.”

  We all watched as Fergus put the end of the rope into the groove and then started spinning the globe around. The rope got shorter and shorter until the only part left was the little bit in my hand.

  “This is so weird,” Amelia said, grabbing Mom’s hand and leaning into her.

  “You’ll need to pull as hard as you can,” Mr. Gedrick said as he stepped away from the globe. “Give it all you’ve got.”

  I thought about how I’d lifted the heavy bar off my chest and how I’d hit a Fergus fastball. I imagined the globe was light as a feather and gripped the end of the rope as hard as I could. I thought Fergus might try to take the rope away from me, but he just nodded and smiled.

  “Here goes nothing,” I said.

  I ran as fast as I could away from the globe, pulling with all my might, and then I flicked the r
ope at the very end and it released with a snap. I fell on the garage floor and did a barrel roll toward Amelia and Mom. I would have knocked them over like bowling pins, but they jumped out of the way in time.

  “Stanley!” Mom yelled.

  “It’s okay, Mom. I’m fine, see!”

  I was back on my feet in a flash. There was no way I was going to miss seeing that globe spin like crazy.

  “Whoa,” I said. “Check it out.”

  When Mom and Amelia turned back to the globe, they saw what I saw. Fergus had moved back a few steps and Mr. Gedrick had put his hands in the pockets of his green felt jacket. That was all fairly normal. It was the globe that captured everyone’s attention.

  The globe didn’t slow down like it was supposed to. It sped up, faster and faster, like it might lift right off the ground or explode into a thousand pieces.

  “Is this safe, Mr. Gedrick?” Mom asked. She was backing up, holding her arms out like the globe might start rolling all over the garage and squash us.

  Mr. Gedrick smiled his half smile. “I’m afraid there’s nothing safe about it.”

  Mom pushed me and Amelia behind her, but we fought to keep watching what was going on.

  “Fergus,” Mom said. “Get away from that thing!”

  Fergus was mesmerized by the spinning globe, staring at it like an alien had landed.

  “Something is happening,” Fergus said. He acted confused at first, but then he seemed to understand. “It’s opening up.”

  The globe began to slow down, and as it did, it split apart from the top. It broke open slowly, like the slices of an orange, revealing the inside.

  Then the globe stopped turning.

  “Welcome to Swoghollow,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  We all stepped in for a closer look and found small roads and houses and buildings. A tiny train rode around the outside, puffing smoke from its engine as it passed a farm full of cows and horses. A tiny world had been hidden inside the globe all this time.

  Mom looked at Mr. Gedrick like she knew a secret she hadn’t known before. She knew something important.

  “What is it, Mom?” I asked.

  She looked right at Mr. Gedrick.

  “You were Jonathan’s nanny, weren’t you?”

  “Wait just a second here,” I said, gaping at Mr. Gedrick. “You were my dad’s nanny?”

  “Taught him everything he knew. We spent a lot of time in Swoghollow. But that was long ago. This is the first time I’ve seen the place in ages.”

  Mom laughed like she couldn’t believe it. “I thought you were somehow him, coming back to tell me something. I thought I was going crazy. But I see it now. He was with you all along. You knew him, just as we did.”

  We were drawn to Swoghollow like moths to a porch light. I saw Mr. Gedrick’s tiny car drive along a tree-lined road as little leaves fell from the trees like snowflakes.

  “You knew our dad when he was a kid, like me?” I asked. “He must have loved Swoghollow.”

  “That he did,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Did you know he never had a family of his own? That’s a different story, but it’s true. I was his caretaker, a stand-in for a real family. But we did have such fun in Swoghollow. As he got older, all he ever talked about was being the best dad in the world. It was all he wanted.”

  Fergus glanced up at Mr. Gedrick. “He was the best dad. You must have done something right.”

  “I’m surprised he never showed us the inside of this thing before,” I said. “It’s awesome!”

  “I think it was his very special place, just for him,” Mr. Gedrick said. “We should all have a place like this in the world, where only we can go to rest and think and remember.”

  Amelia ran over and wrapped her arms around Mr. Gedrick. She looked up at him. “Did you come with a message from our dad?”

  Mr. Gedrick didn’t answer right away, but he did hug Amelia back. It kind of seemed like everything Mr. Gedrick had wanted to say had already been said.

  “That he loves you,” Mr. Gedrick finally sputtered. “And he’s very happy you’re doing better.”

  We stood around Swoghollow, laughing and pointing to all the incredible things that could be found there. But Mr. Gedrick was outside the circle, standing by himself. I watched him look at the Airstream and the lights hanging all around and the open globe. He looked back at me and we locked eyes.

  “Welcome home,” he whispered quietly.

  And then the most magical thing happened.

  We turned to Mr. Gedrick and attacked him with hugs. He was no longer outside the circle; he was at its center. Maybe he wouldn’t be sad about losing the boy who had become my dad anymore. Like all of us, he was finally ready to go forward.

  THE RETURN OF HUXLEY HARVOLD

  We talked Mr. Gedrick into staying for a few more days, even though he kept telling us it was time for him to go. He sat on the bench in the backyard a lot, reading a book or watching the sky for signs of rain. We all knew he was going to leave, but no one wanted to talk about it.

  On the day Huxley was scheduled to come back to the house, Mom spent the morning in the Airstream. She’d been in there quite a bit during the day, but she’d made us a promise she wouldn’t work so much. We’d all gone to some of Fergus’s baseball games together and visited the museum where Amelia had shown us all the stuff she was excited about. Mom had helped me lift weights, and spent time with me in Swoghollow. Hours had gone by as we explored all the parts of Swoghollow and made up stories about the things that happened there.

  I was in the tree house when Huxley showed up, and he didn’t arrive alone. He brought the big boss with him, the founder of the firm. I liked his boss, Mr. Jivins. He used to show me around the place whenever I went to visit Mom at her old office. He even took me on the roof once. It was windy up there.

  Under his arm, Huxley carried a rolled-up set of plans. I watched both guys as they stood on the front porch.

  “As I said,” Huxley told Mr. Jivins. “I gave Ms. Darrow a lot of ideas to work on.” Huxley tapped on the plans under his arm and winked like an idiot. I started to think maybe he’d gotten someone else to work on the same project.

  Mr. Jivins was a tall guy but no older than Huxley. He wore an all-gray three-piece suit. “I hope we don’t have to let her go.”

  Huxley raised his eyebrows with a look of concern, but I could tell he was faking it. This guy had something up his sleeve and I hoped it wouldn’t mean Mom would be jobless by the time they left.

  “Don’t be alarmed by the kids,” Huxley said. “They’re a bit unruly. And the house may be in some disorder, especially the kitchen. Her life is . . . complicated.”

  “But you can execute your ideas with a different team if necessary?” Mr. Jivins asked.

  “Oh yes, very much so,” Huxley replied. “And don’t forget, the plans are really mine. Elsa Darrow is but the hands that do the masters’ work. Shall we knock?”

  What a crock of cow pies, I thought. Who does this guy think he is?

  “Howdy, Mr. Jivins,” I yelled from the tree house. Then I climbed down to the yard. I was on the porch in like three seconds flat.

  “Stanley Darrow,” Mr. Jivins said. “It’s always a pleasure to see you. Nice tree house.”

  “I know, right? I keep all my baseball cards up there, in case you want to check them out.”

  Mr. Jivins looked like he did want to check them out, but Huxley spoiled the fun.

  “I think we better go inside and get on with it. Time is money, as you know, Mr. Jivins.”

  I walked right past them both and opened the front door.

  “Mom’s all ready for you. Boy, are you guys going to be happy.”

  “You know, Stanley,” Huxley said awkwardly. “Mr. Jivins is the president of the firm.”

  “Nice to meet you, prez,” I said, and held out my hand. It bugged me that Huxley didn’t know Mr. Jivins and I already knew each other.

  Mr. Jivins leaned down and played along, shaking my outstretched
palm. “The pleasure is all mine, Stanley. Could you find your mother for us? We’d be grateful.”

  “Right this way,” I said as I guided them into the house. “She’s out in the garage. Thataway.”

  I pointed toward the kitchen and started walking, glancing back at Huxley. He was obviously surprised by how tidy the house looked, but when we reached the kitchen, he was downright flabbergasted.

  “But I was only here a week ago,” he said. “How did this get cleaned up so fast?”

  I leaned in and whispered like I was going to tell them both a big secret. “I have no idea.”

  The two of them stared at me, and Huxley laughed nervously.

  “Thisaway,” I said as I went to the door leading to the garage. The globe was shut so they couldn’t see Swoghollow. Mr. Gedrick and Fergus were standing next to each other, at full attention like army recruits.

  “Nice to see you, Mr. Harvold,” Mr. Gedrick said. “And who might this be?”

  Mr. Jivins was introduced, and Mr. Gedrick nodded at both men and said, “Welcome to the Darrow home. Shall we begin?”

  Huxley looked around the garage like he had no idea what was going on. “Uh . . . sure. Let’s . . . begin?”

  “Very well,” Mr. Gedrick said. “If you’ll follow me over here, the presentation will start momentarily.”

  “What’s going on?” Mr. Jivins asked Huxley in a whisper that everyone heard.

  Huxley shrugged. “Uncharted waters.”

  He was probably hoping the situation wouldn’t get so weird that Mr. Jivins would wonder why Huxley had ever hired Mom in the first place.

  Fergus, Mr. Gedrick, and I stood in front of the Airstream and Mr. Gedrick took out his pointer. He extended it into a long silver shaft and tapped on a button next to the door that led inside. The entire front of the Airstream slid sideways on rollers, revealing the inside of the camping trailer.

  Mom looked up from her desk. “Oh, are we beginning? And is that Mr. Jivins? Thank you so much for coming. Give us one more second. We’re almost finished.”

  Huxley looked at Mr. Jivins sideways, but Mr. Jivins didn’t look back. “Always good to see you, Elsa. I’m looking forward to this. Whatever it is.”

 
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