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of dark inside. She paused outside the door and quietly addressed the class. “OK kids, I expect everyone to behave in here… and I also expect you to have fun and find some totally cool books.” She smiled broadly and opened the library door. JB had never heard a teacher say the word cool before, and had certainly never been told that having fun was part of the teacher’s expectation for the school day. The class buzzed with excitement as they entered the library, so only a few of them heard Miss Van Essa’s surprised little gasp. The library shelves were completely bare. There wasn’t a single book to be seen anywhere. No stories, no encyclopedia, no picture books, no big books and no small ones. Just a whole lot of empty shelves. The excited buzz from moments before quickly became a worried sounding murmur, full of questions. Even Miss Van Essa looked a little concerned. “I librarian.” am Mister Winstesterfield-Schmytherston, children,” whispered a strange gray man. “I am the new
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
By Dan Ward
A ROGUE PRESS BOOK New York 2005
Visit us at www.lulu.com/RoguePress
Copyright © 2005 by Dan Ward Cover design & Illustrations by Mandy Hoelmer
For Bethany and Jenna, the original Boomer Sisters, with really very much a super lot of love.
The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive… Gilbert Keith Chesterton
CONTENTS 1. Moving Day Blues 2. The Emporium 3. Cookies, New Kids & Wings 4. The Non-Secret of PIFL 5. Theodore Roosevelt Elementary 6. How Not To Be So Excited 7. The PIFL Council 8. JB Gets An Idea 9. Back To The Emporium 10. The Big Day 11. Being De-Enthused 12. Lions On Main Street 13. Laughter In The Library 100 14. The Big Read 109 15. Night Flight 16. Overthrowing The Library 128 117 91 45 54 61 70 82 23 30 38 1 7 14
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
Chapter 1: Moving Day Blues BJ Boomer sat glumly on the curb in front of her new house, trying to ignore the pink and purple bike lying on the grass behind her. The front tire was bent and flat and three other kinds of broken, and she couldn’t stand to look at it anymore. A few minutes earlier she had been so excited to hear the moving man announce, from deep inside the enormous moving truck, “I found a bike!” Her excitement had quickly turned to disappointment and sadness when she saw how badly broken it was. Now she was so frustrated she wanted to throw rocks, though she knew she mustn’t. “Whee!” BJ’s sister JB zipped past on her own, wholly undamaged bike. JB was 8 years old, and kind of a daredevil. BJ was a year older and tended to be a bit more
cautious. It just wasn’t fair her bike was broken when she was always so careful, and her crazy sister’s bike was just fine. BJ felt her bottom lip begin to tremble as JB turned a wide circle and began another pass. “Hiya, kiddo.” BJ’s dad sat down on the curb next to her. “I’m really sorry your bike is busted. You know, the same thing happened to my bike when I was a kid. But guess what – I’ll bet your uncle can fix it at his shop. What do you say we go there after lunch and see what he can do?” “We can really go see Uncle Q, Daddy? Do you think he can fix it today?”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “If anybody can fix it today, it would be your uncle. And hey, maybe you could help your mom out in the kitchen while we’re waiting,” said her dad. BJ gave him a big hug and rushed off to give her mom a hand with lunch. “Hey Mom! Dad said we could go to see Uncle Q after lunch and maybe he could fix my bike!” said BJ as she ran into the kitchen. “That sounds like a great idea to me, sweetie. Here, can you give me a hand with these sandwiches?” “Sure,” BJ paused. “Mom, I’m kind of nervous about school starting. I don’t know anyone at this new school.” “I’m sure you’ll meet lots of kids, BJ. In fact, I bet you’ll meet a whole classroom full of kids, on your very first day!” her mom said with a wink. “I know.” BJ smiled a little bit, in spite of herself. “I just wish I knew somebody before I get there.” “Yeah, I know what you mean,” replied her mom with a sigh. She put her arm around BJ and gave her a squeeze. “Moving to a new place is kinda hard, isn’t it? I miss my friends too, you know. But I promise, we’ll all make lots of new friends very, very soon. In fact, I think I saw some kids’ bikes in the driveway of the house right
next door. Maybe someone your age lives there. What do you think about going over there with me to say hi later?” “OK, but first I want to go to Uncle Q’s shop. I’m going to find that popcorn machine this time for sure!” The front door slammed loudly, and two seconds later, JB burst into the room, crashing into BJ with a loud “Oops – sorry!” “It’s OK,” BJ replied. “I’m used to it.” BJ looked at her little sister and had to laugh a little, in spite of her own moody feelings. Here was the one familiar face she could always count on seeing at school, whether she wanted to or not. Fortunately, she usually wanted to. She took a closer look. JB’s light brown hair was in pigtails that stuck out from the sides of her head, as usual, and today they were sort of crooked from all the bike riding. Her eyes were sparkly and inquisitive, and her mouth was almost always moving. She bounced a lot, and tended to run around corners with her eyes shut. But even though she could be annoying sometimes, she was really BJ’s best friend in the world. “Can I come see Uncle Q too?” she asked. “Of course, munchkin!” answered her mom. “But please try not to break anything this time, ok?”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “Oh mom, I always try not to break things. It just sorta happens sometimes,” protested JB. “I know, but please try extra much this time, alright? Now go wash up for lunch, girls.” While she was washing her hands, BJ looked at her own reflection in the bathroom mirror. She was taller than her sister, and her hair was pretty much the same color, only not in pig tails. Those always made her hair hurt, so she just let it hang freely around her shoulders. BJ opened her mouth to see if her loose tooth was any looser than the last time she checked. It wasn’t. With a sigh, she dried her hands and followed JB to the dining room, where they ate their lunches surrounded by moving boxes. The ride to Uncle Q’s shop was short, and the girls shouted when they saw the big orange and blue and purple sign. “OK, here we are, peanuts,” said their dad from the front seat of the family van. “Are you girls ready to see Uncle Q?” “Yeah!” Both BJ and JB cheered from the backseat. “Alright – you go ahead inside while I get BJ’s bike out of the back. I’ll be right behind you.” He chuckled affectionately as his two daughters scampered through the front door.
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
Chapter 2: The Emporium Uncle Q owned a small curiosity shop called The Emporium. It was only open every other Thursday, and by special arrangement at other times. Walking into the shop was like entering another world. The doorway was strung with wooden beads carved to look like strange animals. The walls were full of mirrors, but not the neat, straight and orderly mirrors you might find in some shops. No, these mirrors were set at all different angles and they reflected strangely. Some of them seemed to reflect things that weren’t even in the room, while others were not able to reflect much at all. The shelves were full of colored glass bottles, shiny tin boxes and lamps of all types. Musty old books, full of magical stories and delicate drawings, were everywhere. Carved stone figurines rested against ancient and 7
mysterious leather bags that made you sneeze if you got too close. There were drawers full of colored jewels, while fanciful models of impossible flying machines swung from the ceiling and flapped their many wings. Beautiful music boxes, little rubber toys and the most elegant dolls… and far too many other things to mention. The shop always smelled like popcorn. For that matter, so did Uncle Q, and BJ could never quite figure out if the shop made him smell like that or if it was the other way around. She never saw or even heard a popcorn popper, probably because every time she started looking for one, she got distracted by some marvelous machine or enchanting trinket. She couldn’t wait to go visit. Walking in to their uncle’s shop was a nearly overwhelming experience. Cuckoo clocks ticked, chimed and coo’ed, while colored lights danced and splashed across more than fifty-eight mirrors (JB tried to count them once and stopped at 58). The ever-present and entirely delicious popcorn smell swirled around and around and made you feel dizzy and hungry and full all at the same time. It took a whole minute for BJ and JB’s eyes to get adjusted to the lights, and another minute for their brains to speed up enough to understand what their eyes were telling them.
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
“Uncle Q? Uncle Q? It’s us! Are you here?” A voice from the back of the store answered. “Girls! How dee-lightful to have you in town! I am back here… no, wait, now I’m over there… oh, okay, I’m here again. Quick, come find me before I move around anymore. Whoa, oops… oof… I’m alright, I’m alright, don’t… uf… don’t worry. I’ll be down in a moment, I’m sure. Oh boy!” The girls ran towards the place where his voice seemed to be coming from, laughing and trying not to knock anything breakable off the crowded shelves. They ducked around an enormous statue of three penguins and a monkey, each standing on each other’s heads, and were rewarded by the sight of their uncle at work. Uncle Q was the strangest looking grown-up the Boomer sisters had ever seen. Today, he wore a rumpled and wrinkled shirt with sideways stripes and no collar. His green-lensed eyeglasses were triangle shaped (one pointed up, one pointed down), while his hat seemed to have no shape at all. He wore cowboy boots just like always, along with his usual brown vest with about a hundred pockets all over it. At the moment, he was perched atop the tallest stilts in the shop. He teetered and swayed precariously in every direction as his hands shot out to gently grab the flying
Meet The Boomer Sisters! machines which dangled by strings from the ceiling. It seemed he would crash to the floor at any second. “It’s time to wind up my wingers, don’t you know,” he said to the girls from his wobbly position near the ceiling. “What good is an unwound winger, I always say. I wonder if I can reach that one waaaaaaay over there…” He suddenly let go of both stilts entirely and reached out with both hands towards a rainbow-colored, three winged little bird-shaped machine that was clearly too far away. With a sudden loud “Yip!” he jumped off the stilts, grabbed the winger for just a second, gave it a quick twist and let it go, then continued to jump right over the girls’ heads. He landed with a thump behind them, and the winger flew in a flappy, happy little circle overhead. “My brother!” Uncle Q exclaimed. “It is deelightful to see you, Zeke! Welcome to my little shop - we have so much catching up to do.” The girls turned around in time to see their uncle give their dad a hug. Then he turned around towards them and bent down. “And my nieces – come give me a big hug! How was the trip from Virginia? Are you enjoying your new house? What do you think of our little town?” He suddenly became very serious and put his face right in front of BJ’s.
“And your bike – how bad is it, I wonder? When your dad called, it sounded like it got really very much a lot broken. I’m just glad it wasn’t really very much a super lot broken, because that would have been bad news indeed. Let’s go have a look, shall we?” The truth is, BJ had almost forgotten about the damaged bike in all the excitement. Somehow, standing here in the shop and looking into her uncle’s green eyeglasses, the broken bike didn’t make her feel sad anymore. “Well, let’s see what we have here,” said Uncle Q, bending over and staring at the broken bike. “Oh dear. It looks like an elephant needed a place to sit while he tied his shoes and he decided your bike was just the place. See here, the flimmer is bent, the ranter is jammed and the airholder-tube has a hole in it. Your dad was right – this is really very much a lot broken. But as I said, at least it isn’t really very much a super lot broken. That would be bad.” He stood up straight, turned to face BJ and grinned an enormous grin. “I can fix this!” he announced triumphantly, bringing a small squeal of happiness from BJ. “I’ll bring it right over to your house this afternoon, better than new.” He paused for a moment, then whispered “Do you mind if I
Meet The Boomer Sisters! make a few, um, little changes to the bike? Nothing big, of course, just a few decorations or something. Would that be alright?” “Sure, Uncle Q!” replied BJ. “Dee-lightful! OK, I know you all have some unpacking to do, and I’ve got a bike to fix, so off you go. I’ll bring it over in an hour.” With that, Uncle Q spun around three times, picked up the bike in one hand and marched to the back of his shop. Almost immediately there was a tremendous sound of hammers hammering and saws sawing and squeaky things going squeak-squeak-squeak. BJ’s dad looked a little nervous for a minute, then shrugged his shoulders and said “Ok girls, let’s get home and unpack some boxes.”
Chapter 3: Cookies, New Kids & Wings About an hour later, BJ was in her room putting some books onto her bookshelf when the doorbell rang. She jumped up right away and ran to the front door, shouting “Uncle Q! Uncle Q! Is my bike fixed?” But Uncle Q was not at the front door. Instead, there were two boys and a girl standing on the other side of the screen. “Oh, I thought you were someone else. Sorry,” she said, then suddenly remembered her manners. “Um, hi, my name is BJ.” She opened the door and invited the kids inside. “Hi, I’m Sebby,” said the tallest boy, who seemed to be a little older than BJ. “This is my brother Sal and my sister Bella.”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! JB came out of her room and said “Isn’t Sal a girl’s name?” “Well, my real name is Salvatore,” he answered, “But everyone calls me Sal, so it’s actually a boy’s name. What’s your name?” “I’m JB. Do you guys live near here?” “Yeah, we live right next door. Our mom said we should come over and say hi and see if you wanted to go ride bikes or something.” “Well, my bike got broken, but our uncle is fixing it for me,” BJ added. “He should be here soon, I think.” “Ok. We brought you these, too.” Bella held out a plate of cookies, which JB quickly took with a big smile. “I’m in first grade.” “Cool. I’m in fourth, and JB is in third,” said BJ. “Hey, I’m in third, too,” said Sal. “Who’s your teacher?” JB asked. “Miss Van Essa.” “Me too! Do you know her? Is she nice? Is she tough? What does she look like?” “Um…” said Sal, as JB continued to ask a hundred more questions. “JB, I think that’s enough questions for now,” BJ said.
“OK,” JB answered, then yelled “Hey mom, some kids are here and they brought cookies! Can I have one now?” “Please come here,” replied her mom from behind some boxes in the living room. “Yes, you may have a cookie, but next time, please don’t yell like that. Come find me, then ask your question. Why don’t you take them into the kitchen and get some milk to go with them?” As the kids scampered off to the kitchen, their mom said, “And bring me some too please!” The kids ate the cookies and had a burping contest. Uncle Q showed up just as JB won with a huge, hairy sounding burp. He peaked around the corner and startled everyone when he said “Oh boy, cookies and new kids!” “Uncle Q! Is my bike ready?” asked BJ as she gave him a big hug. “Yes it is, but I think you should probably introduce me to your new friends before we dash off to see it.” “Right, sorry. Uncle Q, this is Sebby and Sal and Bella.” “Dee-lightful to meet you all. I am sure BJ mentioned her broken bike already. Would you like to see what I’ve done?” He turned to BJ. “I should warn you, I maybe got a little carried away with the decorations. And I
Meet The Boomer Sisters! sort of used a lot of buttons and knobs and wires, so I had to add some batteries. And the wings took a little longer to attach than I expected, but they should be strong enough to keep you in the air for a while. Just don’t fly too close to the sun, ok?” “Wings?!!?!?” shouted BJ. “Are you just teasing me, Uncle Q? Will the bike really fly?” “Well, I haven’t quite tested it myself, because I’m a bit heavier than you are, so I don’t know for certain, but… yes, I do think it should fly a bit.” “What’s this about flying?” BJ’s mom asked as she walked into the kitchen with her empty milk glass. JB was already running full speed out of the room and she kind of crashed into her mom, who caught her at the last minute. “Careful kiddo – mom coming through.” “Ah, hello Kay,” Uncle Q said to Mrs. Boomer as he gave her a kiss hello. “How’s my favorite sister? I was just telling BJ about the improvements I made to her bicycle.” “You made it so it can fly?” she asked. “Now that you mention it, maybe fly is not quite the right word. I think it will be more like gliding than flying, but yes, it should be able to get off the ground a bit. You see, the forward momentum caused by the pedals will
produce a sufficient differential in air pressure across the wing surfaces to generate a modicum of lift. Of course, once she gets off the ground, the wheels will no longer provide the forward thrust, so friction will cause her to slow down and return to earth, where the whole cycle will begin again… no pun intended.” The kids all gave him confused looks, so he knelt down and explained “If BJ pedals fast enough, the wings will lift her off the ground a little bit. Unless it’s windy, in which case she might get quite high” “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” Mrs. Boomer said with a smile. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go take a look!” The room was suddenly full of sound and movement as all five kids and both grown-ups scrambled to be the first to see the bike. They bumped and giggled and raced to the front door. JB crashed into everyone, and somehow BJ got there first. She stood frozen in the doorway, unable to talk or move as she stared at the contraption waiting for her on the front lawn. JB was right behind her and couldn’t stop running in time, so she crashed into BJ’s back, but neither girl minded. Their mom got there next, and gasped in surprise at the sight.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! The first thing everyone noticed was the wings, of course. They were delicate and lacy, like a butterfly, but there was also something solid about them. BJ was sure they were very, very strong. The wing’s colors changed constantly, in response to the flashing lights that circled each tire. The handlebars were full of buttons and dials, and a large bell was attached to the front fender. There was a saddle bag on each side of the rear wheel, and the pink and purple helmet resting on the wheel looked like something a motorcycle girl would wear. “Oh, my. It certainly is… different,” said BJ’s mom.
“Don’t worry, Kay. BJ is a smart girl and she’ll handle this bicycle just fine, I’m sure.” Then he turned to BJ and said “Won’t you?” “Oh yes, I promise. Can I ride it now?” BJ asked. “Of course you can! It’s your bike, right?” “Uncle Q, can you put wings on my bike too?” asked JB, unable to look away from her sister’s bike. “I don’t see why not! Unfortunately, I have to take a little trip soon, so it will have to wait until I return. But for now, I’m sure your sister will be happy to share.” Everyone was outside now, crowding around the winged bicycle, touching the lights and pushing the buttons. BJ was already strapping her helmet on, and when she put the visor down and sat on the seat, she looked like a beautiful butterfly or a fairy or maybe a butterfly fairy. “Is this flying bike dangerous?” asked BJ. “Oh my, of course it is! Quite, quite dangerous indeed. But if people were meant to be safe, why is the world so full of such wonderful dangers? All this modern emphasis on being safe and healthy is quite dangerous and unhealthy, don't you know.” “Um, I don’t think I really want to fly right now,” she said after a pause. “Maybe I’ll just ride it a little.”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “That’s ok too,” said Uncle Q. “As I said, it’s your bike, and if you don’t want to fly, that’s your decision. As long as you don’t pedal too fast, you should stay on the ground.” BJ eased forward slowly on her bike. Then she stopped. Then she made it go forward just a little bit more. And then she stopped again. “Is it too heavy, BJ?” asked her mom. “It doesn’t seem to move very much.” “No mom, it’s not too heavy. It actually feels lighter than before. I just don’t want to go too fast and take off into the air by accident.” “Then can I try it?” asked JB. “And can I?” asked Sebby, Sal and Bella all at once. “I think we should let BJ be the first to fly it, and since she’s not quite ready to do so, perhaps we should go back into the kitchen for some more of those dee-lightful cookies.” As everyone ran back inside, BJ reached out to hold Uncle Q’s hand. “Thanks for fixing my bike, Uncle Q. It’s really pretty, but…” “Yes?” he paused.
“But… um… do you think you could maybe take the wings off? I just want a bike I can ride, and I don’t really want to fly around.” “Of course!” he replied with a big grin. “Flying isn’t for everyone, you know. But after I take them off, I’ll leave the wings in your garage, just in case you change your mind someday.” “Thanks, Uncle Q. Race ya to the cookies!”
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
Chapter 4: The Non-Secret of PIFL It was the night before the first day of school, and BJ was still a little bit nervous about starting fourth grade. She never had a man teacher before, and she hoped he would be nice. As the girls were laying out their brand new firstday-of-school clothes for the next morning, there was a knock on the front door. Then their mom called to them. “Girls, come downstairs, please! Your Uncle is here and he wants to talk with you before you go to school tomorrow!” “Yay!” JB threw her new dress over her shoulder and started running towards the door. Unfortunately, BJ
was already in between her and the door, so she sort of tripped and crashed into her older sister. “Oooff! Sorry…” she said. “It’s ok, I’m used to it,” said BJ with a sigh. The girls managed to get downstairs without any more crashes or bangs, and found their parents and uncle sitting at the kitchen table. “Please sit down, girls. There’s something important we need to tell you,” said their dad. “Q, why don’t you start.” “Gladly!” he replied. “Girls, what we are about to tell you is not a secret at all. Feel free to tell whomever you’d like to tell - we won’t mind one bit. I should warn you, however, that most grown-ups won’t believe you. They usually don’t believe me when I tell them, although perhaps you will have more luck in that department.” He grinned and winked at them “Here it is. Your parents and I are members of a group called the Precarious and Impulsive Fellowship of Liveliness, or PIFL for short. Our mission is to encourage aliveness, and we are constantly struggling against a nasty group called The Timid Good.” He stopped for a moment, to see if the girls understood.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “We believe the TG is led by a shady, mean guy called The Little Gray Man, but he may or may not actually exist. You see, unlike PIFL, the TG is an extremely secret organization. It’s so secret, in fact, that many TG members don’t even know they are in the group!” “So the TG people are the bad guys, right Uncle Q?” asked JB. “Well, that is a difficult question to answer. Or rather, it is an easy one to answer but the answer itself might be difficult to understand. That is, I can easily answer your question either clearly or correctly, but to answer it both correctly and clearly is not easy. Still, I will do my best. “On one hand, members of the Timid Good are not exactly trying to hurt anyone, and in that sense they could be considered, at the very least, not bad. But they do hurt people, oh yes, even including themselves. Their actions are often quite bad indeed. “So, are they bad people, you ask? Well, yes and no. It sort of depends on what you mean by bad. They never rob banks or punch people in the nose. In fact, they hardly ever even yell. No, the things they steal are worth much more than money, which makes their crime all the worse. They steal people’s peace. They kill joy. They try to tie up
love and put it in a box. And they do it all in the name of goodness and correctness – especially correctness” He shook his head sadly “So why are they called good if they do so much bad stuff?” asked JB. “Ah, that is a big mystery, isn’t it? Their name comes from the fact that they appear to be good and respectable. On the outside they are all fake politeness and pretend niceness, but on the inside, well… inside, they are quite rotten and empty.
“The thing is,” said their mom, “the TG is all about being in control and doing things the right way, which they call The Correct Way, without ever asking if they are doing
Meet The Boomer Sisters! the right thing. I hope you see how it is better to do the right thing, however badly, than to do something bad, even if you are very good at it.” “Like if someone is really good at hitting people, they still shouldn’t do it, right?” asked BJ, looking at her sister. “Exactly!” said their dad. “Um, why are you telling us all this stuff?” asked JB. “Well, we have reason to believe the Timid Good is trying to do something at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School, where you will be tomorrow morning. We don’t know for sure what they will try to do, but what ever it is, it will be bad, and some people will try to call it good and Correct. So we want you to keep an eye out, and let us know if anything unusual happens.” “Like what?” asked JB again. “We don’t know,” said her dad with a chuckle. “That’s part of the problem. The TG is very secretive, as we said, so we were lucky to find out they were going to do something at your school in the first place.” “Oh.” Neither girl knew what to say about that, and BJ was feeling even more nervous than ever.
“But there’s no need to be nervous,” said her mom, as if she could read BJ’s thoughts. “It turns out JB’s teacher Miss Van Essa is a PIFL member too, and she will be keeping an eye on both of you. You can go to her if you need any help.” “Can kids join the piffler group?” asked JB. “I want to join, I want to join!” “Ah, that’s a very interesting question,” said Uncle Q with a wink. “Strictly speaking, no you cannot. But that is only because kids are naturally rather PIFL-ish already. Kids don’t need to join PIFL, because in one sense, they are already members. It is only grown-ups who need to be told it is good to be precarious and impulsive.” “But there is another reason,” said her dad. “The decision to join PIFL is a grown-up decision. It’s sort of like driving a car. You have to wait until your legs are long enough to reach the pedals… and you also have to wait until your insides are mature enough to handle the car.” “Right,” said her mom. “If you start driving before your insides are ready, you could get really hurt, or you could hurt the people around you. And there are enough grown-ups having car accidents as it is.” “So, being in PIFL is sorta dangerous?” asked BJ with a little shudder.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “Yes. Yes it is,” said Uncle Q in a serious tone. He quickly burst into a smile as he said, “But of course, being dangerous is the only way to be safe. Trying to be safe all the time is actually quite dangerous. That’s one of the ways the Timid Good cause so much damage. They insist on tight controls on everything, in the name of safety but at the expense of liveliness.” “I think you’re confusing her now, Q” said Mrs. Boomer, seeing the puzzled looks on the faces of both her daughters. “Ah, I probably am, Kay. My apologies, girls, but perhaps your confusion helps you understand why you cannot be members of PIFL just yet. And besides, we’re really quite off the subject, aren’t we? I believe we were talking about the situation at the school.” He turned to their dad. “Zeke, did we cover everything?” “I think so,” replied Dad. “You girls know that PIFL will keep an eye on you, and I must say, it would be rather unlike the Timid Good to try anything very sudden, obvious or significant right away. They usually move pretty slowly. I think we probably have some time.” As it turns out, the girls and the PIFL group wouldn’t have to wait long at all to find out what the Timid Good was up to.
Chapter 5: Theodore Roosevelt Elementary Theodore Roosevelt Elementary was a nice looking school. The walls were red brick and the inside smelled very much like the school they used to go to. This year, BJ’s teacher was a man named Mr. Federico, and JB’s teacher was named Miss Van Essa. BJ and JB climbed out of the bus and headed towards the school’s big front door. There was a grownup holding the door open for them, and they went right inside. BJ’s class was at the end of the long hallway, while JB’s was around the corner, just across from the library BJ found the door to her classroom, took a deep breath, and walked in. There was her teacher, right up front. He was sort of short, with a big bushy mustache, darkish
Meet The Boomer Sisters! tan skin and a very nice smile. His voice was gentle and warm as he invited BJ to take a seat. “Welcome to fourth grade, everyone! My name is Mr. Federico, and I am looking forward to getting to know each of you this year. Fourth grade is a very important year, and we’ve got a lot of learning to do. Let’s start by learning a little bit about each other while I take attendance. When I call your name, please raise your hand and tell everyone what your favorite color is. Brian Bard?” A boy with dark hair and lots of freckles raised his hand and said, “Blue.” “Bethany Boomer?” “Pink. And I go by BJ, please.” “OK, I’ll make a note of it. Emma Carlson?” “Red,” said a pretty girl with bright red hair in the chair next to BJ. So far, everything seemed good, BJ thought as she sat back with a quiet sigh. Maybe today will be just fine. Once attendance and colors was finished, the boy named Brian Bard raised his hand again. “What are you going to teach us this year?” he asked “Teach you?” replied Mr. Federico in a surprised sounding voice. “Why, I’m not sure I’ll teach anyone
anything at all, although I do hope you learn a lot in our time together. The thing is, most things worth learning cannot be taught, you know.” This certainly got the kids attention. “Well, what about reading?” asked Emma, her red hair swirling as she bounced up and down. “Knowing how to read is worth knowing, isn't it?" “Of course, of course! You really are very smart already, aren’t you? Yes, reading is important, and it's something your parents and teachers can show you how to do. But here's a secret – your parents and teachers don't really want to teach you how to read.” BJ gasped, and several other students looked around confusedly. “No,” Mr. Federico continued with a grin, "We want to teach you to love to read. That’s what really matters, and sadly, we can't actually teach you that. Nobody can. All we can do is teach you how to read, and hope you will learn to love it on your own. And knowing how to read isn't worth much if you have not also learned to love reading.” “So does that mean we don’t have to learn anything this year? Ha!” asked Emma with a loud laugh. “In a way, yes. You don’t actually have to learn anything. Of course, if you don’t learn certain things, you’ll
Meet The Boomer Sisters! be back here in fourth grade again next year, to try again. And I do hope you all learn lots of fun things, but mostly…” he paused and looked around the room, “I hope you learn to love learning.” “And speaking of learning and reading, we’ll be going to the library this afternoon. I am told the new librarian has a big surprise for everyone, but I don’t know what the surprise is yet myself, so it’s no use asking me. But first, it’s time for math.” BJ was good at math. Actually, she was very good at it, or as Uncle Q always said, super-very-a-whole-lot good. At her old school, in third grade, she even sort of liked math sometimes. But she still felt a little nervous as she pulled a thick math book out of her desk and turned to page 1 as Mr. Federico started the lesson. Meanwhile, JB was trying to peak into the library before she went into her class room, but the door was locked and the glass had been painted over, so she couldn’t see anything. She turned around with a little huff and went into her room. Miss Van Essa was tall and kind of skinny. Her hair was short, spiky and looked a little bit purple in the sunlight that was streaming through the big windows. Her shirt had splashes of color all over it, and her smile was enormous.
JB liked her right away and was happily surprised to see a guitar propped up in the corner behind the teacher’s desk. It was an electric guitar, not a regular one, and it looked like she played it a lot. “Hey third graders! Who likes to have fun?” she asked, as every kid’s hand shot up into the air. “Yay! Me too. I think we’re going to have a groovy time together,” she continued. “Quick, everyone grab a seat and lemme do this silly attendance thing really quick, and then we’ll get ready to head over to the library. OK, who’s Jenna Boomer?” JB didn’t respond at first, since she wasn’t used to being called Jenna. Usually everyone just called her JB, but the room got quiet as everyone waited and suddenly it clicked in JB’s brain that they were waiting for her. “Ooh, right, that’s me. I’m Jenna. But everyone calls me JB,” she said quickly, as Miss Van Essa chuckled. “Alright, JB it is. Now somebody show me Michael Durkee?” “That’s me. Everyone calls me Mikey.” “Well, hi there Mikey. That’s my brother’s name too. How about Franky Eggs?”
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
“I’m Franky.” “Nice to meet ya, Franky Eggs. Where’s Salvatore Nealson?” Sal raised his hand and JB gave him a little wave. The rest of attendance went by quickly, and then Miss Van Essa grabbed her guitar and jumped up on her desk. Her guitar was plugged into a small speaker next to her desk, and the volume was turned w-a-y up. The song she sang went something like this: Oh, library time is comin’ soon Yeah, library time is comin’ We’ll learn about the sun or moon Or how to do some drummin’ I hope you find some books you like ‘cause books are really groovy You’ll read about a flying bike Or how to make a movie-eeeeeeeeeeeeeee. When her song was done, Miss Van Essa jumped off the desk, kicked her heels up in the air and made a little squeaky squealy sound before she landed.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “Whoa! Now that’s what I call quite good,” she said as she caught her breath. “But I’ve gotta keep my songs kinda short, otherwise we’ll disturb the other classes too much, and that wouldn’t be nice, right? OK music lovers, let’s think for a minute then step outside and see what the Librarian has in store for us this year. Hey, does anyone know what a housemartin is?” Franky Eggs raised his hand for a moment, then blurted out “It’s a kind of bird, right?” “Uh-huh, it is. Good job! OK, everyone line up, please. Off we go!”
Chapter 6: How Not To Be So Excited Miss Van Essa led her class across the hallway to the library, which still looked sort of dark inside. She paused outside the door and quietly addressed the class. “OK kids, I expect everyone to behave in here… and I also expect you to have fun and find some totally cool books.” She smiled broadly and opened the library door. JB had never heard a teacher say the word cool before, and had certainly never been told that having fun was part of the teacher’s expectation for the school day. The class buzzed with excitement as they entered the library, so only a few of them heard Miss Van Essa’s surprised little gasp.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! The library shelves were completely bare. There wasn’t a single book to be seen anywhere. No stories, no encyclopedia, no picture books, no big books and no small ones. Just a whole lot of empty shelves. The excited buzz from moments before quickly became a worried sounding murmur, full of questions. Even Miss Van Essa looked a little concerned. “I am Mister Winstesterfield-Schmytherston, children, and I am the new librarian.” This voice, which was barely a whisper, managed to echo weirdly across the empty room. It came from a man in a gray suit who seemed to have entered the library without anyone noticing. His hair and skin and eyes were all nearly the same color as his clothes, a yellowish gray that reminded JB of very, very, very old milk. For some unimaginable reason, the walls of the library were painted the same color as well, which made it kind of hard to see him unless he moved. JB felt a little bit dizzy, and not in the good way. “I want each of you children to be seated quietly in one of these chairs right here,” he droned, “and then once you are each seated in one of these chairs right here, I will tell the class what shall happen next. Miss Van Essa, you may leave now. I will take it from here.”
Miss Van Essa gave one last worried look around the empty library as she slowly walked out. JB watched her go, then took a seat next to Sal, who looked expectant but slightly concerned now that Miss Van Essa was gone. “Some of you children may have noticed that the shelves of this library are bare of their usual occupants. This should not cause any worry or concern for any of you children. The new library books I ordered have arrived,” whispered Mr. Winstesterfield-Schmytherston. “They are in boxes outside, and today you children will help carry them in to the library and will place them on the library shelves during your library time.” There was a moment of silence as the kids realized what he’d said. This did not sound like much fun at all. “Now, the boxes of new books for the library are quite heavy, so each child shall take just two books out of the box at a time, one for each hand, and carry them inside and put them neatly and straightly and quietly on the shelf. Then each child shall go outside again and pick up two more books. I assume there are no questions.” JB raised her hand. “Yes?” the gray librarian asked in a way that clearly indicated he did not want any questions. He stared at her
Meet The Boomer Sisters! with watery gray eyes that made JB want to yawn, as if there suddenly wasn’t enough air in the room. “How will we know where each book goes?” she managed to say without yawning. “Please do not ask such silly questions, little child. Questions such as these waste time which should be spent carrying books from outside into the library. I have already told you that the books go on the shelves. All the books are the same, so any shelf will do. Just start with this shelf,” he pointed, “and work from left to right. Now please stand up and follow me, children.” He began a slow, shuffling walk towards the door.
“What do you think he meant when he said all the books are the same?” JB asked Sal as they walked towards the door. He shrugged. Once outside, the class saw an enormous stack of boxes spread out all over the playground. “How are we going to have recess with all these boxes everywhere?” JB wondered to herself. “As soon as these books are moved indoors to the library, your ordinary recess activities will resume. Until that time, recesses will be spent carrying books from outside into the inside of the library and onto the shelves. So, work quickly, but remember, only two at a time, and no running.” “Oh, this is going to take forever,” moaned Sal. “We’re not going to have a real recess for a week!” All the boxes were still taped shut, and Mr. Winstesterfield-Schmytherston began to slowly and carefully cut the tape on one of them. After what seemed like an hour, he finished cutting one piece of tape. He opened the box and handed two books to Sal, then handed two to JB. “Move along,” he slowly whispered, barely audible over the light September breeze. “We must be quick. No running now.”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! Once the kids were inside, JB noticed the books in Sal’s hands were identical to the books she was carrying. “Sal – look! These books really are all the same.” “How Not To Be So Excited, by Dr. Noke Andoo, PhD, EdD and Dr. Bea Kwiat, MD, PBJ, NoPq” Sal read. “What a weird title. Why would there be four copies, I wonder.” “Um, I think there’s more than four,” said a boy named Gregory who had just arrived, carrying two more copies of the same book. “I looked in the box, and they are all the same, just like Mr. Whiskey-Smelly said.” The kids stared at each other for a moment, then turned to see four more kids enter the library, each carrying two copies of How Not To Be So Excited. “I don’t think that’s his name. It was something like Winkster-Shicklepon,” said Sal. JB giggled. With tired sighs, each kid put a book on the shelf and started walking back to what used to be the playground. Before JB reached the library door, she quickly ran back to the shelf and turned one of the books upside down. “Why did you do that?” asked Sal. “I don’t know. Just for fun, I suppose.”
“When they got outside, they saw the first box was only half empty. After two more trips, it was entirely empty, and the Librarian was slowly trying to open a second box, while all the kids were standing around watching him. By the end of library time, they had emptied only three boxes. This was going to take a very, very long time.
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
Chapter 7: The PIFL Council BJ and JB were tucked in their beds, with their teeth brushed and the lights out. For some reason, neither could fall asleep right away, and they began talking about the strange events in the library. BJ’s class had only emptied two boxes of books that afternoon, and the pile on the playground seemed to actually be getting larger. “Do you think Mister Whiskerton-Soupsoup is in the Timid Good?” asked JB. “Maybe he’s even the Little Gray Man,” replied BJ, with a nervous giggle. “I wonder what his plan is,” said JB. “Duh! His plan is to take all the books out of the library and make us work like crazy to put that other ‘Don’t get excited’ book on all the shelves,” replied BJ. 45
“Yeah, but I wonder if there’s more to it than that. I mean, most of the kids didn’t read the books that used to be in the library, and Mom and Dad can always take us to the public library to get good books, so what’s the big deal?” “What’s the big deal? I’m surprised to hear you ask that, JB. If Mr. Something- Something-Something takes all the books out of the school library, then… wait. What’s that sound?” The Boomer girls suddenly became aware of voices coming from downstairs. BJ slipped out of bed and tip-toed over to the door. “That sounds like Uncle Q,” she whispered to her sister, who had joined her in the doorway. “Yeah, and it sounds like my teacher too. I wonder what Miss Van Essa is doing here…” Slowly, BJ eased the door open, hoping it wouldn’t squeak and give them away. Both girls crept silently to the top of the stairs, so they could listen in on the grown-ups’ conversation without being seen. Uncle Q was talking now, and his voice was quite clear. The delicious smell of fresh popcorn drifted up the stairs. “So,” they heard him say, “I was watching the boring news the other day, which is something only grownups like to do, and there was a boring story about
Meet The Boomer Sisters! something boring, and BJ and JB should come down from the top of the stairs now, instead of sitting up there listening like spies.” The other grown-ups laughed. “How did he know we were here?” asked JB in a whisper. “Your uncle knows all sorts of things,” answered their dad, “and you don’t need to whisper. Come on down, please. I think we’d like to speak with you.” The girls sheepishly came down the stairs and into the dining room. Sure enough, there was Uncle Q, wearing his green triangle glasses and shapeless hat. Miss Van Essa, whose hair seemed even more purple than usual, was there too, along with a few other grown-ups the girls didn’t recognize. “Is this a PIFL meeting?” asked JB. “Indeed!” said Uncle Q with an enormous grin. “And we were just discussing the situation at the school library. JB knows Miss Van Essa, of course, and perhaps you have met Mr. Feaser, from the public library down the street? This is Mr. Woodbury Kane, from the grocery store, Mr. Hamilton Fish from the fire department, and Mrs. Dixie Arbuckle, who is a hairdresser at the mall. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce my beautiful and talented nieces, BJ and JB Boomer.”
Miss Van Essa smiled, Mr. Fish clapped and Mr. Kane waved with both arms. The girls smiled back, and JB started to clap too. “PIFL has many more members than just us, of course. Tonight is just a meeting of some of the leaders,” explained Mr. Boomer. “I think you might as well join us for a while, since our discussion this evening is going to be about the situation at the school,” said their mom. “Yay, we get to stay up!” said JB with a big grin and a few more claps. “Well, I suppose we should start by admitting the Timid Good surprised us,” said Uncle Q. “I certainly didn’t expect them to try something so bold. Personally, I thought they might try to get a TG teacher in one of the classrooms or on the school board, but they ended up doing something much worse.” “Yes,” continued Mr. Kane, the grocery store guy. “A teacher would have been bad enough, but at least then it would have been limited to a single class. The Librarian deals with every single kid in the whole school! This is quite serious,” he finished, with a big smile. “I agree. I mean, I’ve got some books in my classroom,” added Miss Van Essa, “but not enough. I really
Meet The Boomer Sisters! rely on the school library.” She turned to JB. “While you guys were in library time this morning, I went around and talked with some of the other teachers. None of them knew this was coming, and nobody knows where the real books are.” “Well, I guess the question is, what can we do about it?” asked Mr. Fish the fire fighter, who was trying to balance a crayon on the tip of his rather large nose. “Ah, what indeed? I have some suggestions, if you’d like to hear them,” replied Uncle Q. Everyone nodded, except for Mr. Fish, who had ducked beneath the table to retrieve the crayon which somehow managed to slip off his huge nose. “Ok, here is what I think BJ and JB should do. First, talk to the other kids and find out who wants to help. It’s very important to find partners in a situation like this, and even if two kids could do it, that doesn’t mean the two of you should try to do it on your own. Get as many helpers as you can. Make it like a club, and come up with a good name.” “How about the Great Kids Club?” suggested BJ. “The GKC,” said her dad with a chuckle. “That’s perfect.”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “I like it,” added Miss Van Essa, who looked suddenly serious. Then, just as suddenly, she drummed a quick, happy beat on the table - bom-bom-bom-buda-budabom – and burst out in a giggle. “The next step will be to find out where the books are,” continued Uncle Q, once Miss Van Essa’s little drum solo was finished. “I don’t think your new librarian could have thrown them away or given them away already – I’ll bet they are still in the building somewhere. That will be a job for Miss Van Essa. And while she is looking, perhaps you girls could pass around a few of the books Mr. Feaser brought over from the public library.” Mr. Feaser leaned forward and pointed to a box in the corner. It looked awfully small and lonely compared to the hundreds of boxes that still littered the playground. “I could only spare a few, but fortunately it doesn’t take many. I promise you, the books in that one box are more powerful than the mountains of books the Timid Good has collected. “The great thing about books,” he continued, “is that they are sort of like ideas. You can share them without losing them, unlike most other things. See, if I have a dollar and you have a dollar, and if I give you mine and you give me yours, then we each still only have one dollar. But if I
have an idea and you have an idea, and I give you mine and you give me yours, then we both have two ideas. That’s what I mean by sharing without losing. Pretty cool, isn’t it?” “And that’s something the Timid Good doesn’t really understand,” added their dad. “They want to make everyone all have the same idea, and have everyone read the same book. That’s probably because they think dollars are more important than ideas or books.” “OK, so… what do we do when we find the missing books?” asked JB, who was certain the books would be found soon. “Well, read them, of course,” answered Mr. Fish, who was now trying to balance two crayons on his enormous nose with the help of Mr. Kane and Mrs. Arbuckle. “And share them. But I am pretty sure the new Timid librarian won’t like that, so you’ll have to be discrete.” The crayons fell to the floor again. “What does discrete mean?” asked JB. “It’s sorta like sneaky, I think,” said BJ. “Um, yes, something like that,” added her mom. “It’s like being careful and not showing off too much.” “And in the meantime,” spoke up her dad, “The PIFL team will do what we can to find out where Mr.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! Winstesterfield-Shmytherston came from and what else he might be up to. Miss Van Essa is going to try to organize some of the teachers, and I’m working on an idea or two of my own. But now, it’s definitely time for you girls to get to sleep. You’ve got a big day ahead of you, so off you go!”
Chapter 8: JB Gets An Idea The next morning, the girls got dressed in record time. JB ate two bowls of cereal so fast that her mom said she expected to see scorch marks on her spoon. BJ, on the other hand, didn’t have much of an appetite, and she just sort of dunked her Cheerios up and down in the milk. Then, it was time for the bus. “OK kiddos, I put some of Mr. Feaser’s books into your backpacks. Remember, be discrete, but don’t try to be too careful. Give something to everyone who asks for one – these are for everyone, right?” “We will,” replied BJ, while JB nodded, swallowed another mouthful of cereal and ran out the door to the bus.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! Quietly, the Boomer girls explained the plan to some kids on the bus. A few actually said they were glad the library had been emptied, but most of them were interested to hear about the Great Kids Club. BJ gave Ramona the Pest to a boy named Mikey, and JB handed a Cam Jansen book to a first grader named Liz. BJ kept a book titled The War Between The Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids for herself, and she managed to finish the first three chapters before the bus pulled in to the parking lot at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary. Once inside, the Boomer sisters quickly ran out of books. BJ had independent reading and writing for the first part of the school day, and she tried several times to write a note explaining about PIFL, the Timid Good and the Great Kids Club, but the whole thing was just too complicated and was taking too long, so she decided to make little GKC membership cards instead, to hand out to the other kids at recess. It always seemed like forever before recess time, and this day BJ felt that way even more. Once recess finally started, she tried to invite some kids to join the Great Kids Club. Red-haired Emma jumped up and down when she got her club card, and a few other kids liked it too. Her next door neighbor Sebby was at recess, and he took three cards
– one for himself and two for his brother and sister. Meanwhile, JB was making plans of her own. She wanted to find those missing books! JB liked Miss Speckle’s art class, and she regretted having to miss it. But, she knew that finding the missing books was more important than working on her painting of a panda eating bamboo shoots. So, she took a deep breath, paused for a second, then pointed the purple paint tube at her face and squeezed as hard as she could. The paint practically exploded out of the tube, sending purple globs flying through the air. Her hands, smock, pants, face and hair were completely covered in sticky purple goo. A drippy glob fell from her nose onto her left shoe, and she tried hard to look surprised. “Oh! Oh my! Oh my dear! Oh my dear girl!” squeaked Miss Speckle as she rushed over, a surprised and worried look on her face. “What happened?” “Um, I’m not sure, Miss Speckle. I was trying to squeeze out some purple and I guess too much came out?” answered JB as purple blobs continued to drip off her cheeks and chin. She knew she shouldn’t trick her teacher like this, but she really wanted to find those missing library books. She also knew Miss Speckle would never let her
Meet The Boomer Sisters! leave class without a good reason. Fortunately, now she had a very, very good reason. “Oh. Oh my. Well, it’s a very pretty color, isn’t it, but I think you should go to the restroom and clean up. I’ll give you a hall pass.” This was exactly what JB was hoping her teacher would say, and she gave Sal a wink. Then she skipped out the door, leaving a trail of purple splashes on the floor and a large smeary handprint on the door. “Oops!” she said as she disappeared into the hallway. “Sorry about the paint on the door!” Once in the girl’s bathroom, JB quickly washed off the bigger paint blobs from her face and hands. She still looked quite purple, and her hair almost matched Miss Van Essa’s, but at least most of the dripping had stopped. “Purple is strong,” said a voice behind her. JB spun around to see a large, wrinkled old woman with a mop and bucket standing near the door. “Um, I had an accident in art class,” she started to say, but the mop lady began laughing. “Sure and that don’t look like an accident to me, lassie. It looks like an idea.” The mop lady’s eyes twinkled as she laughed her gentle, friendly laugh. JB found herself laughing along.
“M’ name is Meeda, wee one, an’ I know all about accidents an’ ideas. I been cleanin’ up after both a whole long time, an’ I kin tell th’ dif’rence. What you got on your face there, it’s definitely an idea. Do ya want to tell old Meeda about it?” JB smiled bashfully as she wiped purple off her shoe. “Um, I needed to get out of class for a little while. I’m, uh, looking for something.” “Is it books you’re looking for?” asked Meeda, and JB looked up sharply. “How did you know?” “A lass with ideas like you, she can’t be happy ‘bout th’ new book in that library. A lass with ideas wants to read real books.” Meeda’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I know where they’ve got off to. I can show you where he took ‘em.” For a moment, JB’s purple mouth was hanging open in surprise and her eyes were open wide. Her heart was pounding loudly in her ears. “Really? You know where they are? Are they in the school somewhere?” “Yes, lassie. They’re in th’ basement… back in a dusty old storage area. If the books stay there much longer,
Meet The Boomer Sisters! they’ll begin to rot, so we’ve got to get them out soon. I’d bring ‘em back up stairs m’self, but these old bones can barely get Meeda up the stairs, let alone Meeda with an arm full of books. It’ll take someone young and strong like yourself, don’t you know.” “Great! Let’s go get ‘em right now!” “Well now, just how many books do you suppose you could carry at a time, me lass? An’ where are you going to put them, once you’ve brought them up? And how long do you suppose it’ll be before Miss Speckle wonders where you’ve got off to?” JB didn’t know what to say. Her mouth opened and closed a few times, as she tried to think. “Oh, don’t worry, old Meeda will take you there now, but we’ve got to be quick. You can grab a few books to take with you, and then make plans to come back later for the rest.” JB was surprised by how quickly Meeda could move, and she ran to keep up. Meeda led the way down a long hallway, to a part of the school JB had never been to before. She opened a door that led to a dusty staircase, with a bare bulb hanging overhead. Down the stairs they went, around a few corners, and then suddenly stopped in front of a door.
“It’s locked!” said JB as she tried unsuccessfully to twist the knob. “Do you have a key?” “I’m afraid not, my dear. ‘T wasn’t locked the last time I came down here. I wonder why it’s locked now…” she paused in thought a moment, then said “This is not a good sign – we’d better go.” JB, her face and hair still stained quite purple, returned to her art class and tried to sort things out in her head. On the one hand, she knew where the books were being kept, so that made her happy. But the door was locked, which made her frustrated. She wasn’t sure how she should feel. This was going to be harder than she thought.
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
Chapter 9: Back To The Emporium “What happened to your face?” asked BJ as her purple little sister boarded the school bus. “And your hair? And your clothes and shoes and everything…?” “It was just an idea I had,” answered JB. Her voice dropped to a whisper, “And it worked… well, sort of.” Quickly, she told BJ about art class and meeting Meeda and finding the locked door in the basement. “How do you know the books are really there? That lady could have been tricking you, you know,” said BJ when JB finished telling the story. “No way! I know she was telling the truth. The books are in that room – they have to be!”
“Alright, ok, I believe you,” BJ replied, mostly to get JB to calm down. “Here, I made you a GKC membership card.” “Oh, thanks!” “I made a whole bunch of them and gave them out at recess today. Or should I call it ‘book-carrying-time’? We only got one and a half boxes emptied today, and that’s fewer than we did yesterday! But at least we can still talk a little while we’re doing it. I miss real recess.” Once they got home, Mrs. Boomer listened attentively as JB explained what happened. She giggled a little bit every time she looked at JB’s purple face, even though she tried not to. “Ok, kids. Time to go see your Uncle and let him know what you’ve found out. Let’s go get in the car.” After a short drive the three Boomer ladies walked into The Emporium and paused to let their eyes and brains get adjusted. The familiar popcorn smell was there, and Uncle Q was standing behind the counter, holding an enormous envelope in his hands. It was made of fancy, cream colored paper that looked very expensive and silky. JB’s fingers twitched at her sides as she imagined holding it. The back was full of mysterious red symbols of lions and crowns and maybe some dragons. There were stripes
Meet The Boomer Sisters! pointing in all directions and words in some language neither girl could understand. He set it aside as the group approached. “Ah, hello! The looks on your faces tell me you’ve found something new, and judging by JB’s purple-ish-ness, I’ll bet it’s quite a story. Out with it now. What have you uncovered?” “JB knows where the books are,” blurted BJ, earning a sharp look from JB, who wanted to be the one to tell him. BJ closed her mouth and let JB explain the whole thing, starting with the purple paint and ending with the locked door. “Interesting,” said Uncle Q. “Most undeniably, deelightfully interesting. I wonder…” His voice trailed off as he thought. “Well, there’s only one way to find out… well, actually two ways… but I wonder…” He stopped talking entirely and gazed at the wingers as they flew their flappy, happy little circles overhead. “Um, Uncle Q, what do you wonder?” asked JB. “A great many things, my dear. In fact, I wonder a very super lot great many things. But just at this moment, I wonder why the books are in the basement, although I have a theory. I wonder why the door was open previously, but now is locked. I wonder who locked it. I wonder where the
Meet The Boomer Sisters! key is. I wonder how I can get there. But just before you came in, I wondered what was in this envelope. Would it be alright if I take a moment to open it?” “Sure!” JB and BJ called out together. With his nieces’ permission, Uncle Q turned his attention once again to the creamy, fancy envelope. He picked it up and turned it over in his hands several times. He smelled it, then put it to his ear as if it were whispering him a secret. When BJ and JB couldn’t take it any longer, he finally opened it, very carefully and slowly, and withdrew a single sheet of paper. He adjusted his glasses and squinted at the paper. “Hmm. Ah. Yes. Yes. Hmmm. I see. Interesting. Hmmm.” The girls were nearly bursting as their uncle continued to hem and hum. Finally, he removed his glasses and looked at them with a very serious expression on his face. “The Queen of Canada has requested that I write another poem for her. Apparently she has worn out the previous poem, just as I thought she would. I did warn her, you know, that poems can be quite delicate creatures. One must not read them too roughly or too often. But you know how queens can be.”
The girls did not really know how queens could be, since they had never met one, but they nodded anyway. “I should probably write a more robust poem this time. No more sonnets or odes. This calls for a strong poem, something with real heft and substance. I think perhaps a limerick, although maybe I should write two, since limericks are usually quite short. But short or long, they certainly don’t get worn out easily. They tend to last and last and last.” “Wait a minute, Uncle Q,” JB interjected. “Is there really a Queen of Canada? Don’t they have a president or something up there?” “Oh, there is indeed a Queen of Canada, although I admit these days her role is primarily ceremonial. You see, Canada is a constitutional monarchy, and that means the prime minister is the one who’s really in charge of the country, but they certainly do have a Queen.” He paused for a moment, then continued “Ah, I see the reason for your confusion. You probably know the Queen of Canada by her other name – she’s also the Queen of England, you see. Oh, and she’s the Queen of Australia and the Queen of New Zealand and Scotland and Wales and maybe some other places too. I’ve rather lost track of all
Meet The Boomer Sisters! the places she’s Queen of. I wonder how she manages to keep them all straight.” He paused for a moment, then said “I wonder what the limericks should be about. I wonder if two would be enough. Ah, now there’s a silly question. Two limericks are more than enough for any Queen, no matter how many places she is Queen of.” He turned and looked at his nieces. “You girls are familiar with limericks I assume?” Uncle Q asked. Both girls shook their heads no. “What do they teach in school these days?” he muttered. “Well then, I suppose I should start at the beginning.” He cleared his throat as if he was going to sing, then began striding around the shop while he spoke. “A limerick is a humorous, five line poem, made up of one couplet and one triplet. A couplet, of course, has two lines, while a triplet has three. The rhyme pattern is often described as “a a b b a,” which just means that lines 1, 2 and 5 rhyme with each other, and lines 3 and 4 also rhyme with each other, but not with lines 1, 2 and 5. Here, let me recite an old one for you: A flea and a fly in a flue Were caught, so what could they do? Said the fly, "Let us flee."
"Let us fly," said the flea. So they flew through a flaw in the flue. The girls giggled as the silly lesson continued. “Sadly, to write a marvelously good limerick will take a bit more time than we have,” Uncle Q said as he set the letter down. “Besides, we really ought to talk about the missing library books. What do you think we should do?” Mrs. Boomer spoke up first. “Well, we need to go down there and get them, that’s for sure,” she said to Q, then turned to her daughters. “But girls, I don’t want you two going to the basement by yourselves. You did a good job finding the books, JB, and I’m glad Meeda showed you where they are, but I really think that unlocking the door and actually rescuing the books is a job for the PIFL team.” “Your mother is right, as always,” added Uncle Q. “Remember, Miss Van Essa is there at the school, and the rest of the PIFL team is working very hard in ways you might not see. So, I suggest patience and trust. We’ll get the books back as quickly as possible – we need you two to keep building up the Great Kids Club.” “OK, we’ll work on that,” answered BJ, and JB nodded in agreement.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “But if you need some help from us when you rescue the books, you’ll let us know, right?” asked JB. “Of course, my dear!” answered Uncle Q. “Of course.”
Chapter 10: The Big Day “Good morning, children,” said a tiny man with a tiny moustache and a tiny bowtie. “Miss Van Essa is not here today, so I will be your substitute teacher until she returns. My name is Mr. Harry Shmuger the Third.” JB suppressed a giggle at the man’s silly-sounding name, then started to get worried. Miss Van Essa might have stayed home because she was sick, but what if the Timid Good had kidnapped her and tied her up somewhere? What if Mr. Shmuger was working with the Librarian? Who would look after the GKC kids? What if all the PIFL’ers were gone? Who would rescue the books? She glanced over at Sal.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “Please take out a piece of paper and a pencil and put them on your desk in front of you. We will begin our day today with handwriting practice. Everyone will write a capital cursive letter A, just the correct way, which I will demonstrate on the board. You should put ten A’s on each line, and carefully fill up the entire page. Then you children shall take a second piece of paper and fill it with lower-case a’s, ten per line, of course. Please take your time and do not hurry.” Now JB was sure Mr. Shmuger was part of the Timid Good. He even talked like the Librarian. “I’ve got to get out of here,” she thought silently. “And if the PIFL teachers are all captured, I’ll need to rescue the books from the basement myself. Maybe Miss Van Essa is even down there, all tied up, and I’ll have to rescue her too!” JB knew it would take more than a few minutes to go back to the basement, get through the locked door somehow, rescue all the books and maybe even rescue her teacher, but this time she didn’t have any purple paint handy. She thought and thought until her shoulders started to ache, and then a great idea hit her – even better than the purple paint idea. She would do the one thing no teacher or substitute or principal or librarian would ever guess a kid would do. She would skip recess. Even though they were
just carrying books, it was still better than handwriting practice. “Young lady,” said a soft, whiney voice. “Young lady, what is your name, child?” JB suddenly realized the substitute teacher was talking to her! “Um, I’m JB,” she answered. The sub smiled a greasy, tiny, slightly scary smile that didn’t show any teeth and made JB shiver. “Of course you are. Well, Miss JB, I think you ought to begin writing your A’s right now, the correct way, please.” “Uh, ok.” JB picked up her pencil and started writing cursive A’s as fast as she could. “Not so hasty, little girl,” Mr. Shmuger whined. “Please start over, and this time do it neatly – the correct way.” With a sigh, JB got another piece of paper out and started again. Mr. Shmuger made her start over five more times, and by the time she was finally allowed to finish her first A page, everyone else was working on lower-case b and JB felt itchy all over. It seemed like recess would never come, but it finally did. Very carefully, JB made sure she was at the end
Meet The Boomer Sisters! of the line, and when Mr. Shmuger led the class outside, she hid behind the door. Nobody noticed her absence. When the hall was clear, she quickly ran all the way to the stairway door, her heart pounding. In a flash, she was down the stairs and weaving through the boxes, pipes and cobwebs of the dark basement. She stopped in front of the mysterious door, took a deep breath, and grabbed the knob. It turned! With a loud ha, she flung the door open. Meeda had been right – the missing library books were right there! They were neatly piled and filled the room completely. JB stepped inside the shadow-filled room and ran from stack to stack, looking for the most interesting books she could find. She wished she had thought to bring along a backpack, but decided to just take an armful for now and come back with her backpack for the next trip. “Miss Van Essa?” she whispered. “Are you in here? Miss Van Essa, can you hear me?” JB heard a small cough, the sort of noise certain grown-ups make when they want to get someone’s attention. “Children are not supposed to be down here in the banned book disposal facility,” said a familiar, icy voice from the doorway. It was not Miss Van Essa, and the words made JB feel like she had been hit in the stomach by a
rhinoceros. She looked around quickly for a place to hide, but it was no use. The Librarian had found her. “You must come with me now, little girl,” he said, and JB knew she couldn’t escape. Swallowing hard, she followed the Librarian out of the room and back up the stairs. She felt doomed. Meanwhile, Mr. Federico’s class was busy carrying books at recess, and BJ was explaining her latest idea to the members of the Great Kids Club as they walked back and forth to the library. “Since the Librarian took all the good books out of the library, I was thinking we could write our own! Here’s how it works – one person writes the first page of a story, then passes that page along to someone else, who writes the second page. Then a third person gets it and writes page three, and so on. I call it The GKC Story Project.” “Cool!” said Emma. “Can I write the second page of your story?” “Sure! And you can even start your own story too if you want. We could have lots of stories being written all at once!” All the kids started talking at the same time, telling their story ideas and setting up who was going to write the next part of everyone else’s story.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! BJ felt great. The GKC kids liked her idea, and were going to write some really good stories. Sebby was going to write about a giraffe from Mars, and Emma had a story about a pink princess unicorn fairy and her beautiful flower garden. BJ’s own story would be about a park ranger who protects endangered animals. “OK, make sure you write a page every day,” BJ explained. “And try not to lose any pages, alright?” By the time recess was over, the GKC kids had started seven stories, and all they had to do now was write them down. Once back in the classroom, Mr. Federico had an announcement. “I spoke with the new librarian this morning, and asked him to get some new books,” he began. “I think variety is an important part of education, and he agreed. In fact, he said he had already ordered some new titles, which should arrive shortly. I thought many of you would be interested to know that.” BJ gave Mr. Federico her biggest smile. He may not be in PIFL like JB’s teacher, but he was still pretty great. Almost before she knew what she was doing, BJ stood up and started talking. “Um, thank you very, very much for asking the Librarian to get some new books, Mr. Federico. I can’t wait
to see them and I hope they are really good. Also, some of us kids are writing our own stories, since that one library book is sort of…” she paused a moment, suddenly shy and unsure of herself. “Um, it’s sort of…” “Boring?” added Mr. Federico with a grim smile. “Yes,” she answered, blushing as she sat down. “I agree,” Mr. Federico continued, “and I would love to see your stories when they are finished, if you are willing to share, that is.” At that moment, BJ loved Mr. Federico like she had never loved a teacher before. He had not only talked to the Librarian, but he actually liked her story idea! And he didn’t say he would collect them or grade them or anything. He just wanted to read them. This was turning out to be the best day ever. JB, on the other hand, was not having such a good day, and it was about to get a whole lot worse. The Librarian led her up the staircase and started walking towards the principal’s office. JB knew she was in big time trouble, but she didn’t care. She was going to tell the principal all about PIFL and the Timid Good and the hidden books and everything. And then she was going to tell everyone what she had discovered. Even though her Mom and Uncle Q had told her to stay in class, she knew they
Meet The Boomer Sisters! would understand why she had gone to the basement today, especially since Miss Van Essa was obviously captured and tied up somewhere. Neither of them noticed Meeda standing at the far end of the hallway, watching with tears in her eyes as JB was lead away. JB practiced what she was going to say, and by the time they reached the principal’s office, the nervous feeling in her stomach had turned into a fierce and angry strength. But then the Librarian walked right past the office. “Wait, where are we going?” asked JB, as her strength turned back into fear. “We are going to the library, little girl,” replied the Librarian without turning around. “Did you think I was taking you to the principal? Oh no, I am not. I know how to deal with impulsive little children who wonder into places where they do not belong. I deal with them myself, in my own way… in the correct way. I assure you, when I am done, you will never want to explore anything ever again.” JB’s mind was screaming at her legs to run, but for some reason her legs weren’t listening. She could not turn, could not even look away from the Librarian’s yellow-gray back. All she could do was follow him as he walked up to
the library and opened the door. Once inside, the Librarian turned and faced JB. “Please take a seat in this chair by this table right here.” He reached out to the nearest book shelf and took down a copy of How Not To Be So Excited. Holding it in his grayish hands, he began to deliver a memorized lecture which he had obviously delivered so many times he was bored of it himself. “Children,” he sighed and wheezed, “must be shaped in accordance with The Correct Way. If they are allowed to be the way they want to be, they grow up crooked, energetic and independent. They turn into artists or writers or musical dolphin trainers, completely unpredictable and unreliable. They are exhausting to the normal people around them. “Furthermore, an unpredictable child is uncontrollable. An uncontrollable child becomes an uncontrolled adult, and that leads to all sorts of trouble. What this society needs is grown-ups who do precisely what they are told to do and nothing more, without questioning or coming up with ideas of their own. We need people who are content with gray and do not seek the unhealthy excitement of colors like red, pink or purple.” He put extra emphasis on the word purple, then paused as if to
Meet The Boomer Sisters! catch his breath. The silence lasted so long JB wondered if he had fallen asleep, or maybe even died standing up. “Do you know what you should be when you grow up, young lady?” The mumbled question was almost completely asked before JB realized he had started talking again. She opened her mouth to say musical dolphin trainer, but the Librarian did not pause for an answer. “You do not need to answer that question right now. Do not answer it, please. I am just asking it, but you should think about it for a long time before you answer. I am just asking the question. I do not expect an answer and I do not want one. I could tell you what you should be, which, of course, is a deputy assistant administrative bureau account monitor, but before we discuss your future, young lady, you have some reading to do.” With that, the lecture was apparently over and he held out a copy of the terrible library book. JB felt hypnotized as she watched her own hands accept it, as if they weren’t even her hands anymore. “This is the only book you need to read. It clearly and completely describes The Correct Way. The other books,” he continued with a hint of a sneer, which was the first indication JB had seen of any emotion whatsoever, “The other books will serve us well as fuel for the school’s
furnace this winter. Yes, the incorrect books will be burned in the furnace, to keep the classrooms at the correct temperature.” JB gasped. “Do not be surprised, child. Those books are not Correct, but they are flammable, and with fuel prices being what they are, we wouldn’t want to waste them, would we? I assure you, putting these books to good use this way is the best thing for the school, our society, and even the books themselves. But this is enough talking. Read now.” JB opened the book on the table in front of her and immediately began to yawn. A sickly smell crept into her nose, making her brain feel foggy. It was the smell of slowness and smallness, the smell of gray and absolute silence. Her fingers tingled for a moment before they went completely numb, then she realized she no longer had the ability to blink. And even though she didn’t want to, she read the entire book.
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
Chapter 11: Being De-Enthused BJ bounced excitedly in the bus seat, waiting for her sister to show up. She couldn’t wait to tell JB all about the Story Project and how Mr. Federico asked for some new books and just how wonderful the whole day had been. She chuckled to herself at the thought of the crazy stories JB would probably write, and wondered what color JB might have painted herself today. JB came onto the bus and sat down quietly beside her sister. BJ started talking right away. “It was totally the best day ever, JB! We started writing seven stories already, and Mr. Federico asked the Librarian for some new books and he said yes, and the Story Project is going to be so awesome. Wait, I didn’t tell you about that yet. You see, everyone gets to write a page
Meet The Boomer Sisters! of a story and then we’ll put them all together and oh, it was such a good day.” She flopped back against the window with a contented sigh, then noticed how her sister was sitting. JB’s posture was perfect. Her back was completely straight, her hands were folded on her lap and her eyes were pointed straight ahead. They did not seem to be focused on anything in particular, and they looked sort of strange. JB’s hair was pulled straight back in a serious looking ponytail, rather than her usually wild pigtails. “Um, JB? Are you ok?” BJ asked. “Yes, I am fine,” JB replied slowly. “But I do not think we children are supposed to make up our own work. This ‘story project’ you mentioned does not sound like it is part of the approved fourth grade curriculum, and I do not think it is part of the third grade curriculum either, so I can not write any stories for it unless Mr. Shmuger says it is alright. If your teacher has not given you enough school work, I am sure he could give you some more. Or, you could just work on your handwriting, of course.” BJ was stunned for a second, then started to laugh. “JB!” she chuckled. “You sound like the Librarian! Mr. Shmuger – how did you think of that name? Anyway,
you’re very funny, but stop playing around. It’s kind of freaky. Seriously, what kind of story do you want to write?” “I am not playing around,” replied JB. “I never joke about handwriting anymore, and I am not interested in any school work that is not part of the curriculum. Mr. Shmuger is the substitute teacher for my class, now that Miss Van Essa is out.”
“Miss Van Essa is out? JB, what’s going on? What happened to you?” asked BJ in a nervous whisper, as tears began to well in her eyes. “You’re starting to scare me, JB. Please stop talking like that…”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “I am simply talking the correct way, BJ. Why should I stop? There is nothing wrong with me. I feel perfectly well. I am sure Miss Van Essa is simply sick and will return when she is feeling better.” “Oh, JB, what have they done to you?” BJ sat back in her seat and silently cried the whole way home, while JB sat beside her, staring straight ahead. At home, Mr. and Mrs. Boomer were quite worried about the strange changes in their youngest daughter, who insisted she was feeling fine. She was polite and obedient and spent an hour working on her handwriting. She did not ask if she could watch television, not even once. When it was dinner time, JB ate her broccoli first, without any salt, and asked for white milk instead of chocolate. She didn’t burp at all. Next she did another hour of handwriting practice, even though her parents asked her to stop, and then she went to bed – an hour early. In the morning, JB’s condition had not changed. She asked for plain oatmeal instead of her favorite blueberries and cream kind. She ate it slowly and neatly, without dripping even a single oat. “Honey, maybe you should stay home from school today,” Mrs. Boomer said to JB. “You’re not exactly acting like yourself.”
“No, mother,” replied JB. “I feel just fine and am not sick. There is no need for me to stay at home. Besides, I have some important handwriting work to do. Today is L day, and I want to make sure my L’s are correct.” “See, that’s what I’m talking about, kiddo. I think you might need to see a doctor or something. I’m keeping you home today,” replied Mrs. Boomer firmly. “BJ can pick up any work you miss.” “Very well. Would it be alright if I did my handwriting practice on my own?” “Uh, sure,” answered Mrs. Boomer as she reached for the phone to call the doctor’s office. BJ couldn’t believe what was happening, and the rainy bus ride to school was a lonely, hazy one. Her crazy little sister was suddenly acting like a stranger, and she couldn’t figure out why. JB wasn’t asking questions, she wasn’t bumping into things… she wasn’t even drinking chocolate milk! The mysterious change weighed on BJ’s mind all day long, and she had a hard time concentrating. The funny thing about slow days is that they seem to take forever and yet they go by quickly at the same time. Before she knew it, lunchtime had arrived. BJ walked into the cafeteria with her class and was surprised to see her dad and uncle sitting at one of the little
Meet The Boomer Sisters! tables and looking like a pair of funny giants. With a happy shriek, she ran over to them and hugged them both at once. “Oh, Daddy! Uncle Q! What are you two doing here?” “We came to have lunch with you, kiddo, and to talk about your sister,” answered her dad. “Your mom stayed home to take care of her.” “Did the doctor figure out what’s wrong with her, Daddy? Is she going to be ok?” “Well, I think we know what’s wrong, but it wasn’t the doctor who figured it out. Your uncle did.” BJ turned to Uncle Q, who removed his green triangle glasses with a sad sigh. “Your sister has been de-enthused, BJ. That is, her sparkle has been dampened. Her enthusiasm has been quenched. Her bounciness has been squished. I think you get the picture. We’re not entirely sure how it happened, but there are only a few things powerful enough to do this sort of thing to a girl like JB. I took a look at that book in the library, and I’m pretty sure it is the cause. We think JB actually read it. From the looks of things, she must have read quite a lot of it, maybe even the whole thing.” “A book did this to her?” “Yes, we believe so.”
“But how?” “Well, books are very powerful things, BJ,” her dad explained. “They can get inside your head and change you. Sometimes the change is good, sometimes it is bad. You know, of course, the library will charge a fine on anyone who damages a book. But sadly, there are no fines when a book damages a person.” “And you think she read the whole thing?” BJ asked with a shudder. “But it’s not permanent, right? How long will this last? I mean, you can help her, can’t you?” “Ah, that’s the thing, kiddo,” answered her dad. “Of course it is not permanent, but we’re not quite sure how long it will last. To be quite honest, I don’t really know how much your uncle and I can help her, at least not directly. But we won’t give up, that’s for sure.” “However,” added Uncle Q, “we think there is someone who can help her quite a bit – you. I should warn you, it won’t be easy, but we have faith in you.” “What can I do?” asked BJ. “Well, we don’t know that either,” her dad said with a sigh. “But keep up the Story Project. That is more important than you can imagine, and we think it might be the key to fixing things.”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “And I don’t want to worry you, dear niece, but it appears JB is not the only one who has read the book.” Uncle Q gestured towards a table of kids who were all sitting straight up, looking straight ahead, and eating their lunches without saying a word or smiling or blinking. All the kids at the table took a bite at the same time, chewed ten times, then swallowed and reached for their matching boxes of white milk. They looked like a bunch of robots, except robots don’t eat food. “Oh no!” BJ looked, then quickly looked away. “The Librarian is the Little Gray Man, isn’t he?” “Well, he certainly has an overdeveloped sense of impulse control, and he is clearly a member of the Timid Good, whether he knows it or not. But we can not be certain if he is the Little Gray Man… or if such a person even exists. Some things are simply mysteries,” answered Uncle Q. “At any rate, we just wanted to let you know the whole PIFL team is working on this, but at the moment we have to be under cover,” added her dad. “We’ll be out in the open very soon, though.” “Is that where Miss Van Essa is? Under cover, like a spy?” asked BJ. Her dad and uncle exchanged a worried glance.
“The truth is, we’re not sure where she is! She went off on an important mission, but we haven’t heard from her lately. Don’t worry, we’re looking for her, and I’m sure she’ll turn up any day now.” BJ was still a little bit worried, but she believed her Uncle could find a missing person, probably better than anyone else in the world. She started to eat her lunch.
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
Chapter 12: Lions On Main Street Back in the class room, BJ still had trouble concentrating, but now for different reasons. Now she knew JB wasn’t the only kid who’d been de-enthused, and she was pretty sure Miss Van Essa was doing some kind of dangerous undercover work. The story project was somehow going to be helpful, but at the moment, BJ couldn’t figure out how. She couldn’t focus well enough to think of anything to write for the two stories in her desk, which had been started by some other kids. All in all, things were getting pretty frustrating. During afternoon free reading time, Emma and the other GKC members kept writing their stories and passing them around, but BJ’s heart just wasn’t in it. By the end of the day, she had only written half of a page, and it wasn’t 91
even very good. When she got home, JB was still the same. She had been working on her letter L handwriting all day, and had filled up 84 pages with perfect L’s, in perfect rows. BJ brightened when she saw her Uncle sitting at the kitchen table with her parents. They were talking about her. “Zeke, I was wondering if I could borrow your oldest daughter for the afternoon,” said Uncle Q to Mr. Boomer. “I’ve got a mission, and I think she might be quite helpful.” “Sounds fine to me,” he replied. “What do you think, kiddo?” “What sort of mission is it?” BJ asked. “Does it matter?” replied Uncle Q. “It will be a fun adventure, I promise.” “Alright, I’ll do it.” “Dee-lightful! Let’s go right this moment!” He jumped up from the table, grabbed his hat, adjusted his glasses and was out the door in a flash. BJ ran to keep up, shouting “Bye, Mom and Dad!” over her shoulder as she ran. Once outside, Uncle Q slowed down to a regular walk, which was still quite fast even though BJ’s legs were long for her age. Together, they walked past some buildings
Meet The Boomer Sisters! and stores, until suddenly Uncle Q sat down on a bench. Startled, BJ paused a moment, then sat down next to him. “See that man over there?” Uncle Q asked, pointing at a tall grown-up in a dark suit. “Our mission is to help him, because he is in great peril.” “He is? He looks rather safe to me,” replied BJ. “Precisely! I knew you would understand! So few people do, you know. I must say it is dee-lightful to have a partner as observant and talented as you. You are completely correct - that man's peril is entirely caused by his terrible, awful, no-good safety. We really must do something about it.” He paused dramatically, then leaned down and whispered, “Do you know, when that man was younger, he wanted to grow up to be a lion tamer? How wonderful!” “What is he now?” “I haven't the faintest idea. What's worse, he doesn't have the faintest idea either. But one thing everyone knows is... he is not a lion tamer today, at least not yet. I just hope we’re not too late.” “Too late for what?” BJ asked, but Uncle Q was already on the move, walking briskly towards the corner of the street.
“I happen to know a truckload of fresh lions is being delivered to the zoo this afternoon. It is scheduled to pass this spot in exactly forty-five seconds. Stay close to me, please.” “Um, Uncle Q, what is going to happen?” asked BJ nervously, not really expecting an answer. “You’ll see – ah, here comes the truck now!” Uncle Q pointed at a large red and yellow truck, which had the words Leo J’s Fresh Lions – Guaranteed Delivery! painted on the side in purple letters. The truck rolled to a stop at the corner, and while the driver waited for the light to turn green, Uncle Q jumped up and knocked on the window. “Excuse me, sir! I wonder if I could request a favor for a moment. You see, that gentlemen in the dark suit is supposed to be a lion tamer, but has not yet become one. I was wondering if I might briefly borrow one or five of your lions, just for a minute or two.” The truck driver looked surprised, then figured Uncle Q must be joking. He decided to play along. “Oh, of course! No problem, buddy!” He answered with a grin and a chuckle. “I mean, if you just need a few of them for a couple minutes, I’m sure that would be fine. Help yourself!” Under his breath, he muttered “But you’ll have to unlock the truck yourself, ya crazy guy.”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “Thank you so very much, my good man,” answered Uncle Q. “I assure you this won’t take long and you’ll be able to go on your way.” The driver went back to watching the light. Uncle Q removed a shiny box from one of the many pockets in his vest. He pulled the antenna out to its full length and pressed a button. Immediately, the locks on the back of the lion truck popped open. He pushed another button and the back doors swung wide open. Immediately, seven enormous lions jumped out and began looking around. Each lion was bigger than a horse, and their thick manes rippled in the wind as they shook their mighty heads. The largest one let out a roar that made BJ’s knees feel wobbly. “Wha? How did that happen?” asked the truck driver, as BJ grabbed onto Uncle Q’s vest. “Don’t worry, we’ll get this taken care of right away,” Uncle Q said to the driver. “I must say I truly appreciate your generosity. Really, five lions would have been sufficient, but seven, well, seven is just perfect.” He then started shouting at the non-lion tamer in the dark suit “Hey ho there! You sir! Excuse me! Could you perhaps assist me with these lions? They seem to have escaped from this truck and they need to be rounded up.”
The man in the dark suit looked up in shock at the sight of seven huge lions milling around on Main Street. He stood without moving a muscle for a brief moment, and then something inside him seemed to come alive. His shoulders became broader, his eyes sparkled and he positively ran towards Uncle Q and BJ, with the largest grin BJ had ever seen on a grown-up other than her uncle.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! On the corner where they were standing was one of those little restaurants that have a few tables and chairs outside. Called Knucky’s Garden Café, it wasn’t very busy at the moment, and nobody was sitting outside. Uncle Q and the dark suited man each picked up a chair, holding it sideways like real lion tamers. Both of them quickly removed their belts and began waving them around like whips. “Yah! Ho! Yip! Hee-yah!” The men shouted as they ran towards the lions, and together they circled around, first on one side and then the other, forcing the big cats towards the opening at the back of the truck. The lions growled and roared, showed their teeth and occasionally swiped with their great paws, but the people were clearly in charge here. First one, then three lions jumped back into the truck. The remaining four were moving in the truck’s direction too, when suddenly, Uncle Q’s ankle bent in a funny way, he tripped and he fell down. Three of the lions jumped into the truck anyway, but seeing an opportunity to get away, the last of the escaped lions bounded over Uncle Q and headed straight at BJ. She screamed, and grabbed a glass of water that had been left on one of the tables by an earlier customer. Still screaming, BJ threw the glass of water straight at the lion, hitting it
square in the nose with a loud thwack. The water splashed across the beast’s face, forcing it to close its eyes for a moment. It stopped in its tracks and shook its mane in confusion. In a flash, the dark suited man was standing in front of the dripping lion, poking it with a chair and yelling. The lion immediately turned and ran back to join the other lions in the safety of the truck. Uncle Q was back on his feet now, and immediately slammed the doors shut. He snapped the locks and checked his watch. “Two and a half minutes! Not bad for someone without formal training, I’d say.” To the truck driver, he hollered “The light is green now, and the locks are locked – thank you again for the temporary use of your lions! Sorry we got one of them wet, but I’m sure he’ll dry quickly!” As the truck rolled away, Uncle Q turned to the dark suited man and held out his hand. “My name is Theodore Francis Wilbur Gilbert Clive George Innocent Martin Boomer, Junior” he said as they shook hands, “But my friends call me Q. Thank you so much for the assistance just now.” “Um, you’re welcome, Q. I’m Walter. My friends just call me Walter.”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “Well, Walter, I think you made a very good lion tamer today. I can’t thank you enough for the help, particularly at the end there.” He turned to BJ, who was now sitting down near a table and trying to stop shaking. “And you! BJ, you were magnificent! What courage, what pluck, what imagination! Why, when that lion charged you, you did all the right things. Did you see how surprised that lion was when you didn’t run?” The truth is, it hadn’t occurred to BJ to run when the lion had charged her. For that matter, she didn’t know what a surprised lion would look like. When the lion was coming towards her, all she could think was that she had to stop it, and when she saw the glass of water, she picked it up and threw it without even thinking. “Thanks, Uncle Q,” she managed to squeak, but at that moment, she didn’t feel like talking very much. “Oh, it was my pleasure, dear niece. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. Hey, would you like to get some pie? Knucky’s makes some really good pie, you know, and you’ve already got a great table! How about you, Mr. Walter? Would you like to join us?” It was the best pie BJ had ever eaten in her whole life.
Chapter 13: Laughter In The Library It was library day again, and BJ was dreading it. Ever since the new books had arrived, the library had a strange smell which seemed to get stronger every day. Even a few minutes in the library made BJ’s hair smell funny for the rest of the day. More and more kids were walking around with the dazed, stony look on their faces that meant they had read the awful book. Basically, there was nothing good about library time anymore. She took her seat with a grumpy humph. “Children,” said Mr. Winstesterfield-Schmytherston once everyone was seated, “I have received some new books for the school library. They are on these shelves right over here. I am sure you will all want to read them, but
Meet The Boomer Sisters! please be careful and do not get too excited and do not read them too quickly and accidentally tear the pages in your excitement. If you damage a book, you will have to pay a fine to cover the cost of replacing it.” “Well, what if a book damages a person?” BJ said under her breath, remembering the conversation she’d had with her dad. “What did you say?” asked Emma. “Nothing – never mind,” replied BJ. “Let’s take a look at one of those new books.” She pulled a heavy book with a gray cover off the shelf and read the title out loud, “Things That Can Go Wrong, by Victor Zue. That’s a weird title.” She opened it to a page in the middle and started to read out loud. “Your mom could forget to put a napkin in your lunch box. You teacher could give you someone else’s paper by mistake. You could put your shirt on backwards. Your little sister could make a mean face. A fly could come near you or land on your desk. It might get dark. Someone might eat the last of your favorite cereal.” She put the book down. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever read! These aren’t even very bad. I think someone is just trying to make us afraid for no reason.”
“Yeah,” said Emma. “Why would anyone write a book like this, anyway? It’s like they want to make us worry about stuff.” “I think that’s exactly what they want,” BJ whispered. “Just like the first book makes kids lose their enthusiasm, I bet this one makes kids worry. What other books are there?” “Here’s one called Hey, Slow Down, and another one titled Purple – Does Anyone Really Need It?” said Emma. “I found one called Shhh, and look, there’s a 26volume set of Thompson’s Illustrated Guide To Correct Handwriting, one book for each letter. Yuck!” “This is terrible,” moaned Emma. “None of these books are any good at all!” “Wait a minute, this one looks interesting! It’s titled Lion Tamers and Fire Jugglers.” BJ pulled it down from the shelf excitedly. “Oh, never mind. It’s subtitled Jobs Nobody Should Ever, Ever Do – Not Ever.” With a tired sigh, BJ flopped down on her chair. It was really too much, she thought to herself. The books, the smell, the Librarian, her sister and everything. It was all simply ridiculous. It was so ridiculous, in fact, that BJ started to laugh. Her laugh grew louder and louder, and
Meet The Boomer Sisters! Emma joined in. The Librarian glared at them, which just made them laugh louder and harder. Soon they had both fallen out of their chairs and were rolling on the floor, laughing out loud. “Children! Stop that right this minute! This is a library and laughter is not allowed. You are disturbing the other children. Children, stop that laughing immediately!” The Librarian sounded as if he was actually in pain, but he was too late. There was nothing he could do to stop the laughter from spreading. Even the de-enthused kids caught on, and in less than thirty seconds, the whole class was laughing out loud. Their laughter rang out and echoed across the room, as Mr. Winstesterfield-Schmytherston tried unsuccessfully to make the kids be quiet. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore, and the Librarian left the room. BJ watched him go and sat up, gasping for breath and feeling fantastic. She looked around the library at all the happy, shiny faces of her classmates. Even though all the books were still terrible and the walls were still painted a yucky yellow-gray color, the library seemed brighter. She realized the bad smell was gone too.
There was no point in staying any longer, so the kids all got up and walked back to Mr. Federico’s classroom. He was surprised to see them all back so quickly, but he understood. “Alright, since library time was short today, what do you think about working on your story projects for the rest of the hour?” suggested Mr. Federico. The kids all cheered and dove right in.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “BJ, this package came for you.” He handed her a small box, wrapped in brown paper and sealed with tape. BJ took it back to her seat and opened it. Inside was a key and a scrap of paper with one word on it: Meeda. BJ held the key tightly and wondered how Meeda had found it. She figured it must be the key to the room in the basement where the books are, and she wished for the thousandth time that Miss Van Essa was still around. Without a PIFL teacher to talk to, BJ would just have to wait until she got home and then tell her parents about the key instead. Waiting can be really hard, she thought with a sigh. She spent the rest of the day writing stories for the GKC Story Project, but still found it hard to concentrate. Then the bell rang and it was time to go home. BJ was surprised to see JB get onto the bus with her arms full of books. For a second, she thought maybe Meeda had given JB a key too, and she had gone to the basement on her own and rescued some books. Then she remembered that JB had been de-enthused, and moaned when she saw the titles – JB was carrying Hey, Slow Down and the first three volumes of Thompson’s Illustrated Guide To Correct Handwriting. It occurred to BJ that she had not seen her sister smile in a long time.
Once they got home, JB slowly went up the stairs to her room and spent the next hour reading and practicing the letter A. BJ showed her mom the key. “I think it goes to that locked room in the basement, mom,” she said as she took a seat at the kitchen table. “Hmm, you’re probably right,” her mom answered thoughtfully, turning the key over in her hands. “Do you mind if I keep it for now? I think this is exactly what the PIFL team needs – and I think we’re going to pay a visit to the school very soon.” There was a knock on the door, and Mrs. Boomer went to see who it was. BJ heard a surprised, happy shout and some excited talking, and went running to see who it was “Uncle Q! Miss Van Essa!” “Look who I found!” said Uncle Q. “Hey there, kiddo!” added Miss Van Essa. “How’s your sister doing? Sorry I was gone so long. I got sort of tied up.” “Where were you?” asked BJ. “Well, I had to go on a secret mission to Tennessee, but it was just supposed to be a short trip. I had planned to be back before school started. Let me tell you about it.” They all walked back to the kitchen table and sat down.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “Your uncle set me up with a really big lawn chair and tied a hundred big helium balloons to it. I floated up, no problem at all, then switched on a big fan and blew myself to a little aquarium in Nashville, where my cousins David and Mark and their wives do a musical dolphin training show. They are the ones who told us the Timid Good was planning something at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary in the first place, and I went to see if they could help us out. “It was a great flight. Loads of fun, the view was gorgeous, and I could play my guitar as loud as I wanted to. Try doing that on a regular airplane! “Anyway, David and Mark promised they would do what they could, and I took off to fly back, just in time for school. That’s when the Timid Good saw me.” “Then what happened?” asked BJ, eyes wide. “Well, as I was coming in for a landing, they brought out a really enormous fan and blew my flying lawn chair right into the tippy top branches of a great big tree. I was stuck there for a few days, until one of the wingers from your uncle’s shop flew by. It had a little video camera on it, and it was on a mission to find me. Once he knew where I was, your Uncle came out and rescued me. He told me all about JB and the books on the way back.”
“Yeah, JB isn’t doing very well. Can you help her?” “I can probably help a little bit, but I’m pretty sure you are the one who can help her the most.” “But what can I do?” “I’m sure you’ll know what to do, when the time is just right. You’ll know.” “And speaking of the time being right,” added Uncle Q, “I think tomorrow is going to be a very big day. Tomorrow, PIFL will strike back!”
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
Chapter 14: The Big Read The next morning, JB was worse. Much worse. Her mouth looked like it would never smile again, and her whole body seemed to move in slow motion. Her eyes were only half open, and her hair was starting to turn the same yellow-gray color as the paint on the library walls. BJ began to wonder if it was too late. “Mom, is JB going to be ok?” BJ asked. “Yes, honey. I’m sure she will be,” her mom replied. “I don’t know when, but I imagine it will be soon.” “Speaking of soon, what is PIFL going to do today? Or is that a secret?” “Oh, PIFL doesn’t really keep secrets, kiddo. I think we’re going to overthrow the library, rescue the books and
do a couple other things, but probably not until after school is over. I imagine we’ll be kind of noisy, and we don’t want to disrupt the classes too much.” “Oh.” BJ wasn’t sure what to say. “But today is the day, right?” “Oh yes! We were mostly waiting for Miss Van Essa to come back, and now that she’s here, I think we’re good to go.” For some reason, the thought of PIFL coming in to the school and getting rid of the bad library books didn’t make BJ as excited as she thought it would. Her mom did not seem too concerned about JB, but BJ felt like something was missing, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Then she realized what it was – she still didn’t know what she was supposed to do! As she sat on the school bus next to her increasingly gray sister, BJ tried everything she could think of to make her snap out of it. She tickled, told knock-knock jokes, begged and even demanded that JB act like her usual self. Nothing made any difference, and by the time the bus got to school, she was out of ideas. Miss Van Essa was happy to be back in her class room, but was surprised to see that almost every single one of her students had been de-enthused while she was gone.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! Salvatore was one of the few who looked normal, and he did not seem to be paying attention to her as she began the morning’s lesson. He had a big stack of paper on his desk, and was writing furiously on one page. “Um, excuse me, Sal. What’s that you’re writing?” “A story,” he replied without looking up. “A story? What’s it about?” “It’s about a park ranger who helps rescue endangered animals. Someone else started it, a bunch of kids did the middle parts, and I’m writing the last page.” “Wow, that sounds interesting… and familiar. Is it part of The Story Project?” Sal looked up, surprised that a teacher would know about the project. Miss Van Essa understood the look on his face and reassured him. “It ok, Sal. I know about the project, and I think it’s a great idea. In fact, when you’re done with the story, why don’t you go to Mr. Federico’s class and show it to BJ.” “Really? OK! I’m almost done.” A few moments later, Sal stood up and announced he was finished. Miss Van Essa gave him a hall pass, and he ran to BJ’s classroom.
BJ looked up and smiled as Sal walked into the room, clutching a big stack of papers. He handed them over with a big grin. “This is the story you started. I think you’ll like the way it ends.” “Wow, it’s fifteen pages long! I can’t wait to read it!”
“I’m afraid you will have to wait a little while,” Mr. Federico said. BJ looked up at him, wondering if maybe the Timid Good had de-enthused him too. “Don’t worry,” he said with a big smile. “The librarian didn’t get to me. I said you’ll have to wait a minute because I think you have some more guests.” He
Meet The Boomer Sisters! pointed to the classroom door, where a crowd of kids from other classes had gathered, each holding a big stack of paper – each holding a finished story. Twenty four kids were there in all, including some BJ had never seen before. “You all finished your stories all at once?” BJ asked in amazement. “But how? And how did you all decide to come here at the same time?” “It just sorta happened… and walking to your class seemed like a good idea,” said one kid. “I couldn’t wait to show you my story,” said another. “Um, my story is done too,” added Emma as she pulled a stack of paper from her desk. “I finished it last night.” Ever since the laughter in the library, the kids in Mr. Federico’s class had spent almost all their free time writing stories. Now the classroom erupted in a flurry of papers, as every single one of BJ’s classmates pulled a completed story out of their desks, backpacks and folders. BJ jumped up onto her chair and started to dance. “It looks like your Story Project was quite successful, BJ,” said Mr. Federico as BJ bounced and waved her arms. She stopped dancing abruptly and looked at her teacher.
“Um, Mr. Federico? I have another idea.” “Yes?” “Maybe we could go around to all the classrooms in the school sometime and read our stories out loud? If the new library book makes kids get de-enthused, maybe if the kids hear these stories, some of them will get better… you know, back to normal.” “BJ, I think that is a wonderful idea, but let’s not do it sometime. Let’s do it right now!” he said, then turned to the rest of the class. “OK kids, everyone grab your stories. We’re going to do something a little bit different today. I want you to run – not walk, run to the other classrooms. Just go right in and start reading your stories out loud. Don’t ask for permission, don’t worry about getting in trouble, and don’t let anyone stop you. Just go in and start reading – loudly!” Mr. Federico’s fourth graders cheered, and the twenty four kids from other classes joined in. They all surged towards the door, bumping and crashing into each other, then spilled out into the hallway in a loud, laughing tangle. And then, just as quickly, they popped into classrooms and Mr. Federico was left standing in the hallway alone. He smiled as he walked back into his own room, got out a notebook, and started writing a story.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! BJ went straight to JB’s classroom, and Miss Van Essa didn’t seem at all surprised by the interruption. “Oh, hello BJ!” she said. “I hoped you’d come by. I assume you want to read your story to us?” “Yes, please!” “Go right ahead! Class, I’d like you to meet JB’s older sister. Please pay attention to her story.” JB and her classmates were all sitting straight up in their chairs. They slowly set their pencils down and obediently turned their half-open eyes towards BJ. Her stomach felt like there were a million butterflies in there, trying to get out, but she took a deep breath and started reading out loud. “Once upon a time, there was a Forest Ranger named Erin. She worked in a tall tower in a big forest, and she really loved nature…” BJ read her story with lots of enthusiasm and emotion. She did funny voices for the talking animals, and Miss Van Essa quietly strummed her guitar in the background. After each page, she glanced around at the silent kids sitting motionless in their chairs. At first, nothing changed, and BJ thought maybe it wasn’t going to work. But after page seven, where Forest Ranger Erin teaches the talking beavers how to fight forest fires, she
noticed a few of the kids were starting to grin. By page ten, most of the class was looking more alive and more awake. When she finished, the whole class stood up and clapped, and BJ sighed with relief. Well, almost the whole class. JB was still sitting in her chair, not smiling or clapping. Her eyes were a little more open, and her cheeks looked a little less gray, but clearly, the story had not worked on her. “Thank you for the awesome story, BJ,” said Miss Van Essa. “I loved the part where the deer all stood on each other’s backs to boost the baby bird back up to its nest!” She noticed JB and added “I think she’ll need a little more of something, but you definitely helped her, even if you can’t tell a difference yet. Now run off to another class – there are lots of kids who need your help. I’ll keep working with JB.” Reluctantly, BJ left her sister’s class and moved on to another. By lunch time, every single class had heard a story, and BJ herself had visited three different rooms. The cafeteria was noisy again for the first time all week, and Theodore Roosevelt Elementary school was almost back to normal. JB was one of the few kids who was still deenthused.
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
Chapter 15: Night Flight By this time of year the sun was setting earlier every night, and it was nearly dark by the time dinner was over. BJ kept waiting for the other PIFL members to show up, maybe wearing big capes and masks, so her parents and the rest of them could go rescue the books. But so far it was just an ordinary night. As she helped wash the dishes, BJ heard a fire engine in the distance. It got louder and seemed to be coming closer. Before long, it sounded like it was right outside their house, and BJ saw the flashing red lights through the window. “I wonder if there’s a fire nearby,” she said to her dad.
“Nope, that’s just my ride. Mr. Hamilton Fish – you remember him, right? He’s the fire-fighter who’s always trying to balance things on his big nose? Anyway, he and his fire-fighter friends are going to give me a ride to the school in their truck tonight.” “Really? Can I come?” But BJ knew the answer before she even asked the question. “Why would you want to come with us, kiddo? You’ve got a much more important – and more exciting… and probably more scary mission to do tonight.” “But what is my mission?” “Ah, I can’t tell you that, because I don’t know. What ever it is, it will help your sister, but it’s up to you to figure out the details. I suggest you think back to everything that has happened since we moved. Maybe something will spark an idea. OK, gotta go!” He kissed her on the forehead and bounded out the door. As he climbed aboard, the fire engine zoomed off into the night, sirens wailing and lights flashing. “Mom, aren’t you going to go with him?” BJ asked. “Nope. Something tells me I need to be here with you and your sister tonight.” They glanced at JB, who was sitting at the kitchen table filling up page after page with perfect rows of the letter O.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! BJ thought about what her dad had said, about thinking back on all the things that had happened. She thought about her bike and her teacher, the librarian and the lions. She thought about JB and the purple paint. She wondered what she could possibly do to help her little sister. And then she got it - she thought of the thing she could do. “Mom! I figured it out! I know what I have to do to help JB!” “Really? What is it?” “I think I need to let her fly on my flying bike! Remember? She wanted to fly on it, but I asked Uncle Q to take the wings off before anyone had a chance. But he could put them back on, right? And if JB flew around on my bike, she’d probably get better… wouldn’t she?” Now that she said it out loud, the idea didn’t sound as good as when it was in her head. “But Uncle Q is probably at the school right now, so how am I going to get the wings back on?” BJ continued. “And JB hasn’t even ridden her own bike since she’s been de-enthused, so why would I think she would be willing to fly on mine? I didn’t even want to fly on mine. And it is getting pretty dark… and, well, never mind…” She felt
quite deflated as her idea seemed to crumble before her very eyes. “I think you were on the right track the first time, honey,” answered her mom with a sparkle in her eyes. “Before you started to doubt your idea. Wait here for a second.” Mrs. Boomer returned with a wing in each hand and an enormous wrench stuck through her belt. Holding the wings behind her, she looked like a beautiful, strong angel, and the wrench was her sword. “I can put the wings back on, if you help,” she said, as she started walking to the garage. “Follow me.” BJ wheeled her bike to an empty space at the center of the garage while her mom laid out the wings. Together, they reattached them to the bike. Mrs. Boomer switched on the bike’s lights and brought it out to the driveway. In the darkness, the bike was even more mysterious and amazing looking than ever. The lights blinked and twirled, and the silent wings seemed to cry out “Fly! Fly!” BJ shivered in the cool night air, then ran into the house to get JB. “JB! JB! Quick, come outside! There’s something I need to show you!”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “Just a moment, my sister. I have three more O’s to write on this line right here. I should not leave before this row is finished.” BJ bounced impatiently as she watched JB painstakingly draw one perfect letter O after another. She seemed to be moving in slow-motion, and after what felt like thirty years, she was finally done. “Come on! You’ve got to see this!” “OK. If I have to see it, I will.” BJ took her sister’s hand and led her out to the driveway. The glowing, flashing bike-with-wings looked like a spaceship getting ready to blast off. “BJ, this is your bicycle,” JB said. “Thank you for showing it to me, but I have seen it before. May I please return to my handwriting practice now?” “NO!” BJ yelled, louder than she meant to. “I mean, no, please. I want you to ride my bike. Remember when Uncle Q put the wings on in the first place, how you wanted to ride it? Well, go ahead. Take it for a ride.” “Thank you for the offer, but I am not interested in riding your bike. It is your bike, not mine. I should only ride my own bike. That is the correct way. And it is dark. I should ride my own bike when it is not dark.” BJ was stunned. Her idea hadn’t worked. For a minute there, she had actually believed it would work, but
now she knew it wouldn’t and couldn’t and didn’t. She sat down on the grass with a thump as she watched JB turn around and walk back inside. Her mom came over and sat next to her. “That was a good try, sweetie, and very generous of you. Thanks for being willing to share your bike.” “It didn’t work,” BJ replied. “Well, don’t give up yet. Maybe JB isn’t the one who needs to ride it.” “What do you mean?” “I mean you. Maybe if she sees you ride it, something good will happen.” BJ swallowed hard. “I doubt that would help.” “A wise man named George MacDonald once wrote, ‘Doubt may be a poor encouragement to do anything, but it is a bad reason for doing nothing. Do you know what that means?” “It means I should try anyway, even though I don’t know if it will help, right?” “Uh-huh. That’s what I think, anyway.” “I’m scared, Mom.”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “I know,” she replied gently. “I know, and it’s OK to be scared. In fact, if you never get scared, you can never be brave.” “Huh? I thought being brave meant not being scared,” BJ replied. “Well, let’s see. Are you being brave when you write your name on the top of your homework?” she asked. “No,” BJ answered with a giggle. “But you don’t feel scared when you write your name, so if you’re not scared, you must be brave, right?” “I guess so?” “No, I don’t think you guess so. I’m pretty sure you know that being brave is more than just not being afraid. Being brave means feeling afraid but doing the thing that scares you anyway. Bravery is all about facing your fear, not letting fear stop you from doing what you know you have to do. Like when you didn’t run away from the lion.” “But I was very, very scared of the lions!” said BJ in a quiet voice, looking at the winged bike. “I’m embarrassed how scared I was when I saw them.” “Hey now, you did a lot more than see those lions. You faced one of them down. You fought back and stopped a charging lion in its tracks! Not many nine year olds can say that, let me tell you.”
“And of course you were scared!” Mrs. Boomer continued. “A full grown lion charging straight at you is extremely scary, no matter how old you are. Incidentally, I need to talk to your Uncle Q and your dad about that one, but we won’t worry about it now. The point is, you did what was necessary, and you threw that glass of water straight at the lion’s nose. And tonight, your sister needs you, BJ. She needs you to climb onto that bike and fly.” “I know she needs me.” BJ’s voice was scarcely a whisper. “And I know I have to do it. I will.” Mrs. Boomer reached over and gave BJ a big, tight hug. Her eyes were shining with pride as she looked at her daughter. “You’re a great kid, BJ, and you’re growing up fast. I love you so much and I’m very, very proud of you – all the time. Now go get on that bike of yours, while I bring your sister outside to watch.” BJ put her helmet on and settled onto the bike. Through the blinking lights, she saw her mom and sister step onto the lawn, and she knew it was time to take off. With a deep breath, she put the kickstand up and began to pedal. The Boomer’s driveway was steeply slanted, and BJ was going pretty fast by the time she got to the street. Their
Meet The Boomer Sisters! house was at the top of a hill, so she turned her bike to the right and roared down the long slope. As the wind whipped over her wings it made a whistling sound, and BJ pedaled faster than she had ever pedaled before. Her heart was beating loudly in her ears, and the bike bumped along over the pavement, picking up speed as the whistling sound got louder and louder. Suddenly, everything was smooth. BJ was flying, and she forgot to be afraid.
She turned the handlebars, and the bike looped around in a wide circle until she was facing uphill and heading back towards her house. A strong updraft of wind lifted BJ higher and made her stomach do a summersault. The wind continued to lift her, and now she was higher than the trees, higher than the houses. She could scarcely see the figures of her mom and sister, standing on the front lawn. The world looks very different when you are flying over it, and BJ felt like she could see forever. She continued to climb and turn in big circles, and she looked out over the valley where she lived. Off in the distance, she saw her school. There were five fire trucks parked in front of it, and she could see dozens of little ants doing something on the playground. They weren’t really ants, of course – they were her dad and uncle and the rest of the PIFL team. She hoped things were going well there, but for now she needed to focus on her sister. “I wonder how to land this thing,” BJ thought to herself. She pressed her handlebar down, and the bike obediently began to circle towards the ground. She continued to pick up speed, and was going quite fast as she approached the ground. Impulsively, she decided to pull up just before touching down, and she zoomed back into the
Meet The Boomer Sisters! night sky. A few more big loops, and she began to descend again, this time a bit more slowly. When she was low enough, she lined her bike up with the street, and gently landed right in front of the house. She was facing uphill, and the bike came to a stop quickly. Her mom and sister came running over, and as BJ removed her helmet, she heard her little sister say “That was awesome! Can I try? Please, please, please, can I fly it? Could you see our school from up there? What was it like? Did you see any birds? How about any bats? What was it like? Oh, BJ, thank you!” JB was back to normal.
Chapter 16: Overthrowing The Library JB and BJ were still taking turns flying the bike through the dark night sky when the fire engines started to leave the school. It was BJ’s turn at the moment, and before she landed she watched the trucks head toward the Boomer’s house, with Mr. Boomer and Uncle Q riding on top of one, like Santa Claus and Frosty in a parade. The brothers were laughing and joking as they rode, and they each did a flip when they jumped off the truck. The rest of the rather large PIFL team climbed down and milled around on the Boomer’s front yard. “Daddy, we did it!” shouted BJ as she ran to see her dad. “I flew my bike and JB got all better and then she flew it and we all drank some chocolate milk and everything!”
Meet The Boomer Sisters! “That’s great news, kiddo!” her dad replied with a grin. “Nicely done! It looks like PIFL wasn’t the only ones who had an exciting night this evening.” “I’m glad to see you got the wings back on,” said Uncle Q. “How dee-lightful!” “My mom helped. And JB figured out how to do a loop-the-loop, and it’s really fun.” “It looks like a lot of fun! We could see you flying around up there from the school. We thought it was a UFO at first, but then we figured it out,” said Mr. Boomer as he hugged his kids. “Nice work on the wings, Kay,” he added as he gave his wife a kiss. “Thanks, Zeke. How did things go at the school tonight?” “Very well indeed!” he answered. “Let’s have a seat and I’ll tell you all about it!” The Boomer family sat in a circle on the grass, and the whole PIFL team gathered around them. Mr. Hamilton Fish was there with about thirty other fire-fighters. Mr. Woodbury Kane was there too, along with Mr. Feaser and some ladies from the town library. Miss Van Essa had her guitar and she strummed it quietly as Mr. Boomer told the story.
“Every single member of the local PIFL group was there – all the fire-fighters, a bunch of the teachers, some policemen and even a new lion tamer named Walter. I think BJ met him already. Miss Van Essa’s cousins Mark and David were there too, but of course they left their trained musical dolphins back in Tennessee.” “Anyway, we pulled up at the front door of Theodore Roosevelt Elementary, with the lights flashing and sirens blaring! Meeda was waiting for us there and opened the door. We turned on all the lights in the school, and went straight to the library. Miss Van Essa got on the loudspeaker and played her guitar for us while we worked.” “The air in the library was thick with an ancient, ugly gray smell, which got worse when ever anyone opened one of the books. We threw open all the windows and started tossing copies of How Not To Be So Excited and Hey, Slow Down outside. Miss Speckle brought out some paint and brushes, and got to work decorating the library walls. “Once the bookshelves were bare, we split up into two groups. The larger group, led by me, formed a line of people that stretched from the basement where all the books were being kept, all the way up to the library. We passed the good old library books along this person chain,
Meet The Boomer Sisters! and in no time at all, they were back on the shelves where they belonged. “The other group was led by your Uncle and Miss Van Essa’s cousins. They went outside to the playground, and began making big stacks of How Not To Be So Excited and the other stinky books. The night air and moonlight whisked away the smell pretty quickly, and I don’t think you’ll notice it at all.” “Daddy! You put the books on the playground and left them there?” JB asked in amazement. “You should have burned them!” “Hey now, don’t worry. I haven’t finished the story yet, but no, we did not burn the books. That’s the sort of thing the Timid Good does, and PIFL was not about to imitate those guys. Yes, we left the books on your playground, but…” he paused and looked around at his listeners, “We used them like bricks and built forts, castles and pirate ships out of them! Wait ‘till you see your new playground – it’s spectacular!” “But won’t the wind and the rain make them ruined? What if they fall down?” BJ asked. “Ah, we thought of that,” answered Uncle Q. “David and Mark brought some special glitter glue paint with them, all the way from Tennessee. This stuff is
amazing – it made the books stick to each other, so they won’t fall down. It gets very hard when it dries, and is completely waterproof, so we don’t have to worry about the rain. And it comes in all different colors, so the whole thing is quite beautiful to look at.” BJ and JB looked at each other in amazement, and tingled at the thought of going to school the next day. Miss Van Essa jumped up and started to play her guitar louder than ever. Mr. Woodbury Kane produced a drum set from somewhere and started to play along, while Mr. Feaser, the town librarian, joined in on a harmonica. Pretty soon everyone was jumping around and dancing on the Boomer’s front lawn. They danced and sang and laughed for a while, and the kids got to stay up an hour past their bed time. The school eventually hired a new librarian, a nice man named Mr. Jody who loved to talk about birds and knew almost everything about every bird there is. Miss Speckle painted some owls and eagles and housemartins on the library walls for him. Walter, who used to be a lawyer, became the most famous lion tamer in the world. Mr. Hamilton Fish eventually learned how to balance three crayons on his nose at once, and now is trying to balance four.
Meet The Boomer Sisters! BJ got quite good at flying her bike, and when she wasn’t flying, she wrote twenty-two stories that year. She loved learning about birds with the new librarian, and Uncle Q attached a camera to the front of her bike, so she could take pictures of birds while she was flying. Uncle Q put wings on JB’s bike too, and the two girls spent almost as much time in the air as on the ground. When JB was on the ground, she spent most of her time writing songs and painting. Her handwriting gradually got worse, but it never did get back to normal. And Mr. Winstesterfield-Schmytherston the Librarian? Nobody ever saw him again. Some people think all the color, energy, laughter and flying made him fade away, while others say he just went to a different school. Some people think he is still hiding in the Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School library or maybe in the basement. A few people think he’s actually hiding in a book somewhere, just waiting for the chance to come back. What do you think?
Meet The Boomer Sisters!
About The Author The guy who wrote this book is a member of PIFL who occasionally writes poetry, juggles knives and eats fire, but not all at once, because that would be confusing. He is also an electrical engineer and an officer in the US Air Force. He has two daughters and a wife, and lives in Central New York at the moment, but will probably move in a few years. He wrote most of this book during National Novel Writing Month (November) 2005, with the help of his oldest daughter and his wife… and he had a great time doing it. He hopes lots of kids who read this book will start their own Great Kids Clubs and do crazy things like The Story Project or The Big Read or whatever cool Ideas they think of.
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