SPINNING THROUGH PERIL
Being abandoned by an irresponsible babysitter doesn’t slow down seven year old Joe and eight year old Frank. An unexpected snowstorm, a call for help, and more than one rescue are some of the adventures they encounter in this story.
Eight year old Frank’s index finger hovered speculatively over the volume button of the TV remote. It was tempting. The babysitter’s voice was droning on loudly from the kitchen as she talked on her cell phone and Frank was having difficulty hearing the cartoon. Before he could decide whether or not to go for it, she had ended her call, entered the living room and started talking to him.
“Frank, remember when I was walking by one time and I overheard you and your brother singing in the yard? I believe you were practicing for something at school,” asked their neighbor, Melody, in her usual boisterous manner. Frank had already politely hit the mute button and turned in his seat on the couch to look at her. The early morning light coming into the Hardy home was minimal due to the sun hiding behind the snow clouds that had been gathering. However, Melody was sure that her brand of perkiness scared away any type of threatening cloud cover.
“Well, I thought you two sounded great. I’m putting together a huge group of carolers to spread cheer throughout Bayport. I’m also thinking of starting a vocal academy to train youngsters such as yourselves how to sing correctly, before you form bad singing habits. I have quite a lot of expertise in this area, since I was offered a job at the Met before.” She didn’t mention that the job was as a ticket taker.
Frank couldn’t help but wonder at the wording of her bragging. She had a lot of expertise in bad singing habits? He wanted to laugh but was able to hold it in, so only a smile played around his lips.
“So how about it? Would you and Joe like to join our group of carolers? Your mom and dad, too?” Melody looked at Frank expectantly, as if she were sure he would be excited at the prospect. Not hardly, Frank thought.
“Um, you already asked Mom about the caroling and she said we had plans for the day you would be going out to do that,” Frank reminded her.
“That’s a shame. You can still enroll in my classes, though,” she said brightly. Frank smiled politely as his mind thought of a million things he’d rather do, some of them not fun.
Melody turned and went back into the kitchen, enabling Frank to go back to his cartoons.
All of a sudden, seven year old Joe was awakened from sound sleep by a noise. He sat up in his bed, startled. What was that?!?, he wondered. He listened and heard the noise again. Wow, he thought, that was really BAD. Then almost as suddenly as the noises had started, they mercifully stopped. Joe settled down once again under his warm comforter, easily falling back to sleep now that the racket had ceased.
Downstairs, Frank was standing in the kitchen giving Melody a look. Such a serious little boy, she thought.
“Okay, I won’t sing anymore,” she promised after Frank had come into the kitchen and made a request – for her not to sing. He hadn’t been happy when she had so rudely begun belting out a carol that he figured she was planning to use “to spread cheer throughout Bayport”. She knew Joe was still sleeping, and the older Hardy brother had firmly reminded her of this.
As she was falsely assuming that Frank was too young to appreciate talent, the sounds of one of Melody’s favorite songs could be heard, and she quickly answered her cell phone. She was soon engrossed in a conversation and Frank went back into the living room.
In too short a time, as far as Frank was concerned, Melody had ended her call, and was once again talking to him. Actually, this time she was talking loudly from the kitchen. Going into the room, Frank saw her gathering her things.
“Now, I know your mother isn’t going to like this, but I have to go. Something important just came up. I’m sure you’ll be fine. You and your brother will look out for each other, right?” asked Melody, glancing briefly at Frank. He looked solemnly up at her with dark eyes.
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. He watched as she grabbed her coat from the rack beside the door and hurried out. She’s certainly right about one thing, he thought, Mom isn’t going to like this. Frank and Joe’s mom, Laura, had gone to pick up their father, Fenton, at LaGuardia Airport. Pilot Jack Wayne, who many times would fly the detective to numerous locations, was currently busy with a mission of mercy for a family whose child was sick, so Fenton was flying commercial.
At the sight of the door being closed, Frank calmly went over to it and locked it behind her. He wasn’t the least bit concerned; in fact he had decided Melody would be a sort of liability if there should be trouble. Already today, she’d spent most of her time on her phone. Of course that was fine with them; Frank knew they would take better care of each other than Melody ever could.
In a few moments, Frank was settled once again on the comfortable couch to watch some more cartoons. After enjoying a half hour of one cartoon show, he heard a sound at the doorway to the living room and looked over to see curly, blond headed Joe standing there. Frank motioned for him to come and sit on the couch so he could also watch the cartoons. Joe was still half asleep, but bounced up on the couch beside his brother.
“Why didn’t you wake me up before you came down?” Joe asked, glancing over at Frank, who gave him a look for asking such a question.
“I tried to, but you said you wanted to sleep more, so I let you,” Frank informed him. “At least that’s what it sorta sounded like.” It took a detective or a code breaker to decipher what Joe mumbled when he was mostly asleep.
“Oh,” Joe said. Made sense to him. “I heard Melody singing.”
“Yeah, I reminded her you were trying to sleep,” Frank said, changing the channel as he talked, to watch another favorite show that was coming on.
“Thanks.” Joe sat back to enjoy the cartoons with his big brother. They laughed and enjoyed the antics of the cartoon characters on the screen, only being interrupted when Frank’s stomach growled.
“Melody going to make us something to eat?” Joe asked, glancing at the doorway.
“Nope, she’s not here.” Frank jumped down from the couch, followed by Joe.
“Nope,” Frank said as the two brothers clambered into the kitchen.
“Good, her perfume stinks,” Joe stated. “Who is here?”
“Cool!” Joe shouted. He climbed up into his chair and sat down, then looked curiously at his brother, “What are we going to eat?”
“Well….” Frank looked around. He was taller than Joe, but he still couldn’t reach a lot of stuff in the kitchen. Plus, he knew his parents didn’t want them using the stove when they weren’t in the kitchen supervising. Since they weren’t there at the house at all, then they certainly weren’t in the kitchen, so that was out.
“There are doughnuts Mom made yesterday.” Frank suggested, “How about doughnuts and orange juice?”
“How about a bowl of ice cream?” Joe suggested instead, joking.
“Doughnuts and orange juice, it is then,” Frank said as he went over to the refrigerator and got out the juice, holding it with two hands. “Unless you want cereal.” He set the juice container on the table after closing the door with his foot.
“Doughnuts and OJ, sounds great.” Joe watched his brother reach up and get some disposable cups down from the counter. He tried to decide what he could do; he wanted to help, too.
“I can pour while you get the doughnuts,” he offered. Frank looked at Joe, contemplating, knowing he wanted to do something too, but he wasn’t real sure about his little brother pouring the drinks. Joe widened his eyes, looking eager to help. That kid, thought Frank affectionately.
“Okay, but be real careful!” Frank admonished. He watched for a moment while Joe, with almost comical caution, picked up the orange juice container and carefully lined it up with the cup. Finally satisfied he could get the doughnuts while Joe did that, Frank went over to get them off the counter.
Frank had just reached up, gotten hold of the container, when he stopped, hearing the sound of a thunk and his brother’s one word “whoops”. He wasn’t anxious to turn around to see the mess, but he knew he might as well get it over with. He quietly reminded himself as he was turning that it was good that his brother wanted to help and he should encourage that. Even if it meant more work for him. Biting back a sigh, Frank’s dark eyes then rested on his brother’s grinning face, blue eyes twinkling mischievously.
Looking at the table Frank saw two perfectly filled cups, identical in the amount that each one held. A quick look at his little brother’s face showed that Joe was enjoying his big brother’s reaction very much. One eyebrow was arched in that Joe Hardy way that he had already perfected by the age of seven.
“You did that on purpose, making me think you had made a big mess!” Frank couldn’t believe his brother.
“You guessed that one, Sherlock!” Joe laughed in delight. He ‘thunked’ the container as he had before, making it sound like it had fallen. “Add a ‘whoops’ and let your brain do the rest!” Joe continued to laugh. Frank shook his head. Mostly he was glad he didn’t have to clean up a whole mess, and he had to admit it was pretty funny. His brother sure needed a lot of looking after, especially pulling stunts like that. Frank had been afraid that when Joe was showing him how he had tricked him, that was when he was going to make a mess.
Joe heard his brother’s stomach again and felt remorseful for keeping him from eating; he was just teasing his brother. Deciding to help some more to make up for it, he hopped down from his chair, landing with a thump. Joe picked up the juice container. He went over to the refrigerator, and then went back over to the table after he realized he wasn’t going to be able to hold the container in one hand while opening the refrigerator with the other like big people could do. He set the container down on his chair, then hurried back over, opened the door, scurried back to the chair, and carried the juice to the refrigerator. He put it on the lower shelf and closed the door.
Joe then climbed back up on his chair, took some napkins that were on the table and put one at his place, after scooting one over to his brother’s. He carefully, with two hands, picked up Frank’s orange juice and scooted it over to where he had the napkin for his brother. He then looked expectantly at his big brother.
Frank, on the other hand, had just stood there, doughnut container in his hands, watching his whirlwind brother. He was shocked at all of the messes Joe had just somehow avoided. He realized his mouth was open and closed it.
“What?” Joe shrugged, wondering why his brother was just standing there staring at him. He knew Frank was hungry so he should be putting it in gear so he could eat.
Frank raised his eyebrows and shook his head as he went over to sit down. He opened the container and they each selected one. Joe was pretty tidy most of the time, so Frank didn’t worry too much when his younger brother took out a powdered doughnut.
When they were done eating their doughnuts and drinking their orange juice, Frank hopped off his chair and got a wet paper towel for himself and his brother. Probably should have gotten this before eating, Frank thought. Having wisely used disposable cups and napkins, Frank was pleased that they even cleaned up after themselves when they were done.
“Now what?” Joe asked, watching his big brother scrutinize the kitchen.
“Well…..everything is fine in here, so let’s go play a board game.” Frank and Joe went into the living room to peruse the games in the entertainment cabinet.
“You can pick which one,” Frank said.
“Hmmmm,” Joe thought seriously as his brother pointed to different games and then picked up the one that Joe nodded his head to.
Frank smiled as he sat down across from his brother on the floor. The two began setting out the board and pieces to play Frank’s favorite game. Joe was glad to let Frank be the banker, he enjoyed it, and that was fine with Joe. Frank handed the stacks of money to Joe, who very carefully accepted them and lined them up on his side of the board. They had played this game with their parents many times.
“Okay, let’s pick our game pieces,” Frank held out his hand with the miniature pewter tokens for Joe to choose first. Frank watched as his brother looked intently at each one. He waited patiently and was rewarded for his patience when Joe, in a very short time, selected the horse and rider with exuberance. Frank smiled and chose his token, the car.
Joe, as he usually did while Frank finished getting the game board ready, examined the game piece he’d chosen. The horse and rider was a favorite, as was the car, for both of the brothers. Joe imagined what it would have been like, years ago, like in the stories his mom and dad would read to them, riding a magnificent stallion before there were a lot of houses and cities around. As a brave, he would have ridden true and strong, hunting for food for his family, protecting them from dangers and invaders.
Joe could picture it easily, seeing himself older and riding through the trees, wearing buckskin with fringes, following the right way. A snake would cross his path, causing his horse to rear up, almost throwing him off, but with a few gentle words, Joe would calm his friend down. He would ride free and proud.
He was brought back to the present day when his brother handed him the dice to roll. Joe took his turn and, after seeing how many dots the dice had, moved his horse and rider the appropriate number of spaces. Deciding to go ahead and purchase the lot he’d landed on, he counted out his money to his brother, with a little bit of help from Frank. His big brother was careful to let him take his time and tried to only help him if he needed it.
Joe was just handing the dice back to Frank when all of a sudden the comfortable sounds of the two brothers playing their board game were overridden by the earsplitting shriek of the smoke alarm.