SNATCH A STORY
“Ohhhhh…lllohhhh…hello?” The shape had the face of a teenaged boy wearing a strange-looking hat. His outline was insubstantial but lit with a faint glow. He made a throat-clearing noise and said in a soft voice, “I’m sorry if I scared you.”
“Well…” Bicycle said uncertainly, and then yawned. Probably this was a dream and nothing to get too worked up over.
“I might be more scared if I knew what you were. Are you a ghost?”
The shadow-figure looked confused.
“I’m not sure. Do I seem like a ghost to you? I seem like myself to me.” He touched his chest and rubbed his tummy. “Do ghosts get hungry? I’m pretty hungry.”
Whatever he was, Bicycle decided she wasn’t scared of him. She moved away from Clunk and felt around on her hands and knees until she found her backpack. She dug into her stash of food, pulling out some chocolate squares to offer him.
“Oh, thank you!” he said. He reached out a hand to take the squares, but they dropped right through his palm onto the ground. He scrabbled at them with his fingers, but the chocolate lay there without moving. His face fell.
“Well, ghost I am, I guess.” He scratched an ear. “Last thing I remember, my best friend, Joe Branch, and I were pouring powder into our muskets behind this big tree, and then…then I’m sitting here with no musket and no Joe.” He looked around. “Just you and the trees and the stars.”
“I’m sorry I don’t have anything you can eat,” Bicycle said, wrapping up the chocolate. She wasn’t used to having complete conversations with anyone other than Sister Wanda, and here was her second conversation of the day. She racked her brain for something to say. What do ghosts talk about? Then she had an idea. “Do you have some unfinished business, anything like that? In most books I’ve read, ghosts usually seem to have unfinished business they need to complete. Think about it – why are you appearing now? Maybe you remembered a stash of money you needed to tell your family about? Some evil villain you want to wreak your vengeance upon?”
The ghost thought, wavering in a breeze, and finally said, Nah. I didn’t have much money, or even much of a family, and never knew any villains.” He paused. “I never even really had any plans other than going along with Joe to fight with the Missouri volunteer infantry. Say, is the war all done? Did everybody stop fighting?”
“Yes,” Bicycle said. This boy must have been a casualty on this very battlefield. She did the math in her head to figure out how long ago the Civil War had ended. “They stopped fighting more than a hundred and fifty years ago.”
“Well, that’s good,” he said. “Turns out, war’s not so great.” The boy looked at Bicycle and shrugged. “So. No unfinished business I can figure. Is there some other reason your books say that ghosts appear?”
“They also haunt stuff,” Bicycle said. “Maybe you’ve woken up because you’re supposed to haunt this battlefield. To remind people that war’s a bad idea or something. If someone rests near this tree, you have to appear and share your ghostly wisdom.”
He placed a hand against the rough trunk of the maple tree. “Huh. That could be it – I’m here to haunt this battlefield…”
THE WICKED READ
By Christina Uss
Published by Holiday House/ Margaret Ferguson Books
Age Range: 8-12 years
Twelve-year-old Bicycle has lived at the Mostly Silent Monastery in Washington, D.C. for as long as she can remember, surrounded, mostly, by silence. Every time she meets other children she’s astonished at how noisy they are – and can’t stop herself from pedaling away from them on her trusty bike, Clunk.
Her guardian, Sister Wanda, decides to fix this friendship problem by sending Bicycle to a camp where she’s guaranteed to make three friends. But Bicycle decides that if she must make a friend, she’ll do it her own way. Without telling Sister Wanda, she sets off with Clunk on a journey across the United States to attend the San Francisco Blessing of the Bicycles. There, she will be able to meet her idol, a famous cyclist, who she hopes will become her first and best friend.
Bicycle has no way of knowing that she’ll end up with a friendly ghost haunting her handlebars and have to contend with a bike-loving horse, bike-hating dogs, and a bike-stealing bandit. Over the uphills and downhills of her journey, she discovers that friends are not such a bad thing to have after all, and that a dozen cookies really can solve most problems.
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FREE & FREAKY
THE CREEPY CREATOR
Christina “Danger” Uss has taken her own bone-chilling bicycle rides across the United States, once widthwise and once lengthwise. She has yet to meet a ghost willing to haunt her handlebars, but she keeps looking everywhere.