Old Mac Waverly’s top priority is solving problems for his neighbors. This often makes life interesting for the inhabitants of his hometown of Sunflower. In Blue Streak, our brilliant inventor extraordinaire is diverted from his “blue goo” experiments and becomes involved with solving a dilemma for Sunflower’s librarian, Miss Alice Penderson. With the help of the Sprague girls, Sarah and Lucy, Old Mac begins to realize what is causing Miss Penderson’s predicament. Will he be able to find a solution before Miss Penderson has a breakdown?
Old Mac – Blue Streak is the sequel to my first book, Old Mac – Now You See Him, Now You Don’t. I hope you enjoy this complimentary first chapter. Blue Streak is available here on Kindle or in paperback. Comments appreciated.
(Oh, by the way, if you missed Now You See Him, Now You Don’t, you can read the first chapter here.)
Chapter 1: Blueward and Upward
Old Mac Waverly hurried down the stairs to his workshop as soon as he arrived home. He hoped his experiment hadn’t simmered unattended for too long. He knew it would take a long time for the formula to reach the right consistency and the height of its performance, but he wasn’t sure how much time it would take.
Old Mac had never inhabited any one idea for long. Once again, he was true to form, true blue in fact. During his week of invisibility, while the deputy sheriff of Sunflower, Steve Lewis, and his son Ben, had been searching for clues and trying to find him, this new project had taken root in Old Mac’s mind. He put away his invisibility formula in a secret place, ready to begin an all-new adventure.
Although eccentric, Old Mac was sharp as a tack. In fact, those closest to him and even those who barely knew him declared him brilliant. Everyone agreed that his intelligence was an absent-minded-professor kind of genius, but genius nonetheless.
Whenever presented with a problem, however incidentally, Old Mac would put every ounce of effort into solving it. Many citizens of Sunflower have had to confess that they intentionally brought their problems to Old Mac hoping for solutions, despite the potential for peril. Determined in his quest for answers, he never failed to come up with problem-solving inventions or formulas – regardless of practicality.
Old Mac’s creative process was exhilarating. Each time the gears of his mind began to turn, and his brain was about to give birth to a new idea, his physical transformation provided evidence that his genius was at work. Everyone who knew him was familiar with the signs and cringed with fear to witness them.
First, deep furrows would appear on his forehead as he unwittingly closed out the rest of the world in his efforts to concentrate. Then, his eyes would gradually glaze over as he sank deeper and deeper into thought. These changes in his appearance were in sharp contrast to the wide smile that remained on his face during this process. Through it all, his facial contortions seemed an odd combination of grin and grimace.
This creativity-induced change was first evident in Old Mac’s facial expressions, but it did not stop there. The effect of his genius at work was all-consuming and engaged every part of his being. Even the ring of gray hair around his balding head seemed to stand on end in anticipation. As his face drew up in reflective deliberation, his fingers, toes, hands, and feet would begin to twitch ever so slightly. That twitching would spread steadily throughout his body as it increased in intensity. Then, whether he was standing or sitting, his feet would move rapidly in an odd sort of tap dance. Often, Old Mac chattered incoherently or giggled childishly with excitement. The entire metamorphosis made him appear to be experiencing some sort of seizure.
During his routine contemplative sequence, Old Mac outwardly appeared to be in agony. On the contrary, though, he was never more ecstatic than when he was so deeply immersed in thought. Solving the insurmountable problems of the universe had become his favorite pastime, or rather his only pastime. He constantly pondered ideas and abstract thoughts that no one else would ever consider. Only one slight problem existed in conjunction with Old Mac’s favorite hobby. Such contemplation always led him to investigation . . . which led him to experiment . . . which led him to invention . . . which often led him straight into trouble.
This new idea began to grow as a tiny sprout of ingenuity. It then budded into exciting possibility. Finally, it fully bloomed into Old Mac’s unique version of reality. Reality for Sunflower, however, was about to take on a wild blue meaning.
“Somewhere, o-o-o-ver the rainbo-o-ow,” Old Mac crooned as he slowly stirred the contents of the large saucepot. “Ah, this is looking exciteresting,” he whispered to himself. Old Mac often combined words (exciting + interesting = exciteresting) in order to provide more accurate descriptions.
“Think I’ll call this one Blue Goo,” he said and nodded in agreement with himself. “Yep, Blue Goo is the perfect name.” He performed a quick little tap dance, ending with a click of his heels in the air, and then resumed his stirring. “A few more hours and I think we’ll be there,” he giggled. “Then, let it ripen up for a day or two, and the Blue Goo experiments and testing can finally begin.” He paused, frowning, and then grumbled, “Oh, the dreaded waiting.”
Too excited to sleep, Old Mac busily researched, drew up plans, and hovered over his simmering pot. He looked forward with great anticipation to the wonderful experiments he would perform in a few days. He must carefully plan his experiments on paper, then purchase and gather supplies.
“So much to do, and too much time to have to wait to do it,” Old Mac muttered, shaking his head. “These next few days of ripening are going to be long and fierceanizingly torturous.”
In an effort to make the time pass more quickly, Old Mac utterly wore himself out preparing for his experiments. He spent half the night researching, figuring, running upstairs to sit in his conservatory (his favorite thinking place), and hurrying back down again whenever inspiration struck. Stumped by some glitch in his figures, he would climb the stairs to his conservatory, sit in his brown leather recliner on the revolving platform among the myriad plants and flowers, spin, and think. The fragrance of the flowers and the gentle, almost musical notes of the trickling fountain, which took up all of one corner of the room, were so soothing and peaceful that he finally fell asleep in the spinning recliner.
Old Mac had some wonderful dreams during his exhaustion-induced sleep. He dreamed of creating a blue raspberry bubble gum that would not only turn a child’s tongue blue but also her hair and her nails as well. No hair dye or nail polish would be necessary. What fun that would be!
Then he had the paint dream. He dreamed of dipping his paintbrush into a beautiful blue paint, painting one swipe down the wall, and watching in wonder as it spread to cover the entire room. Old Mac was excitedly giggling and moving his feet in a little jig in his sleep as he dreamed.
His reverie continued with a small bead of his Blue Goo added to a washer full of laundry. At the end of the wash cycle, every item of clothing in the washer came out the same gorgeous color of blue, and all dirty spots and stains had vanished. Besides that, everything dried completely wrinkle-and-static-free.
Old Mac blissfully and innocently slept and dreamed. His slumber was peaceful because he was unaware of one crucial event which had occurred during his absence and involved this latest experiment.
When he first set the pot of Blue Goo to slowly simmer, Old Mac had opened the window above the hot plate, barely a crack, for ventilation. Then, while he was performing his reappearing act at the children’s church program, the pot’s contents had reached the peak of its potential. Moments before he returned to check on his project, two tiny bubbles had escaped the surface, floated majestically upward, and slipped through the small opening in the window.
While Old Mac was busily poring over his books and wearing down numerous pencils with his figures, the two seemingly innocent blue bubbles were floating up, up, and away from Old Mac’s house.
As the bubbles were minuscule, this great escape was unobserved by Old Mac or by any other human eye. Nevertheless, even had someone spied them, the most observant among us would not have suspected that two tiny blue bubbles held any consequence whatsoever. Who would have believed that such insignificance held the power to eventually wreak havoc for one Sunflower citizen in particular?
The weather had been unseasonably hot and dry for spring. It had not rained enough to fill a teacup for several weeks. Unhindered by the weight of humidity, the pair of carefree glistening blue bubbles rose higher and higher. They continued their airborne journey floating leisurely down the street, as though casually searching for a perfect new home.
For several minutes it was “up in the air” as to whether they would even settle in the same place. Onward the happy-go-lucky bubbles glided, side by side in silence. Then a sudden warm gust of wind swirled them around and separated them, dropping the first not too far from Old Mac’s house. The second continued to sail away, resisting the downward pull that had caught its brother.
While the blue bubble twins were swirling through the air above their house, Cleve Sprague’s two daughters were whispering in their darkened bedroom.
“Lucy, you asleep yet?” Sarah whispered.
“A’most,” muttered Lucy.
Sarah, a grown-up, no-nonsense, nearly-eleven-year-old, sat up in her bed and leaned over toward Lucy. “Don’t you think that Old Mac has to be the smartest person in the whole world?” she asked.
“I dunno, I guess so,” replied a groggy Lucy, in the midst of a yawn. “All I know is he’s my most favoritist grownup besides Mommy and Daddy . . . and Grandmas and Grandpas.”
Sarah lay back on her bed and sighed. “How could he have made himself invisible? No one could do that. I guess no one but Old Mac, anyway. I think he must be able to do anything! We should spend more time with him. Who knows how smart we might get just being around him. I wonder if he would turn us invisible for one day? That would be amazing!”
The possibility of being invisible caught five-year-old Lucy’s attention. She was wide-awake now. “Do you think he would for real, Sarah?” She was sitting up in bed at that point. “We could run away from home and not really run away. We could get up in the middle of the night and eat whatever snacks we wanted and play games. We could go to the woods every day to see the birds and aminals, and no one would see us.”
Lucy’s excitement about becoming invisible didn’t last long. Being more like her highly-strung, worry-prone, guilt-complexed father, she suddenly became troubled.
“But then, Mommy and Daddy would be so-o-o worried!” she said, shaking her head. “Maybe it’s not such a good idea. I don’t want to make Mommy cry. I don’t think we should get imbisible. You know how Daddy worries,” she said. “Wait! Let’s make our dolls imbisible! That would be fun! We could take them anywhere and no one would know.”
Just then, their bedroom door opened a crack, and both girls dived under their covers and feigned sleep. Their father stood at the doorway smiling in at them.
“I could have sworn that I heard voices in here,” he said, “It must have been ghosts. Invisible ghosts!”
At that, the girls couldn’t help giggling. It did not get any quieter when Cleve swooped in like a ghost and began tickling them.