My Books

Old Mac – Now You See Him, Now You Don’t, Continued

This is the completion of the first chapter, which I promised to post later. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.  If you are a fan of children’s literature, I would love to know what you think. Thank you!

Old Mac - Now You See Him, Now You Don't | Toni Umbarger | Children's Mystery

Chapter One, continued:

Old Mac Waverly had lived in Sunflower longer than anyone could remember. Being the oldest citizen in Sunflower, he was an expert on the town and everyone who lived there. Anyone who wanted historical information about Sunflower turned to Old Mac. He was a sort of self-confessed walking encyclopedia.

Old Mac’s knowledge about his hometown was similar to the community’s understanding of him. Numerous stories about Old Mac had been handed down from generation to generation. Old Mac had been central to so many strange occurrences over the course of so many years, involving so many different people, that he had become nothing less than notorious.

News traveled faster than the speed of light in the small town of Sunflower. The entire populace became aware of each turbulent event almost as soon as Old Mac created it, and he somehow managed to create such events daily; sometimes hourly. For many years, the townspeople had told and retold tales about his recycled Green-Sheen banana peels; about the pick-up truck he rigged to drive from its bed; about his alarming attempt to smoke his own ham; and about his perilous creation of snow angels on his rooftop, which almost cost him his life. Thanks to Old Mac, the people of Sunflower continually fluctuated between being in stitches or in a state of anxiety.

People also circulated sundry rumors and suspicions about Old Mac. Odd things often happened in Sunflower, and of course, most of them were traced back to Old Mac. When something strange happened, they assumed that he must be responsible. For instance, most people blamed him for the bubble incident at Gertrude Hosley’s pond. Gertrude awoke one morning to find the pasture behind her home engulfed in a foamy mess. Although it brought a great deal of notoriety to Gertrude and to Sunflower, it took nearly a year for the bubbles to completely clear away. Apparently, no one saw Old Mac near the pond, and he never confessed to causing the frothy affair. However, the question on everyone’s mind remained, “Who else would do such a thing?”

Old Mac’s wild unpredictability began to be recognized as hazardous. The townspeople, in order to protect Old Mac and the community, set up what they called the “Old Mac Watch.” Seemingly unaware of their watchful eyes, Old Mac went merrily about his daily business. The participants of the “Old Mac Watch” believed they were preventing catastrophes.

Miss Alice Penderson, who lived across the street and down two houses south of Old Mac’s, had the special honor of being on Old Mac Watch early on that particular Monday morning. She paused in the middle of her breakfast preparations to perform her scheduled Old Mac duties.

From the bay window in her living room, she watched him through the petite, chrome-plated telescope she had bought by mail order for this specific purpose. She saw nothing out of the ordinary as Old Mac skipped out his front door and down his sidewalk, retrieved his newspaper, turned, and danced back to his door in his familiar way, kicking the bunny slippers high in the air and clicking his heels together at every “Hyee hah!” Miss Penderson marveled at the old man’s agility.

Her windows were open to the fresh air, and she couldn’t help hearing Old Mac’s ditty echoing throughout the neighborhood. He seems to be in exceptional spirits, she thought. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath, inhaling the fresh morning air, and said aloud, “Understandably so on such a splendid morning.” Then, she watched Old Mac dance safely back into his house. Finally, Miss Penderson returned to her own morning routine, unconsciously humming “She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.”

She had less than one hour to have breakfast and make her way across town to open the library. In her twenty years as librarian, she had never been late opening the library doors, and she was determined the Sunflower Library would open promptly at 8:00 AM once more.

While he ate his breakfast at home, Mayor Brooker made a phone call to Old Mac. Old Mac had once presented the mayor with a gift of one of his unique inventions. He had made a set of special boots for the mayor’s mare; his reasoning being that no one held in such high esteem as the mayor should ride a horse with muddy hooves.

The mayor rode the boot-shod horse a couple of times just to humor Old Mac. It also “humored” the rest of the community to the extent that the mayor thought he would never live it down. After that, it was the mayor’s habit to give Old Mac a phone call at 8:00 each morning before going to his office.

“Good morning, Old Mac! How are you this beautiful morning? Any special plans for the day?”

“I’m fantabulous, Mr. Mayor. As a matter of fact, I’m working on a surprise that’s going to be a real wower. As soon as I finish breakfast, I’m going to get right back on it.”

For about ten minutes, they chatted about Old Mac’s plans for the day. It finally became disappointingly clear to the mayor that Old Mac was not going to give out any details about his “surprise.”

“Old Mac, I hate to end our discussion, but I have to get to the office. I’m meeting with the city commission first thing.” The mayor couldn’t help feeling uneasy as he said goodbye. It was usually comforting to the mayor to find out what Old Mac was up to, especially to know that he was not up to trying to help the mayor. However, by the time he had ended this conversation, he did not feel so reassured. Old Mac’s mention of a special surprise project made him edgy and apprehensive. The secrecy about this new project added to the mayor’s overwhelming fear of receiving another gift like the horse-galoshes. Had he known Old Mac’s actual purpose, he might have welcomed such a gift instead.

My Books

Old Mac – Now You See Him, Now You Don’t

This post features the beginning of the first chapter of my book, a sampler, so to speak. I will post the rest of the first chapter in another post later. Please feel free to leave feedback and suggestions, as I am still working on more books for the series. I have learned a lot since this was published, and I recognize some of the “rules” I may have broken in this one. Thank you all for taking the time to read this! 🙂

Update:  The completion of the first chapter has been posted here.

Old Mac - Now You See Him, Now You Don't | Toni Umbarger | Children's Mystery

Chapter 1: Monday Morning

Ben Lewis was not one of the middle-schoolers sleeping in on the first Monday of summer break. He was too excited about helping Old Mac with his latest project and had hardly slept at all.

Awake bright and early, Ben bounded out of bed and over to his open window. He looked out at the town below and wondered what kind of uproar this project of Old Mac’s would bring to Sunflower. He didn’t know what the project was, but he knew it would be amazing; Old Mac’s projects always were. Ben grinned and sighed deeply. The summer was full of glorious promise.

After he had pulled on a pair of blue jeans and his favorite T-shirt, Ben slipped into his sneakers without bothering with socks. “Who’s gonna know anyway?” he asked under his breath, as he started down the stairs. “Mom and Dad are both at the donut shop by now, and Mildred wouldn’t notice even if I was wearing high heels and lipstick. Yuck!” Ben shuddered at the thought.

Ben’s mother owned and operated Daisy’s Donut Shop, so she was out of the house before sunup every weekday. His dad was Sunflower’s Deputy Sheriff, whose habit it was to stop at the donut shop for Danish and coffee before he went out on patrol. Mildred, the “babysitter,” was more formality than necessity. She had been the family babysitter for as long as Ben could remember. Now, she was approaching eighty years old and spent most of her babysitting days watching TV soaps and sucking on lemon drops.

He reached the bottom of the stairs, and there on the couch sat Mildred, facing the TV, tuned to the Soap Channel. “Good morning, Mildred,” he chimed. “I’m heading to Old Mac’s after I eat some breakfast. I might spend the day there. I’ll try to call if I’m not going to be here for lunch.”

Mildred didn’t take her eyes off the television as she spoke, “That’s okay, Ben. You’re up awfully early. Your sisters are both still in bed.”

Ben cringed. Why did she have to mention sisters? It was mornings like this that made it easy to forget that he had sisters. It was his misfortune to have been dealt two of them. What made it worse was that he was the middle child. Molly was two years older than him, and Janie was two years younger. Being sandwiched between two sisters had to be the worst torture in the world. Temporary escape was his only solace.

Ben wolfed down two bowls of Honey-Os and drank a large glass of orange juice. He took the time to slip his dirty dishes into the dishwasher. Mom was a stickler about cleaning up after oneself, and he did not want anything to jeopardize the time he had allotted to helping Old Mac.

Ben closed the kitchen door quietly behind him (it wouldn’t do to wake the two torture experts) and ran toward the sidewalk. Just as he turned to head toward Old Mac’s, the most horrible sound in the world stopped him. He grimaced as soon as the screech reached his ears.

“Hey, Dweeb, aren’t you forgetting something?” Molly’s voice was shrill as she yelled at him from her open bedroom window. She was only fourteen, but she assumed authority over him as though she were an adult. “You promised Mom you’d return those library books for her first thing this morning and pick up the next two that Miss Penderson has for her.” Then she continued in a singsong voice, “I don’t see any books in your hands.”

Ben’s mind began to race through possible scenarios. The library wouldn’t be open for another half hour. If he went on to Old Mac’s and did not go back for the books, Molly would be sure to rat on him. If he took the books to Old Mac’s with him, he would probably get busy and forget about them, and Molly would be sure to rat on him. There was only one way out. He would have to go back into the house for the books, wait for Miss Penderson to open the library, and get to Old Mac’s a little later than he had planned. He angrily kicked a rock off the sidewalk and then walked back into the house to the tune of Molly giggling mockingly from her window.

Morning routines were unfolding for all the Sunflower residents, including Old Mac, who joyously danced out to get his morning paper. Tall and gangly, with a ring of gray-white hair circling his balding head, he presented quite a spectacle wearing his purple and yellow plaid pajamas, his bright green robe with orange stripes; and the enormous, fuzzy pink bunny slippers that he always wore for the occasion.

As if his appearance weren’t enough grandiosity, Old Mac added a song to his dance routine, “She’ll be comin’ ‘round the mountain when she comes. Hyee hah! She’ll be comin’ ‘round the mountain when she comes. Hyee hah! She’ll be comin’ ‘round the mountain, she’ll be comin’ ‘round the mountain, she’ll be comin’ ‘round the mountain when she comes. Hyee hah!” He sang slightly off key, but with great exuberance. What he lacked in musical talent, he made up for in volume and flamboyance. As a rule, the more excited he was, the louder he sang. His voice reverberated as he bellowed at the top of his lungs. If the neighbors had been sleeping before he came high-stepping out his front door, they certainly were wide-awake following his boisterous serenade.

 

(The completion of the first chapter has been posted here.)