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.)

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