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Roberta Olsen Major
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Beck and her sister are left alone when their mom is called away--just for a few hours, until their landlady gets home--but a storm hits, flooding the streets of Houston.
As the rain continues to fall, disaster follows disaster.
And someone knows theyâ€™re alone.
"Itâ€™s just for a few hours," I said for the forty-seventh time.
"Youâ€™re only sixteen," my mother responded, also for the forty-seventh time.
"Iâ€™m six-and-a-half," my little sister interrupted.
Way to go, Jilly, I thought. If Iâ€™d had to go through the whole call-and-response thing again, I might have had to resort to foot-stomping and name-calling--not the way to win an argument with my mother about my level of maturity.
"I donâ€™t like to leave you two when thereâ€™s a storm heading this way," Mom said, moving on to the second verse of this endless song.
"Itâ€™s not necessarily heading this way," I said, barely restraining myself from rolling my eyes. "It could make landfall anywhere between here and Brownsville, Mom, and it could be days from now, or never. You know how unpredictable the weather is in Houston."
"Unpredictable," Mom repeated with special emphasis, as if proving her point.
"Itâ€™s not even a hurricane," I went on. "Itâ€™s a tropical depression. And if you donâ€™t get on that plane, the depression around here is going to be a lot more than just tropical!"
"Iâ€™d take you both, Rebecka," Mom said, her voice trembling a little, "but I just donâ€™t have the airfare. She was your grandmother."
"Who was my grandmother?" Jilly asked, then, "I didnâ€™t know I had a grandmother."
Mom winced, but Jilly had it right. Grandmother Fisk washed her hands of Mom seventeen years ago, and refused to acknowledge the births of either of her only grandchildren--or even our existence--in the years since. The old lady was as unbending as a steel-reinforced girdle, and there was not a soft bone in her body.
We now had proof of the bone thing, since sheâ€™d fallen and shattered her hip a few months back. Momâ€™s brother had called with ghoulish updates: the bones werenâ€™t knitting, the doctors had found underlying problems, and finally, "Ding dong, the witch is dead..."
"Iâ€™d send you over to the Campbells," Mom said for the thirtieth time, "but theyâ€™re leaving for Dallas early tomorrow morning."
I sighed. "Itâ€™s just for a few hours," I said. Wrong thing to say. I could see Momâ€™s lips forming the standard response for the forty-eighth time. "Mrs. Magruder will probably be back before dark," I added quickly. "We wonâ€™t even have time to notice youâ€™re gone."
Jilly turned big eyes on Mom, her lower lip starting to wobble. "I donâ€™t want you to go."
"Sure you do, Jilly." I said it quick, before the maternal guilt lever could be yanked any farther. "Itâ€™ll be like a sleepover, just us. Weâ€™ll make pizza--" Jilly loved to cook. "--and watch videos and paint each otherâ€™s toenails."
Jillâ€™s eyes lit up. I figured I could live with blue toenails for one night, if it kept her happy.
I looked at Mom, who appeared marginally less conflicted. I started to relax.
"Can Patrick have a sleepover with us?" Jilly asked, as if this was the greatest idea yet.
Before Mom could return to full meltdown mode, I said, "No, Patrick canâ€™t come. This is just a sleepover for sisters. Patrick isnâ€™t a sister."
Far from it. But Mom was already touchy where my newly-acquired boyfriend was concerned, so listing all of his excellent qualities would be counter-productive at the moment. Instead, I mustered up the most reasonable tone I could manage, and put a hand on my motherâ€™s arm. "Weâ€™ll be fine, Mom. You have to go. She was your mother." She was a wicked old witch with a heart stonier than Plymouth Rock who deserves to rot in the third ring of hell for all eternity--but this was also not the thing to say right now to my tender-hearted mother. "Weâ€™ll be just fine," I added soothingly.
"Youâ€™ll keep the deadbolt on?"
"You wonâ€™t tell anyone youâ€™re in the flat alone?"
I nodded again.
"Youâ€™ll make sure Jilly brushes her teeth and says her prayers?"
Two more nods--and I was beginning to feel like a rubber raft in the Gulf of Mexico: up and down, up and down, up and down.
"If I couldâ€™ve just t
Roberta Olsen Major wore out two toy typewriters as a child before her parents decided it would be more frugal to provide her with the real thing. Throughout junior high and high school, she used two fingers to tap out lurid, angst-filled stories peopled with impossibly beautiful characters speaking highly improbable dialogue.
After earning a BA from Brigham Young University, she worked as a librarian in sensible shoes, before switching her Major to the care and feeding of a scientific husband and two charming children.
A published playwright and reviewer of childrenâ€™s books, she now lives in Texas, where she collects dust, gets taken for daily walks by her faithful Schnauzers, and is, as always, working on her next book.
The Ice Cream Crone: "â€¦a galloping romp of hilarity on a quest of pure enjoyment. Roberta Olsen Major delights her readers with wit, puns, and good old sillinessâ€¦ filled with the perfect combination of chivalry and jovialityâ€¦ Life, love and the pursuit of laughter reignâ€¦â€ --Joyce Handzo, In the Library Reviews, October 10, 2003
The Ice Cream Crone: "â€¦ takes â€˜happily ever afterâ€™ a hop, skip and a jump farther, leading the child in us all on a merry romp through â€˜what ifâ€™.â€ -- Pam Ripling, author of Locker Shock!
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 180
Paper Weight (lb): 7.8