We are on vacation. Here’s Trapped in the Tunnel chapter two! I may keep posting the chapters on the days I work or on holidays or vacations. Maybe you’ll be able to read the whole thing for free – although I sure can’t guarantee it will be speedy!
I need to tell you a little bit about our mom.
Since we are all boys, Mom is the only girl in the family. She has the same features as Larry: bright yellow hair and blue eyes. All three of us love our mom a lot.
But, even though we love our mom, there are a few problems. First, because she used to be a teacher, she gives us assignments, even in the summer. Especially in the summer.
Second, she helps manage the charity garden across the road from us. Mom makes us help sometimes, pulling weeds or picking tomatoes so that poor people can get enough to eat. If you’ve never tried picking tomatoes before, don’t try it. It’s hard work.
Third, Mom worries about us. I guess I can’t blame her since Larry and I almost died when we were younger. And Terry almost dies most years.
Back to the projects. Why did I memorize capitals when I was seven years old? Assignments. And she made it so fun, I thought it was a game. I also thought it was normal. Surely all children would know the capitals of Kenya and Finland and Spain.
So now, even though it’s summer vacation, Mom designed a project for us. Not only is it a project, but it’s a nine-part project, meant to last nine weeks. She told Dad about it, and of course he thought it was a fantastic idea.
“Okay, boys,” Dad said from his recliner just a few nights ago. “We have a project for you during vacation. It’s easy, and it will help you learn about the fruit of the Spirit.”
We eyed Dad suspiciously. Larry looked over the top of his book. Terry, on the floor, looked up from a complex Lego creation. I paused in my study of the Rubik’s cube.
None of us had any problem learning from the Bible. We were used to going to church every Sunday. We understood the Spirit was part of God. But we didn’t like that word. Project. It sounded too much like school. Also, we knew Dad didn’t come up with projects like this.
“Oh, we already know the fruits of the Spirit.” Terry flopped onto his back on the carpet of the living room floor. He waved his hand in the air as if to wave away the project. “We learned those in Sunday school years ago.”
Terry’s favorite chair is the floor. He loves stretching out on the floor, summer or winter, spring or fall.
“Apparently you don’t.” Mom looked up from a poster board, marker in hand. “Because it is fruit of the Spirit, not fruits of the Spirit.” Terry groaned, but Mom went right on. “So can you name all nine?”
“Oh, sure.” Larry put down his book to begin his recitation.
Yes. My body relaxed against the couch and I focused confidently on the Rubik’s cube again. Larry knows everything. He will impress Mom by reciting them all, and then she won’t make us do the project after all.
“Love, joy, peace…” Larry stopped and tapped his forehead.
What? Surely Larry couldn’t be running out of options already.
“Long-suffering?” I said shakily. This was not going well. I had been counting on Larry to rattle off the fruits, and he had stopped after only three. The same three I knew.
“Okay.” Terry rolled back over and picked up his Lego project. “So we don’t know them. What do we have to do?”
“You don’t have to if you want to,” Dad said.
That’s his favorite phrase whenever we are complaining about work.
“I’m making a chart.” Mom drew a long line on the poster. “We’re going to find these nine qualities in other people and in ourselves.”
“Oh, come on!” Terry said. That’s one of his favorite phrases. “This is a nine-part project?”
“One for each week of vacation,” Mom said. “We’ll start this week with the first fruit, which is love. At suppertime, we’ll discuss if we showed love to anyone or if anyone showed love to us. You need to each provide an example for the chart each week. Then we’ll come up with something that symbolizes that fruit. That’s it.”
“That’s it?” Terry tore several blocks off his design. “That’s like a summer-long research paper.”
“Can we symbolize the fruit with actual fruit?” I twisted a row of blocks on the Rubik’s cube. “Love is like an apple.”
“How is love like an apple?” Mom’s marker suspended in the air as she looked up at me.
“Never mind,” I sighed.
“Just one example and one symbol?” Larry turned back to his book. “That’s not too bad.”
“It would be bad if you had brothers like mine,” Terry mumbled.
Larry and I just shook our heads. We didn’t even bother commenting.
“So, we start with love.” Dad picked up his newspaper. “Keep an eye out for acts of love and try to use that fruit yourself.”
So that was that. We had a summer-long project to find fruit of the Spirit.
I also need to tell you about Number Ten. The house we thought was empty.
First, let me tell you about the Brady Street neighborhood. Across from our house, an immense garden spreads over all four lots. This is the garden Mom helps manage. So we don’t have any close neighbors there, unless you count the green squash plants that wave at us in the breeze.
Then there is our side of the street. There used to be a house between us and Lexington Avenue, but the owner knocked the house down before I was born. Now shrubs and tall grass and a cluster of trees clutter the lot and muffle the sound of traffic from the busy avenue.
Our house is next.
After our house, is the empty house we call Number Ten.
Right past Number Ten is Tina’s wooden fence with a kayak tied to it. And then there is Tina’s house, with a bronze owl statue staring at passersby from its perch on the bottom porch step. Neighbor Tina walks around the garden with her Rottweiler.
After that, the park. It’s not much of a park, just two rusting basketball hoops with torn nets and a tennis court with no net. That’s it.
After the park, the river curves in. And that’s all of Brady Street. An alley curls along the back of the garden, connecting the park to the next street. Sometimes people walk or drive down the alley to play in the park. But, besides a few volunteers who work the garden, few cars visit our street.
Until last fall, we had quiet neighbors who lived in Number Ten. We called it Number Ten because someone had placed the address numbers 410 on the front door. Then the 4 fell off, and it was just 10.
White paint flaked from the siding. The front steps sagged. The porch railing had lost a spindle, like a smile with a missing tooth.
We didn’t know our neighbors well. Mom took them a plate of her famous chocolate peanut butter cookies and they barely thanked her. But I remember their little girl running after a yellow balloon last fall. It was a crisp autumn day, and our maple tree was brilliant red and her balloon floated away into the tree. I rescued it for her, and it made me wish I knew her better.
Her quiet mother kept a white angel in the flowerbed out front. The angel played on a flute and had gold-edged wings. It looked like a Christmas angel. But Mom said there was nothing wrong with keeping an angel in a flowerbed all year. Also, Mom said, it took much less care than the marigolds and geraniums and peonies we had.
The little girl’s father mowed the lawn most weeks. When a big shrub began to sag in the front of the house, the man tied it to the porch railing with a blue plastic string. The string kept the green bush from falling onto the lawn.
Dad smiled when he saw the blue string. “I like people with creative ideas.”
Mom would not have wanted the ceramic angel in her flowerbed. Dad would not have tied a shrub to our house. But our parents told us that every human being is important. Even if people did things that seemed strange to us, we were not allowed to make fun of anyone.
Then, just before Thanksgiving, our quiet neighbors moved away. A “For Sale” sign appeared on the front lawn. The grass grew wild with no one to cut it. When snow came in January, the shrub bent low and the blue string snapped. In spring, the weeds exploded, along with the fresh green growth of the grass.
All that happened before the trouble started.
One day during school, Mom saw a group of five men go into the house. Was someone moving in? Maybe. But the men had no boxes or furniture.
Besides, the men didn’t look like investors or landlords. They had long, dirty hair and rumpled clothes and bandanas tied around their foreheads.
“That old man who comes to the food pantry was with them.” Mom’s forehead creased in concern.
“Raspy?” Terry forced another bite of grilled fish. Mom had made it because Dad loved it. Terry couldn’t stand fish.
Mom nodded. She looked at Terry as if she was trying to decide whether to laugh.
“He talks in a raspy voice.” Terry imitated him.
“I guess. But don’t forget that he has a name. Carl.”
“Do you think they were breaking in?” Dad squeezed a section of lemon and watched the drops fall onto his fillet.
“I don’t know.” Mom forked up a flaky bite of white fish and sighed.
And that’s when she said the words that terrified us. “Ferguson, maybe it’s time we take up your mom’s offer and move to Iowa. The farm would do the boys good.”
What is the Brady Street Boys series? Based on the fruit of the Spirit, it is expected to have 9 books. Trapped in the Tunnel is Book One. Here is the series description:
Terry, Gary and Larry Fitzpatrick live in northern Indiana along the St. Joseph River. President Reagan lives in the White House. Gasoline costs 90 cents a gallon. For families like the Fitzpatricks, computers and cell phones are still things of the future. The boys’ Christian parents teach them to pray and give them a project to learn the fruit of the Spirit. They help Gary navigate the pain of losing his leg and his firefighting dreams.
But having a wooden leg doesn’t keep Gary from adventures. With Terry the acrobat, and Larry the brain, Gary begins a quest to find an answer to the most important mystery of all.
What happened to the surgeon who amputated Gary’s leg, and has now disappeared?Brady Street Boys Indiana Adventure Series