Note: I was going to skip a post this week due to working, but decided to share Chapter One of Trapped in the Tunnel. Let me know if you or a child in your life wants to read Chapter Two next week. We are going to be out-of-state, so I probably won’t write a post, but I could post Chapter Two.
“We have to convince Mom this neighborhood is safe,” I said to the wooden bicycle ramp I held off the garage floor.
“Uh-huh.” Terry’s voice came from under the ramp.
“And Dad too,” Larry added, from behind the pages of a book.
“Well, sure.” I shifted the weight of the ramp from one arm to the other. “But Mom is the one who worries.”
Let me explain our names. My Dad’s name is Ferguson Fitzpatrick. Mom’s name is Arabella. The first thing they decided when they met each other was if they ever had children, they would give them short, easy names.
They went a little extreme.
- First, Terry was born, the one building the ramp. He has done crazy things since he was born 14 years ago.
- Then it was me, Gary, born a year later, holding the ramp so Terry could work underneath.
- Larry, our encyclopedia, is 12.
They gave us easy names, all right. But whenever we introduce ourselves, people smile and gush like we are a bunch of babies.
“Terry, Gary, and Larry?” Their eyes widen and their tongues cluck. “Now isn’t that cute?”
We escape as soon as we can.
Terry had been constructing the wooden ramp all morning with help from Larry and me. Using scraps of Dad’s lumber, he hammered together a ramp that rose about three feet in the air and stretched four feet long. It was a patchwork of pieces, but he had put in so many nails that I couldn’t imagine it falling apart.
Larry helped by reading out loud from his book about bicy- cle stunts. I helped by sketching a blueprint for him on graph paper. I also made lists of all the different things he would need. Besides rowing our boat the London on the river, making lists and drawing are my two favorite activities. I always carried a notebook in my pocket.
“I know Mom is the main worry person, but I bet Dad worries too.” Terry, flat on his back on the cool cement of Dad’s garage, poked and pulled at a loose piece of wood. “He’s just not saying anything. Or maybe he just wants to drive a tractor and milk cows.”
“No, he doesn’t.” I shifted again, hands aching. “He likes repairing boat motors more than anything.”
“Living on a farm sounds fun.” Larry spoke without looking up from his bicycle book.
“I don’t want to live on a farm,” I said. “Cows and sheep and manure and thorns.”
Terry reached for Dad’s hammer. It was beyond him by three feet.
“See, you like making lists.” Larry looked up at me now and nodded toward my supplies list and blueprint. “You could make a farm list. Compare cows and sheep.”
“Oh, stop it!” I barked. Moving was not a joke to me. If we moved away from the St. Joseph River, I could not row the London on its welcoming waters. “Larry, can’t you put that book down for one second and give Terry the hammer?”
Red color rose in Larry’s pale cheeks at my harsh tone. He slid across the floor and kicked at the hammer. Terry is the athletic one of the three of us, not Larry. But somehow, Larry hit that hammer just right, and it shot toward Terry like a bullet.
“Yoooowwwwl!” Terry yelled as he jerked his arm in self-defense.
I dived at the hammer to keep it from sailing into Terry’s head. Larry might have intelligence to spare, but Terry needs every brain cell he has.
I failed to reach the hammer in time. But in trying, I dropped the ramp. It came down with a thwack on Terry’s ribs.
For a second, we were all yelling. Terry yelled from pain. I yelled at Larry again for kicking the hammer. Larry yelled at me for dropping the ramp on Terry. Then Terry yelled at both of us for our stupidity.
On the bright side, Terry had blocked the hammer with his upper arm, saving his brain.
After Terry finished yelling, the garage grew still. Terry mumbled something about brotherly love.
“You know, Mom’s project.” He rubbed his upper arm. “Guess I’d better stop yelling if I’m going to make it on her chart. Although you guys should stop beating me up, too.”
“It was an accident.” Larry shuffled his feet on the garage floor. “Kind of.”
“Sorry.” I leaned against a metal barrel. “I don’t want to move away from the river.”
My comment made us forget about being mad at each other and brought to mind our actual problem. Across from me, Larry’s book lay closed on the garage floor beside him. Terry had extricated himself from under the ramp and was now lying on top of it, feet sticking off the lower end. His head rested on the flat part at the top with his brown curls pointed toward the back of the garage.
“What if we move to a farm with no library close by?” Larry shook his head and picked the bicycle book off the floor. “That would be terrible.”
Larry devoured books as if they were food and drink. When he finished one book, he started another.
“Why are you so scared about leaving the river, Gary?” Terry looked my direction. “I would miss Dad’s shop more than the river.”
“I guess it’s because operating a boat is something I can do well with one leg.” I looked at the wheelbarrow beside the ramp, my wrists resting on my good knee. I had learned to love rowing. Dad’s boat had a motor. But he thought we should learn to row before we could use the motorboat.
Now here’s what I like about my brothers. They nodded thoughtfully at my wooden leg. They avoided thoughtless comments about all the things a person can do with one leg. They didn’t talk about how nice it is to have a wooden leg when you step into a thistle patch because you don’t notice the thistles.
They understood having only one good leg bothered me a lot. Back when I had two legs, Terry, Larry and I dreamed of being firefighters when we grew up. We would run into burning buildings and drag out trapped people. We would climb trees and telephone poles and rescue stranded animals.
Then the problems began. I lost my leg above the knee, and Larry nearly died of pneumonia.
With my wooden leg, I can’t run up and down stairs like I used to. I’ll never be able to drag people from burning buildings and save their lives.
Larry still has breathing problems, especially in a cloud of dust. He would never survive in smoke. However, he loves books so much he doesn’t seem to mind the lost dream.
But I do mind. It doesn’t seem right. Only Terry can do whatever he wants.
But I can row our old aluminum boat, the London.
“No doubt about it.” Terry stared at the garage ceiling. “You’re better at rowing than I am. I don’t like to admit it, but it’s true.” Terry wins the award for the tallest, strongest, and most acrobatic. He throws a football farther than either Larry or I, runs faster, and does better bike stunts.
“Yup, it’s true.” Larry nodded, just to irritate Terry and to make me happy. “You are better at rowing than Terry.”
“Hey!” Terry stretched, reaching his arms off the end of the ramp. “You don’t have to agree, Larry.”
It felt good. I laughed despite my fears.
I named our boat too. When I was in bed after losing my leg in surgery, I learned countries and their capitals. Mom made flashcards for me so I could learn them. She gave me a book with pictures from around the world. On the page about London, I saw an enormous tower clock. Mom said they called it Big Ben. I practiced drawing that majestic clock on the back of a hospital napkin.
As I was drawing, Mom told me what she had learned about Big Ben when she was a schoolteacher. The clock tower rises over 300 feet tall, she said, and has a bell that weighs 15 tons. Three times a week, men wind the big clock, which takes about an hour. Then Big Ben can chime hour after hour, rarely running too fast or too slow. But if Big Ben slows, they place pennies on the pendulum to change the weight. Each penny helps Big Ben gain 0.4 seconds.
When Dad got the rowboat the next summer, I thought about the big clock. I named the boat the London. I had thought about naming it Big Ben, but the name sounded bigger than our little rowboat. The London isn’t fancy like Dad’s motorboat. It is a simple aluminum boat with three seats, each smaller than the one behind it. Aluminum handles let us tie the boat to the dock or pull it in to shore. Small or not, I loved the London at first sight. I took a magic marker and wrote London on her stern.
“Would you like a motorboat, Gary?” Larry asked. “I mean, if Dad ever lets us get one? Or would you rather just keep using the rowboat since you’re so good at that?”
“Oh, I’d be the best at running the motorboat too.”
Terry sat up like a current of electricity had zapped him. He glared at me. Then with a laugh he said, “Hey, why don’t you put your fancy rowing muscles to good use and help me get this ramp out for practice?”
“Did you ever tighten that loose piece?”
“Oh, right,” Terry grumbled, rubbing his upper arm. “This time I’m going to flip the ramp over rather than trust you to hold it for me.”
With a few strokes of the hammer, he declared it finished.
“Where are you putting the ramp?” Larry backed away as Terry and I carried the wooden structure into the warmth of the June sun.
“Back yard?” I blinked my eyes, adjusting to the brightness.
“What, you want me to fall in the river?” Terry scowled.
“Yes, yes!” Larry clapped his hands. “You could do a flip on your way over the bank.”
“And see if you can land bike first.”
Terry rolled his eyes.
Our back yard isn’t much bigger than a bathtub. Our favorite maple tree and a metal clothesline take up most of the space. Then the yard drops away to the river and wooden stairs lead down to the London’s dock. No matter how we positioned the ramp back there, Terry could somersault into the river.
“It’s so hot it would be fun to get wet.” Terry marched toward the street. “But I need to perfect my skills on a flat surface first.”
Our front yard was flat, but again too small. Mom’s yellow marigolds lined the walk from the street to the front porch, cutting the front yard in half. We knew better than to ride a bicycle through Mom’s flowers. So the only other option was the street.
We had good reasons for our choice.
- Few cars drive down Brady Street.
- Even if a car came, Terry would escape in time.
- Even if a car hit Terry, he would be okay.
We’re all good at surviving tough times. I already told you that Larry almost died when he was little. Mom told me I would have died of cancer if the doctor had not cut off my leg. And Terry? Well, Terry breaks one bone per year on average, and he has always recovered from every accident. So we dragged the wooden ramp out into the middle of Brady Street, between our house and the empty house we call Number Ten. Number Ten is the reason for all our problems. It’s the reason Mom thinks we should move to a different place.
What’s wrong with Number Ten?
Well, we don’t know if the house is actually empty.
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