Chapter 1

By Coco Jane

Today was weird. I don't get it. A bunch of people all together, but they didn't seem very happy about it. I didn't get to have any fun.

First, we went to church on a Wednesday. Mom put on my dress with the big bow, and those hard shoes, and Bryce and Matteo had to put on good clothes too.

Daddy held me for a long long time while people stood around. I had to say hi to a whole bunch of people. It was almost like a parade. I knew some of them, but not many. Grandpa was there, and Uncle Richard, but not Grandma. I wondered where she was. Some people were crying. Some people were hugging Mommy. I got tired of Daddy, and he let me down to walk around with Matteo. But then I was chasing him, and Daddy picked me up again. It was no fun at all.
Then we went into the church. It wasn't like a Sunday. We must have been late from all that standing around because everybody was already in there singing, and we were the last ones to come in.

There was a big long box in the front of the church and lots of flowers. People were crying and blowing their noses. Mommy was crying. Even Bryce was crying. I know church is boring, but I knew not to squirm or giggle with Matteo, or Daddy would take me out like he did last week. He was NOT happy about that. He didn't seem very happy today already, so I stayed quiet. After a while I fell asleep on his shoulder.

After church we went outside and there was the big box. I wanted to get down and play with Matteo, but Dad wouldn't let me. We sat under a tent thing for a while. People were still crying. I don't know why because it was a nice day out.

We went back into the church basement and ate ham sandwiches and cake.

In the car on the way home, Daddy said, "Good-bye, Shirley." Bryce said, "Good-by, Grandma." I don't know why they said that. Grandma wasn't even there.

What a weird day.

Chapter 2

By Coco Jane

"Mr. and Mrs. James, your baby has some defects."

Joe and Brianna gasped.

"It's a boy. He has heart defects, intestinal abnormalities, and fluid in his head. He might not even survive to term. You may want to consider terminating the pregnancy."

Brianna shook her head. Joe wiped her tears.

"No, we want our little boy. We want life."

A month later, new prognosis: Bowel normal. Heart normal. Hydrocephalus for sure, though.

Still want to go through with this?

Mom and Dad both nodded.

Elijah was born with water on the brain. Joe and Brianna smiled at their perfect son.

Author Notes Eli is now seven years old and thriving.

Chapter 3

By Coco Jane

All is quiet . . . or is it?

Be real; it's just a flicker of light.

Can it be? Did I see a bat?

EEEEK!! Flapping up the stairwell! Get me outta here! HELLLLP!! It's in the house, and I've gotta run, run run!

Jump into the bathroom and slam the door. Keep a towel under the door so it won't crawl under (that happened once when I was a kid). Like a three-year-old I bawl, really loudly and with real tears. Maaaaw!! Noooo!!

Okay, get a hold of yourself, you twit, and be an adult about this. Peek out and--waaaah, it's fluttering up the hall--waaaah!!

Quit hollering and decide what to do. Remember that bats are harmless.

Still I'm paralyzed.

The bat is out there, flapping around the living room, trapping me in here like an armed hoodlum out of hell . . . and my cell phone is out on the couch.

Unless you want to spend the rest of the night talking to the toilet, you'd better figure out what to do.

Very smart, Sam, going to a ball game when a bat is terrorizing your wife. Why don't you just come home and rescue me? X-pect me to get that monster out of the house by myself?

You need to call the neighbor, so get your cell phone. Zip out and grab it; run like a bat out of hell to get back here where all is quiet.

Chapter 4
Blind Date

By Coco Jane

My last blind date failed--I tripped on the stairs and tore my dress. Ted must've thought I'm a total loser. Why'd I let Peggy set me up?

Owen's here. Gulp.

Made it down the stairs. So far, so good.

Hey--Owen dribbled gravy on his tie.

We're gonna get along fine.

Chapter 5

By Coco Jane

White flakes swirled as Mildred peeked out the front door. Telltale footprints on the porch steps: the boy had just been there.

She opened the door and lifted the newspaper, then scanned the white expanse for the boy.



She stepped onto the porch and scanned again.

A yellow patch told her he'd urinated in her front yard.

"Chester? Where are you, boy?"

A tabby tail tickled her ankle. Mildred smiled and opened the door for her little companion.

Chapter 6

By Coco Jane

"Michelle, you're pitching next inning. Go warm up."

"Okay." Michelle grabbed her glove and a ball and went behind the dugout.

Tina's dad offered to catch for her.

"Thanks, Jerry," said the coach. "There's gloves by the bench."

"Nah, won't need one. She's just fifth grade."

Two pitches later, Jerry appeared in the dugout. He reached for a glove with crimson hands.

Michelle struck out the side. Jerry held two ice-cold sodas while he watched.

Chapter 7

By Coco Jane

Tyler jumped onto his horse and galloped up the street. Near the hotel, he stopped, dismounted, and drew his gun. Zeke was around somewhere.

Zeke slunk from behind the hotel. His nose twitched . . . he sneezed.

Tyler whirled and pointed his revolver.

"Yer under arrest, you old dog. Put up yer hands."

Zeke stood tall. He licked Tyler's face.

The little cowboy smiled and scratched his best friend behind the ears.

Chapter 8
Easy Does It

By Coco Jane

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

Seventy-eight pages of music history. A three-page essay--written in German. A voice lesson on Tuesday. And Trevor was going to be gone all weekend. The buses would leave at 10:30 p.m. He loaded his books into his backpack, picked up his suitcase, and headed for the campus. The October breeze fluffed his hair and cooled his cheeks.

The parking lot of the music building was a hive of marching band students buzzing around six coach buses bound for Chicago. Trevor stepped onto bus #2 and put his backpack on the seat in the ninth row, next to Molly's. Ah, beautiful Molly. Then he went out to load his trumpet and uniform and suitcase into the belly of the bus.

Vick Stevens was in line ahead of him--all 230 pounds of Vick, burly and hairy.

"Hey, Trev," he grunted, clunking his saxophone case roughly into the cargo hold.

Trevor cringed. Trev-OR, he said to himself. Oh well. He wasn't going to let Vick spoil his good mood. An overnight bus ride to Chicago with his friends (especially Molly) and a marching band show ready to perform at Northwestern University were enough to help him overlook the likes of Vick. He placed his gear neatly and went to report to his rank lieutenant for pre-departure inspection.

The buses rolled out on time. Trevor sat comfortably with Molly at his side and their fellow trumpeters Tom and Val in front of them. Behind them . . . Vick and his partner in crime--a cooler full of libations to share with his buddies in the back three rows.

Trevor spent the first hour of the trip laughing with his friends. Then they all decided to settle into a little late reading.

"Hey, Trev, wanna beer?" hollered Vick. A grimy hand reached over the seat, holding a beer can that dripped icy water onto his music history textbook.

"No thanks," Trevor answered.



The hand disappeared.

"Does that thing have booze in his veins?" asked Molly.

"Oh, probably," answered Trevor. They went back to their studies.

The session didn't last long. By midnight Vick and Company were shined and havin'a good ol' time.

"Teena!!" yelled Vick.


Molly remarked, "He calls you 'Trev'. Why doesn't he call her 'Teen'?"

"Well, because she's twenty. Remember singing to her at the end of music rehearsal last week?" answered Trevor. Molly laughed and elbowed Trevor in the ribs.


One of Vick's boozin' buddies called out, "Why don't ya go up there and talk to 'er?"

"Okaaaay," answered Vick, and swerved his way up the aisle to the chesty blonde sitting a few rows ahead of him.

"Git outta here," said Teena, shoving Vick. Vick tipped back against Tom, then swayed almost on top of Trevor.

"Whoa!" said Molly. "What a load."

"One seat back, Vick," Trevor said loudly, heaving Vick's behind with an elbow.

"Hey, watchit, Trev. That's my ass yer shovin'. Shove Moll's instead, huh?" He burped and guffawed at the same time, clapping Trevor on the shoulder. "How'dja like that one, Moll? Don't Trev shove ya pretty good?"

"Shut up," Molly muttered, frowning.

"Oh, yeah. Trev'd never do a thing like that. Ol' 'Never Trevor.'" He burped again.

Molly retorted, "Vick the pr--"

"Siddown," Trevor told him, fanning away the stench of burped beer. Vick flopped into his seat. Trevor rubbed his sore shoulder.

The boozing and belching continued. Trevor and Molly gave up on the books and snuggled into a pile to try to sleep. The bus was warm, and the ride was smooth, and Molly was soft against his arm. Trevor grew sleepy.

Vick, on the other hand, grew louder with each beer. His obsession with Teena only increased with his inebriation.


"Shut up!"


Molly grumbled, "I wish he'd put a sock in it."

Trevor agreed, but he wasn't going to be the one to tell Vick that. "Maybe he'll pass out and put us out of his misery," he said..


Shouts of "Can it, Stevens!!" from neighboring seats only encouraged Vick.


"Shut the hell up!!"

Trevor sighed. Molly muttered, "So much for passing out. I wish somebody'd slug 'im one." She growled and pressed herself further into the seat.

Trevor wished he could show Molly that he had the guts to slug Vick. He didn't. He just sighed.

At 2:33 a.m., Vick was still "TEENA"-ing, and Molly was still growling. Trevor could not just sigh any more. He and Molly had lost valuable study time and needed to get some serious shut-eye if they were to perform a good show tomorrow. He was going to shut this guy up and shut him up now.

He gently pulled his arm out from under Molly and turned his knees to the aisle. He leaned toward Vick, who was slumped in his seat, smiling stupidly, clutching the last beer can.


Trevor snarled, "Will you--" He drew a big breath through clenched teeth. While his mind hissed "Shut the f*** up!" he heard his voice say . . . "PLEASE be quiet??"

Vick frowned and finally focused his bloodshot eyes at Trevor. Trevor held his gaze with an intense stare of his own, bracing himself for Vick's reaction.

"Y'know, Trev . . ." Vick said, frowning, his head and his voice both unsteady.

Trevor swallowed.

". . . Yer the firsht pershon to ask me nishely. So I think I will." Vick dropped the can into the cooler beside him and leaned his head onto the seat back.

Trevor slowly turned back toward Molly. She took his arm and smiled. They leaned together and closed their eyes.

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