Search Ebook here:


Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles, #1)

Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles)
ISBN: 006202468X
ISBN13: 9780062024688
Page Count: 560
Publisher:
Published: 8/30/2011

How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries. In fact, if she were to list her worries right then and there as she sat spellbound on the park bench and watched her little brother, Mac, carried aloft in the talons of these five black crows, puzzling out just how this feat was being done would likely come in dead last. First on the list: Her baby brother, her responsibility, was being abducted by birds. A close second: What did they plan on doing with him?

And it had been such a nice day.

True, it had been a little gray when Prue woke up that morning, but what September day in Portland wasn’t? She had drawn up the blinds in her bedroom and had paused for a moment, taking in the sight of the tree branches outside her window, framed as they were by a sky of dusty white-gray. It was Saturday, and the smell of coffee and breakfast was drifting up from downstairs. Her parents would be in their normal Saturday positions: Dad with his nose in the paper, occasionally hefting a lukewarm mug of coffee to his lips; Mom peering through tortoiseshell bifocals at the woolly mass of a knitting project of unknown determination. Her brother, all of one year old, would be sitting in his high chair, exploring the farthest frontiers of unintelligible babble: Doose! Doose! Sure enough, her vision was proven correct when she came downstairs to the nook off the kitchen. Her father mumbled a greeting, her mother’s eyes smiled from above her glasses, and

How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries. In fact, if she were to list her worries right then and there as she sat spellbound on the park bench and watched her little brother, Mac, carried aloft in the talons of these five black crows, puzzling out just how this feat was being done would likely come in dead last. First on the list: Her baby brother, her responsibility, was being abducted by birds. A close second: What did they plan on doing with him?

And it had been such a nice day.

True, it had been a little gray when Prue woke up that morning, but what September day in Portland wasn’t? She had drawn up the blinds in her bedroom and had paused for a moment, taking in the sight of the tree branches outside her window, framed as they were by a sky of dusty white-gray. It was Saturday, and the smell of coffee and breakfast was drifting up from downstairs. Her parents would be in their normal Saturday positions: Dad with his nose in the paper, occasionally hefting a lukewarm mug of coffee to his lips; Mom peering through tortoiseshell bifocals at the woolly mass of a knitting project of unknown determination. Her brother, all of one year old, would be sitting in his high chair, exploring the farthest frontiers of unintelligible babble: Doose! Doose! Sure enough, her vision was proven correct when she came downstairs to the nook off the kitchen. Her father mumbled a greeting, her mother’s eyes smiled from above her glasses, and

ily behind her, Mac shrieking happily with every jolt. They tore through the neighborhood of tidy clapboard houses, Prue nearly upsetting Mac’s wagon with every hurdled curb and missed rain puddle. The bike tires gave a satisfied shhhhhh as they carved the wet pavement.

The morning flew by, giving way to a warm afternoon. After several random errands (a pair of Levis, not quite the right color, needed returning; the recent arrivals bin at Vinyl Resting Place required perusing; a plate of veggie tostadas was messily shared at the taqueria), she found herself whiling time outside the coffee shop on the main street while Mac quietly napped in the red wagon. She sipped steamed milk and watched through the window as the café employees awkwardly installed a secondhand elk head trophy on the wall. Traffic hummed on Lombard Street, the first intrusions of the neighborhood’s polite rush hour. A few passersby cooed at the sleeping baby in the wagon and Prue flashed them sarcastic smiles, a little annoyed to be someone’s picture of sibling camaraderie. She doodled mindlessly in her sketchbook: the leaf-clogged gutter drain in front of the café, a hazy sketch of Mac’s quiet face with extra attention paid to the little dribble of snot emerging from his left nostril. The afternoon began to fade. Mac, waking, shook her from her trance. “Right,” she said, putting her brother on her knee while he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Let’s keep moving. Library?” Mac pouted, uncomprehending.

“Library it is,” said Prue.

She skidded to a halt in front of the St. Johns branch library and vaulted from her bike seat. “Don’t go anywhere,” she said to Mac as she grabbed the short stack of books from the wagon. She jogged into the foyer and stood before the book return slot, shuffling the books in her hand. She stopped at one, The Sibley Guide to Birds, and sighed. She’d had it for nearly three months now, braving overdue notices and threatening notes from librarians before she’d finally consented to return it. Prue mournfully flipped through the pages of the book. She’d spent hours copying the beautiful illustrations of the birds into her sketchbook, whispering their fantastic, exotic names like quiet incantations: the western tanager. The whip-poor-will. Vaux’s swift. The names conjured the images of lofty climes and faraway places, of quiet prairie dawns and misty

treetop aeries. Her gaze drifted from the book to the darkness of the return slot and back. She winced, muttered, “Oh well,” and shoved the book into the opening of her peacoat. She would brave the librarians’ wrath for one more week.

Outside, an old woman had stopped in front of the wagon and was busy searching around for its owner, her brow furrowed. Mac was contentedly chewing on the head of his wooden snake. Prue rolled her eyes, took a deep breath, and threw open the doors of the library. When the woman saw Prue, she began to wave a knobby finger in her direction, stammering, “E-excuse me, miss! This is very unsafe! To leave a child! Alone! Do his parents know how he is being cared for?”

“What, him?” asked Prue as she climbed back on to the bike. “Poor thing, doesn’t have parents. I found him in the free book pile.” She smiled widely and pushed the bike away from the curb back onto the street.

The playground was empty when they arrived, and Prue unrolled Mac from his swaddling and set him alongside the unhitched Radio Flyer. He was just beginning to walk and relished the opportunity to practice his balancing. He gurgled and smiled and carefully waddled beside the wagon, pushing it slowly across the playground’s asphalt. “Knock yourself out,” said Prue, and she pulled the copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds from her coat, opening it to a dog-eared page about meadowlarks. The shadows against the blacktop were growing longer as the late afternoon gave way to early evening.

That was when she first noticed the crows.