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Welcome to the Club!

The Junkyard Club
by Andrea Bikfalvy

Chapter One

"He's home! He's home," Sue shouted suddenly, her voice high-pitched and excited. Tom instantly came clattering down the stairs in his floppy tennis shoes. Mom hurried out of the kitchen with a warning scowl for Tom and his recklessness. Before she even opened her mouth, he sighed and bent down to tie his shoelaces, fumbling in his haste. His shoelaces were a tangled mess ready to come undone at any moment when he straightened up. Mom shook her head and smiled, giving up for the moment. Sue threw open the front door, and Dad walked in carrying two big, orange pumpkins - one under each arm, ready to carve. The children jumped up and down around him, yelling and bumping into each other.

"Can we carve them, now?" asked Sue.

"Can we? Can we?" Tom echoed, trying to grab the bigger of the two pumpkins from Dad. His freckles were almost dancing off his face in his excitement. Dad avoided their wild grasps easily and set the pumpkins down just inside the door.

"After supper," Mom said firmly.

"Aww, Mom," Tom wailed, "no fair."

"Yes fair," said Dad sternly, ruffling Tom's hair to take the sting out of his words. "We'll carve the pumpkins as soon as we're done eating."

Both children felt too excited and impatient to eat much - Tom spilled his milk twice. Dad winked at him as he dragged himself out of his chair for the second time to get a handful of paper towels. Sue made a pile of her mashed potatoes in the middle of her plate and swirled it around with her spoon, forcing herself to eat a few bites whenever she noticed one of her parents looking.

Dad pushed his plate aside and asked, "Well, Jan? Do you think they've suffered enough?"

Mom pursed her lips. Her eyes were twinkling as she said, "I don't know..."

"Come on, Mom, please. I'm not hungry at all!" Tom declared.

"I ate all my peas," Sue announced, looking at her mom and dad hopefully.

"Well, all right. It's not every day you have pumpkins waiting for you!" Mom started clearing dishes from the table. "But you won't get away with this again. I'm not going to raise two scarecrows. And that goes for you, too, Sir Charles the Conspirator."

Dad gave her an innocent look, seeming to ask, 'who, me'? "Yes, you, Mr. Innocent. You're almost as excited as the kids are." Sue and Tom carried their dishes to the sink while their parents teased each other. Sue rolled her eyes at Tom. They had to pick tonight to fool around when she was dying to get busy on her pumpkin. Tom gave her a look that said he understood. Parents could be so inconsiderate sometimes!

Mom finally noticed them bouncing with impatience next to the sink. "Take the pumpkins out onto the back porch with some newspaper. I'll be out as soon as I do up these dishes."

"Come with us," said Sue, pulling on her arm. "You can't do the dishes while we have fun."

"Yeah, you have to come, Mom," Tom added.

She looked at them and smiled. "Okay. I guess a little fun won't hurt me. The dishes will keep."

"Whooopeee!" Tom hollered as they ran out to the backyard to start carving their pumpkins. Dad put the pumpkins on newspapers on the grass with some markers to draw the faces with. Mom and Dad sat on the back porch and talked while Tom and Sue argued, drew, erased, and redesigned their pumpkin faces until they were mostly satisfied. Then Dad cut the top off Sue's pumpkin while Mom helped Tom draw his jack-o-lantern's teeth the way he wanted. Sue squealed as she reached inside to scoop out the slimy, cold entrails of her pumpkin. The stringy gook and seeds squished and slipped between her fingers. That was part of the fun, of course.

Tom scooped out some of the orange mush and put it above his lip like a mustache. "Look, I'm a lawyer!" he said. "What can I help you with today, Miss Bumperkin?" Sue made a funny face at him, and continued hollowing out her pumpkin. Disappointed in his sister's bland response, Tom took the gook off his lip and threw it at Sue. It landed in her hair.

"Dad!" Sue cried.

"Tom! No throwing. Get busy scooping." Tom sighed. Sometimes girls just didn't know how to have fun. Pete would have thrown it right back at him, and they could have had a pumpkin-guts-fight.

"I'm done," Sue called. Tom scowled, and then began flinging pumpkin innards about wildly as he rushed to catch up. Sue wisely moved out of range until he was finished.

Dad carved the pumpkins while Sue and Tom watched anxiously. Mom stood back and watched with a smile. She got the kids to help her pick the seeds out of the pumpkin guts to roast and eat later. By the time both pumpkins were carved and the mess rolled up in the newspapers and thrown away, everyone was tired, but full of laughter and fun. "You've got school tomorrow and it's nine thirty, so scoot, you two," Dad said, laughing.

Tom and Sue ran inside and up the stairs to get ready for bed, yelling back and forth from the bathroom and their rooms all the while. "My pumpkin is better," yelled Tom.

"It is not," yelled Sue.

"Is, too!"

"Is not!"

"What are you going to name yours?" asked Tom, peeking around the edge of the doorway into the bathroom.

"Name a pumpkin? That's silly," Sue replied, pausing in brushing her teeth.

"It is not. Mine's gonna be Hubert. What's yours?"

"Nothing. Pumpkins aren't people. You name people, not pumpkins," Sue said, watching Tom concentrate on squeezing toothpaste onto his brush.

"You name pets like Rex and he's not a person," Tom said.

"Well, that's different. He's a dog, not a pumpkin. Pumpkins aren't alive." Sue nodded firmly at her own logic and finished brushing her teeth.

"You name dolls and stuffed animals and they're not alive."

"Well, so what? You don't name pumpkins. It's silly," Sue said, leaving the bathroom.

"No, it's not silly," Tom said. "What about Henry?"

"My pumpkin is not a boy, it's a girl," yelled Sue from her room.

"Henrietta, then," Tom decided.

"It's still silly," Sue said, peeking into the bathroom again. "And don't forget to turn the light off."

"Quiet up there, you two," called Dad from downstairs, "It's already past your bedtime."

Tom and Sue giggled and ran into their rooms to jump under the covers. "Good night," they called to each other before turning off their bedroom lights and snuggling in for the night. Mom and Dad finished cleaning up and did the dishes, laughing and talking long after the children slept.

When Sue and Tom got home from school the next day, Sue noticed right away that the pumpkins weren't on the porch. She said, "Tom, where are the pumpkins? Did you put them somewhere else this morning?"

"Don't you know where they are?"

"I wouldn't ask you if I knew, now would I, Dummy?"

Tom shrugged, stung by her insult. "Maybe Mom put them inside," he suggested, but they weren't in the hall or the living room.

Tom and Sue decided to search for them. They looked all over the house and yard - even in the garage - but they couldn't find the pumpkins anywhere. When Mom got home from work, she helped them search again, but even she couldn't find them.

"Where are they?" Sue wailed.

"Yeah. I want Hubert and Henrietta back now!" said Tom, starting to sniffle.

"Now, don't get upset before you know the facts," Mom said, breaking up lettuce for a salad. "Maybe your father took them to work with him for some reason. Maybe he thought they'd be safer there. Maybe he just wanted to show his friends what great pumpkin carvers you are. It may not sound very likely, but it's not totally outside the realm of possibility."

"You know, Tom, she could be right. Dad might do that," Sue said thoughtfully.

"I guess so," said Tom with a doubtful look, "but I bet he didn't. I bet they're kidnapped by bank robbers! Or burglars!" Just then Dad came in. Tom and Sue both rushed into the living room and started firing questions at him.

"Whoa, there," shouted Dad. "What's going on here?"

Mom came out of the kitchen and explained, "The pumpkins were gone when the kids got home from school and we were hoping you took them to work with you for some reason. We've looked all over for them, and they just aren't here."

"You mean they aren't on the porch?" asked Dad, going out to look.

Sue and Tom couldn't talk about their missing jack-o-lanterns because of the lumps of worry and sadness that rose up in their throats if they even thought of what might have happened to them. Instead, they started yelling at each other in the middle of the hallway. "See, I was right! I was right!" chanted Tom.

"All right, so we were wrong. Knock it off!" said Sue.

"You knock it off!" Tom responded angrily.

"Shut up," Sue ordered. Sue pushed Tom, and he pushed her back.

"Susan, Thomas, stop it both of you!" Mom ordered, and Sue and Tom fell silent. While they all walked solemnly into the living room, Tom stuck his tongue out at Sue behind their parents' backs. Sue ignored him. Mom and Dad sat on the couch and Sue sat in the big green armchair, making a face at Tom because he always tried to be the one to sit there. Tom sat in the rocking chair and began to rock wildly.

"Well, what do you think we should do?" asked Mom, breaking the thick silence. "It seems silly to call the police about a couple of missing pumpkins. Tom, stop that!" she added automatically, and Tom stopped his wild ride.

"Not necessarily," said Dad, responding to Mom's comment about the pumpkins. Before he could continue, the phone in the hall began to ring. He got up to answer it. He was gone for a while and everyone else waited impatiently for him in the living room. As soon as he walked back into the room, Sue and Tom spoke.

"What did they want?" they asked in a chorus.

"Mrs. Hansen from two doors down - Pete's Mom - called to say that somebody took their pumpkin, too. She's going to report it to the police, since it seems to be a series of pumpkin thefts. She said she'd let us know if she finds anything out."

"I remember carving pumpkins when I was a little girl," Mom said. "I used to give them names. I named my first pumpkin...oh, dear, was it Wilma?...No, Willimeeta."

"But who would steal pumpkins," asked Sue. "That's a low-down, nasty, despicable thing to do! We worked so hard on them."

"Yeah. It's a nasty, low-down thing," said Tom. "And I want my Hubert!" he added fiercely.

"Well, there's not much we can do right now. If they don't turn up soon, we'll just have to get some others," said Dad.

"No!" Tom and Sue cried together. "I don't think I want another," Sue said.

"I want my Hubert back," said Tom.

"Let's hope they're found, then," said Dad, shrugging at Mom. "Now, let's eat some dinner. I'm starved."

As they walked into the dining room, Sue saw the look on Tom's face and whispered, "It's all right. I'm going to get those pumpkins back!"

"How?" he asked hopefully.

"It's a secret."

"Can I help? Please?" Tom asked.

"Okay. After school. And I'm sorry I yelled at you and called you a Dummy."

"That's okay. I'm sorry, too." Sue and Tom smiled at each other.

"Meet me here after school, okay?" said Sue.

"Okay," Tom answered.

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