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Jackie's Wild Seattleby Will Hobbs
Synopses & Reviews
Chapter One Sorry About
the Dog Hair
I didn't even recognize him when he headed toward us at the crowded baggage carousel. Just some confused guy with a shaved head, that's what I thought at first, but then he called my name.
I did a double take. Could this be our Uncle Neal?
"Shannie, over here," he called as he came closer.
I recognized his voice, but otherwise I was drawing a blank. I was expecting him to look like his snapshot on our refrigerator back home, with curly black hair, a full face, and a neatly trimmed beard. This Neal had a thin face and was clean-shaven from skull to chin.
The uncle I was expecting had the strong, chiseled arms and legs of a climber. This version was almost skinny and had no muscle definition. Plus he had a tattoo — the word Sage on his left arm. My mother had never said anything about her brother having a tattoo.
All the same, it had to be him. I could see my mother in the lines around his steel gray eyes, the shape of his lips, and the dimple on his chin.
"I go by Shannon now," I muttered as he gave me a hug. Only Cody could get away with calling me Shannie these days.
Neal tried to shake with Cody, but my little brother shrank back. "He isn't shy," I said, "he just hates shaking hands."
"No I don't," Cody protested. "It's just weird, that's all."
I looked from Cody to this stranger-uncle and back, feeling so not okay about the next nine weeks. Out of nervousness I checked my watch. During the flight I'd turned it back three hours. Here in Seattle, it was only nine-thirty in the morning. We'd started our trip at La Guardia airport in New York, checking in at 5 a.m. I couldn't help yawning.
"Longest dayof the year," Neal said. "June twenty-first. Say, I got a call from your folks. They said to tell you their plane took off on time, ninety minutes after yours. They've sure got a long way to go, halfway around the world."
Cody bit his lip. Me, I didn't say anything. We didn't really know our uncle very well. Basically we talked to him on the phone every Christmas. This whole summer was going to be quite a stretch.
Uncle Neal changed the subject. "Cody, you'll never guess what I'm doing these days. You'll be surprised. I'm driving an ambulance."
Cody looked skeptical.
"Really. Wait till you see it."
We pulled luggage from the carousel as Uncle Neal established our ages, fourteen and seven. I was still stunned by his makeover, especially the shaved head. It was a popular look, but definitely not my favorite.
Up close, Neal had a gamey smell, which wasn't exactly appealing. His T-shirt and jeans were covered with dog hair. His eyes were bloodshot, and there were dirt smudges on his clothes. He looked tired. Underneath his cheerfulness, he looked worried, maybe even grim. My mother said he was thirty-nine, but he came off older. "What's with the new look?" I asked, deciding to go for it.
My uncle ran his hand over his skull. "You mean this? No muss, no fuss. What do you think, Cody? Should I get an earring like the NBA players?"
"Maybe not," Cody said. "Who's Sage?"
"My partner. You'll meet her shortly."
"Girlfriend?" I asked.
"Have you gone back to work at Boeing?"
"Nope, still haven't."
My biggest hope for the summer was that we could do some rock climbing together. Here was a guy who'd climbed Mount Rainier in a whiteoutand helped rescue the survivors of a group that had its tents blown off the mountain near the summit. "Are you still climbing? Still doing search and rescue?" I asked casually, keeping my enthusiasm in check.
"Naw," Neal said. "I don't really do that stuff anymore."
Cody and I waited at the curb with our mound of luggage, which was mostly mine. Nine weeks away called for two-thirds of everything I owned. We waited for what felt like a long time. Everything was confusing, edgy, and noisy. The lanes closest to the curb were clogged with cars stopping to pick up arriving passengers. Just like back at La Guardia, security guards and soldiers on the lookout for terrorists were adding to the tension.
My eyes were drawn to a large maroon van in the outer lane. jackie's wild seattle was written in large letters across the side, with wildlife rescue and rehab underneath, plus an 800 number. At either end of the lettering was a seal's face, all eyes and whiskers, and the white head of a bald eagle. "Hey, that's Uncle Neal driving," Cody yelled. "That must be the ambulance! Look, Shan, check out his passenger!"
A very alert black-and-white dog was riding shotgun. Neal managed to thread his way to the curb in front of us, where he lurched to a stop and jumped out. "Is that your partner, by any chance?" Cody asked as all three of us grabbed luggage. "Is that Sage?"
"You're quick, Cody. Yes indeed, that person up front wearing the furry suit is my partner. And this van is an extension of my body. I've already put forty-five thousand miles on it this year."
Neal lifted up the back, and I found out where the gamey smell on his clothes was coming from. The van reeked of it. Therewere feathers all over, a few old duffel bags, metal boxes, fiberglass kennel carriers of various sizes, a giant fishing net. "Is there going to be enough room for our stuff?" I wondered aloud.
"Has to be," Neal said, pulling some of the kennel carriers out onto the pavement. "It'll just take some rearranging." He was huffing and puffing, and his forehead was beaded with sweat.
"Let me do that," I said. I was surprised how out of shape he was.
"You're dressed too nice," Neal protested.
"Just jeans and a top."
"I mean, you're too clean."
How do you rescue a wild coyote trapped in an elevator in a downtown Seattle office building? How do you save an injured baby seal at the bottom of a cliff with the tide coming in? Fourteen-year-old Shannon Young, visiting from New Jersey, is about to find out.
Shannon's parents, both doctors, are working in refugee camps overseas while she and her little brother, Cody, are spending the summer in Seattle with their mysterious uncle Neal. To their surprise, Uncle Neal drives an ambulance for Jackie's Wild Seattle, an animal rescue center. Shannon and Cody join their uncle and his partner, a border collie, for nine weeks of breathless, sometimes reckless, often hilarious adventure chasing after whatever wild critters need help. When Uncle Neal is injured by a red-tailed hawk, Shannnon summons her courage and becomes the one who rescues the animals.
Jackie, who runs the center, believes in the "circle of healing," and in Shannon's circle everyone is in need of healing. Traumatized by the events of September 11, Cody is sure disaster is about to strike. Shannon wants to believe in Tyler, a teenage working off his court-appointed time at the wildlife center, but Uncle Neal thinks he's a ticking time bomb. Meanwhile, Neal is keeping secrets of his own.
Beneath the excitement, there's always an undertow of danger. Everything is uncertain, and home is so very far away.
About the Author
Will Hobbs is the award-winning author of eighteen novels, including Far North, Crossing the Wire, and Go Big or Go Home.
Take Me To The River began with his weeklong canoe trip through the remote Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border. Wills fondness for Texas goes back to his high school years in San Antonio. A graduate of Stanford University, Will lives with his wife, Jean, in Durango, Colorado.
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