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The Crossroadsby Chris Grabenstein
Synopses & Reviews
Billy O'Claire was doggy-dog tired.
He'd been trying to fix the toilet in the brandnew house for over six hours and the weather outside was extremely hot and muggy, especially for the Friday before Memorial Day.
Billy was sweating up a storm. Since nobody lived in the new house yet, they hadn't turned on the air-conditioning. His work shirt was a soppy sheet of wet cotton with full-moon stains oozing down below both armpits.
It was nine p.m.
He tightened one last nut, then gave the trip handle on the toilet a flick. Instead of the customary whoosh of water swirling into the bowl, Billy heard a roaring gurgle. The toilet was working backward. He raised the lid and saw a commode burping up chunks of brown gunk. Leaves. Dirt. Twigs.
Nothing else, thank heaven, because nobody had actually used the toilet yet. This woodsy debris had to be seeping in from a cracked sewer line, and Billy realized they might have to rip up the newly sodded lawn to fix a drainpipe ruptured, most likely, by tree roots.
But that was a Monday-morning kind of problem.
Fortunately, it was Friday night and Billy was finished working for the week. He cranked the shutoff valve behind the toilet and went out to the driveway, where he had parked his pickup, the one with O'Claire's Plumbing painted on the door over where it used to say O'Claire's Painting and, before that, O'Claire's Satellite Television Repair.
Billy sat in the cab and drank half a gallon of water out of a glugging plastic jug and aimed two of the truck's air-conditioning vents up at his armpits.
It felt good. Real good.
He yawned and thought about grabbing a quick nap. Instead, he slammed the transmission into reverse and backed out of the driveway, not realizing that something wicked was lurking a little ways down the road--just waiting for the next doggy-dogtired driver to come along.
A flashing red stoplight hung suspended over the intersection where County Route 13 crossed Connecticut State Highway 31.
A gigantic oak tree stood near one corner, and its highest branch--as thick around as the trunk of any ordinary tree--suddenly started to move. No wind was blowing. No sports car zooming past had sent up a swirling wake. But the massive limb began to bend and rotate. It sensed an easy target approaching and, longing for a little fun, tore against itself--slowly at first, then with gathering speed. When the final strands ripped free, the bough broke off and fell like a two-ton truck, tearing down the blinking beacon.
Then the tree stopped moving.
Billy O'Claire remembered that there used to be a flashing red stoplight hanging over the intersection of 13 and 31. Tonight, however, there wasn't one.
Billy didn't want to stop. He needed to find a bathroom. Bad. Chugging half a gallon of water straight from the jug will do that to you. And he preferred a bathroom where the toilet didn't gurgle back at him. He pressed down on the gas pedal.
How dry I am, he crooned off-key. How wet I'll be, if I don't find . . .
Suddenly he saw someone standing in the middle of the road.
A motorcycle cop--holding up his hand and commanding Billy to stop.
So Billy slammed on his brakes and the pickup skidded sideways. Tires screeched, the truck swerved, and he almost hooked on to the bumper of a car he hadn't even seen coming. He spun around and wound up on the far side of t
When the family moves back to his father's hometown, Zack is told the story of the crazed killer and the accident at the crossroads that took forty lives, causing Zack to believe in the rumor of the evil spirit that lives in the tree and whose reign of terror is not yet over.
When eleven-year-old Zack Jennings moves to Connecticut with his father and new stepmother, they must deal with the ghosts left behind by a terrible accident, as well as another kind of ghost from Zack's past.
About the Author
Chris Grabenstein is the Anthony Award–winning author of Tilt a Whirl, Mad Mouse, and Whack a Mole. He used to write TV and radio commercials and has written for the Muppets. Currently, Chris and his wife live in New York City with three cats and a dog named Fred, who starred in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Broadway. You can visit him (and Fred) at www.chrisgrabenstein.com
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