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Three Times Luckyby Sheila Turnage
Chapter 1: Welcome to Nowhere
You ain't gonna believe this, but its true. Were the last two kids in town. In fact, were the only two kids in town. And whats more, since were twins, its almost like there aint even two of us, even though there is. One of us is Jimmy and the other one is Stella, and we dont look too much alike, like some twins do.1.
We live in the town of Wymore, and Wymore is so small you might as well not even try to find it on a map. The official population is only fifty-one, and that number drops down to forty-nine in the summertime when Pops is on the road and Mom is working what she calls the graveyard shift far off in another county, and were left here to live with our remaining forty-seven grandmas and grandpas.2
Now a long time back, Wymore had lots more people in it and a real train station where ladies in funny hats and gentlemen with long curly mustaches got off. There was also real stores where you could buy stuff, and even a shoe factory were gonna tell you about real soon. For now, well just tell you that people used to travel right far to buy Gottfried Schuhs Everlasting Shoes. And on account of how far they had to go to get here, some of them folks would stay overnight at the one hotel in town. Back then it was glamorous and shiny as spit and called the Stanley Hotel, until over time the S, the T, the L, and the E on the sign rusted and fell off. Then it became the Any Hotel.3 Thats where everybody in Wymore lives now, and seeing that there aint but 25 rooms, weve all got to squeeze together some and double up and just plain make do.
Last summer we lived in Room #9 because we were nine years old back then. Meanwhile weve moved across the hall to Room #10, and you can probably guess how come. The mattresses are worse there, and the pillows are harder, and the floor squeaks more, and theres no picture in the picture frame up between our two beds, but the screen in the window dont let in no bugs, and now we can overlook the whole town square. Not that much ever happens down there, but if it does, we aint gonna miss it.
The hotel has three floors, and were on the middle floor. And when its not too hot and muggy at night, we sometimes climb up on the roof and pitch a tent. The roofs so flat that there aint no chance of us rolling off it in our sleep. But for the longest time, Mom used to get the all-overs4 about it because of how she was so scared of heights.5 And so we just didnt bother to tell her when we went up there.
Except for the hotel, there aint really anyplace left to go to in Wymore outside of Mabels Café. All the other places that used to be in Wymore are all closed down now. Like there used to be an appliance store and a flower shop and a bank, but theyre gone. And there used to be an auto parts store and a hardware store and a beauty salon, but theyre gone. And there used to be a furniture store and a drugstore and a haberdashery,6 but theyre gone. And there used to be a barbershop, but thats gone too, although Grandpa Homer and Grandpa Virgil still have their barber-shop duet.
Sometimes we go and play in them old stores, though, especially in summer when days go by slower than a snail riding a turtle. The old furniture store is good for playing tag in on account of all the old busted tables and chairs you can jump over, and theres a rusty stove at the appliance store that we can bake a dust and pebble pie in if we feel like. Sometimes we go to the old drugstore and cough and sneeze and take our temperature with a twig under our armpit and swallow medicine we make ourselves by rolling up little balls of yellow newspaper.7
Robbing the old bank is another way to pass the time around here, but our play money is running low and there aint many grandmas and grandpas left who can stick em up, on account of how their arms just dont move easy anymore. Sometimes we go to the haberdashery and dress up in old, too big, ugly clothes if Grandpa Bert lets us. And sometimes we just think about how nice itd be to go swimming, but Wymore aint got a swimming pool. There aint even a swimming hole somewhere. The town is all dirt and dust and wind and no water.
That leaves Mabels. The café is named after Grandma Mabel, and there aint no one around who can swing a wood spoon like her. And alls you gotta do is taste her checkerboards8 or her Bossy in a bowl9 or a slice of her Eve with a lid on,10 and youll be a customer for life, if not longer.
Now, you mightve noticed we aint said nothing about there being a school in Wymore. Well, you wouldve noticed right, because there aint one. There is an old school building one block off the town square, right next to the old oak tree everybody around here refers to as Old Tom Wood, but there just aint enough kids around here to fill up a school, and so it long since closed its doors. Think about it. How would you like having just two kids in your class and one of them being your sister and the other one being your brother?
But that doesnt mean we get to not go to school. We go five long days a week, nine long months a year, just like you do. In fact, this summer we even got homework. And pretty soon Mr. Buzzard will be coming through town every morning bright and early in his yellow pickup11 to collect us in front of Mabels. We sit out back in a wore-out tire with our bait cans12 in our laps, and he drives us over nine miles of back roads that give our bones a good rattling. Schools up in a place called McFall. Thats the big city around here, with the one traffic light and a general store.
But we still got some time left to laze about up in Old Tom Wood and ruminate over all that happened this summer. We know our teacher is gonna be asking us what we did, and we wanna be good and ready when she does. Because a summer like ours dont happen but once in a blue moon, especially them six days that changed the course of our lives and the lives of everyone else here in Wymore on account of something called a hippomobile. And heres the story the two of us wanna tell.
1 Even though we got the same bowl cuts.
2 Well explain that one later.
3 Which today has another new name youll learn about soon enough.
4 That means she got nervous.
5 Thats one of the things that was gonna change over the course of this summer.
6 Thats what they used to call a mens clothing store.
7 Weve found out theres only so much old newspaper medicine you can swallow before you get a stomachache.
8 Thats what we call waffles.
9 and thats beef stew.
10 Thats apple pie with a top crust. We aint sure exactly how all these foods got named, but its just one thing youre gonna have to get used to.
11 it used to be red, but we got to help him paint it yellow because everybody knows thats the color of a school bus.
12 Thats what we call lunch boxes. Which is pretty weird on account of that nobody in Wymore has ever gone fishing since there aint no water to fish in.
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