Authors: R.L. Stine - (ebook by Undead)
All my life, I’ve wanted to see snow.
My name is Jordan Blake. My life has been twelve years of sun, sand, and
chlorine. I’d never felt cold,
—unless you count air-conditioned
supermarkets. And I don’t. It doesn’t snow in the supermarket.
I’d never felt cold, that is, until the adventure.
Some people think I’m a lucky guy to live in Pasadena, California, where it’s
always sunny and warm. It’s okay, I guess. But if you’ve never seen snow, it
seems like something out of a science-fiction movie.
Fluffy white frozen water that falls out of the sky? It piles up on the
ground, and you can make forts and snowmen and snowballs out of it? You have to
admit it sounds weird.
One day, my wish came true. I got to see snow at last. And it turned out to
be weirder than I thought.
“Pay attention, kids. This is going to be cool.”
Dad’s face glowed under the red darkroom light. My sister, Nicole, and I
watched him developing film. With a pair of tongs, he dipped a sheet of special
paper in a chemical bath.
I’ve watched Dad develop film all my life. He’s a professional photographer.
But I’d never seen him so excited about photos before—and that’s saying a lot.
Dad takes nature photos. Well, actually, he takes pictures of
taking pictures. My mom says that once when I was a
baby I saw Dad and screamed. I didn’t recognize him without a camera in front of
his face. I used to think he had a zoom lens for a nose!
Our house is filled with embarrassing pictures of me—me as a baby in baggy
diapers, me with food all over my face, me crying after scraping my knee, me
hitting my sister…
Anyway, Dad had just returned from a trip to the Grand Tetons. That’s a
mountain range in Wyoming—part of the Rocky Mountains. He was all worked up
about the pictures he took there.
“I wish you kids had seen those bears,” Dad said. “A whole family of them.
The cubs reminded me of you two—always teasing each other.”
Teasing. Ha. Dad thinks Nicole and I
each other. That’s putting
it mildly. Nicole—Miss Know-it-all—drives me crazy.
Sometimes I wish she’d never been born. I’ve made it my mission to make
feel the same way. I mean, I try to make her wish she’d never been born.
“You should have taken us with you to the Grand Tetons, Dad,” I complained.
“It’s very cold in Wyoming this time of year,” Nicole said.
“How do you know, Brainiac?” I jabbed her in the ribs. “You’ve never been to
“I read up on it while Dad was away,” she explained. Of course. “There’s a
picture book about it in the library if you want to know more, Jordan. It’s just
right for you—it’s for first graders.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say back. That’s my problem. I’m too slow
with the comebacks. So I jabbed her again.
“Hey, hey,” Dad murmured. “No jabbing. I’m working here.”
Dumb Nicole. Not that she’s dumb—she’s really smart. But in a dumb way—that’s my opinion. She’s so smart she skipped fifth grade—and landed in
class. She’s a year younger than I am and she’s in my class—
gets straight A’s.
Dad’s pictures floated in the chemical bath, slowly becoming clear. “Did it
snow in the mountains while you were there, Dad?” I asked.
“Sure, it snowed,” Dad replied. He was concentrating on his work.
“Did you go skiing?” I asked.
Dad shook his head. “I was too busy working.”
“How about ice-skating?” Nicole asked.
Nicole acts as if she knows everything. But like me, she’d never seen snow,
either. We’d never left Southern California—and you could tell by looking at
We’re both tan all year round. Nicole’s hair is greenish-blond from the
chlorine in the community pool, and mine is brown with blond streaks. We’re on
the school swim team.
“I’ll bet it’s snowing at Mom’s house right now,” Nicole said.
“Could be,” Dad replied.
Mom and Dad are divorced. Mom just moved to Pennsylvania. We’re going to
spend the summer with her. But we stayed in California with Dad to finish out
the school year.
Mom sent us some pictures of her new house. It was covered with snow. I
stared at the pictures, trying to imagine the cold.
“I wish we stayed at Mom’s house while you were gone,” I said.
“Jordan, we’ve been over this.” Dad sounded a little impatient. “You can
visit your mother when she’s settled. She hasn’t even bought furniture yet.
Where would you sleep?”
“I’d rather sleep on a bare floor than listen to Mrs. Witchens snoring on the
couch,” I grumbled.
Mrs. Witchens stayed with Nicole and me while Dad was away. She was a
nightmare. Every morning we had to clean our rooms—she actually inspected them
for dust. Every single night she served us liver, brussels sprouts, and
fish-head soup with a tall glass of soy milk.
“Her name’s not
Nicole corrected me.
,” I retorted.
Under the red light in the darkroom, the photos grew clearer. I heard
excitement in Dad’s voice.
“If these shots come out well, I can publish them in a book,” he said. “I
will call it
The Brown Bears of Wyoming,
by Garrison Blake. Yes, that has
a nice ring to it.”
He stopped to pull a photo out of the liquid. It dripped as he stared at it.
“That’s weird,” he murmured.
“What’s weird?” Nicole asked.
He set the picture down without saying anything. Nicole and I glanced at it.
“Dad—” Nicole said. “I hate to break it to you, but that looks like a teddy
a picture of a teddy bear. A stuffed brown toy bear with a
lopsided grin, sitting in the grass. Not the kind of creature you usually find
in the Grand Tetons.
“There must be some mistake,” Dad said. “Wait until the rest of the photos
develop. You’ll see. They’re amazing.”
He pulled up another picture. He studied it. “Huh?”
I grabbed the photo. Another teddy bear.
Dad picked up a third picture. Then a fourth. He moved faster and faster.
“More teddy bears!” he cried. He was frantic. Even in the darkroom, I could
see the panic on his face.
“What’s going on?” he shouted. “Where are the photos I took?”
“Dad—” Nicole began. “Are you
those bears you saw were real?”
“Of course I’m sure!” Dad boomed at her. “I know the difference between a
brown bear and a teddy bear!”
He began to pace back and forth across the darkroom floor. “Did I lose the
film somehow?” he murmured, clutching his head with one hand. “Could someone
have switched it?”
“The weird part is that you were taking pictures of bears,” Nicole noted.
“And you ended up with
bears. That’s just so strange.”
Dad furiously tapped his hands on the developing table. He muttered to
himself. He was starting to lose it.
“Did I lose the film on the plane somehow? Switch carry-on bags with someone
I turned my back to Dad, my shoulders shaking.
“Jordan? What’s the matter?” Dad grabbed my shoulders. “Are you all right?”
He spun me around. “Jordan!” Dad cried. “You’re—laughing!”
Nicole crossed her arms. She narrowed her eyes at me. “What did you do to
Dad frowned. His voice was calmer now. “All right, Jordan. What’s the big
I gasped for breath, trying to stop laughing. “Don’t worry, Dad. Your
pictures are okay.”
He shoved one of the teddy bear shots in my face. “Okay! You call this
“I borrowed your camera before you left for Wyoming,” I explained. “I took a
bunch of shots of my old teddy bear, for a joke. The rest of the film should
have your real bears on it.”
I can’t resist a good practical joke.
Nicole said, “I had nothing to do with it, Dad. I swear.”
Little Miss Goody-Goody.
Dad shook his head. “A joke?” He turned back to the photos and developed a
few more. The next shot showed a real bear cub fishing in a stream. Dad laughed.
“You know,” he said, putting the picture of the real bear next to one of the
teddy bear shots, “they don’t look as different as you’d think.”
I knew Dad wouldn’t stay angry. He never does. That’s one reason I like to
play tricks on him. He likes to play practical jokes, too.
“Did I ever tell you about the trick I pulled on Joe Morrison?” he asked. Joe
Morrison is a photographer friend of Dad’s.
“Joe had just gotten back from Africa, where he had spent months
photographing gorillas. He was all excited about these fabulous gorilla shots
he’d taken. I saw the pictures, and they were really spectacular.
“Joe had a big meeting set up with the editor of a nature magazine. He was
going to go in and show the editor these photos. He was sure the magazine would
snap them up in a second.
“Joe didn’t know that the editor and I had gone to college together. So I
called her up and asked her to help me play a little joke on Joe.
“When Joe went to see her, he showed her the pictures. She looked at them
without saying a word.
“Finally he couldn’t stand the suspense any longer. He blurted out, ‘Well? Do
you like them or not?’ He’s an impatient guy, Joe.”
“What did she say?” I asked.
“She frowned and said, ‘You’re a good photographer, Mr. Morrison. But I’m
afraid you’ve been tricked. The creatures you photographed aren’t gorillas at
“Joe’s jaw practically fell off his face. He said, ‘What do you mean, they’re
“She said, with a perfectly straight face, ‘They’re people in gorilla suits.
Can’t you tell the difference between a real gorilla and a man in a gorilla suit,
I chuckled. Nicole asked, “Then what happened?”
“Joe practically had a nervous breakdown. He snatched up the photos and
stared at them. He shouted, ‘I don’t get it! How could that happen? I spent six
months of my life studying people in gorilla suits?’
“Finally the editor burst out laughing and told him it was a joke. She loved
the photos and wanted to publish them. Joe wouldn’t believe her at first—it
took her fifteen minutes to get him to calm down.”
Dad and I both laughed.
“I think that’s really mean, Dad,” Nicole scolded.
I get my joker streak from Dad. Nicole takes after Mom. She’s more practical.
“Joe thought it was funny once he got over the shock,” Dad assured her. “He’s
played his share of tricks on me, believe me.”
Dad swished another photo through the chemical bath. Then he held it up with
his tongs. It showed two bear cubs wrestling. He smiled with satisfaction.
“This roll came out great,” he said. “But I’ve got a lot more work to do in
here, kids. Go on outside for a while, okay?”
He turned the red light off and flipped on the normal light. Nicole opened
“Don’t get all messed up and dirty, though,” Dad added. “We’re all going out
to dinner tonight. I want to celebrate my luck with the brown bears.”
“We’ll be careful,” Nicole promised.
“Speak for yourself,” I said.
“I mean it, Jordan,” Dad warned.
“Just kidding, Dad.”
A wave of heat blasted us when we opened the darkroom door. Nicole and I
stepped out into the backyard, blinking in the afternoon sun. It always takes my
eyes a long time to adjust after I’ve been in the darkroom.
“What do you want to do?” Nicole asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “It’s so hot. It’s too hot to do much of
Nicole closed her eyes and zoned out for a minute.
“Nicole?” I nudged her. “Nicole? What are you doing?”
“I’m thinking about the snow in Dad’s pictures of the Grand Tetons. I thought
it would make me feel cooler.”
She stood perfectly still with her eyes closed. A bead of sweat dripped down
“Well?” I asked. “Is it working?”
She opened her eyes and shook her head. “No. How can I imagine snow if I’ve
never felt it?”
“Good point.” I sighed and gazed around me.
We live in a subdivision in the suburbs of Pasadena. There are only three
different kinds of houses in our neighborhood. The same three house styles are
repeated for miles around.
It’s so boring to look at, it makes me feel even hotter, somehow. Each block
has a couple of palm trees, not enough to give much shade. There’s a vacant lot
across the street from us, next door to the Millers’. The most exciting feature
of our backyard—maybe the whole block—is Dad’s disgusting compost heap.