Read The Boys Return Online

Authors: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The Boys Return

OTHER DELL YEARLING BOOKS BY PHYLLIS REYNOLDS NAYLOR YOU WILL ENJOY
THE BOYS START THE WAR
THE GIRLS GET EVEN
BOYS AGAINST GIRLS
THE GIRLS' REVENGE
A TRAITOR AMONG THE BOYS
A SPY AMONG THE GIRLS
DELL YEARLING BOOKS are designed especially to entertain and enlighten young people. Patricia Reilly Giff, consultant to this series, received her bachelor's degree from Marymount College and a master's degree in history from St. John's University. She holds a Professional Diploma in Reading and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra University. She was a teacher and reading consultant for many years, and is the author of numerous books for young readers.

To Eric Horwitz

Contents

One:
Big News

Two:
Home Decorating

Three:
Bill and Danny and Steve and Tony and Doug

Four:
Pleased to Meet You

Five:
The Plan

Six:
March Twenty-second

Seven:
In the Moonlight

Eight:
A Small Suspicion

Nine:
Trouble

Ten:
A Ghostly Gathering

Eleven:
What Next?

Twelve:
Getting Ready

Thirteen:
In the Loft

Fourteen:
911

Fifteen:
The Great Hullabaloo

Sixteen:
Goodbye

Cast of Characters

 

The Hatford Family
Tom Hatford
    
Father
Ellen Hatford
    
Mother
Jake and Josh
    
Sixth-grade twins
Wally
    
Fourth grade
Peter
    
Second grade
The Malloy Family
Coach George Malloy
    
Father
Jean Malloy
    
Mother
Eddie
    
Sixth grade
Beth
    
Fifth grade
Caroline
    
Fourth grade
The Benson Family
Coach Hal Benson
    
Father
Shirley Benson
    
Mother
Steve
    
Seventh grade
Tony
    
Sixth grade
Bill
    
Fourth grade
Danny
    
Third grade
Doug
    
First grade

One
Big News

T
here was still a little snow on the ground, but the West Virginia sky seemed to have more blue than it had a month before, and the wind didn't bite the way it had in the depth of winter. The best thing about March, Wally Hartford thought, was spring vacation— a whole week free of Caroline Malloy poking his back with a pencil, or tickling his neck with a ruler, or whispering “Wally” in his ear.

“Do we still have to hang around with them even when we're on vacation next week?” he asked. He and his brothers stopped on the sidewalk in front of their house and waited for the three Malloy girls to cross the swinging bridge.

Ever since a cougar had been spotted in the neighborhood, the Hatford boys and the Malloy girls had been told to stay together when outside. Wally's
parents had been particularly concerned about their youngest, Peter, and the Malloys about their youngest, Caroline. Wally, though, was sure that if a cougar ever tried to take a bite out of Caroline, it would spit her out so fast she wouldn't even know she'd been bitten.

“We're supposed to stay together whenever we're outside,” said Peter. “Because of the abaguchie.” Before anyone had known what the animal really was, the newspaper had referred to it as the abaguchie, and that was the way people thought of it still.

“So we'll stay inside the whole week,” muttered Jake. Jake and Josh, the twins, were the oldest Hatfords and were in sixth grade; Wally was in fourth, and Peter in second. Peter liked being around the Malloy girls, and Josh had actually fallen for Beth—for a short time, anyway. Wally felt as though he could stand them in small doses only, but Jake couldn't stand them much at all.

Down the hill came the girls, their hair blowing in the wind because it was warm enough now to go without caps. They started across the swinging bridge over the Buckman River, which entered town on one side of Island Avenue, looped around under the road bridge to the business district, and flowed back out the other side of the avenue.

Trip-trap, trip-trap, trip-trap,
went the girls' feet on the wooden planks. Whenever Wally heard that sound, he envisioned a troll underneath, waiting to gobble them up.

“Hi, Josh! Hi, Jake!” said Beth. Her blond hair was all shiny from her morning shampoo. She was the prettiest one of the sisters, Wally thought. She was also the only one of either family who was in fifth grade; Eddie, her older sister, was in sixth with Jake and Josh, and Caroline was in fourth grade with Wally, even though she was a year younger than he. Caroline was precocious, whatever that meant.


Now
that abaguchie won't get us!” Peter sang out happily as the seven kids headed for school.

“What are you guys going to do over spring vacation?” Eddie asked. Her real name was Edith Ann, but anyone who called her that was likely to get a sock on the arm. “
I'm
going to be practicing for baseball tryouts.”

Jake moaned under his breath. That was what he was planning on doing too.


I'm
going to write a book!” declared Beth. “It's going to have chapters and everything. I'm calling it
The Ghoul from the Ghostly Garage.

“That was
me
! I was the ghoul in the garage last month, right, Beth? Are you writing a book about me?” cried Caroline, hopping up and down while she walked backward, facing her sisters.

Why was it, Wally wondered, that every time Caroline opened her mouth, she was talking about herself ?

“No, it's not about you and it's not about last month. The ghoul is a creature entirely from my own imagination,” Beth explained.

“I could draw the pictures for you,” Josh offered.

“Perfect!” said Beth. Everyone knew that Josh was the best artist in the school.

“And
I
could color them for you,” said Peter.

That left Wally and Caroline.


I'm
going to practice my voices,” said Caroline, who wanted to be an actress. She was still walking backward, and glanced around from time to time so she wouldn't bump into anything.

“What voices are those?” laughed Jake. “Donald Duck? Mickey Mouse?
Tweety
Bird?”

Caroline gave him a haughty look. “I'm going to practice reading
Tom Sawyer
out loud. I'll be all the characters myself—Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Becky Thatcher, Aunt Polly, Injun Joe—” Suddenly her left foot went off the curb, and she tumbled into the street.

The boys guffawed, but Caroline was laughing too as she picked herself up. Laughing at her wasn't much fun, Wally realized, if Caroline didn't throw her usual fit.

Once inside the school, they all headed for their own classrooms, and Wally took his assigned desk in the front row, right smack in front of Caroline.

“Well, class,” said Miss Applebaum. “Let me tell you what I want you to do over spring vacation, so you can be thinking about it.”

A low moan went around the room. The last thing
Wally Hatford wanted to hear was that he'd have homework during vacation.

“It's not as bad as all that,” said their teacher. “I want you to try something you have never done before, and you decide what that will be. A book you've never read, perhaps; a piece you've never tried on the piano. Maybe you'll learn to Rollerblade, or play the drums, or fly a kite, or make a cake. Be an adventurer! Try something new and tell us about it when you come back.”

Now,
that
was the kind of assignment Wally liked. Smiles traveled around the room.

“All
right
!” Wally said, grinning, and Miss Apple-baum smiled.

“You sound as though you already know what you want to do, Wally,” she said.

Sure,
he thought. Eat an entire half gallon of super-fudge ice cream all by himself; stay up until one in the morning watching
Batman
reruns; put a muzzle on Caroline Malloy…But what he said was, “Not really.”

What Wally liked to do most was absolutely nothing—nothing as far as anyone else could see, that is. But a lot was going on inside his head all the while. He could be perfectly content for an hour lying on his stomach on the porch, watching ants going in and out of an anthill on the ground below. How did they know who went where? he would wonder. Did they take turns, or what? Were they all cousins?

Or he could sit at a fogged-up window and make designs on it with his tongue. He had discovered that
if he licked off little round holes in the fog and connected them in just the right way, it would look like a bear's paw print. But always, always, just when he was having the most fun, somebody would come along and say, “What are you
doing,
you dork?” and “Hey, Mom, Wally's sitting here licking the window!” And then he'd have to get up and act busy.

No, if Wally had his way, he would spend spring vacation doing nothing whatsoever.

When the boys got home from school that day, after leaving the girls at the bridge, they gathered in the kitchen as usual for a snack. They were passing around the cheese crackers and peanut butter when the phone rang. Their mother, of course. She always called from the hardware store to be sure that they'd gotten home okay, and that there wasn't an ax murderer waiting to kill them.

“Hi, Mom,” said Wally, his mouth full of cracker. “Everyone's fine.”

“Well, that's good, because I have some interesting news,” said Mrs. Hatford. Wally could hear customers' voices in the background, and the sound of someone pouring nails into the measuring scoop on the scales.

“We're having pizza for dinner?” Wally guessed.

“Better than that.”

“Better than
pizza
?” Wally said. Jake, Josh, and
Peter stopped chewing and began watching their brother's face. “A new car?” Wally guessed.

“Even better than that,” said his mother. “I got a phone call from Mrs. Benson today, and they're coming to spend spring vacation in Buckman.”

“What?”
yelled Wally.
“The Bensons?”

“The
Bensons
!” yelled Jake and Josh.

“They're coming back for spring vacation!” Wally told his brothers, and the kitchen erupted in cheers.

Jake grabbed the phone out of Wally's hands. “Are they moving back here?” He held the phone away from his ear so they could all hear what their mother was saying.

“We don't know yet. Mr. Benson is going to talk to the college about it.”

“Are they staying with
us
?” yelled Josh, trying to get the phone away from Jake.

“Mr. and Mrs. Benson are staying at a motel, but I said the boys could bunk with us.”

More cheers.

“I have to go. I have a customer,” Mrs. Hatford said. “Be good, and we'll talk some more when I get home.”

But there was already a parade in progress. Jake went marching around the kitchen like a prizefighter, fists in the air, and Peter followed, banging a knife against the peanut butter jar. Josh did a little dance of joy, and Wally just stood there, a silly grin on his face.

It was because Coach Benson had taken a one-year exchange position down in Georgia, moving his family there with him, that the Malloys had come here in the first place. Coach Malloy had taken over Mr. Benson's job for a year and moved
his
family—his wife and three daughters—to Buckman, replacing the best friends the Hatfords had ever had.

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