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The Puppet Wrangler

224 pages
Telly Mercer is shy and quiet, used to living in the shadow of her older sister, Bess. Then she finds herself on the set of a puppet show, staying out of the way of her overstressed aunt Kathleen. One evening she makes a surprising discovery that launches her on an adventure with an unpredictable and angry puppet. The Puppet Wrangler is funny and fast-paced and set against the fascinating backdrop of the television industry, a world that the author, Gemini-winning Vicki Grant knows well.
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The Puppet Wrangler
V i c k i G r a n t
The Puppet Wrangler
Vicki Grant
Copyright © 2004 Vicki Grant
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Grant, Vicki e puppet wrangler / Vicki Grant.
PS8613.R356P86 2004
ISBN 1-55143-304-4
I. Title.
Summary:When Telly is sent to spend a month with her aunt on the set of a television puppet show, she is shocked to learn that Bitsie, the cute star of the show, has a dark side.
First published in the United States, 2004 Library of Congress Control Number: 2004100990
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Layout and typesetting: Lynn O'Rourke Cover artwork © 2003 Kathy Boake
In Canada: In the United States: Orca Book Publishers Orca Book Publishers 1030 North Park Street PO Box 468 Victoria, BC Canada Custer, WA USA V8T 1C6 98240-0468 Printed and bound in Canada
07 06 05 04 • 5 4 3 2 1
First, of course, to Gus, who makes all good things possible for me.
But also to Romney, who is not Kathleen, Buddy, who is not Mel, Jim, who may be Bitsie, and the entire cast and crew ofScoop & Doozie.
You are all too talented, good-humored and civilized to appear in a book like this.
— V. G .
It’s not what you’re thinking.
Everyone was screaming. Most kids were screaming in a happy/scared kind of way—like we were all on some giant Krazy Karpet or something. e little kids were screaming because everyone else was. Adrienne Handspiker—figures—was screaming for help. (Like that would do any good. Who was going to help?) I wasn’t screaming. I never do. I was just sitting there. It wasn’t so bad. Whenever things get that crazy, my head goes really quiet inside. It’s like I’m watching TV with the sound turned off. Ideally, I’d be able to change the channel too, but that would get noticed. (Go too blank in the face and teachers start calling home. I didn’t need that. And you can bet my parents didn’t need that either.) So I don’t fool around with the picture. I just turn down the volume. That’s when I get some of my best thinking done. Like right then, for instance. When everyone else was screaming their faces off, I was thinking about the Eng-lish language. It has got to be the worst way to say what you mean.
The Puppet Wrangler
Example: I say, “My big sister Bess took the school bus.” You think, “Yeah, so?” You picture your typical teenager with a knapsack and maybe a nose ring climbing on and elbowing her way to a good seat by the window. You don’t picture this: Bess actually taking the school bus. Hopping into the driver’s seat when Fred Smeltzer nipped out to check the back tire, yanking the door closed with that big old metal arm, and gunning off down Highway 12 like some cartoon maniac. at’s what I mean when I say Bess took the bus. Once you understand that, of course, the screaming follows naturally. Even I was surprised, though—when I finally zoned back in—to hear everybody singing. Bess had them all going, “I have not brought my specs with meeeeeee,” just like this was some field trip to Ye Olde Heritage Saw Mill or something. I have to hand it to her. Bess never does anything halfway. She doesn’t just steal a car and make a break for Mexico like an ordinary sixteen-year-old would. She steals a bus and takes twenty-seven kids on the ride of their lives. She gets everybody singing and laughing and making up stupid 1 verses to “e Quartermaster’s Store”. She even takes the detour down Sow’s Ear Road so we can go over the bump that makes your stomach flip. Fred only does that the last day of school. Bess was all ready to do it twice in one day!
1 From now on ju st a ssu me that everyone means everyone but me and Ad ri enne Hand spi ker, who d i d n’ t seem to be screami ng any-more. By thi s ti me, she wa s cu rl ed u p on a back seat, chewi ng on the strap to her knapsack.
Vicki Grant
In fact, she was actually backing up over the bump—which feels even weirder—when Cody Hebb barfed. ings kind of went downhill from there. It was hot in the bus anyway, and what with all the excitement and Cody throwing up whole unchewed pieces of bacon, everyone started barfing. Well, not everyone, but there was a definite trend in that direction. Bess even managed to make that fun. She started a con-test—sort of a Motion Sickness Olympics—and everyone (who wasn’t busy throwing up) really got into it. She called it Digestive Tract and Field. (I was the only one who got the joke. Our dad’s the town doctor.) She had one eye on the road and the other eye looking for technical proficiency and artistic merit. She gave Cody a whole bunch of extra points for those reusable bacon strips, but in the end Alyssa Corkery won. She’d had Tropical Punch for breakfast. at bright pink color was hard to beat. Bess was just about to start the awards ceremony when we ran smack into the Mounties. Not literally “smack into them”—but close enough that even I screamed. (When the Mounties set up the roadblock at Hanson’s Point, I guess they never figured we’d be taking the corner that fast.)
ey sure looked pale by the time we came to a stop. Who could blame them? Bess was, as they say, “known to the po-lice.” ey knew what she was capable of. ey’d been bring-ing her home in the backseat of cruisers since she was five. I guess it started out cute. I don’t really remember her first run-in with the law—Bess is four years older than I am—but my parents used to talk about it. She was mouthing off— surprise, surprise—and got sent to her room. When they
The Puppet Wrangler
went to check on her five minutes later, she was gone. My mother went hysterical. e Mounties found Bess an hour later, after Mrs. Sproule called (also hysterical) to report that someone had pulled out every single one of her tulips. Turns out Bess wanted to bring her mummy a bouquet. See what I mean? Never halfway. Either lots of lip or 212 Princess Pink tulips, complete with bulbs. Maybe if they’d nipped her behavior in the bud right then and there, the other stuff wouldn’t have happened. (at’s Dad’s current theory.) But they were so happy to have her back safe and so “touched” by the bouquet, and everyone made such a fuss when Bess hit the front page ofhe Clarion (once when it happened and once when she helped Dad and the expensive landscaping crew redo Mrs. Sproule’s garden), that the whole thing turned into an “Isn’t-she-adorable!” story. And there’s always a bit of that in everything Bess does. (For instance, most hard-core criminals wouldn’t have come up with the Barfelona Olympics idea.) When she mooned the politician, it was the guy who called Nova Scotians “lazy bums.” When she ran away to Halifax, it actually was with the circus. Even her shoplifting was about playing Robin Hood. She just wanted to give stuff to people who needed it. Or so she said. ere were times I liked Bess. A lot. She’s funny and was usually there if I needed her. No, scratch the last part. When I was a kid, she’d get me home if I was bleeding or wet or something. And believe me, if anyone ever dared be mean to her little sister, she’d stand up for me. (She always managed to pay them back double
Vicki Grant
for anything they did.) But later? I don’t know. Usually I just tried not to need her. I tried not even to hear her. It was too confusing. I wanted to pound her for messing things up all the time, but then there’s that other part of her. e part you just got to like. I mean, like with this bus thing. Bess didn’t panic even when we had to screech to a halt and two Mounties grabbed their guns and tromped over to the bus. ey made her open the door and were all ready to climb on, but she wouldn’t let them. “You know the rules!” she said, all singsong. “Old people get off before the new people come on!” at’s what Fred always says. Everyone laughed. en, when the kids were all piling out, she reminded Ashlee Kirk to take her gym gear, handed Cody her own lunch (he was going to be hungry after losing his breakfast) and got everyone to give Alyssa the Champion a big cheer. Who wouldn’t think she was sort of great? Even all the grown-ups who were bawling on the side of the road didn’t look all that mad anymore. eir kids were all trying to wiggle out of their bear hugs so they could tell their parents what Bess did next. When I got off, she fake-punched me in the arm and said, “Hey, Telly, don’t hold supper for me. I’m going to be a little late tonight.” It was the first thing she’d said to me all day. e Mountie snorted and said, “You’re right about that, Bess. C’mon. Your mother’s waiting for you in the squad car.” Waiting for her. Mum arranged for Jenna’s parents to take me home.