"An excerpt from: The Three Racketeers"
By Rachel Heffington
“For the love of Pete!” Blaine eyed me, vicious, and dropped into the wicker porch-chair. “These kids are brainless.”
I refrained from correcting her on that point—our cousins had to have brains because they could move, and anyone knows that in order to move, you have to have a brain.
“Stop thinking the obvious, Hallie.”
“How’d you know—?”
Blaine scraped mint-green polish off her thumbnail. “Because you’ve got your Debater-look on. But apart from the physical motion, you have to admit our cousins are…well…dumb.”
“I bow to your superior knowledge.” I scanned the yard, hoping the Three Racketeers weren’t lurking nearby. That’s what we’d christened our cousins the first day of the summer vacation when they’d managed to pick our pockets and nab our flip-flops in one fell swoop. “Blaine?”
“Hmmm?” Her eyes were still sparking green.
“They don’t read.” I was whining. I knew I was whining.
“Nope. They don’t.”
Her reply lay on the heavy, rain-scented air, sultry, oppressive. “How can anyone stand life without books?” I asked.
“Without Dickens…” Blaine spread her hands wide, dramatic as usual.
“Without Tolkien,” I added.
“Or Lewis, or Chesterton, or Austen.”
“Especially Austen.” I gathered my knees into my arms and squelched the desire to have a panic attack. A whole summer without books; without our darling stories…and it was all our mother’s fault. Mama was perfect except for one thing: she was a practical person:
“The boys will have loads of books, I’m sure, and there’s not a stitch of room left in the trunks for your books.” Blaine and I swore we’d rather ditch the clothes and wear nothing than leave our books behind. Unfortunately for us Mama was not only practical—she was Southern bred--and didn’t like the idea.
So here we were in hundred-degree weather: only three days into our exile with a trunk full of camphor-scented sweaters in case it was cold, and a serious case of the doldrums. I wailed and bled and ached inside and wished that the low clouds scudding past the telephone poles would get on with it and drop their liquid cargo. I hated waiting for things—especially rain. That, and sneezes. Sneezes and rain and yawns—awful when they hung just out of reach.
“Stop doing that.”
I turned to Blaine, a little surprised. “Doing what?”
Uncanny, my sister. “Who said I was fretting? I wasn’t fretting.”
“Bet you were.”
“Bet I wasn’t.”
“You’re wearing your Sydney Carton face.”
She shouldn’t insult my favorite martyr. I felt like pushing Blaine’s chair over with her inside it, but I didn’t have the energy. I glared at her instead. She met my look with her eyelids at half-mast and her lips pursed.