Leap Day Read online

  1. Teams may consist of no more than four members, all of the same sex. All must be sophomores.

  2. Team members must stay within fifty feet of each other at all times.

  3. No help allowed from parents, siblings, or the general public except in a driving capacity.

  4. You are not allowed to tell people what you are doing so that they’ll give you stuff.

  5. No money shall be spent with the exception of gas.

  6. Judging will begin at 6 p.m. sharp at Jenny Waxner’s house. Any latecomers will be disqualified. In case of a tie, the victory will go to whichever team completed the hunt first.

  7. Bonus points will be given for creativity and especially hard-to-find items.


  First place: Dinner with one of the Backstreet Boys/*NSYNC/ O-Town when he is in Orlando, compliments of Jenny’s father’s public relations company.

  Second place: Your choice of free spa treatments at the Orlando Day Spa, compliments of Jenny’s mother’s frequent guest plan, OR floor seats at the next Orlando Magic game. Third through tenth place: Free dinner at Sizzler, compliments of Sizzler on 4th and Willow.

  “Aren’t all those boy band guys old and married now?” Zoey asks. “Why would we want to have dinner with them?”

  “Maybe we’d get to be on MTV,” Megan says, pulling the pages out of the printer. “But if we don’t get organized and get moving, we won’t even get the free dinner at Sizzler.” She hands the list to Katy, the natural choice to lead us.

  “Okay,” Katy says, whipping out a red pen. “I’ll be the list-keeper. I’ll tell us what we still need and cross off the items we’ve found. Josie is the driver. Zoey, you’ll be the time-keeper. Every ten minutes you’ll update us on how much longer until we have to get to Jenny’s.”

  “What do I do?” Megan asks. “Stand here and look pretty?” Katy taps her pen against the desk in thought. “You’ll be the motivator. You’ll keep us moving. I’ll read the list now, and everyone jump in if you know where we can find something.”

  “As the motivator,” Megan says, “I think we should just get going.”

  “If we spend five minutes now, we’ll save ourselves a lot of extra running-around time.”

  “Fine. Just tell us what’s on the list.”

  “Okay. Each item has a point value, with the hardest-to-find items having the most points. To start with, we need something with four legs.”

  “Right here,” I say, plucking Katy’s stuffed Garfield from her pillow.

  “Good,” Katy said, crossing that item off the list with a flourish. “There’s an old duffle bag from camp in my closet. Let’s put everything in there.”

  I pull out the dusty green duffle and stick Garfield inside. “Next is something that’s been dead for over a year. Hmm. That’s pretty weird.”

  “There’s a dead bee that’s been stuck in the screen of my bedroom window since last summer,” Zoey offers.

  “I have a better idea,” Megan announces. “Fang.”

  “My cat?” Zoey asks, confused. Then, “Oh no, you mean his ashes?”

  “It’s perfect!”

  Zoey looks at me for support. “It is creative,” I admit. “We may need those bonus points in the end.”

  “Fang would want to help,” Katy says. “He was that kind of cat.”

  Zoey gives a long sigh and says, “All right. But I’m not just throwing his tin in that duffle. Someone has to hold it at all times.”

  “Fine,” Katy says, and crosses it off the list.

  Zoey looks at her watch. “An hour and fifty minutes.”

  “Next are a bunch of things we can find right here. Something three different shades of white — hey, that could be you, Zoey!”

  “Very funny,” Zoey says.

  Katy continues. “Something hot, something cold, something that uses electricity, a photograph of two people kissing, letterhead from a university, a model of a spaceship, a half-eaten burrito, the picture of President George W. Bush pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey in 2001, two identical organic (non-manmade) things, a menu from Donald’s Hot Dog Hut at Magic Kingdom, and a weekly newspaper from the town of Celebration.”

  “Gee, is that all?” Megan asks sarcastically. “How are we supposed to do all that in less than two hours?”

  “There are bonus items too,” Katy says, turning the page. “An extra twenty points if we bring in either an undergarment from a teacher at Orlando High, a copy of the Kama Sutra, or a bottle of Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo. Remember, we’re not allowed to buy anything from a store.”

  “What’s the Kama Sutra?” I ask. “And didn’t they stop making that shampoo when we were like, six?”

  “The Kama Sutra is an ancient sex manual,” Zoey explains. “That will be easy to get.”

  “How will that be easy?” Katy asks.

  Zoey grins. “My brother has it under his bed.”

  “Your brother is being very helpful today,” Megan says, nodding appreciatively.

  “What do you mean?” I ask. I’ve never heard of Dennis being anything but a pain in the butt.

  “Oh, nothing,” Megan says quickly. “Just that now we’ll get all those bonus points.”

  “Tick tick tick,” Zoey says loudly.

  Katy scrambles into gear. She tells Zoey and Megan to go next door for Fang’s ashes and the sex book, and sends me downstairs while she looks up the George Bush picture online. In the kitchen, I grab a zip-lock bag and mix salt, flour, and sugar. Voilà! Three different shades of white. Something is nagging at the back of my brain, but I can’t think what it is. Anyway, I need to focus right now. A can of Coke from the fridge wrapped in layers of tin foil will have to do as the something cold. My last item to find is the flashlight Katy’s dad keeps in the garage. She figures when you turn it on, that will be the something hot. Katy’s very smart that way. I run upstairs to dump my items in the duffle.

  “Throw in my clock radio too,” Katy instructs me, pounding away on her keyboard. “For something that uses electricity.”

  I unplug the clock and stick it next to the stuffed Garfield so it won’t get banged around too much. Megan and Zoey still aren’t back yet. I finally have a chance to talk to Katy alone.

  “You’ve got to tell me now, about the note. You’re killing me here.”

  Katy stops typing and slowly turns in her seat. Just then Megan and Zoey run breathlessly into the room, and Katy quickly turns back to her computer. Crap. The moment has passed. Zoey sits down on the bed and cradles the purple tin of ashes in her arms.

  “There are some bizarre pictures in this book,” Megan says, flipping through the well-worn paperback. She turns the book upside down. “I didn’t think the body could move that way.”

  “Later, okay?” Katy says, snatching the book from Megan’s hands. She retrieves the Bush/turkey picture from the printer, sticks it between the pages of the book, and tosses the book in the ever-expanding bag.

  “What now?” Zoey asks.

  Katy looks down at her list. “I can use my mother’s Disney passes to get us into the park for the menu, and then from there we can go to Celebration for the newspaper. The other little stuff we can try to find on the way.”

  “Maybe your mother can just get us the menu,” Megan suggests. “Then we can spend more time on the rest.”

  Katy shakes her head. “No parental involvement. It’s in the rules.”

  “Do you always have to follow the rules?” Zoey asks, already knowing Katy won’t budge.

  And then it hits me. “Uh-oh,” I say, sinking to the bed. “I don’t have the car. Rob drove it home after school while we were at the audition.”

  Three mouths fall open. Katy hands me the phone. “Call Rob and see if he’s home.”

  My mother answers and tells me Rob is out doing Dart Wars, which I had forgotten all about.

  Zoey whispers, “Ask her if you can borrow her car.”

  I shake my head and hang up. “She’s leaving to pick up