Bob Read online

Our moms take about a hundred pictures of us.

  After dinner, Sarah and her mom walk us back up the road to our car, and Mom asks if I still want to get something at the store. “A t-shirt, or something? It’s not too late if you want to look.”

  I shrug and look into the store window as we pass by. Did I want a t-shirt? Why did I want a t-shirt?

  Mom said the candy was for “after dinner,” and this is after dinner. I reach into my pocket and come out with the caramel, the sour cherry ball, the licorice, and a chess piece—a black pawn.

  The name comes back to me in a flash. Bob. And I realize that I’ve forgotten all about him. Again.

  “Hey,” Sarah says, “you never told me about the chess piece. Is it your lucky charm or something?”

  I stare at that pawn and I finally get it: Something is wrong.



  I learned a lot of things today on my adventure with Livy, but here’s what I learned after she left: If you put a wet chicken suit in the clothes dryer, all the feathers will come off and the whole thing will shrink into a little ball.

  The car pulls up outside just as I’ve rescued the last feather from the lint trap.

  The tutu scratches at my legs as I climb the stairs with the whole mess in my arms. If I were Superman, I could have just used my heat lasers to dry it off, and it would be as good as new.

  I wait in the closet. Waiting in a closet is not so bad when you know someone will soon be opening it. Plus, being in here is kind of relaxing, like I don’t have to worry about anything other than what’s inside my head. I like filling my head. I flip the dictionary open to U. Now that I know where the light cord is, there’ll be no stopping me.

  I get up to unicorn before Livy swings open the door so wide the doorknob bangs into the opposite wall.

  “That’s gonna leave a mark,” I say, shutting the book. “We can cross unicorn off the list of things I might be.”

  “I could have told you that,” she says.

  I hurry over to the bed to open the bag of clothes that is no doubt waiting for me there.

  There is no bag. I purse my lips at her and wait for an explanation.

  “So you’ll never guess what happened to me in town,” Livy says.

  This better be good.

  “I forgot about you!”

  Only she sort of looks kind of excited about that, which is more than a little annoying.

  “I forgot,” she repeats. “Again.”

  I start to gnash my teeth, but my teeth are already small and kind of stubby. I put my hands on my hips instead. “Why are you happy about forgetting again?”

  She shakes her head. “I’m not happy about the forgetting part, but now I think I understand why I forgot you the first time. I mean, I know I was really young, but let’s face it, you’re pretty memorable.”

  I have to agree there. I always thought I was pretty remarkable as far as mysterious creatures go.

  She begins to pace the room. “When we left for dinner I was thinking about you. And the chicken house, and the clothes you wanted. But by the time we got into town I forgot all of it.”

  My eyes widen. I am less annoyed now, and more curious. “All of it?”

  She nods.

  I reach up and lay the back of my hand on Livy’s forehead. “Maybe you have a fever?”

  She shakes her head. “No, listen, it’s not me. I think it’s coming from you! You have a gift! I think you’re … magic!”

  I stare at her. “Oh great, so my magic is about people not being able to remember me? What kind of stinky magical gift is that?”

  “It’s not so bad,” she insists. “It protects you from strangers, right?”

  “I guess … but it makes you forget me, too.”

  “It would, yes! But I have something that reminds me.” She dives into her pocket and pulls her hand out triumphantly to reveal … the chess piece?

  I’m trying to keep up. “The chipped black pawn from the h7 square makes you remember me?”

  “Yup! I must have figured this out when I was little. Gran said I tried to take it home last time. When I hold it, I remember you.”

  She lowers the pawn back onto the board so it can continue its job of protecting the king. It wobbles as she sets it down. We both reach out to steady it, and our hands close on it at the same time. Our eyes meet in surprise. We’d clutched this same pawn between us before! Back then we’d laughed and rolled around the floor pretending to fight over it. But now we just stare at each other.

  This action, this coming together, it linked us somehow. Livy is right about the magic. For some reason people forget about me when they get a certain distance away. But this pawn resists it.

  This means Livy didn’t really forget about me when she left five years ago! Well, she did, but not on purpose, because she didn’t have the pawn. Knowing this makes a huge difference!

  We finally let go. “See?” I tell her. “I was right about pawns being powerful!”

  “Don’t go getting a big head about it.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a wrapped-up caramel and a piece of black licorice.

  I grab for the licorice. “My favorite candy!”

  “The lady at the store said I used to get it all the time.”

  I nod, chewing happily. “You did. You’d bring it back every time you went to town. You tried it once and said it tasted like dirt.”

  “That sounds like me,” Livy says, popping the caramel into her mouth.

  “Where did you find the black chess pieces, anyway?” I ask as I savor my delicious treat.

  “They were downstairs with a bunch of other stuff Gran put out to show me.” Her voice is a bit slurpy because of the caramel. “There was a green elephant, too, and a—”

  “Rufus?” I jump up. “Gran found Rufus?”

  “Huh? I’m not sure. I didn’t ask his name.”

  “Green and soft? About the size of my head? Long trunk?” I start at my nose and swing my arm out like a trunk.

  “Sounds like the one,” she says.

  I’m halfway out the door before she yanks me back.

  “Hold on there, mister,” she says.

  “Oops, sorry. Will you get him for me?”


  “Yes, please!”

  I wait by the door, hopping up and down. Rufus! Rufus is back! I should probably act my age and not get excited about a stuffed animal. Then she walks in with him.

  “Rufus!” I snatch him from her arms and hug him tight and sniff his head. “He smells just the same! Like cake and the outdoors!”

  Livy half smiles and half rolls her eyes. “I’m glad you have your stuffed animal back.”

  I hold him out to her. “Oh no, he’s not mine. Rufus is yours.”

  “Mine? I don’t think so. I’ve never been an elephant person.”

  What a hurtful thing to say! I hug him again. “But when you were soaking wet in the chicken house, you had him in your arms.”

  She takes a step backward in surprise. “I did?”

  “And he was wet, too.”

  “Rufus was wet?” Livy steps over to the window that looks out onto the yard. Her back is to me for a long time. When she turns around again her eyes are wide. “There’s only one place in Gran’s yard Rufus could have gotten wet. I think he fell in the well!”



  “Poor Rufus,” Bob is saying, smoothing Rufus’s short green elephant fur. “Did you fall in that deep, dark well? Bob will keep you safe now. You will never be in that dark well again.”

  I think Bob sometimes forgets that some of us are real live creatures and some of us are inanimate objects. It must have been because of all that time he spent in the closet with the Lego pirates, Mr. Monkey, and the parrot who got lost.

  While Bob and Rufus are having their little reunion, I’m putting two and two together, as Dad says. Except it’s more like trying to add the square root of seven and thirty-one to the fifth