Tracing Stars
An Excerpt From
Tracing Stars
Chapter 1

I drop low in the seat and look out the bus window. We pass Pa’s shop, Chickory and Chips Famous Fishery. I wave to the wooden pirate, Barnacle Briggs, who is always out front holding the shop sign. We zip on past and turn right onto Blue Jay Crossing. I hold my backpack on my lap. It shifts back and forth as the bus jostles over the bumpy road.

It’s the last day of school. The last day of fifth grade and I’m dying for it to be over. I make a fish face in the window as we pass the harbor where Pa’s boat, the Mary Grace, usually sits. The spot is empty ’cause he’s already out making his rounds. Pa is the best fisherman in all of Plumtown and brings in the most lobsters. But that’s not all. He dredges for mussels and also catches hake, fluke, flounder, monkfish, whiting, ocean perch, pollack, and sometimes wolffish. Wolffish is the ugliest fish I’ve ever seen, but it tastes all right if you ask me. I make the face of a wolffish in the window, pulling my mouth down into a big line from one side of my chin to the other. I pop my eyes way out and pull my eyebrows down into the middle the best I can and I think it’s a pretty great wolffish grin. Real menacing and gross.

“Indie.” I look away from my reflection and over to my older sister, Bebe, in the seat across from me. “Stop it,” she says out of the corner of her mouth. She doesn’t like it when I make fish faces anymore, even though she used to love it. Now she’s too old and mature for that sort of thing, and whenever I do it, she pretty much pretends she doesn’t know me.

I throw on a trout pout because that’s the one she used to giggle at the most, but this time she groans and looks out her window.

My backpack almost slides off my lap and I grab at it. Then the bus squeals to a stop and a whole bunch of kids get on at The Manors. That’s the cul-de-sac where all the rich people live. Mom says you don’t move to Plumtown unless you’re rich or you’re a hard worker. That’s the way it goes. We’re in the hard-worker part. I make sure to scrunch way over in case any of the fancy kids want to have a seat, but as usual, I can spread out, ’cause three kids all cram into the seat in front of me and one sits down right next to Bebe and they start talking like they’re best pals.

We go around and take a right onto Main Street, and as the breeze blows in from the open window in the seat in front of me, I can smell the mix of sugar and salt from Sandy’s Saltwater Candies. I basically start drooling thinking of that delicious blue raspberry flavor. I lick my lips and consider walking home today ’cause it’s about that time of year where Mrs. Callypso will be standing out with free samples. When the bus stops again, I stay scrunched over, but Lynn and June, who get on at the last stop, go by my seat and make crinkling faces.

“You stink, Indie,” June says.

I can see Bebe roll her eyes across the way.

“Sorry,” I say. I smell my fingers, wondering if they stink of herring from feeding The Lobster Monty Cola this morning. Herring is one of his favorite snacks. He also likes fish heads that have been sitting out for a while, and my hand might have brushed past that, too. But I don’t mind if it stinks a little. The Lobster Monty Cola is my best pal besides Bebe. And even a better pal now that Bebe got all perfect and can’t stand me anymore. Monty’s not some ordinary crustacean; he’s a golden lobster. Pa says you come across one golden lobster in every 30 million lobsters you trap. And he got Monty in a real amazing catch. Now Monty lives in a saltwater pool outside my window, and if he wants some herring and some fish heads, well, that’s what he is going to get.

“Oh, seriously,” Lynn says. As she passes, she pulls her shirt up over her nose. I push my hand underneath my leg, hoping that will help bury the smell.

June and Lynn sit down together over in the last seat. It’s really a half seat, meant for one person, but that’s where they sit. I pretend like that doesn’t bother me a bit. I hum a little and look out the window and watch the joggers go up and down the boardwalk. A minute later, the brakes squeak and we’re in front of Plumtown Elementary.

“Happy last day!” Mrs. McKowski says as she opens the door. Mrs. McKowski is one of the people in the hard-worker portion, too. She has driven the bus since I started in kindergarten. I swing my backpack on and stand up to get off. Every time I try to get into the line, someone else gets there first, so I wait until the very last kid has gone, then I go, too.

“See you at pickup, Indie,” Mrs. McKowski says.

“Bye, Mrs. McKowski.” I walk in past the giant sailor sculptures and trot along behind Bebe into Mr. Lemur’s class.

Tracing Stars

Tracing Stars