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When his older sister disappears, twelve-year-old Buddy Stebbins follows her back in time and finds himself aboard a seventeenth-century pirate ship captained by a distant relative.
The phone lit up and began to warble. I was watching an old Tarzan movie on TV, studying for a test in Spanish, and baby-sitting the kid next door. I could also chew gum at the same time, except that I didn't have money for trifles.
"The phone's ringing, Buddy," said Hayley, who was sitting on the stairs and drawing pictures of horses with long yellow manes. She was the kid next door, with long yellow hair.
Sometimes I answered the phone, and sometimes I let the answering machine get it. Lately a girl from school, a girl everyone called Garbo, was stalking me. Could that be her now? I liked her a lot, but she was into weight lifting. I wasn't crazy about having a girlfriend who had larger biceps and deltoids than I did.
The phone rang again just as the Lord of the Apes began to bellow out his jungle yell. I grabbed the phone to shut it up.
"Hola?" I said, trying out my Spanish.
"Buddy, don't you ever answer the phone?" It was my grown-up sister, Liz. "I knew you were home."
"I thought it might be the stalker calling me."
"That cute girl with the sunglasses in your theater group?"
"And my Spanish class. She has me surrounded."
Liz was about a thousand years older than me. She was twenty-three and just out of law school. She wanted to specialize in legal aid for poor people, and her first case had made her kind of famous. A neighbor had charged a harmless old man in Chula Vista with having the "evil eye" and causing flowers to wilt every time he looked at her garden. Liz came up with the curveball defense that it was not against the law to wilt flowers by looking at them. Shewon the case and made the evening news all over the country.
The trouble with being a hotshot in legal aid is that Liz hardly earned parking meter money. Now that we were orphans, we needed some big bucks. It wasn't that we were broke. It was worse than that. We owed a gasping ton of money.
Liz was saying, "Maybe you're not answering the phone in case it's someone calling about buying the house."
"Maybe," I muttered.
"Buddy, you know we need to raise money. We've got to sell the house."
"But we grew up here. My room is my room. This is home."
"I'm sorry, Buddy," she answered. She must be hurting as much as I was, I thought. She just wouldn't show it.
The big old stucco house had been in the Stebbins family since way back in the Dark Ages. It must have been around 1910 that my great-grandfather had come out from Massachusetts and opened his law office on India Street. Then he'd built this house on a hill above Old Town. I guess he'd liked the airy view of the ships going and coming in San Diego Bay, and so did I.
He also liked to hold spirit meetings in the garden at night among the orange blossoms and pepper trees. Liz told me they were called séances. He'd lift a ship's old copper speaking trumpet to his lips and command the dead to talk. He claimed that sometimes they answered back—once through the spout of a brass teakettle in the kitchen.
"But the Stebbins house is haunted," I said. "No one's going to want a home with ghosts in white sheets running around and voices whistling out of teakettles and chains rattling."
"The house is not haunted," Liz snapped back. "There are no ghosts, and when have you ever heard chains rattling? Don't start any crazy rumors, Bud."
"Do you think our great-grandfather was a nutcake?"
"Nutcake is neither a medical nor a legal definition," she said.
"Liz, we're not in court. Do you think he was balmy?"
"I think it just amused him to believe he could talk to ghosts. You remember how much fun it was to believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy."
"But I was only four or five."
"Perfectly sane people can be slightly mad," she conceded, laughing.
"I wonder why anyone would want to rap with the dead. It would give me the cold chills."
"You mean to say you don't know?"
"He was trying to contact an ancestor from way, way back. The ghost of a sea captain." She paused and then snapped her fingers. "Crackstone—that was his name. Yes, Captain Crackstone."
"Who was he?"
"A dashing pirate."
My eyes must have popped. A pirate hanging from our family tree? A genuine, bloodthirsty buccaneer? I was thrilled. "Why didn't anyone tell me?"
Liz seemed surprised that this family lore had slipped past me. "Captain Crackstone was hardly table conversation anymore, Buddy. He lived almost three hundred years ago. "
"Did he have men walk the plank and bury treasure and things like that?"
"I don't know about walking the plank," she replied. "But he'd buried a treasure somewhere. Crackstone was the name he used only when he was flying the skull and crossbones. His real name was Stebbins. As a direct descendant our great-grandfather hoped to coax the captain into revealing where he'd buried the loot. After all, the riches would be useless to a ghost."
"Did Captain Crackstone ever turn up in the garden?" I asked.
"Not so much as a foggy wisp. The only thing of his that has come down through the generations is that battered ship's trumpet."
"Maybe I'll give it a try," I said.
Liz broke into a small laugh. "Tell the captain that if he buried some treasure, we need the money." Then she said, "I know it's my turn to make dinner tonight, but would you mind fixing your own? I've got to balance my checkbook."
Posted May 2, 2003
Posted March 22, 2000
I loved this book!! It was Awsome!! I liked how it had a little history, a little mystery, fictional facts, and best of all it had today life.You'll want to read this book, it will give you chills!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.