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BOOK THREE: Spies at Rayon JunctionThe Canvas Map Adventures Series
By Linda Rasmussen
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Linda Rasmussen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRayon Junction
To Gerry and Shane it suddenly seemed very quiet at the Rayon Junction Train Station. Only moments ago, noise and commotion had surrounded the two boys, but now it was all gone; it had just left with their new friend, Uncle David, the engineer of the Mountain Wildcat. That was the name of the Number Eight Engine on the Kidgo Kargo Line. This powerful locomotive was named after the Yellow-eyed Wildcats that live in the Suede Mountains of Pins County, both being orange with black stripes. However, it wasn't just the engine's coloring that suggested its name; it was also the growls and screeches the wheels made that imitated the cat's fierce warning cries. The very similar sounds of these two different wildcats were often mistaken for each other as they echoed through distant canyons. Even now this cat-like locomotive, although out of sight, could be heard growling and screeching its way through the Woven Woods en route to Kaki County. The impressive train and its quirky engineer had captured all of Gerry's and Shane's attention to the exclusion of everything else at the train station. The loud noises made by this cargo train had even drowned out all the other sounds at the busy crossroads, but now that the Wildcat was gone, Gerry and Shane could hear a buzz of other sounds that they had not noticed before. Looking around them, they soon realized that the train station was a buzz of activity; they could hear the voices of many train passengers and station workers that looked like they had been made from cloth. Some of these little people were just chatting as they patiently waited for their trains—called Ribbon Riders—while others were busily going about their various assigned duties.
Passenger trains in Mydreama are called Ribbon Riders because they ride on the red tracks of the Red Ribbon Railroad. From the air, the train tracks actually look like a long, red ribbon artistically laid out across the beautiful landscape of Mydreama, looping and swirling around mountains, forests and lakes. There are virtually dozens of Ribbon Riders moving people from town to town and from county to county. There are dozens of the Kidgo Kargo freight trains too, that transport goods all across Mydreama. Both types of trains are pulled by powerful sugar-burning locomotives that are uniquely named and designed; however, the Kidgo engines are twice the size of the Ribbon Rider engines because of the heavy loads they have to pull.
As Gerry and Shane began their walk through the active train station, they heard a couple of short blasts from the whistle of the Mountain Wildcat. It was Uncle David announcing that he was passing over the Pony Line turnoff, which was a connecting track leading east through Wild Pony Canyon and ending at Popsicle Junction near the Sugar Hills. Soon after the two short blasts there were two long ones, cautioning those ahead that the train was entering Carrot Canyon, which was the beginning of a steep ascent over Polyester Pass in the Synthetic Mountains. Billows of pink smoke could be seen rising above the tree line south of the station, marking the exact location of the Number Eight Kidgo. Gerry wondered if he would ever see Uncle David again or have a chance to ride on the beautiful orange and black train. Earlier, when the friendly engineer had offered the boys a ride, it was hard to turn down; but since they already accepted the balloon pilot's invitation, they had to pass up their chance to ride the train. Gerry hoped that he would meet Uncle David again and have another opportunity to ride along with him on the Wildcat. Right now, he was full of excitement just thinking about the adventure that was ahead of him; he was actually going to go up in a hot air balloon!
The boys could see the Yellow Caboose lunch stand up ahead of them in the center of the train station. It was an old, slightly dented and slightly rusty train car that through time and exposure to the weather had become a sun-dulled yellow covered with blue polka dots that were blistering and peeling. Once, this fading relic had been the very important tail-end of a Kidgo Kargo Train. Although this caboose had long been retired and was not as important as it once was, it had been successfully transformed and was still useful to the railroad as a much needed lunch stop for hungry travelers. Tad, Gerry's little Cookie friend, had told him about the caboose just before he said goodbye and headed back to his cookie-baking duties at Cookie Dough Camp. Gerry and Shane had found their way to the train station by following Tad and his friends as they pulled their wagon train of cookies to the train station for shipping. The tired and thirsty boys were eyeing the lunch stand with anticipation—it had been a long and eventful walk from Cookie Dough Camp—but little did they know that their adventures for the day had just begun. Every move they made was being watched by dozens of spying eyes, all waiting and watching for just the right moment to rob them of something they didn't even know they had. Unaware of the danger they were in, Gerry and Shane walked on, taking in the sights and sounds of the busy train station. Suddenly, an old hunched-over man ambled into view between them and the caboose.
"Look, another human!" exclaimed Gerry.
The boys were excited because they had only seen one other human since their arrival in Mydreama and that was Uncle David.
"I see him," acknowledged Shane.
The aged man's long, gray hair and beard made him look just as shaggy as the pony he was leading, and the pony moved just as slowly and hunched over as his master. It was impossible to see their eyes or much of their faces because of all their hair; it was a wonder how they could see where they were going. The silver dapple pony pulled a two-wheeled wooden cart that was haphazardly stacked with wire cages. Each of these teetering cages contained about a half-a-dozen squawking chickens and there were a few Clothkids riding up on top. One of these little cloth citizens was scolding the noisy chickens under him for pecking at his clothes and trying to pull them through the slats of the cage. Suddenly, a big rooster decided to protest his confinement with a loud crow.
"That's enough of that, Reggie!" shouted the irritated cloth boy. "You just as well get used to your new little house; you've got a long train ride ahead of you down to Liberty Ranch."
Just then, Gerry and Shane were startled by a sudden beeping sound behind them. As they turned to see where the beep was coming from, they had to quickly jump back to avoid being run over by a peculiar-looking red car that zipped past them in a cloud of dust. This small three-wheeled car was no bigger than the pony cart and its windows were round, including the windshield. A small, plump woman was driving and there were twin pig-tailed girls staring at them through the back window. A cloud of pink exhaust followed the little car as it sped to the depot and drove right through the arched entrance next to the ticket window as if it was a garage. Everything in Mydreama was powered by sugar and this tiny car was no exception, it seemed; it puffed out the usual pink exhaust and left the familiar smell of burnt sugar lingering in the air.
"Wow!" marveled Shane. "What was that?"
"I'm not sure," answered Gerry, "but those were humans too, I think."
Just then, two boys and a girl that looked like they were just a couple of years older than Gerry and Shane, ran out of the same building that the car had just driven into, followed by a large black dog. On the back of the dog—hanging on for dear life—were three Clothkids, each about a foot-and-a half high. These small riders were squealing and laughing as they clung to the dog's shaggy coat and each other. It looked and sounded like they were having a lot of fun.
"Hey, wait a minute!" shouted Shane.
He wanted to talk to these kids but they were preoccupied and didn't see or hear Shane. The three kids and the dog, along with the little riders, ran across the tracks and disappeared into the woods.
"Do you think those kids were human?" asked Gerry. "They could be some of those Bigkids that are made out of cloth, you know."
"That's right," responded Shane. "I guess they could be; it's hard to tell unless you're up close to one so you can see if they have stitches on their faces."
The boys were happy to see other humans at the train station, even if they were very unusual. As they continued on toward the Yellow Caboose, they walked past a train schedule that listed the day's train arrivals and departures. Gerry and Shane could see Uncle David's train listed under the heading Kidgo Kargos. There were three other freight trains listed below his; they were the Mountain Mover from Grape Mountain Junction in Prairie County, the Gray Fox from Cat Canyon Junction in Pins County and the Northern Star from Jeffery Junction in Dreamland County. There were six Ribbon Riders listed on a separate board next to the towns they were from; their names were the Queen Bee from Cloth Town, the Bluebird Flyer from Stripesburg, the Sunflower from Liberty Pass, The Calico Lady from Ferle Falls, the White Rabbit from Needles and the fifth one was the Dreamland Express from Daisy Field. Because it had been a very busy morning for Gerry and Shane and because they were so tired and thirsty, they didn't pause long at the scheduling board but moved on quickly toward the lunch stand. From there they would be continuing their journey to Balloon Field, where Trent, the balloon pilot and his magnificent hot air balloon were waiting for them, they hoped. Earlier that day, back at Cookie Dough Camp, Trent had invited Gerry and Shane to see Mydreama from the air. They had heard that Mydreama was a collection of two-hundred islands surrounded by three different seas. The boys were very excited about this new adventure; they wondered what Mydreama would look like from up above and could hardly wait to get to the balloon.
Gerry and Shane's adventurous day that was now only half over had started with Shane's sudden and unexpected appearance at Cookie Dough Camp. Shane, not understanding his new powerful imagination, had accidentally imagined himself to be as big as a mountain. When he was still giant-sized, he had stumbled over the Violet Hills and fell into Lacy Lake. Then, before he could imagine himself regular size again, he stepped into Little Meadow, where the Cookiekids live. His gigantic shoes, dripping with lake water, had rained down on the still sleeping camp, causing a flood for the tiny community of Cookiekids. Gerry, who had been an overnight guest at the camp, was quite startled when he was awoken by the sudden deluge of water early that morning, but he was even more startled when he saw his classmate, Shane, there at the camp. Ever since Gerry's own arrival in Mydreama, he had been trying to figure out if he was dreaming. It had just been the day before when he was still home looking at his map of Cookie County and imagining what it would be like to be in the Sugar Hills that he suddenly found himself there. Then his classmate showed up in the same predicament, wondering how he got inside a map or if it was all just a dream.
Later that same morning after Shane used his new skills of imagination to return to normal size, the two reunited classmates had gone in search of Gerry's missing map. The day before, when Gerry was traveling from the Sugar Hills to Cookie Dough Camp, he stopped at the Green River for a quick dip to rid himself of all the itchy sugar he had collected while wondering in the hills. His pockets were full of sugar cubes that he was transporting for the Cookiekids he was traveling with, so before he entered the water, he wrapped them in his section of the canvas map and set them on the riverbank to keep them dry. The map, still full of sugar cubes, had been lying next to Gerry when he went to sleep under the stars at Cookie Dough Camp; but they mysteriously disappeared sometime during the night. When he discovered that his map was gone, he was terribly worried and wondered how he was going to tell his teacher, Ms. Razzleberry that he had lost a portion of the one-of-a-kind canvas map that had been in her family for many years. But then, Ian, the leader of Cookie Dough Camp told Gerry about some local thieves that may have taken his map.
These thieves were a couple of raccoon brothers named Jesse and James. Ian told Gerry that the raccoons loved sweets—especially sugar cubes—which they often stole from the supply bins at the cookie ovens. Because of this, the brothers had been nicknamed the Sweets Thieves by the Cookiekids. Ian suggested that these thieving raccoons may have smelt the sugar inside the map and drug it off into the woods for a snack. Gerry was encouraged that maybe he would find his map if he could just find the raccoon brothers. So, when he and Shane discovered some little raccoon footprints, they decided to follow them and were led to the edge of the Lilac Hedge that surrounded the camp and separated it from the Woven Woods. Neither of the boys wanted to go into the thorny hedge, but after a few moments of dares and double dares, they did. Gerry and Shane had to carefully pick their way through the treacherous hedge because just one small prick from one of the long, purple lilac thorns could put them to sleep for hours. The trek through the hedge and woods took most of the morning but eventually the boys found the raccoon brothers and Gerry's missing map. The raccoons were found hiding inside a rotting log at Lemon Grass Hollow. Gerry was very happy to have his treasured map back unharmed and he was also relieved to find out that Ian was right about the raccoons; they weren't at all interested in his map, only the sugar cubes. While at the hollow, Gerry and Shane formed their own little club and decided to call themselves "Canvas Map Explorers," promising to stick together until they had explored both Gerry's map of Cookie County and Shane's map of Pins County.
The two explorers eventually found their way back to camp just in time to see Trent's hot air balloon floating over the meadow. When the tiny pilot shouted down an invitation for the boys to take a ride in his balloon, they were naturally very excited and agreed to meet him at Balloon Field. Neither of the boys had ever been in a hot air balloon before and could hardly wait to get started, but before they could leave Cookie Dough Camp, Gerry and Shane wanted to keep an appointment to see the brick ovens where the Cookiekids baked all their delicious cookies. The boys were given a tour of the ovens and they sampled several different kinds of cookies. Then the tiny three-inch high Cookiekids asked Gerry and Shane to come along with them on their cookie delivery to the train station at Rayon Junction. The little cookie bakers explained that the path they had to take through the Lilac Hedge to get to the train station also led to Balloon Field. This seemed like a great idea to Gerry and Shane so they followed the Cookiekids through the Lilac Hedge Tunnel that took them into the Woven Woods.
While following the Cookiekids and their wagons full of cookies through the woods, the boys encountered the raccoon brothers again. The Sweets Thieves threw buttons at Gerry and Shane, so being provoked and still a little miffed about the stolen map, they chased the pesky raccoons through the woods and up a tree. That's when they found a camera case dangling from one of the tree branches. The camera was missing, but the case was not entirely empty; it was full of Mydreamian money. When the boys were examining the unusual money that was made of felt cloth and colored buttons, they suddenly realized that they were lost. It happened because they had left the path while chasing the raccoons. When they couldn't find the path or see the cookie train anymore, they were a little scared and didn't know which direction to go, but then they remembered that Ian had given them a map of the Woven Woods. This map, along with Gerry's compass, helped them find their way back to the path and their friends.
The lost boys had no sooner joined their friends again when another adventure suddenly caught up with them; this time it was a mob of about three dozen Clothkaroos that nearly ran them all down. Clothkaroos are polka-dotted kangaroos that are about two and a half feet tall and made from cloth. Their daily duties are to use their pouches for delivering boxes of cookies to the nearby communities, but as usual they were late getting to Cookie Dough Camp and were racing along at full speed when they encountered the cookie train. This could have been a disaster if the Clothkaroos had not been wearing their new glasses that helped them see the Cookiekids just in time to avoid a collision. Instead, they swerved around the wagon train and thundered past the group into the woods. All Gerry and Shane saw was a big colored blur of polka dots and dust; that's how fast it all happened!
Eventually, Gerry and Shane followed the Cookiekids and their wagon train of cookies all the way into the train station. Everything there was much bigger than the Cookiekids, especially the enormous white owl that came swooping down into the station causing all the Cookiekids to run for shelter. This was the biggest bird that Gerry and Shane had ever seen; he stirred up quite a commotion. The owl had been an amazing sight for sure but it didn't top their first glance at the grandly designed Mountain Wildcat while it sat idling at the train station, sighing out wisps of pink smoke as if it were impatient to be on its way again. The boys agreed that the best part of their adventures that morning had been when they first saw this breathtaking locomotive and met its engineer, Uncle David. It had been very comforting to them to see another human, especially one that had been so friendly and generous. The jolly engineer gave them each an unusual rainbow-colored coin that would give them free admission to attractions in the nearby communities. Then he surprised them again by giving Shane a compass just like the one Ms. Razzleberry had given Gerry the day before, which was delivered to him by the little talkative sparrow called, BB. These initials are short for, busy beak. Yes, it had been a very full morning for the two travel-weary classmates from Martin's Grove. The sun was now high overhead and the boys were excited to be on their way to Balloon Field, but first they would have a cool drink and a rest at the Yellow Caboose.
Excerpted from BOOK THREE: Spies at Rayon Junction by Linda Rasmussen Copyright © 2012 by Linda Rasmussen. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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