Smells Like Treasure
By Selfors, Suzanne
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Copyright © 2011 Selfors, Suzanne
All right reserved. ISBN: 9780316043991
There are two types of people in this world—people who sit by their mailboxes and wait for a delivery from the Map of the Month Club and people who don’t.
You might be asking yourself, What kind of person would sit by his mailbox and wait for a map? An image might pop into your head of a nerdy sort of person with messy hair and pants that are too short. A soft sort of person who’d rather sit in his room and dream about treasure than climb a tree or ride a bike. A smart sort of person because map reading uses 2.5 million more brain cells than watching television.
Did you know that the person you’ve just imagined is Homer Winslow Pudding? And that’s what he was doing one Saturday morning in June—sitting at the end of his driveway, right next to his mailbox, waiting.
The grass blade he’d been chewing had turned to mush, so he picked another blade and slid it between his teeth. Then he tilted his head, listening for the rumble of the mail truck’s engine. To Homer’s right, Grinning Goat Road disappeared into a horizon of green, goat-dappled hills. To his left, the road wound past the neighbor’s farm and disappeared around a bend as it made its way to the town of Milkydale. Tall birch trees lined the road, the ends of their slender branches swaying in the morning breeze. Except for a pair of chattering blue jays that perched on a nearby fence post and the occasional bleat of the goats, all was quiet. Homer checked his Quality Solar-Powered Subatomic Watch—an extremely rare apparatus. Only two exist in the entire world.
“She’s late,” Homer said. “The mail lady’s late.”
“Urrrr.” The dog who lay at Homer’s feet moaned.
Homer reached out and scratched Dog’s belly—a rather round belly for a dog of such short stature. Dog’s back leg kicked rhythmically, as if he’d gotten a sudden urge to chase a rabbit. Homer knew the exact spot on Dog’s white belly that triggered this little dance. He knew many things about the dog who’d come to live with him three months before. Such as, when Dog stuck his nose into Homer’s sleeve, Dog was feeling afraid. When he howled, he was feeling lonely. And when he started sniffing the ground and digging—well, that meant he was about to uncover something amazing.
Dog’s leg froze mid-kick. Then he rolled onto his paws as a rumbling sound sent the blue jays flying. Homer narrowed his eyes and focused on the horizon. Come on, come on, he thought, imagining the long cardboard tube with its gold Map of the Month Club sticker. Please be the mail truck.
Sure enough, the blue mail truck chugged around the bend and stopped at the Puddings’ mailbox. “Howdy, Homer,” said Twyla, the mail lady.
“Hi,” Homer said, pushing his curly bangs from his eyes. Excitement lifted him onto his toes, and he peered through the open window as Twyla rummaged through a box. Then she handed Homer a stack of bills, a farm equipment catalog, and the latest copy of Goat World, with its big headline: WHAT TO DO IF YOUR GOAT EATS A SHOE.
“I still can’t get over those ears,” she said, looking down at Dog. “They’re like a pair of wet towels.”
Dog’s tail thwapped expectantly against Homer’s leg.
“I know what you want,” Twyla said. She reached into her coat pocket, then tossed out a bone-shaped dog treat, which Dog practically inhaled. “Are you going to the opening day of the fair?”
“Yep.” Every year of his twelve years, Homer had gone to the opening day of the Milkydale County Fair. Aside from his birthday, opening day was his favorite day of the year because it marked the end of school. Good-bye, English composition. Good-bye, Victorian literature. Hello, summer vacation.
“Wish I could go. I’ve never been on opening day. I’m always working.” Twyla strummed her fingers on the steering wheel. “Well, I’d better—”
“Wait,” Homer said. “Don’t you have my map?”
“Your map?” Twyla frowned.
“It’s the first Saturday of the month.” How could she have forgotten? She’d been delivering his maps since last Christmas. The Map of the Month Club had been a Christmas present from his late uncle Drake.
“Gosh, Homer, I don’t see it.”
“Could you look again?” He didn’t want to insult her, but Twyla did have a wandering eye, and because of this wandering eye she sometimes delivered the wrong mail to the wrong address. She crashed the mail truck into quite a few trees, too.
She looked again. “I don’t see a map. Oh, but lookey here.” She held out a small white envelope. “It’s for you. Special airmail delivery. I wonder how it got into my truck.”
The envelope was addressed to Homer W. Pudding at Pudding Goat Farm, Milkydale. Since there was no return address in the upper left-hand corner, Homer turned the envelope over. A golden glob of wax sealed the flap. Four letters had been pressed into the middle of the glob: L.O.S.T.
This was way better than a map from the Map of the Month Club. “Thanks,” he said, stepping away from the truck.
“Have fun at the fair,” Twyla called as the mail truck resumed its swerving course up Grinning Goat Road.
Homer stared at the four letters—L.O.S.T. The secret Society of Legends, Objects, Secrets, and Treasures had sent him a letter. It had never before sent him a letter. Until three months ago, he hadn’t even known the Society existed. Until three months ago, he hadn’t known that Dog existed, either.
Both L.O.S.T. and Dog had been secrets kept by Homer’s treasure-hunting uncle, Drake Pudding. Just before his tragic demise, Uncle Drake had decided that one person—his favorite nephew, Homer—would inherit the secrets. And that is why Uncle Drake had hidden a L.O.S.T. membership coin on Dog’s collar, and why he had bequeathed Dog to Homer. It was the mysterious coin that had sent Homer on a wild adventure three months ago to discover the meaning of the initials and to learn the truth about Dog. And what, you might ask, was this truth?
That Dog could only smell one thing—treasure!
“Do you think…?” Homer looked down at Dog. “Do you think L.O.S.T. is inviting me to become a member?”
There was only one way to answer that question. Homer tucked the rest of the mail under his arm, then reached into his pocket and grabbed his Swiss army knife. But just as he was about to slide the blade under the wax seal, a red truck chugged around the bend. Homer closed the knife, then stuffed it, along with his letter, into his pocket. L.O.S.T. was a secret, and he intended to keep it that way.
The red truck turned into the Pudding driveway, then stopped. The front window rolled down. “Did the mail come?” Mr. Pudding asked, leaning his thick forearm on the window’s ledge.
“Here it is,” Homer said loudly over the truck’s sputtering. He held out the pile.
Mr. Pudding took the mail and set it on the seat. “I don’t see a map tube. Aren’t you supposed to get your new map today?” In his younger years, Mr. Pudding had wanted to become a cartographer. Though his goat farming duties had pushed that dream aside, he still enjoyed reading maps and would occasionally sit with Homer and study the latest delivery. But he wasn’t keen on treasure-hunting maps. “Give me a good solid map that’s real,” Mr. Pudding often said. “Not a map that’s one-half dreams, one-half bunk.”
“Twyla didn’t have it,” Homer explained. Under normal circumstances, not receiving the Map of the Month Club map would have been a huge disappointment. But something else—maybe something better—had been delivered. He stuck his hand in his pocket. The golden wax seal was cold against his skin. “The map must have gotten lost.”
“Twyla sure knows how to lose packages,” Mr. Pudding said as he rubbed his chin. “Did you finish your chores?”
“Yes. All of them.” He’d fed last night’s dinner scraps to the chickens, collected their eggs, put fresh straw in their nesting boxes, filled the goats’ trough with water, milked their largest goat, carried the milk to the kitchen, and swept the front porch. Please don’t give me more chores, he thought, eager to run straight to his room and read the letter.
“What do you think of the dogs?” Mr. Pudding asked. “The groomer did a right fine job.” Max and Lulu, border collies both, hung over the side of the truck bed, their black-and-white coats shiny and tangle free. “I want them to look their best.”
On most days, Mr. Pudding didn’t care if his farm dogs had mud on their paws or twigs stuck to their tails, but this wasn’t most days. That very afternoon Max and Lulu were scheduled to compete in the dog agility trials at the Milkydale County Fair. The border collies were Mr. Pudding’s pride and joy—hence the sign that hung next to the mailbox.
PUDDING GOAT FARM
Home of the Champion Pudding Border Collies,
Winners of Four County Fair Blue Ribbons.
Homer reached up and patted Max’s silky black head. “They look good.”
Gus, the farm’s other border collie, barked from the nearby pasture, where he was guarding the goat herd. Too old to compete, Gus had won his share of ribbons in his prime.
Mr. Pudding stuck his head out the window, his gaze dropping to Homer’s feet. “What’s he eating?” he asked with a scowl.
“Oops.” Homer reached down and pulled a stick from Dog’s mouth. One of Homer’s main chores was to make sure Dog didn’t eat things he wasn’t supposed to eat. Since Dog had been born without a sense of smell, anything could be mistaken for food. He’d been known to eat flowers, slugs, cardboard, whitewash, magazines, boots, and toothpaste.
Dog looked up at Mr. Pudding, his red-rimmed eyes sinking into folds of skin, his ears hanging to the ground as if they were filled with sand. “That’s one droopy dog,” Mr. Pudding said with a shake of his head. “Too bad he can’t herd. Too bad he’s not like the rest of the dogs.” Then he put the truck into gear and drove up the driveway.
Dog wasn’t one bit like the rest of the dogs. The Puddings’ border collies were specimens of perfect breeding, elegant in form. While they had legs made for running, Dog, a basset hound, had legs made for waddling. While they had coats of shiny hair that rippled in the wind, Dog’s short hair didn’t do anything but fall out and get stuck in the carpet. While the border collies had noble names, Dog’s name was plain old Dog. Compared to the rest of the dogs, Dog stood out like a raisin cookie on a platter of frosted cupcakes.
Homer knelt and patted Dog’s head. “Don’t you feel bad. You wouldn’t like going to the groomer. She cleans everything. And those dog agility trials are real boring. All they do is run around and jump over things. You wouldn’t want to do that even if Dad had invited you.” Not that Dog could do those sorts of things. It’s difficult to jump when you’re shaped like an overstuffed sausage.
But if Mr. Pudding knew that Dog could smell treasure, he’d treat him like a king.
“Come on,” Homer said, hurrying up the driveway. “Let’s go read this letter.”
The Pudding driveway was steep and long, and both Homer and Dog were out of breath by the time they reached the top. The driveway ended at a pretty front yard. A little path led to a house built from river rocks. A white picket fence surrounded the vegetable garden, and just beyond were the cherry orchard, the old red barn, and the hills where goats grazed on grass, clover, and wildflowers.
Just inside the kitchen window, Mrs. Pudding stirred something. Homer knew that if he tried to sneak past her to get to his room, she’d probably give him another chore. So, after looking around to make sure the coast was clear, he sat on the corner of the porch. A quick slice with the Swiss army knife and the seal came loose. His hands trembled.
Imagine a secret group of people whose lives were dedicated to the very thing that Homer dreamed about. Imagine the kinds of stories they could tell of the places they’d visited, the wonders they’d seen. His uncle had been a member of L.O.S.T., and Homer had met two other members, Ajitabh and Zelda, friends of his uncle’s. They’d told Homer that it was his right to take his uncle’s place. It was only a matter of when.
Not only did Homer desire this membership, but he also needed it. He’d promised his late uncle Drake that he’d continue the quest for the most famous pirate treasure of all time—the lost treasure of Rumpold Smeller. But Homer was twelve years old, so he’d need help organizing and funding such a grand quest. That help could come from L.O.S.T.—but only if Homer was granted membership.
“Whatcha looking at?” A little boy popped his head around the corner of the house. The boy was Squeak, Homer’s little brother. He clutched the handle of a red wagon. A baby goat lay in the wagon, nestled on Squeak’s favorite blanket. Since most farms in Milkydale were goat farms, baby goats had been popping out all month like weeds in a carrot patch.
“It’s a letter for me,” Homer told him.
“I like letters,” Squeak said. “I’m naming this goat Butter, ’cause she looks like butter.” He leaned over and rubbed his freckled face against the goat’s back. “She smells like butter, too.”
“That’s nice,” Homer said, only half listening as he pulled out a single sheet of plain white paper.
A bolt of excitement darted up his back.
“What’s it say?” Squeak asked.
Four words that meant everything to Homer. Four words that would be the beginning of his destiny.
Your time has come.
Excerpted from Smells Like Treasure by Selfors, Suzanne Copyright © 2011 by Selfors, Suzanne. Excerpted by permission.
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