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Amy's Who's Who Book
At first Jimmy McGee didn't know he was a hero. He never even thought what he was. Just a busy fellow, a plumber, mainly. Banging on pipes, waking people up, fixing things, making faucets stop dripping, going here, going there . . . zoomie-zoomie. That was his business.
But one day he found himself on a page in a book. The name of this book was the Who's Who Book by Amy. It was a little brown-red notebook that happened to open, as if by magic, to the M page. He read this:
McGee, Jimmy: a little fellow, a plumber, a banger on pipes, a HERO.
That's what astonished him . . . HERO! Why hero? The rest of what the book said about him was correct. But why, why hero? He had to try to find an answer to this startling question.
It was an evening during the summer, and the place was a little cottage in Truro on Cape Cod. The cottage, named The Bizzy Bee, was high up on a dune at the beach. The little girl Amy, who wrote that book, her mother, her father, who was a teacher and had all summer for a vacation, and their great dog, a dark brown-and-white springer spaniel named Wags, were the people who called this cottage their summer headquarters. Spending the summer with Amy was her best friend, Clarissa. Both Amy and Clarissa had long blond hair and blue eyes; both were seven, going on eight, and in the same class in school.
Amy didn't know where Jimmy McGee's summer headquarters were. Nobody knew. Most people didn't even know about Jimmy McGee at all. But Amy did. Otherwise she would not have put him in her Who's Who Book in the M's.
The family had only just arrived in the old gray Dodge and were bringing in their luggage and cartons, putting them in the right rooms of The Bizzy Bee. While the big people were unloading, Amy and Clarissa raced around the cottage. At the front, which faced the sea, they stood, silent, at the top of the dune and looked out at the wide, wide ocean. They flung back their arms, took in deep breaths of the pure ocean air, and watched the waves come rolling in and break on the sunny, sandy beach way down below.
Amy said, "Clarissa. It's a rule that we cannot roll down, down the dune to the sandy beach. You'd like to, I know. So would I. But it's a rule my mama and papa made, and they don't make many. When they do, they always have a good reason. Here, Clarissa, you know the sand of the dune might collapse and come pouring down on you and smother you to smithereens."
"O-o-oh!" Clarissa gasped. She drew back from the wispy weeds at the top of the edge of the dune.
Amy laughed. "Well," she said. "Now, we'll go over there. There are steps there. Twenty-six in all. Just like the alphabet."
These steps led down to the beach and were only about fifteen feet from the front of The Bizzy Bee.
At the top of the gray weather-beaten wooden stairs there was a little platform with a bench to sit on. There Amy and Clarissa and Amy's mother and father and their friends could sit and shake the sand off their wet towels, wipe off their feet, relax, and watch the seagulls, screaming and swooping down to fight over something they thought was good to eat.
Clarissa watched them in fascination. This was the time of day, late in the afternoon, when they were likely to find their best pickings. They'd make a dive for something. Even if it was nothing to eat, they all thought it might be.
Now, Amy and Clarissa watched the last few straggling people, who had stayed the longest, gather up their things to go home to dinner. Tiredly they plodded down the beach a ways to their own stairs. Each cottage had about twenty-six steps from the beach to the dune above.
"Tomorrow we'll be doing that," said Amy happily. "Too late this afternoon."
Amy fumbled around in the pocket of her blue sweater. "Ah!" she said. "Here it is! Got stuck in a loose stitch." She took out her special red-brown notebook that she almost always carried around with her in case she needed to write something in it. She showed it to Clarissa.
The Who's Who Book by Amy was the name of it. It was a little frayed and bent at the edges, but Clarissa saw at once that it was a very important book. "A book of names," said Amy happily.
Clarissa held the book for a moment carefully as though she were holding a rare treasure. Then the book opened itself to the M page. Amy said, "It's a sort of magic book. It always opens itself to the M page. That's the L page, too, right ahead of the M's. Even after you think you have closed the book tightly, it always springs back to the L and M page. I should put an elastic band around it, but I won't."
"Why do you 'spose it does that?" Clarissa asked curiously.
"Because it's the magic page that has the name of Jimmy McGee on it," said Amy. "He's . . ."
Without waiting to hear more, Clarissa interrupted. "Am I in it, that book of names of yours?"
"Of course," said Amy. "Book begins with 'A for Amy, a little girl, age 7.'
"'B for Bear . . . my Teddy Bear, age 3.' Now C for . . . guess who?"
"Me!" exclaimed Clarissa, delighted.
"Yes," said Amy. She put her finger on the C's. . . . "C for 'Clarissa, a little girl, age 7. Amy's friend.'"
Clarissa smiled. "How can you be in a book and out of a book at the same time?" she asked.
"Can," said Amy. "Same as being in and out of a mirror at the same time."
"Oh, of course!" said Clarissa.
"Begins with Amy, that's me. Ends with Z," said Amy.
"Z! What doll or person do you have under Z?" asked Clarissa.
"'Z: Zazoom, a clown doll,'" said Amy. "Zoomie-zoomies are named after him."
Clarissa laughed. "'Zoomie-zoomies!'" she said. "What's that?"
"O-o-oh," said Amy. "It's a magic that can make people who have it do curious things," she said. "Maybe even animals, maybe even a doll. Well, it's magic."
"Did you bring Zazoom with you?" asked Clarissa.
"No," said Amy. "Couldn't bring all the dolls and clowns and everybody. I brought Little Lydia, named after Lydia, Big . . . you know, the doll who swallowed the thermometer. Left her home . . . too big. The only doll I brought is Little Lydia, and see? She is on the line right above 'McGee, Jimmy.' See?"
"Is my doll-I did bring her-Pee-Wee, in it?" asked Clarissa.
"Yes," said Amy. "And Wags is in it, and all my family . . ."
Amy closed the book. But it sprang open again to the M page. "See?" she said. "It always does that. There he is! 'McGee, Jimmy: a little fellow, a plumber, a banger on pipes, a HERO.'"
Clarissa said, "Why do you call Jimmy McGee a hero?"
"Because," said Amy, "he always has to do such hard things, such very hard things, hard and curious, that no one else has ever even thought to try to do."
"Oh my, yes, of course!" said Clarissa. "He is a hero all right."
Clarissa asked if she could hold this important book for a minute and see if it flipped back to the M's if she were holding it. "I'll be careful," she said.
Amy handed Clarissa the book. Holding the book tightly in her little fist, she recited as though it were a lesson in school, "A is for Amy, B is for Bear, C is for me, Clarissa . . ." She paused. "That's all I'll say now. It's enough to make the test." She then placed the book in her lap. Right away it sprang open to the M page. "Well! What do you know? Your book is magic, too."
Amy laughed. "Likes the letter M and the letter L," she said.
Amy and Clarissa laughed and laughed and did the "Open Book!" test over and over. It never failed. "Likes McGee, Jimmy. Likes Lydia, Little!"
"All the same," said Clarissa, "I want to know more. Jimmy McGee must be more than a name in your Who's Who Book, Amy. Exactly who is Jimmy McGee? Where does he live, for instance?"
At that moment there came a great wham-bang on the pipes in the cellar of The Bizzy Bee.
"Hear that?" asked Amy. She laughed gleefully. "That's Jimmy McGee! He's just turned on the water, so we'll have water to drink and to cook with and everything. He'll do all kinds of things to open up this house. Papa will say, 'Well, I'll be ding-busted! Know this cottage so well, I do things even in my sleep!'"
"So!" said Clarissa. "What I hear is Jimmy McGee, wham-banger of pipes, turner-on of water . . .?"
"Uh-huh!" said Amy.
"Listen, Amy," said Clarissa. "Why don't we race over to the cottage and try to look through the cellar window? If that little fellow named Jimmy McGee is down there, wham-banging like all get-out, well, maybe we'd see him. I'm in the book and out of the book . . . maybe same thing about him!"
"Oh," said Amy. "By now he's not in the cellar. Listen!"
There came another wham-bang. "Now he's turned the water on in the kitchen, and now, as fast as that, he's turned on the outside faucet. He's letting them all run to get the rusty water out," said Amy.
"Well," said Clarissa with a sigh, "at least now I know who Jimmy McGee is, banger on pipes as you have it in your book. And hearing is almost as good as seeing."
"Believing is best of all," said Amy.
Another bang shuddered the cottage. "Goodness knows what pipe he is banging now!" Amy's eyes were shining with excitement.
"Tub, shower . . . bathroom things," suggested Clarissa. "I like this game!"
"This is not a game," said Amy sternly. "You don't call Jimmy McGee and his way of fixing things in a jiffy a game! Gosh, Clarissa!"
"He's a great man." Clarissa corrected herself hastily. "A hero! So it is written in your great book on page 13, your Who's Who Book. Wish I knew how to write books."
"You could try. Got all summer," said Amy. "But you're right. He's a little man, but great. Everybody doesn't know about him."
"Anyway, I wish I knew a little bit more than I do so far about Jimmy McGee. Besides being a banger on pipes."
"Oh," said Amy. "There's plenty to learn. Ever put your ear against a telephone pole? Hear the humming there? That's Jimmy McGee using his magic . . ."
". . . his zoomie-zoomies," interrupted Clarissa.
"Yes," said Amy. "Going off on some curious adventure! As the summer goes on, we'll learn more about him."
Amy spoke absentmindedly. With her finger as if glued to the L and M page, she said, "You see that Little Lydia is right above McGee. There might be a curious connection here, Clarissa. We have to ferret it out. Two heads are better than one."
Text copyright © 1987 by Eleanor Estes
Illustrations copyright © 1987 by John O'Brien
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