While No One Was Watchingby Jane Leslie Conly
Someone has to take charge. Since Earl is the oldest, he feels responsible./b>/center>… See more details below
Someone has to take charge. Since Earl is the oldest, he feels responsible. His older cousin, Wayne, shows him how to steal bikes. It's a great way to make money, and Earl is desperate. But stealing bikes is not all Wayne does. And when he asks Earl to join him in a new money-making scheme, Earl is torn. It feels bad, but he needs the money. And no one is watching...
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They found the yard when Wayne was collecting bicycles. Frankie followed his brother Earl just like he was supposed to, and Earl followed Wayne, who was his cousin, and a bit older. Sometimes Wayne let Earl ride a bike, if they found more than one. Then Frankie would run alongside, saying, "Let me have a turn!" Wayne never gave him a turn, because Frankie didn't have good balance for his age, so he hadn't learned to ride a two-wheeler. He could ride a Big-Wheels, but Wayne never got Big-Wheels, even though Frankie asked him to. All Wayne answered was, "If you don't do what I say, Fat Frankie, you'll have to stay home by yourself."
Frankie didn't like staying in the house by himself, and the big boys weren't supposed to leave him there either, but they sometimes did. They said Frankie couldn't run fast enough to keep up, and that he whined like a baby, like Angela. He tried not to whine, but sometimes he couldn't help it. They walked so far, and they forgot about eating lunch and going to the bathroom and resting. Once Frankie made the mistake of saying he wished kindergarten went through the summer. Wayne and Earl laughed and said he was a dork. But Frankie couldn't help remembering the big round clock on the classroom wall. It never broke, day after day, and when the hands were in a certain place they had snack, and later, lunch, and naptime. Mrs. Chase played music during naptime. Frankie had heard there would be no music in first grade.
"Frankie, hurry!" Earl said over his shoulder. "And shut up!" Frankie sighed. He liked to sing, but he couldn't rush and sing at the same time. And thebig boys were always rushing. They had a thousand places to go.
The summer had started better. They had stayed near Aunt Lula's, hanging with other kids in front of Mr. Kim's store. Frankie had sat on the steps of Lula's brick rowhouse. Lula said to watch out for trouble, and he tried to, but he wasn't always sure what trouble looked like. Once he'd seen a man and woman arguing in front of their car; the man had pulled a gun out of his coat pocket. Another day the police had come around the corner with their sirens blaring. He'd seen a dog pee on Lula's flowers right in front of the house while the woman who held the leash stood there watching. Earl had been in the store getting a pack of gum, but Frankie told him about it later. Earl rolled his eyes. "That's nothing, Fat Frankie," he explained. "A gun is trouble. A dog peeing is nothing." Frankie decided to tell Lula anyway. But she was tired when she got home from her job at the laundry. She drank beer while she made supper, and afterwards she fell asleep at the table. Then Frankie and Earl and their six-year-old sister Angela talked. Angela was a liar.
"Lula said I can have the rest of the mashed potatoes ‘cause I went on a trip today," she announced.
Frankie thought for once she might be telling the truth. "Where did you go?"
"To Hollywood." Angela reached for the bowl. "I bought a bowl of sugar. Then I took the train back to daycamp. Miss Cathy was so glad to see me she gave me a gold medal."
"You can't have all those potatoes," Earl said. "You'll get fat, too."
"I will not! Miss Cathy says I look just like a girl on TV."
"Hulk Hogan's sister, maybe." Earl took the bowl back. He gave a spoonful of potatoes to Angela and one to himself.
"I'm hungry," Frankie whined.
"There's some on your plate already."
Frankie ate as fast as he could, so there'd be potatoes left in the bowl when his were gone. The potato in his mouth was so packed he couldn't swallow. He took a drink of milk to loosen it up, but there wasn't room for the milk and most of it ran down his chin. "Daddy ubed da make graby," he said.
Angela stared at him. "Frankie can speak French," she told Earl.
"Frankie can't speak French. He's got so much food in his mouth he can't talk at all."
Frankie swallowed three times. "Daddy used to make gravy," he said.
"Daddy's in Honolulu." That was Angela.
"He is not. He's on the Eastern Shore, picking vegetables. Beth-ann saw him there, didn't she, Earl?"
Earl shrugged. Frankie saw he'd learned a trick from Wayne. He could close his face the way you pulled the shade down on a window. Then there was just his stringy red hair and a white blank like a wall underneath it. "I don't know," he said.
"She did see him!" And we've got his letters – one every Saturday. You had them under your pillow."
Earl shrugged again. Lula stirred in her sleep. Frankie wondered if she would wake up and ask about Wayne. If she asked, he was supposed to lie, because she didn't want them playing with Wayne, even though he was her own son. He lived with his father now, and Lula claimed she didn't want to know where he went or what he did. Wayne didn't want her to know, either. He had threatened Frankie, saying, "If you tell, I'll cut your throat." Frankie could imagine how much it would hurt to have your throat cut. Wayne might do it, too, if he told. Wayne had killed a cat with his bare hands. Even Earl was afraid of Wayne, and Earl was eleven.
"Come on, Frankie," Earl called. "You have to keep up."
"I'm trying." Frankie walked a little faster. They had passed Grover Park and crossed the boulevard. So far Wayne hadn't found any bikes. But he didn't seem to be looking hard, not yet. That morning he'd said he had a new place to look.
Meet the Author
Jane Leslie Conly's first novel, Rasco and the Rats of NIMH,an ALA Booklist Children's Editors Choice, and its sequel, R-T, Margaret and the Rats of NIMH,were included on a multitude of state library masterlists. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed Trout Summer (an ALA Notable Children’s Book and Best Book for Young Adults) and the Newbery Honor Book Crazy Lady! She lives in Baltimore, MD.
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