Soon it seems as if the Wish Master does have special powers—though it doesn't always get things exactly right. When Corby wishes for a puppy, a mangy stray comes into his life. He soon grows attached to the loyal mutt. Then the dog gets Corby in big trouble, and Corby decides it's time to wish for what he really wants: to go home. But will this wish bring more harm than good?
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The Wish Master
By Betty Ren Wright
Holiday HouseCopyright © 2000 Betty Ren Wright
All rights reserved.
"If You're Not Too Chicken!"
"That's one broken-down old boat," Corby said. He hoped Buck Miller wasn't going to want to go for a ride. "Anybody can tell that boat would sink like a rock."
"It would not," Buck retorted. "Where'd you learn so much about boats?"
Corby said, "At camp," and then wished he hadn't. He'd met Buck less than an hour ago, and already they were talking about things Corby didn't want to talk about. Or even think about.
"My dad knows everything there is to know about boats," he added quickly. "He goes sailing with his boss. On the ocean!"
Buck hopped off the little pier into the rowboat and stood with his feet wide apart, rocking from side to side, showing off. "So where's your dad now?" he demanded.
"Home," Corby said. "In Santa Barbara. He couldn't come here with my mom and me because he has to work."
Buck rocked the boat harder. Then he pointed across the river. "See that farmhouse over there? That's the Millikens' place, and they've got five Lab puppies. We can row over there and see them if you're not too chicken."
"I'm not!" Corby snapped. Why had Buck said that? He wondered if being scared of stuff stuck out for everyone to see, like freckles or big ears.
"Well, I'm going," Buck said. "And you'd better not tell anyone. Got that?"
Corby got it. He understood that Buck wasn't supposed to row across the river. The boat was probably just as rickety as it looked.
"You can pick wildflowers for your mama, little boy," Buck added, waving an arm at the field behind them. "Unless you're afraid of bumblebees."
Corby crouched at the edge of the pier, his heart thumping. He wanted to see the puppies, maybe even persuade his mom to buy him one. Mostly, though, he wanted to show Buck that he wasn't afraid. If they were going to be friends while Corby was in Wisconsin, it had to start now. He stepped down into the boat.
Buck loosened the rope that held them to the pier and dipped the oars into the water. "They're really neat puppies," he said, sounding more friendly. "I know because we got one of our dogs from the last litter."
The space between the boat and the pier began to grow. Corby was glad he knew how to swim. He wasn't fast, but it had been one thing he'd done as well as most of the other boys at Camp Macaho.
He wished he could forget he'd ever gone to camp. Until this summer it hadn't mattered much that he was the smallest, skinniest kid in his class. He and his two best friends knew more about computers than anyone else — even more than their teachers. The three of them collected baseball cards and insects and miniature cars, and everything had been great until his mother heard about Camp Macaho at a PTA meeting.
"I'm sure you'll enjoy it," she'd said. "You have to try new things if you want to be well-rounded, Corby. Think about all the fun things your father did at camp when he was a boy in Wisconsin."
Corby didn't care a hoot about being well-rounded. But when his dad said, "Camp is probably a good idea," and "Just be a good sport, Corb," he knew he was on his way.
Things had started going wrong the very first day at Macaho. There was that rocky cliff behind the mess hall, Corby remembered. His dad might have thought climbing the cliff would be fun, but Corby couldn't make himself try it, even when the other kids scrambled over it like monkeys. Why take a chance? One slip and you could get yourself killed.
He'd hated horseback riding, too. Any horse, even the oldest and laziest, felt as big as an elephant when you were on top of it. And he still had nightmares about that so-called bridge over Macaho Creek. It was nothing but a single plank that quivered and bucked when the boys ran across it. Corby had gotten halfway across just once, and then his legs wouldn't take him any farther. He'd had to back up on his hands and knees till he reached the shore.
Camp Macaho had been the worst thing — the only really bad thing — that had ever happened to him.
"I'm going to camp next summer," Buck said suddenly. "Which one did you go to?"
"It's in California," Corby said. "There's lots of just as good ones here in Wisconsin." He didn't want Buck to go where anyone would remember Corby Hill.
The boat was in the middle of the river now, jerking from side to side because Buck wasn't a good rower. Corby sat still, with his arms wrapped around his knees, and wondered if the last part of this summer was going to be any better than the first part. He'd hardly had time to unpack his suitcase and turn on his computer before Grandpa Hill had called from Berry Hill to say he needed help taking care of Grandma. She'd had a heart attack and needed lots of rest.
His mom had started planning right away. "Your father will feel better knowing we're taking care of his folks," she said firmly, when Corby looked glum. "By the time school starts, I'm sure Grandpa and Grandma will be able to manage on their own again."
A harsh, grating noise interrupted Corby's thoughts. Buck whooped and dug an oar so deeply into the water that the boat swung around.
"What're you doing?" Corby yelled. He saw water in the bottom of the boat.
The grating sound came again, followed by an ugly crrrunch. "What do you think I'm doing?" Buck panted. "I'm trying to move us. We've hit a rock or something!"
Corby stared at the crack opening up at his feet. "How deep is the water here?" he asked hoarsely.
"How do I know?" Buck said. "I can't swim." There was a quiver in his voice.
The crunching and scraping went on. "If there's rocks, maybe it's shallow here," Corby said. "Stop rowing. I'll see if I can stand up."
He stepped over the side while Buck leaned the other way to keep the boat from tipping. To Corby's relief, his toes touched rock right away — smooth, slippery, and solid. It was going to be all right! Then he took a step toward shore and the rock ended. Before he could take a breath, he'd plunged straight to the bottom.CHAPTER 2
"You Saved My Life!"
When Corby came up sputtering, Buck was still sitting in the boat, but the water was up to his middle. The sides of the boat were just a couple of inches above the water, so he looked as if he were in a wide wooden bathtub.
"Do you know how to float?" Corby asked, his teeth chattering.
Buck stared at him and clung to the sides of the boat.
"Listen, you hang on one end of an oar and kick with your feet," Corby said. "I'll hold on to the other end and swim, okay?"
He grabbed an oar and pushed the paddle end toward Buck, just as the boat slurped and slithered beneath the surface. Then he started to swim, towing the oar behind him.
It was hard work. He splashed a lot and gulped big mouthfuls of the river. After a few strokes, he let one foot drop, feeling for the bottom. Nothing!
He swam a few more feet and tried again. This time his toes touched the bottom. It was muddy and unpleasant, but it was there. He started walking to the shore, with Buck clinging to the paddle and splashing noisily behind him.
When they were back on the riverbank at last, they pulled off their shirts and sat shivering in the sun. Corby looked for the spot where they had gotten snagged on the rock. There was no sign of the boat. The second oar drifted slowly down the river.
"Hey, man, you saved my life," Buck said, when he'd caught his breath. "That was really cool! You're a great swimmer."
Corby realized that Buck didn't know he had walked most of the way to the shore. "You'd have been okay," he said modestly. "We could have waited there on the rock till somebody saw us, I guess."
But Buck shook his head. "No way! We don't want anybody to know we were out there. My dad would blow his top."
"Was it his boat?" Corby asked.
"It was nobody's boat," Buck said. "Just a junker. But we can't tell, just the same. I'm supposed to stay away from the river till I learn how to swim. If my dad finds out, I'll be grounded for the rest of the summer."
Corby sighed. He would have liked his family to hear he'd saved his new friend's life, but he knew Buck was right. His own mother would be frightened and angry if she heard what happened. Even worse, Grandpa Hill would probably say something like, "Your father would never have gotten into a leaky old tub like that." Or, "Your father swam across the river every day when he was your age. It's no big deal." If he didn't say it, he'd think it, which would be almost as bad.
"Listen," Buck said, "I bet you learned a lot of other stuff besides swimming at camp, right?"
"Like what?" Corby asked cautiously.
"Did you go on hikes?"
"Once." Now what? Corby wondered. Buck Miller was turning out to be a bundle of bad ideas!
"The reason I'm asking," Buck explained, "is because there's a place I want to go to, but it has to be at night — at midnight. Otherwise it won't work."
"What won't work?" Corby asked.
Buck rolled his eyes. "Just wait! The guys in my class are all too chicken to go at night, and that's why I'm asking you. You're no chicken."
Corby blinked. He was glad Buck had changed his mind, but he could see how that might be dangerous, too. Being brave Buck-style would mean taking chances.
"Well, I can't go," Corby told him. "My mom would never let me."
Buck stood up. "She won't know, city boy," he said briskly, as if it were all settled. "You can sneak out, same as me." He flapped his shirt to help it dry and pulled his damp shorts away from his seat. "I'll be outside your grandpa's place at eleven o'clock tonight," he said. "So don't fall asleep. This'll be the biggest thing that ever happened to you!"CHAPTER 3
The Wish Master
"I'm glad Buck Miller stopped by," Grandma Hill said at supper that night. It was the first time she'd eaten with them since they arrived. "You two can have fun together this summer." She patted Corby's hand with her too-thin freckled one.
Grandpa Hill grunted. He was a giant of a man who had been a farmer most of his life. The skin around his eyes looked old, but his eyes didn't. They said all kinds of things, like What would this runt know about having fun?
Corby had overheard Grandpa call him that the first night they were in Berry Hill: the runt of the litter. Grandpa and Grandma had seven other grandchildren who lived in New York and Florida. Corby hadn't seen them for a long time, but he'd seen pictures. The boys were all big and broad shouldered. They looked the way Corby's own dad must have looked when he was a kid. The girls were tall, too.
"Buck's all right," Grandpa said in his gruff voice. "Strong as an ox and a hard worker. He'll be a big help on their farm when he grows up."
Corby sighed and pushed back his chair. "Is it okay if I watch television?"
His mother nodded, and Corby escaped to the living room, but not before Grandma made him feel even worse.
"Being big isn't everything," she said loudly, so he would be sure to hear. She felt sorry for him.
He wished he could tell his grandparents that he had saved strong-as-an-ox Buck's life this very afternoon. What would they say if they knew tonight he was going to a secret place where Buck's other friends were afraid to go?
If I decide to do it, he added, but he knew that he would. Buck had said, "You're no chicken." Corby whispered the words to himself a couple of times. True or not, they sounded good.
The house was quiet when Corby started down the stairs at ten minutes to eleven. The first step creaked loudly, and so did the second. He held his breath. The house seemed different in the dark.
Cautiously, he swung one leg over the banister, clinging to the rail with both hands so he wouldn't shoot down like a rocket. At the bottom he slid off and tiptoed to the front door.
The key hung from the little knob at the top of the hinge. Corby felt like a burglar as he found the keyhole with his fingers and slipped the key into place. He could imagine Grandpa charging out of the back bedroom with his rifle in his hands.
Out on the porch, he stopped for a moment to get used to the dark. Then he edged along the front of the house to the long row of lilac bushes. It was even darker there.
"Hurry up, will you?" The whispery growl made Corby jump. He squinted and saw Buck crouched under the lilacs, close to the road.
"Hurry up!" Buck growled again. "We have a long way to go. The road is the easiest part."
The gravel road was pale gray in the moonlight. Corby stepped into a rut and fell flat. "You call this easy?" he muttered. He wiggled his ankle, hoping for a sprain.
Buck didn't even look back. "I've got a flashlight," he said. "Can't use it here. Somebody might see us."
They passed three small summer cottages, all as dark and silent as Grandpa's house, and then the road cut through meadows of tall grass. Corby blinked when Buck suddenly turned right.
"Hey!" he exclaimed. "Where —"
"There's a path," Buck said. "It's sort of narrow."
Corby couldn't see any path at all. He plunged into the grass, keeping his eyes on Buck and wishing he were home in bed. Home in Santa Barbara, he thought. A million miles away from Buck Miller and his dumb ideas.
The meadow seemed to go on forever. When Corby looked over his shoulder, he couldn't see the road. He hoped Buck knew where they were going. Otherwise they could tramp around like this all night.
"Okay," Buck said unexpectedly. "Now we can use the flashlight." A thin beam cut through the darkness. It lit what looked like a solid wall of trees and underbrush right ahead of them.
"No way!" Corby exclaimed before he could stop himself. "I'm not going in there!"
"We have to," Buck said. He swung the flashlight from side to side. "Look for three big sticks leaning against one another like a tepee. That's where the path begins."
"How do you know?" Corby demanded.
"Because I put them there," Buck said. "In the daytime. It's easy to find the path in the daytime." He moved slowly along the line of trees until he found the marker. "Gotcha!" he exclaimed happily. "Come on!"
Corby peered over Buck's shoulder. "That isn't a real path," he complained. "You're going to get us lost for sure!"
"Won't," Buck retorted. He ducked under a low branch, and Corby had to move fast before the flashlight beam disappeared. There was nothing else to do but follow it.
The woods were hot. Mosquitoes danced around Corby's ears. For a few minutes they pushed ahead without speaking, ducking under branches, climbing over a huge log, and bumping into each other.
"It's uphill from here on," Buck said, puffing a little. "Stay on the path, because we'll get pretty close to the edge."
Corby smacked a mosquito on his forehead. "The edge of what?"
"The cliff!" Buck said impatiently. "The river's right over there." He swung his arm to the right and started climbing again.
The path got worse at every step. Tree roots stretched like snakes in the bobbing beam of the flashlight. A loud rustling brought both boys to a stop.
"Hope that wasn't a bear," Buck said. "What did you do about bears when you hiked at camp?"
"Nothing," Corby said. The only night "hike" he'd gone on at Camp Macaho was when the boys in his cabin had decided they wanted sodas from the machine on the porch of the lodge. Sneaking across the camp's smooth lawn had been nothing like this.
"Listen," Buck said, seeming to forget about the bear. "You can hear the river. That means we're nearly to the top of the cliff. It sort of hangs out over the water."
The beam of light started moving again, and the path grew steeper. Corby stumbled over a root. When he looked up, he saw Buck clearly for the first time since they'd entered the woods. He had reached an open place at the end of the path.
"We made it!" Buck exclaimed.
Corby stepped out onto a rocky floor. The air was cool and sweet, but the rushing water sounded very close.
"Where's the river?" he asked nervously.
Buck pointed with the flashlight. They were standing a foot or so from the edge of the cliff. Then he swung the light sharply to the left, and when it stopped, what Corby saw nearly made him jump out of his sneakers.
A huge figure towered over them, blocking out the stars. Its body was a rough column of rock covered with strange markings; its head was a mammoth skull-shaped boulder. Corby shuddered as the light settled on the monster's face. He — it — was smiling hideously.
Excerpted from The Wish Master by Betty Ren Wright. Copyright © 2000 Betty Ren Wright. Excerpted by permission of Holiday House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsONE "If You're Not Too Chicken!",
TWO "You Saved My Life!",
THREE The Wish Master,
FOUR The Second Wish,
FIVE "I'll Never Get My Bike!",
SIX "The Ugliest Animal I've Ever Seen!",
SEVEN Taking Care of a Pal,
EIGHT Trapped Again!,
NINE A Scrawny Little Nothing,
ELEVEN "She's My Dog.",
TWELVE "It's My Fault!",
THIRTEEN Corby Takes a Chance,
FOURTEEN Finding the Wish Master,
FIFTEEN "She's Going to Fall!",
SIXTEEN "A Kind of Snowman",
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A great story that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Corby has just moved to a new town! He meets a kid named Buck and he looks mean. See if Corby will get in trouble. You must read this book to find out!