Ye First Mistake
Once upon a time, in the magical land of Pine Glen, California, lived a girl named Casey Peabody—that's me. I still live in Pine Glen, and okay, it isn't really magical. At least it wasn't until the princess came—and then, the magic that happened was a lot different from what you read about in fairy tales.
The whole princess mess began on a typical Saturday morning for the Peabody family. And even if someone had told us what was coming, none of us would have believed it.
No reasonable person would.
"Remember: One man's trash is another man's trash," Dad muttered between sips of OJ that morning. My gran and I were gearing up to go yard-sale shopping, just as soon as we finished our breakfast, and Dad was teasing Gran about her passion for second-hand bargains.
"Listen, Joey." When Gran calls Dad "Joey," you know she's feeling feisty. "Some guy bought a painting for four dollars at a yard sale and guess what was behind it? An original Declaration of Independence. Sold for over eight million dollars. You can't call that trash!"
"You have my permission to sell anything in this house for eight million dollars," Dad said, bowing to Gran.
Duke, our shaggy English sheepdog, thumped his tail. "That includes you, dog," Dad added. Actually, I'm not sure we could get eight dollars for Duke. He has a major case of doggie breath.
Gran eyed the clock and I got the hint. "Ready to roll," I said with a yawn.
Duke, who insists on coming with Gran and me on our treasure hunts, pranced toward the front door and waited for us. Thankfully my little brother, Shane The Pain, doesn't care to tag along, so—not counting Duke—I have Gran all to myself when we go shopping.
"I've got a good feeling about this one," Gran said, checking her purse for her keys. "It's an estate sale at that big old house over on Drew Street."
"That monstrosity?" Dad asked as he poured himself some coffee. "Nobody's come out of there in thirty years."
Gran's eyes lit up. "My kind of house!"
Once we were on the road, Gran asked me about my homework situation for the weekend.
"Not too bad." I'd just finished my first week of eighth grade at Pine Glen Junior High. "They always take it easy in the beginning. After that they really load it on."
Gran turned the car onto Drew Street. "So school's okay so far?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "Same as ever. Girls like Eden Endicott still think they rule." Pine Glen was full of popularity queens like Eden. "But soccer is awesome," I added.
"Go, Panthers," Gran said with a grin.
"Go, Panther girls," I corrected her.
Gran eased on the brakes. There was already a traffic jam on Drew Street but she managed to find a small space and barely squeezed her station wagon into it.
"Everybody's out today." Gran said, amazed. "We'll have to move fast." She made sure to roll all the windows down halfway, and then she patted Duke affectionately. "The car's nice and cool today, Duke," she said, giving him a wink. "You stay here and we'll rush right back with our treasures."
As we walked down the street with the rest of the crowd, I realized how right Dad was about the creepy old Tudor-style house. The overgrown yard looked like something out of a scary movie.
"You take the linens over there." Gran waved her hand toward the open garage. "I'll check out the furniture."
I'm not the linen-and-lace type but Gran has trained me well. She even taught me how to elbow my way up to the table. As I reached for a vintage tablecloth with red polka dots, a tall woman with rhinestone-edged glasses snapped it up, along with several others. "These are mine," she announced.
I gritted my teeth and moved on to a stack of old-fashioned dresser scarves. The rhinestone lady tried to reach over my shoulder but she was too late. I quickly picked out the two best and put the rest down.
By the time I tracked down Gran, the yard was so packed with bargain hunters, you could hardly turn around.
Gran made a face. "Naw. Nothing left but junk. Real junk."
She oohed and aahed at the pieces I picked out—"good junk" she called it—and we rummaged around a few more tables. Gran checked out a blue glass pitcher. I went for some old magazines I found stacked under a small, rusty metal box.
"Whoa!" The box weighed a ton when I tried to pick it up.
"What's inside?" Gran asked.
I couldn't get the lid to budge. "Rusted shut," I told her.
She tried shaking the box. "It sounds empty but it's really heavy." She checked the tag on the bottom. "The price is right. Let's take a chance. Maybe there's something inside that will pay for your college tuition. Or at least a trip to Hawaii!"
Before we left, Gran settled up with the woman running the sale. She even persuaded her to take a dollar off the box's price on account of the rust.
Duke barked and wagged as we approached the car. He knew what was next: hot chocolate and chocolate-chip muffins at Herbert's Bakery. He always managed to get a bite of muffin out of Gran or me. I guess that's why he's such a fan of our Saturday morning yard-sale trips.
As we slid our finds onto the backseat, Duke let out a whimper.
"What's the matter, boy?" I asked.
He stared down at the box, backing away from it suspiciously.
"Scaredy cat," I scolded him. "What's the matter with you?"
"It's that old box," Gran said. "I don't think he approves."
As soon as she moved it to the front seat, Duke quieted down, but he kept his eyes fixed on our rusty prize.
"Dumb old dog," I said with a laugh.
I wish I'd paid more attention to him . . . because as it turns out, dumb old Duke was on to something.