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“Hey Becca! Help me with this, would you?” my younger brother Finn called, drumming his pencil on the open textbook in front of him impatiently.
“With what?” I grumbled, annoyed to be interrupted from my own homework, an essay that was due soon. I had barely started.
“Long division.” Finn spat out the word like it was an olive, his least favorite food. “I don’t know if I’m doing this right. I keep getting mixed up.”
“Seriously? That’s easy,” I muttered, getting up from the soft brown couch where I had been sitting and stalking over to the table where Finn was seated. Ignoring the tongue he stuck out at me, I brushed away a stray strand of dirty blond hair and pulled the textbook toward me. “We should start-“ I was interrupted by the sound of the front door crashing open.
“Hey kids, how’s it going?” It was my uncle. Uncle Marv. He owned a used book store in a tiny town a little ways away from our house.
Finn ran up to Uncle Marv and slapped him a high five. “Hey Uncs! What’s up?” Grinning, Uncle Marv set a package down on the counter and started to chat with Finn.
Finn and I had lived with Marvin Harrison- and his Siberian husky, Iggy- for as long as I can remember. Our parents died in a car crash soon after Finn was born. My mother was pretty crazy about Mark Twain, hence the names Rebecca and Finn, after Rebecca Thatcher and Huckleberry Finn from one of Twain’s books- not to mention the fact that my first birthday gift was a board book version of The Prince and the Pauper.
Uncle Marv resided in a large brick house that was built a couple hundred years ago, I think. It’s pretty old. One thing I love about his- our- house is the statues of greyhounds sitting on top of the squat brick wall surrounding the home. There are two greyhounds, one on either side of the gate leading into the walkway up to our house. They sit regally on top of the wall, silently guarding our house. When he was younger Finn used to think they came alive at night and prowled around the house, searching for intruders. And I’ll have to admit, at times they really seem alive; they’re just putting on a show when we come near.
Suddenly Finn’s voice interrupted me from my thoughts. “Earth to Becca!” He waved his hand in front of my face. Narrowing my eyes, I stared at him.
“You weren’t paying attention! Pay attention.” He turned to Uncle Marv. “Uncle Marv said that I need to clean the bathroom, you need to take care of Iggy, and he needs to find something for dinner.”
Uncle Marv nodded. “Better get started!” he said.
Immediately Finn rushed off to the bathroom. I headed into the kitchen, where Iggy’s food and water bowls were located. Iggy looked up at me hungrily as I poured a hard brown mixture of stars and circles into his food bowl and refilled his water. After Iggy had gulped down most of his food and splashed most of his water onto the floor (and me) I clipped his leash onto his collar and led the giant dog outside into the brisk air.
It was that time of year when all the snow had not yet melted, but the wind was getting warmer and birds were starting to sing their melodies again. Iggy especially loved this time of year, and he pranced around, stuffing his nose into muddy patches of snow and barking at adventurous squirrels that had dared to come out of their nests.
On the other hand, I was rubbing my gloved hands against my thighs and trying to walk quickly. It may have been warm enough for Iggy, with his shaggy gray and white coat, but I was still feeling the last traces of winter. We walked briskly around the block, and soon enough we were home. I glanced at the greyhounds as Iggy and I walked through the gate, feeling strangely safe with their stony presence. Finn met me at the door.
“Oh, I thought you were the pizza guy,” he muttered, looking annoyed. “Uncle Marv ordered.”
- - -
With a sigh I slammed my book shut and stood up from the table, stretching. I had just finished my homework and Finn was in his room, probably messing around with his laptop. Uncle Marv was in his den, filling out some paperwork.
As I stuffed my books and papers into my bag, my gaze wandered across to the package that Uncle Marv had left on the counter when he had come home. It had not moved since then; it was simply lying, untouched, on the counter. My curiosity got the best of me (Uncle Marv did not usually bring things home from work, and when he did it was almost always paperwork) and I meandered over to the counter.
The package was not oddly shaped. In fact, it looked quite ordinary- plain brown wrapping, creased in several places and taped together messily. There was no writing on it. I poked it. It didn’t explode. Rolling my eyes at my immaturity, I grabbed my bag and headed to upstairs to my room. But the package was still lingering in my mind.
Olives. Hate the word. Those slimy little ovals can’t decide whether or not they want to be black or green, pitted or not pitted. Olives were on my mind as I flung furious birds into the structures of green pigs on my laptop.
It’s funny how the little things in life stay in your mind, sometimes more than the big things. For instance, one little thing I can still vividly remember is the day in first grade when we took a field trip to a pickling factory. (No idea why we went there, I think it had something to do with learning about cooking…?) Let’s just say I leaned over a railing a little too much, and bam! Into the barrel of olives. It might sound funny, but I smelled like olives for the rest of the week, no matter how many showers I took. It was awful. Before then I had never much cared for olives, but after that day I was pretty much convinced they were out to get me.
But at the same time, no matter how much I tried to remember, I just can’t think of my parents. Becca remembers them, sort of, but I can’t. It bothers me a lot.
Anyway, I was thinking about olives as I completed level after level of the most addicting game in the world. My teacher wanted my class to write papers on things we really didn’t like. We were supposed to give reasons why we didn’t like it, and so on. It sounded kinda lame. But I had to do it, and so I started. Sort of. More or less, I opened my internet browser to look up olives, saw the little Angry Birds icon, and got, well, distracted. I mean seriously, how am I supposed to concentrate on olives of all things when there are pigs to teach lessons to?
I flung a yellow bird at a tall wooden structure and shook my head when it missed. After a few more fails, I closed my laptop and slunk over to my bed, utterly defeated. As I sunk onto my bed I picked up my backpack and rifled through it until I found what I was looking for- my leftover lunch. Opening the brown paper bag, I dug out a half-eaten sandwich, a crumpled napkin, and a bag of what used to be cookies. I sighed and swung off my bed to head to the kitchen.
In the kitchen, I tossed my old lunch into the trash and opened the refrigerator door. After finding a bottle of icy cold water, I started to head back to my room when I noticed the package Uncle Marv had left on the counter. I walked backwards toward the counter. The package was just lying there… Uncle Marv probably wouldn’t mind me taking a peek. I inched closer to the package and pulled it toward me. Just as I was lifting the corner of the wrapping though, I heard footsteps creeping down the stairs. Quickly I grabbed my water bottle, which I had set on the counter, and ducked into the bathroom.
The footsteps came closer. I poked my head through the bathroom door and realized it was Becca. She glanced around suspiciously, then crept toward the counter and package. I jumped out of the bathroom. Becca whipped around, her long hair flying in all directions. “What are you doing?” she snapped, pushing the package away.
I tapped my foot. “I could ask you the same thing.”
Becca rolled her eyes. She does that very well. Roll her eyes, I mean. “I asked you first,” she hissed.
I stepped closer and held up my water bottle. “Can you blame me for being thirsty? I was just getting some water.” Icy drops dripped from the edges of my water bottle, dampening the carpet I stood on and making my hands wet. I wiped my fingers on my jeans in a failed attempt to get them dry. Meanwhile, Becca narrowed her eyes.
“Fine,” she said, crossing her arms. “Then why is there water all over the counter?” Nodding toward my dripping hands, she added, “Couldn’t have been you, could it?”
I winced just slightly, but enough to tell Becca that she’d gotten me.
“You were snooping around the package, weren’t you?” Becca accused.
“Well so were you.”
Becca sighed and threw up her hands in mock surrender. “Okay, okay, you got me,” she said with another sigh. “I just wanted to know what was in there, ‘kay?”
“Hey, let’s find out!” I suggested. “Uncle Marv won’t mind. We just gotta lift up the paper, peek under, and tape it back.”
Becca faltered and looked at the ground. “Well I suppose it’d be alright.”
We both stepped toward the package. I carefully undid the tape and pulled out what was inside, a cloth-wrapped rectangle. I set it on the counter. Pulling the rectangle more towards her, Becca took a deep breath and glanced at me. A flicker of worry passed through her blue-gray eyes.
“You sure this Uncle Marv won’t mind?” she worried, rubbing her wrists like she always does when she’s nervous.
I snorted. “ ‘Course he won’t mind, you worry wart. Come on, unwrap it!” Becca gently picked up the rectangle with slightly trembling fingers. My sister can be such a worrier. Seriously, all this over a package? I can’t believe her sometimes.
Becca finished unfolding the cloth and pulled out the contents: a simple leather-bound book.
“A book,” I scoffed. “A book? Why would Uncle Marv bring home a book?” Becca didn’t answer as she gingerly lifted the cover of the book. A yellowed piece of paper, brittle with age, dropped out. Becca bent to pick it up.
“I think this is a map,” she said as she unfolded the paper.
I leaned over her shoulder to see. Sure enough, lines crisscrossed the paper, outlining a very detailed map of the world. In the bottom right corner of the map there was a very faint compass rose and some writing that was too smudged to make out. Becca cautiously spread the map out on the counter. I took one hand off my water bottle and pointed a dripping finger towards the United States, or at least North America. Apparently when this map was made, the US wasn’t here.
“There’s were we live,” I pointed out. A drip of water fell from my finger and onto the map.
“Watch it!” Becca cried, pulling the map away. “You’re getting it-“ Suddenly she stopped. The quiet pit-pat of rain had started to sound on the window.
“I didn’t know it was supposed to rain, I muttered, scratching my neck. “Forecast said sun and more sun til Tuesday. In fact, it was supposed to be abnormally dry.”
Becca shrugged. “Eh, weathermen aren’t always right.” She paused. “Hey, I don’t hear the rain anymore!”
I listened. She was right. The rain had gone away as quickly as it had come. I lifted my hand to scratch my neck again. In doing so, I accidentally splattered more drops of water on the map. Abruptly it began to rain again. The rain lasted for a few moments, and then stopped altogether. Becca’s eyes widened, and she stared at the map again.
“You sprayed water on our state again,” she whispered. “Sounds crazy, but do you think-“
“Really? Becca are you that insane? You honestly believe…” My voice trailed off as I gazed at the map.
Darker flecks dotted our state where the water had landed. Everything else was fine. The map looked completely normal, at least as normal as I thought a billion-year-old map should look.
Becca slipped the map back in the book and wrapped it back up as best she could. Turning to me, she said uncertainly, “All I know is, you get water on our part of the world, and it starts raining, then stops, really quickly. And this happened twice. It seems completely unrealistic, but do you think the map could… could somehow make it rain here, when we get water on it there?”
I yawned widely as I rolled out of bed. Finn had practically begged me to stay awake with him to figure the whole map thing out, but it had gotten late and I had gone up to bed. But turning my back on the map hadn’t made me forget about it, and as I fell asleep thoughts of it took over my mind.
As I pulled on clothes and tossed extra pens into my bag that morning, wincing at the sour taste of my breath, I couldn’t stop thinking about the map. If it really did control the rain, imagine how much that could change the world. There would be no such thing as droughts. Clean water would be distributed throughout the earth. Lives could be saved.
Get real, I told myself sternly. The chance of that map actually controlling rain is one in a million. With that thought in my head, I started downstairs to eat breakfast and go to school, happy that it was, at last, Friday.
- - -
At dinner that night, Finn brought up the map.
“Hey Uncle Marv…” he started, looking up from his chicken. Uncle Marv grunted to show that he had heard. Finn poked at his drumstick. “You know that package you brought home yesterday? I was wondering- what exactly was in it?”
Uncle Marv jerked his head up sharply. “What did you just say?”
“I asked what was in the package you brought home yesterday.”
“That’s none of your business,” Uncle Marv growled. Abruptly, he got up from the table, grabbed the package off the counter, and stormed away into his den. I heard the click of a key in a lock.
“Ouch,” Finn muttered, crossing his arms. “All I did was ask…” His voice got quieter as he stared at his plate. I could understand his hurt. Uncle Marv was almost never angry.
Finn and I quietly finished up the rest of our dinner, then slid the dishes into the dishwasher and turned it on. Just as I was sitting down to start a new book, Uncle Marv came out of his den. Finn glanced up from his handheld video game as Uncle Marv strode into the family room, where we were.
“I need to leave for a little bit,” he said. “I trust you’ll be alright while I’m gone?”
Finn nodded absently without looking up from his bleeping box.
“We’ll be fine,” I answered more reassuringly. “See you later.”
Uncle Marv gave a small nod. “Okay then.” He left the room. Soon I could hear the door slam and the hum of a motor driving away. Immediately Finn shot out of his chair. He sped away.
“Where are you going?” I called after him, getting up from my own seat and following more slowly.
Finn’s voice echoed back to me through the hallway. “I gotta see that map again!” The rattling sound of a doorknob being shook vibrated through the hallway after his voice. “Darn! It’s locked!”
I approached Finn and saw him twisting the doorknob to Uncle Marv’s den back and forth. “Come on Finn. We don’t need to see it again. Once was enough. If Uncle Marv doesn’t want us to know about it, it’s probably better that way.” Finn glared at me, but said nothing. He continued to work on the knob. I tried again. “Wouldn’t you rather be playing Super Mario Bros.? Or Angry Bombs?”
Finn finally spoke. “It’s Angry Birds, you weirdo.” He rolled his eyes. “And I wanted to look at the writing on that map again. If the writing gives away any information, I could look it up on the Internet. Then maybe we’d find more about it. I mean, something like this map doesn’t come up every day. I bet there’s some article about it. Maybe it’s some lost ancient treasure.” Finally, Finn sighed and let go of the doorknob. “No use. Unless you have some bobby pins?” He looked up at me hopefully. It only took me a second to figure out what he was thinking.
“No, you are not picking the lock. If Uncle Marv didn’t want you in there, you’re not going in there.” Feeling it was the end of the conversation, I turned and went back to the family room, where I picked up my book and started to read.
Five minutes later I was interrupted from the land of Hobbits and rings by loud thuds of feet running around the house.
Muttering to myself, I reluctantly got up after a couple moments and once again started toward the den. Surprisingly, when I got there I found the door wide open and Finn sitting at Uncle Marv’s desk, examining the map with a pocket knife magnifying glass.
“How’d you get in here?!” I exclaimed, storming up to Finn and swiveling his chair around to face me.
Finn smiled mischievously and dangled a miniscule golden key. “Birthday present,” he said matter-of-factly. “It’s supposed to be able to unlock any door. I thought that was just made up, and I kinda forgot about it. But hey- it works.”
I groaned. “Seriously Finn?”
Finn wiggled his eyebrows. “Seriously.” He turned back to the map. “I think I’ve made out a word here, but I need your second opinion.”
I blew out a long breath and leaned in closer. Thin, fading lines covered the paper, making any sort of writing difficult to read. I scanned the map for any familiar words, phrases, anything, but my search yielded no results, and all I gained was a load of frustration. “Doesn’t look like anything to me.”
Finn pointed a dirty, chewed up fingernail toward a darker mark. “That doesn’t look like the letters ‘M’ and ‘A’?”
I peered more closely at the map. “No."
Finn huffed. “Well I think it does. I also think that’s an ‘O’, that’s a ‘C’, and that’s a ‘P’.”
Sighing, I leaned in still closer to the map. Sure enough, the lines were starting to look more like letters than just smudges, when Finn talked about them that way. “I guess. And that looks a bit like an ‘E’, don’t you think?”
After about half an hour we were able to make out the letters ‘E’, ‘L’, ‘M’, ‘A’, ‘P’, ‘C’, ‘O’, and ‘T’, respectively. I wrote them down: capital ‘E’, lowercase ‘L’, capital ‘M’, and so on. Finn stared over my shoulder.
“Elmapcot? Elma PC Ot? Elm Ap Cot? El Map Cot?” he muttered, stumbling over the letters. “El Map Cot makes the most sense, since it is a map after all. But we don’t even know all the letters.” Finn sighed and slumped in his chair. “I don’t get it.”
For once I could agree with my little brother. “I don’t get it either.”
“Maybe we should just give it up,” Finn said dejectedly. Although he had just voiced my thoughts, I wasn’t about to say so.
“We’ll figure it out,” I comforted. “Let’s wrap the book and map back up and lock up Uncle Marv’s den again, and then we’ll look at the letters some more.” Finn nodded slowly and started to fold the map up again.
As we fixed up Uncle Marv’s desk to look like the way it had before we’d intruded, I doubted my own words. Honestly, I did not think we’d ever find out what those letters meant, much less know any more about the map. I didn’t even think the map, or the book, or even Uncle Marv’s odd behavior, was important.
As soon as the door slammed shut, I fished the key out of my pocket and rushed toward Uncle Marv’s den.
Every Saturday, Becca goes with Uncle Marv to the bookstore to help out, since he usually gives the regular workers the weekend off. Uncle Marv really only has two other workers at the bookstore, besides himself, so Becca going on Saturday is a big help. I’ve gone a couple times myself, but I’m just not comfortable surrounded by musty old books, so I usually stay home. It’s also nice to have a bit of time to myself on the weekend anyway. Especially this weekend.
As I entered the den, I took a quick glance at the large brown grandfather clock standing in the corner. 10:00. I had plenty of time until Becca and Uncle Marv came home at 5:30.
Pulling the crinkly package down from the file cabinet where it sat, I tucked the wonderful key back in my pocket. I unwrapped the book and pulled out the map, being careful not to tear the fragile edges. The map looked the same as it had when Becca and I had examined it last night; that was no surprise. But I noticed that the actual book the map had been in now had a bright yellow Post-it note sticking out from one of the pages. Curious, I set the map aside and grabbed the book. I opened it to the marked page.
Apparently the book was some kind of history volume. I read the page:
“…Potencia Completa is a well-known legend throughout the world.
It is said to have been created by the Spanish sometime in the 16th
or 17th century. This map, fabled to hold absolute power over the
earth, had been sought out for centuries, although to this day not
a single clue has been found leading to its whereabouts. Eventually
archaeologists and historians gave up the search, dubbing the map
to be “simply a story”. Although there are a small number of people
who believe the map is not a story, most of the world has given up the
search as well.”
I stopped reading. From there the book just went on to talk about some other “marvel of the ancient earth”. I rolled the words over in my mind. Legend. Map. Power.
I turned back the page to read the words that had started the paragraph, hoping I could learn more, but several pages had been ripped out, and there was no more about this “Potencia Completa”. Still though, I had learned some valuable information. I turned through the book to find the title page. When I found it, I jotted down the title of the book and the year it was published, as well as the words “Potencia Completa” on a crumpled receipt I had in my pocket:
A History of the Earth, published in 1958—Potencia Completa
After I stuck the receipt back in my pocket, I grabbed the map off the desk and held it up to the light. Squinting my eyes to stare at the smudged words in the corner, I could just make out what I was pretty sure the bottom words said: Potencia Completa.
- - -
Come on, I urged in my head. Load! Load! My laptop was acting frustratingly slow. I head left Uncle Marv’s den (after putting everything in its place, of course), and now I was sitting at my desk in my room, practically begging my laptop to hurry up. I wanted to look up A History of the Earth, maybe order a copy online so that I could read the whole part about this Potencia Completa. Not to mention I had no idea what Potencia Completa even meant- so I’d be making a trip to Dictionary.com.
Finally my laptop loaded fully and I opened my internet browser. First I Googled A History of the Earth. Nothing helpful came up. Confused, I checked to make sure I had spelled everything correctly. I had, which confused me even more. Well, I thought. That didn’t do any good. Next I tried the dictionary for the definitions of Potencia and Completa, but there were no hits for that either.
By then I was completely bewildered. How could the internet not have any information that I needed?
Suddenly a thought hit me like an Angry Bird. Spanish! Potencia and Completa weren’t English words! Excitedly, I hurried over to Google Translate and typed in potencia and completa to be translated from Spanish to English. Two words popped up at me:
Finn calls them musty old books, but I think they’re more than that.
Books, in a way, are magical. (Finn would say that sounds really nerdy, but I think it’s true.) I mean, how can simple words paint such vivid pictures in your mind? It amazes me. Every Saturday, I’m surrounded by books. It’s basically heaven. (Both the fact that there are a ton of books and that Finn isn’t there make it heavenly.) Shelves and shelves of just books filled the one floor building- books that were new, books that were old, books that were practically just thread and paper, books that hadn’t been opened so that the spine hadn’t been cracked yet, books that had obviously been loved, and books that looked like they’d been flipped through once, then forgotten about. The bookstore was wonderful.
But on that particular Saturday, I wasn’t concentrating on the books. In fact, I was wishing that I was back at the house with Finn, researching more about that map.
It was infuriating.
Uncle Marv counted on me to be there on Saturday s though, so I was stuck.
As I stacked dusty books onto dusty shelves, I kept glancing at my watch about every ten seconds. Uncle Marv seemed to notice my fidgeting.
“Are you alright?” he asked, startling me as he came up behind me. I jumped slightly. That just seemed to make him more concerned. He peered at my face. “Do you need to sit down?”
I nodded, just to get away from him. Settling myself in a plush leather chair in a quiet corner, I pulled out my phone. Finn’s voice came through to my ear.
“Hi Finn. Listen, did you find anything out?”
“Uh yeah, as a matter of fact I did. Do you speak Spanish?”
The question took me by surprise. “Um, a little, I’m learning it.”
“Good. Do you know if Google Translate is accurate?”
“Finn, I don’t know! Why the heck are you even asking me?”
“You’ll see when you come home. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for a book called A History of the Earth. Sadly, Google Chrome didn’t know anything about it, but maybe you can find something among all those sneeze-triggering books. Ciao!” He hung up.
I wanted to smash my head against the wall. Why did he have to be so evasive? With a sigh, I slipped my phone back in my pocket and stood up. After I bunched my hair into a messy ponytail, I headed over to the front desk, where the only computer was located.
The computer had a list of all the books we had bought, sold, or acquired somehow. If this history book wasn’t in there, we’d never had it. I figured that if the internet didn’t know about the book though, I doubted we’d ever had it here. Sure enough, there were no results for A History of the Earth. Muttering under my breath, I closed my search and turned to a man who had just walked through the door, ringing the jingle bells that hung there.
“Hi, welcome to Harrison Used Book Store, can I help you?” I said mechanically. The man just stared at me for a moment, as though he hadn’t expected me to speak.
He was wearing dark sunglasses, a long black coat, and rubber coverings over his shoes so that they wouldn’t become dirty from the sludgy, melting snow outside. Finally he spoke.
“Yes, in fact.” The man’s voice was like oil sliding over a flat sheet of metal- smooth and even.
I waited for him to go on. He didn’t.
“What would you like me to help you with, sir?” I asked politely, drawing my words out.
The man didn’t speak for a while. I was beginning to grow impatient. Who was this guy?
“I would like to speak with Marvin Harrison,” he said at last, stepping further into the store.
“Sure,” I said, coming out from behind the desk. The man followed me as I led him through the store. I had to keep glancing back to make sure he was still with me; his footsteps were quieter than snow falling off a tree branch. We reached Uncle Marv, who was running his fingers over the spines of a row of books, searching for just the right one. I cleared my throat.
“This man would like to talk to you, Uncle Marv,” I said.
Uncle Marv turned. Immediately recognition flooded over his face and he drew in a sharp breath. Then he glanced at me and straightened out his expression.
“Yes,” he said hesitantly. “I’ll be right with you.” Uncle Marv hastily stacked a couple boxes and led the man into his office.
Odd, I thought, watching them disappear behind the office door. Uncle Marv never took customers into his office. With a slight shrug to myself, I hurried on with my other work, brushing the thought out of my mind. It was easy enough to forget about it anyway, with all the things I needed to do- sort books, help customers, man the cash register, sort books, sweep the welcome mat in the front, pick up litter off the floor, sort books, dust shelves, straighten books on shelves, put stray books back in their place, and sort books. There’s a lot of sorting to do in a used bookstore.
Eventually the hours ticked by and it was lunchtime. While Uncle Marv was helping customers- the man must have gone- I slipped into his office to eat.
I pulled a frozen dinner out of a mini fridge in the corner of Uncle Marv’s office and set it in the microwave, which was in another corner, to heat up.
As I waited, I spun around in Uncle Marv’s swivel chair carelessly. Without meaning to, I knocked a stack of papers off the desk. Oops. I jumped off the chair and started to pick them up. Suddenly a paper caught my eye. I grabbed it and looked at it closer, wondering why it had gotten my attention. As I scanned through it, it hit me. Typed in the middle of the page were the words A History of the Earth.
I turned over in bed, contemplating everything that had happened in the last few days. I made a metal list:
-Uncle Marv brought home a package- presumably from the book store, since it contained a book -Inside the book was a map that supposedly controls the rain -There’s writing on the map that says Potencia Completa, which means full power in Spanish -There’s a legend about the map; it says that the Spanish created it -Uncle Marv was talking to a mysterious man at the book store -Uncle Marv had a piece of paper that said “A History of the Earth” on it
Well actually, the paper said more than A History of the Earth. Becca was, of course, curious, so she read the whole thing. Then, to show me, she took some pictures of it with her phone. The pictures were a little blurry, but they were readable. The paper said:
From the desk of…
-- The OFMCP –
Dear Mr. Marvin Harrison,
We understand that you believe you have come across the book A History of the Earth. We ask that you do not alter the book in any way, but to keep it safe until we can send a representative over to look at it.
We will need an address so that we know where to send the representative. If you have any questions, please contact us at the address you previously contacted us at. Thank you for your contributions.
Sincerely, T. E. Maldad President of The OFMCP
- - -
I woke up the next morning with a single thought in my head- Monday. Ugh. The air seemed especially cold, my blankets seemed especially warm, and my body seemed especially exhausted. Why? I thought. Why can’t school start later? Why can’t I just be homeschooled or something? Why can’t I just sleep in today? Why-
The door to my bedroom banged open. Becca’s voice flew to my ears: “There was a freak blizzard. About thirteen inches on the ground. School’s cancelled.” She closed the door.
- - -
Three hours later, I was sitting at the table in the kitchen, spooning cereal into my mouth and staring out the window. Everything- and I mean everything- was covered in a blanket of white. The sky was a crisp, bright blue. Not a cloud was in sight. It seemed as if the clouds had just floated down to rest on top of the earth instead of up in the sky. It was rather incredible.
I could hear Uncle Marv watching TV in his den. The weatherman’s deep, glossy voice was telling viewers that the meteorologists at the station had been keeping an eye out for snow; they said there had been about a 15% chance of there being a blizzard, although no one had expected anything like this. Several schools had been closed, and he advised viewers to cozy up with a mug of hot cocoa and a good book or movie.
As the commercials hit, Uncle Marv turned off the television and walked into the kitchen.
“Morning Finn,” he said, rolling his shoulders around in little circles to stretch them. “You seen Rebecca?”
It took me a moment to register what he was asking. Although I’m pretty much the only person my sister allows to call her Becca, it still sounds weird when someone calls her Rebecca.
I nodded my head. “Yup, she’s in her room.”
“Ok, well you pass this message on to her: I’m going to the book store to… well I have some business there. I’ll be back in a couple hours. Be good. No parties.” With that, Uncle Marv shrugged on his coat, grabbed the package- yes, I mean the package- off the counter where he’d lain it, and headed out. I shivered at the cold blast of air that escaped through the open door.
Jumping out of the chair where I had been seated, I stuck my bowl and spoon in the dishwasher and climbed the stairs to Becca’s room. I knocked on the door.
“What?” Becca shouted through the door.
“Uncle Marv says he’s got some business at the book store and that he’ll be gone for a bit.”
Becca opened the door and pulled an earbud out of her ear. “Repeat, please.”
I rolled my eyes. “Uncle Marv’s gonna be gone for a little while.”
“Alright,” Becca said. She started to close the door.
“Wait.” I stuck my foot in the door. Ouch. “I want to talk to you about this whole map thing.”
This time it was Becca’s turn to roll her eyes. “Oh come on Finn, we don’t know any more than we did a few days ago.” But she still opened the door and let me in.
Becca’s room can be kind of an eyesore for people who haven’t seen it before. Neon colored posters of animals and movies and singers cover the walls, a purple plaid bedspread covers the bed, and a shaggy blue rug covers the floors. Her desk and dresser are pushed off against the walls, which are also purple, although it’s pretty hard to tell with all the posters plastered over it. Basically, the whole room looks like a rainbow exploded in it. A really brightly colored rainbow.
I sat down in her lime green desk chair and repeated out loud the list I had made last night. Becca didn’t say anything until I was done.
“Well I do agree that something is probably going on,” she said slowly. “But I’m not sure what. It could be something completely harmless. Hey, bring your laptop over here.”
Obediently, I got up and brought it back to her room. Becca took it and set it on her desk. She opened the internet browser and typed ‘potentia completa’ into the search bar. Millions of Spanish websites popped up.
“No good, no good…” Becca muttered as she scrolled through them. Suddenly a couple English words popped up at me.
“Hey, go back a bit,” I urged. I pointed to a site that was in English. “Try this.”
Becca clicked on it. It was a site about ancient legends and folk tales and stuff like that. Becca read through the article.
“Finn,” she breathed. “This is what we’ve been looking for.” She tapped the screen excitedly. “This is what we need.”
The Legend of El Mapa De Potencia Completa: The Map of Complete Power
Legend has it that sometime in the 16th century, the Spanish created something so powerful it could destroy the earth. The Spanish created El Mapa De Potencia Completa- which, in English, translates to The Map of Complete Power. Although the exact year is unknown, historians believe this legend entered history between the 16th and 17th centuries, probably in the 16th century. This is the legend that was passed down by word of mouth through generations of Spanish families:
Once there was a very intelligent Spanish man. After many years of studying, experimenting, and failing, he produced something magical- a map that could control the earth. When water was dabbled on this map, rain would fall where the water was dabbled. When one blew on the map, perhaps to dry off the water, cold winds would blow in the part of the world one was blowing on. If one was breathing hot air on the map, warm air would waft through the part of the world one was breathing on. If, in fact, one actually tore the map, earthquakes would split the area of the world one had torn on the map.
Now, although the intelligent man was quite delighted at the fact that he’d created what he’d been trying to create, he was also quite afraid. This kind of map could completely annihilate the human race- he had to destroy it. It was quite heartbreaking, but the man knew that this must be done. There was only one way he could destroy it- after all, burning it would be quite a disaster, as would tearing it up, throwing it in water, and so on. The man knew of only one way to destroy it. He decided to wait a night before he performed this action, so he locked up his work area and headed home for the night.
Unfortunately, the man’s workplace was broken into and the map was taken. The man was devastated and he spent the rest of his life searching for the map, but he never found it.
Historians and archaeologists have searched for the map, but they have had no more luck finding it than the map’s creator. Eventually, they gave up, calling the map just a legend, a fairy tale.
“Woah.” Finn blinked and sat back.
“I know, right?” I whispered. “We heldThe Map of Complete Power. We held a thing of legend.” I glanced around. “Where is it?”
“Uncle Marv took it with him to the bookstore,” Finn said with a twinge of disappointment in his voice. “He said he had some business to do there.”
I nodded slowly. “He was probably going to meet that man,” I said to myself.
“I’ll bet that weird guy I saw the other day was the representative that… that… T. E. Maldad person wanted to send.”
I took my phone out of the pocket of my hoodie and tapped my way to the pictures of the letter I had taken and reread the letter. Finn looked over my shoulder.
“So the OFMCP is looking for A History of the Earth, huh,” Finn muttered. He scratched his shaggy brown hair, then shoved his hands in his pockets. “I wonder why.”
“Maybe we should ask Uncle Marv about it,” I suggested.
Finn scoffed. “No way. He flipped last time I asked him about this whole business.”
“Maybe we should try to be more persistent this time,” I said defensively. “I really think that if we just had some answers, everything would click together- kind of like a puzzle.”
Suddenly the door crashed open downstairs and I heard Uncle Marv’s footsteps on the floor.
“There’s only one way to find out,” Finn said as he headed out the door.
I thumped downstairs to the kitchen, where I found Uncle Marv poking his head in the refrigerator.
“Hey Finn,” he muttered without turning around.
“Hi,” I said, suddenly feeling a little shy. “Um… I have a question for you.”
Closing the fridge, Uncle Marv turned around, a cup of yogurt in his hand. “Well, go on.”
“I just… I…” My mouth suddenly felt frozen. I turned around when I heard Becca thumping down the stairs. Help, I mouthed.
Becca cleared her throat. “When I was in your office the other day at the bookstore, I couldn’t help but notice a letter from some organization called OFMCP. What exactly is that?”
Sometimes I’m grateful to have a sister.
Uncle Marv’s expression changed from confusion to shock to suspicion. “What were you doing in my office? Oh,” he said as he realized, “Lunch. Huh.” He rubbed his chin slowly, eyeing Becca and me carefully. Finally he set his yogurt down and pulled out a stool to sit on.
Becca shot me a quick glance and pulled out her own chair. I remained standing, shoving my hands into my pockets.
“A couple weeks ago,” Uncle Marv began, “A book was donated to the bookstore. It was a book called A History of the Earth. I was getting it ready to sell when I found a map inside. I quickly realized that the map was El Mapa De Potencia Completa- The Map of Complete Power. I had heard stories about it when I was a little boy. Of course I had always though they were stories, but when I found that map I just knew they weren’t.” Uncle Marv paused a moment to glance around at his audience. “Are you following?”
Becca and I nodded absently, impatiently waiting for our uncle to get on with the story.
“At first I was thrilled. That map is probably worth a fortune! I searched around online for a museum or a place that might take it, and I stumbled upon this OFMCP- the Organization to Find the Map of Complete Power. They seemed like a dedicated group, so I emailed them and got the reply you saw. On Saturday, Rebecca, you saw the representative they sent.”
I watched as realization flooded over Becca’s face. So that was the man she was talking about.
“Is that why you went to the store today?” Becca asked, a twinge of disappointment in her voice. “To drop off the book- and the map- to that representative?”
Uncle Marv nodded as Becca’s face fell. “That’s exactly what I did.”
“Huh,” Becca murmured. Her eyes searched the tiled floor, as though Uncle Marv had some other historical document hidden there.
“Did you get any money for it?” I asked.
Uncle Marv chuckled. “Quite a bit, actually. That’s why we’re going out for dinner tonight. Giovanni’s! Be ready to leave by five tonight, just as a heads up.”
Becca nodded absently, but I let out a whoop and pumped my fist. Giovanni’s was a little Italian restaurant that served the best food ever. Uncle Marv, Becca, and I loved going there. I brought my eyes over to Becca, who was now staring at the stove like it was the most incredible thing on earth. Usually she’d be excited about going to out to eat. What was bothering her?
- - -
I gulped down some icy water as Uncle Marv handed his credit card to the waitress and sat back in the booth, feeling very satisfied. Warm, garlicky scents filled the slightly musty air, and the hustle and bustle of Giovanni’s was almost calming. After a large plate of spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad, my stomach groaned- but in a good way. I smiled, leaning back even more. My eyelids felt rather heavy, and I was suddenly feeling rather sleepy…
A strident voice jolted me out of my sleepiness.
“Ai! This bill- it is a counterfeit!”
- - -Chapter 9- - - Becca
Immediately my senses were alert. Uncle Marv shifted, and Finn’s eyes got wider as he sat up. A flustered waitress hurried over to our table, a fifty dollar bill in her hand.
“Excuse me,” she said in a thick Italian accent. She gestured to the bill. “This- this is counterfeit. We cannot accept this.”
Uncle Marv lifted his head and scratched his chin. “Hmm. I was not aware of that.” He took the bill from the waitress’s hand and held it up to the light. “I will contact the authorities.”
The waitress (her name tag said Margaret) shifted. “We already did that, sir. They are on their way.”
“Oh,” Uncle Marv scratched his chin again.
We waited in silence for an uncomfortable five minutes until the a couple policemen came. One of them questioned Uncle Marv for a few minutes, then Margaret. Aside from a glance, they completely ignored Finn and me, which was quite ok in my book. Being interrogated by a police officer is not on my bucket list.
At last, the officer questioning Uncle Marv and Margaret pocketed his little notebook (I’ve always thought those things were really cool looking…). He rubbed his stubble-covered chin and gazed around the room, as if he wanted to remember all the details. The other officer was busy rubbing his shiny bald head, his hat tucked under his arm.
The bald officer spoke. His voice was so gravelly it made me want to clear my throat. “We’ll contact you within the next few days. Good night.” He set his hat back on his head, tipped it, and strode out. The other officer turned on his heel and stalked through the door without a backwards glance.
- - -
Later that night I was lying in bed, thinking about the events that day. So much had happened in the past 24 hours that my mind felt like it might explode.
Firstly, Finn and I had read through the map’s legend. Considering we had witnessed the map’s power, it had definitely left an impression on me. And then, of course, Uncle Marv had taken the map over to some people he didn’t even know…
Hearing that this morning had made me feel very uncomfortable. I didn’t know a thing about the OCMPC, but still… I got a bad feeling whenever I thought about it. Now that it seemed they had given Uncle Marv a counterfeit bill, my feeling just got worse and worse.
I sighed heavily and rolled out of bed. As I stepped down the stairs I could hear Uncle Marv tapping away at his computer while he talked to someone on the phone. It sounded like he was trying to leave a message. Soon he let out a heave, and the lights in his den went out. I could hear him muttering.
“Why? Why why why…”
Last edited by guingal36; 06-22-2012 at 04:46 PM..
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