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A Great Defender
It happened in that crazy summer when Greenie Addams was thirteen—when she dyed her hair spinach-colored, stole a camera, and got exiled to her great-aunt’s house in Sand Bird, California.
On her first day of summer vacation, the First Day of the Rest of your Life, as her father called it, Greenie sulked in the back of the Trailways bus. San Francisco, her home city, faded from sight. People stared at her green hair and asked if she was a Martian. She sulked because her parents wanted to get rid of her. That was the ugly truth. Who wouldn’t want to get rid of Greenie Addams?
BRIEF FACTS ABOUT GREENIE ADDAMS:
She lived on Normal Avenue in San Francisco, but that street name was deceptive. Her real name was Gianna, but she gained her nickname after using the wrong hair dye accidently. When she looked in the mirror, she had been so horrified that she cried, “I’ll never show my face in public again!”
Later, when her parents told her she must leave home, she had howled and pitched a toddler fit.
Gazing out the Trailways windows, Greenie had this gnawing fear. Fear of what? Fear of everything.
A SHORT LIST OF FEARS:
What if the Trailways rolls into a ditch?
What if the bus driver hijacks us like I saw on the evening news?
What if there’s an earthquake? A hurricane? A volcanic eruption?
What if the ocean rolls up and swallows us?
What if that lady behind me is a serial killer in disguise?
What if I have a deadly cancer invading me right now?
What if great-aunt Eulalia is a cannibal?
What if great-aunt Eulalia is a goblin?
What if I don’t come back alive?
What if I do come back alive?
All I want is a great defender, someone to watch over me always. But nobody in Sand Bird, California, knows that Greenie Addams exists.
“You all right back there, girl?” hollered the driver.
“Peachy, just peachy,” she said.
When her parents first mentioned her great-aunt, Greenie had shrieked with laughter. She thought Eulalia was the funniest name on earth. Now she had to spend her whole summer with this woman.
Would she be like that grandmother in The Beverly Hillbillies?
BRIEF FACTS ABOUT GREAT-AUNT EULALIA FELIX:
She was seventy-eight and lived in a seaside house called Sunshell Mansion. She had ratty gray pigtails and wire-frame glasses; she was tough and strong-muscled as a man.
She had been married seventeen times. At thirty-eight, she attended a revival meeting and drank hairspray to test her faith, which left her fried up in the wits and loony as an old bat.
Finally! The road turned rough and gravelly and sea breezes filled the air. A sign read SAND BIRD, CF—15 MILES. POP. 75.
Here it comes. The First Day of the Rest of My Life.
Greenie had never left San Francisco before, and now the Trailways bus abandoned her in this whole new world. Palm trees towered into the sun. The shacks leaned like tired old people. Great-aunt Eulalia’s house against the shock of blue sea and sky dazzled Greenie’s senses.
Never had she seen a house so huge—or so multi-colored! Where boring people would’ve painted their mansion plain white, Eulalia had it scorching pink, lime green, bone black, aluminum gray, flaming red. Swirls of brown, orange, purple, and indigo stood out. Greenie thought she could feast her eyes on that mansion for a year and still find new colors.
When she knocked on the door, her great-aunt Eulalia came out and chased her with a baseball bat.
“Get off my property, young scalawag!” she cried.
Greenie suppressed a laugh and rolled her eyes.
Whack! Eulalia brought the baseball bat across Greenie’s head, with an expression like Babe Ruth smacking a homer.
“Ouch!” shrieked Greenie. “I didn’t come here to get a concussion before I even walked indoors.”
“You are a Yankee and a scalawag and a carpetbagger and Johnny Reb trash. Alright! If you must stay, stay—just don’t expect me to keep you all summer vacation. Get in the house. Girl, get inside the house if you want to survive!”
Greenie’s head still throbbed as she walked inside. Eulalia suddenly turned kind and got her a rubber ice-pack and seated her at the kitchen table.
“You poor young goose,” Eulalia crooned. “Don’t cry now—your dear great-aunt will help you feel better!”
“Thank you very much, Auntie.”
Something was weird about Eulalia that Greenie found hard to pin down. She had huge muscles, like a lady Charles Atlas. She wore a yellow hat and yellow ribbons in her gray pigtails and a flowered polyester dress. Her house’s furnishings were even stranger. Stuffed ducks and geese lined the walls. Perched on the refrigerator, on the grandfather clock, popping from behind drawers—they were everywhere! Eulalia prided herself on shooting innocent animals. A long rifle hung above the door. Moreover, she had pictures of all seventeen husbands in a line across the kitchen. Greenie’s eyes darted about anxiously, expecting to find stuffed dead husbands up there with the animals.
Eulalia asked Greenie, “What is that black, bulky satchel on your shoulder, girl?”
“It’s my camera,” she said shortly. Guilt plunged into her throat, and renewed fear. Greenie had broken the law and was a criminal. She had been buying New Testaments at the mercantile when she saw the camera. She simply grabbed the camera and bolted. When the clerk saw her over the security system, he called the police, but they couldn’t catch Greenie.
Ain’t nobody can catch Greenie Addams!
“Fond of iced tea?” great-aunt Eulalia asked, bringing a pitcher from the refrigerator.
She took a long slurp and tried desperately to think of some polite conversation. “How can a person have so many husbands?” she said.
Eulalia sighed. “Girl, it took me seventy-eight dad-blamed years to figure out what men want. There’s only one thing men are after: money. Once they’re done with your money, they throw you out like trash in the dumpster. I thought I’d strike lucky by marrying ministers. They were husbands twelve to fifteen. Those old fools were the greediest, dirtiest rascals of all. Girl, don’t ever trust a man, any man, anywhere. Keep a machete on hand and a sharp tongue in your mouth, and you’ll be safe.”
Greenie nodded, fascinated by how Eulalia’s yellow hat-pin bobbed under her chin. Suddenly, the woman spit a long stream of black tobacco juice across the kitchen.
“Gross! Yuck!” Greenie cried, revolted.
Great-aunt Eulalia brought out the baseball bat. “Girl, if you want to stay here, you’ve got to respect your betters. Judge not that you might not be judged. Lord, what on earth happened to your hair? Green as unripe tomatoes!”
She clutched her hair fiercely. “My hair is none of your beeswax.”
That hair dye accident had driven her strict Baptist parents into such a rage that they sent her away. Greenie wore raggedy T-shirts and long denim skirts that flapped about her ankles. Her hair was supposed to stay the color God intended her to have, orangey-yellow. She was forbidden to use lipstick or wear high heels or pierce her ears. All this festered in her soul, until she sneaked the hair dye from a trusted school “friend” who offered to help out. Now she would pay for this deed with her hair the color of rotten lettuce forever.
Greenie gazed at herself in the full-length mirror—from her Crocs to her MEADOWLARK BAPTIST CHURCH CAMP shirt to her zits to her hideous hair—and felt that old disgust.
Why did my parents have to exile me here?
That night, great-aunt Eulalia showed her to a spacious guest room, which was OK except for a full-length portrait of Eulalia’s sixteenth husband. Once she was alone, she flung open the muslin curtains and discovered the ocean sunset. Seagulls swooped and called, rocks sang, and sandpipers crept on their funny toothpick legs.
“Imagine all the photographs I can take!” she gloated.
She fell asleep to the soothing sound of great-aunt Eulalia’s snores, the baying of hound dogs, and the crash of ocean against the rocks.
GREENIE’S FIRST WEEK IN SAND BIRD:
Her troubles with great-aunt Eulalia started right away. That lady was a sweetheart, but often difficult.
Great-aunt Eulalia developed her muscles by pitching huge rocks into the ocean daily. Also, she kept man-eating hound dogs which frightened Greenie nearly to death. Greenie had to stop her great-aunt from waltzing out onto the porch stark naked with a tambourine. She hollered out the window, “Auntie! Get into the house this minute and put your underwear on!”
Eulalia got into her crazy head to give Greenie driving lessons. She had a bashed pickup which she’d rescued from a junkyard in the seventies and didn’t drive it much, as nobody liked to see a cuckoo-crazy woman behind the wheel. Greenie was as eager as most thirteen-year-old kids to have her driver’s license. In her first week, she only smashed into five telephone poles.
Afterwards, Eulalia said gruffly, “Get out of the house and leave me alone.”
Sand Bird, California was a typical small town. Baptist church, junkyard, café, dry-cleaners shop, and a bar. Exploring Sand Bird, Greenie walked slowly in the hot sun, dangling her camera and photographing random strangers. She entered the Gizzards Café, ordered a fountain Coke, and came out with a job.
“You new to this town?” asked the grinning boy behind the counter. He had dishmop hair and cherry-red pimples.
She put down her money. “My name’s Gianna Addams, but they call me Greenie. I stay with crazy old Eulalia Felix.”
He snickered. “Greenie? Seriously? Don’t you know that greenie is an insult for environmental activists? Greenie is slang for snots, girl. Nobody should have that nickname. I pity you.”
“Well, you’re welcome, Mr. Rude! Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“Nothing much to do in Sand Bird, except explore abandoned buildings. We got abandoned stuff out the wazoo. Cotton Candy Express is the old amusement park—closed in 1980. Other abandoned buildings are the Sand Bird Beach Hotel and St. Teresa Catholic Hospital and Morning Shine Laundromat. Not to mention the abandoned quarry and the poor farm. Bet a girl like you wouldn’t trespass for worlds.”
Greenie blazed. “How do you know that I keep the law?”
“Well, look at those long skirts. Gosh, those skirts would catch on wire fences. Girl like you is better off teaching vacation Bible school or sewing dishcloths. Sorry if I insulted you.”
“What do you think of my hair? Do I look like a girl from Mars, or like moldy fruitcake?”
“Do you enjoy fruitcake?”
“Just my great-aunt Eulalia.”
He filled her fountain Coke, and Greenie studied his features. She snapped a photograph, behind his back. Greenie liked photographing unsuspecting people, to study their faces and think about their life stories.
“Girl, did you just take a snapshot of me?” he demanded, red-faced.
“Sure, I did. Now who’s insulting who?” She snapped her camera satchel.
He grinned and shook her hand. “Welcome to Sand Bird. I hope we can be good friends. My name’s Dorian Maxwell.”
The Gizzards Café looked like an abandoned scrub-brush, grimy and forsaken. There were bullet-holes in the wall from a shooting match between the sheriff and the minister’s son. A vintage jukebox and huge psychedelic paintings decorated the place. A motto on the wall read NEVER JUDGE A MAN UNTIL YOU’VE STOOD TEN YEARS IN HIS RAINSTORM.
Dorian was a real swell guy. He knew all about trespassing, about ghosts and goblins and demons, and how to tell if a place was haunted.
“I always thought that Eulalia’s house was haunted,” he said.
“Well, it’s not. Auntie is one insane bat, though. She’s filthy rich—got tons of money from her husbands’ divorces. She says men only marry for money, but it’s her who’s money-hungry.”
“Is that so? Join me in trespassing. We could make a photographic art project of abandoned buildings with that camera.”
“A photographer is what I want to be, not a jailbird. But I’ll follow you whoever you want.”
By the time she started home, the North Star peeked through the pine trees. Greenie skipped and sang a little. I have a job! I have a new friend in Sand Bird!
Then she walked up to Eulalia’s door, and heard splat! Something warm, slimy, and rotten hit her full-force. Splat! Splat! Eulalia flung eggs from a basket. The lady cried, “That’ll show ye, young scalawag. Staying away for hours—I had no idea where you were!”
Enraged, Greenie snatched the basket, and the fight was on. They threw eggs like Frisbees. They both flopped on the cool grass, drenched and reeking, laughing. They laughed until the apricot-colored moon shone full through the lemon tree branches.
Eulalia had a peculiar fondness for that lemon tree, which she whispered secrets to and watered with her drinking glass. She ate lemons from its branches, peels and all, to sharpen her teeth and prevent deadly disease. Greenie thought that lady was a loon to eat fruit straight off a tree like a hungry squirrel, fruit so sour that it would her scream like an angry jaybird. Eulalia had even invented a special song to help her tree grow— “When you throw my dead body into the sea, bury my heart ‘neath the lemon tree. Yes siree, yes siree, bury my heart ‘neath the lemon tree. While birds in the heavens are happy and free, bury my heart ‘neath the lemon tree.”
“That was great fun,” Greenie giggled, sore from laughter. They walked into the house slowly, feeling the peaceful salt-spray blow off the Pacific. This night was too fine for sleeping. Then Greenie heard the telephone and dashed to answer it.
She barked, “Who is this? Hello? Mrs. Addams? This is Greenie! I AM DOING FINE! Do you hear me?”
Greenie’s mother had called to ask questions. How did she get on at dear old Eulalia’s house? Did she say her prayers? Was she wearing clean underwear? Was she homesick?”
“No, Mrs. Addams, I am not homesick. I want to stay here for the rest of my life,” Greenie hollered. “I’ve gotta leave now. Auntie lost her blood pressure medicine.” She slammed the phone.
Great-aunt Eulalia turned on her sharp, accusing look. “Why do you call your mother Mrs. Addams? How disrespectful.”
“I don’t know. Honestly.”
For thirteen years, her parents had been Mom and Dad. Then one night, when they argued about misplacing the Scotch tape, Greenie had suddenly called them Mr. and Mrs. Addams. They called her Miss Addams. She treated her parents like pond scum, even though it made her feel perfectly wretched. That wretchedness was like armor against her heart. She didn’t fear anybody, and nobody could catch Greenie Addams—that’s what she said. But inside, she was petrified. She was sniveling and scared, like a toddler.
Great-aunt Eulalia read all this on her face, gazing in her crazy-lady manner. For once, she said nothing.
Greenie perched on the kitchen counter and watched Eulalia get ready for bed. She wore a yellow polka-dotted nightgown, gigantic bunny slippers with floppy ears, a ruffled nightcap, black goggles, and a purple-striped bathrobe. Eulalia always looked like she’d raided the thrift-store dumpster, and those black goggles were truly horrifying. She took down her pigtails and wound her hair on orange-juice cans, like some geek from the 1950s, and gurgled hydrogen peroxide, sounding like a steam engine about to explode. Finally, she snatched her faded teddy bear and hobbled off to her room.
“Goodnight, dear Auntie,” mumbled Greenie.
Eulalia’s snores filled the house before long, and ocean waves crashed, but Greenie stared into the darkness a very long time before she dared fall asleep.
“Dude! This amusement park is totally haunted,” Dorian gasped.
His flashlight made trembling shadows against the chain-wire fence. He wore a ragged black T-shirt, night glasses, and hiking boots. Greenie stood behind him in her Pretty Pony pajamas, camera satchel on her shoulder, barefoot.
“Help me over the fence—don’t want to get us caught,” she said.
She didn’t grimace as Dorian lifted her over the six-foot fence that read KEEP OUT! PRIVATE PROPERTY! VIOLATERS WILL BE PROSECUTED! Heck, who cared? Tonight she was Greenie the Fearless, not Greenie the Terrified, and Dorian was her great defender.
The Cotton Candy Amusement Park of Sand Bird lay in ruins. The ticket-machines, the arcade games, the kiddie cars, the climbing-wall—all covered in a thin, greasy film of dust. Look closely, and a person could see kids whining in line with their little red balloons, hear the screams of roller-coaster riders, and smell burnt popcorn with spun sugar and pretzels. Worst of all, a hideous clown head with orangey-tan hair lay sprawled on the floor, painted eyes gleaming like a curse. The clown, nicknamed Hairy Dog, used to terrify kids so badly that they’d wet their pants and beg to go home. It had a mechanical claw that took kids up to the ceiling.
Greenie shrieked when she saw that clown.
“Don’t act like a girl!” Dorian cursed.
“I’m sorry…for a minute, I thought that thing was alive.”
“No time for wimpy girls when I’m trespassing. Where’s your camera? Let’s get some rad snapshots for our project.”
She fumbled for her camera while Dorian posed beside a wrecked Ferris wheel. He struggled up the climbing-wall with its broken bricks and frayed rope, calling for Greenie to follow.
“That thing’s really rickety. You’ll fall and break your neck!”
“Come and climb, wimpy girl! We’re ghost chasers and we ain’t afraid of nothing!”
Greenie climbed six feet before she heard sirens wailing outdoors. Above her, Dorian’s face got pale as old milk. After a frozen second, he whispered, “For gosh sakes, Greenie Addams, get down and run!”
Whispering prayers frantically, Greenie backed down the wall. Jumped. Crash. Her camera dropped; her ankle cracked. Pain stabbed like electricity down her leg, but she had to run. The cops were coming!
“Run!” Dorian hollered.
“Can’t,” she moaned.
Police lights flooded the Cotton Candy Amusement Park. Crackling sounds rang from the sheriff’s stereo. His heavy footsteps lumbered; his cigarette smoke swirled.
Dorian picked up whimpering Greenie and ran. They darted into the bushes and watched the fat little cop with the cigarette.
“Dad-blamed kids,” he muttered, “I’ll thrash their britches, let them know who’s boss.”
Sheriff Bryce O’Boyle stopped at the Gizzards Café every noon and ordered a fish slider with banana-cream pie. He had scowl-lines on his forehead and cold, steely eyes—like a railyard bull from a Great Depression movie.
“I wanna kill that Sheriff O’Boyle,” said Dorian.
“Hush! Or he’ll see you!”
When he found no trespassers, he staggered back to his squad car, cursing up a storm, and drove off like a little black droid from Star Wars.
Greenie said, “Dorian, I saw something real creepy. Could’ve sworn I saw a little girl in pajamas, walking inside there with us.”
“That was just your reflection in the windows.”
“No. Its eyes were lost and scared, and it had high ponytails and footed pajamas. Remember that story you told me? About the little kid who fell off the roller-coaster and died? I think that’s her ghost.”
Dorian shook his head and whistled.
“How will I get home? What will I tell great-aunt Eulalia about my busted ankle?”
“Tell her the truth. Old rooster won’t call the police on you. I’ll carry you to her house.”
Before he bid her goodbye, Greenie told Dorian Maxwell, “You are a real friend, a great defender.”
“Goodnight,” he said.
Greenie stumbled up the steps, limped into the bathroom, and found wet compresses for her twisted ankle.
What on earth will I do without my camera?
“Well, I’ll be a jiggered, drunken, suck-egged mule,” Sheriff O’Boyle said. To his disappointment, he discovered no trespassers to lock in jail. Nothing but a smashed flashlight and a camera in a black satchel.
“Miss Greenie?” said the little girl at the Gizzards Café. “Miss Greenie? You should come to my trailer and keep me company. Life gets lonesome when Daddy is gone, gone, gone.”
She was Felisha Holabird, the nine-year-old stepdaughter of Sheriff O’Boyle. She followed Greenie like a shadow. She had high ponytails and lonesome, mournful eyes and never hung out with anyone her age.
Greenie treated the child to a free Slurpee. They sat in the back kitchen and talked. She said, “I could take you to vacation Bible school. Doesn’t your Daddy take you to church?”
“Daddy don’t take me anywhere. He tells me I’m no better than a sewer-rat.”
The way Felisha said this tore Greenie’s heart out. That creepy old Sheriff O’Boyle left his kid alone in a dark trailer all day. Right then, Greenie became Felisha’s adoptive mama.
“Wish I could live with your great-aunt in that fairy mansion,” she said, wistfully.
“You don’t want to live with my great-aunt Eulalia. Unless you like baseball-bat attacks.”
“I wish we could hitch one of them barges and sail straight across the Pacific Ocean and live in a world of our own.”
“Someday, someday, you’ll escape this town. Trust me.”
Greenie took Felisha to vacation Bible school at Sand Bird’s First Baptist Church. She hung around the place like a Band-Aid, listening to kids scream, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me.” Waiting, she settled in a back pew and counted the pages of the Bible, right into the exact center, where she read:
He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
and under His wings you will find refuge.
She thought, I could sure use that kind of great defender, and then, That’s crazy!
Funny thing about her parents being strict Baptists—she never thought about religion except when she had to follow rules. Nobody asked Greenie about the state of her soul as long as her skirts were long and she kept her mouth shut. So she drew into herself, mostly kept quiet, and became eagle-eyed for people-watching.
There wasn’t much to do. People-watching was her main goal. Especially, she observed the minister’s son, Rusty Simpkin.
The Reverend Simpkin’s twenty-six-year-old son, Rusty, claimed he was a missionary to an Indonesian island called Gum-Gum, but Greenie purely hated him. When he saw her, he’d screamed, “I know you through and through. Here is a girl who sneaks and lies, slanders her parents, breaks into buildings without a twinge of guilt, and steals!”
Greenie narrowed her eyes. “How do you know me so well?”
Rusty said, “Talk gets around town fast.”
“You been to the Gizzards Café? That’s Gossip Central.”
“Den of iniquity. Pack of vipers. I’d sooner burn the place than go inside!”
She snapped a quick photograph of Rusty Simpkin and studied it. The man was named accurately—he looked like a rusty spigot. His hair was rusty-red, and he spit his words like drips of cold water. He stuttered and got red as radishes when upset.
“Want to have a fist-fight?” Greenie said casually, like inviting him out for coffee.
Rusty said, “Why are you staring at me? What do I want with a green-haired Baptist juvenile delinquent? You hardened scoundrel!” Then he strutted into the sanctuary and shouted at the children, “Who’s ready to get saved today?” Rusty’s religion was just a thin crust over his meanness. He had never gone to Gum-Gum and gotten tortured by cannibals, as he said—he’d just invented that place. His smile was like sugar attacked by ants. One felt the rottenness in his glance. He spent lots of time throwing gravel at homeless people and bragged about it. That should’ve been Greenie’s first clue not to mess with this man, but she did anyhow.
“Nobody messes with me and lives—do you hear? Nobody messes with me and lives,” he said.
Sure enough, they fought in the parking lot of Sand Bird Baptist Church. The Reverend Simpkin woke up from dozing in his office and ran outdoors. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” he cried, stepping in front of them. But Greenie delivered one good punch to Rusty’s jaw.
Rusty said, “Weasel! She attacked me for singing ‘I Come to the Garden Alone,’ and said, ‘Shut up with your good-for-nothing religious talk,’ and she attacked me. Make her stop! Get her away!”
“Hypocrite, hypocrite, whited tombstone!” she chanted.
Greenie was covered in dust and blood dripped from her lower lip, but she giggled wildly. A grownup man was so cowardly as to fight a thirteen-year-old girl. She’d fixed old Rusty Simpkin!
Rusty sulked. “You’ll live to pay for this.”
The man loathed Eulalia Felix for an ancient feud, which it is not proper to mention. Great-aunt Eulalia had told Greenie, “That Reverend Simpkin and his son are the two greasiest scalawags in the entire U.S. of A. I don’t want you to associate with them.”
“Yes, Auntie,” she’d said.
That man was tough as the Devil’s horns. And he never, ever forgot a grudge.
Not long after her escape at the Cotton Candy Amusement Park and her fistfight with Rusty, Greenie got another brilliant idea. She was going to throw the Greatest Party on Earth.
“I’m going to throw the Greatest Party on Earth,” she told great-aunt Eulalia.
Great-aunt Eulalia threw her cup of iced tea and shouted, “Wonderful! Marvelous! Stupendous!”
Eulalia wore a huge plumed hat with a stuffed bluebird, blue lipstick, and blue jewelry. She looked like a California summer sky. Sunshine poured in, and her record player sang a British song from the 1960s— “I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay in a world without love.” The day was made for adventure, and Greenie’s excitement bubbled.
“Plans! Plans! We need plans,” she cried.
The two ladies flew into chaos. Greenie scrubbed the mansion from top to bottom with a horsehair scrub-brush and Lysol, while great-aunt Eulalia threw streamers and blew up balloons. She blew up so many balloons that she turned purple. They mixed up great bowls of sunshine-colored punch with fruit and whipped cream blobs floating on top. Greenie plunged through the recipe-books and worked all night to produce a strawberry-cream truffle cake six feet tall. They brought out platters full of fancy diner foods and scrubbed the cocktail glasses spotless. Great-aunt Eulalia slammed her hammer all day—Wham! Wham! Wham! —and produced a makeshift gazebo and painted it in rainbow colors. “I set up that gazebo like three skins of a bobcat’s tail,” she said.
The night before the party, Eulalia and Greenie were plumb exhausted. They sat at the kitchen table and discussed the guests.
“You mean to say you don’t have a guest-list?” cried Eulalia.
“My idea is this, Auntie—I’ll invite as many random strangers as possible. Don’t want anyone to feel left out.”
That day at the Gizzards Café, Greenie was people-watching when she observed a young woman and her autistic boy. The woman had haggard, makeup-caked eyes; the boy wore big glasses and his limbs flailed wildly.
“What do you want, Eugene? Mommy can’t help you if you don’t use words,” sighed the woman, rooting through her purse.
“Wanna go ice cream!” howled the boy. He broke loose, overturning chairs, spilling salt shakers.
“Eugene, stop that before we get kicked out!” The woman grabbed him, but he kicked and struggled and pulled a chunk of her hair out.
An old lady behind her spoke up. “Girl, if you can’t keep that kid under control, you better keep him home. I don’t know what’s wrong with kids these days. I know that mine would never get away with such nonsense, such disrespect—”
Greenie felt her cheeks get hot. She told the young woman, “You come to my party tomorrow night at Sunshell Mansion.”
She looked mortified. “What…? No, I cannot afford a babysitter.”
“Sunshell Mansion, tomorrow night—we’re holding the Greatest Party on Earth. Every single person on earth is invited.” Greenie beamed.
“Thank you, kid, but I can’t really leave the house with Eugene. We get in trouble whenever we’re in public.”
“Come to my party tomorrow night. No arguments!”
The young woman slammed the door with a sigh.
Greenie had invited others at the Gizzards Café. She’d invited that middle-aged bum named Benjamin Rushmore and his hundred-year-old father—a feeble old man who carried an umbrella on sunny days, ate pureed shrimp through a straw, and talked in a garbled voice. She’d invited Felisha Holabird. She’d invited a homeless man with purple skin who called himself Schlump the Lump. She’d invited that stoner kid with needle tracks in his arms. She’d invited a schizophrenic girl who thought she was Florence Nightingale. She’d invited wonderful Dorian Maxwell and crusty Sheriff O’Boyle. Even awful Rusty Simpkin was invited.
Nobody was excluded at this party, not even arch-enemies.
“You ought to be ashamed, hanging with such riffraff!” said Eulalia, licking an envelope.
“Who cares if they are riffraff? I’m riffraff. I am not ashamed to invite them.”
Her heart was a bloated balloon of excitement. Imagine what her parents would think. Her parents wanted to be the kings and queens of conformity. Greenie Addams inviting all the psychopaths to her party! “Why even try to act normal?” shouted Greenie, standing on a chair, rebellious and rowdy.
“Normal ain’t nothing—normal ain’t nothing but a button on the washing-machine,” drawled great-aunt Eulalia.
Marvelous! Today was July 7th, and Greenie Addams got her wish—a sunny, cloudless day for the party.
Great-aunt Eulalia defied all reason with the outfit she rigged herself in. Greenie gasped and grabbed the counter for support. She’d squeezed into a tight, sequined dress, a pompadour, and hooker high heels. Her flashy purple jewelry matched her purple eye shadow and lipstick. She wore dangling grapes in her ears and spots of purple rouge on her cheeks. Her eyes glittered with crazy excitement. Topping this off was a purple-feathered hat, like one worn on Sesame Street.
“Auntie, you’re beautiful,” Greenie lied. “Now I’ve got to dress up, too.”
She pillaged the closet and prayed for something decent. No, she could not play hostess in an ugly T-shirt and denim skirt. Her hair was still atrociously green, but that couldn’t be helped.
“Auntie, how does it look on me?”
Three hours later—after stuffing herself like a sausage into various dresses, burning her hair on the curling-iron, and stabbing herself with pins—Greenie dared to peer at herself in the mirror. She thought she looked alright. Never mind that she also looked like a Sesame Street character.
“Gorgeous, child, you take my breath away,” said Eulalia.
“Auntie! The guests are coming!” Greenie hollered, hanging out the window.
“Which ones, honey?”
“There are the trailer-park kids, the chain-gang trash-pickers, the homeless people, the nursing home residents, the psychos, the autistics, Benjamin Rushmore with his wheezy old toad of a father, and little Felisha Holabird. There’s Eula and Eugenia Fox, those two old geezer ladies who haven’t spoken in ten years because of a fight over a stolen pizza crust. They’re laughing and slapping each other like best friends.”
She spotted Dorian Maxwell and ran to meet her friend. Slamming the door, she flung her arms around him and said, “Meet the crew! Look at all the friends who came today!”
Dorian scowled. “This riffraff? Girl, you never know who’s brought guns and bombs. You have escaped convicts and drug-dealers here. This day is an unmitigated disaster.”
“Well, I don’t know. Never judge a man until you’ve stood ten years in his rainstorm.”
Every single person invited showed up—the nursing homes, orphanages, and detention centers had emptied their wretched refuse of humanity at Sunshell Mansion. Rusty Simpkin and Sheriff O’Boyle didn’t come, but Greenie didn’t worry about them. The people tore through the food like buzzards, and they needed to order about ten more pizzas.
“I ORDERED TEN MORE PIZZAS! FOOD’S ON THE WAY, PEOPLE!” great-aunt Eulalia hollered. The psychos all cheered.
Couples danced around the lemon trees and foxtrotted on the gazebo. Night fell and fell, and the party went on…and on…and on. Till everyone’s throats were hoarse with laughter and singing, and their feet hurt from dancing. They partied until their shadows danced on in the flickering lights of mosquito-infested Japanese paper lanterns and tiki torches. They partied until nightingales sang to the yellow-cheese moon and stars set over the Pacific. They forgot that they were freaks and oddballs and outcasts, forgot the troubles that weighed their hearts like cinderblocks. Great-aunt Eulalia brought out a piano and played the only three songs she knew, over and over, till they swam in the people’s brains and sang themselves to sleep.
And the party went on.
It was 10 PM when Greenie finally stumbled indoors for a glass of water. “Better give up your bed tonight, girl. Freaks plan to move in,” said Eulalia, dismally.
Then the phone rang, jangling off the hook. Greenie snatched it. “Who is it?” demanded Eulalia.
“Pizza delivery man, probably.”
Wrong. It was Rusty Simpkin.
“I know you’re busy, green-haired Baptist juvenile delinquent girl, but my news for you can’t wait—can’t wait another minute.”
Greenie huffed. “Why didn’t you come to the Greatest Party on Earth, like every other person I invited?”
His laugh was rusty and spiteful. “Why didn’t I come? I showed up all right, but neither you nor anyone else noticed me. You call it the Greatest Party on Earth? What are you trying to do, prove that you love freaks and sinners? You invited me, but I knew you too well. You just wanted to humiliate me before the town scum. I’ll show you humiliation—I will smash you in the dirt. I will smash your nose into the dirt for the whole world.”
“Where are you, Rusty Simpkin?”
“Cotton Candy Amusement Park.”
“That’s trespassing. What’s so all-fired important that it can’t wait until tomorrow?”
“When I tell you, you’ll wish you’d called on God for help.”
Rusty’s voice suddenly snagged on a sob. She heard cuss words and sobs as he slammed the phone. Greenie was astounded.
Well, she’d cut out in great-aunt Eulalia’s pickup truck for the Cotton Candy Amusement Park. No matter what Sheriff O’Boyle said about underage drivers, she didn’t care. “Ain’t nobody can stop Greenie Addams!”
She ran outdoors, grabbing Eulalia’s keys from the old cuckoo-clock hook. She jammed the key into the ignition, tasting blood as she bit her tongue. Eulalia had trashed the pickup with Pepsi bottles and cigarette butts. Greenie floored the gas. Turned the steering wheel.
Barreled out of the driveway.
Dust clouds flew as she careened down the road. “Here I come, Rusty Simpkin!” she said, eyeing the crowbar Eulalia stored in the backseat.
Then the Hand of Fear overtook her. Her pupils dilated, her heart throbbed, her hands got so slick that they slipped. Her stomach flopped in a sickly way, like a frog in the washer. No turning back, no turning back, no turning back.
There it was, the sign: WELCOME TO THE COTTON-CANDY AMUSEMENT PARK. She plunged through the gate and smashed it.
Crash! Chains and wires scattered, and gravel struck the pickup like hailstones. She was close—so close. Lights glowed inside the abandoned building. Where was Rusty Simpkin? Would he come out to speak? The thought of Hairy Dog the clown flashed through her mind and made her sick. She rolled down the windows to puke. When she looked up, wiping her mouth, a voice spoke to her.
“Young woman, come out of that car immediately. You are trespassing on private property in a stolen vehicle.”
Sheriff O’Boyle stood beside her, stern as a mountain, flashlight in hand. Rusty was with him, his face set like cement.
Greenie got so panicked that her heartbeat stopped. Tricked! I’ve been tricked. Rusty Simpkin just wanted me to get arrested, the skunk.
“No, don’t arrest me!” Greenie squealed.
Rusty narrowed his colorless eyes. Sheriff O’Boyle brought out the handcuffs. She cried, “No! This is my great-aunt’s car pickup and—and Rusty Simpkin told me to come here. What is he doing here?”
Sherriff O’Boyle snarled. “Never mind about Rusty. You know why you came here. You’ll get your come-uppance tonight. Out of the vehicle and surrender, before I shoot.”
Greenie stumbled weakly from the pickup. Silver handcuffs clinked. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”
“An attorney? Why am I under arrest? I just came here to speak with Rusty Simpkin because he told me to, and I’m not going to jail!”
I’m not going to jail! I won’t ride in the squad car with Rusty!
Rusty spoke up for the first time. “Sheriff and I will stop by your great-aunt Eulalia’s house on the way to the hog-pen. Then he’ll lock you up tight.”
Greenie’s chest convulsed. I will not escape. Not tonight.
When Greenie returned to the Greatest Party on Earth, she was handcuffed in the police car with Rusty’s hate pinning her down. She had to sit and watch the chaos unfold.
Sheriff O’Boyle strutted out into the driveway, gun clutched in one pink, puffy hand. He fired one shot, and the party guests all whirled.
“I’d like to speak with Eulalia Felix. Where is she?”
Eulalia waddled across the lawn. It looked like two cowboys in a spaghetti Western who were about to shoot each other’s brains out. She looked so proud and puffed up in that hideous dress, teetering heels, and foolish hat. Her voice was mannish and gruff.
“What have you come here for, old boy? Where is my niece?”
“We got your niece, old lady,” said Rusty. “She just trespassed at the Cotton Candy Amusement Park.”
“You dirty no-good scalawag, you Yankee filth, you’re no better than a sewer rat’s rear end!”
“Quiet down, and don’t make me shoot both you and your niece,” said the Sheriff.
Greenie shouted, “Where’s the evidence? What did my Auntie do wrong? She’s just a crazy, hairspray-drunk old lady who never hurt a flea.”
The party guests took up the cry. “Where’s the evidence? What are you doing here, arresting her?”
Then Rusty said, “This party is a fraud, paid for by pawning this stolen camera. If you’re asking me how I know it’s stolen, just trust me. I know you people.”
He held Greenie’s camera in his fist.
Greenie’s blood rushed from her head. MY camera! How did he get my camera? He went into the Cotton Candy Amusement Park and found it. But why? How? How could Auntie pay for this party by pawning a stupid camera?
Now was her chance to tell Rusty and the Sheriff that she’d stolen the camera. Wipe the board clean and erase her guilt. Then great-aunt Eulalia would go free. Right?
Lord, I’m already under arrest! With both trespassing and theft on my record, I’ll be behind cinderblock and eating sushi all my life.
Her eyes met Eulalia’s. She read no hope in those wells of craziness. They were both screwed and going to jail.
Since when had the Greatest Party on Earth become the greatest disaster on earth? Those party guests were fixing to riot. “Hang the Sheriff! Hang old Rusty!” they cried. Benjamin Rushmore’s father pulled out a rope and started to tie it. One drunk man flung a cream pie into Rusty’s face. The Sheriff silenced their shouts with a few random shots, and the yard went silent.
Where is Dorian Maxwell?
That was Greenie’s last sane thought as she and Eulalia traveled to jail. Eulalia had fought and struggled and clawed at Rusty. Cursing and grumbling, she refused to speak a word of comfort to her niece. She was a solid lump of anger next to Greenie.
Once they arrived at the police station, Greenie got an anxious, pleading expression. “Would you please let me in the restroom, kind sir?” she said. Foolishly, the Sheriff let her go.
Once alone, Greenie perched on the toilet and flung open the paint-peeling window. Then she leaped outside. Landed in the dirt. Picked herself up. Ran.
She hid in the shelter of a crushed gremlin at Hiller’s Junkyard and tried to calm herself. She had just fled the law, like she’d done back in San Francisco and the night she and Dorian had trespassed.
Now look what you’ve done! Why did I escape? She had refused to stick up for Eulalia. She let an old lady go to jail for the crime she committed. Then she fled jail, like the spineless traitor she was. All those party guests still ran wild, and Heaven knew when they’d leave.
Where is Dorian Maxwell? I’ve got to find Dorian Maxwell.
Stupidly, clumsily, Greenie left the gremlin and started for Sunshell Mansion. She blundered in the darkness, street after street, thinking of Eulalia in jail and how she’d return, soon as possible. She had to get that pickup truck home. Before all this, she had to find Dorian.
That boy was an expert at manipulating police officers, and he never, ever got scared. Was it too much to hope…?
She spotted him in the lights on Eulalia’s porch, and to her he looked like the angel Gabriel. Greenie snatched the back of his sweaty T-shirt. He demanded, “Who touched me?”
“It’s me, Greenie Addams!”
“What…good golly, I must’ve drunk bad soda pop, or I saw you just got arrested. Why aren’t you in jail?”
“I ain’t sorry for it, either.”
He laughed. “That’s the long-skirted Baptist good girl for you.”
“I escaped out the bathroom window. Eulalia’s still there, and Rusty won’t stop till both of us are captured and dead. You’ve got to help us!”
Quizzical brows. “How, exactly?”
“Kill Rusty Simpkin. Kill Sheriff O’Boyle. Burn down the police station. Break into our jail cells with a pickaxe. Do anything you possibly can. I don’t care.”
Greenie didn’t realize that she was sobbing convulsively until Dorian grabbed her into his arms. They stood in a pocket of emptiness at the Greatest Party on Earth. She felt like a fool, clinging to Dorian like some helpless female, but sobs heaved out of her, and she couldn’t stop.
“I’ve got it covered, I’ve got it covered, I’ve got it all settled,” he said.
“What have you done now, Dorian Maxwell?”
“I’ve just gone into Sunshell Manor, called the police, and told them that I did it.”
She gaped. “You lied? What did you tell 'em?”
“I told Sheriff O’Boyle that I stole your camera. Told him that I encouraged you to trespass at the Cotton Candy Amusement. Now you’ll get off the hook, because I’m nineteen and you’re thirteen, and I caused the delinquency of a minor. The police are stupid enough to believe that.”
Horror washed over Greenie. “So the police are coming to capture you instead?”
“They’ll let you and your great-aunt Eulalia off the hook now. I told them you were wrongly accused.”
“No! How could you do such a thing? Now I’ve really got to fess up and—”
“No, Greenie, you stay safe at Sunshell Mansion and don’t worry about a thing.”
The thought of Dorian spending the night on a cold pavement floor overwhelmed Greenie. She sank to the porch in a bedraggled heap, her shoulders shaking. Just before the lights went out in her brain, she saw police lights. The Sheriff was back.
Dorian said, “There the cops are—I told them where to meet me. Got to leave now. Goodnight.”
Dorian…Dorian…I’m not much good. How could you do this for me? You would face Rusty and the Sheriff for me? What kind of a stupid fool are you?
Greenie…Greenie…what kind of a stupid fool are you?
On great-aunt Eulalia’s lawn, on the makeshift gazebo, the guests still danced. The moon still shone placidly. The sea still roared. And the party went on.
For two days after that party, after Dorian became her great defender, Greenie curled up in her room in the fetal position and bawled. On the third day, she discovered with dismay that the world had not ended. She sprang to work cleaning the damages, wielding her broom fiercely. The house was full of smashed cocktail glasses, broken streamers, and dirty dishes to wash.
Every time the phone rang, Greenie sprang for it, her knuckles white. If only Dorian would call! She had tried to visit him in jail, to sneak him special things, but the cops strictly forbade her.
When she told Eulalia how Dorian had saved their necks, Eulalia’s mouth twisted, and she got a strange expression, but she said nothing.
“They couldn’t have kept little old me in jail. I’d bust their necks open,” she’d declared.
On the fourth day, Felisha Holabird ran away from home and showed up at Sunshell Manor. The child, with her high ponytails and sad gaze, struggled under the weight of a bulky suitcase. A teddy bear stuck out the suitcase’s opening.
“I’ve come here to stay forever with Miss Greenie and Miss Eulalia,” she insisted.
“You have to go back to Daddy,” said Greenie.
Felisha shook her head. “Daddy told me to get lost, so I had to oblige Daddy.”
“You still have to go back home.”
Great-aunt Eulalia said, “Face it, you don’t want to stay with confounded idiots.”
“Yes, I do.”
“You had such a spectacular party at Sunshell Mansion. The moon was so high in the clouds that I ate it. I swallowed a whole glassful of stars, and it made me all better. I rode to the end of Saturn and waltzed around with Venus.”
Eulalia and Greenie exchanged grins. They knew that little Felisha was one of their own kind. She wouldn’t leave Sunshell Mansion, no matter what the Sheriff did.
Felisha slept on the floor of Greenie’s room. That was unfortunate for Greenie, since the child sobbed in her sleep. She and Eulalia had snoring contests and howled at the moon together.
Even without little Felisha, Greenie was an insomniac. Every time she closed her eyes, she remembered Dorian in jail, saw the lights of the Cotton Candy Amusement Park, felt the biting handcuffs, and saw Rusty’s sneer.
Two weeks later, Greenie’s mother called and said to get home. She was glad. Life had grown dull. Nothing was worth doing—Greenie just moped about and worried about Dorian Maxwell.
That day, Eulalia was in a sour mood and had a terrific fit. She broke three vases with her baseball bat. She chased Greenie with a compass and ran naked around the backyard, sobbing wildly.
After Felisha had got Eulalia calmed down and put to bed, that tearful lady called Greenie to her side.
“I got something bad to tell you, Greenie.”
She whispered hoarsely, “I did it…I did it all for you. Dorian Maxwell called me, and I told him that I would take care of him, like my own flesh and blood.”
Greenie’s palms got wet. She knew this was horrible, with Eulalia looking so feeble and pale.
Eulalia’s hand clutched at Greenie’s. “I sold Sunshell Mansion. I did it…I did it all for you. To pay Dorian’s bail and let him free.”
Greenie swore. “Auntie! Stop kidding me!”
This was far too ridiculous. She could pull that bail money from her dead husbands’ bank accounts. How could drinking hairspray half a lifetime ago drive her to this decision? Why did she have to sell the house, crazy hag? Why?
“Give all my love to that Dorian kid…before I go away forever,” Eulalia muttered. Her voice was strangely vague.
“Auntie!” Greenie cried, for that lady had passed out cold as a dead clam. Felisha stood in the doorway and bawled.
“Call an ambulance, quick, girl. Auntie’s stroked or something,” she said.
The nurse told her that no children under sixteen were allowed to visit hospital patients, so Greenie kicked and screamed and pitched a fit. She overturned all the waiting-room chairs and spilled tongue depressors. The Sand Bird County Hospital was in uproar.
The lady didn’t look like Great-aunt Eulalia at all, more like a fallen tree or a shipwreck. Eulalia’s eyes were open, but Greenie was not sure that she recognized her. Her room was stuffed full of tubes, machinery, drips, and monitors. She said, “Auntie, it’s me, Greenie. Dorian was so glad you paid his bail, and now he’s back home with his family. We’re all doing fine, Auntie. Felisha brought you her very own teddy bear. Only we miss you so badly and want you home at Sunshell Mansion.”
Greenie wouldn’t leave all day. She watched Eulalia’s monitors flicker away and knew that great-aunt Eulalia couldn’t die—she just couldn’t. She’d make the Devil run for his backside, certainly, but Eulalia was one of those people you couldn’t imagine dying. She watched the old lady and thought, Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die….
Near midnight, a nurse came in and told Greenie that her parents had arrived to take her home to San Francisco.
“I can’t leave. Not till I know that Auntie’s gonna be alright.”
Her knees went weak when she saw her parents in the waiting room, smiles plastered on their faces.
“We missed you so dearly,” said Mr. Addams.
“Our dear, sweet little girl,” said Mrs. Addams.
You wouldn’t call me your dear, sweet little girl if you knew what I’ve done.
People can be shipwrecks in shoes, and Greenie was one world-weary girl. She felt that she’d lived two hundred years. Now, she would no longer let her secrets hang around her like green, stringy hair. Telling the truth to her parents would be like a ton of cow manure off her soul.
“Mama and Papa, you wouldn’t believe what’s happened in Sand Bird,” she gushed. And she plopped down between her parents.
“You’ll tell us everything, like a good girl,” said Mrs. Addams. She was unsure if that was a threat or a promise.
They didn’t leave Sand Bird that night, or the night after, or the night after. For great-aunt Eulalia died at two in the morning. Greenie sat numb, like she’d turned to ice, and refused to believe it.
All of Eulalia’s bank accounts were drained dry, and the bank men came and put a SOLD sign in the yard of Sunshell Mansion. Men in white suits dragged Eulalia’s things outdoors to the auction. Greenie’s parents had to manage about the funeral somehow. All this was a dizzy blur to Greenie, very ugly to talk about.
She stayed numb until she and her parents were on a Trailways bus. Then Greenie cried the whole way home. She used up an entire box of Kleenex and flooded the bus with her sorrow. People around her stared and looked puzzled at this weeping, green-haired, crazy kid.
When she was all sobbed out, she sat very still and thought about Rusty Simpkin. His memory was like an evil sticker in her mind. She thought, Never judge a man until you’ve stood ten years in his rainstorm. Nobody could get as mean as him for no reason. Life punched holes in Rusty and made him a fiend.
He and Sheriff O’Boyle had fought at the Gizzards Café on the day of Eulalia’s funeral, and Rusty swiped the cash register. He ended up in the cooler to eat sushi behind cinderblock walls for all his life. Thinking about his rusty temper and his vengeful spirit, Greenie felt sad and not sick.
Rusty had gotten his come-uppance, and Eulalia had gotten the last laugh on him. “You won’t see the defeat of me,” she’d often told Rusty. “Over my dead body you will!”
Great-aunt Eulalia would’ve hated her funeral. People wandered around in itchy black clothes and ate deviled eggs and made fake sobs. The Reverend Simpkin said, “We praise the Lord that she walks among the saints an’ angels. This here is her bare shell, but the nut’s gone to Glory.” The half-blind church organist mixed up the musical scores and played the theme from Rocky. Eulalia had often said that she wanted to be buried in overalls with a baseball-bat in her hands, and have the motto DON’T GET TOO CLOSE, PEOPLE, inscribed on her grave. She’d wanted her dead husbands’ pictures buried with her for some weird reason. However, life was so confused that these instructions all were forgotten.
Greenie was tired of thinking and feeling; her feet fell asleep, and she fidgeted on the sticky bus seat. She rooted through her suitcase and found her Sand Bird postcards, all unmailed, and letters to her parents that began with Dear Mr. and Mrs. Addams. Felisha had given her the ratty teddy bear, but great-aunt Eulalia had died holding it, so Greenie shuddered at its touch. She had her diary, her shell collection, Dorian’s night-googles, and the money from working at the Gizzards Café. Nothing really mattered except that camera which Rusty had stolen. There is no honor among thieves. How dare he! That was my most important worldly possession!
“Look at the Golden Gate Bridge,” said her father, trying to cheer her up. “Take a photograph, Greenie, and save it for your scrapbook.”
She smiled sadly.
Funny thing about herself that she’d never understand—she was fearless when she did things like steal cameras and trespass, but to tell the truth and stick up for her friends was so very hard. The song on the radio distracted from these troubling thoughts presently. It was great-aunt Eulalia’s favorite song, “A World Without Love,” and Greenie wanted to plug her ears. The words sang themselves to sleep in her brain and made her remember all over again.
I don’t care what they say. I won’t stay in a world without love.
“Mama!” Greenie screeched. “Mama, where did all these letters come from? Did you rob the post-office?”
She was back at her house one day when she found her mailbox overflowing. The letters were stuffed deep inside, dozens upon dozens. She tried counting them and stopped at fifty.
“Well, I’ll be a suck-egged mule, Greenie Addams. They’re all postmarked from Sand Bird. I never knew my little girl made so many friends.”
“I didn’t make friends—my friends made me.”
The first letter Greenie ripped open was from Dorian.
My dearest Greenie, thanks a bunch for what your great-aunt did for me. You are about the only decent girl I know. Trespassing just isn’t the same without you. When you come back in town, I am paying your bus fare, and you have to stay at my house. You have to visit me again. I owe it to you. I am sending you a new camera in a package. Love, your Dorian Maxwell.
She got all hung up on “dearest Greenie,” and “Love, your Dorian Maxwell,” and glowed like a firefly.
So many other letters! The letters were from party guests—letters written by the single mom with the autistic boy, by the homeless man, by Benjamin Rushmore’s father, by the schizophrenics and prisoners and shut-ins and every conceivable outcast on planet, so it seemed.
“Thank you for your Greatest Party on Earth. It was the best day of my entire life.”
“Please come back to Sand Bird soon. We thank you a million times. With all my love, Schlump the Lump.”
“Both my personalities enjoyed themselves so much at your Greatest Party on Earth.”
“We’ll have to hold another Greatest Party on Earth, or I’ll be a jiggered, suck-egged donkey!”
Even though the letters were ink-splotched, with misspellings and scribbles, and nonsense, Greenie cackled for joy when she read them.
Sunshell Mansion was sold, but those party guests wouldn’t believe that the party had ended and the Sheriff couldn’t stop them from returning. They still danced and partied and carried on all night. They had written their names up on tattered streamers and tied them to Eulalia’s lemon tree.
Greenie would always have a peculiar fondness for that tree. She and Eulalia had laughed on the grass under its branches, the party guests had danced about it in the moonlight, and now it held the names of all the freaks and oddballs in town. It was like Eulalia’s spirit lived on in that tree, in all the people who visited it. A tree like that made the world all right.
I will return. I will return to Sand Bird!
Those people in Sand Bird would never forget her. And she would never forget Eulalia Felix, or Felisha Holabird, or Dorian Maxwell. For now, she had more true friends, more great defenders, than any girl on earth.
The party still went on.