'The Secret Shortcut'


April 05, 2000|By Mark Teague

Editor's note: Wendell and Floyd find that sometimes a shortcut on the way to school isn't really a shortcut at all.

On Monday, Wendell and Floyd were late for school. They had nearly been captured by space creatures, they told their teacher.

"Ridiculous," said Ms. Gernsblatt, and she warned them not to let it happen again.

But Tuesday was no better. Pirates were loose in the neighborhood. It was sheer bad luck, Wendell and Floyd explained, when they showed up late for school.

"Preposterous!" said Ms. Gernsblatt.

And on Wednesday, even though Wendell and Floyd left early, a plague of frogs made them late once again.

"Absurd!" cried their teacher. "I'm warning you -- be here on time tomorrow -- or else! And no more crazy excuses!"

"There's got to be a way to get to school on time," said Wendell. "We'll just have to leave earlier."

Floyd arrived at Wendell's house so early the next morning that the sun was barely up, and Wendell was still in his pajamas.

"I've got an idea," said Wendell as he quickly got dressed. "We'll follow my secret shortcut and get to school even sooner."

"Shortcut?" asked Floyd. "I didn't know there were any good shortcuts to school."

"This is the secretest shortcut of all," said Wendell. "In fact, I invented it myself."

He led Floyd up the alley by the Oolick's backyard, then down a culvert, over a fence, and through a dense thicket of blackberry vines.

Then they scrambled over some boulders, down a steep bank and across a narrow stream.

"This is some shortcut," said Floyd.

"Relax," said Wendell. "We'll be there in a minute."

But the forest became thicker and darker. Soon it was hung with vines. The screeches of strange jungle animals echoed all around.

They watched some monkeys playing in the treetops.

"I have another idea," said Wendell.

"What is it?" asked Floyd. He was getting tired of Wendell's ideas.

"We'll swing from these vines just like the monkeys," said Wendell. "That way we'll travel much faster."

Soon they were swinging from vine to vine.

"This isn't bad," shouted Floyd. "I'll bet we're making good time."

"I knew this shortcut would work out," Wendell crowed.

But at that moment they ran out of vines.

The boys landed -- plop, plop -- in a giant puddle of mud.

"Now what do we do?" asked Floyd.

"I don't know," said Wendell. "I'm out of ideas."

They sat in the puddle and thought about all the trouble they were going to be in. "Ms. Gernsblatt will never believe this story," said Wendell.

"It is sort of crazy," said Floyd.

Just then, from far away, they heard a school bell ring.

"Did you hear that?" cried Wendell. "That was the first bell. We can still make it if we run!"

They ran until the jungle gave way to the forest, and the forest became woods, and then they scurried through the Morley's backyard and up the hill to school. They flew through the door of Ms. Gernsblatt's room and landed squishily in their seats just as the late bell rang.

"Well, you made it," said their teacher. "And just in time. But how on earth did you get so muddy just walking to school?"

Floyd looked at Wendell. Wendell looked at Floyd.

"On second thought," said Ms. Gernsblatt, "maybe you'd better not say."

During recess, Wendell and Floyd sat in the sun to give the mud a chance to dry.

"At least we finally got to school on time," said Wendell.

"That's the main thing," Floyd agreed.

And in fact it was quite a while before they were late to school again.

From THE SECRET SHORTCUT by Mark Teague. Copyright c 1996 by Mark Teague. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Scholastic Inc.

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