Read The Hop Online

Authors: Sharelle Byars Moranville

Tags: #Fiction - Young Adult

The Hop

BOOK: The Hop
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Text copyright © 2012 by Sharelle Byars Moranville

Illustrations © 2012 by Niki Daly

All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher.

For information address Disney • Hyperion Books, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7072-3

Visit
www.disneyhyperionbooks.com

To my husband, Barry

—SBM

If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.

—Frances Hodgson Burnett,
The Secret Garden

Chapter 1

THE LOAMY TUNNEL HAD FALLEN around Tad during the long night of winter and padded him like a brown blanket. But now the earth was stirring. And even three feet down, the young hopper felt it.

Maybe it was the footsteps of people in the garden, or the deep, seepy drip of warm rain. Maybe it was the chorus of spring peepers.

Tad stirred too. With the ancient toady wisdom, he knew days were getting warm and sunny up top. He knew plump crunchy beetles and luscious slimy slugs ambled above.

Tad was half frozen to his center from the long season of sleep. Sluggishly, he scootched upward through the sand and clay and veins of rotting roots. Moisture soaked through his dry, papery skin.

Near the surface, he tried a little hop. But it was lopsided and feeble—just a lurch, really, that flopped him half out of his hole.

Tad opened his eyes. He lay on his side, a tasty meal for any red-tailed hawk that flew over.

Using his rear diggers, he scrambled the rest of the way into the sun. The last little chunk of ice inside him melted away, and he hopped again. Stronger this time. Then another hop. And another.

Thank the green grass for the feisty two-spotted stinkbug coming through the rye! Tad's sticky tongue snapped out, and he blinked three times slowly, using the back of his eyes to push the bug all the way down his gullet, enjoying it. What a fine bug it was, what a good tickle it made. The first bug always tasted the best.

Tad sat in the April sun for a while, trying to catch up with himself. It had just rained, and the grass was such a sharp green that it gave him a headache. He lurched under the leaves of a feverfew plant, catching the drops of water on his warts and bumps.

He put his rear end into the sun, his head under the dripping leaves of the feverfew.

Tad sat as still as the clod of earth he might have been mistaken for. His belly, mottled with dark spots, fooled a night crawler, dumb as dirt, that wriggled out into the open and—
zot!
The slick dangle of luscious worm disappeared as Tad blinked three times. Ahhhh, much better. Bundle-of-yummy was good in the tummy.

The dew melted him into the mud, made his hands and rear diggers happy. Made him awake enough and strong enough to begin hopping home.

But as he made his way through the grass, something seemed to be following him. When he turned to look, there was nothing there. Yet something wasn't as it should be.

His winter sleep had been different. That was it. Tad couldn't shake off the bad feeling of the stories that had crept into his sleep. He had run from a stink-belching monster that shook the earth. He had heard strange music too. Not toadly music, which was like the chiming of the stars. No, this music was like the wind banging things. Like rain drumming the pond.

Ping! Ping! Ping!

And in another scary story he was dancing, but he was gigantic and his rear diggers looked all wrong. And he was supposed to do something really important, but he couldn't, no matter how hard he tried.

Winter sleep was the time to go back inside Mother Earth's belly to be reborn again. Mother Earth's belly was quiet and peaceful, no place for twitching, fretful toads and drumming rain.

What was wrong with him?

He needed to talk to Seer. Seer saw stories in his sleep—of things that had happened or might happen someday. He called them dreams. Had the monster that roared out of the darkness been a
dream
?

Plus, a spot between Tad's eyes burned like fire. He needed to talk to Seer about that too. He began to hop faster, away from the patch of feverfew toward Cold Bottom Road.

“Buuurk?” he called. “Anora?” He wanted to find his friends and hop together back to Toadville-by-Tumbledown, where Seer would be waiting.

Where was everybody? At the end of winter sleep, the grass should be thick with other young hoppers like himself, groggily making their way up Cold Bottom Road. And he should have passed a few old toads croaking amiably as they lurched along. Buuurk or Anora or some other young hoppers should be helping Seer up the hill. Tad blinked. There wasn't a single toad on Cold Bottom Road except himself.

Chapter 2

TAYLOR GOT OFF THE BUS at her grandmother's house, as she did every day. The wind whipped open her jacket and scooped her hair up and made the tip of her nose chilly.

An April shower had turned the asphalt road as shiny as black satin. Taylor picked up a fat night crawler who was just begging to get run over. She laid him in the grass and then hurried up the drive.

“Eve?” she called at the front door. Eve was a funny thing to call a grandmother, but that was her name. Even Taylor's mother called her that, instead of
Mom
or
Mother.

“I'm here,” Eve answered, standing on the deck outside the country kitchen. “I heard the bus.”

Taylor stared at her grandmother. She had on muddy boots, and the knees of her jeans were already wet. What was going on? The spring day when they planted the first seeds was so special that they always went out
together
.

“You didn't forget what day this is, did you?” Taylor asked.

“Do salamanders sing?”

“Mud puppies do.” Taylor had learned that in science. Mud puppies were the only salamander that vocalized, according to her teacher.

Her grandmother rolled her eyes.

“Did you start without me?” Taylor pressed.

“Not really. Change your clothes and let's get going.”

In her room-away-from-home, Taylor shed her backpack and pulled on a pair of garden jeans from last year. She sucked in and snapped the waist, but the tight jeans made her walk funny. She found a long-sleeved T-shirt with pink flowers on the front. Under the flowers was the message
Impatiens is a
virtue
—which Taylor kinda got, and kinda didn't. Her wrists stuck out. Then she zipped on a hooded sweatshirt that smelled like earth and leaves.

“Ready!” she announced, standing with her grandmother at the raised bed where they always started. Each year, they began at the lowest bed and worked their way up the hill.

Taylor slid her arm around her grandmother's waist. Her shoulder fit into Eve's side like a key into a lock. Her cheek pressed to Eve's windbreaker, right where her grandmother's heart was. Taylor breathed in the windy smell of her grandmother's jacket and wished she could stop time right now, at this perfect moment.

“When you were a few months old and your mother had to go back to work, I carried you in a sling as I planted.”

Her grandmother told her that every year.

“The next spring you crawled around and poked sticks in holes. The next spring, when you were two, you almost put a toad in your mouth before I stopped you.”

Her grandmother told her that every year too.

Eve fanned seed packets with a flourish, as if she were doing a card trick. “What shall we plant first? Pick one!”

It was a wonderful magic trick, that a tiny dark seed could change into something curly or something valentine-red and white. Comet radish. Arugula. Spinach. Piquant salad mix. Oakleaf lettuce. Bibb lettuce. Curly endive. French breakfast radish.

Last year Taylor had chosen arugula because she liked the chewy sound of the word. She didn't actually eat the green stuff. But
arrr-uug-u-la
sounded like something that might eat her.

She'd picked curly endive one year, and who knew what she might pick next year? But this year she chose to start with French breakfast radishes, wondering if French people really ate them for breakfast. Taylor wouldn't. Radishes were for lunch, with toasted cheese sandwiches.

As she sprinkled the seeds, her grandmother's shadow moved across the patch of garden soil. Taylor turned to see Eve drop down on the bench at the corner of the raised-bed gardens. Her grandmother
always
mixed the seeds into the dirt and patted the soil down. And Taylor always watered, and her grandmother always wrote the label, and Taylor always pushed it into the soil in the middle of the bed.

“Why aren't you helping?” Taylor called. “What's wrong?”

“Nothing. I just like watching you. Go ahead. You can do my part.”

“But—” Taylor wanted to do it the way they always did.

“Really, sweetheart. I'll watch.”

So Taylor ran her bare fingers over the loose soil, tumbling the round radish seeds into it. This wasn't the way it was supposed to work.

She picked up the heavy watering can and tilted it over the bed. Because it was too full, water splatted out and splashed up on her jeans, making her leap back. She didn't look at her grandmother. She just scrawled
FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES
on the wooden stake and jammed it into the ground.

When Eve came and knelt down, starting the row right next to Taylor's, the sun seemed to shine a little brighter.

BOOK: The Hop
8.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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