I hope you enjoy this next preview of Tiger Kingdom & The Book of Destiny — Chapter 2: Suzie & Jack. Full novel available December 16 on Amazon!
Chapter 2: Suzie & Jack
Only a few hours later, the sun streamed through the tiny holes in the screen, bathing the porch in bright light. I rolled over, grabbing my pillow from underneath my head, to cover my eyes. Then, a switch seemed to go off in my brain, a flash of stripes moving across my mind. “The tigers!” I called out loud, sitting up and flinging the pillow away. “Jack—” I started, turning to the empty space next to me, surprised to see that my brother had already woken and gone.
Pulling the sheet and quilt over the bed, I hastily threw on my robe and house slippers and ran down the hallway. The grandfather clock stood ominously over my head at its end. It was 7:00. I only had twenty minutes to get to the bus stop.
Rushing into the kitchen, I bumped into Jack. He was already dressed and eating a bowl of Cheerios at the breakfast table. “Running from the tigers?” he teased. He dodged by me and slipped out the front door before I could hit him. Why did he have to be so annoying sometimes?
“Suzie! You’re not even dressed yet. Here, take this and go on—hurry!” Mama held out a banana and cup of juice toward me, scooting me back down the hallway. “Oh!” Mama suddenly slipped and the cup fell to the ground, splattering juice across the white tile floor, staining it orange.
As I reached for paper towels on the counter, my hand brushed Daddy’s newspaper. I looked down at it; the front-page headlines blazed in large black ink. But what caught my eye wasn’t this page, it was a small corner of another peaking out from underneath it. Pulling it free, I stared at the tiny print, nearly hidden in the bottom left corner.
“ ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ To Entrance Audiences,” it read. Mama was still shooing me down the hallway. “Go on now. I can take care of this.” Taking the newspaper with me, I obeyed.
Ten minutes later and with little time to spare, I slung my backpack over my shoulder and ran toward the bus stop. The large yellow school bus was already there, and it looked nearly full.
“Hi, Suz!” My best friend Emily stuck her hand out and waved from a window near the front of the bus. “Come on, I saved you a seat!” I waved back, stepping up into the bus and making my way as quickly as possible to the free seat beside her.
“Thanks, Em,” I said breathlessly, rummaging into my backpack as she spoke. I pulled out the newspaper page and smoothed it out in my lap.
“What’s that?” Emily leaned over my shoulder, reading the newspaper headline aloud.
“ ‘Greatest Show on Earth to Entrance Audiences’…the circus is coming to town? Cool! You want to ask our folks if we can go together?” Her eyes widened in excitement. “I’d love to see the acrobats! And the tigers—it says there will be tigers!” She pointed to the center of the article.
I sucked in my breath, not answering right away. I could still see the tigers rushing past in the night, their stripes blazing in the light of the street lamps. I was right, it hadn’t been a dream!
“What is it?” Emily turned to me, taking in my wide-eyed look.
“The tigers!” I blurted out fast. “They’re here—I mean, I saw them last night! Jack told me it was a dream, but I knew. I knew it was real!” Emily furrowed her brows in confusion. “They must have escaped from the circus!”
“Alright, everyone off in single file, please! Watch your step!” came the shout of the driver from the front, and a wave of students came plunging forward from behind us, their bags hitting the seats. I quickly folded the newspaper article, zipping it into my backpack. The bus had come to a stop in front of South Middle School.
“See you at lunch!” I waved goodbye to Emily as we stepped through the big double doors of the school and into the main hallway.
“Save me a seat!” she replied, turning left toward her fifth-grade homeroom while I turned right toward mine, smiling. She knew I always saved her the same seat every day, at the table next to the long lunchroom windows—“our” table—but she always reminded me anyway.
Everyone was chatting excitedly when I entered the classroom. Mrs. Drake sat at her desk sipping her coffee through pursed lips. She frowned. “Margo, could you please tell us what all the commotion is about?” She turned to the shy girl with shaggy brown hair who had the unfortunate seat nearest hers.
“Um…” Margo stammered, looking up slowly at the students around her. “We…we were just talking about…about…” She looked around helplessly.
“About the exam coming up,” Michael offered from the back. Mrs. Drake stood up and walked over to him.
“Mmm.” She lifted her mug to her lips again, sipping slowly. “Well, then, Michael, I hardly think an exam is worth so much noise.” She walked back toward her desk, setting down her mug and picking up a piece of paper from her desk. Then she walked over to the message board next to the homeroom door and pinned it up. “ ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ To Entrance Audiences,” read the headline. Smiling wide, my heart beating faster, I nearly jumped out of my seat in wild excitement. My usual shyness vanished for the moment, and I was ready to tell everyone about the tigers. But I held myself back, as I knew talking during morning announcements was a bad idea.
“Now this may be worth some noise!” Mrs. Drake’s face broke out into an uncharacteristic smile. “In celebration of the circus coming to town, I’d like you all to use this week’s writing time to expound upon it. Write about what you think you’ll see there, creating a story about it. Remember, the beauty is in the details. And, as always, pay careful attention to grammar and punctuation. But creativity and originality will be rewarded! I’ll collect them at the end of the week, and the most creative and original story will win a free ticket to the show—courtesy of the generous family who owns the circus!” She gave a small clap. “Now, get out your writing journals, pencils, and begin!”