Chapter 9

Ari was having a very difficult time concentrating on the usual subjects at school the next day. During math, Jimmy Jasper’s off-key humming didn’t distract him nearly as much as the verses on the old note, which were replaying themselves in his head completely uninvited. What were the chiseled stones? Who was Charlie Krew? And who in the heck was Yumigawa?

At recess, instead of playing dodgeball, Ari sat on a swing, next to some first-graders, and stared at the the words. How could a baby be an apple? And what in the world could the prize be? And that totally weird middle of the night visit from Dewey Daylatch…if it had really happened at all. Was there a clue in anything else Dewey had said to him? But the note wasn’t the only thing on Ari’s mind. He couldn’t stop himself from wondering whether Uncle Ellery really had a plan to save the deli. Or would he decide to fight Dudge Hunker?

“A love note for your girlfriend?” yelled Finbar Fenker. Ari had been so lost in his thoughts that by the time he noticed Finbar hovering closer and closer to the swingset, Finbar had snatched the old note right out of Ari’s hand.

“Flossie!” yelled Finbar. “Ari’s written some very special words for you!”

“Fenker!” yelled Ari, leaping off the swing and making a grab for Finbar. He missed by a hair as Finbar jumped giddily away from his grasp and made a dash for a cluster of girls playing hopscotch.

Ari’s blood was boiling hot enough that he knew he could take down Finbar in a matter of seconds when, suddenly, Finbar went sprawing into the grass without any help from Ari at all. And then Ari noticed what Finbar had tripped over. It was Arden Feeny’s foot, which she’d quietly stuck in front of Finbar as he passed the black walnut tree where she was reading volume 5 of the New Student Encyclopedia. As the note flew from Finbar’s fist, Arden neatly snatched it and looked at Ari.

“Jealousy, jealousy!” bellowed Finbar as he got back on foot and scampered away. “The green-eyed monster! Feeny-weeny’s got it bad!”

“Thanks,” said Ari as Arden held out the note for him. “It’s just some kind of weird riddle or something that I found. I’ve been trying to figure it out.”

“Can I look?” said Arden.

“Sure,” replied Ari. He unfolded the paper and handed it back to her, then sat down in the grass. “I found it in an old statue,” he said as if that explained everything. “It’s probably not even any good anymore.”

Arden stared at the writing for a few minutes. “Some are dog-eared, few are older…” she read.

“Old dogs?” suggested Ari.

“No,” said Arden. Ari thought she almost smiled, but he wasn’t sure. “Dog-eared,” she said. She riffled the edges of the Encyclopedia, where the corners of several pages had become bent from use. “Like this. Dog-eared means the pages are bent. You’re supposed to find a book.”

“A book,” repeated Ari. “Okay. An old book, I guess. Like where?”

“Where I moulder…,” said Arden. “Somewhere where they keep old books. Like rotting away in an attic. Or maybe just the library.”

“That actually makes sense,” replied Ari.

“I’ll go to the library with you,” said Arden, as if there were no sense arguing about it. “After school.”

For some reason–and Ari didn’t really understand why–it seemed perfectly reasonable to be walking to the DiRosa Public Library after school with Arden Feeny.

He wasn’t worried about the dirty look and offended sniff from Flossie Beemis as he and Arden passed the flagpole, but there was one thing that worried him. What would he tell Arden about where he got the note, and how he knew to look there? A crazy story like Dewey Daylatch in the Deli in the middle of the night was sure to start her glaring at him through her glasses again.

Luckily, Arden didn’t seem to feel the need to say much as they walked from DiRosa Elementary, up Spoke Street and right on South Street, to the Public Library at the south end of town, but she seemed quite purposeful as they entered the building. She pointed to a window-enclosed room behind the circulation desk.

“The Archives,” she stated simply. “That’s where they keep the oldest books.”

“May I help you?” asked the tall, gray-haired librarian behind the counter, whose name badge said Mrs. Timms.

“We’re looking for an old book,” answered Ari, “about a bunch of people with weird names.”

“An old book,” repeated the librarian, turning up her nose as if to think, while looking at Ari and Arden from under her spectacles. “Let me get Mrs. Simms.” She disappeared into the glass-enclosed room. Moments later, an even older, white-haired librarian plumply tottered out, carrying a long box full of very worn file cards.

“What book do you want to see dears?” asked Mrs. Simms, setting her box on the desktop.

“We don’t know what the title is,” said Arden, taking charge, a little to Ari’s relief, “but some of the characters are Myrtle Mutt and Yumigawa.”

“You don’t say?” said Mrs. Simms, putting a wrinkled finger to her chin. “But you say, you don’t know the title?” She adjusted her glasses, and picked up the box. “I’d better get Miss Samms.”

Mrs. Simms disappeared into the archives room, and soon, the oldest, wrinkliest old lady Ari had ever seen creaked slowly out of the glass-enclosed room leaning heavily on a wooden cane. Miss Samms had almost no hair at all–just wisps of colorless fluff dancing around her scalp like a halo.

“Who?” squeaked Miss Samms. “Who did you say was in the book you’re looking for?”

“Oh, all kinds of people, I guess,” replied Ari. “Myrtle Mutt, Charlie Krew, Yumi-something-or-other…and maybe some angels.”

Miss Samms smiled which made her face look as squishy and lined as a dried apple.
“Those aren’t storybook characters dearie,” she said with a chuckle. “Myrtle Mutt was my first grade teacher. Yumigawa used to have a candy store on Spoke Street. And Charlie Krew…” (at this point Miss Samms’ eyes looked so dreamy and faraway that she almost reminded Ari of Flossie Beemis,) “…well dearie, if it hadn’t been for that saucy Effie Luckinbill, I might be Mrs. Krew instead of Miss Samms!”

“So these people aren’t in a book,” sighed Ari.

“Oh, they’re not anywhere now,” Miss Samms assured him with a trace of pride in her voice. “I’ve outlived every one of them.”

“Well,” said Ari. “Thanks anyway.” He shrugged at Arden and turned to walk out of the library.

“I’m sorry Ari,” said Arden, hurrying to keep up with him. “Maybe whoever put that note in your statue meant for it to be found when those people were still alive. Maybe you were supposed to be able to ask them for clues.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Ari replied. “But then why did Dewey tell me about it? Why did he come now?”

Now Arden did glare, right through her glasses at him, and somehow he’d been expecting it.

“Who’s Dewey?” she asked.

How would he answer? Something about having Arden as an ally felt really comfortable and he hated to give her any reason to think he was crazy.

“He’s an old guy who came into the Deli once,” replied Ari, “and told me where to find the note.”

“Oh,” said Arden. “In the statue.”

A yellow mailbox halfway up South Street said “Feeny.” Arden stopped and turned to Ari.

“Maybe one of us will think of something over the weekend,” she said. Then she picked up a tabby cat which had been rubbing against the mailbox post and walked into her house.

When Ari reached the deli, Granny Frappler was sitting in her rocker on the sidewalk squinting ferociously at a pocketwatch while a well-dressed lady in a pink suit looked on intently.

“Ari!” squawked Granny Frappler. “Hand me that magnifyin’ glass will ya’?” She gestured to a box on the sidewalk.

Ari rummaged through some coins, pens and rulers, then pulled out a large round magnifying lens with a handle.

“Thanks,” said Granny Frappler, taking the glass. “Don’t pay gettin’ old. Cain’t use yer eyes, cain’t use yer ears.”

“You’re not so old, Granny Frappler,” said Ari, who had the librarian, Miss Samms, fresh in his mind.

“Not so old?” cackled Granny Frappler. “I can hear’em chiseling my name on a headstone now!” She turned her attention to the lady in pink, and waved the pocketwatch. “I’ll give you three-hundred for it.”

Chiseling your name…thought Ari, opening the deli door with a jingle. Chiseled…on a stone…a headstone… He took the old note out of pocket and spread it open on the deli counter…First you have to guess my name, ‘mongst chiseled stones begin the game…

“Right!” he said aloud, to no-one. To find the name of the book…we have to look in the graveyard!

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