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The Dark Ferret Society Excerpt

Ruby could barely hear the sound of her breathing over her beating heart as she walked the three blocks to Desert Academy.  The desert night was cold and quiet, like the first snow in the Midwest, blanketing all of the noise with peace.  Ruby’s eyes kept darting around, waiting for someone to find her.

She snuck around the lit up Desert Academy to the athletic fields.  The baseball field was the furthest from the school, the outfield backing right up to the endless sea of desert sand.  As she walked up, she saw three people in the home dugout.  She recognized Jeremy Summers from English class.  He sat in the middle, a few feet away from a tall girl with cat-eye glasses and red hair with large curls and a boy with square framed glasses.

Ruby chuckled to herself as she walked across the pitcher’s mound.  She had never seen a more un-athletic looking baseball bench.

“Hey, Ruby!” Jeremy said.  “Did you get an invitation in your locker, too?”

Ruby pulled the small piece of white paper out of her jeans pocket.  They all nodded at her.

“Do you all know about them?” Ruby asked.  

The red haired girl laughed.  Ruby noticed she sat like a ballerina with her legs crossed and her foot tucked behind her calf.  It reminded Ruby of pasta noodles swirled together.

“Have you seen Havelina Hall’s floor?” The girl asked sarcastically, pushing her cat-eye glasses up her nose.  “Have you even been at school?”

“Ruby’s new,” Jeremy said, trying to keep the peace when he saw the ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ look on Ruby’s face.

“Hi, Ruby.  I’m Elmo Slate,” the boy with square framed glasses stood up to shake her hand.  “Jeremy and I are in design class together.”  

“Ruby Fink.  My family just moved here a few weeks ago.”  

Ruby looked at the red haired girl who was looking out across the baseball field.

“And this is Persephone Wheatley,” Jeremy said.  

“Persephone!  Like…” Ruby started.

“Like the goddess of Spring.” Persephone said, still looking out across the baseball field.  

“Like the wife of Hades, the god of the underworld.” Ruby said.  Elmo chuckled.  Persephone sighed.

Ruby sat down next to Persephone and asked, “Were your parents just that close to naming you Stephanie and then thought, ’No, we’ll give her a more interesting name’?”

“What kind of a name is Fink?”  Persephone countered.

At that moment, when Ruby thought Persephone was going to untangle her spaghetti noodle legs and lunge at her, a familiar deep voice came from across the baseball field.

“Hey guys!” Elizabeth Frisbee said loudly, clearly not caring if anyone was around.  Ruby smiled at the sight of her friend.  She was wearing a blue puffy vest, hiking boots, and a headlamp somewhere in her mane of curly dark hair.  Of all people at the baseball field, Ruby was glad Elizabeth Frisbee received an invitation in her locker.   

 

The five waited in the baseball dugout until 12:15 to see if anyone else would arrive.

“Do you think they’re just going to show up out of nowhere?” Elmo asked.

“I don’t know, doesn’t seem like their style,” Jeremy said, pulling a candy cane out of his pocket.  

“Yes, if we know one thing about the ferrets, it’s that they’re secretive,” Elizabeth said.  

“Then what is tonight about?” Peresphone asked.  “Are we being roped into some sort of prank?”  

“I don’t think so, “ Elizabeth was quick to answer.  “We all seem to know about them in some way.”  

As Ruby listened to different people describe how they knew an organized group existed, her eyes focused on something sticking out of the ground next to home plate.  She got up from the dugout bench and walked over.  

The something was a shovel.  

“Hey guys!  Do you think this could have something to do with it?” Ruby called to the rest of the group.  They joined her at home plate, Persephone waiting to get up until everyone else was already crowded around the shovel.  

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!” Persephone complained.  

“Come on, Persephone!  Where’s your sense of adventure?” Jeremy asked, grabbing the shovel and starting to dig.  About ten shovelfuls down and around the time the group started to doubt, Jeremy’s shovel made a deep thunking noise as it hit something.  Elizabeth quickly turned her headlamp on and pointed it down the hole. The something was plastic and red.  

A few minutes later, the group unearthed a red plastic cooler caked with sand.  

“Fink, do you want to do the honors?” Jeremy asked.  

“I’d love to!”  Ruby said, looking around at all of the faces lit up by Elizabeth’s headlamp.  She wanted to remember this moment.  Even Persephone was trying to hide her excitement.  

Ruby opened the cooler, empty glass bottles clinking around in the inside.  

“Look!  A letter!” Persephone yelled, snatching a piece of parchment paper from the inside of the cooler lid.  She read out loud:

 

Dear Ferret Initiation Group,

 

Congratulations and welcome.  You have just unearthed The Dark Ferret Society Beginning of the Year Celebration Cooler.  The night before every school year we gather at this baseball field, dig up the red cooler from the year before, toast to the year, and sign our code names to a glass bottle.  There are seven glass bottles in this cooler representing seven years of The Dark Ferret Society.  

Many have wondered who we are and why we exist.  This will be part of the task of your initiation, if you so choose to join us.  We exist to welcome others to a safe place in the strange world we live in at Desert Academy.  We also exist to wreak creative havoc upon those we deem necessary.  

Your tasks, if you choose to accept them, are as follows:

 

  1. There exists a twin cooler to this one and it belongs to you.  It also is hidden on school grounds and you must find it.  It is the key to your moving forward in the initiation process.  Your strategic reasoning and problem solving as to its location will prove you worthy or unworthy in becoming a Dark Ferret.  You must work as a team to accomplish this task.

 

  1. You must each choose a current member of The Dark Ferret Society and prank them.  If you are found out or caught in the process, you will not be welcomed as part of The Dark Ferret Society.  We value stealth and creativity almost as much as we value the friendships we share with one another.

 

You will have one week to accomplish both of these tasks.  You have everything you need to succeed if you simply open your eyes.

 

Again, congratulations, and good luck.

 

Persephone held the parchment paper up for them to see a drawing of five ferrets sitting on top of the dugout.  Everyone immediately looked around to see if they were being watched.  Elizabeth started to laugh when they realized they were still alone.  

Ruby bent down and picked up the glass bottles one by one, reading the different code names.  She found the bottle marked with the current year and read out loud, “Sprocket, Kaleidoscope, Peter Pan, Scout Finch, Michelangelo, Whirligig”  

Elmo shook his head.  “They’re just hidden behind a code name.”

“Let’s write the rest of them down.  It could be helpful,” Jeremy suggested.  
As they reburied the red cooler, Ruby knew one thing for sure: this week was going to be the most exciting of her life.

The Rise of The Narcoleptic Turtles Excerpt

Miss Van Buren raced down the long, Desert Academy hallway, her black heels clicking on the newly waxed floor.  There was always something terrible about being in the school building over the summer,  but this meeting was important, which is why her blond wavy hair was only pulled up with one pencil, and her blouse and skirt looked like they belonged to an average teacher.  Miss Van Buren was anything but average, but today was different.  

    She pushed her black framed glasses up her nose and opened the door to Havelina Hall, which housed the old basketball gym that turned into a makeshift theater for drama club back when Desert Academy was Desert High School.  A small table was set up at half court with two middle aged women occupying two of the four chairs.  

    “He’s late, of course,” Miss Van Buren said, allowing the stack of admission folders in her hand to fall to the table, the sound bouncing off the dusty stadium seats.  

    “Oh, Anna, he’s always late.  We assumed that’s why you called this meeting in his practice gym.” Mrs. Steadton, the school secretary, said.

     “Explain to me again how he is in charge of transcripts?  I thought that was the guidance counselor’s job!” Miss Van Buren looked accusingly at Miss Longfellow.  

     “I think you just like seeing more of him in your office,” Miss Van Buren whispered angrily.  

    Ruby Fink quickly covered her mouth to stifle her giggling.  Talulah Cooper glared at her over a line of students huddled behind the bleachers, listening quietly.  Ruby mouthed I’m sorry to Talulah, even though she wasn’t.  She couldn’t help that she found Miss Van Buren’s honesty hilarious.

    The Dark Ferret Society was hiding in the shadows of Havelina Hall per tradition.  Today was the Desert Academy Scholarship Admissions meeting, which also happened to be the day the Ferrets snuck into Desert Academy to hear about potential recruits to their secret society.  The Dark Ferret Society changed everything for Ruby Fink the previous year.  Never had she felt more at home in a group of friends, never had she felt so challenged to live a life of risk and adventure, collecting the best sort of moments along the way.  

     The Dark Ferrets listened as the door to the locker rooms opened.  Miss Van Buren didn’t hear him approaching. She was still talking loudly about the importance of the scholarship meeting. Ruby risked poking her head above the bleachers to see the scene unfold.  

     “Mrs. Steadton.  Miss Longfellow,” Mr. Bailey, the Desert Academy Basketball Coach and Chemistry teacher, said as he sat down at the small table and smiled at the secretary and guidance counselor.  Then he proceeded to look up at Miss Van Buren, still standing in anger over his lateness, and propped his legs on top of the table, causing some of the folders to spill to the ground.  He folded his hands behind his head and waited for her response.

     Ruby felt anger rising inside of her on behalf of Miss Van Buren.  The rest of the Ferrets held their breath.  

    Miss Van Buren straightened her blouse and cleared her throat, promptly opening the first folder she could reach.  

    “Scout Walker,” Miss Van Buren read loudly, pacing around the table, “A transfer from a private school in Oregon. Very accomplished in pottery, writing, and lacrosse.”

    “We don’t have a lacrosse team,” Mr. Bailey interrupted.

    “She’s just showing how well rounded she is since she’s applying for one of our five scholarship spots,” Miss Van Buren said, her face buried behind the folder, refusing to make eye contact with Mr. Bailey.

    “Her essay was excellent,” Miss Longfellow said.  “She would be ready to join Desert Academy academically.”  

    “And I believe her mother recently remarried, which is why they are relocating to Arizona,” Mrs. Steadton said.  

    “Enough with the details,” Mr. Bailey said, looking at his watch and stamping her folder ACCEPTED.  

    “MR. BAILEY ACCEPTANCES CAN ONLY BE MADE WITH A UNANIMOUS VOTE!” Miss Van Buren yelled.  

    “Which is why, Miss Van Buren, our last admissions meeting took six hours.  So I have a new strategy,” Mr. Bailey said, closing Scout Walker’s folder.  “I’m going to agree with you on who you have already decided is best to attend Desert Academy on scholarship.”

    “How could you possibly know I want Scout Walker to attend on scholarship?” Miss Van Buren asked.

    “How could you not?  She’s in the middle of the pile so it didn’t look like you were too eager, she’s a shoo-in for that Pigeon Paper of yours, and her favorite subject is Chemistry.  What’s not to love?” Mr. Bailey stared back at Miss Van Buren.  

    Miss Van Buren was speechless.

    “Should I continue?” Mr. Bailey asked, reaching for another folder.  

    “Rocket Sawyer,” Mr. Bailey read.  “Currently attends the public high school in town, very high test scores, but has been bullied too much to continue.  Consistently thinks he is being….” Mr. Bailey covered his mouth in laughter.  

    Miss Van Buren grabbed the folder away from him.

    “What does it say, Anna?” Mrs. Steadton asked over Mr. Bailey’s laughter.  Miss Van Buren glared at Mr. Bailey.

    “It says he consistently thinks he is being abducted by aliens.”

    Mr. Bailey howled while holding his stomach and rocking back in his chair.  

    “Mine!” Elmo Slate whispered to the rest of the Dark Ferrets.  Ruby agreed.  He certainly sounded weird enough to be a Ferret.  Talulah wrote it down in her notebook.  After this meeting, certain members of The Dark Ferret Society revealed themselves in a small way to the scholarship students invited to Initiation.  Many came to this secret meeting eager to claim their Initiation Ferret.    

    “Aw, man!  I liked him, too!” Jeremy Summers whispered, his fluffy hair bouncing in defeat.  

    “Phoenix Wheatley!” Miss Van Buren read out loud.  All eyes turned to Persephone Wheatley, the tallest member of the Dark Ferrets, curled under the bleachers in a circular fashion like a ball of yarn.  She pretended to look away from all of their stares until Ruby poked her hard in the side with a pencil.  Persephone came undone from her hiding spot, ready to knock Ruby over.  

    Elizabeth Frisbee, Ruby’s best friend, quickly moved between them.  Talulah’s eyes were bulging with consequence.  Ruby could tell she was seconds away from getting kicked out of the secret meeting.

    “Current sister to Persephone Wheatley, Phoenix applied last year as well but we did not accept her because she was a freshman,” Miss Van Buren said.  

    “Yes, I have a sister!” Persephone hissed to the rest of the Ferrets.  “I’m a little hesitant for her to also be a Dark Ferret…”

    “Because we may lose some of our love for you?” Ruby whispered back, pushing her luck.  

    “Exactly!” Persephone said.  “But she’s fabulous and really should be considered!” Ruby watched as Talulah wrote Persephone’s name in large letters next to Phoenix’s.  

    The Scholarship Meeting continued until the desert sun sank low into the sky.  The Dark Ferrets darted carefully in the shadows down the bleachers and into the old Green Room hidden underneath them as Miss Van Buren and Mr. Bailey continued to argue.  Ruby lingered in the Green Room, running her hands over the old couches as the rest of the Ferrets made their way down through the costume closet to the tunnels underneath Desert Academy.  Feelings of nostalgia and excitement rose within her as her canvas tennis shoes were enveloped by the green shag carpeting.

    The Ferrets snuck out of Desert Academy just like they had hundreds of times before.  Ruby tried to remember every moment sneaking over to the baseball fields because this was the last Dark Ferret tradition she had not participated in.  This made her and the rest of last year’s initiation group Senior Ferrets.

     The group raced across the outfield and hid in the lower portion of the dugout, waiting for nightfall.  They laid there all crisscrossed and diagonal, like a sleepover, as the sky changed from blue to purple to inky black.

     “All right, Ferrets, let’s begin this year,” Talulah said, putting a headlamp over her electrified hair.

     Ruby remembered last year when her initiation group surfaced the Red Cooler underneath the baseball field. It meant the Dark Ferret Society was real.  Ruby could still imagine Jeremy, Elmo, Persephone, and Elizabeth’s faces when they discovered the signed glass bottles representing seven years of Dark Ferrets, seven years of mischievous and secretive pranks, and seven years of sneaking into the Green Room underneath the bleachers in Havelina Hall.

    There was so much they didn’t know as they wrote down the code names from the glass bottles into Ruby’s tattered notebook.  They didn’t know Elizabeth was secretly already a member of the Dark Ferret Society, pretending to be a new Initiation Ferret per tradition, quietly guiding the group into the magical ways of the Ferrets.  Ruby certainly didn’t know she would be chosen to fill the same role the following year, living a double life between the new recruits and the Ferrets who had become her best friends at Desert Academy.  The new scholarship students’ names rang in Ruby’s ears, just like they rang into the dusty corners of Havelina Hall after Miss Van Buren read them unknowingly to the hidden Ferrets.

     Ruby watched as Jeremy and Elmo alternated shovel digs.  The rest of the group silently stood in a circle, their headlamps beaming into the hole that contained the cooler.  Ruby knew the Dark Ferrets had waited an entire summer for this moment, but she was waiting for something else.

     She couldn’t stop thinking about her theory that Miss Van Buren was one of the first Dark Ferrets, a theory that led her to unsuccessfully dig up the cooler under the baseball field with Elizabeth Frisbee last year.  If she could just glance at the bottle with the first year’s code names, she knew she would recognize Anna Van Buren’s handwriting.  Ruby imagined her code name would be something beautiful and daring, like Amelia Earhart.  

    Ruby had planned all summer that she wouldn’t say anything to her fellow Ferrets when the cooler was unearthed.  She wouldn’t even pick up a bottle.  She planned to read all the names quickly, memorizing them for future investigations.  

    “Dark Ferrets, we gather here today…”

    “Talulah!  We don’t even have the cooler yet!” Elizabeth interrupted.  “You can’t start the beginning of the year speech without it.”

    “We have to be close,” Talulah said, her eyes darting to Jeremy and Elmo struggling to dig any further.

    “As I was saying, this is the eighth year of our secret society.  A secret society that exists to create…”

    “Talulah.”

    “WHAT is it?” Talulah yelled, throwing her hands in the air, tired of being interrupted.  The entire group turned to Persephone kneeling at the small mound of dirt collected from digging.  She held an envelope encrusted with sand.  Green script was written on the outside, and Ruby barely caught the inscription

 

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE DARK FERRET SOCIETY

 

before Talulah snatched it from Persephone.

    There was no mistaking Talulah’s anger as she read the letter.  Ruby swore she could see the tips of her fluffy curls begin to shake while the rest of the group waited in silence.

    “No!” Talulah yelled, covering her mouth midway through the letter. She frantically looked around, her eyes darting from the dugout to the back wall of Desert Academy.  Suddenly, she dropped the letter and started sprinting to the school.

    Half of the group immediately followed Talulah, leaving Ruby to pick up the letter. Ruby’s eyes met Elizabeth’s as she began to read the letter out loud.

 

    “Dark Ferret Society,

 

    We hope you’ve dug up the entire baseball field trying to find your precious cooler.  Then the school won’t be able to look away and hide the existence of your not-so-secret-society, as it has in the past.  You won’t be getting either cooler back, so don’t bother coming to look for them.  We know you’re already too busy recruiting students to continue your tradition of terrorizing the school.”

 

    Ruby looked up as several Ferrets, having heard enough of the letter, ran toward Desert Academy.  Only Jeremy and Elizabeth stood next to Ruby as she finished reading out loud.

 

    “We won’t reveal who we are just yet, just know it’s not over.  There are too many secrets that have remained hidden for far too long.  Therefore, on behalf of Desert Academy we’d like to welcome you to the end of the Dark Ferret Society.”

 

    Ruby ran with the awful letter in her back pocket, following Elizabeth and Jeremy into the Green Room, down the costume closet, and through the underground tunnel that led to the submerged orchestra pit – the place that held the Initiation Cooler that the new Ferrets would be commissioned to find.

    The three of them skidded to a halt as Talulah kneeled next to the opening in the pit floor, the Initiation Cooler gone from its home in the secret trap door.

 

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