“Eb! Eb! Are you up?” Gosh, Eb hated it when her mother hollered like that, clear from the kitchen. Couldn’t she at least come up to the hallway so she could ask in a normal tone of voice? Rolling over in bed and kicking off the covers, Eb threw her stuffed toy raccoon at the dog, who was sleeping on the floor by the door. Elmer waked with a start, and streaked off down the stairs, half yelping, half yipping as he went. Poor dog! Eb almost felt sorry for scaring the poor thing so, but it always worked. Mom knew that when Elmer came yip-yelping down the stairs, Eb was indeed awake and up. Well, awake at least.
In a few minutes, Eb was all the way awake, and she flopped her feet on the floor and found her jeans. Since it was Saturday, she put on a clean sweatshirt. Then down the stairs she went too, right to the kitchen. “Now that I’m up,” she asked her mother, “What’s for breakfast?”
“You don’t have time for breakfast. If you recall, you promised to take your brother to the rollerblade races down on the boulevard at 11:00. It’s quarter of eleven now, so you better get going. Here’s five dollars. There will be food vendors all over the place. You can get something to eat there. Be sure your brother eats something.”
“Oh goody,” Eb thought to herself. “Just what I wanted – junkfood for breakfast.” Where were all the Cheerios vendors when you needed them? Her little brother was quite elated though. He would eat pizza, cheese nachos, or whatever else he could talk Eb into buying him for breakfast, lunch, or supper. “The boy is a human garbage disposal,” Eb thought. To him she said, “Grab your jacket, Squirt. Let’s get going.”
They were two blocks from the boulevard when it happened. It happened so quickly, Eb wasn’t sure just what had happened. Apparently her brother hadn’t noticed anything. “Did you see that?” asked a large woman in a yellow straw hat who was walking ahead of them. “Oh my goodness!” cried a tall man who was just putting coins into his parking meter. Several shopkeepers, with looks of great surprise on their faces, had run out onto the sidewalk. “What’s going on?” they asked each other.
“What happened? What happened?” shouted Squirt, suddenly aware that he had missed something that seemingly everyone else had noticed. “What happened?”
There had been a sudden bright flash of light, sort of like what you see when you click off the television set. It covered the entire sky. Eb didn’t know how to explain it to herself, much less to her brother, but she knew that somehow they were on a different channel. They were in a different place, and she didn’t know where.
Soon they reached the corner where the boulevard began. The Art Museum should have been right there on the corner, but it wasn’t.Nothing was there. Not just an empty lot – nothing! There was more of nothing all around them. It was as if they were on a tiny little island. Eb and Squirt and the lady in the yellow hat and the man at the parking meter were all alone. Even the man’s car was gone.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t scary, not yet anyway. It was just sort of eerie. “I’ve got to be home by 1:00,” said the lady. “I have a roast in the oven.” Eb laughed at that. Of all the things to be worried about at a time like this. “Are we going to miss the races?” Squirt asked, but he didn’t seem to be too worried.
Eb was worried! What if they stepped off into nothing? Would they fall off? If so, into what? Was it like the world was thought to be way back in 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue? When people thought the earth was flat, and ships could sail off the edge? Or was it just a super thick fog? Was the rest of the world really still out there, but they just couldn’t see any of it? So many questions. So many worries.
Well Eb and Squirt never found out. There was another terrific flash of bright light. Someone had switched the television set back on! There was the museum. There was the boulevard, stretching off toward the river, just where it should be. Squirt took off with Eb in hot pursuit. Several blocks up they found seats on the curb near the finish line of the rollerblade races. Eb gave Squirt the five dollars from Mom and sent him to the hamburger place on the next corner.”Get a sackful of those little burgers.” As he ran off, Eb remembered to holler, “No onions!” but she knew he hadn’t heard her. Eb dug a dollar of her own out of her jeans pocket and bought two Italian Ices from a street vendor. She leaned back against a light pole.
It would be a pretty good day after all.