Max raced in from the back yard and through the back door before grabbing the ringing phone.
"Max?" said an impatient voice. "Max the pet sitter?"
"Yes," said Max.
Max had been pet sitting for a while now and had taken care of some unusual animals for some very strange owners.
"This is an emergency," the voice continued. "I have to go away right now, and I need someone to take care of my pet dormouse. Her name's Dixie. Can you do it?"
"Sure" said Max, checking his watch. He was taking care of a school of zebra fish, and they needed their dance class at 3:30, but there was plenty of time to go meet Dixie first.
"What's your name and where do you live?"
"I'm Ivor, Ivor Gadget, and I live at thirty-six Sandy Road. Look, this really is an emergency. Can you come right away?"
"Already left!" said Max cheerfully, hanging up.
Max went upstairs to get is pet-sitter notebook. This was a small hardcover book with a picture of a whale on the front. In it Max wrote down the names of the animals that he was pet sitting and notes about their care. Max kept his notebook buried in his sock drawer. It was a simple but safe hiding place. Alice, his bossy big sister, was always nosing into his business. But she wouldn't dream of touching his socks--not for anything!
Max shoved the notebook and a pencil in his pocket and then ran downstairs to the backyard. Alice had gone outside to practice her dance moves; her legs were everywhere and her bottom was sticking up in the air. Max couldn't help himself. It was time to get Alice back for telling on him yesterday when he accidentally glued the TV remote control to the living-room carpet.
Max gave her bottom a small shove and then ran as Alice toppled headfirst into the snapdragons.
"Max!" she shrieked. "I'll get you for that!"
"You'll have to catch me first," said Max, running into the shed. He was on his bike and cycling through the yard before Alice was back on her feet.
"What is going on?" asked Mom, coming out of the back door. "Why is Alice sitting in the flowers?"
"Maybe she thinks they'll make her smell nicer," Max said and chuckled. "I"m going out. I have another job."
"Not so fast, young man. Where and who?"
"Aw, Mom!" Max said as he stopped a safe distance from Alice, who was mouthing threats at him. "Sandy Road, number thirty-six. Ivor Gadget wants me to take care of his dormouse."
"A dormouse!" exclaimed Mom. "I've never heard of keeping a pet dormouse. Oh well, have fun and be back by dinnertime."
"I will," said Max. "Thanks, Mom. Bye, Alice."
He waved at his sister. It felt good to get the better of her for a change!
Sandy Road wasn't far, and as Max pedaled along, he tried to imagine what type of person kept a dormouse. They weren't exactly challenging animals. From what Max could remember, dormice were nocturnal and spent up to three fourths of their life asleep.
"I bet Ivor Gadget is ancient," Max said, panting. "That's why he has a dormouse. He'll be an old man with gray hair and wrinkles."
Max turned the corner of Sandy Road and looked at the numbers on the houses. The evens were on his left-hand side, and he counted them out.
"Thirty . . . thirty-two . . . thirty-four . . . There it is!"
Number 36 was slightly different from the other houses. Instead of having a small brick wall in front, the front yard was surrounded by a high fence. Max parked his bike and looked for a gate, but there wasn't one. The fence stretched out in an unbroken line around the entire house. So, how did he get in? Carefully, Max studied the fence. It was very high, but he was good at climbing. Max thought that if he stood on the nextdoor neighbor's brick wall, he could easily climb over. Max spat on his hands and then wiped them on his shorts to give himself a better grip. He scrambled onto the brick wall, but as he reached up to the fence, he heard a sharp click followed by a whirring noise. Looking up, Max saw a small camera on the corner of Ivor's roof, trained on him.
"Name?" asked a metallic voice.
Suspiciously, Max stared at the camera. Was this a joke?
"Name?" repeated the voice impatiently.
"Max. Max Barker, the pet sitter."
"Welcome, Max Barker."
There was an even louder click, and a gate well hidden in the fence swung open.
Max stared in amazement. "Cool!" he said.
"Hurry up," said the camera angrily.
"I don't have all day."
"Neither do I!" Max said as he grabbed his bicycle and pushed it through the gate.
He was barely inside when the gate slammed shut and a second camera, mounted above the front door, focused its lens on him.
"Name?" said the camera in a squeaky metallic voice."
"No name, no entry."
Max Barker. I'm here to pet sit. I thought this was an emergency!"
The front door opened so suddenly that Max almost fell inside.
"It is. Don't mind the cameras. They're a little too enthusiastic at times. I'm Ivor. Thanks for coming so quickly."
"Oh!" exclaimed Max, staring up.
Ivor Gadget was not the wrinkled old man that Max had imagined. He was young and tall and had long brown hair loosely tied in a ponytail. Ivor glanced around and then quickly pulled Max inside, slamming the dorr behind him.
"Sorry about the security. I'm an inventor, if you hadn't already guessed. You wouldn't believe the trouble I've had with people trying to steal my ideas. But enough about me. Come and meet Dixie. You're gonig to love her!"