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A WORLD AWAY
THERE ARE PLACES where you want to go and places where you want to leave. There are also places where you want to stay. Sometimes you have no choice in the matter. This was the case for a boy named Daniel, who was moving to a street called While-a-Way Lane.
Daniel was trying to pack, but how do you pack when you don’t want to leave?
Only some of his stuff was going to their new house because his mother said it was a lot smaller. A cottage, she called it. All week, Daniel tried to pick his favorite things. He started with his rock collection, dumping it into a box. Then he tossed in his slingshot and his skateboard. He packed the only book worth reading, Peter Pan.
The stuffed animals lay crammed in the back of the closet. He’d grown too old for them. One at a time, he threw them across the room, aiming for the donation box. Maybe this wouldn’t be hard after all. Then he came to Snappy, his stuffed snail. His parents had thought it was funny how he named a snail “Snappy,” since snails aren’t known to move at a quick pace. But he had been a little kid. How was he supposed to know?
He’d received Snappy on his fourth birthday, the same day his parents moved him to the big bedroom with the four-poster bed down the hall.
Five years ago the room had seemed so far away from his old room, and the bed had seemed huge. He’d wondered if a dragon could be hiding underneath it.
Snappy made him feel safer. Daniel liked rubbing his cheek against the soft shell. It felt like velvet. The first night he’d whispered into Snappy’s antennas, “I’m scared.” Snappy had seemed to understand, letting Daniel hold him tight against his chest.
He stroked the now-faded shell and took a big sniff of the familiar mustiness. Maybe he could use Snappy for a pillow. No, he wasn’t a little kid anymore. He threw Snappy across the room and watched him disappear into the donation box.
Daniel took time wrapping his sailboat with Bubble Wrap. His dad had purchased the boat on a business trip in Paris, where he said people sailed those remote-controlled toys in the park ponds. He’d promised Daniel one day they would find a nearby pond and try it out.
Now everything had changed.
His dad wasn’t going with them to While-a-Way Lane. Last week he moved into a condo downtown. Before his dad walked through their front door for the last time, Daniel asked if they’d still sail the boat together. His dad told him they would, that living apart wouldn’t be much different. But each day that passed felt stranger.
If his mother weren’t making him move to While-a-Way Lane, he wouldn’t have to decide what to take and leave behind. He could stay in his home. He wouldn’t have to leave behind their staircase with the handrail he slid down every morning for breakfast, and the tall tree he could climb to the very top, where he yelled, “I’m the Champ!”
Why did she have to change it all?
He wouldn’t have to say goodbye to his friends.
Or his dad.
His mother said While-a-Way Lane was a peaceful street where you could hear the birds chirp. That sounded boring. Daniel loved the noises outside his window—the whining sirens of the fire engines and police cars, the garbage truck’s loud moan, the passenger train’s whistle. Those sounds made him think adventures were happening all around him. He didn’t care about birds chirping. Maybe he didn’t even like birds.
While-a-Way Lane may have only been across the county, but to Daniel it was a world away.
SOME OF THE THINGS that Tilda Butter loved about living on While-a-Way Lane were the sounds—the birds chirping from oak trees, the leaves rustling on windy days, even the ping-panging of Agatha Brown’s piano students across the street. The sounds reminded her that While-a-Way Lane was the very best place to live.
Tilda didn’t always feel that way about While-a-Way Lane. She remembered the day years ago when she was seven years old and her parents dropped her off at this very house to stay with Aunt Sippy. She watched them walk away toward the train station at the edge of town, her father in his black cape, her mother in her fur wrap. It wasn’t even cold outside that day.
They were only supposed to be gone for the summer while they toured the country in their opera starring roles. But the show had been a great success and the limited run had turned into a year. Then a decade. Then another, and a few more. For all Tilda knew, her parents could still be taking curtain calls. She hadn’t seen or heard from them in so long, not even on her birthdays. And there had been many, so many that she didn’t bother to put candles on the cake anymore for fear that it might catch fire.
Aunt Sippy loved Tilda, though, and when she died, she left Tilda her home. This yellow cottage on While-a-Way Lane was the only home Tilda cared to remember.
The morning her new neighbors were heading to While-a-Way Lane, Tilda had bundles of things to do. She needed to tidy the garden, wash the dishes (there were always dishes in the sink), and do the laundry (piles were always waiting). She hated housework and had no problem avoiding it. She considered it one of the best privileges of being a grown-up and living alone.
Tilda decided to have a sit in her favorite chair for a few minutes. She should have known better because whenever Tilda settled in her favorite chair, her dog, Fred, took advantage of an irresistible opportunity. A lap.
Fred loved Tilda’s lap. It was soft and cushy. And her belly had a little roll around the middle that formed a pillow perfect for resting against.
There was only one problem.
Fred was not a lapdog. He was a big dog. Or to put it more exactly, he was a big dog who thought he was a lapdog.
“Oh, Freddie boy, not today.”
Fred wiggled and circled atop Tilda’s lap, searching for just the right direction to face.
Text copyright © 2019 by Kimberly Willis Holt
Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Jonathan Bean