The Johnson Family’s Homeschool Adventures: Season One

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Image from Pexels by photographer Binyamin Mellish.

This family-friendly series narrates the life and adventures of a super-powered homeschool family of eight in the fictional suburbs of Sunnyville, Virginia. Season One follows the Johnson family as they move to a new neighborhood and attempt to blend in with the local homeschool community. They soon discover that fitting in is never easy when you have superpowers.

With six episodes in the pilot season, The Johnson Family’s Homeschool Adventures: Season One will launch as a short story serial on April 16, 2018.

 

Episode Two

The Garage Sale

It was a bright, spring morning, and Mrs. Johnson was hosting a garage sale. People were already arriving and parking their cars along the street, eager to see what was for sale. Only, nothing was for sale—everything was free. The Johnsons had finally managed to sell their house, and would be moving within the week. Despite numerous trips to Goodwill and the local dump, Mrs. Johnson concluded that they still had way too many things, and decided to be generous and give the extras away. This generosity did not sit well with the Johnson children, and they squirreled away whatever precious possessions they could. Mrs. Johnson, with her binocular vision, eventually found their hiding places and forced them, once and for all, to choose what they wanted to keep. The rest would be given away, period. So, with heavy hearts and accusatory glances in their mother’s direction, the Johnson children said goodbye to favorite objects from their childhood, and kept only what was most valuable to them. It wasn’t until the morning of the garage sale that the children learned their mother had not kept her end of the bargain.

“Where’s my drum set?”

“Where’s Piggly?”

“Where’s my skateboard?”

“Where’s my crochet kit?”

“Where’s my bike?”

Alice, Eric, Jerathan, Andrea, and Sylvia gathered—pajamaed, bleary-eyed, and angry—into the sunlit kitchen. Randy was still upstairs, sleeping, and probably wouldn’t wake until afternoon. The boy slept like the dead.

“Piggly is missing,” Eric groaned, pacing back-and-forth. His siblings shared a glance. Piggly was the name of Eric’s most closely guarded possession: a stuffed animal that was a weird cross between a pig and a bear, with beady black eyes and dirty peach-colored fur. The stuffed animal was a first birthday gift from Grandmother Johnson. Sixteen years later, Eric had never once parted with it.

“Piggly is just a toy, Eric. Get over it,” Alice said, rolling her eyes.

Eric rounded on her. “Don’t you dare call Piggly just a toy.”

“Right. Whatever. What’s important is that my drum set is missing, and I know I didn’t put it in Mom’s let’s-get-rid-of-everything pile.”

For the second time that morning, the siblings exchanged a glance.

“Wasn’t there a hole the size of the Grand Canyon in it or something?” Jerathan asked, downing a glass of milk and leaving a white mustache in its place. Alice’s eyes narrowed at the reminder, and Andrea and Sylvia hid behind Eric.

“If two little somebodies hadn’t been messing around with it, then it wouldn’t have had a hole,” she growled. “Anyway, I was planning to sell it online.”

Alice huffed, folded her arms savagely across her chest, and leaned disconsolately against the refrigerator, making it impossible for Jerathan to put away the milk jar. He ended up standing awkwardly to the side, cradling the large glass jar in his arms like a baby, trying, and failing, to get his sister’s attention simply by standing there. With her pressed hair, flopped messily over one eye—leaving the other glowering and uncovered—sagging pajama pants, and trailing bathrobe, Alice was the perfect image of a moody teenager.

Jerathan shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other and made clearing sounds in his throat until Alice whirled on him, eye wide. “What?”

“Can I put away the milk? It’s getting kind of heavy.”

Alice sighed impatiently and stepped exaggeratedly away from the refrigerator.

“My bike is missing, too,” Sylvia whined, taken up by her older siblings’ passionate complaints.

“You mean the pink tricycle with the glittery handlebars and the animated fairytale princesses stamped onto the seat?” Eric said. “Don’t your knees come up to your ears when you ride that thing?”

“So? It’s no different from Piggly, a toy you got when you were a baby. I got my bike when I was…” Sylvia counted for a distressingly long time on her fingers, her siblings watching in despair, until her large, brown eyes lit up with the numerical answer. “Three!”

“Which is still a baby,” Alice muttered, at the same time Eric said, “Don’t bring Piggly into this conversation.”

“Why are we fighting over whose things are more important?” Andrea said. “I’m missing my crochet kit, which cost over seventy-five dollars.” At her siblings’ incredulous looks, she added quickly, “It had angora yarn in it,” as if that explained matters.

“What we really need to be focusing on is how to get everything back,” Jerathan said, breaking the silence that had descended over the kitchen.

“Chill people.” Randy’s voice startled them all. The siblings turned in unison as he shuffled, yawning, into the kitchen. Alice glanced at the clock on the microwave, surprised to find that it wasn’t yet ten in the morning.

“What are you doing up so early?”

“Y’all woke me up with all y’all complaints,” he said, yanking the refrigerator door open.

“Nothing wakes you up unless you want it to,” Eric pointed out.

Randy shrugged and retrieved a carton of apple juice. His siblings watched in horror as he drank shamelessly from it, throat jumping with each gulp. When he was done, he tossed the empty carton back into the fridge and wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve. “What’s up?”

“Mom is giving away the stuff we wanted to keep,” Jerathan explained. “You better check your things, Randy, to make sure she isn’t planning to get rid of anything important.”

“I’m good, bro, but the rest of you are gonna need to chill,” Randy said. “It’s too late.”

“What do you mean it’s too late?” Eric said, gripping Randy’s sleeve before his brother could leave the kitchen.

“Saturday. Garage sale. Ring any bells?”

Alice’s jaw dropped. “Mom’s hosting a garage sell today?”

“Don’t tell me y’all didn’t know,” Randy said, raising his eyebrows.

“But you did, and you didn’t tell us?” Eric said, his voice rising in pitch.

“Am I my siblings’ keeper?”

“I knew she was going to host a garage sale,” Alice interjected, “but I thought it was going to be later this week.”

The siblings raced toward the front window in the living room. The driveway was obscured by old furniture, folding tables covered over in kitchenware and other household items, and boxes of toys. Among them were Alice’s drum set; Eric’s stuffed animal, Piggly; Jerathan’s skateboard; Andrea’s crochet kit; and Sylvia’s tricycle. Worst of all, there was a large For Sale sign staked into the front yard. Except the words “for sale” were crossed out. Written underneath, in red permanent marker, was the word “free.” People were already milling about, examining the furniture and household goods.

“What are we going to do?” Andrea wailed.

“There’s only one thing we can do,” Alice said. “Use our superpowers.”

“We’re not supposed to!” Jerathan protested.

“You want your skateboard back, don’t you?”

“It’s actually an electric Razor RipStik Caster Board.”

Alice huffed, sending a lock hair out of her face. “Even better reason to use our superpowers to get it back. Right?”

“We have to hurry. People are taking things right and left,” Eric said.

The siblings glanced back out the window. Alice growled at the sight of a man examining her drum set with genuine interest. A woman with a baby in a stroller was standing beside a box of toys. To Eric’s horror, the baby had noticed Piggly, and was reaching toward it with grasping, shining fingers. Jerathan noticed a man and his teenage son talking about his skateboard. To Andrea’s dismay, an elderly woman pawed through the contents of her crochet kit. To Sylvia’s rage, a toddler pedaled around the driveway on her tricycle.

“Got any ideas?” Eric said desperately, watching as the mother pushed her baby’s stroller closer to the box of toys—and Piggly, perched on top.

“Okay, here’s what we’ll do,” Alice said. Her siblings gathered around in a circle. “Eric, Jerathan, you two will create a distraction. Eric, do your super creepy but effective voice projection thing. Jerathan, there’re plenty of flies, bees, and ants outside for you to manipulate and ward people off.”

Even with his dark skin, Jerathan paled. He bit his lower lip, and blinked rapidly. “B-but I c-can’t,” he stammered. It was true that he had the power to control the minds of a variety of insects and spiders. Unfortunately, it didn’t help that he was absolutely terrified of anything that crawled on six or eight legs. Worse, his emotions seemed to have an influence over the creatures. If he was scared, and there was a swarm of honeybees nearby, they would also be scared. And there was nothing worse than a swarm of scared, defensive bees. It made controlling his power nearly impossible, despite his parents’ assurances that one day he would master it. Jerathan didn’t think that would happen anytime soon.

Alice crossed her arms. “Yes, you can. This is an emergency. You need to stop being afraid all the time.”

“Easy for you to say,” Jerathan grumbled. “Fine. I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t make any promises.”

Alice nodded and turned toward the elder of her two sisters. “Andrea, I’ll create a sound bubble and encase you in it. You’ll turn invisible, go outside, and get our things, one by one. Mom won’t be able to see or hear you.”

Andrea’s eyes widened. “Me? You know I can’t make my clothes invisible!”

“Which is why you won’t wear them,” Alice said calmly.

“What? No!” Andrea shook her head and backed away. “You’re asking too much, Alice. Besides, you know what happens when I get nervous and lose concentration. I become visible again! Just imagine if that happens outside, in front of all those people. In front of Momma.”

“Yeah, she’ll ground Andrea for a week, maybe two,” Jerathan said. “Although it’s more likely she’ll ground the whole lot of us.”

“Andrea, your superpower is our only option,” Alice said, her voice softening. She bent down until she was at eye level with her sister. “Out of all of us, you’re the best equipped to slip in and out unnoticed. I know what I’m asking you to do is risky, and scary, but I know you can do it.”

Andrea bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling. Then her face hardened, and she gave a brusque nod. “Okay. I’ll do it. Wait here a moment.”

Jerathan stared at Alice, his face scrunched up in confusion. “How is it that you always get what you want?”

Alice raised her eyebrows. “You tell me.”

“Well, you can be bossy sometimes, and mean. You can even punish us if you think we deserve it, which you probably do all the time. When I was younger, I overheard Mom and Dad saying that you could spank me, Andrea, and Sylvia if we were bad.”

Alice winked her single, uncovered eye. “Congratulations. You answered your own question.”

“You can’t spank me,” Jerathan protested. “I’m thirteen!”

The only indication the siblings had of Andrea’s return was her disembodied voice. “What happens if I get scared and lose concentration?” she said, her voice small and wobbly.

“If you do, our mission will fail, and everything will be a complete disaster,” Eric said. “So, don’t get scared and lose concentration.” His palms were sweaty, and his eyes were glued to the front window. Outside, the mother had lifted her baby out of its stroller. She bounced it in her arms as she spoke with Mrs. Johnson. The baby reached over its mother’s shoulder, filthy hands mere inches away from one of Piggly’s lopsided ears.

Sylvia stared at the empty space occupied by Andrea. “What does it feel like to walk around the house with no clothes on?”

“Sylvia, please,” Eric said, rolling his eyes. “Spare us your annoying, seven-year-old curiosity, just this once.”

“Is everybody ready?” Alice asked, looking at each of her siblings.

Eric and Jerathan gulped and nodded. Invisible Andrea made a small whimpering sound in the back of her throat.

Alice closed her eyes and made fluid motions with her hands and arms. “Where are you, Andrea?”

“Right here, by the front door.”

Alice opened her eyes and concentrated on the area where Andrea’s voice had originated. She launched the sound bubble in her sister’s direction. There was a small cry, and then silence.

“Say something,” Alice said, eager to test her handiwork. There was complete silence, and Alice nodded in satisfaction. “It’s time.”

The brass knob of the front door turned slowly, and the door itself opened a crack. The siblings knew it was only Andrea, preparing to go outside; even so, it was unnerving to watch.

Eric opened the front window, allowing the voices of the people outside to float into the living room. He listened to each voice, memorizing them and matching them to individuals. He focused on a middle-aged, potbellied man with a gray-and-white beard. The man wore a large, white t-shirt, beige shorts, sandals, and a straw hat. He filled his arms with various kitchen appliances, and stood behind Mrs. Johnson, who sat in a lawn chair. Eric dug deep into his memory and recalled the man’s voice. Then he started to speak in a perfect replication of it, projecting the sound in the man’s direction until it was like, for all intent and purposes, the man himself were speaking.

“Excuse me, ma’am, can you help me?”

As expected, Mrs. Johnson set her Amish romance novel aside and faced the man, her back to the table that contained Piggly and Andrea’s crochet kit. “Yes, of course.”

The man startled and looked at her in confusion, but Mrs. Johnson had already gotten up and was making her way toward him, eyebrows raised, an expectant smile on her lips.

“Go, go, go!” Alice whispered as loudly as she could. The front door opened wider as Andrea slipped outside.

Jerathan gave Eric a high five. “That was awesome!”

“Thanks,” Eric said, grinning toothily. His smile quickly vanished when he saw that Andrea was going for her crochet kit first, instead of Piggly. The old woman who’d been rifling through the kit’s contents earlier that morning had apparently decided to take it. It rested on top of a recipe box and flower vase balanced in the woman’s arms. Without hesitation, Andrea plucked the kit out of the startled woman’s arms and bolted for the house. Only, to anyone else, the crochet kit appeared to be floating in midair. The woman was the only one to notice it. Her mouth gaped open, and she pointed after it with a trembling finger.

By the time Mrs. Johnson realized the man in the straw hat didn’t, in fact, need her help, Andrea burst inside the house. She collapsed onto the floor, gasping for breath. “I…did it…I…got my crochet kit!”

“Yeah, but that old woman saw everything. You should’ve gotten Piggly first,” Eric said fiercely. The kids instinctively bent down onto the floor to hide.

“If I had gotten Piggly first, that lady would have walked off with my crochet kit!” Andrea said indignantly.

“Uh oh. I think we’ve been discovered,” Jerathan said.

The kids peeked cautiously out the window. The old woman had stumbled toward Mrs. Johnson and was pointing toward the house. It wasn’t difficult to make out their conversation. Mrs. Johnson glanced over at the front window, her expression darkening as she connected the dots.

“Get down!” Alice said. Her siblings followed suit. They crouched on the floor for several, heart hammering minutes. “We are so dead,” Alice whispered.

By the time they gathered enough courage to peek out the window again, Mrs. Johnson was leading the distraught old woman to her car, apologizing profusely. The woman had an elegant, glass lamp in her arms to make up for the runaway crochet kit.

Jerathan blew out his cheeks. “Mom probably convinced the woman she didn’t see what she saw, but she knows now. Mom, I mean. We’re definitely going to get it later.”

“Piggly!” Eric shrieked, startling them all.

“Quiet down, will you?” Alice said through gritted teeth. “Did you forget that Mom has exceptional hearing?”

“Piggly is being—eaten!”

The kids glanced out the window again. The baby had gotten its hands on Piggly at last, and was currently gnawing on one of the stuffed animal’s ears.

“Andrea, do you think you can save him?”

“I’ll try,” Andrea said.

This time, she sneaked outside without Eric creating a distraction. Mrs. Johnson was no doubt on the lookout now. Alice, Eric, Jerathan, and Sylvia scanned the front yard, waiting to see what Andrea would do next. Sylvia was the first to see Jerathan’s skateboard roll undetected under a nearby table, leaving the kid who was planning on taking it home scratching his head in confusion, searching around on the ground. Andrea’s next move was to wrestle Piggly out of the baby’s hands. It’s mother’s back was turned, and didn’t notice as her baby struggled to hold onto its newfound toy from an unseen force. Andrea managed to tear Piggly away from the baby. It started up a fuss, kicking and screaming and crying. People looked toward the mother and her crazed child with interest. Andrea used the distraction to grab Jerathan’s skateboard and sprint toward the house. She burst inside, dropping the items on the floor.

“Thank you thank you thank you,” Jerathan said, dropping to his knees, picking up his skateboard, and hugging it to his chest.

Eric snatched up Piggly, only to drop him again in horror and disgust. “Why is Piggly so wet?”

“The baby was chewing on it, in case you hadn’t noticed,” Andrea said, hardly able to get the words out as she struggled for breath.

“I noticed, but I thought the baby was only chewing on one of Piggly’s ears, not his entire body!”

Outside, the mother had managed to calm her baby down. Tears streaked down its plump cheeks, and it reached toward the Johnson’s house with desperation. The mother said something to Mrs. Johnson, then quickly wheeled the baby stroller’s around and pushed it towards their minivan.

“Three items down, two to go,” Alice said. She was disappointed to find that the man who’d been inspecting her drum set was getting ready to move it. “Andrea can’t move the drum set all by herself. One of us is going to have to help her. Sylvia, do you think you can electrify the metal on it?”

Sylvia’s eyes lit up with anticipation. It was rare that she got to use her superpowers, and even rarer for her older siblings to approve of it. She nodded eagerly, curls bouncing in her face.

“Okay, just go outside and act natural. Go toward the drum set and—”

“I know what to do,” Sylvia interrupted, pouting. “What about my bike?”

“You can electrify that too.”

“If the drum set and bike are electrified, I won’t be able to touch them,” Andrea said.

“The drum set is already too big for you to move, anyway. We’re going to have to move it later, after the garage sale. For now, all we need to do is keep people from touching it. The same thing goes for the bike,” Alice said.

Andrea took a deep breath. “Okay, but I don’t know about this.”

“You’re doing great, Andrea,” Jerathan said. “High five!”

Since Andrea was invisible, giving her a high five proved to be nearly impossible. Alice, Eric, and Sylvia watched as, for several seconds, Jerathan and Andrea failed to find each other’s hands for a proper high five—Alice impatient, Eric horrified, and Sylvia giggling.

Jerathan got lucky the fourth time around, and there was a resounding slap. Andrea cried out in pain. “Ouch! That was my face!”

Jerathan grimaced. “Sorry, An, I didn’t mean to do that.”

“That’s enough failed high fives,” Alice said. Outside, the man interested in the drum set was backing up his pickup truck to better load the equipment into the bed. “If we’re going to act, we have to act now. Andrea, Sylvia, are you ready?”

The girls agreed and slipped outside. Sylvia slunk toward the drum set out of her mother’s line of sight. To anyone else, she was a little girl seemingly browsing the boxes of free toys. When she determined the coast was clear, Sylvia sprinted toward the drum set, her long, skinny legs crossing the few feet between her and it in a matter of seconds. All it took was a single touch, and the electricity crackling through her veins transferred to the shiny, silver metal of the drum set.

“Hello there,” a voice said above her. Sylvia glanced up, eyes wide, into the smiling, oval face of the man. He’d gotten out of his truck without her even noticing. Black sunglasses were perched on top of his head. “Sorry, kiddo, this item’s taken,” he said apologetically.

“I was just looking at it,” Sylvia said shyly, hands clasped behind her back. Then she turned and ran. Andrea, meanwhile, had managed to steer Sylvia’s bike away from the crowd of people. Sylvia electrocuted the metal on it for good measure, and hurried with Andrea back to the house. She looked over her shoulder just in time to see the toddler who’d been riding it earlier running eagerly toward it. The child touched the bike, and then screamed, backing away from it. The child’s father rushed toward her as she burst into tears. When he reached toward the bike, presumably to take it home, the toddler shook her head vehemently and cried, “I don’t want it anymore, Daddy! I don’t want it!” Sylvia grinned, and continued running toward the house.

“The bike and the drum set are safe for now,” Andrea gasped once they were inside.

“Good work,” Alice said.

“I still can’t believe Mom didn’t detect you just now,” Eric said to Sylvia. She was sprawled on the floor, grinning madly, exhilarated from the mission.

“Mom’s too distracted,” Alice said. “There are people and noises everywhere. Her senses are probably overloaded. She most likely dulled them down to handle everything.”

“Alice, the drum set…” Jerathan pointed out the window, where the man, having inconveniently put on gloves, was moving it inch by inch toward the bed of his truck.

“Why isn’t he getting shocked?” Sylvia whined.

“He’s wearing gloves, and not touching the metal with his bare skin. Electricity can’t move through certain objects and materials,” Jerathan explained. Out of all the Johnson children, he was the only one who genuinely enjoyed his homeschool science classes. Alice and Eric preferred music lessons; Randy sports; Andrea crafts; and Sylvia—freedom.

“Thanks for the science lesson, Jerathan, but it’s not going to get my drum set back,” Alice said. “We need to create another distraction. Eric?”

“I’ve already used my power to create a distraction. Mom will notice.”

Both twins looked at Jerathan. “No way,” he said. “You all really want me to use my superpower?”

Alice struggled to contain her impatience. “You agreed to. Remember? Besides, we’ve all contributed.”

Jerathan glanced outside, a pained expression on his face. “I can’t. I want to—I really do. But I just can’t. The insects don’t listen to me. It’ll be a complete disaster. I’ll probably end up turning them on us.”

“That’s because you haven’t properly learned to harness your power,” Alice said. “Maybe now is the time.”

“You can do it, Jerathan. I believe in you,” Andrea said, taking his hand and looking up into his face. Jerathan opened his mouth to protest when Sylvia appeared, dragging Randy, still half asleep, behind her.

“Randy said he’d help,” she announced. “He’s going to use his powers of magnetism.”

Alice’s face lit up. “That’s a brilliant idea. Why didn’t I think of it before? Randy, do you think you can?”

“I shouldn’t,” Randy mumbled, rubbing the sleep from his eyes with a fist. “I have nothing of value out there. What’s in it for me, anyway?”

“Respect,” Alice said. “Let’s go to the backyard. It’ll be easier for you to use your power outside.”

The siblings scrambled to the backyard. From their vantage point, they could see the front lawn and the garage sale. To Alice’s disappointment, the man had successfully loaded her drum set into the back of his truck and was preparing to drive away.

“Randy! Don’t let him get away!” Sylvia said.

Randy rolled his eyes, and then focused on the withdrawing truck. He opened his hands and directed them in the truck’s direction. It was difficult to see from so far away, but the drum set began to rattle from side to side. Randy’s face twisted with the effort, and he bit his lip. “Why isn’t it moving more?”

“I think it’s tied down by bungie cords,” Andrea said.

Randy strengthened his magnetic field tenfold, his eyes blazing with concentration. The drum set flew toward the truck’s tail gate, snapping the bungie cords holding it in place. The truck’s break lights came on as the man slowed down, no doubt wondering what was happening.

Randy jerked his hands back as if summoning the drum set toward him. It obeyed, and flew straight out of the back of the truck. It crashed down onto the street, causing Alice to wince, and rolled laboriously toward them, drawn by the strength and power of Randy’s magnetized hands.

Alice’s drum set rolled clumsily across the street, across the lawn, and finally slammed into the backyard fence. The siblings cried out in unison and fell back from the impact. Randy lowered his arms and wiped the sweat from his brow. “You got your drum back,” he said. Alice blinked at him in amazement. Randy didn’t often use his superpowers so openly; when he did, it was a sight to behold.

“You got it back pretty roughly, though,” Eric said, always one to criticize where Randy was concerned. “What if you broke something?”

Randy shrugged. “Ain’t my problem. I just did what y’all wanted me to do. Now I’m going back to bed and—”

“Alice, Eric, Randy, Jerathan, Andrea, Sylvia! Stop right there!” Mrs. Johnson’s voice froze Randy in his tracks—froze them all to their very core. They watched, horrified, as their mother stormed across the grass toward them, her hair a furious bush around her head.

“Wait. How is Mom able to see Andrea?” Alice asked.

“That’s a good question,” Eric muttered.

They turned, and there Andrea stood, visible again.

Randy whistled loud and long. “Nice birthday suit, Andrea.”

“Hey, stop it!” she cried, trying in vain to hide.

Mrs. Johnson descended upon them. “What do you all think you’re doing?” she demanded in a fierce whisper. Strangers from the garage sale were looking curiously in their direction. Mrs. Johnson’s eyes traveled over to Andrea, and widened in shock. “Andrea Kendra Johnson. What are you doing out here like that? Go inside right now and put on your clothes!” She rounded on the rest of her children as Andrea scurried gratefully away. “Do you know how many people saw that drum set fly out of the back of that man’s truck?”

“Awesome! How many?” Randy said. When he did use his superpowers, he liked to have an audience.

Mrs. Johnson gave him a ferocious look, and he shrugged and looked exaggeratedly toward the heavens. “What’s the first rule of our family?”

“Keep the superpowers within the family,” the kids repeated in unison, Jerathan’s voice raised above the rest.

“I tried to tell them, Mom,” he said earnestly.

“What you should’ve done was come to me, Jerathan,” Mrs. Johnson said. He hung his head, chagrined. “Now, I want you all to explain to me exactly why you’re using your superpowers out in the open.”

“You’re giving away the stuff we wanted to keep,” Alice said, barely able to contain the anger in her voice. “You told us to put our important things in one pile to keep. Instead, you’re hosting a garage sale and giving everything away.”

Mrs. Johnson stared at her daughter in confusion for a moment, and then realization dawned on her face. “I suspected it was a mix up. When I saw your things in the left pile…what I meant to say was that you should put the things you wanted to keep in the right pile. I was going to wake you up early this morning to ask, but thought better of it. I should’ve gone with my gut instinct.”

“You mean, you weren’t going to just give our stuff away?” Alice asked.

Mrs. Johnson pursed her lips and folded her arms. “Yes. It was a complete misunderstanding. Still, you children should’ve come to me first and let me know instead of resorting to your superpowers. Never resort to your superpowers unless you absolutely need to. Do you understand?”

The kids nodded, thinking about how much easier it would’ve been if they’d simply informed their mother of her mistake.

Jerathan was frowning deeply. He scratched the side of his head. “But I thought I put my skateboard in the right pile to begin with. Not the left one.”

“Learn to distinguish between your left and right, bro,” Randy said.

“What I should’ve done was label each pile. I completely forgot.” Mrs. Johnson rubbed her temples. “This ordeal isn’t over. People are going to wonder about what they saw today. I guess that means it’s the end of the garage sale.”

“Hey, excuse me,” a man said from behind them. Mrs. Johnson turned and faced the guy who’d attempted to drive away with Alice’s drum set. He jogged over, looking both confused and relieved. “The drum set here flew out of the back of my truck while I was driving away. I hope it didn’t damage your fence.”

“No, it’s quite alright,” Mrs. Johnson said, giving him a tight smile.

“It must’ve been the wind, although it’s not windy out,” the man said, looking curiously at the clear, cloudless sky. “Actually, I know what it was. The bungie cords I used to secure the drum came loose, and I must’ve not closed the truck’s tailgate all the way, or else it wouldn’t have broken through.”

The kids exchanged amused looks. It was hilarious when outsiders came up with all sorts of excuses to explain the phenomena they witnessed.

“In any case,” the man said, “I’ve come to get my drum back.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Mrs. Johnson said, laying her hand protectively on the side of the drum set. “Having the drum set out was a mistake. Our family means to keep it. I’m terribly sorry for any inconvenience. At least you didn’t pay for it!”

“Oh, no, that’s perfectly fine,” the man said, his expression saying the opposite. Shoulders slumped in dejection, he ambled back to his truck.

“Well, that’s that,” Mrs. Johnson said briskly. “Gather up your things. I’ll have to announce the end of the garage sale. Your father and I will just have to take the rest of the stuff to Goodwill and the dump. I’m not too keen on having any more visitors here. We definitely need to move; we’ve built up enough of a reputation as it is,” she muttered, walking back around to the front of the house.

Once their mother was out of sight, the kids breathed sighs of relief.

“Glad that’s over, and we still have our stuff,” Jerathan said.

“Yes, but Piggly’s ruined,” Eric mumbled.

“Throw him in the washer,” Alice said over her shoulder.

“How dare you be so cruel toward Piggly?” Eric countered, following her.

The Johnson children went back inside the house, arguing all the while.

 

Episode One

There’s A Bird in the House

It was a rainy April afternoon, and the Johnson children were alone at home. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson had gone on an errand, and had left their two eldest children, Alice and Eric, in charge.

The six siblings were scattered about the three floors of the house. Alice hogged the single bathroom upstairs, straightening her hair with a mad chemist’s selection of hair gels and heating instruments, and denying all entrance as if it were her divine right. Downstairs in the basement, Eric sat hunched over his laptop, simultaneously playing an online RPG and watching videos on a website called Funneh that made him howl with laughter every few seconds.

It was more than fair to say that the twins were not watching over their younger siblings. If they had been, they would’ve noticed that Randy, Jerathan, Andrea, and Sylvia weren’t studiously doing their schoolwork.

Randy was in the backyard, dribbling his soccer ball despite the misty rain and dangerously slick lawn. Jerathan was in the living room, reading a poem to his two younger sisters, Andrea and Sylvia. The girls listened with rapt attention, their faces contorted into frightened expressions, as Jerathan narrated Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven with dramatic flair:

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

‘’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door—

Only this, and nothing more.’

 

Jerathan paused and gently tapped his fingers against the wall behind him, grinning as his sisters shrank farther into the corners of their makeshift cave. The cave was built from the dozens of moving boxes scattered over the living room. A heavy, dark blanket was stretched across the top, making the space pitch black inside. The only light came from the dim flashlight Jerathan used to read the poem by. He continued to read each stanza like a bard onstage until he came to the very last:

 

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted—nevermore!

 

Jerathan switched off the flashlight, relishing his sisters’ frightened squeals. Silence reigned for a few, glorious seconds. Then the youngest, Sylvia—whose ears could still pick up the elusive squeak of bats in summer—said in a querulous voice, “What’s that sound?” The grin froze on Jerathan’s face, and his fingers fumbled with the flashlight.

It wouldn’t come on.

There was a crackling sound, and blue white light—brighter than the butter yellow of the broken flashlight—lit the cardboard box cave. The source of light was a tiny ball of electricity. It hovered inches above Sylvia’s small, cupped palm, revealing her and Andrea’s wide, unblinking stares. Jerathan instinctively flinched away from his sister, who was still too young to have properly mastered control over her powers.

“What sound?” he whispered.

“Yeah, I don’t hear anything,” Andrea said, in a valiant effort to quell her sister’s fears.

But Sylvia was adamant.

“Don’t you hear it? It’s like a scrabbling noise. There it goes again!”

This time, Jerathan and Andrea heard the sound. Indeed, it was a scrabbling and a scratching, as if some sort of creature were raking its claws repeatedly against glass.

“There must be something at the window,” Jerathan said, squeezing out of the makeshift cave. Andrea and Sylvia quickly followed him. They emerged into the larger space of the living room and stood next to their brother—listening, watching, waiting. The scrabbling sound came again, this time from behind them. The children whirled in its direction, three pairs of eyes fruitlessly scanning the windowpanes.

Jerathan inspected each window around the living room, pulling up the shades and peering out into the misty yard. Finding nothing, he faced his sisters and shrugged. “I don’t see anything. Maybe it’s just the rain pattering against the windows—”

His explanation was cut off by the scrabbling sound, now louder than ever. The girls screamed in unison and bolted from the living room. The scrabbling sound continued, and Jerathan stopped and focused on it. His eyes fell upon the woodstove a few feet away. Heart pounding in his throat, Jerathan crept toward it. Andrea and Sylvia, having cautiously returned, hung back, waiting with bated breath.

Jerathan bent slowly into a crouch and leaned forward, squinting into the darkness beyond the stove’s glass door. Something gray, blue, and feathery launched itself at the glass, claws scratching at the surface. Moments later, it retreated into the darkness from whence it came.

“What was that?” Andrea said.

“It looked like a bird,” Jerathan said, scrambling to his feet. “Get me a flashlight!”

Andrea fetched a working flashlight from the kitchen and handed it to her brother. The children crowded around as Jerathan directed the flashlight’s beam into the darkened corners of the woodstove. It wasn’t long before the light revealed a trembling bluebird. The creature pressed itself against the back of the stove, its beady black eyes wide and staring, its tiny chest puffed and heaving. The bird stamped fretfully with its clawed feet. Puffs of ash permeated the stove’s interior, obscuring the bird from sight.

Jerathan, Andrea, and Sylvia jumped when the front door swung open. Randy stepped into the foyer, muddy sneakers staining the white, tiled floor. He held his soccer ball casually under one arm, and paused when he saw his three younger siblings peering intently into the woodstove.

“Okay. What’s going on? Do I even want to know?”

“Randy, there’s a bird in the woodstove! Come and see!” Jerathan said, beckoning him over. Randy sighed loudly, tossed his soccer ball onto the floor—causing it to bounce off the wall and leave a muddy mark—and sauntered over, raincoat swishing. He snatched the flashlight out of Jerathan’s hand and pointed it at the glass. The bluebird fluttered into view, still trying desperately to escape, and cultivating more ash clouds in the process.

“Awesome,” Randy said, once he saw it. “I’m totally here for this.”

“What are we going to do? We can’t just leave it in there,” Andrea said. She tugged absently on one of her barrette-adorned pigtails, a clear sign that she was nervous.

“We could wait until Mommy and Daddy get back,” Sylvia suggested.

“Or better yet, we could text them,” Andrea said.

Jerathan shook his head. “No, it’s best not to get them involved. You know how Mom worries. She’ll think the bird is carrying some horrible disease.”

“Is it?” Andrea backed away from the woodstove.

“No, silly,” Jerathan said, rolling his eyes. “Besides, I’m more than capable of releasing the bird.”

Randy snorted. “Since when?”

“Since now,” Jerathan said, offended by his brother’s skepticism. “I’m going to be an animal rescuer someday. I might as well start early.”

“I think we should at least tell Alice and Eric first,” Andrea said. “They might know what

to do.”

“I guess we can tell Eric,” Jerathan said reluctantly. “Alice is like Mom. She’ll freak out.”

Decision made, Jerathan, Andrea, and Sylvia scrambled downstairs to inform Eric of their feathery visitor, while Randy went in the opposite direction to rummage through the refrigerator for a snack to satiate his constant appetite.

As expected, Eric was none too pleased to discover his siblings up and about.

“Don’t you all have work to do?” he muttered, tearing out his earbuds and lowering the lid of his laptop in a vain attempt to hide the video he’d been watching, entitled Big Mama Busts.

“Don’t you have college applications to fill out?” Sylvia said, sticking out her tongue.

Eric glared around at them, surreptitiously closing out the tab for Funneh and opening one for the Common App. “What do you all want? You look like you’re up to no good.”

“We have a problem upstairs,” Jerathan said, biting his lip. “We were hoping you could

help.”

Eric’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Did you break something? ‘Cause if you did, you’re going to have to own up to it without any help from me.”

“We didn’t break anything. We found something.”

“A bluebird! In the woodstove!” Andrea grabbed Eric’s hand. “Come on!”

“This better not be one of your stupid tricks,” he grumbled.

Eric’s doubts, however, were immediately quashed when he saw the bluebird in the woodstove.

“What the…? How did a bird get in there? How is that even possible?”

“It probably flew down the chimney, looking for shelter from the rain,” Andrea said.

Eric’s face clouded over. “You all want me to get it out, don’t you? I don’t know how to deal with wild animals!”

“Jerathan thinks he can,” Sylvia said.

Eric arched a single eyebrow. “Oh, really? And how do you propose to do that?”

“I’ve got a plan,” Jerathan said. “Fetch me a trash bag and I’ll show you.”

Sylvia ran to the kitchen and returned with a big black trash bag. Jerathan took it and wrapped it around his hand and upper arm. Randy moseyed out of the kitchen and leaned against the doorway, munching casually on an energy bar and looking for all the world as if he were watching a dull baseball game.

“So, what’s the plan?” Sylvia whispered.

Jerathan relayed the plan to his siblings, his voice more confident than he felt. The operation would go thus: Andrea would slowly open the door of the woodstove. Jerathan would reach inside and catch the bird in the trash bag. Sylvia would open the front door, and Jerathan would go outside and release the bird.

The plan sounded good and simple. All they had to do was execute it.

“What if the bird escapes?” Eric said. There was a moment’s pause as the significance of his words sank in. The siblings exchanged hesitant looks.

Jerathan swallowed, his throat jumping nervously. “It won’t.”

***

“Okay, ready?” Jerathan said a few minutes later. Andrea nodded, taking up her position beside the woodstove. “Open the door very slowly.”

Andrea’s brow furrowed as she concentrated on opening the door as carefully as she could. Inch by inch, Jerathan reached his hand through up to his wrist.

“Hey y’all!” Randy shouted, startling them both. Andrea yelped and shut the door of the woodstove, catching Jerathan’s hand in the process. He cried out in pain, wrenching his arm back. Quickly, Andrea widened the gap, and Jerathan snatched his hand out, rocking back and forth and cradling the injured extremity in his lap.

“Sorry, Jerathan! I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Andrea said.

Jerathan glared over at Randy, his eyes watering. “You did that on purpose.”

Randy grinned. “Maybe.”

Eric hit Randy hard on the back. The color of Randy’s skin transformed instantly into silver, and Eric cried out, his eyes watering with pain. Randy laughed at his brother’s mistake. He had the ability to turn his skin into metal, which made hitting him feel like driving your fist into a car.

“This is serious, Randy. No more distractions, okay?” Jerathan said. “Andrea, let’s try again.”

Andrea slowly opened the door of the woodstove. Jerathan reached his arm inside up to his elbow. He felt around the stove, fumbling for the bird, but it kept hopping out of his reach.

“Did you get it?” Andrea asked.

Jerathan grasped something, and his face broke into a grin. “I think so. It feels weird though, like it’s really sharp and bony.”

Jerathan slowly drew his arm out of the woodstove, his siblings gathering eagerly around to see. Only, there wasn’t a bird in his hand at all. Instead, he held a fat piece of charred wood.

“The bird’s loose!” Sylvia cried, pointing at the ceiling.

It was true. The bluebird was loose and flying all over the living room, bumping into the walls and furniture and leaving tiny feathers in its wake.

“Turn off the fan! Turn off the fan!” Andrea cried as the bluebird soared toward the spinning blades of the living room fan.

Eric did just in time.

“Let’s try and steer it outside. Sylvia, open the front door,” Jerathan said.

The kids attempted to steer the bluebird in the right direction, but to their utmost horror, it escaped the living room and flew higher and higher until it disappeared on the second floor of the house.

“Uh oh. Alice,” Randy said, voicing everyone’s fears.

The kids could hear the tinny sound of Alice’s music as she did her hair—and then there was a throaty scream. Alice flew down the stairs in a silk pink bathrobe, shaking her head wildly. One side of her hair was long and straight; the other side remained thick and puffy, held in place by a rubber band. The kids watched her exaggerated descent.

“Oh my God! There’s a wild bird upstairs!” she shrieked. “It bumped into my hair!”

“Yeah, we know about the bird,” Eric said sheepishly.

Alice stared at him in disbelief. “Wait. You knew there was a bird in the house? How long has it been in here?”

“Alice, calm down,” Jerathan said. “Let’s focus on getting it out before Mom and Dad get back.”

“Boy, wouldn’t they be upset to see a bird in the house!” Sylvia exclaimed.

“Okay, so what do we do?” Alice said.

In that moment, the siblings realized that if they were going to be successful, they would have to work together.

“First, we should chase the bird back downstairs and close all the bedroom doors upstairs.

Hopefully it hasn’t gotten into too many rooms,” Andrea said.

“Good idea. I’ll go get a broom,” Alice said, hurrying into the kitchen.

“I’ll hold the front door open,” Sylvia said, running into the foyer.

“Okay. Alice will find the bird and chase it downstairs. Eric, Randy, and Andrea, go upstairs with her and close all the bedroom doors after the bird is found. Sylvia, keep the front door open as Alice chases the bird outside,” Jerathan said.

Everyone nodded, although Randy rolled his eyes and sighed loudly, as if he had been asked to take Sylvia to story time at the library.

***

Alice crept upstairs, the broom held aloft like a weapon. She looked hilarious in her bathrobe with her messy hair. If it had been an entirely different situation, her siblings would have burst out laughing. As it was, Eric, Randy, and Andrea followed silently behind her.

Alice paused on the stairs and listened.

“Can you hear it?” Andrea whispered.

“I heard something. Come on.”

When they got to the top of the stairs, they began searching the bedrooms. It was eerily quiet, and the siblings had the uncanny feeling that they were in a horror movie as they peeked into closets and around corners.

Andrea entered one of the bedrooms. She heard a fluttering noise.

“Alice! The bird’s in here!” she cried, flinging the door halfway closed to prevent the animal from escaping. Eric began closing all the other bedroom doors. Randy retreated into his own room, saluting like a soldier with a “So long, fools!” and leaving his siblings to take care of the avian problem.

Alice came quickly and stealthily with her broom-weapon. She kicked open the bedroom door with one bare foot, her broom held up like a club. Suddenly, the bird flew out of the room and swooped downstairs. Alice and Andrea screamed and bolted in opposite directions. At the same time, the phone rang in the kitchen.

The kids looked at each other and gulped.

“It must be Mommy and Daddy!” Sylvia said.

No one moved. The phone rang again, and again, and again.

“Isn’t someone going to get it?” Eric cried desperately, his face scrunching up.

“I’ll get it,” Jerathan said. He balled his hands into fists as he made his way to the kitchen, murmuring reassurances to himself. Perhaps it was a sales robot. An automated message reminding them of a dental appointment A cop looking for money. Jerathan hoped that it was.

He picked up the phone.

“This is the Johnson residence. Jerathan Johnson speaking.”

“Hi, honey. This is Mom.”

Jerathan’s heart sank, and he bit his lip. “Hi, Mom!” he said in an exaggerated, cheery voice. There was movement in his peripheral vision. The bluebird was perched on the curtain rod above the kitchen window over the sink. Jerathan pressed the phone’s mouthpiece against his chest. “Guys, the bird’s in here!” he whispered to his siblings as loudly as he could.

Alice immediately appeared.

“Jerathan? Hello?” Mrs. Johnson’s voice sounded suspicious. Jerathan could just imagine his mother’s narrowed eyes, a clear sign that she was using her superpowers. In this case, exceptional hearing. He quickly uncovered the phone’s mouthpiece.

“I’m right here, Mom! So, what’s up?”

“I just wanted to let you know that your father and I will be home in about fifteen minutes.”

“Fifteen minutes? Are you sure?” Jerathan turned toward his siblings and mouthed,

“They’ll be back home in fifteen minutes!”

Alice was at that moment reaching the bristles of the broom tentatively toward the bird. Her arms shook with fear as she did so, thoroughly hating whenever the bird flew like a giant insect around the house. The bristles touched the bird, but it wouldn’t budge. Alice tried using the broom to brush the bird off the curtain rod, but only succeeded in hiding it within the folds of Mrs. Johnson’s favorite curtain.

“Why won’t it fly!” she said, tears of frustration prickling her eyes.

“I think it’s scared,” Andrea said.

Alice began hitting the curtain with the broom. The bird refused to come out. Finally, and very reluctantly, Alice approached the curtain and slowly pulled it open. The bird shot out. Alice shrieked and leapt backwards. The broom crashed to the floor with a deafening clatter.

“What was that?” Mrs. Johnson demanded.

Jerathan clenched his teeth. “Oh, that?” He ducked as the bird swooped close to his head. “It’s nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

“Are you lying to me, Jerathan?”

“No.” The word slipped out of Jerathan’s mouth before he could stop himself. Quietly, he did a facepalm. Mom always got him with that one.

“Seriously, what are you all doing?” Mrs. Johnson said.

The bird was now fluttering at the kitchen light. Feathers rained down onto the breakfast table like a dusting of snow. Alice snatched up the broom again like a fallen sword on a battlefield. Along with Eric and Andrea, she tried to chase the bird out the door leading to the backyard. They weren’t being very quiet about it, either.

Eric tripped backwards over a chair—a testament to why Mrs. Johnson always insisted the children push in their chairs after meals. It came as no surprise to anyone that the chair belonged to Randy. Andrea’s elbow knocked into a flower vase, causing it to fall over and crash to the floor. Alice kept leaping and squealing whenever the bird flew near her.

Jerathan brought a finger up to his lips. “Can you guys please keep it down? Mom can hear you!”

“Jerathan, what’s all that noise in the background? Are you kids using your superpowers?

You know better than to do that! We’ve talked about it time and again!”

“We’re not using our superpowers, Mom,” Jerathan said. That, at least, wasn’t a lie.

He watched as the bluebird flew out of the kitchen and into the foyer. Alice, Eric, Andrea, and Sylvia all ran after it with brooms and big black trash bags billowing behind them.

Silence descended over the kitchen, and Jerathan let out a breath of relief.

“If you all were using your superpowers unattended, I swear you’ll be grounded for a week,” Mrs. Johnson threatened. “We’re having company, after all.”

“C-company? Who’s coming?” Jerathan said, panic yanking his voice into an embarrassing squeak. Heat rushed to his face as his mother said teasingly, “Sounds like someone is growing up,” as she always did when it happened.

“Mom,” Jerathan said, regaining his composure—and his voice. “Who’s coming again?”

“The realtor is coming by with a couple of people who are interested in looking at the house. They’ll arrive at about the same time as your father and me. The house needs to be clean and tidy. Make sure the moving boxes in the living room are out of the way. I don’t want them cluttering the space.”

Jerathan’s heart thudded painfully in his chest. People were coming to look at the house,

which was currently occupied by a wild bird—that wasn’t good.

“Okay, Mom. See you in a few! Bye!”

Jerathan hung up the phone, ignoring Mrs. Johnson’s protests, and resigning to deal with his mother’s wrath later. Right now, he needed to warn his siblings of what was coming.

On his dash to the foyer, he passed by a mirror on the wall. Among his curly dark hair was a single golden strand, a product of his earlier fib. It stood out starkly against the top of his head. For some unexplainable reason, whenever Jerathan told a lie, a strand of his hair turned a golden blond color, which made it virtually impossible not to tell the truth. If he told multiple lies, he could literally change the color of his hair. Depending on the magnitude of the lie, the strands remained golden anywhere from a few hours to a week. The golden strand Jerathan currently had would probably last for the rest of the day.

There was a gray knit hat lying haphazardly on the table under the mirror. Judging from its purple snowflake pattern, Jerathan guessed the hat belonged to one of his sisters. Not wishing to be called Goldilocks by Randy, he snatched it up and pulled it on.

***

The bluebird had landed on a windowsill in the foyer, right above the front door. Unfortunately, the window was so high up, Alice couldn’t reach the bird with the broom. It slammed its body

repeatedly against the glass, trying desperately to escape.

“It keeps flying toward the door but it never actually goes outside,” Alice growled. She ran up the stairs two at a time to reach the bird from a better vantage point, her bathrobe hiking up past her knees. On the landing, Alice leaned across the banister and tried once again to reach the bird with the broom.

It was way too short.

“We really have to hurry,” Jerathan said, sliding into the foyer. “People are coming to look at the house.”

“How much time do we have?” Eric demanded.

“I don’t know. Between five and ten minutes, maybe?”

“Great! That’s just great!” Eric clenched his head with both hands and began to pace back and forth. “Mom and Dad are going to be so angry, and Alice and I are going to get blamed because we’re the oldest, the responsible ones…”

“Don’t we have a longer broom or something?” Alice called from the top of the stairs, viciously swiping a stray strand of hair from her face. The last hour had caused her pressed hair to become big and fluffy, like a crown of cotton candy, but she didn’t seem to notice.

Randy emerged from his bedroom, yawning and stretching. “Y’all still not done yet?”

Alice shot him a glare so intense that Randy backed away, hands held up in mock surrender.

“Wait. I think Mom bought a new mop from the store last week,” Andrea said. “It’s supposed to extend to nine feet.”

She hurried to the laundry room and came back with a shiny new mop. “Mom won’t be thrilled to know that her mop was used to get a wild bird out of the house,” Andrea said, handing the cleaning instrument up to Alice.

“Well, we’ve got no other choice,” Alice said. She extended the mop out to its full length and tried to reach it over to the window.

It just barely reached.

For several long minutes, Alice tried to get the fluttering bluebird off the windowsill. Eric tried after her, jabbing so frantically at the bird with the mop that his siblings feared he’d topple over the banister. Randy tried next, much to his siblings’ amazement, but with no luck. Jerathan attempted last, but the bird evaded him, like it did the others. Andrea and Sylvia were too small to offer any help.

Alice took up the mop again, her eyes blazing with fury. She leaned farther over the banister, her stomach pressed uncomfortably against the railing. “Come on! Go down!” she gasped, banging the window with the mop. Her siblings watched in anxious silence, none of them daring to speak.

The air was full of feathers.

Sylvia gasped from where she stood at the front window, staring out into the rainy afternoon. Alice froze.

“What is it?”

“I see Mommy and Daddy coming down the street,” Sylvia reported. “There’s another car following them. It must be the people coming to look at the house!”

“Hurry, Alice!” Andrea wailed.

“This stupid mop isn’t working,” Alice said, flinging it aside. “We’re going to have to use our superpowers.”

“But Mom just said we’re not allowed to,” Jerathan protested.

“Do you have a better idea?”

“No, but—”

“Then scream,” Alice said.

“What?”

“Shout, scream, whatever. Just make a lot of noise.”

Alice widened her stance and opened her palms. She had the power to manipulate sound, and her siblings quickly caught on to the plan. They began shouting, screaming, and jumping up and down. Motioning fluidly with her hands like a composer conducting an orchestra, Alice gathered the sound, condensing it into a single ball of noise. Brow furrowed in concentration, she lifted the ball, aimed it at the bird, and released it with a snarl. The sound bubble struck the windowpane, causing the glass to vibrate on impact. The bluebird flew out of the way just in time, unaffected by the blast.

Alice stamped her bare foot. “Why does it keep escaping? Why won’t it die already?”

“They’re coming up the driveway!” Andrea said, her eyes glued to the front window.

“Let me try,” Sylvia said eagerly. Before her older and more experienced siblings could protest, a crackling ball of electricity formed between her small hands. She flung it up at the bird. The ball of electricity missed its target completely, and instead struck the opposite wall, causing a framed portrait and a chunk of drywall to cascade to the floor.

“Oops, sorry,” she said, hiding her face under a mane of untamed curls.

The sound of car doors slamming outside made them all freeze, as did the chatter of voices.

“We’ve got one last chance, guys,” Alice growled.

“If we start shouting again, Mom’s definitely going to hear,” Randy said.

Nevertheless, the kids gathered in the center of the foyer and made as much noise as they could. Alice created a ball of sound and fired it at the bluebird. This time, it connected. Dazed, the bird plummeted off the windowsill—just as the front door opened. The bluebird recovered in midair and soared out the front door just as five figures stepped into the foyer: Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Johnson, the realtor, and two elderly strangers.

All five of them stopped in shock on the threshold. None of them noticed as the bluebird soared over their heads to freedom. Mrs. Johnson scanned the area, her sharp eyes picking up every detail: the cardboard moving boxes strewn across the living room; the tiny feathers scattered over the floor and tabletops; the misplaced mop and broom; the fallen portrait and the pieces of drywall; the toppled chair and the broken glass, visible in the kitchen.

The children greeted their parents and guests with brilliant smiles.

This,” Mrs. Johnson said, “is why we’re moving.”

“Should we come back later?” the realtor asked.

“I think that would be best,” Mr. Johnson said.

Lectures and groundings loomed in the future. Even so, the kids were glad that there was no longer a bird in the house.

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