illusion (n) something that seems to be one thing when it is really another; a magic trick
Jessie slipped her fingers along the inside of her closet doorjamb until she found the secret key. Silently, she unhooked it from the tiny nail pressed into the old wood and closed the key tightly in her fist. She liked the way the key became warm when she did this, the way it left a perfect imprint of itself in the soft flesh of her palm.
As quietly as a cat, she padded over to her bookcase, then paused. Was the Locked sign still showing on her door? Sometimes it flipped around if she closed her door too quickly. It would be a disaster if
someone walked in while she was retrieving her lockbox from its hiding place. Even worse if someone walked in while the lockbox was open and saw what was inside. Jessie never showed anyone her saved-up money. That was just asking for trouble!
She opened her door and poked her head out to make sure that the Locked sign was in place. As long as the sign was on her door, no one was allowed to come into her room. That was the rule in the Treski house.
She could hear her mother packing in her room across the hall—a dresser drawer opening, the sound of footsteps crossing the wooden floor, hangers jangling in a closet. Jessie frowned. She didn’t
like her mother going away. But there was nothing she could do about it now. This was one of those situations where she would have to “adapt and evolve,” as her mother sometimes said.
“Hey, Jess, can I ask you something?”
Jessie jumped at the sound of her brother’s voice as he came up the stairs. Evan had been in the basement all morning, banging away on some old wooden boards. She’d thought she was safe from his prying eyes! She clutched the key more tightly in her hand.
“Not right now. I’m busy.” Jessie started to retreat into her room, but she stopped when she noticed that her brother was carrying a book in his hands. Evan never carried books. He hated books. To him, they were the enemy, making him feel small and dumb. It didn’t help that Jessie, who was thirteen months younger, was such a good reader. She looked at the book, wondering what it could possibly be.
It was old, whatever it was. The edges of the brown leather cover looked like they were crumbling, and
the fancy gold lettering on the spine was half flaked off. Evan held it slightly open, his fingers curled around the edge to mark the page.
“It’ll take two seconds,” he said, half pleading, half ordering.
“Not now!” Jessie replied. She tapped the Locked sign on her door for emphasis, just so he’d remember the rule, and went back into her room, closing the door tightly behind her.
Still, she waited two whole minutes (“one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi . . .”) to make sure Evan had left the hallway and wasn’t listening at her door, before she tiptoed to her bookcase and retrieved the lockbox she kept hidden behind the row of books on the top shelf.
The lockbox was heavy because of all the coins she’d been collecting for the past few months. It was surprising how many pennies, nickels, and dimes you could find if you just kept your eyes on the ground. Jessie’s mom said that Jessie had a talent for finding money, but it wasn’t a talent so much as a passion. Most kids wouldn’t even bother to pick up
a penny if they spotted it, but Jessie never let a coin pass without scooping it up and putting it in her pocket. She also saved her gift money and chore money, and now her lockbox was terrifically heavy and made the most wonderful rattling sound when she shook it.
Jessie sat cross-legged on her bed and opened the box. There were dollar bills and coins, the blue ribbon Evan and Jessie had won in the Labor Day contest last summer, several comment cards from her best friend, Megan, postcards from her dad, and a handwritten survey about love in the fourth grade, in which someone in her class had admitted to having a crush on Jessie. Anonymously! Jessie wasn’t even sure why she kept that particular piece of paper, but every time she decided to throw it out, she ended up putting it back in the lockbox. It was evidence! Of what, she wasn’t sure.
She stopped for a moment to look at the postcards from her dad. The stamps—from Turkey, Afghanistan, Congo, and Rwanda—were like little pieces of art.
Jessie liked the bright colors and strange pictures.
Her parents had been divorced for three years now. Her dad sent postcards and packages every few months, and sometimes he came for a visit. But it had been more than a year since she’d seen him. She thought about her dad every night before falling asleep, but she had learned not to ask her mother about him. She never got the answers she wanted.
Jessie organized the postcards from oldest to newest and put them aside in a neat pile. Then she turned her attention back to the lockbox. She wanted to take all the coins to the bank and exchange them for dollar bills. But to do that, she had to put all the pennies, nickels, and dimes into the
special paper rolls that the bank gave her. Fifty pennies for the penny roll, forty nickels for the nickel roll, and fifty dimes for the dime roll.
Jessie knew exactly how much money she had in her lockbox: eighty-one dollars and forty-three cents. She kept a piece of paper with the current total tucked away at the bottom of the lockbox. Whenever she added more money, she changed the total.
But eighty-one dollars and forty-three cents wasn’t enough—not for what Jessie wanted. She wanted to open her very own bank account so that her money would be safe, no matter what. Once her money was in the bank, she wouldn’t have to worry about losing it or someone stealing it or even the house burning down. It would always be there. Safe. That’s why they call it a safe! She imagined the big bank vault where the money was kept. Because once your money is in a bank, it’s safe.
Unfortunately for Jessie, the minimum deposit was one hundred dollars. She was a long way from that amount, with no prospects for earning money—big money—in sight.
“Jess, open up!” called Evan from the hallway.
“Locked!” shouted Jessie.
“Yeah, I know. So open up, would ya?”
Jessie closed the lockbox and shoved it under her pillow. Then she went to her door and opened it a crack.
Evan stood there with the old book open in his hands. His finger was marking a spot on the page.
“What is . . . ?” he said, pushing the book toward her. “I can’t even . . .”
Jessie took the book out of her brother’s hands as he walked into her room. Even though she was only nine, Jessie could read at a tenth grade level. She’d been tested. That’s one of the reasons she had skipped a year, so that now Evan and Jessie were in the same fourth grade class.
She began to read out loud.
The Rabbit Box. This, as its name indicates, is a box for causing the disappearance of a rabbit. The opening is oval, measuring about eight inches by six, and closed by a double flap, divided down the middle (see Fig. 268). As the rabbit requires ...