Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write something suitable for CHILDREN (05/31/07)
TITLE: The Case of the Flashing Lights
By Amy Michelle Wiley
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Michelle put her hands on her hips. “You’ve been reading too many Hardy Boys mysteries, James. I’ve seen them outside several times since they moved in.”
“But have you ever heard them talk? When I call ‘hello’ they don’t even look at me.” James folded his arms.
Michelle just rolled her eyes. “And how exactly does that prove they were kidnapped?”
“I’ll bet there’s someone inside watching, making sure they don’t talk to anyone or try to get help.” James narrowed his eyes. “Have you seen the flashing lights? I wonder if their captors are sending secret messages. Or maybe the family is trying to signal for help. We need to plan a stake-out.”
Michelle didn’t believe anything crazy was going on, but playing detective was always fun. Within a few minutes, the nine and ten year old were in the adjoining backyards, surveying the situation.
“There aren’t any bushes to hide behind.” Michelle wrinkled her nose.
“We could stick leaves all over ourselves and pretend to be bushes!” James suggested.
“Right. You think they wouldn’t notice two new trees? Come on, let’s just go.”
Michelle spun back around and gaped at the neighboring house that still seemed to shudder from the noise. Her heart thudded against her throat.
Then the sound came again, this time joined by low thumps and high clangs and a long shuddering crash.
James’ freckles stood dark against his white face. “It sounds like they’re fighting. And…look!” His quivering hand pointed toward the nearest window. A man stood inside, his arms waving wildly in strange gyrating patterns.
Michelle wished desperately that she was inside her own house, yet her legs refused to move. “Maybe we should call the police.”
James’s scream made Michelle screech, too. She pivoted and found herself nose to nose with a stranger.
It was a girl. Her bright eyes flicked back and forth between the siblings. Then she spoke. Or something.
James muttered, “Maybe the bad guys cut their tongues so they can’t talk right.”
Michelle jabbed him with her elbow. “I think she said ‘hello.’”
The girl held up a finger to say, “just a minute.” Then she was gone, running right into the strange house.
The back door flew open and the girl rushed back out, waving something white in her hands. It was a piece of paper.
James grabbed it. “A secret message!”
They held their breaths and peered at the words scrawled across the page.
Hi, I’m Alicia. My family’s Deaf. We use sign language to talk.
Michelle gave James a shove. “Hostages, huh?”
Alicia smiled and offered her a notebook and pencil. Michelle wrote their names and smiled back.
James nodded. “So that’s why they didn’t respond when I called, but…” He scribbled, Why do lights flash?
“James, don’t be rude.” Michelle flushed.
Alicia just grinned and motioned for them to follow her. She led them around to the front door and pushed the doorbell. Instead of the expected ding dong, the lights inside the house flashed.
“Wow!” James exclaimed. “That’s awesome.”
The door opened and the man they had seen in the window looked at them curiously. For a minute Alicia and her father waved their hands around, apparently talking in sign language. Then the man smiled, opening the door wider to invite them in.
They walked through the hall and stepped into a family room that connected to the kitchen. Alicia’s mom was rummaging in the cupboards. She pulled out a pan with a great clattering bang and stood up.
Michelle waved shyly and the woman smiled back, then motioned toward Alicia. The girl nodded enthusiastically and pulled a game of UNO® out of a cupboard.
That evening at their own dinner table, Michelle and James couldn’t stop talking about their new friend.
“We played games and ate cookies and then they showed us a TV thing that they use to talk to friends in sign language!” James paused for a breath and Michelle leaned forward.
“It’s just like a phone except it uses video instead of voice. It was so cool.”
“Let’s learn signs,” James hollered. “We can have a silent secret language next time we do a stake-out.”
“The internet said American Sign Language is the third most common language in the US.” Michelle snickered. “I don’t think it’s very secret.”
James shrugged. “Let’s learn it anyway.”
“I’ll bet Alicia will teach us. Let’s ask her tomorrow!”
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