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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
144 pages
May 2004
Baker Trittin Press

Mountain Cabin Mystery

by Max Elliott Anderson

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


     Twelve-year-old Scott Holcomb slowly dragged his feet down the narrow sidewalk in front of his house toward a rusty mailbox perched on a weathered post. That same box had been responsible, over the years, for bringing his family both good news and bad. His father liked to say, “Sometimes I think we should just call it the bill box.”

        For three years in a row Scott had sent in his application, and in the first two years it had been denied.

If I don’t get in this time I think I’ll give up, he thought. Plus, he’d been performing this same mailbox ritual every day for the past two weeks. Each time he walked back empty handed.

        This year Scott had made sure he and his friends, Al and Benji, timed their applications to arrive on the very first day. That way he figured all three of their names would be at the top of the pile for consideration.

As he reached the mailbox, an uneasy feeling overtook his entire mind and body.

Scott bit down on his lower lip. “If it isn’t here right now I’m going to scream,” he said out loud.    

        Slowly, he opened the box. The lid came down at about the same speed as a river drawbridge. The sun’s rays began to illuminate the inner darkness of the mailbox. Then reality struck. “It isn’t there,” he groaned. But when he looked closer, nothing else was in there. With a sigh of relief he said, “Good, at least the rest of the mail hasn’t come yet either.”

        Scott lived in one of the older neighborhoods of Fox Valley. The cement walk up to his house had cracks where roots from towering oak trees forced some sections to move higher while others sank.

        He walked back toward the house being careful not to trip, and walked up the front steps and into the kitchen for lunch. Summer vacation had already begun, but the days were moving about as fast as a frozen trout stream in February.

“Mom, this is going to be the longest, slowest, saddest summer of my miserable life.” Scott heaped chunky peanut butter on a slice of bread.

His mother was arranging spice bottles in one of the cabinets. With her neat appearance and sense of order, it was easy to see where Scott learned about having everything just right.

She turned to Scott. “You have a lot of fun things to do and friends to enjoy the time with this summer.”

“Yeah, but they were counting on me to come through for them, and I just know it isn’t going to happen.”

“It’s always important to have an alternate plan. You shouldn’t get your heart so set like this. It only leads to disappointment.”

“What was that?” Scott shouted as he leaped from his chair and ran to the front window. “I think I hear the mail truck.” Parting the curtains, he looked out only to see a blue van pass by with big yellow lettering on the side that read, “Big Joe the Plumber – We fix everything AND the kitchen sink.”

“Sink rhymes with stink, and that’s what this does,” he muttered on his way back to the kitchen. He shoved the door open so hard it slammed against the inside wall.

“Now wait just a minute, young man!” his mother threatened. “You do something like that again and you’re not going anyplace . . . even if you do get accepted.”

Scott’s father was a graphic artist and worked at home. He was in and out all day. He came in just then. “What was that noise I heard? Sounded like a sonic boom.”

“Your son decided to start rearranging some of the walls in our house.”

“Why is it whenever he does something wrong, he suddenly becomes my son?”

“Sorry, Dad, I’m just really frustrated. I don’t think I can stand it one more day.”

“It didn’t come today?”

“No, but neither did the rest of the mail. I’m still hoping. I think I’ll take my lunch and eat out on the front steps while I wait.”

His mother smiled, “Good. At least you can’t break anything out there.”

“Okay, Mom.”

He gathered his things and headed out to his post. I feel like that old lady that lives across the street, he thought. She just stands there at her kitchen window and looks out all day long. Scott figured his neighborhood would be safe as long as Mrs. Bollenbach was on guard.

After what seemed like forever, the mail truck finally came down his street. He hurried to the mailbox as the truck drove to the next house. With the speed of an automatic mail sorter his eyes raced through the envelopes until he spotted one with a familiar logo.

“It’s here!” he shouted. Then he ran back to the house, up the green painted steps, and into the kitchen. “It’s here. It’s here,” he screamed.

“Calm down, would you?” his mother asked.

“And remember . . .  It might be a rejection like the last two years,” his father added.

“I know. I’m just so excited that’s all.” With trembling hands, Scott tore open the envelope. He slipped the letter out along with a colorful brochure. “This one has more stuff in it than the others did,” he announced. For a brief moment, Scott fought off his fear of another crushing disappointment. His clammy hands were shaking so hard he almost couldn’t unfold the letter. But as he lifted the top flap he saw the words, “Dear Scott, Congratulations. This is to inform you . . . .”

That was all he needed to see. He dropped the letter to the floor, and as he streaked toward the telephone he yelled, “I made it. I’m in. I get to go!” He grabbed the phone to call Al and Benji, his best friends in the whole world.

About five minutes after he hung up the phone, Al called back.

“Mine came, too. I get to go. Isn’t that great?”

No sooner had Scott finished that conversation than the phone rang again.

“It’s here. I’m so excited!”

“Great, Ben. Give Al a buzz and come on over. Bring your letters. We have a lot to talk about.”

Scott, Al, and Benji went to the same school. Their birthdays were only three weeks apart. Al was thinner than Scott and had black shiny hair. His sharp, pointed features matched his equally sharp tongue at times. Benji was the smallest of the group. His curly blond hair and baby face made him seem younger than his friends. The boys soon arrived, and all three went down to the basement where Scott had set up a special room. Posters of mountains and climbers lined the walls. The boys put their acceptance letters on the table and then sat in beanbag chairs on the floor.

“Imagine,” Scott sighed, “less than three weeks from today we’ll be wilderness camping in the Colorado Rockies. Let’s go over the things in the survival list and see what we still need to get.”

Scott was the kind of person who wanted to have everything just right. He was a planner. His friends knew never to call and suggest for him to meet them and do something that hadn’t been all laid out in advance. Although Al had often told him how annoying that part of his personality was, right now there couldn’t be a better leader for their team.

 “Now we can’t fail our wilderness test,” Benji sighed.  “That’d be bad,” Of course, he could find a way to worry about almost anything.

“We each need to get a down a sleeping bag and a waterproof tarp,” Scott continued. “My dad bought me this new hatchet. It’s an Estwing. They’re supposed to be the best. Look, it has a leather cover and everything so it fits right on my belt.”

Al whistled, “Man, let me see that thing.” Scott could see his friend was impressed, and Al was the kind of guy who didn’t impress easily. “We could chop down a whole forest with this beauty.”

“Remember what our wilderness teacher said?” Benji reminded them. “The trees are our friends. We should treat them like one of the family.”

“I know,” Scott groaned.

“I thought the animals and stuff are supposed to be for food. Isn’t that the whole idea of the food chain?” Al asked.

“Yeah, and. I’m sure glad we’re at the top of that thing,” Benji said.