Authors: Maureen Bush
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS
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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Bush, Maureen A. (Maureen Averil), 1960-
Cursed! / written by Maureen Bush.
(Orca young readers)
Issued also in an electronic format.
I. Title. II. Series: Orca young readers
87 2010 Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
813'.6 Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
First published in the United States, 2010
Library of Congress Control Number
: Jane is the quiet, fearful one in a family of extrovertsâat least until the Spirit Man in her grandmother's bathroom starts messing with her family.
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Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Typesetting by Nadja Penaluna
Cover artwork by Eric Orchard
Author photo by Mark Harding
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Printed and bound in Canada.
13 12 11 10 â¢ 4 3 2 1
For Mom, for all the silliness; and for Mark,
Adriene and Lia, again and always.
Here goes, I thought, the knot in my stomach so tight I could hardly breathe. I pulled my backpack and suitcase out of the van, grabbed Old Moby, my very old, very worn puppet, and walked into the house. I stopped at the bottom of the stairs, looked up at Grandma's masks and swallowed.
“Why does she have to hang them here?” I asked Old Moby. Before he could answer, my big brother BB squeezed in behind me.
“Jane, are you talking to Old Mouldy again?” he asked. “Aren't you a little old for that?”
“Old Moby,” I said. “His name is Old Moby.”
BB grinned as he pushed past me and bounded up the stairs. I envied himâhe wasn't scared of the masks. He's twelve and not scared of anything. Although I noticed he kept his head turned away as he ran past the masks.
My little brother Lewis came in, dragging his too-full backpack. He looked up the staircase at the masks and sighed. “Let's go together,” he said.
I took his hand. “If we go together, they can't scare us.”
We crept up the stairs past the first mask. Carved in black wood, round, with flaring eyes, it was dark and fierce and brooding. We hugged the far wall as we climbed. Of course, that meant the masks could see us better, but at least they couldn't reach us.
We passed the second maskâdark again, long and narrow, tongue protruding, a long nose thick enough to grab. But I'd never dare. I kept my eyes on the blank wall opposite as we stepped past. They couldn't hurt us if we didn't actually look at them.
Then the third maskâthe third was the worst. It was the largest, covered in long, straggly hair, and it was nasty. I couldn't quite see the eyes, but I was sure they were staring at me.
Finally we were past them all. Lewis squeezed my hand and ran up the next flight of stairs to find the toys Grandma kept for us.
Grandma had bought the masks the year she lived in Papua New Guinea. That's a country on a mountainous, jungly island north of Australia. She loves the masks, so I couldn't possibly tell her how much they scare me.
As horrible as they are, not one of them is as bad as the carved wooden statue in my grandmother's bathroom. He was from Papua New Guinea too. Grandma says he's an Ancestor Spirit from the spirit world whose job is to help his clan. Lewis and I just call him the Spirit Man. He's as tall as the toilet he stands beside, but he seems much larger. He glowers and fills the room.
“I put the boys in the third bedroom upstairs,” said Grandma as she and Mom and Dad came up the stairs behind me. “And Jane's in the studio.”
I shuddered. The studio was right next door to the Spirit Man's bathroom.
BB glanced toward the studio, looking disappointed.
“I don't mind sharing with Lewis,” I said. “BB can have the studio.”
He flashed me a surprised smile. I wasn't sure if I'd done him a favor though.
I kept my eyes far from the bathroom door as I walked around to the second flight of stairs and hauled my bags up to the third bedroom.
Lewis was already playing, lining up little wooden animals in a trek across his books. Grandma keeps toys and games for us in boxes on the shelves, and Lewis had pulled out all his favorites. I like sharing with Lewis. He's only six, but he's a lot more fun than BB. Besides, when I'm with Lewis, Mom and Dad are pleased that I'm looking out for him.
I shoved his backpack to the end of his bed, lifted my bags to the trunk at the end of my bed and picked up Old Moby. Years ago I'd found him among the toys Grandma had kept, from when Mom and her sisters were little. He's a bear puppet, with a hard head covered in tan fur and a green cloth body. Sometimes he says things I'm too scared to say. I gave him a little pat as I laid him on my pillow.
I sorted out my stuff and headed for the bathroom. Not the Spirit Man's bathroom, but the upstairs bathroom. It has a big window over the tub that looks out into the rain forest. Once I saw a deer as I brushed my teeth.
The door was shut. Someone was inside. I crossed my legs and jiggled, feeling desperate but not desperate enough to use the Spirit Man's bathroom.
Then I heard whistling and water running. Oh no. BB was having a bath. He loves baths, especially in Grandma's big tub.
I slumped to the floor. It was going to be a long wait.
Finally I got up and wandered off, walking very slowly. I chatted with Grandma; she probably wondered what was wrong with me. I walked outside and admired Grandma's garden, which was full of flowers spilling down the mountainside. I had a snack and a very small drink, and checked out Grandma's projects in the studio. After far too long, I heard water draining from the tub, rushing and gurgling.
Finally BB emerged from the bathroom, pink and damp. He sauntered down to the studio to set up his bed.
I raced upstairs as fast as I could manage, only to find Mom filling the tub. “Are you going to have a bath now?” I asked, trying not to squeak.
She spoke over her shoulder. “No, this is for Lewis. He needs a bath before bed. I don't know why you kids always have to bathe when we're here. Our tub at home isn't that much smaller, and the shower downstairs works just fine.” She gazed out the window as she adjusted the temperature. “I guess it's the view.” She turned to me. “You can have a bath after Lewis, if you want.”
There was no way I could last that long. Maybe this was it. Maybe this was the time for me to face the Spirit Man, like Kara said. She's my best friend, and she's almost as brave as BB.
Before we left on holidays, she'd said, “Jane, you
to face him. You
go through life scared of a block of wood. You have to
him you're not afraid.”
I don't think she'd say it that easily if she'd actually met him, but I knew she was right. I did need to face him. But maybe not just yet.
“I'll help Lewis with his bath,” I said to Mom. “You can go visit with Grandma.”
Mom smiled, surprised. “Thank you, Jane. That's very sweet.”
I smiled back, struggling to hold my smile until she left the room.