The Secret of Del Rey
Written by SAM Gordon Illustrated by Quincy Gordon
For Elle Miami Gordon My Little Storyteller.
CHAPTER 1 Secrets There are all kinds of secrets. There are the secrets that you keep to stay out of trouble. There are secrets that you keep as a surprise for later. There are secrets that you keep because it is no one else's business, and then there are secrets you keep because no one would believe you anyway. ……………………………………… Hi, my name is Kit. Well actually it is Katherine. But when I was just a baby my Mom started calling me Kat for short, but my Dad said I was too small to be a Kat so he called me Kitten. As I got taller my name got shorter and now everyone just calls me Kit. I have always liked my nickname, but my twin brother never really liked his. Mom and Dad call him Pup since they called me Kit. But he prefers to be called by his real name Ben.
Ben and I may be twins be we ARE NOT IDENTICAL in any way. Well first of all I am a girl and he is a boy. I love sports, he loves computers. I love to go on adventures, he likes to read about adventures in books. Ben always follows the rules and I follow the rules too… sometimes. I'm loud, he's quiet, I'm tall, he's short, I have dark brown hair, he has blonde hair. Most people can't even tell that we are siblings so they never believe it when they find out we are
twins. Once we thought we would try and keep it secret from people, but two kids with a last name like Schmickle in the same grade, people were sure to figure it out.
So the reason I am writing this book is because I want to share a secret with you. It is a BIG SECRET. Bigger than what present you are going to get for your birthday, or what came first the chicken or the egg. I am talking really big, so big that I have to start way back when it all first started.
I was at the after school program playing catch with Ben. Now usually Ben and I didn't do much together at school. I had my friends and he had his friends. It isn't that we didn't like each other, we just didn't have much in common. But we were usually the last ones to be picked up, so we would play together once all of our friends had gone. Ben was not much of an athlete. Playing catch with him was more about chasing down his bad throws. But I liked running so I didn't mind that much. On this one special day, I had suggested to Ben that he put a little more muscle into it and throw it as hard as he could. To my surprise the ball launched into the air. It went way farther and higher than either of us had expected. It went right up onto the roof of the building I was standing in front of and rolled into the gap between the classroom buildings. I was impressed by his throw but depressed about where it landed. The space between the classroom buildings was blocked by a high tall wooden gate, with a lock on it. Â
"Way to go Ben, now we lost our ball," I said. Ben replied, "Mr. Geary, the grounds keeper, can get it for us tomorrow. I am sure he has the key."
But I didn't want to wait a whole day to get my ball. So I started to climb the wooden gate. Ben reminded me that we weren't supposed to climb on the buildings. So I pointed out to him that technically this wasn't a building it was a gate. He didn't see the difference, but it was too late. I was to the top of the gate and I could see my ball at the bottom of some stairs that went down between the buildings. I hopped over the gate and went down the stairs to get my ball. When I got down to where my ball was I could see a door that was propped open with a stick. So I took a peak inside and saw a spiral staircase that went down into the darkness. It looked like it went down a really long way. Ben yelled out to me from the other side of the gate.
"Everything ok over there?" he said. Ben was a big worrier. I am sure he thought we would be getting in trouble very soon.
"I'm fine, you have to come see this." I replied. As I looked back up to gate to yell to Ben, I saw a ring of keys hanging on the handle on the inside. I ran up and grabbed the keys and tossed them over the wall. I told Ben to try them in the lock until he found the right one. Soon Ben found a key that worked and opened the gate. I grabbed him by the hand and drug him down to the landing where the ball was. He fought Â
So I took a peak inside and saw a spiral staircase that went down into the darkness.
me every step. This wasn't the first time I had drug Ben into some trouble. He had good reason to resist my urging, but he was curious too. He peaked behind the door and said that he could see a light down at the bottom of the stairs but it was at least 50 feet down. I trusted his estimate of the distance, I was never too good at that kind of thing but Ben was.
Ben looked at me and said, "NO!" I hadn't even asked a question yet, but he knew I was going to ask him to go down that spiral staircase with me. Ben also knew he had no choice but to follow me once I started down one step at a time into the darkness. Ben was technically my older brother, he was born 22 minutes before me. So my Mom would tell him every morning before school to, "Look out for your little sister." It used to bother me but then I realized that I actually do need someone looking out for me. I do have a way of finding trouble even when I am not looking for it. Like when a ball goes behind a gate.
Ben followed me down the stairs, as we went down we could see there was another door with a small window in it. Once we got down to the bottom of the stairs we walked over to the door and looked through the window. We both couldn't believe our eyes. On the other side of the door was a giant cave. It was twice the size of the school gym and instead of a floor there was a giant pool of water. There were a couple of electric lamps and a little man made dock that went around the outside of the pool. The light from the lamps reflexed off Â
the water up to the stony ceiling of the cave in ripples that looked like clouds made of light. Ben and I were both in shock. How in the world could this giant cave be right below our school? Why were there stairs going down to here? Who built the dock and put up the lights? Then we heard a noise from the far side of the cave. We both turned our heads to look and saw Mr. Geary sitting at a little table writing in a notebook. Now we knew Mr. Geary was the grounds keeper but we didn't know he was the "undergrounds keeper" too. I reached my hand up to open the door when we heard our Dad's voice calling out for us. "Kit! Pup!, Where are you guys? Lets go, we are late for dinner," my Dad shouted. Ben and I scurried up the stairs and snuck out the gate without my Dad seeing where we had come from. In a last second moment of brilliance I left the ball behind the gate. I knew I would need to have a reason to get behind that gate again. This mystery was not over yet.
CHAPTER 2 The Cave I could hardly sleep that night. I kept on picturing the massive watery cave that was right underneath my school. At first I was excited to tell all my friends about what I had seen, but then I decided that maybe I should keep it a secret a little bit longer. I knew that Ben wouldn't tell anyone about it because he would be too afraid of getting in trouble. So for now the secret was safe.
The next morning my Mom and Dad couldn't believe how quickly I got ready for school. Usually it takes both of my parents and the threat of a bucket of water poured on my head to get me out of bed. But not today. I was already trying to figure out a way back down to the cave. But I knew I had to be patient. I had to wait until all the other children had been picked up after school and it was just Ben and I again.
At lunch I saw Mr. Geary helping pass out the milks to the First Graders. I started to doubt what I had seen the day before. Maybe I just imagined that it was Mr. Geary or maybe it was just someone that looked like him. I saw Ben sitting at a different table and he was watching Mr. Geary too. I knew that all the unanswered questions
where going to get answered sooner or later but patience was never one of my strengths.
After an agonizingly long day we waved good-bye to the last of the other children. Ben turned around to tell me to not even think about going back down those stairs, but before he got a chance to speak I was halfway over the gate. He continued to lecture me about how we were going to get in trouble and that what we were doing wasn't safe. I threw the keys over the gate. I told Ben that I saw him at lunch looking at Mr. Geary and I knew that he was curious about what was going on down below our school in the secret cave. I heard the lock open and Ben walk through the gate. He looked terrified and excited at the same time.
We walked down to the landing to the first door, but this time it wasn't propped open with a stick. I told Ben to hand me the ring of keys I had thrown him. I tried about four different keys before I found the one that opened the door. We quietly slid in and made our way down the spiral staircase. It was so quiet and we were so nervous. We could hear our own heartbeats thumping in our ears. We made it to the door at the bottom of the stairs and we looked in to see if Mr. Geary was there at his table. The lights were on but no one seemed to be in the room. So after trying a few keys I was able to unlock the door and we stepped onto the wooden dock and entered the cave for the first time. The air was cool, and wet, and salty. It smelled just like the ocean but we were 20 miles from the closest beach. We heard Â
the door click behind us. It echoed throughout the cave. I couldn't believe how big it was. I yelled out "Hello!" and heard it echo back to me over and over again. Ben about had a heart attack and yelled at me for making so much noise that someone was going to hear us. I wasn't worried about that, I was too excited about our find. I took off my shoes and sat on the edge of the dock to put my toes into the water.
"Are you crazy?!?" Ben exclaimed. "You don't know what is in that water… maybe there are sharks, or killer octopus, or deadly algae."
I laughed and told Ben, "If you had as much courage as you do imagination you would be the bravest man alive."
The water was cool but not cold and felt refreshing. Ben started to take inventory of all the things in the cave. There was of course the dock we were on, the table and chair where we had seen Mr. Geary, the electric lights, and some scuba gear. Ben walked over to the table and saw all the notebooks that Mr. Geary had been writing in. He opened one and saw that it was a scientific journal with an entry each day at 6pm. Ben looked down at his watch to see it was 5:35pm. He warned me that we should get out of there before Mr. Geary came back, but I wasn't ready to leave just yet. My feet had just gotten used to the water temperature.
All of a sudden Ben stopped his complaining mid sentence. I turned
to ask him if he had heard something and saw his face filled with fear.
There was of course the dock we were on, the table and chair where we had seen Mr. Geary, the electric lights, and some scuba gear.
to ask him if he had heard something and saw his face filled with fear. Then I turned to see what he was looking at in the water and saw two large dark shadowy creatures swimming in a circle right below my feet. I squealed and jumped back onto the dock. I stood to get a better look at the shadows when one came right up to the surface and I saw its fin come out of the water. Maybe Ben was right and there were sharks beneath our school, and one of them just about ate me. Ben and I stood frozen in fear and just when we thought we couldn't be any more scared we heard the door open behind us. There was only one way in and one way out so we knew we had been caught. Ben gave me a look that meant, "I told you so." He had given me that look many, many times before.
The door opened and just as we suspected Mr. Geary walked in. He had a smile on his face and he said, "Hello kids, thanks for unlocking the doors for me."
I had known Mr. Geary since Kindergarten. He was always smiling and helpful and he was the person to go to if there were any problems at the school. He could fix anything, clean anything, and he used to always help me open my milk carton at lunch. I knew that I should have been scared because we shouldn't have been there, but Mr. Geary just wasn't really a scary guy. I walked over to Mr. Geary and sheepishly handed his keys back to him. I started to apologize. I said, "My ball went over the gate and I saw the door and curiosity just got the best of me and…" My explanation got interrupted by an ear
piercing shriek coming from the water. It was so loud that Ben and I had to cover our ears, but it didn't seem to bother Mr. Geary. He just laughed and said, "Della, settle down, settle down I will introduce you." Ben and I turned to the water to see who he was talking to and were shocked to see a cute little dolphin head sticking up out of the water. I gasped in surprise and then gasped again when another dolphin head poked up next to the first one.
Mr. Geary said, "Della and Reymond, meet the Schmickle twins, Kit and Ben." The two dolphins swam to their sides and flapped their flippers at us in a very kind and welcoming wave. Ben and I waved back.
Mr. Geary went to his desk and turned the chair around to face the dolphins and us and said, "I am guessing all four of you have a lot of questions for me."
CHAPTER 3 The Grounds Keeper I looked over at Ben whose jaw had dropped from what he had just seen. In fairness it isn't everyday you find a secret cave with friendly dolphins living in it under your school. Mr. Geary was right, I did have a lot of questions but I wasn't sure where to start. I raised my hand, I wasn't sure it was necessary but it felt like the right thing to do. Mr. Geary said, "Yes Kit, do you have a question?" In my head I had a list of a thousand questions but the only thing that came out of my mouth was, "What … in the world?"
Mr. Geary thought that was a wonderful place to start since we were literally "in the world" as in under the surface of the world. He explained how the entire village around the school was once a giant volcano. The spot where they had built the school was right in the center of where the volcano had been thousands of years ago. He went on to explain that at one time the oceans were much deeper than they are now and the oceans stretched all the way to our little town 20 miles inland. Eventually the oceans water levels retreated to where they are now. He said that this secret cave was the last bit of the ocean that remained this far inland. The lava tunnels from the ancient volcano go all the way out to the ocean. The water from these
tunnels continues to fill the cave below the school with ocean water.
Ben, who loved geology, was fascinated by the rarity of this find. I could tell he had a million questions about what kind of rock was the cave made of, and how many tunnels where there, and what is the acidic level of the sea water? But I had a more important question. "What are these two dolphins and you doing down here in this cave?"
Mr. Geary told us that he had not always been a school grounds keeper. He started out his career as a marine biologist. He was working for the government to train dolphins how find dangers under water that might hurt ships like mines, or oil leaks on drill sights, and things like that. He became the best in the world at communicating with dolphins and training them to do specific tasks. The government asked him to teach other marine biologists his methods and he was happy to help. But then he found out that some of the people he taught were using his methods to teach the dolphins to do bad things. Some of them taught dolphins how to carry explosives to attack enemy ships. Some of them taught dolphins how to find pods of whales and report back to whaling ships their location so they could go hunt them easily. Mr. Geary explained that he never wanted his teachings to be used for evil again, so he decided to retire from being a marine biologist.
He told us that even though he retired he had two very special friends that he kept in touch with. His two friends happened to be dolphins. Â
I thought Mr. Geary was just a nice quiet grounds keeper, not a world leading marine biologist with a secret laboratory under our school.
Della and Reymond were two of Mr. Geary's training dolphins. He had taught them how to understand over 100 words and he could understand over 100 of their sounds and gestures, enabling them to actually have conversations with each other. Mr. Geary explained that while he was looking for another job he was exploring sea caves and tunnels with Della and Reymond. He found this cave on one of their scuba dives and decided to see if he could get a job at the school being the grounds keeper. After he was hired he built the stairs down to the cave behind the gate. Now this cave was his secret laboratory where he could continue to work with his friends, the dolphins.
I noticed that the dolphins were quietly sitting at the edge of the deck and seemed to be listening the story themselves. It was a lot to take in. I thought Mr. Geary was just a nice quiet grounds keeper, not a world leading marine biologist with a secret laboratory under our school. Ben and I were fascinated and excited to learn about Mr. Geary's secret life. That is when Mr. Geary asked us a very important question, "Could you two please keep this cave a secret for me?" He explained that if the world knew about this cave they would want to write stories about it for the newspapers and news shows. He loved that he had a safe place for Della, Reymond and himself to continue their research without people using it to make money or do evil things. Ben and I understood the importance of this magical hidden place and both promised that the secret was safe with us.
Mr. Geary trusted us and said that he could really use some help with his research. We both immediately said that we would love to help. Mr. Geary seemed happy and excited too. I think he had gotten a little lonely down in that cave without any other humans to talk to. Mr. Geary explained that he could set up a "Volunteer Program” for students to help out with grounds keeping projects. He told us if we applied he would select us to be his volunteers. We would help him with some grounds keeping projects, but mostly we would be helping with his dolphin research. This way we would have an excuse to be out of the after school program but still keep the cave a secret from the rest of the school.
Mr. Geary reminded us that our parents would be coming soon to pick us up so we had better get back up to the playground. We climbed back up to the playground and waited for our ride. Ben and I didn't say a word to each other about what we had just seen. Mostly because we were trying to still wrap our brains around it, but also because we didn't want anyone to hear us talk about it and ruin the secret. When our Mom picked us up we asked her if we could be Mr. Geary's volunteers. She was happy to hear that we wanted to be more involved with school and thought it sounded like a great idea.
In the days and weeks that followed we became Mr. Geary's assistants and learned all about mopping floors, raking wood chips, and how to teach dolphins new words and gestures. It was a very fun and interesting time. We quickly learned that Della and Reymond had
very different personalities. Mr. Geary said that they were a couple, but dolphins don't get married. Mr. Geary had taught them the word for "love" and they would squeak it to each other and touch noses every time they had to be apart from each other (which wasn't very often). Reymond was very adventurous and curious, Della was a bit of a worrier and liked to follow a daily routine. I took a special liking to Reymond and Ben spent a lot of time working with Della. Mr. Geary was a great teacher and before long Ben and I were able to communicate with Della and Reymond ourselves.
The dolphins would tell us stories about their adventures out in the ocean and Ben and I would share our stories about school. They loved to hear about how our schools worked. They thought it would be a great idea for dolphins to make schools so all the young dolphins could learn from their teacher dolphins.
CHAPTER 4 Being Brave So while working with Della, Reymond, and Mr. Geary was amazing, life wasn't exactly perfect. Ben was having a really hard time with a group of 5th graders who like to tease him because he was a little bit small and quiet. I wished that Ben would stick up for himself and just yell at those big bullies when they messed with him. But Ben would always just kind of smile and walk away. Ben started to hang out in the library every time we were suppose to be on the playground to avoid the group of bullies. Normally I would have thought that it was normal behavior for Ben because he loved being around books, but I think he was hiding in fear more than he was enjoying books.
At least I got to see Ben happy when we were down in the cave. He and Della had created a game where Della would bring back Ben the coolest shell she had seen during her daily swim and Ben would read her chapter books from the library. Della loved stories of adventure just like Ben did. I have to admit, I also liked hearing the stories as I worked with Reymond on some new cool jumps I had been teaching him.
Mr. Geary had brought down two more tables so Ben and I could
each have our own station like Mr. Geary's. Ben's was covered with the shells Della brought him along with his own scientific journals that he had been keeping. Mine was covered with papers with dolphins drawn all over them. Dolphins jumping out of the water, dolphins driving cars, dolphins wearing clothes, dolphins playing the drums… Reymond loved my drawings and I loved to draw.
One day when we went down to the cave we saw that there was a TV over near Mr. Geary's table. I was excited that we were going to be able to watch cartoons with our new dolphin friends. But Mr. Geary ruined that fantasy when he explained the TV was for research purposes only. He explained how he had designed tiny cameras to attach to Della and Reymond that would record everything they did during the day. When the dolphins would come back to the caves we could watch where they swam that day, what they ate, what other sea life they encountered. It was totally awesome. We quickly learned that they liked to swim around boats. They liked to play in the wake that the big boats made as they glided across the surface. Ben would always get nervous watching the videos because Reymond would swim really close to the boat propellers. Mr. Geary was learning all about how dolphins look for food, and the health of the ocean. We knew that the work that Mr. Geary was doing was going to make the oceans safer for dolphins and healthier for all of us.
One day after school I couldn't find Ben. We usually met at the gate and pretended to play catch until we thought the coast was clear to
duck behind the gate. Mr. Geary had made us both keys so we didn't have to climb over anymore. It wasn't like Ben to be late. Actually it was usually Ben that had to wait on me. I wouldn't say I was "worried" but I was curious, so I went out to find him. He was in the first place I looked, the library. I saw him looking out the window at a group of loud boys. After they were far enough away from the library door he made break for it and ran out. He almost knocked me over as he ran by me to the gate. I took off after him and caught up with him at the stairs. I asked him what was going on and he told me that the loud group of kids had told him at lunch that they were going to beat him up after school. He said he ran into them in the bathroom at lunch and he accidentally bumped into one of them while he was washing his hands. He said he was sorry but the bullies told him he was going be in BIG trouble after school. I laughed at him for being such a scaredy cat but when I saw he was really upset I decided it wasn't a good time to tease him.
When we got down to the cave we saw that Ben wasn't the only one that had a bad day. Mr. Geary was putting a bandage on a large cut on Della's tail fin. Ben ran over and asked Della what happened. Della pointed over at the TV where Mr. Geary had downloaded their daily videos. We started to watch Della's video and it looked like a pretty typical day. They chased some boats, found a bunch of jellyfish, and swam around with a manta ray for a while. Then the video showed that Della spotted a super shiny shell on the sea floor by huge boulder. She swam over to pick it up to give to Ben when Â
four sharks popped up on the other side of the boulder. Sharks and dolphins usually don't interact much with each other but for some reason this group of sharks were feeling cranky. One of them lunged for Della and the others followed. The video then showed Della swimming away as fast as she could, ducking around coral, swimming through tunnels, and trying to escape by leaping out above the water. Then we saw Della's head swing around to see one of the sharks take a giant chomp on her tail. It slowed her down just enough for the other sharks to catch up to her when out of no where Reymond comes charging in with lightning speed and spears one of the sharks with his hard nose. The shark quickly retreated and Reymond turned to ram the shark that was biting Della's tail. The shark let his bite go and swam away into the darkness. Just then another shark was approaching Reymond from behind and Della started to swim straight at him. Just as Della was about to ram into the shark attacking Reymond, the shark chickened out and ran away.
The rest of the video shows Reymond helping Della swim back to the caves where they knew that Mr. Geary would be able to help her. I looked over at Reymond with pride and noticed that his nose looked a little beat up. I reached down and gave him a little rub. Ben helped Mr. Geary finish covering Della's bandage so it wouldn't affect her swimming. I was really happy that Della didn't get hurt worse, and I was proud of Reymond for helping Della out. Della told Ben that she was sorry that she didn't get the shiny shell for him and we all had a Â
The next day Ben was late meeting me at the gate again. I figured it was the same problem and was frustrated that Ben was such a chicken and was always hiding. As I came around the corner I saw the group of boys on the playground and Ben looking out the library window. The bullies were looking back at Ben making jokes about him and shaking their fists at him. Now I am the master of making Ben jokes and I had shook my fist at him more than once but nobody else was going to mess with my brother. After seeing how Reymond stuck up for Della I realized that it is important to be there for your family when there is trouble. I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't have a super hard nose that I could go ram the bullies with, but I knew I had to do something. Then I remembered that I had a tape recorder in my pocket. Mr. Geary used an old audio tape recorder to be able to record his notes when his hand got tired of writing. The day before he had asked me to get some new batteries from his grounds keeper office. I had replaced the batteries but I had forgotten about it and left it in my jacket pocket. And I was happy I had. I hit the record button and walked over to the group of boys and said, "Hey, leave my brother alone." They started to laugh at me, and I said, "I am serious, you don't mess with a Shmickle or you are going to regret it." They laughed some more and then one of the bullies said, "That is cute Baby Ben is going to have his sister take his beating for him." I told them that I would prefer for things to not get physical but if they had to beat someone up that I would happily take it for my brother. They Â
Mr. Geary used an old audio tape recorder to be able to record his notes when his hand got tired of writing. The day before he had asked me to get some new batteries from his grounds keeper office. I had replaced the batteries but I had forgotten about it and left it in my jacket pocket. And I was happy I had. Â
weren't expecting that response and started to call me names that I would rather not say in this story, but they were really, really bad names. By this time they had made a circle around me and I didn't have a path way to run away. I was starting to think that maybe this wasn't a great idea when I heard the librarian's voice say, "What is going on here?" I looked over and saw Ben standing behind the librarian. He had seen me in trouble and gotten help.
The mean group of boys instantly pretended to be angels and told the librarian that they were just asking me what my favorite TV show was, and that there was no problem. That is when I took the audio recorder out of my pocket and played the whole conversation back for everyone to hear. The librarian marched the boys straight over to the principalʼs office. Ben smiled at me and said thank you. I smiled back and told him to not get used to it. All the bullies had to write an apology letter to Ben and I explaining how they know it is bad to be a bully, and they got notes sent home to their parents. I know one of them got their trip to Disneyland taken away from them. His family still went but he had to stay behind at his cousinʼs house and sleep on the couch and mow their lawn. I warned them that if they messed with a Schmickle they were going to regret it.
CHAPTER 5 The Secret Party One day while we were down in the caves Mr. Geary said he needed to run up to his storage closet to grab some tools. While he was gone curiosity got the best of me and I went over and had a peak at what he was working on. His notebook had a bunch of charts and formulas scribbled all over it. I had no idea what I was looking at, none of it made any sense to me. But I did see a little note on the bottom that made sense to me. It said, "5 days until my Birthday!!!" I took the notebook over to Ben and told him that we need to do something special, but we should keep it as a surprise. Ben rolled his eyes at me and said, "Aren't we keeping enough secrets?"
I was very excited about the idea of throwing Mr. Geary a surprise party… but I had no idea what Mr. Geary would want at his birthday party. I didn't know what kind of food he liked. I didn't know what kind of music he listened to, I didn't even know how old he was going to be. I asked Ben if he knew what kind of party we should have and he said, "I don't know, why don't you ask Reymond." I felt silly. Why hadn't I thought to ask one of Mr. Geary's best friends? I went over and sat down on the dock and had a conversation with Reymond about Mr. Geary's party. Reymond let me know that he loved chocolate cupcakes, reggae music, and that he was going to turn 54
That night I had to start putting the plan together. Surprising Mr. Geary was going to be pretty easy. This isn't the first time we would be sneaking down to the cave. The tricky part was going to be getting the decorations and cupcakes without my parents wondering what we were up to. I thought a Caribbean theme would go good with Mr. Geary's love of reggae music. That, and we had just thrown my Dad a Hawaiian themed birthday the month before I think there were a bunch of decorations left in the basement closet. We had some coconut cups, a couple blowup palm trees, and an inflatable whale. It wasn't too fancy but it was something. I went down and stuffed all the decorations into my backpack and then put my jacket over it.
Now that I had solved the decorations problem, I had to figure out a way to get chocolate cupcakes made, and a reason to bring them to school in the morning. I had a completely sleepless night trying to figure out a way to make it work. Maybe it was my sleepiness or maybe it just took a while to think of it but at 5am I came up with the perfect plan! The first part of the plan was to get my Mom to let me have a baking party with about five of my friends. My Mom thought that sounded like fun and she took me to the store to buy all the ingredients. Then the next step of the plan was to NOT INVITE ANYONE. I know that sounds like a bad plan but let me explain why. See we already had the baking supplies and when nobody showed up for the party (because I never invited them) my Mom felt bad for Â
I had Ben blow up the inflatable palm trees while I blew up the whale.
me and helped me bake all the chocolate cupcakes. So then I had a whole tray of yummy chocolate cupcakes, all I needed now was an excuse to bring them to school. Just then my Dad walked by and grabbed two of the cupcakes and walked back out of the room. My Mom told me I had better take the cupcakes to school with me or Dad would eat them all himself. Sometimes solutions will just walk into the room when you need them most.
The next day was Mr. Geary's Birthday and Ben and I talked our Dad into taking us to school a little early so we could help Mr. Geary with a project. It was kind of the truth, Mr. Geary just didn't know about the project. So our Dad dropped us off and we snuck down to the cave. I had Ben blow up the inflatable palm trees while I blew up the whale. To my surprise, Ben had spent all of the night before up in his room making a black, green, and yellow paper chain that was long enough to stretch across the whole cave. I asked him why he chose those colors and Ben said it was the colors of the Jamaican flag. At times like that I realized that all the useless information that Ben memorized may not have been useless after all. Della and Reymond swam up and we could tell they were excited about all the decorations. I asked Ben if it was healthy for dolphins to eat chocolate cupcakes. He said, "It isn't healthy for humans to eat chocolate cupcakes so I can't imagine it would be good for dolphins."
Just then the first bell rang for school. We said “bye” to Della and Reymond and headed up to class. I was so excited to surprise Mr. Geary. At lunch I saw him in the cafeteria and I was worried my excitement would explode. As soon as the last bell rang Ben and I ran down to the cave to get there before Mr. Geary. We said "hi" to Della and Reymond and waited to hear footsteps on the stairs. As soon as we heard the door at the top of stairs start to open I turned off the lights. We heard Mr. Geary's steps coming down the stairs, closer, closer, and closer. Then he opened the door to the cave and turned on the lights. Ben and I jumped out of the darkness and yelled "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" Mr. Geary was less surprised and more scared, he jumped away from our yell he stumbled and fell right into the water with a giant splash. I was worried that maybe we made our surprise too big but then Mr. Geary came up out of the water with a giant smile on his face. He was laughing at his own clumsiness. Della and Raymond swam over to him and he gave them both giant celebratory hugs. Ben turned on some happy reggae music and the party was started.
Luckily Mr. Geary had some towels stored underneath his table, so he was able to dry off. He loved the Caribbean decorations and loved the chocolate cupcakes even more. Mr. Geary was in such a good mood he showed us some of his dance moves. At least he called them dance moves. They looked more like he was about to stumble into the pool again, but it was his birthday so we didn't tease him about it.
Della and Reymond told us that they had a special birthday gift too. They said it was on their cameras and wanted Mr. Geary to download it to the TV. When the video started we saw that Della and Reymond had come across a pod of dolphins that were migrating through the area. The next thing we saw was amazing. Della and Reymond were teaching the other wild dolphins how to communicate using Mr. Geary's training techniques. Della and Reymond had gone from being Mr. Geary's students to being the other dolphin's teachers. Mr. Geary was so happy. It was his dream to be able to communicate with all different types of dolphins and now that his friends Della and Reymond could teach the possibilities were endless. Mr. Geary watched the video with a giant smile on his face as his dolphin friends taught the pod how to say, "I love you." He had never been so proud of his work or his friends.
After the video ended Della said that Reymond and herself had one more surprise for Mr. Geary but he wasn't going to get to see it for a couple more months. Then Della made a gesture that I had never seen before. I looked over at Ben to see if he knew what she had said. I could tell by the confused look on his face that he didn't know either. Mr. Geary had a tear of happiness coming out of the corner of his eye and said, "Just when I thought today couldn't be any more amazing." Ben and I had to know what Della had just said, so I shouted out "What is it?" Mr. Geary laughed and explained that Della and Reymond were going to have a baby. Â
CHAPTER 6 Learning Can Be Hard This might sound strange to you since you are actually reading something that I wrote but … I used to hate writing. I hated it. I hated every part about it. I hated the spelling, the paragraphs, the punctuation. I just couldn't figure it out. I had all kinds of awesome stories in my head but I couldn't figure out how to get them onto paper. I became so frustrated with writing that I would look for any excuse to not do it. But my teacher Mrs. Ligget loved giving us writing assignments. The very first day of school she had us write about what we did that summer. It was awful. She took my perfectly fun summer and turned it into homework. One week, our assignment was to write about our favorite activity. I was frustrated to have another writing assignment, and I was frustrated that I couldn't write about my favorite activity because it was a secret.
My favorite activity was teaching Reymond new tricks. Reymond loved for me to dream up new tricks for him to do. I trained him to do a double back flip and swim with just his dorsal fin sticking out of the water like a shark. That one always freaked Ben out. But Mr. Geary didn't just have us work with the dolphins on tricks. We also had
language lessons for them. Reymond didn't like the language lessons as much. Reymond would get his sounds and gestures mixed up all the time. Sometimes it was funny because he would say, "Today I saw a trash fish," when he meant to say, "Today I saw a fast fish." He would get frustrated and want to practice more on tricks. I had to work hard to keep him focused on the lessons. We developed a plan that if he spent 30 minutes on his language lessons he could have 10 extra minutes to work on tricks. That usually worked but sometimes I had to bribe him with fish.
Then one day all the bribes stopped working. Reymond was angry with himself because Della seemed to pick up the language lessons very easily. He felt so bad that he started saying that he wasn't smart enough for the research, and Mr. Geary should find a new dolphin that was smarter. I told Reymond that he was being ridiculous. He was the smartest most clever dolphin I had ever met. I told him that it is easy to do the things you are good at all the time, it takes courage and strength to challenge yourself to get better at the things you aren't good at. I explained to him that the only way to get better is to practice, and if you avoid the work or quit you have no chance of improving. It was at the moment that I realized that I gave Reymond the exact same speech that Mrs. Ligget had given to me about writing.
I told Reymond about how I was having a hard time with my writing assignments just like he was having problems with his language Â
My favorite activity was teaching Reymond new tricks.
lessons. We made a promise to help each other get through our challenges. By sharing my problem with Reymond we both realized that everyone has things that they are good at and some things that they might not be good at. That doesn't mean you give up, it means you find a way to make it better.
From that day on Reymond and I had a different attitude toward our challenges. Instead of trying to find ways to avoid them we thought about how good we would feel once we overcame them. We discovered that if Reymond was swimming laps while we went over his language lessons it was easier for him to focus. Part of his problem before was that he was sitting still and over thinking things. When he relaxed and moved around the gestures and sounds came much more naturally to him. Reymond helped me discover that if I read what I wrote out loud I would notice where I could make improvements. When I reread what I wrote I would find things that didn't make sense, I would see words that were misspelled, and I would see places where I could be more descriptive. Just by approaching my writing in a new way I got better at it and it became more fun for me.
I still had to do my "Favorite Activity" assignment. I told Reymond that it wasn't fair because I could write about working with him. Reymond was happy to hear that hanging out with him was my favorite activity and he suggested that maybe I just not mention that he was a dolphin. It was a great idea. I wrote my assignment about how I like to Â
hang out with my friend Reggie (I changed his name just as an extra layer to keep the secret safe). I wrote about how we liked to play games, tease my brother, dance, swim, and have parties. I wrote about how having a good friend gives you courage to face your challenges because you know you have someone there to help you. I explained how it makes you feel really good about yourself when you can help someone else overcome their challenges.
Mrs. Ligget noticed an amazing improvement in my writing for the “Favorite Activity” assignment and asked me after class if Reggie helped me with my writing. I told her that Reggie suggested I reread my stories out loud to find where things didn't make sense and where I could add more details. She told me Reggie sounded like a very good and smart friend. I giggled a little bit because I knew that Mrs. Ligget had no idea that she had just complimented a dolphin that was in a cave below her classroom. At that moment the secret I had seemed really funny to me. It was too ridiculous to be true.
At lunch my classmates teased me about my friend Reggie. Everyone was asking me if he was my boyfriend. I told them, “No, it wasn't like that at all.” But they kept teasing me. I didn't like getting teased and I thought about telling them the truth to prove to them how wrong they were, but I realized it wasn't worth it. I told them I would appreciate it if they would stop teasing me and if they couldn't stop I was going to have to go sit somewhere else to eat. I guess I used my serious voice because they stopped picking on me. We went back to talking about
normal lunch stuff like how Mrs. Ligget's breath smelled like coffee and cough drops.
Soon after that I began to write all the time, I still had a hard time with spelling and punctuation but it was worth the effort to be able to share an adventure with someone else. Reymond started to love his language lessons just as much as learning new tricks. Well maybe not as much as learning new tricks but he liked his language lessons way more than he used to. We both realized that sometimes the hardest things to do are the most rewarding. Things that make you feel bad about yourself can be turned into things that make you feel proud of yourself. It takes work, patience, creativity, and a good friend to help you out.
CHAPTER 7 The Rescue I was so excited I almost squealed when I walked into class and saw that Mrs. Ligget had written "Marine Mammals" on the board. Every Monday Mrs. Ligget would put up the theme of the week. Everything we did would be around the theme. The science, math, reading, and spelling words were all going to be about marine mammals. It was going to be the best week ever. Everything I had learned about dolphins was going to be useful this week. But then … Mrs. Ligget announced that this week we were going to be studying seals. "Seals? Really, seals?” For once we were going to have a theme that I could get excited about and of all the marine mammals, we are going to be talking about seals all week. How could she not have picked dolphins? Dolphins can literally swim circles around seals.
I was super bummed about it not being dolphins but at least we were going to go on a field trip that Friday. We were going out on a tour boat 30 miles out in the ocean to an island where there was a seal colony. It sounded like a fun trip and it got us out of the classroom for a whole day. So I guess I was feeling a little bit better about it not being a dolphin themed week. Reymond and Della told us all about the island. They said that there were several shipwrecks there from a
long time ago and they liked to swim through the wreckage. They said the only thing they didn't like about the island was that the seals were incredibly loud. They were so loud it was hard for dolphins to communicate there even under the water.
When Friday morning came we all took a bus down to the docks and hopped onto the boat. It wasn't a giant boat but it wasn't tiny either. There was enough room for our class to sit inside the boat. There was a open area in the back but Mrs. Ligget wouldn't let us out there while the boat was moving. She explained that once we were at the islands we could go outside. The boat ride was pretty bouncy and more than one of my classmates made an emergency visit to the bathroom because they were seasick. As we approached the island I could start to hear the barking of the seals and I knew we were getting close. The captain of the ship was in a tiny room next to the big room where we were sitting. I sat near where the captain was because I liked to watch how things worked. He had fancy radios and levers and buttons and switches. As we approached the island the captain was looking at the shore to find a large herd of seals for us to look at.
All of a sudden there was a huge crash and we stopped all of a sudden. I looked up and saw the captain hit his head on the boat wheel and fall to the ground. As he fell he knocked over the radio and it smashed on the ground, just barely missing his head. A bunch of kids had fallen out of their seats and Ben was rubbing his head Â
because he banged it on the window. I jumped up and opened the door to the captainʼs room and bent down to help the captain. He was knocked out. Mrs. Ligget had run up to see what had happened and almost fainted when she saw the captain on the ground. I could see the panic in her eyes and I told her, "Go help the kids that are hurt." She nodded her head and went to help them. Luckily no one was hurt badly, except for the captain. Just a bunch of banged arms and heads but everyone was ok. Ben came over to the captain's room and asked me where the radio was. I pointed at the smashed pieces of metal and plastic on the ground and he made a sad face. I asked Mrs. Ligget if I could go out on the open area to see what we ran into. Mrs. Ligget was in shock and said it was ok for me to go but everyone else needed to stay inside.
From the back of the boat I couldn't see anything. There was a little walkway around the side of the boat and I carefully walked up to the front of the boat. From there I could see what the problem was. The boat had crashed into a underwater ledge. Our big boat was stuck in water only about 4 feet deep that was the good news. The bad news was I could see a hole in the boat bigger than me, and water was rushing into it. It wouldn't be too long before the water coming into the boat would make it unbalanced and tip over. I ran back in to see if Ben was able to get the radio working again. He was trying but there was no way Ben was going to be able to get it fixed.
The bad news was I could see a hole in the boat bigger than me, and water was rushing into it.
I looked out the window to see if there were any other ships that we could flag down for help but I didn't see anything but open seas. But then I saw a familiar splash way off in the distance. And then I saw it again. I ran back out to the back of the boat to take a better look and sure enough that was definitely a dolphin splash and it was getting closer to our boat. Then I saw another splash, and then two at the same time. I closed my eyes and wished with all of my might that the dolphins I was looking at were Della and Reymond. Then I saw Reymond do his double backflip and knew immediately it was them. Everyone in the boat noticed the dolphins too and watched them approach us. I ran inside and told Ben to distract everyone while I talked with them, we couldn't let our class know that we knew how to speak to dolphins or it would ruin our secret. Ben told everyone to come with him to the front of the room where the life jackets were. He told everyone to get in line and watch his demonstration about how to put the life jackets on.
His quick thinking gave me enough time to run back outside and talk with Della and Reymond. They were shocked to see our situation. They said they had just come out to give our field trip a little extra excitement. Reymond swam under the boat and reported back that the whole was pretty bad and that we probably only had a couple hours before the boat would tip over. I told them the radio wasn't working. They promised to swim back as fast as they could to the caves and get Mr. Geary to call for help. They told me not to worry and took off for the shore. Â
When I came back inside the boat, Ben threw me a life jacket and I put it on. Our class looked a little silly in the bright orange life jackets. I pulled Mrs. Ligget aside and told her everything was going to be ok. She asked me how I knew it was going to be ok and I told her to just trust me. I must have used my serious voice again because Mrs. Ligget seemed to relax a little. I suggested that Mrs. Ligget go ahead and give us the lesson that she had planned to give us about the seals because it might be a while before help arrived. Mrs. Ligget started to point out things in the seal herd that we could easily see from the boat. Ben and I tended to the boat captain. He had regained consciousness and we helped him put on a life jacket.
As Mrs. Ligget was finishing her lesson we heard a helicopter in the distance. We all ran over to the windows to see it coming. It was a Coast Guard chopper and as it got close to our boat it scared all of the seals off of the beach and into the water. Mrs. Ligget went out onto the back of the boat to wave at the chopper. Then the chopper hovered above us and they shouted down to us on a megaphone that a rescue ship was coming and would arrive in about 10 minutes. Everyone let out a cheer, but I was a little disappointed that we weren't going to be lifted up into the chopper on a rope. That would have been awesome. The chopper flew away and we waited for what felt like way more than 10 minutes before we saw our rescue ship. When the Coast Guard ship arrived they built a bridge between our ships and we all carefully walked onto the working boat. As the Coast Guard detached the bridge from our field trip boat it started to tip. We Â
had been rescued just in time.
They brought all of us into a big room in the middle of their ship and gave us apple juice and popcorn. There was nothing like a life threatening situation to make you hungry. I overheard the Coast Guard Captain explaining to Mrs. Ligget that we were very lucky that they received that anonymous call about us being in trouble. No one would have known that there was any trouble until evening when our boat didn't return. I looked out the window back at our field trip boat that was now completely on its side. Then I looked out the side window and noticed something splashing in the boat wake. It was Della and Reymond who swam back out to make sure we were ok. I gestured through the window "Thank you." I had never been so happy to be able to talk to dolphins.
CHAPTER 8 Mr. Geary's Vacation On the Monday after the boat incident I was really looking forward to going down to see Della and Reymond. As soon as school was out I ran down and gave them both some serious rubs on the head. I thanked them, over, and over, and over again. They were happy and proud to have been able to help. Mr. Geary showed up and I asked him why he made an anonymous call to the Coast Guard. He could have been a hero. Mr. Geary said that he couldn't have explained how he knew the boat was in trouble without giving away his secret. It was a shame that we had to keep it all a secret because Mr. Geary and his dolphins saved our entire class from ending up in the ocean.
After Ben arrived a few minutes later, Mr. Geary said he had an announcement for us. He explained that he had received an invitation to his nieceʼs wedding in Chicago and he would really like to go. Then he said that he had not taken a vacation for ten years because he had to take care of Della and Reymond everyday. I understood his problem, it wasn't like he could put two dolphins in his carry on luggage, and the pet kennel in town didn't have facilities to keep dolphins. I tried to think of a solution for Mr. Geary when he suggested one himself. Mr. Geary asked if Ben and I would be willing
to watch Della and Reymond for a couple days. I was honored and shocked.
Mr. Geary said that he overheard Mrs. Ligget talking in the teachers' lounge about how amazingly mature and helpful Ben and I had been during the boat wreck. She told all the other teachers about how Ben and I took care of the hurt captain while she took care of the other children. Mr. Geary said he was really proud and impressed by how we handled that bad situation. He said that he realized if we could handle a shipwreck that we could handle watching his friends for a couple days.
It sounded like fun, but it was also a little bit scary. We didn't want to let Mr. Geary down. Over the next couple days Mr. Geary showed us all the other tasks he did when we weren't around. He wrote up a giant checklist for us to make sure we wouldn't forget anything. By the time the day came for him to leave Ben and I felt prepared. The day before he left, Mr. Geary said he received a very special delivery in the mail. It was a big box and he opened it very carefully on his desk. Ben asked what it was and Mr. Geary said, "It is a sonogram machine so we can track Della's little baby's progress."
He got the machine out and Ben helped him connect it to the TV. Della and Reymond were super excited, and as soon as it was ready Della swam over belly up so Mr. Geary could put the sonar on her. It took him a couple seconds to find it but then there it was on the TV. Â
We could see a tiny little dolphin swimming around in Della's womb. We could see its heartbeat and eyes. It was incredible. I think Reymond was the most proud and happy to take a sneak peak at his little baby. Mr. Geary checked a couple other things and said that everything looked like it was going fine.
I thought it was super cool to peak inside of Della and I asked Mr. Geary if it was ok if we used the sonogram machine while he was gone. He thought that it would be fine and said that we could do it every other day. He showed us how the machine worked and how to save a picture so we could send him email updates while he was gone. It was about time for us to go up to the playground to get picked up so we hugged Mr. Geary goodbye and told him to have a great trip.
The next couple days were pretty normal, well except that I was in charge of taking care of the two smartest and most important dolphins in the history of humankind. Everyday after school Ben and I were very careful to do all of the tasks on the list. We downloaded their camera videos, took their temperature and made sure they didn't have any parasitic fish stuck on them. Ben kept up Mr. Geary's journal entries and I would find the most interesting parts of the dolphin cam videos to send to Mr. Geary. We weren't as good at the sonogram as Mr. Geary was, and it usually took us along time to find the little baby dolphin but when we did it was always exciting. I thought the baby looked like a little girl. Every time we would find the Â
baby with the sonogram it would give a flip with her tail. I told Della that it looked like the baby was trying to jump out. Della said that is what it feels like too. Ben thought it looked like a little boy. Sometimes we would catch the baby rubbing his flippers on its tiny little chin. Ben said it looked like the baby was deep in thought. I guess one of us was right but we would have to wait to see.
The day before Mr. Geary was going to return, Ben and I made sure everything in the cave was clean and in order. We wanted to prove to him that he was right to trust us with such a big responsibility. Ben put all of his journals in a neat stack on his desk, and for the first time ever I cleaned up my work area. I found some awesome drawings that I had forgotten that I had. The cave looked great, Della and Reymond looked great. All we needed was for Mr. Geary to come back home. We were excited for him to see how well we had done. Della and Reymond were really looking forward to his return too. They had never been away from him and even though they were well taken care of, they missed their friend. I gave Della and Reymond a nose rub and thanked them for being so good for us and then Ben and I went up to the playground to wait for our ride.
That evening the weather was beautiful and after dinner Ben and I went out in the yard and played on our swing set until the sun went down. Our parents came out and said that they had received a phone call from Mrs. Ligget who couldn't stop bragging about how amazing we were during the boat wreck situation. My Dad said he was Â
We weren't as good at the sonogram as Mr. Geary was, and it usually took us along time to find the little baby dolphin but when we did it was always exciting.
proudest that we worked together to help people in trouble and made them feel safe. My Mom said she was proud of us too but if she would have seen me walking down that skinny path on the side of the boat and hanging over the edge to see the damage she would have grounded me for a month. I laughed and said that I guess it was a good thing you didn't come on this field trip with us.
I think it was all the extra work we did in the cave that day, or maybe the fresh air from playing on the swing set but I fell asleep very quickly that night. I remember I was dreaming about swimming with Della's new baby in the cave when I was suddenly woken up. My bed was shaking. I thought maybe Ben was playing a prank on me but then I remembered that Ben doesn't play pranks on me, I only play pranks on him. Then I noticed the pictures on my wall were shaking too. Then my dresser fell over onto the ground and I heard my Dad yell out from my parentʼs bedroom, "KIT, PUP ARE YOU OK?" The house stopped shaking. We had just had a major earthquake. My Mom ran into my room and gave me a big hug and my Dad ran in to check on Ben. Our house was a mess but my Dad said it seemed structurally ok. We went outside and saw that our neighborʼs chimney had fallen over into their back yard. Dad ran over to check on them to make sure they were ok. Everyone on our street seemed to be ok. Ben and I only had one thing on our minds, Della and Reymond. We wanted to know if they were alright but we couldn't get away from our house in the middle of the night to check. We would have to wait until morning.
CHAPTER 9 The Tsunami We went back into the house and our parents told us to go back to sleep. Like I was going to be able to sleep after that? I did go back to my room and picked up my dresser and shoved the clothes back in. Then I laid down in my bed. My Dad was watching the news in the living room and I could hear it if I laid very still. They said it was the largest earthquake the area had seen in over a hundred years and that there was a tsunami warning for the whole coast. It took everything in me to stay in bed and not run out, get on my bike and go down to the cave to check on Della and Reymond. But I knew I had to keep the secret and that meant being patient. So I laid still listening to the news. Along the shoreline some buildings were knocked over but the news people seemed to be more worried about a reported 20-foot tall tsunami wave headed for the coast.
At some point I drifted back to sleep. When I saw the sunlight coming through my window I jumped out of bed and went down to the living room. My Dad was there sleeping on the couch. He must have fallen asleep watching the news. The TV was showing video from the destruction from the earthquake and the tsunami wave. The wave hit the shore pretty hard but because of the warning sirens everyone
was able to make it to higher ground and there were no reports of anyone being hurt. My Mom came into the room and said, "That was quite a night, huh?" I didn't even look away from the TV, I just shook my head yes. I couldnʼt help but think that Della and Reymond were out there somewhere and I wanted to know that they were safe.
I told my Mom I was going to go get ready for school but she told me that school had been cancelled. They got a phone call that the school had been flooded. Dad woke up and said that the earthquake probably broke some water pipes and poured water into the school all night. He said not to worry about it and enjoy the day off. But I didn't want a day off I wanted to go to the school. Ben woke up and saw the news on the TV. I told him the school had been flooded and it was closed. I grabbed him by the arm and took him to my room. I told Ben we have to find an excuse to go down to the school today to make sure Della and Reymond are ok. Ben calmed me down and said we had to play it cool. We should just eat breakfast and then ask if we can go out for a bike ride. Then we could go down and check out the cave. Ben was always the more logical one. He was right. If we were patient we could sneak out later this morning.
Our parents let us eat breakfast in front of the TV. Usually we weren't allowed to eat in front of the TV but today clearly was not a normal day. Outside it was sunny and warm. The birds were already back to work singing in the trees. If it weren't for the news on the TV you wouldn't know that the entire earth shook itself silly just a couple of
Our parents let us eat breakfast in front of the TV. Usually we weren't allowed to eat in front of the TV but today clearly was not a normal day.
hours ago. Ben and I got dressed for the day and asked if we could go for a bike ride. My Mom said, "No way, there might be power lines down, and unsafe buildings and…" My Dad cut her off and said, "Let them go explore a little, We are Schmickles. We don't just sit around on our butts all day we have adventures." My Mom made us promise to be super safe and to make sure we were home for lunch or we were going to be in BIG trouble. We agreed and we were out the door.
Our school was a couple miles from our house so it took us a while to get there. On the way there we didn't see any damage at all, other than our neighborʼs chimney. It made sense to me, the center of the earthquake was out in the ocean and we were pretty far inland so we didn't get the worst of it. As we got closer to school Ben and I noticed an odd smell in the air. I said, “It smells like we are getting close to the beach.” Ben agreed and we peddled a little faster. Once we got to the school we could see why it was cancelled. The playground looked like a lake and the water went right up to the doors of the classrooms. There were a couple fire trucks and police cars parked in front of the school with a lot of grown ups with confused looks on their faces.
We rode right up to where they were talking to each other and I heard a firefighter say, "I am telling you that is salt water, smell it." He was right, it did smell exactly like salt water. But then a police officer said, "But that doesn't make any sense, we are at least 20 miles inland. How could saltwater from the ocean get all the way out
here?" Another firefighter insisted that they checked every water line coming in or out of the school and they couldn't find a leak anywhere. They were so confused but Ben and I knew what was going on. The tsunami had forced ocean water through the tunnels that went to the secret cave and flooded it all the way up to the playground. We knew the answer but we couldn't tell the police officer without ruining the secret. The firefighter said that the water had already gone down about ten inches on its own in the last couple hours so they decided to let the ground absorb the flood water back up.
We didn't know what we were going to do. There was no way to go to the cave because it was covered with a lake of ocean water. I was getting really nervous about things when I heard a familiar voice behind me say, "Hello." It was Mr. Geary. His flight had landed just before the earthquake hit. It took him all night to find a ride back home because all of the bridges were closed. I ran and gave Mr. Geary a big hug. I told him I was really worried about Della and Reymond. He looked down at me and told me that we didn't need to worry about them. Dolphins know exactly what to do when an earthquake hits. He explained how dolphins instinctively swim out to deep water, just like people go to higher ground. Mr. Geary said he was more worried about how we were going to explain all this salt water on the playground. One thing I loved about Mr. Geary is he always had a smile on his face. Even with the school and his secret cave under water he smiled at us and thanked us for all of the email updates we sent him. Â
Then we overheard one of the police officers talking on their phone about how a group of geologists were going to be coming in two days to investigate the flood. Mr. Geary said, "Well I guess that gives us some time to come up with a really good story about how ocean water ended up at our school. I am sure your parents are worried about you, go home and get some rest. We are going to have a couple of exciting days coming up." I made Mr. Geary promise me that Della and Reymond were safe before I would leave. He told me that he knows Della and Reymond would always take good care of each other and he was sure they were ok.
Ben and I rode our bikes home in plenty of time before lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon watching the news and trying to figure out how to help Mr. Geary. At about 3 o'clock the phone rang at our house, it was Mr. Geary and he asked my Mom if it would be ok if we came down to the school to help him clean up some of the mess since we were his volunteers. My Mom thought that was better than us watching the same pictures on the news over and over again so she let us go. Mr. Geary came and picked us up in his car. On the drive to the school Mr. Geary said that he had great news. The cameras he had put on Della and Reymond had a tracking device on them and he said he saw on his computer that they both were swimming around about 15 miles off the shore. I felt so relieved. I smiled.
CHAPTER 10 The Last Hope By the time we made it back to the school with Mr. Geary the water had already disappeared from the playground. We went over to the stairs down to the cave and opened the door. The cave was still flooded and the water was halfway up the stairs. Mr. Geary said that he thought by the next day we should be able to go down and see what was left of the cave. We spent the rest of the day cleaning up the school grounds with Mr. Geary. There really wasn't too much damage. Nothing a little cleaning and painting couldn't fix. But we were all worried about the cave, and the geologists that were coming to investigate the flood.
The next morning they opened the school back up. The classroom was buzzing with everyone sharing their earthquake stories. One of them even saw on the news that the boat from our field trip had washed up onto one of the beaches down by the zoo. In the lunchroom I saw Mr. Geary in the back corner mopping up some spilled milk. I looked around to make sure no one was close enough to hear us talk and asked him if he was able to check on the cave. He said it was pretty beat up but nothing that couldn't be replaced.
That day after school Mr. Geary, Ben and I went down to the cave together. Mr. Geary said that he was able to get the power and lights working when he came into work early that morning. We opened the door and saw that the dock had been completely destroyed. Our workstations were gone, the TV and sonogram were washed away. I felt sick to my stomach. I knew that Mr. Geary had put so much work into making that cave a great place for Della and Reymond and himself. Now it was just a cave with some lights in it. I told Mr. Geary, "I am so sorry." He smiled back at me and said, "It is in better shape than when I first discovered it a long time ago. I can rebuild it all, with a little help." He winked at Ben and I to let us know that we were just as much a part of the cave as he was.
Ben, letting the logical side of his brain take over like it usually did, said, "Have you both forgot a team of geologists are coming and they are going to find this cave." Mr. Geary just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Maybe they will, maybe they won't. Nobody has found it yet, except for me and two little trouble making kids." But Ben was right, we needed to come up with a plan. Coming up with plans had become a specialty of mine. That night as I was eating dinner it all started to come to me. After dinner I pulled Ben into my room to help me fill in the missing pieces.
Instead of trying to hide that there are tunnels under the school full of ocean water, why don't we lead the geologists right to them. I remembered in one of the videos from Reymond's camera that there Â
was a whole series of tunnels under the school, Mr. Geary had been working on a map with Reymond to see if there might be even more caves under the town. They hadnʼt found any other caves, just more tunnels. I had Ben pull up Mr. Geary's secret website about the underwater cave and tunnels. We looked at the map and noticed that there was a tunnel that ran right under the fire hydrant at the edge of the baseball fields. I told Ben we should lead the geologist to that tunnel and tell them we saw water bubbling up from there one day. Then they will focus their search in that area and leave the cave alone. Ben didn't think it was a great plan. But it was the only plan we had.
The next day we saw Mr. Geary on the playground before school and let him know about my idea. He thought it was just crazy enough that it might work. All day I kept my eye on the window of the classroom to see when the geologists arrived. They didn't arrive until the afternoon and I was so nervous. What if today was the day that the secret ended? What if today was the day the rest of the world found out about our magical little cave under the school. The principal led the team of geologists to Mr. Geary and said that he was the expert on the school grounds and that he would help them find their way around. It was exactly what we needed for my plan to work. Mr. Geary told the geologists that some kids had told him that there was a puddle of water next to the fire hydrant one day but he didn't think anything of it because it was probably just a little leak from the hydrant. The geologists thought it sounded like a good place to start
School got out just as the geologists started to unpack all kinds of fancy equipment from their trucks. They had drills, sonars, remote video cameras, and a water lab. Everyone gathered around as they started to drill near the hydrant. It wasn't long before their drill had hit the tunnel from the maps and a little spurt of water came shooting out of the ground. One of the scientist got a sample of the water and smelled it. She instantly knew it was salt water but she started her test anyway. I could tell that the geologists were very excited about their discovery. One of them was so happy about their find that he gave a spontaneous lesson to everyone who was watching. He explained that the school was built on an old volcano and that there must be old lava flows that were filled with ocean water. He went on to say that when the tsunami hit the coast it must have forced water through the lava flow tunnels and up onto our playground. The mystery was solved. I let out a sigh of relief and hoped that they would pack up their trucks and head home. But they didn't.
I heard one of them ask the principal if they could come back the next day with better sonar equipment to see what else might be underneath the school grounds. The principal agreed that it sounded like a good idea. I was so frustrated. My plan almost worked. But now they were going to find the cave for sure. Ben and I snuck down to the cave and saw that Mr. Geary had been busy. He had already rebuilt most of the dock. He showed up a few minutes later and said Â
They had drills, sonars, remote video cameras, and a water lab. Everyone gathered around as they started to drill near the hydrant.
he was up all night working on it. I asked him if Della and Reymond had come back into the cave and he sadly shook his head no. He had been tracking them on his computer and said that they are still about 15 miles off shore. He said they are probably just being cautious. There were all kinds of things floating out in the ocean that had been swept away in the tsunami. They were probably smart to let it all settle down before they came back in to the shore.
We all sat down on the new dock knowing it might be the last time we got to sit there together in our secret cave. I was trying to not give up hope but we were running out of time. Ben laid back and looked up at the cave ceiling. Then he sat up so fast I though maybe he had heard someone else coming down the stairs. I asked him, "What's wrong." He said, "Nothing is wrong, I think I might have one more crazy idea to try." He asked Mr. Geary if he could go buy all of the aluminum foil at the local supermarket and then bring it back to the cave. Mr. Geary smiled really big, patted Ben on the back and ran up the stairs. I had never seen Mr. Geary run before, it was actually a very funny sight. But I cared less about his awkward run and more about why we needed so much aluminum foil. Ben explained that if we lined the ceiling of the cave with the foil it might confuse the sonar equipment just enough to keep the cave hidden. I had two problems with this plan. Number one was, it didn't make any sense to me. Number two was, the ceiling was huge, it was bigger than the gym and the ceiling was at least 20 feet high. How were we going to get up there?
Mr. Geary came back in less than 30 minutes with 27 boxes of industrial aluminum foil and giant ladder. I figured that if Mr. Geary had faith in Ben's plan then I would too. We asked Mr. Geary how we could help and he said, "Well lets get to work then." Mr. Geary detached a portion of the dock from the wall turning it into a freefloating barge. It was about as big as a cafeteria table and he set up his ladder in the middle of it. Then he tied two ropes to either end and told Ben and I to go to opposite sides of the cave and pull on the ropes to keep the barge steady. Mr. Geary climbed up the ladder with a box of foil under his arm. He worked hard and fast. He was able to tuck the foil around the bumps and jags of the cave ceiling. Once he was done with a section Ben and I would use the ropes to pull the barge to a new section. It took us a long time but we finally got the entire ceiling of the cave covered. It looked weird but pretty. It made the room much more bright than it had ever been because of the lights reflecting off the shiny material. We didn't know if all of our work was going to be worth it, but we had hope.
CHAPTER 11 The Little Secret The next day we had recess in our classroom because the geologists were out on the playground with the sonar equipment. It was so hard to pay attention in class. I knew at any moment our secret cave could be discovered. As we walked to the gym for lunch I saw Mr. Geary working with the geologists. The principal had asked him to give the scientists access to whatever they needed. Mr. Geary saw me looking at him and gave me a smile and a wink. I smiled back but what did that wink mean? Did it mean they already searched the area of the cave and the aluminum foil worked? Did it mean he was going to try and send them off in a different direction away from the cave? At that moment I wished that we had discussed some sort of secret code the day before because that wink was driving me crazy.
As soon as the last bell rang Ben and I searched all over to find Mr. Geary. We found him and the sonar machine on the other side of the gym. We pulled Mr. Geary aside and asked him how things were going. He said that the geologist had found several tunnels but not the cave. He said that he had been stalling by suggesting different locations all day but sooner or later they would want to test the area right above the cave. Mr. Geary said he needed us to help him with some cleaning because he had been busy with the scientists all day.
So Ben and I got to work.
The floodwater had left a watermark along the edges of the outsides of the buildings. Mr. Geary was having us wash it off and then touch it up with some paint from the storage closet. I decided that was a good project for me because it kept me outside so I could keep my eye on the sonar machine. I found three cans of paint and put them on a wagon and went to work. With one eye on my painting and one eye on the geologists I wasn't working very fast. Then I saw them packing up the machine and pointing over to the spot right in front of the gate to the cave. I knew in a few moments we were going to find out if Ben's aluminum foil idea worked. They moved the sonar machine over above the cave and set up all the equipment. They had a long thick electrical cord running from one of their trucks to the sonar machine and I saw a mom trip on it on her way to pick up her child from the after school program. Then I looked at my paint cans and got an idea.
I loaded all the paint back onto the wagon and sauntered over by the cord. I got as close to where the scientists were trying to set up and then … oops. The wheels of the wagon hit the cord and it tipped over onto its side. Three gallons of paint splashed across the ground. It spread out far and wide across the smooth playground surface. The playground was on a bit of a slope so the paint soon covered the entire area around the gate to the cave. I tried my best to look surprised and embarrassed. The scientists rushed to get all of their
equipment out of the way of the spreading paint. Once they successfully moved their instruments clear of the paint spill I overheard them have a conversation. One of them said, "I guess we can come back again tomorrow and do this one last zone." Then another said, "We aren't going to find anything here that we didn't find already at one of the other spots." And then one said, "Lets just go home, I am tired." The lead geologist went over to Mr. Geary and thanked him for all of his help and said that they had all the data they needed. He told Mr. Geary, "This is a pretty special school to have such unique tunnels running underneath it." Mr. Geary laughed and replied, "That is just one of the ways this school is pretty special."
I had never felt so relieved in my entire life. The cave was safe, Della and Reymondʼs home was safe, my favorite place in the world was safe. Mr. Geary helped the scientists pack and sent them on their way. Then he walked over to where I was and explained that I was going to have to spend the next couple days cleaning up that mess of paint. Then he gave me a giant hug and said, "You are a pretty smart cookie Kit Schmickle."
Mr. Geary, Ben and I snuck down to the cave. It felt even more special now after being so close to being discovered. We all sat down on the side of the dock and put our feet in the water. Ben looked up at the ceiling and said, "I bet the foil would have worked." Mr. Geary knew that Ben was a little disappointed that his idea was never tested and said, "I bet it would have worked too. And then your sister
wouldn't have to clean up that mess up on the playground." We all laughed but we knew that our celebration wasn't complete without Della and Reymond. I asked Mr. Geary if he had been tracking them. He explained that he was too busy with the geologists to see where they were today. He said it wasn't like them to be away for so long. He said they would be coming back soon.
I looked around the cave. It looked different than when we first discovered it. The dock still wasn't completely rebuilt. There were no workstations. I knew we were going to have a lot of work to do to get it back to how amazing it was. But I was ready for it. It was a new beginning and this time we were there to help Mr. Geary. Ben looked at his watch and tapped me on the shoulder. It was time for us to go up and catch our ride home. For the first time in several days I didn't worry about it being my last time to see the cave. I knew I would be back tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. I got up and Ben and I walked to the door. As I turned the handle on the door I heard a splash in the water. I turned to see if Mr. Geary had fallen in again but it wasn't him.
Reymond leaped out of the water and did a giant back flip. Ben and I ran back over to the side of the dock. Reymond swam over and we all patted his back and nose. Reymond was as excited to see us, as we were to see him. Ben searched the water for the shadow of Della, but didn't see it. Della was a little slower than Reymond but she usually wasn't so far behind. Mr. Geary and I were too busy loving on Â
Reymond to notice Ben getting nervous about Della. Then Ben interrupted our greeting to ask, "Reymond, where is Della? Why did you leave her behind?" Reymond swam over to Ben and made the gestures for "she will be coming soon." Ben just stared at the tunnel waiting to see Della. But she still wasn't showing up. "What is taking her so long Reymond?" Ben asked. Reymond replied that Della had a little secret.
Just then Ben saw Della's shadow in the water come through the tunnel into the cave. She swam slowly over to the dock. Ben was worried that she must have been hurt in the tsunami and that is why she was swimming so slowly. Della popped her face out of the water right in front of Ben. He reached down and gave her nose a giant hug. He squeezed so tight that he had to close his eyes to put a little extra grip into the hug. When he finally let go Della slipped back underwater and then popped back up again. But this time she wasn't alone. Right next to her was a tiny little dolphin face. Della and Reymond had their baby! Reymond swam over to give his baby a little kiss and show us how proud he was. The baby dolphin was beautiful. It had Reymond's eyes but Della's coloring. It was so tiny and cute, it looked like a toy. Della said that she would like us to meet her little baby boy. I scrunched up my nose in disappointment. I thought for sure it was going to be a girl. Ben did a little dance of celebration for being right. But I really didn't care because he was so cute and Della and Reymond were so proud.
But this time she wasn't alone. Right next to her was a tiny little dolphin face.
Mr. Geary asked what his name was and Reymond explained that they wanted Mr. Geary to name him. Mr. Geary was honored. At first he couldn't think of the right name but then he remembered something Reymond had said. He explained, "Reymond, do you remember when you told Ben that Della was moving a bit slower because she had a little secret?" Reymond nodded yes. “Well I think that you already came up with his name. I think we should call him Secret. He is Della's Little Secret." We all nodded in agreement. It was the perfect name. Della corrected Mr. Geary and said, "He isn't just my Little Secret, he is Our Little Secret."
Dedicated to Elle Gordon