“Hello Waldo,” said Mamma, tying her apron. “I’m starting lunch right away, we’re famished. Help set the table, please.”
“I wanted to show you—” started Waldo, but the twins cut him off.
“Look out! It’s a cave creature, hideously pale from lack of sun!” said Fritz.
“It’s come from the putrid swamps below to mangle us!” cried Felix, and they both collapsed on the floor, writhing and pretending to be mangled.
“I’ve been working,” Waldo muttered. He tried to step over them, but Fritz grabbed his ankle and he tripped. Everything went tumbling across the floor—his eyeglasses, the pistachio-bug shell-press, and a large jar holding the poisonous flying tarantula.
“Hey, that hurt!” cried Waldo. He checked his glasses for scratches. The twins just cackled and ran off.
“Waldo, please, pick up your things!” said Mamma, stepping over him.
“It wasn’t my fault! It was…” started Waldo, but Mamma wasn’t listening. Waldo gathered up his machine. “So much for ‘best day ever,’” he grumbled to himself.
Pip wandered over and picked up the jar with the flying tarantula. It buzzed against the glass and hissed.
“Careful, Pip,” said Waldo, taking it from him. “That’s dangerous.”
“You sure missed a lot this morning,” said Verona, passing by with plates in her hands. “We climbed the tallest spire and drank tea at the top, and there was fiddle music, and a man swallowed fire! Then Fritz and Felix found an old basement with a skeleton in it, and a man asked Mamma to marry her—”
“Let’s forget that ever happened,” frowned Mamma, bustling by. “Waldo! Make yourself useful, won’t you? You’re right in the way.” She dumped a tablecloth on his head.
“I’m trying to show you—” started Waldo, but Pappa arrived holding a large old book.
“Hullo, Waldo!” he said. “I say, we’ve had the most enchanting morning. Have you heard of the ancient city of Levant? Let me show you, have a look here.” He shoved the book in Waldo’s hands and pointed to various passages. “Could you build a contraption to locate persons or individuals? There’s a devilish rumor of a mad saint who lives in the ruins of the old city, guarding a treasure of some sort. Maybe a device to detect treasure would be better, eh? Waldo, my lad, are you listening?”
Waldo groaned. His pleasant mood was quickly boiling off. “I don’t have time right now, Pappa!” He pushed the book back into Pappa’s hands and went to the kitchen, where Mamma was popping pistachio-bugs out of their shells and tossing them into a sizzling pan.
“Spice-fried pistachio-bugs again,” she said, making a pile of the discarded shells. “We bought bags and bags of them at the bazaar. It’s all they eat around these parts! Good thing they’re tasty with pepper and honey.”
“Speaking of pistachio-bugs, look what I made!” said Waldo. He cleared some space on the counter and hoisted his machine onto it. “You just put the leftover shells in the top part here, then turn the crank like this, and…Mamma, watch!”
He put a teaspoon under the machine’s spout. After a serious amount of cranking and churning, a drop of green oil dripped out. Waldo sipped it off the spoon and smacked his lips.
“See?” said Waldo, but Mamma was rummaging through her spices. “Mamma! The device presses pistachio-bug shells and squeezes out an edible oil which you can also use to—”
“One whole drop?” snickered Felix from behind him.
“Help! We’ll be flooded!” laughed Fritz.
“Can you invent us a floating anchor next?” chuckled Felix. “That’s even more useful.”
“Shut up!” said Waldo. “You don’t know anything!”
“Boys, quiet!” said Mamma. “Go set the table! Please, Waldo, I’m very busy. Show me your floating anchor after lunch.”
“Arrrghh!” cried Waldo. He grabbed his machine and the tarantula jar and stomped out to the rear deck.
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