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This week's spotlighted title is Spunky by Sherile Reilly
By Sherile Reilly
A Bandit Creek Book
Tap dancing and riding her dilapidated bike are ten-year old Sarah Crawford’s, better known as Spunky, favorite activities.
After moving to Bandit Creek with her mom, Spunky discovers the old lady in the basement apartment dislikes both her and her dancing.
While practising her tap steps in the garage, Spunky devises a wonderful scheme to raise cash for a new bike. However, disaster strikes when she is accused of theft and her great money-making plan is squashed.
Just when Spunky thinks that Bandit Creek is a horrible place to live, she’s forced to defend her beliefs and her whole world changes. She discovers the town may be more exciting than she ever realized.
About Sherile Reilly
Unlike her heroine, Sherile Reilly has never had to fret about hanging up her tap shoes. Trained as a singer and a pianist, she devoted her expertise to teaching sixth graders and learned as much from them as they learned from her. Sherile is now pursuing other passions, writing and painting. She’s had numerous showings of her art and her work has been selected as ‘Best in the Show’. She lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband Ed.
Tap-tap. Tap-pe-ty-tap. Spunky hopped into the air. Her tap shoes exploded against the basement floor and she grinned as she sailed past the washer and dryer. Dancing felt sooo good. It was the first time she’d been able to practice since she and her mom moved to Bandit Creek.
Keeping her knees bent and her hands forward, she pretended the top of the washer was a stand-up piano. With the sharp smell of bleach tickling her nose, she drummed a rhythm on the metal surface and belted out a song to the beating of the machine.
From high above, the twin windows cast spotlights on the floor. Standing center stage, Spunky swiped her red cap from her head and with a flourish, she bowed. Raising her head, she twisted her long hair into a ponytail and flashed a huge smile at her new best friend.
Sitting on the bottom step, Sammy Wong applauded. “That’s great.”
Across from the laundry room, a door blasted open and an old lady charged out of the basement suite like a stampeding elephant. She stopped a few feet in front of Spunky.
“What are you doing?”
Spunky back peddled until her bum touched the warm door of the washing machine. “I…I was just practicing my dancing. She stepped forward and did a quick shuffle ball change. The taps of her shoes made a fabulous rat-a-tat-tat. After a full turn, she gave her best smile and curtsied, hoping the old lady would clap and compliment her, or at least smile back.
“I was sleeping and you woke me up.” The lady scowled. “Noisy little girl. And those,” she pointed to Spunky’s shoes, “make far too much noise.”
Spunky’s shoulders slumped. She’d saved her allowance for the shoes because they were shiny, black, and made such a great sound.
“I don’t want to forget the steps. I used to take lessons.” Before the car crash two years ago, her dad had loved watching her. Spunky blinked and swallowed, trying to ease the burning in her throat. She still missed her dad’s big smile and hugs.
When they moved during the first week of September, her mom told her a woman named Mrs. Snodgrass rented the bottom half of the house. Maybe if she explained how much she loved dancing, the lady would ask to see her newest steps.
“How old are you?” The woman’s nose twitched as if she’d smelled something awful.
“Ten.” To Spunky, it was a great age.
“Ten years old. You’re much too short to ever be a ballerina.”
Spunky crossed her arms and stared back. Ballerina? She didn’t want to be a ballerina. She wanted to tap dance and ride her bike. Who cared if she was short?
“Ballerinas are slender and tall. Your movements must be graceful. Like this.” Standing on one foot, the old lady raised her arms and pointed them like a windmill. She twirled, reminding Spunky of a spinning top. Her dress lifted, showing a white slip with lots of lace.
When Mrs. Snodgrass stopped, she lowered her arms and pointed at the floor. “Mr. Petruska, the landlord, would not be very pleased to have you scuffing the cement. He just painted it.”
“My mom never told me…”
“Well now you know.” The woman shook her finger. “You, young lady, have a lot to learn. Being as you’ve just moved in, I’m sure your mother hasn’t explained the rules. I hope you both realize how much sound carries.”
The old lady tightened her lips, pulled in her chin and glared at Spunky. “And what was that horrible squawking I heard?”
Spunky’s mouth dropped open. “I was singing.”
“For a little girl, you have a very piercing voice.”
Her dad always said he loved her strong and clear voice.
Under the old lady’s intense stare, Spunky felt like a bug about to be stepped on. She took a deep breath, standing tall like a professional dancer.
The woman scowled as she gawked at Spunky’s belly button then her gaze moved to the T-shirt. It was one of Spunky’s favorites, with “So You Think You Can Dance” across the front. If she practiced her tap steps and strengthened her legs with cycling, she’d get stronger and improve. When she got older, she’d audition for a part in a television dance show.
“Young lady.” Mrs. Snodgrass looked down her nose. “The landlord informed me that a new tenant was moving in but he didn’t tell me the woman had a noisy child. What is your name?”
“It’s Spunky,” she said, hoping the old lady would ask about her nickname. She’d been a premature baby and the doctor didn’t think she’d live, but she’d showed lots of spirit and spunk. So her parents nicknamed her Spunky. The name had stuck and she was proud of it.
The old lady shook her head. “No. What I want to know is your proper name.”
“Oh, it’s Sarah, Sarah Yvonne Crawford. But all my friends call me Spunky.”
“Well, I will call you by your correct name, young lady. My surname is Snodgrass and you may address me as Mrs. Snodgrass.”
“Okay.” Spunky nodded, thinking Mrs. Snoop would be a much better name.
“Does your mother realize how foolish the name Spunky is going to sound when you grow up? Sarah Yvonne is much more ladylike. In fact, it’s quite a lovely name.”
So what? Spunky liked her nickname just fine.
“And you, young man.” Mrs. Snodgrass turned to Sammy who’d been sitting quietly with his elbows resting on his knees.
“Uh, yes.” Sammy’s eyes widened as he peered through his straight black bangs. He got up slowly and extended his hand. “I’m Sammy Wong. How do you do?”
Spunky wondered if Mrs. Snodgrass would notice Sammy wasn’t tall either. As far as Spunky was concerned, height didn’t matter unless you wanted to be a basketball player.
“Oh, well, yes, I’m pleased to meet you.” Mrs. Snodgrass seemed surprised with Sammy’s manners. She shook his hand.
“Now young man, it’s almost supper time and I’m sure your parents will be expecting you home.”
Looking uncomfortable, Sammy backed up, one step at a time. Before he disappeared from Spunky’s view, he shot her a quick glance. “See you at school tomorrow.”
Disappointed he was leaving, Spunky nodded. “Yeah, see you.”
Mrs. Snodgrass pushed back the cuff on her dress and checked her gold watch. “It’s five o’clock. When your mother gets home the three of us need to review the rules for living in this residence.”
Spunky bowed her head and stared at her brand new shoes.
She and her mom had only been in Bandit Creek for one week and she’d already tapped into trouble.