After we finished our drinks, Gil and I headed over to the library and found an empty round table just inside the door.
“How do we make our project into a winner?” asked Gil.
“Well, the first thing we’ve got to do is to organize it better,” I replied. “We can’t just throw a bunch of stuff in the fridge and wait for it to spoil. We’ve got to pick types of food.”
“Like carbohydrates? Proteins?”
“Exactly,” I said. “We’ve got to label each type, keep accurate records, make sure we get really good digital photographs. Then I can use our computer to put together our presentation.”
Gil’s eyes were alive with excitement.
“There’s not a science teacher in America,” I went on, “who wouldn’t be dazzled. Gil, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just skipped the science fair ratings and just handed us a Nobel Prize!”
“That would be nice,” said Gil. “As long as we still get to go to Niagara Falls.”
The next Saturday morning there was a knock at the front door. I ran to it—halfway expecting to see Gil, who’d been calling me just about every night. Maybe he’s gotten enough nerve to—
But it wasn’t Gil. It was Harriet. She had a book bag slung over one shoulder.
“Hi,” I said with surprise.
“Hi, Vickie,” she said, pulling open the screen door and walking right in the house. “I smell pancakes.”
“Yes,” I said. “Your nose remains your best feature.”
Harriet looked at me and smiled. Her teeth—after many trips to the dentist and orthodontist—were a dazzling perfect white. Straight as a picket fence. “Got any batter left?” she asked, heading for the kitchen.
I just followed her. Slowly.
By the time I got there, Harriet was already looking in the refrigerator. “I see it!” she cried. She reached in, pulled something out, and turned around with the bowl in her hand.
“You don’t want to eat that,” I laughed.
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “I eat just about anything.”
“Well, if you eat that,” I said, “you’ll ruin our science fair project.”
Harriet stared at me. “You mean …?”
“Yes,” I said. “You’re holding a bowlful of spoiling yogurt.”
“Yuk!” She turned around and replaced it.
“The batter’s in the yellow bowl,” I said. “On the bottom shelf.”
She found it, put it on the table, opened another cabinet, found the electric griddle and placed it on the counter.
“This is still warm,” she said. “It won’t take too long to heat it up.”
“Hi, girls,” said Father, entering the kitchen.
Harriet smiled at my father; he smiled back. They really liked each other—they had almost immediately liked each other, right from the first day when the Eastbrooks moved into the house next door.
“I see you’ve found what you were looking for,” he said.
“Harriet never has a problem locating food,” I said.
“Well, just clean up your mess.” He put on his jacket and zipped it. “I’ve got to go down to the paper for a couple of hours,” he said. “But I’ll be back for lunch.”
“Lunch?” cried Harriet. “You’re making me hungry!” Briskly, she stirred the batter.