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"Turn left," the Witch ordered. The Wagon obeyed, and that's when the earthquake hit.


The windows clattered, doors rattled, and the car-house's knees creaked. Bags slipped off of shelves and barfed their insides onto the floor. The couch jiggled and bounced so violently that it was hard not barf onto the floor myself.



"Flawed granite, not again!" Mom cursed. "Every clucking trail is at the end of another long dirt road. Do they pave nothing in Death Valley? Why doesn't AllTrails warn you that there's no dog-manned road to get there?"


The car-house stopped and so did the earthquake. I shook the cottony silence out of my ears while the cloud of dust outside settled. "What Valley?" I asked. "It sounded like you said Death Valley."


"Yeah. Death Valley," Mom said, like it was a name as uninteresting as Paperweight Valley or Nothing to See Here Basin. "There are supposed to be trails around here, but where the pluck are they? Everything is just a big, blank nothingness on the map."


She held up the Witch and scowled so her displeasure would be the first thing the Witch saw when she opened her screen. Whatever excuse the Witch gave, Mom didn't like it one bit. She made little disgusted sounds in the back of her throat as she pinched and poked, swiped and jabbed more aggressively. She slammed the Witch back into her lap and glowered out the window for a moment. Finally, she spoke.


"Get out of the car, Oscar," she commanded in an icy voice.




"I thought we were gonna..." I started. Mom's eyes flashed in the mirror and I changed the subject. "Okay! I love exploring."

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