CHAPTER 8

We put my Earth Crusaders plan into action on Saturday. Abbey brought a whole frozen trout, eyes and everything, with her in her bike basket. Her dad fishes so much, she says they aren't going to miss one fish.

I am completely jealous of Abbey's bike, by the way. She has this lime green retro cruiser, with a basket, and handle bar tassels. She even painted yellow tulips all over it. She said she usually keeps fake tulips and a plastic loaf of French bread in the basket, but obviously didn't today because of Mr. Trout. So her bike normally looks like something a beautiful girl would be riding on the streets of Paris. Did I mention I'm jealous? Why didn't I think of that first?

Of course Abbey doesn't necessarily look the part of the French girl. Even with her hair in braids today. Maybe it's the red and black striped knee-highs with her cut offs that give her away as a typical art academy student.

Aside from the Trinity clones, most people at the art academy are expressing their own personal style in a big way. I haven't ever really thought about my clothes and hair as art, but I'm starting to. A little. Okay, I'm trying to tell you I mismatched my canvas shoes on purpose today. One black. One blue. It probably just looks like I put my shoes on in the dark, but whatever.

Abbey and I ride our bikes out to where I saw the vulture with the broken wing last weekend. I figure it's pretty hungry by now. The plan is to feed the vulture, so it can have extra strength while it's wing heals.

My plan may have a few flaws.

Definitely one really big flaw. The fish. It smells so bad. And it's just getting worse the longer we're out in this heat. I don't think Abbey's bike basket is ever going to smell right again.

Problem number two, is finding the vulture.

"Are you sure this is where you saw it?" Abbey asks. I nod. "Then, do you think maybe it's wing healed already and it flew away?"

"I don't think it would've gotten better that fast. You don't think it got run over by a car, or died of starvation, or something do you? I don't think I can live with myself if it died and I didn't do anything to help it."

"Laney. It's a vulture. Not a person or a helpless cute puppy. Get some perspective here, okay?" Abbey does some eye rolling at me.

"It doesn't feel that different to me," I admit. I walk up a little hill near the road. I'm still looking for the vulture, but I'm sort of heading for the shade of the tree on top of the hill too. It's funny, the streets are lined with big old shade trees in my neighborhood, and I swear to you there is always a breeze at this time of year. Out here, it's like living in a desert. I don't get it. Same town, different worlds.

"Hey. You're just trying to get some shade. You're not fooling me," Abbey laughs and follows me.

"Something else was looking for shade too," I say. I'm a couple of steps ahead of Abbey when I catch sight of the vulture glaring at me from under the tree. Freezing in my tracks must be my wild animal response, but I guess Abbey doesn't have the same response. She just keeps on walking, right into me. I grab her to keep from falling, but I take us both down instead.

"Why can't I see you without getting rocks mashed into my knees?" I ask the vulture. I'm guessing by the way it opened its wings and is flapping at us that it isn't happy to see me again. Like I'm happy to be laying on the ground covered in dirt again.

"We're saving that? You're serious?" Abbey whispers to me. She's backed away on her hands and knees and is standing up slowly. I'm still frozen. Great instincts. I'm guessing I should stick to city living. Abbey grabs me by the arms and pulls me up and away from the vulture.

"See its wing?" I say.

"Yeah. It's definitely broken," Abbey sighs. I think it might have been a sympathetic sigh, not a disgusted I-can't-believe-I'm-doing-this sigh. "Let's get the fish."

We turn to walk down to our bikes, but then we end up running back to them, because the vulture chases us. It stops on the other side of the road from our bikes all puffed up and angry-looking.

"Is that thing growling at us?"

"I think it's more of a hiss," I say.

"Whatever. It doesn't sound friendly. Let's just throw the fish at it and get out of here."

"Right." I take the fish out of the basket by its tail and lob it across the street at the vulture. Only the trout is a lot slipperier than I thought it would be, so it wasn't a great throw. It was an awful throw. The fish lands right in the middle of the road. While we're staring at the fish wondering if it's close enough to the vulture, a car goes by and smushes it's head.

"Nice throw," Abbey smirks. "Maybe I should throw it next time."

"It was slippery." I can't help it, I'm giggling now.

"Okay," Abbey said. "You let me know if a car's coming. I'm not getting run over to feed a vulture."

"Don't worry, if you do get run over, I'll tell everyone you died for a noble cause."

"I'm sure my parents won't have a problem with it then," she says. Abbey picks up what was left of the trout by its tail and tosses it right in front of the vulture. She makes it look easy. Of course.

The vulture perks right up.

"Aw. Look at it eat," I say, joining Abbey on the vulture's side of the road. Not exactly cute watching it tear into the fish, but definitely more endearing than the chasing and hissing.

"We should name it," Abbey says. "What do you name a vulture?"

"How about Vulcherro. It works for a boy or a girl," I suggest.

I'd expect Abbey to laugh at that one, but it isn't her laughter I hear next. It's Cameron's.