Smells Like PiratesSuzanne Selfors
Table of Contents
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“Keep yer hands off me booty!”
—Rumpold Smeller the Pirate
Welcome to another Homer and Dog story. If you’ve read their other two adventures, then you know I always make a promise at the beginning of each book. But if this is your first Homer and Dog story, then I assume you’ve been living on a deserted island with only coconut bowling and sand sculpting for entertainment and I feel very sorry for you. Allow me to fill you in. The promise I make is that no dogs will die in this story, which is a huge relief for dog-lovers everywhere.
There is, however, a great deal of danger in this story. Because you’ll probably scream out loud during the spine-tingling moments, you might consider reading this in a private place so people won’t think you’re crazy. As you near the end, there is a good chance you will faint from the thrill of it all, so I recommend wearing a helmet to protect your cranium. If you are a nail-biter, bite-proof gloves are in order.
Writing Homer and Dog’s third adventure shook me to my very core, for never have I encountered so much excitement. When I finished, I took a long vacation to recover. After you’ve read this book, I highly recommend that you also take a vacation to clear your mind and settle your nerves. While you sit beside the hotel pool, be sure to read something very light, perhaps a story about rainbows or butterflies. But stay away from those horrid dead-dog stories. Never read those.
OFFICIAL CERTIFICATE OF MEMBERSHIP
It is hereby proclaimed that Mister Homer Winslow Pudding has been granted lifetime membership in the Society of Legends, Objects, Secrets, and Treasures and thusly reaps all of the society’s questing benefits, which include access to the L.O.S.T. library, guidance and assistance from other members, and financial support.
If at any time or under any circumstances Mister Homer Winslow Pudding breaks his oath of secrecy, he shall be forever banned from the society.
Furthermore, if at any time or under any circumstances Mister Homer Winslow Pudding chooses to ignore L.O.S.T.’s purpose, which is to recover the world’s treasures for the benefit and greater good of humankind, he shall be forever banned from the society.
The Honorable Lord Mockingbird XVIII
President of L.O.S.T.
DISCLAIMER: L.O.S.T. IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR FAILED TREASURE QUESTS OR FOR ANY UNTIMELY OR TIMELY DEATHS DURING THE PURSUIT OF TREASURE.
It was a nearly perfect morning on the Pudding Goat Farm.
The sun rose with the rooster’s crowing, then gently shone through Homer Pudding’s bedroom window, tickling Homer’s cheeks with its long, warm fingers. A songbird settled on the windowsill, the notes of its sweet melody dancing through the air. The scents of huckleberry pancakes and sizzling bacon wafted up the stairs, filling the bedroom with deliciousness. And a loving voice called—
“Get out of bed, you big dork!”
Okay, so it wasn’t a loving voice. It was a moody, bossy voice, and it belonged to Homer’s sister, Gwendolyn Maybel Pudding.
If she knew my secrets, Homer thought, she wouldn’t call me a dork. He yawned and rubbed crust from his eyes, then stared up at his sister’s scowling face. “What time is it?”
“Do I look like your personal alarm clock?” she snarled. “Mom told me to tell you to get out of bed. So get out of bed.” She stomped out the door, her white lab coat billowing behind her.
Gwendolyn’s foul personality was, according to Mrs. Pudding, a direct result of her age. Fifteen years, three hundred and fifty-nine days, to be exact, which made her a teenager. “Just because you’ve got pimples is no reason to be so rude,” Homer mumbled as the lab coat disappeared around the corner.
“Urrrr,” agreed the dog lying beside him.
Although he looked like an ordinary basset hound, the dog lying next to Homer was not one bit ordinary. An ordinary basset hound has a highly tuned sense of smell. Because the world tends to be a smelly place, an ordinary basset hound spends a great deal of time being led around by its nose. Homer’s dog, however, had been born with a nose that didn’t work quite right. Dog’s nose didn’t smell rotting garbage or frisky rabbits or grandma’s pot roast. Dog’s nose smelled only one thing—treasure. And that was Homer’s most treasured secret.
Dog rolled onto his extra-long back and stuck his extra-short legs straight up in the air, presenting his white belly for a morning scratch. Homer obliged. Dog had arrived at the Pudding farm earlier that year, and since then, he’d spent almost every night sleeping next to Homer. Some of those nights had been filled with danger and excitement as Homer pursued his dream of becoming a famous treasure hunter. The month of August, however, had proven to be a bore—day after day of the same blue-sky weather, day after day of the same old farm chores, and day after day of wondering when adventure would come knocking.
“Urrrr?” Dog complained when Homer stopped scratching.
“We’d better get downstairs,” Homer said, “or Gwendolyn might eat our pancakes.”
While many kids got to sleep in during the summer months, dreaming of bike riding, swimming, and kite flying, the Pudding kids always got up early. This was the reality of life on a goat farm.
After dressing in his work clothes, a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt, Homer did what he did most mornings—he checked under his bed. Lying on his belly, he pushed aside a pair of dirty socks, then pried free a loose floorboard. He peered into the hole and counted. His secret items were all in attendance: his L.O.S.T. membership certificate, his professional treasure-hunting clothes, and a book called Rare Reptiles I Caught and Stuffed, which contained the most famous pirate treasure map in the world. Why was it the most famous pirate treasure map in the world? Because it had been drawn by Rumpold Smeller, a pirate who spent most of his life traveling the world, amassing a treasure said to be greater than anyone could imagine. And Homer secretly owned this map.
With a smile, he returned the floorboard to its place. All was well beneath his bed.
Homer led Dog down the hallway, down the stairs, and into the kitchen. The swirling scents of breakfast pulled Homer like a leash. The Pudding kitchen was a charming place. Checkered curtains framed a window that overlooked a vegetable garden. Farm-animal magnets covered the refrigerator, and a blue pitcher of field flowers sat on the counter.
Mrs. Pudding bustled around the stove, her brown curls bouncing. Mr. Pudding sat at the end of the kitchen table reading the Sunday City Paper, his overall straps hanging at his waist. Gwendolyn sat slumped in her chair, slurping her orange juice. Across from her on a bench sat Squeak, Homer’s little brother. He stopped pushing his toy truck around the table and smiled. “Hi, Homer.”
Dog waddled to his dish, his tail wagging. Because Dog couldn’t smell anything but treasure, he wasn’t a picky eater. In fact, he’d been known to eat shoes, wood, worms, and toenail clippings. Mrs. Pudding often filled his bowl with leftovers, but sometimes Squeak tried to sneak in weird things—which is why Homer always stopped at the dog bowl first. “Squeak,” he scolded as he picked out a snail, “please don’t feed gastropods to D
As Dog inhaled his meal, Homer sat in his usual chair at the table’s end, opposite Mr. Pudding. He sighed and stared at his empty plate. He sighed and stared out the window. He tapped his fingers on the tablecloth. Another long, hot, boring, totally routine August day.
To an outsider, this scene in the Pudding kitchen would appear normal—an ordinary family sitting down to an ordinary breakfast. But this was no ordinary family. Although Homer looked like a regular kind of kid, at twelve years of age, he was the youngest member of the Society of Legends, Objects, Secrets, and Treasures—a secret organization dedicated to treasure hunting. Although Homer’s family knew Homer wanted, more than anything in the world, to be a treasure hunter, they did not know that he actually was a treasure hunter, for Homer had sworn an oath of secrecy. It made him kind of sad that he couldn’t tell his family about how he and Dog had jumped out of an airplane, or how they’d found a cave of harmonic crystals, or how they’d defeated the evil Madame la Directeur. But Homer knew that an oath of secrecy was nothing to mess around with.
“I’ve been thinking about a theme,” Mrs. Pudding said as she slid pancakes and bacon onto her family’s plates.
“A what?” Mr. Pudding said, turning a page of his newspaper.
“A theme for Gwendolyn’s sweet-sixteen party.”
Sweet sixteen? Homer thought as he poured syrup onto his pancakes. More like sour sixteen.
“I was thinking a butterfly theme, or a pony theme.” Mrs. Pudding smiled lovingly, the gold flecks in her brown eyes sparkling. She sat next to Gwendolyn. “How about a teddy bear theme?”
“Mom,” Gwendolyn groaned, sinking lower in her chair. “I’m not a baby. Those themes are creepy.”
“I like teddy bears,” Squeak said, syrup dripping down his chin. Dog moseyed across the room and stood right under Squeak’s feet. Since nearly half of Squeak’s food ended up on the floor, this was a rewarding place to stand.
Mrs. Pudding stirred her coffee. “If you don’t like my suggestions, then what theme would you like, Gwendolyn dear?”
“Roadkill,” Gwendolyn replied.
Mrs. Pudding gasped. Squeak giggled. Mr. Pudding closed the newspaper and scowled. But Homer didn’t flinch. It made perfect sense that his sister suggested a roadkill theme. She wanted, with all her heart, to become a Royal Taxidermist for the Museum of Natural History. She had her own laboratory out in the shed, where she practiced the art of stuffing dead animals.
“And it’s got to be fresh roadkill,” Gwendolyn said. “No maggots.”
“Now, sweetie,” Mrs. Pudding said, “you can’t expect me to decorate with roadkill.”
“Why not? It’s my birthday.”
“Forget it,” Mr. Pudding said, slapping his hand on the table. “No daughter of mine is going to have a roadkill party. You’ll choose one of those nice themes your mother suggested.”
Gwendolyn darted to her feet and uttered the same statement she’d uttered yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. “You are totally! Ruining! My life!”
“No one is ruining your life,” Mrs. Pudding said. “We want you to have a special sweet-sixteen party. In fact, your father and I bought you a very nice present. And Homer went to town last week to shop for you, didn’t you, Homer?”
This time, Homer flinched. He’d gone to town to buy Gwendolyn’s birthday present—that much was true. But he’d taken his shovel and metal detector with him and, well, because the detector kept beeping and because Homer kept digging, he forgot all about Gwendolyn. The search for a birthday present wasn’t as interesting as the search for treasure, even though that day’s treasure had turned out to be nothing but a bunch of rusty tin cans.
“Uh, yeah, I got a present,” Homer lied. He’d go shopping that afternoon, as soon as he’d finished his chores.
Gwendolyn peered at Homer through her long brown bangs. “You got me a present?”
“Yep.” He stuffed a whole pancake into his mouth, just in case she asked any more questions.
Gwendolyn smiled wickedly. “If you bought my present, then it’s hidden somewhere in the house, isn’t it? I bet I can find it.”
“Gwendolyn Maybel Pudding,” Mrs. Pudding said. “You’ll have to wait for your party to open your presents. Now sit down and eat your breakfast.”
Huckleberries burst in Homer’s mouth as he chewed. His mind raced. What kind of present do you get a moody sister who spends her summer days stuffing dead squirrels and gophers? A gift certificate to Ice Cream World didn’t seem quite right.
Just then, barking arose in the yard. Max, Gus, and Lulu, the farm dogs, were upset about something. Dog, who’d been licking syrup from Squeak’s fingers, scurried to the kitchen door and joined in the barking. “What’s all the ruckus?” Mr. Pudding asked.
A knock sounded on the kitchen door. Mr. Pudding pulled his overall straps over his shoulders and went to answer it. “Well, hello there,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
The rest of the Pudding family turned and looked toward the open doorway, but Mr. Pudding was blocking their view. It wouldn’t be the mail lady, Homer thought, not on a Sunday. Maybe it’s one of the neighbors.
“Good morning,” a voice said. “I say, is Homer up and about? I have rather important news.”
Homer’s heart skipped a beat. He knew that voice.
A man stepped into the kitchen. He tucked his long black hair behind his ears and looked around. His gaze landed on Homer.
Homer scrambled out of his chair. “Hi, Ajitabh.”
Ajitabh (pronounced AAAH-jih-tahb) did not return Homer’s smile. He narrowed his dark eyes and ran his hand over his thin mustache and pointy beard. A doctor of inventology, Ajitabh was a fellow member of L.O.S.T. He’d been a trusted friend of Homer’s treasure-hunting uncle, who’d died earlier that year, and he was now Homer’s trusted mentor. The rest of the Pudding family knew Ajitabh from the Milkydale County Fair, where Dog had led a wild chase that resulted in the destruction of the beloved gunnysack slide. Ajitabh, inventor extraordinaire, built a new and improved slide, to everyone’s approval.
“Hello, Homer.” His tone was serious. He leaned over to pet Dog. “Hello, Dog.” Dog thwapped his tail against Ajitabh’s leg.
Mrs. Pudding hurried over to the cupboard and grabbed a plate. “You’ll join us for breakfast?” She set it on the table, but Ajitabh shook his head.
“That would be delightful, but time is of the essence,” he said.
“What’s your important news?” Mr. Pudding asked.
“Quite right.” Ajitabh rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt, then reached into the back pocket of his khaki pants and handed an envelope to Homer. “It’s an invitation.”
Homer half expected the envelope to be secured with a L.O.S.T. seal, but that wasn’t the case. The envelope was as plain as could be—no seal, no return address, nothing. He opened it and pulled out a piece of paper.
“What is it?” Mrs. Pudding asked.
Homer read the letter aloud.
To: Homer W. Pudding
Pudding Goat Farm
Grinning Goat Road
From: Lewis Dimknob, Royal Cartographer
Map of the Month Club Headquarters
Boulevard of Destinations
Congratulations, Mr. Pudding.
Your name has been drawn at random from our list of subscribers. I am pleased to inform you that you have been awarded a VIP tour of our headquarters. This tour is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will not be offered again.
We eagerly await your arrival on Monday, August 20, at noon precisely.
Lewis Dimknob, Royal Cartographer
“Wow,” Homer said. “This is really cool. I love the Map of the Month Club.”
“VIP?” Gwendolyn grumbled. “How come Homer keeps getting these VIP invitations, huh? What’s up with that?”
was, in fact, Homer’s second VIP invitation. VIP stands for “very important person.” The first invitation had come from the Museum of Natural History and had led Homer to the discovery of Madame la Directeur’s lair and a near-death escape from a man-eating tortoise. This invitation sounded a bit safer. “Can I go?” Homer asked. “I’d really like to go.”
“August twentieth is tomorrow,” Mrs. Pudding said worriedly. “That’s not much notice.”
“Sincerest apologies,” Ajitabh said in his lilting accent. “As a board member of the Map Club, I was asked to deliver the invitation last week but was waylaid by circumstances beyond my control.” He shot a serious glance at Homer. “We need to leave immediately, old chap.”
Homer looked yearningly at his father. Was the boredom of August about to end?
“How long will he be gone?” Mr. Pudding asked.
“A bit of uncertainty there,” Ajitabh said. “The Map of the Month Club’s library alone covers three floors. I have reserved a room for us at a very nice City hotel. I’ll act as Homer’s guardian. You needn’t worry about a thing.”
“It sounds like a wonderful opportunity,” Mrs. Pudding said to Ajitabh. “Homer loves maps. He’s always loved maps. But he’ll need to be back for his sister’s sweet-sixteen party. It’s next Saturday.”
“Righteo. That shouldn’t be a problem.”
“I can go?” Homer beamed, the corners of his smile nearly reaching his ears. But Ajitabh didn’t smile. His eyebrows knotted as if twisted by troubling thoughts. Why wasn’t he happy? Homer stepped closer to Ajitabh. And why didn’t he smell like cloud cover? Homer glanced out the kitchen window. Instead of a cloudcopter, Ajitabh’s usual method of transportation, a black limousine waited in the driveway.
“You can go,” Mr. Pudding said. “But Gwendolyn will have to cover your chores.”
“No way!” Gwendolyn blurted, her cheeks turning red. “Homer gets to go on another vacation and I’m stuck here doing his chores? I’m too busy to do Homer’s chores.”