There’s No WiFi on the Prairie
I like hanging out in the library after school, even though I don’t study. I don’t need to study, which I know sounds obnoxious, but I’m just really lucky. I inherited my mom’s “elephant” memory. (That’s what she calls it—she hears or sees something once and then remembers it forever; and there’s an old expression that says “an elephant never forgets.”) So if I just listen in class and do my homework, I never have to actually sit down and study. Unlike my friend Ethan, who is sitting across from me right now,
labeling the parts of a cell and doing it mostly wrong.
I sigh and continue playing MineFarm on my phone. I can correct him in a minute. A few weeks ago Ethan asked me to tutor him after school, which I agreed to do, not only because he’s a really good friend but also because the library is quiet, unlike my house, so being here is actually pleasant.
Ethan passes me his paper to look over, and I point out where he’s mixed up different parts, as well as spelled mitochondria wrong.
Ethan groans. “Ava, if I didn’t like you so much, I’d really dislike you. You get straight A’s and you don’t do anything to earn them.”
“I know,” I say. “I’m sorry. But I can’t help having an elephant memory. Plus, I have my phone, so anything I don’t know, I can just look up, and poof! There it is. Technology is a wonderful thing.”
I bring my eyes back to my phone, where some zombies have gotten loose in my MineFarm game and are eating all of my cows. Shoot! I’ll have to steal some of Ethan’s cows, I guess. He always takes really good care of his farm. He’s probably
one of the best gamers I’ve ever played with.
Ethan must hear the sound of my cows being eaten because he pipes up, “Ava, don’t even think about stealing my cows.”
“Um, okay.” I start to do it anyway.
Ethan is rewriting “mitochondria.” “How’d you get this elephant memory anyway? Can I buy one at the mall?”
I smile. “Doubt it. I got it from my mom. When she was younger, she got into a really fancy college out in California but didn’t end up going because she wanted to stay close to home. I can’t believe it! If I had the chance to move to sunny California, I’d be there in a minute.”
“To be closer to your dad?” Ethan asks.
My parents are divorced and my dad lives in Los Angeles now. My mom and my younger twin sisters and baby brother and I live here on the east coast, and my mom works full-time, so there are always babysitters and missed meals and messes and laundry. Ugh. My house is a disaster. My dad lives alone and has a housekeeper, so when I go see him, it’s like heaven.
“I’d like to live in California partly because of
my dad, I guess,” I tell Ethan. “But also because life is just nicer there. Haven’t you seen the TV shows? It’s warm and sunny all year, and there’s less stress. Everyone is just hanging out outside. Everyone is happy there. It’s the place to be.”
I manage to steal about six of Ethan’s cows, one at a time, and put them in my MineFarm cow pen. I turn the volume down on my phone so he doesn’t hear me.
“I know what you just did,” Ethan says as he starts to pack up his homework. “And you’re cheating yourself, you know.”
“Huh? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say innocently.
“Stealing my cows! The fun of the game is in working hard and building your farm from scratch. And keeping it going, bit by bit, every day. But you just skip all that and take my animals. It’s called MineFarm, not YoursFarm.”
Ethan laughs to himself, and I can’t help laughing along with him. He knows me so well. It’s nice to have a friend who will let you steal his cows and then really not even care about it. And make stupid jokes about it.
As I’m looking at Ethan, I see something very weird out the window behind him. It’s an actual cow. Like, a real, live cow. And it’s looking at me.
I start laughing really hard. “Hey, Ethan. Don’t have a cow, but—”
Ethan shakes his head. “I’m not having a cow. I’m actually being very cool about the fact that you constantly steal supplies from me and I still play with you.”
“No, no,” I say. “Look, there’s a cow right there, out the window! In the school yard! A real cow!” I point over his head, and Ethan turns around and sees it.
“That is a real dairy cow,” Ethan says. “Holy cow. Holy COW! And is that . . . ?”
I nod my head. Not that it wasn’t already weird enough, but our school’s librarian, Ms. Tremt, is now outside patting the cow and trying to lead it away from the front of the school.
“I’m going to go help her!” Ethan says, jumping up. He runs toward the side exit door of the library and is outside in just a moment. I can’t believe what I’m seeing, but it looks like Ms. Tremt and Ethan are talking to the cow,
trying to verbally convince it to go somewhere. Of course, it looks like it weighs about two tons, so good luck to them.
Ethan looks through the window at me and throws up his hands. He clearly thinks Ms. Tremt is a bit batty. Then he tries clapping and calling to the cow like he would call to a dog. Surprise, surprise—that doesn’t work either.
I shake my head at their ridiculousness and do a quick search on “how to move a cow” on my phone. Technology. Seriously. It’s the best.
The answer pops up in less than three seconds, and I start digging in my lunch bag for my leftovers. As soon as I have something in my hand, I go outside and walk straight up to the cow.
I can hear Ms. Tremt talking now. “What if somebody sees you?” she tells the cow. “You could fall into the wrong hands! You can’t just take the situation into your own hooves, you know.”
I give the cow a piece of the carrot I’m holding, then begin walking away, holding the rest of the carrot. The cow follows me, as easy as one, two, three. Thanks, Internet! You’ve saved the day, for the billionth time.
“Well done, Ava,” Ms. Tremt says. “You have a real way with animals. Now, could you please lead your new friend into the back room of the library for me?”
I look from her to Ethan and back to her. “Uh, Ms. Tremt? Shouldn’t we call animal control or something? Or the ASPCA? Or, um, a vet? My mom is a vet. I could call her.”
Ms. Tremt smiles broadly at me, then uses her lime-green fuzzy scarf to point in the direction of the side door to the library. “That won’t be necessary, Ava. But thank you for your suggestions. Just take Ms. Cow to the back room.”
I do as she asks, because even a kooky grown-up is still a grown-up, but I exchange more than a few looks with Ethan while doing it. All I can think about is how big of a mess that cow is going to make when it goes to the bathroom in the middle of the school’s library. Maybe Ethan and I will have to study at his house tomorrow after school.
As soon as the cow is settled in the back room with Ms. Tremt, I go to gather up my things. My phone beeps that it’s five thirty p.m., and I realize
how late I’ve stayed. “I’ve got to get home,” I tell Ethan.
He nods and helps me pack up. “Oh yeah! I forgot it was your big night, right?”
I roll my eyes. “My big night” is just the night that my mom’s and my favorite TV show, World’s Weirdest Animals, comes on. “Exactly. So I need to jet. Are you coming?”
Ethan shakes his head. “Nah, not yet. Ms. Tremt asked me to come to her office and help her with something real quick before I go. But I’ll see you later on MineFarm. I’ve got to start breeding more cows, apparently.”
I laugh and wave good-bye, then head out the side door again, this time to the bike rack where my scooter is locked up. There are a few kids grabbing bikes, and I wait a moment before I push in to get my scooter.
Once I have it unlocked, I send a quick text to my mom to let her know I’m leaving school and will be home in seven minutes. As I’m sliding my phone into my backpack, someone slams into me, and a bunch of my homework papers explode out of my bag and fly all over the ground.
Ugh! I guess I forgot to zip it up. I do that sometimes. I bend to pick them up, and as I do, I see it was a Viking—yes, a Viking—that slammed into me. He’s wearing metal armor and a horned helmet and everything.
“Um, hello?” I say.
He grunts, and to my surprise, starts helping me to pick up the papers. He hands me a stack, then says, “Many hands make light work.”
Quick as lightning, I put the two very weird things that have happened that day together. “You wouldn’t happen to own a cow, would you?” I ask.
He narrows his eyes. “Yes, I do. In fact, all cows are my cows.”
Hmm. This just got weirder. I decide to leave the, uh, Viking and the cow situation in Ms. Tremt’s capable hands. I figure she’ll know what to do. Weird things always seem to be happening in the library and around Ms. Tremt, now that I think about it. I turn back to the Viking. “Um, okay. Gotta go!”
I hop on my scooter and sail home. Hopefully it will be less chaotic than it was in the library this afternoon. But I doubt it.