The Ultimate Tree House Project!

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Chapter 1: Spring Break is Over!

“Have a good day at school, James!” called out his mother as he closed the front door.

What was so good about it? James thought. Spring Break is over, it’s back to school and homework. He sighed and crossed the quiet street in front of his house, kicking a small bit of gravel as he went.

He trudged through the park on his slow way over to school. He always cut through the bit by the playground because it was shorter. Today, though, he was not in a hurry. Spring Break is never long enough! James thought.

The weather was just starting to get nice, and the last of the snow had melted away weeks ago. A few small flowers were starting to poke up through the grass. Crocuses, his mother called them. He tested the seat of the swings, to have one more bit of fun before he had to go to class. The seats were still wet from last night’s rain. He shrugged and continued walking. With a sigh, he left the park and crossed the road to his school, J. P. Watson Primary School.

His new shoes crunched loudly in the gravel of the schoolyard. He had grown again, his Mom said, and his old shoes were getting too tight. He didn’t like new shoes - they were too shiny, and the other kids picked on you if you had new shoes. They usually stepped on your feet. He absently dug them into the gravel to try to rough them up a bit so hopefully nobody would notice.

He stopped to look at his reflection in a classroom window. His brown eyes matched his light brown mop of hair, which his Mom had combed and wet down flat. She had also taken him to the mall to get his haircut yesterday. “James P. Cartwright, you have to be presentable.” she had said “You don’t want your hair to be as long as your sister’s!”

His sister Susan was one year older, and she was a pain. She had blonde hair and blue eyes, like Mom. She was in the same school, and was always embarrassing him. Next year she would be in another school – he couldn’t wait!

Susan usually hung out with her best friends Amanda Jones, Becky Petrov and Alice Wong, and steered clear of James, unless she could think of something to embarrass him. Amanda was nosy and annoying, and had long dark brown hair, green eyes and caramel-colored skin. She was two inches taller than James, and usually wasn’t very nice to him. Becky and Alice were ok, for girls, they didn’t say much but at least they didn’t call him names like Susan or Amanda. Becky had brown wavy hair, brown eyes and freckles, and was the same height as James, though she was the same age as Amanda. Alice had black hair and dark brown eyes, and was also in his class. She sometimes shared her candies with him, and last term she was at his home group table. She usually smelled like strawberries.

James looked at his reflection again, messed his hair up once, twice and checked it again. Satisfied it was just messy enough, he continued walking towards his classroom.

It was an OK school, as schools went – mainly because he had some pretty cool friends in his class. Ben Jones was just the right amount of crazy, and always had big ideas. He had brown hair, brown eyes, the same caramel skin as his sister Amanda, and was one inch taller than James. Ben was always inventing new games to play at recess and lunch, and sometimes they worked. It was fun trying out the new games, even when they didn’t work out right. They usually ended up laughing and rolling on the ground anyway.

Games like “Elephant soccer”, where you had to run around with one arm hanging down to the ground, and you had to whack the ball with your “trunk” – no using your feet. That one wasn’t too bad.

“Backwards Basketball” didn’t work out so well. James had run backwards over a 3rd grader and knocked him flat, giving him a bloody nose. The third grader ran crying to the office, and James got Detention. Not fair!

His other best friends were Tim & Tom O’Reilly. Tim & Tom were identical twins and sometimes completed each other’s sentences. It was kind of weird, but you got used to it after a while. Otherwise they were pretty cool to hang out with. They both had curly red hair and green eyes like their Dad.

James walked slowly as he entered Miss Oliver’s 5th grade classroom, yawning. He hung up his backpack on the hook under his name, crammed a bit of his recess snack into his mouth, and went over to his home group table.

He flopped down onto the chair between Tim & Tom.

“I can’t believe Spring Break is over!” James mumbled through bits of Oreo crumbs.

“Yeah, I know…” said Tim

“…it’s never long enough” finished Tom.

“It’s gonna be like forever until the next holiday!” grumbled James.

Tim and Tom looked at each other, nodding.

Ben rushed into the class, full of excitement. He went to hang up his backpack on his hook, but he missed and it fell on the floor. He never noticed. He rushed over to the table where James, Tim & Tom were sitting. He was bouncing up and down.

“Hey guys, guess what I found during Spring Break?” said Ben.

“I dunno, what?” yawned James.

Just at that moment, the morning bell rang and Miss Oliver walked into the class, holding a stack of papers. She was pretty, with curly brown hair.

“Good morning children, please take your seats. I trust you had a good break and are ready to get back into school work?” She said with a smile.

All of the children groaned and Ben quickly sat down at the table.

“Oh come now, it’s not that bad. Please open your workbooks to a fresh page. I have some new homework I am going to hand out now, so you have time to look at it this morning.”

Another round of groans. Miss Oliver was a nice teacher, but for some reason she really loved homework.

The four friends exchanged bored glances and pulled out their books. Ben whispered “Tell you at Recess!” and quickly opened his book as Miss Oliver glanced in his direction.

James raised an eyebrow at Ben, then opened his own workbook.


At recess, James, Tim, Tom & Ben met on the side of the playground. Ben began telling them about his discovery in fast, hushed tones.

“It’s completely awesome! We were doing one of those boring ‘educational’ family walks through the woods, you know, with Mom, Dad and Amanda – she just had to come along, she’s like 11 but Mom says she can’t stay home by herself, so she has to come with us and ruin everything. Anyway, Mom was telling us all about all the different kind of plants were that we walked by, that kind of boring stuff, they all looked like weeds to me. And then – I saw it!” Ben gushed and then paused, out of breath.

The three crowded in closer to Ben.

“What was it?” said James.

“Tell us! Tell us!” cried Tim and Tom.

Ben took another breath and continued. “It was the best, most awesome tree you ever saw. It must be a hundred feet tall. And it had huge branches, bigger than my head! When I jumped up, I could barely reach the bottom ones. It was perfect!”

“Perfect for what?” asked James.

“For the Ultimate Tree house!” Ben replied, with a toothy grin.

James, Tim and Tom looked at each other and then back at Ben.

“It will have to be…” said Tim.

“…our secret!” finished Tom.

“No girls allowed!” insisted James.

“Especially not Amanda” agreed Ben.

“We need to check out this tree right after school!” said James.

“It’s really big. We could have three or maybe five levels!” said Ben.

“With secret entrances!” whispered Tim.

“And rope ladders and a spyglass and a flag and…” began James.

“A secret place for our comics!” interrupted Tim.

“What are you boys talking about?” asked Amanda, who had walked up behind the four boys while they were talking.

“Nothing!” said Ben. “Boy stuff. You wouldn’t be interested. Go away, Amanda!”

“Sounds like you were talking about that big tree we saw on the walk last week with Mom & Dad” said Amanda. “What are you planning?”

“Nothing!” insisted Ben.

“It’s a Secret!” muttered James.

“Oooooh, a Secret! I’m going to find out what it is!” she laughed as she ran off towards her friends.

“We’ll have to be more careful.” said Ben.

“Loose lips…” said Tim

“…sink ships!” agreed Tom.


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