TITLE: Footprints 'Round the Sycamore
GENRE: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Two steps--two slow, uncertain steps--across the flatboat's deck was all it took for Melodie Caden to know she was not alone. Thump. A sharp noise out of the shadows told her so and the scare of it, not cold air off the river, sent shivers down her spine. She shuddered and clutched the potato sack Papa assigned her close to her chest.
Dense fog blanketed the rough, squatty vessel she had boarded. The craft's cargo--stowed kegs, barrels and crates--blurred into dark lumps and bumps and formed any number of hiding places. What had made that sound?
The damp morning air grew as still as frozen long johns on the line. Only the gentle current of the river moved, licking and lapping against the old wooden tub. She counted seconds. When the silence grew long and no culprit emerged, she exhaled and slid a tentative foot forward again.
Skitter-scratch. Another noise sounded.
Her heart swelled to bursting, and she immediately pulled her foot back. It wasn't a mouse, was it? Please, don't let it be a mouse! Common as they were around grain bins and wood piles, mice never failed to startle her when she came upon them. They twittered. They chittered. They squeaked. And the worst part? They could gnaw through anything and squeeze through the thinnest crack. Of course if Papa were here, he'd tell her not to worry over anything so small. Still, she imagined a mouse ran over her foot all the same. She jumped...