Tuna and TJ raced to the window.

“Herby, are you all right?” TJ cried.

“Wuaff mwabom!” Herby replied (which is the best anyone can reply with a mouthful of geraniums).


“Mwi maid (spit- spit) false alarm,” he finally shouted. He held out his hand and revealed one very squashed fly. “It wasn’t Bruce after all!”

“Excellent news,” Tuna shouted.

Of course it would have been more excellent if TJ’s father wasn’t shouting from downstairs, “What’s going on up there? TJ, are you okay?”

Luckily, Tuna had an answer for everything. (The answer was usually wrong, but he always had one.) Without a word, he pulled open the Reverse Beam Blade of his Swiss Army Knife and

Raaaapha . . .
Reeeepha . . . Riiiipha . . .





that had happened

“!hcuO !hcuO !hcuO”
llor, llor, llor

was put into



reverse, until


Herby was back in the attic having the conversation about not following TJ to school.

Not that TJ was surprised. It was just another average, run-of-the-mill evening for TJ Finkelstein and her time stumblers.

* * * * *

TJ climbed down the attic steps and headed toward her bedroom. As she passed Violet’s door, she saw that her middle sister still had the lights on. No surprise there. Violet always had her lights on. How else could she read 50 books a day, be president of every club in her school, and become dictator of the world before she was 16?

TJ pushed open the door to see Violet standing on a ladder. She was writing numbers on a big thermometer chart that stretched up to the ceiling.

“What are you doing?” TJ asked.

Violet answered without turning. “I’m checking to see how much more money I need to earn for Daddy’s gift.”

“Gift?” TJ asked. “For what?”

“Christmas. It’s only 6 days, 2 hours, 6 minutes, and 46 seconds from now.” (Violet liked to be precise.)

“No way!” TJ cried in alarm. “It can’t be!”

“You’re right.” Violet rechecked her watch. “It is now 6 days, 2 hours, 6 minutes, and 41 seconds.” (See what I mean?)

TJ couldn’t believe it. She’d been so caught up in all her junior-high migraine makers that she

hadn’t even noticed it was December. It would have helped to have a few clues . . . like maybe a little less sunshine or the temperature dropping below 70 degrees. Still, if she’d been paying attention, she’d have noticed that the beach babes had changed from SPF 69 to SPF 41.

“I’m getting him an 82-inch plasma TV and installing it right in his bedroom,” Violet said snootily. Violet didn’t try to sound snooty; it just came naturally. “What are you getting him?”

“Something better than that,” TJ said. TJ didn’t try to compete with her sister . . . it just came naturally.

“Yeah?” Violet asked. “Like what?”

“Like . . . well, uh . . . it’s a surprise!”

“Right,” Violet snorted and went back to coloring her money thermometer.

“What? You don’t think I can give Daddy a better gift than you?” TJ asked.

“Actually,” Violet said, “I don’t think you can do anything better than me.”

TJ could feel her insides churning. She knew it would do no good to argue with her sister. Violet always thought she was right. To make matters worse, Violet always was right. (Well, except that one time when she thought she was wrong.) But she couldn’t help saying, “Oh yeah?”