Note to the Reader: The following snippets are rough draft chapters of my current WIP MG fiction novel CAUGHT IN THE ACT: THE SPELL.


“Joshua Leon Talbert,” Karen Talbert called when she heard the door open.

Dang, Ms. Abbernathy called Mom, Josh thought as he clicked the door shut behind him. “Yeah, Mom!” Josh yelled making his voice sound remorseful, but cheery so he

wouldn’t be tagged with whining too.

Josh wound his way through the living room. It had a long narrow hardwood floor with throw rugs his aunt knitted. A huge television set took up one corner of the room and book shelves took up the other. The long, brown couch squeezed between the two. The room always felt cozy to Josh, cozy and welcoming.

Pushing through the swinging door into the kitchen, Josh entered the really important part of the house. Wide, tall windows edged with white, green and yellow walls looked out onto the expanse of lawn. A sparkling, not-so-practical chandelier hung from the ceiling down over the dinner table, already set for dinner. His mother stood in her crisp, white apron stirring something on the stove. Josh could never tell what exactly they would be having for dinner. A lot of guys he knew could tell what they were having by the night of the week it was, not Josh. His mom was a chef at a restaurant in town, and she loved creating new recipes. She needed to try them out on someone, so her family was the perfect audience. Josh didn’t mind, but tonight he wasn’t really in the mood. He just wanted macaroni and cheese and bed.

He fleetingly thought about calling Travis. Travis loved “specials” night as he called it, but Josh wasn’t in the mood for that either.

“Hey, Mom.” Josh clunked his backpack down and scooted into the breakfast nook on a tall stool.

“Ms. Abbernathy called.”

Josh cringed at the stern tone in his mom’s voice.

“She said you had to stay in today at lunch.” Karen turned to Josh. Her expression changed from aggravation to concern when she saw his face. “What’s wrong?”

“Just tired.” Josh decided to tell the whole deal, well most of the whole deal. “Travis and I did have to stay in at lunch. We’d been talking when we should have been working. But, we did get the assignment done.”

Karen raised an eyebrow. “What were you discussing?”

Josh lifted his hand. “This burn. Travis was wondering where I got it.”

Karen walked over and pulled his hand into hers. “It looks pretty bad. Did you put some ointment on it?”

Josh smiled. His mom was not a medical type. She left that up to Josh’s dad. To her everything needed ointment. Didn’t matter if he had a runny nose or a sore throat—ointment had to be the cure. “Yeah.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“From the coffee pot in the hotel we stayed at.”

“Those can be dangerous.”

“Mmm hmm.” So can burning barns.

“Why don’t you go up and lie down. I’ll call you when dinner is ready. I think it’s crazy that you had to go to school today. Not even a day to recuperate after being on a flight back from New York.”

“Sure,” Josh muttered as he wandered out of the kitchen, sure that his mom couldn’t hear his response. She was back in her own world, talking to the stove as if it could hear her. Josh’s feet felt heavy as he walked up the stairs to his room. Slumping on his bed he thought about Noah Webster’s journal in his backpack downstairs in the kitchen. Just as well, he wouldn’t be able to keep his eyes open long enough to read any of it anyway.

He curled his arm around his pillow, breathed in the freshly washed scent and slept. In his mind, he hoped he wouldn’t be seeing anybody out of the ordinary anytime soon. He was relieved when no wind or jerking motion disturbed his sleep.

His dream was pleasant. He was on the stage of a large theatre, watching the lights wink and fade. Walking down stage, he saw a working fountain just like the ones in fancy parks in big cities. Surprised, he sat on the edge of the rock base to see if he could tell how the stage techs made it work.

“Hello,” a sweet voice called.

“Hello?” Josh looked to stage left. He could hear the soft patting of feet moving before he saw the person. When the person did come into the light, Josh’s jaw fell open.

A woman with long red hair in a gown of glowing green satin flowed across the floor like she was floating. Her eyes of a deep green shone with friendliness and kindness.

“May I sit?” The woman asked.


“I’d like to talk to you for a little bit, if that’s okay?” She rested gracefully next to Josh.

“Yeah,” Josh said. This is a dream after all, why not.

The woman smiled. “I’m called Arayla. I have come to help you.”

“With what?”

“Let me describe to you what I think is going on in your life right now.”

“Okay.” Josh looked at her with a you-are-crazy-lady look.

“You have met, twice, now I believe a boy named Noah Webster. Is that right?”

“How do you know that?”

“Is that right?”

“Why do you want to know?” Josh felt weird, like he’d been spied on.

“I want to help you.” Arayla looked at Josh’s face. She silently uttered a spell of trust, hoping it would help Josh believe her. “I know you don’t want to believe me, or even yourself at this point, but you need to.”


“Because you are necessary.”

“For what?”

“We’ll get to that, but not yet. I need to help you understand what is happening first.”

“Okay. So what’s going on?”

“You’ve met Noah Webster twice now haven’t you?”


“Do you know how?”

“No. The first time I was asleep, and the next time I was looking in my science book thinking about eating lunch.”



“Maybe nothing.” Arayla shifted her weight and drew her fingers through the water of the fountain. “Time is like water,” she said. “It has rules. Water can run downhill, but not up. It boils at a certain point and freezes at a certain point. Time is the same. But, there is someone who has found a way to manipulate time.”

“Noah Webster?”

“No.” Arayla shook her head. “No. Noah is a victim of the one who can manipulate time. In the two instances you met Noah, you traveled to the past, you traveled through time.”

“Like in Back to the Future?” Josh laughed thinking of one of his dad’s favorite old movies.

“No and yes,” Arayla said. “No in the sense that you didn’t need the specific speed or date destination. And yes in the sense that nothing of the past can change because it hugely affects the future.”

“Why?” Josh asked.

“You and Noah are linked some way. I haven’t figured it out yet. I’m not even sure how or why you got involved. But what I do know is that you have to protect him. You have to save his life.”

“What? Why?”

“Because you are necessary.”

“You said that already. Why me?”

“There are rules for me as well. I can’t break any, or he’ll be able to break rules too.”

“I don’t even know who this Noah guy is. How am I supposed to save his life? Who is he anyway?”

“You’ll have to figure it out.”

“I’ll leave you a clue.”


“You’ll have to figure—”

“—figure it out. Yeah, you said that.”

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“The year is 1770 and things in the Colonies are really heating up.”

Josh looked up at Mr. Beatey, his history teacher and squinted. He’d always thought Mr. Beatey looked like an old-fashioned scholar with his little round glasses and long hair tied back in a string of leather. Trying to take notes in his class was always difficult with him going on and on about the simplest little thing. Notes from previous days crinkled beneath his pencil as Josh waited for the actual topic of the day’s lesson to be revealed.

The wide white walls of the classroom practically vibrated with Mr. Beatey’s voice. Josh, Elyse and Travis tried to get to class early so they could get a table at the back. Today they were successful. The whole room separated them from the little skinny man and his booming voice.

“So, are you guys going to tell me what’s going on or what?” Elyse sat forward in her chair, scrunching her face.

“Geeze, don’t get mad,” Travis said. “We haven’t had time. Too much has happened.”

“Well, then you’d better start talking.” She flipped her long blond hair out of her face.

“Do you know who Noah Webster is?” Travis asked sounding superior.

“Of course. Who doesn’t? He wrote the dictionary. Why?”

“Oh.” Travis dug in his backpack for a bag of peanuts. “No reason.”

“Then why’d you bring it up?”

“Something else happened last night,” Josh whispered. “I think I might know what’s going on.”

“What?” Travis and Elyse said at once.

“I fell asleep while I was waiting for dinner, and I had a dream. This woman, fairy,” Josh tried to find the right word, “girl, person was in my dream. She knew about Noah Webster and—”

“What about him?” Elyse asked.

“Sshh!” Travis said waiving his hand to quiet his friend.

Elyse glared only a little at Travis and crossed her arms. But she leaned forward again to hear.

“Anyway, she knew about Noah Webster. She knew about the two times I’d seen him and how—.”

“Seen him?” Elyse asked.

“How?” Travis munched a handful of peanuts.

“Time travel.”

“Say what?” Travis spouted, spewing peanut crumbs across their papers.

“Hey, watch the slobbers!” Elyse flicked the pieces away.

“No really. That’s what she said. She also said that I had to save Noah Webster’s life.”

“Why?” Elyse asked.

“I guess cause someone’s going to kill him.” Josh saw Elyse open her mouth to talk and answered before she could ask. “And I don’t know why. Would you just listen? I’ve already had one detention this week, and I don’t want another.”

“You what!”

“Sshh!” Travis hissed and glared at Josh for bringing it up.

“I don’t know anything, except what I’m telling you, but she did say she’d leave me a clue.”

“The Revolutionary War is imminent.” Mr. Beatey pounded his fist into his hand to make the point. Josh jumped, his attention focused back to the front of the room. Mr. Beatey’s crisp white shirt edged today with a blue trim vest and matching pants moved stiffly as he lifted his hands over his head and said, “There can be no question now. The Boston Massacre proves this.”

There’s the reason for all this. Josh scribbled the addition to his growing list of Why the War is Imminent: The Boston Massacre joined The Proclamation of 1763, The Stamp Act, Patrick Henry, Sons of Liberty, Sam Adams.

“Did she leave a clue?” Travis asked after he’d added to his own list.

“Yeah right.” Elyse put her pencil down.

“I didn’t really look. I got up and ate dinner when Mom called me, just thinking the

whole thing was a dream. It wasn’t until this morning in math class that I found what could be the clue. It was in my backpack in Noah’s journal.” Josh leaned down and rummaged through his pack and came back up with a neatly folded note.

“Are you sure it’s from her?” Travis asked.

“I don’t know anybody who writes like that.” Josh handed the letter to Travis.

“Look at the paper.” Elyse grabbed the note. “It’s beautiful. All shiny and blue and silver. Where’d you get it?”

“Out of my backpack.”

“No really.”

“Seriously, I got it out of my backpack this morning.”

“Maybe your mom put it in there,” Elyse said opening it.

“No.” Josh looked at Travis.

“I believe you buddy,” Travis said.

“Who’s A-r-a-y-l-a?” Elyse asked.

“The woman from my dream,” Josh answered.

“Let’s see this.” Travis pointed to the letter.

Huddling together, they read the words written in black flourishes across the page.

Knowledge is the power he seeks.

The Spell, every thousand years, he speaks.

He’s found a window is the span of time.

In it, against society, he commits his crime.

This is the key of now and then

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

It regulates the times of travel.

If life is lost, all will unravel.


“Who’s he,” Travis asked.

“I don’t know. Arayla wouldn’t tell me.”

“Are you sure you didn’t write this?” Elyse asked.

“Yes, I’m sure.” Josh peered at Elyse. “Why would I write it if I did?”

“I don’t know.”

“Exactly, no reason. There’s no reason I would make this up.” Josh paused and looked at Elyse’s face, noting the surprised, almost hurt look.

“Sorry. I’m not trying to be mean. I am so frustrated.” Josh smiled, hoping Elsye would forgive him.

“Do you actually think you saw Noah Webster? Was he old?”

“Yes. No.” Josh reached in his backpack and pulled out Noah’s journal. “I brought this back with me on my, I guess, second trip back in time.”


“Yes! Really! I saw him.” Travis interjected. “We were in detention for Ms. Abbernathy, and he was doing that science worksheet when all of a sudden, he slumped and fell out of his chair. Scared the crap out of me. I just sat there staring at him. Finally, I shook him to see if he was okay. When he woke up or whatever, he had that in his hand.”

“Are you guys joking? You could’ve cooked that up just to freak me out.”

“Okay fine. How do you explain this?” Josh held out his hand and showed her the long red welt.

“Looks like a burn.”

“It is. I got it when I was back in time with Noah, and I set his barn on fire.”

“What!” Elyse read the note again. “This is crazy.”

“You know. I think this might have something to do with getting lost and going into the wrong theatre in New York,” Travis said. "That's the only thing I can think of that might make sense."

“That wasn’t that big a deal. We weren’t there very long.”

Josh tilted his head and leaned forward. “Maybe not, but while we were there, I heard a whistle and saw a bright flash of light. I didn’t think of it until just now, but it was really like what I heard when I was in the science classroom. Did you guys hear it too?”

“No.” Elyse and Travis said.

“Oh.” Josh’s face fell. “Well, all I know is I’m not lying. We’ve been friends since pre-school, and I’ve never lied to you. Not about important stuff like this. Why would I lie? I don’t even want to save the life of the guy who wrote the dictionary. Who would?”

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