Chapter 22: Eight Steps to Catastrophe

Step 1: Fool Yourself.

OK, so I would help her bust out the seals. That didn't mean we'd really DO it. Once she saw that it was impossible, she'd forget all about it.


Step 2: Pretend to Help Plan It.

The next morning, we rode our bikes to the aquarium. Figuring it would be the best way to sneak in, we went around back. But the land behind the aquarium was a tangle of bushes and trees surrounded by a ten-foot chain-link fence.

"Well, we can't go in this way," I said confidently.

"Why not?" Minerva asked. "We could cut a hole in the fence."

"Because seals can't move that fast on land. It would take them forever to get through all these bushes. Besides, we could never get a truck back here."


I smiled to myself. This was going to be easy. Even Minerva wouldn't be crazy enough to suggest going in the front way, and that was the only way left.

"I guess we'll just have to go in the front way then," she said.

Step 3: Point Out Helpful Facts.

"What are you? Nuts? You see those lights? They leave those on all night. It'll be as bright as day out here!"

"Good," said Minerva. "That means we won't have to bring flashlights."

Step 4: Iron Out Technical Difficulties.

Once again, we went inside the aquarium, but this time Minerva headed straight to Seal Island. The seals were cruising back and forth, propelling themselves with their stubby tails.

"Look, W.! This is great!" Minerva whispered. "That little wall on the side there is the weakest point. We just have to get them over that and into the duck pond, and then under the bridge and across the goldfish pond to the parking lot. It's simple."

"What do you mean it's simple? Do you think seals can just jump over walls? And we sure can't carry them."

"OK, we build a ramp, then," Minerva said. "We'll make it out of boards and canvas. No, we'll make two: one for them to climb up and one for them to slide down the other side."

Step 5: Suggest the Best Escape Route.

"Now all we need is an escape route," Minerva said. "We'll take them down river to Long Island Sound and let them go."

"That's exactly what the cops would expect," I said. "We should go the opposite way and dump the seals upriver. They can swim down by themselves."

"Good point."

Oh no!

Step 6: Be Open to New Ideas.

We rode back up along the river. We turned down the first road on the left, Riverbend Drive, and rode to the end, where it made a circle beside the river. We stopped and peered across the long green lawns that slanted down to the water.

"This is good," said Minerva.

"Yeah, great, but it's a dead end. If the cops are after us, how are we going to get away?"

"Easy, we get a boat."

"A boat! First you want to steal a truck, and now a boat?"

"Borrow. Not steal. You row across and tie the boat down there by the shore. I'll meet you with the truck. Then, when we escape, we jump in the boat and row back across."

"But this is the widest part of the river," I said. "It's going to take a while to row across. And we've got to make sure we do it at high tide. When the tide goes out, that whole other side of the river turns into a giant mud flat.

"Also," I added, "I don't like all these houses. We'll have to cut through people's yards. What if they wake up and call the cops?"

"By the time the cops get here," she said. "We'll be on the other side."


Step 7: Be Thorough.

"We still don't know about the guards," I said. It was my last hope. "If there's guards at the aquarium all night, I don't see how we're going to get past them."

"There's got to be a way," said Minerva. "We'll go back tonight and find it."


Step 8: Watch Out!

As we rode back up the street, I noticed something I'd missed when we rode down. A little blue house, set back from the road, had streamers of yellow toilet paper flying from its trees.

The name on the mailbox was Stiletto.

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