A Traveller Family Mystery

by Lint Hatcher

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Chapter 2

"What'd Dad forget?" Dabney murmured from the backseat.

"His Herculoids lunchbox, I think," answered a sleepy voice from up front. Dabney's older sister, Abbey, wasn't much of a "morning person".

"Can't he leave without it just once?"

"Well, he's got all his Pez in it."

"Oh, yeah."

Max shook his head, grinning. The Traveller family was in true form today.

It was 8:00 in the AM, Sunday morning. The last of the chill morning breezes were being chased and gathered up by the rising sun -- to be replaced by the still, insistent heat of summer. There was a quiet, waiting quality to the sunlight, like a spotlight on a stage. Every brightly-lit tree, blade of grass, and line of yellow paint on the road ahead seemed poised for playing some small part in their upcoming adventure.

It was time for the Seventh Annual Traveller Family Summer Roadtrip to begin.

Max sat in the back seat of the Traveller stationwagon -- a robin's egg blue '68 Country Squire with vinyl woodpanel sides and a faded spot under the gas port. The people in the Traveller's neighborhood tended to frown upon the cheesy old car. They especially disliked Mr. Traveller's attempts at customizing -- such as the Esso "Put a Tiger in your tank!" tiger tail sticker that flew out of the gas port with cartoon exaggeration, or the makeshift table in the very back where the kids used to play Pop-O-Matic games like Sorry. The back was also equipped with tiny sofa-style seats just like the stationwagon Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Linus, Sally, Marcie and Franklin climbed into at the end of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. But Max and the Traveller kids were pretty much too big to climb back there now -- when they tried, they ended up perching on the seats, shoulders hunched over like buzzards.

Max loved the old car. Truth be known, he felt more warmth and affection for its memorable dents and rust spots than he did for most of his own relatives.

Mr. Traveller had turned the Squire around in the driveway last night, as he always did, so that the morning would find it pointing toward the road ahead. All the kids were loaded in the brown vinyl interior, waiting, as usual, for Mr. Traveller to lock the front door of the house and "get this show on the road."

Dabney Traveller, age 9, sat across from Max in the back seat. Dabney was a little chubby, had a round, baby-like face, and wore extremely unfashionable glasses with thick plastic frames and lenses that were always a little dirty. It was impossible to look at Dabney without realizing that he had been born unpopular, that in elementary school and high school some kind of herd instinct would drive everyone to think of him as the runt of the litter. But, if Dabney felt sorry for himself, it was hard to see it. Rather than downplay his odd-man-out looks, he wore them like a badge of honor, always choosing stern, heavy frames for his glasses and making sure his haircuts were as simple and unremarkable as possible. Even though he was just a little kid, he seemed to know with an unshakable orthodoxy that normal was bad and abnormal/unpopular was good. This morning, Dabney was wearing grey corduroy shorts and an extremely old Farrah Fawcett t-shirt that once belonged to Mr. Traveller and was a couple of sizes too big for Dabney. Farrah's smiling face and blow-dried hair were surrounded by a border of faded, flaking glitter. Dabney was slumped down so that his pale legs, bent at the knee, rested on the back of the driver's seat. Studying a Mr. Monster comic book with the vigor and intensity of a true enthusiast, he was already in his basic traveling position.

Abigail Traveller, or Abbey, clocked in one year younger than Max at age 12. She was pale like Dabney, had a shimmering halo of almost white blonde hair and used to be thin, but puberty was changing that. Abbey sat up front, staring forward through the sunshine dusted windshield. She was quiet but attentive this morning as though she had never really appreciated the view of the green grass, scattered toys and Big Wheels across the street in the Johnson family's front yard.

Max knew Dabney. He even understood Dabney. They didn't always like each other, but they both liked scary comic books and movies and had never had a treehouse and hated going to school with the burning passion of revolutionaries in an underground resistance movement.

Max didn't really know Abbey very well. Max had pretty much grown up with Abbey, had been to most of her birthday parties, had climbed trees with her, had thrown water balloons at her, and had chased her through the Traveller backyard in countless games of after-dark freeze tag. More often than not, he liked her as a person more than he liked her little brother. And yet he knew about as much about the details of Abbey's life as he knew about the pink Barbie Doll aisle at Toys R Us. Though she would pick up a lizard without a second thought, though she would drop the lizard down her little bother's shirt without a second thought, Abbey was still plenty girl enough to seem like a different life form. Plus, she was different from Max and Dabney when it came to school. Max suspected that Abbey had a pretty good time at school, that she had no idea what he and Dabney were so angry about, and though she wasn't super popular that she would end up having no problem finding a date for the Senior Prom some day. But Max didn't resent this. It actually kept Max from being a fringe elitist like Dabney. By Abbey's example, Max knew that some of the more popular people weren't snobs. He knew it wouldn't even pop into Abbey's head to think she was better than anybody else just because she got plenty of candy and cards at school on Valentines Day when some kids (like two boys who sat in the back seat of the stationwagon) got none.

Abbey's sparkling blonde ponytail flopped over her seat, dangling matter-of-factly in front of Max. He secretly studied it, feeling oddly fascinated by just how clean and bright and nice it seemed. It amazed him that something so beautiful could be a simple part of a person, could belong to them and be taken for granted like toenails or nose hair. Meanwhile, he rested his hand ever so slightly on part of his door beside his open window. The sun had cast its rays on a six inch long section of brown vinyl for some time now, making it hot as toast right out of the oven. For some reason, Max had propped his arm out the window and was lowering his hand over that spot, letting it lightly scorch his skin with an exquisite torture.

For kids about to go on vacation, they were all very quiet.


They all jumped and the front seat creaked and whined in protest as Mr. Traveller threw open the driver's door and plunged into the car.

"Let's get this show on the road!!!" he shouted.

All the kids brightened, suddenly breaking clear of their little reveries and paying attention to each other and to the fact that their annual summer "jaunt" was certainly now in motion.

Mr. Traveller slid his Hanna-Barbera, circa 1967, all-metal Herculoids lunchbox and a couple of other articles under his seat, then swung around to cast a quick communal glance at everyone. He looked, to Max's eye, as "born in the wrong decade" as ever -- almost exactly, in fact, like Dennis the Menace's cartoon dad. His full head of salt-and-pepper hair was combed back with the help of old-fashioned "Pomade" grease. Black wire-rimmed spectacles sat on a thin beak of a nose just above a set of wry, thin lips and a strong, bony chin. Some kind of adventurous, chrome-plated, tail-finned, aerodynamic optimism oozed out of Mr. Traveller, putting a twinkle in his grey-blue eyes and a good-natured fatherly leadership in his grin.

The man was so intensely aware, at this moment right now, that Max shrank beneath his friendly, informal gaze. Max's first eye-contact with Mr. Traveller was almost always like that. It made Max feel that he wasn't quite alive yet. It was weird.

"You guys set for our next JOURNEY INTO THE GREAT UNKNOWN?" Mr. Traveller boomed. He pronounced this with theatrical aplomb, as though he was reading lines from a script and was waiting for them all to read their parts next.

Mr. Traveller's traveling pipe, yet unlit, was nestled in his breast pocket, Max noticed. Max grinned rather sheepishly and gave Mr. Traveller the thumbs up.

Dabney, not bothering to look up from his reading, but certainly attuned to everything going on around him, said simply, "Dad. Let's do it."

"Let's go then! Let's get outta here!!" Abigail said.

As though taking orders, Mr. Traveller spun around smartly and shut his door with the precision and economy of a good soldier.

He put the key in the ignition and suddenly paused, stiffly, eyes shut. "Good Lord," he said, "All we ask is a stout ship and a fair wind to sail her by."

He turned the key. The engine flared into throbbing, breathing, barely-contained life. Slipping the car into Drive, Mr. Traveller took his foot off the brake. With a pop or two of scattered stones or twigs caught between the tires and the white cement driveway, the Squire rolled away from the Travellers' ranch-style suburban estate and out onto the open road. With a slight pressure upon the gas pedal and a blast of cool morning air through the open windows, they were on their way.

Max was no longer mildly torturing himself on the hot vinyl, but instead had set about humming the background music to The Herculoids cartoons. An episode had been playing on the massive Traveller Family Home Entertainment System when he had arrived that morning. Max lived only a couple of houses down the street. He had walked the distance to the Traveller home, suitcase in hand, wondering if people were watching him from their livingroom windows and if they thought his parents had kicked him out or something.

Just now, he waved to his parents as he suddenly realized that the Squire was spinning past his own front yard. His Mom and Dad, the Walpoles, were working hard, doing what looked like an awful lot of nothing to an already immaculate front yard. The Travellers, the Walpoles, and the Walpole boy now in the Traveller stationwagon all waved simultaneously and then the Walpole house was gone round the corner.

Max smiled faintly, feeling the physical and the emotional distance between himself and his parents. Because of the Traveller family, however, he found himself content with the situation.

Max let himself reminisce a little. If he had his summer vacations correctly numbered, Max had first gotten in on the fun with Traveller Family Roadtrip Number Four at the invitation of Mr. Traveller himself. Max remembered feeling a little awkward and reluctant at first. His own family didn't do that sort of thing much, they were "homebodies". More awkward by far for Max, however, had been the knowledge that Mrs. Traveller wouldn't be along. She had recently divorced Mr. Traveller and moved to parts unknown. The summer after the divorce, the Travellers hadn't gone anywhere together. The following year Family Roadtrip Number Four had been an attempt at making the fun still happen without Mrs. Traveller. It felt strange for Max to be filling the gap, so to speak. Plus, he had no idea how to deal with the subject if it ever came up during the trip. But then, that Fourth Annual Traveller Family Summer Roadtrip was heading to Washington D.C. and Max had never seen the Smithsonian, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, (or the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, he soon was to discover). And then, when Max's parents had looked at each other and said, "Well, we'll never go... ," with such dead certainty... well, the decision had quickly become very simple.

"Here we go," Abbey said simply.

Max shook his head and returned to the present.

Mr. Traveller was working on his pipe and watching the road at the same time. "This is Max's, what? Fourth trip with us? Right?" He glanced into the rear view mirror. "I mean, this is the seventh family outing, but Max's fourth time coming along, right?"

Max nodded with a small, matter-of-fact grin. Mr. Traveller seemed to have been reminiscing about the very same thing.

Dabney's voice drifted in from somewhere on his side of the back seat. He narrated in a low voice without glancing up from Mr. Monster. "Yes, the Traveller family left Dooganville that day, never to be heard from again."

"Well, we are going to the Lost World theme park," Mr. Traveller said.

"Maybe it's a Lost World that we're leaving. Maybe it won't be here when we get back," said Abbey. "Maybe a meteor will drop right on top of Dooganville and by the time we get back it'll be the Dooganville Memorial Crater."

Max sat up and leaned in closer to the front seat to hear better. Somehow, Abbey's silly commentary had put into words a strange desolate mood he had been feeling all morning.

"If that happens, it'll be no accident," Dabney added. "It'll be because God decided to make an example of Dooganville to the rest of the world."

"What did Dooganville do that's so wrong?" Max said.

"It's not what they did. It's what they didn't do," Dabney replied without looking at Max, smiling a dry little smile as if at a private joke.

Max frowned. Sometimes he felt like Dabney was performing -- as if Dabney had his own TV show, and he secretly knew there were cameras hidden everywhere. At those times, it was as though Dabney considered Max, Abbey, and the rest of the world to be minor "supporting characters". When he spoke to you, it made you feel like whatever you had just said to him was merely the set-up for Dabney's next comeback. Only Mr. Traveller seemed to have earned Dabney's respect. Besides, most of Dabney's jokes were just strange and cynical. Searching for a response, Max said, "What do you mean they. You live in Dooganville, too, don't you?"

"Well, anyhow... everybody say good-bye to The Lost Neighborhood then," said Mr. Traveller. And everybody (even Dabney) turned to a window and waved. The Squire passed under a green light and over a set of rickety, old railroad tracks. The tracks were an official boundary for their little Atlanta suburb. The Squire was now on Highway 22, headed for Interstate 75 south which they would later exit in favor of Interstate 16 southeast to Savannah. Then they would travel down the East Coast on Interstate 95 into Florida to their target: the city of St. Augustine and The Lost World theme park.

Abbey spun round in her seat to wave good-bye some more and nearly rubbed noses Eskimo-style with Max, who was still leaning forward to listen to any front seat conversations. "Ooops, sorry," she said, then facing the rear window she blurted loudly into Max's ear, "It won't be a Lost Neighborhood! We'll find our way back!"

"Not if our neighborhood is Atlantis and it's time for the volcanoes to erupt," Dabney murmured.

"Well, our neighborhood is Dooganville, not Atlantis," Abbey replied, still leaning halfway into the back seat as she watched the railroad tracks grow hazy in the distance. "And the closest thing we have to a volcano is you when you get mad."

"BOOOM!!" Dabney shouted, suddenly bursting out of his quiet and leaping into Abbey's face.

"Yeeeep!" Abbey shrieked. She fell backward into the dashboard. "Ow! You made me hurt my back!!"

"Allright. C'mon. Settle down," Mr. Traveller complained. "Come on, Abbey, turn around in your seat and get your seat belt on right. You stretched it out so much it's not doing what its supposed to do anymore. Dabney, finish that Mr. Monster comic. I'm counting on you to tell me whether it's worth my time or not."

"Yeah, yeah... " Dabney murmured.

Max wished someone would ask him a question to get him into the swing of things. He didn't know whether he was sleepy or depressed or both.

Mr. Traveller finished thumb packing the tobacco in his pipe and propped the stem of the pipe into his mouth. He refrained from lighting it, however -- a recent and very noble sacrifice in acknowledgment of the health hazards of second-hand smoke. Still, the smell of Mr. Traveller's brand of pipe tobacco filled the car with a delicious, masculine aroma.

"Alllllriiiiight," Mr. Traveller sighed through his teeth in a slow, thoughtful exhale. "I know you guys are probably hungry for some breakfast and so we'll stop at McDonald's... "

"Good! I'm hungry!" Abbey shouted.

"... however, it will be about half an hour till we get there... "

Abbey frowned. "Say what?! There's a McDonald's right where we get onto 75."

"Well, we're going to wait a little while so we can go to the really old McDonald's -- with the great old arches that touch the ground -- at the Lithia Springs exit. And then, of course, we also get an opportunity to drive past the Lithia Springs Family Drive-In... "

"Awwwww, Daddeeeeee... " Abbey whined.

"Sounds good to me," Max said.

"Sounds good to me," said Dabney.

"Of course it does," said Mr. Traveller. "Now, to while away the minutes and to get your tiny little brains into gear this morning, let me ask you a question."

The mood in the car suddenly became attentive and quiet. This was official. Mr. Traveller had a thing for riddles and philosophical puzzles -- and he always introduced one at the beginning of a trip.

Dabney shifted back down into his traveling position and opened Mr. Monster again. "Allright, Dad," he said.

"Not... ," Abbey began.

"Don't try to guess! Just let me ask... ,'" her father complained.

A second's more of quiet and Mr. Traveller began.

"Allright, here goes." He puffed a little at his unlit pipe. "Okay. If someone were to say to you, 'I saw a ghost,' how should you react? In other words, how should you treat their story? Should you respond by saying, 'I simply will not believe it happened until it is proven to me beyond a doubt'? Or should you say, 'I don't know enough to be sure. Maybe you did see a ghost, maybe you didn't'? Which response is correct? Do you outright disbelieve until proof is provided? Or do you adopt an agnostic or 'I don't know' approach? Or is there some other, better response?"

It felt to Max that it was a little early to be playing roadtrip games, but then he also knew that Mr. Traveller didn't mean this only as a diversion to pass the time. It was something important. Typically, Mr. Traveller's riddles had to do with their trip, as though Mr. Traveller had some secret theme in mind, or some important idea to get across that was connected with their destination. Other times, though very seldom, the riddles turned out to have nothing at all to do with their trip, but they were always interesting and fun.

"Waitaminute. Either 'I don't believe it at all until you prove it to me' or 'Maybe you did, maybe you didn't'?" Abigail recited, dubiously. She rolled her window up in order to hear better.

"Eggzactly," said Mr. Traveller, still speaking past his pipe and clenched teeth.

Abbey and Max both began looking out their windows as though they could get some clue from their surroundings. They weren't thinking this, of course, but they did study what they saw while they tried to solve the mystery. The outlying homes of Dooganville -- other people's houses, other people's lawns, other people's shrubbery -- marched single-file beside the car. There were dozens of pine trees behind the houses and glimpses of red Georgia clay in the ditch beside the highway. The bright, even sunlight gave each individual home and front yard a flat, insistent quality like a sharp yet unremarkable photograph. A group of children was playing in one of the yards. As the Squire rolled past, they looked up and stared with the aloof curiosity of kids peering out a schoolbus window. Then, suddenly, the Squire was passing through a glorious section of road in the neighboring town of Bolton. It was as though the Travellers and Max had entered a different world. The trees beside the road shifted from plain, familiar pines to massive, ancient oaks. Their huge branches had been carefully and artfully encouraged to arch over the road, providing a romantic atmosphere of cool shadows and dappled sunlight. This patchwork quilt of light and shadow played across the hood of their car and across Mr. Traveller's face as he shifted his pipe in his mouth and rolled down his window a little more. The new burst of wind brought with it the smell of nearby magnolia blossoms. A few acorns popped and crumbled under their tires as a perfect gritty compliment to the soft luxurious landscape around them.

"Eggzactly," Abbey mimicked her father. "Eggzactly. Oh yeah. No problem."

Max turned away from his window. The sunlight and shadow were playing across Abbey's golden hair and pale arms. Max had always thought that she needed just a slight English accent to become the picture of a modern day Haley Mills. Mr. Traveller was a big Disney fan and had tricked Max into falling in love with Haley Mills through frequent home video showings of The Parent Trap, Summer Magic and That Darn Cat. Somehow, at this moment, the thick perfume of magnolia blossoms mixed with the picture Abbey made sitting there in the dappled sunlight -- so that the very act of staring at her became luxurious.

"Ugh," Abbey said simply, though she obviously hadn't given up the game yet. "I don't see that much of a difference," she said then. "Maybe they're both right. It's just personal opinion."

"Hmmmmm... " Mr. Traveller said, without saying anything, of course. "Do you agree with that, Max?"

Max blinked and tried to clear his mind. He had no idea what Mr. Traveller meant by this riddle. In the almost ten years he had known Mr. Traveller and the four years he had vacationed with the Travellers, he had gotten only slightly better at playing these peculiar games. Max enjoyed the mental wrestling matches, but sometimes he wondered if they weren't a little too much along Mr. Traveller's way of thinking and a little too unlike "normal" people's thinking. Maybe a question Mr. Traveller thought was simple might sound totally weird and unanswerable to practically everyone else.

"It's like what Sherlock Holmes said," answered Dabney.

Max and Abbey cast a sudden, knowing glance at each other.

"In that story. I forgot the name of it," Dabney said rather blandly. He hadn't looked up from his comic book the whole time.

Max wanted to kick himself for not thinking of some connection between the riddle and Mr. Traveller's love for Sherlock Holmes. But what the heck could possibly be the connection?! And besides, Mr. Traveller loved all kinds of books. Rather appropriately, he was a salesman for Encyclopedia Britannica. He specialized in marketing the Great Books series, a collection of the great influential works in philosophy, theology, science, and so on. And, of course, he had read them all -- probably a couple of times over. So one couldn't just assume that a riddle had to do with one, or two, or three of Mr. Traveller's favorite subjects. He had more favorite subjects than he had fingers and toes.

The real problem whenever these riddles came up, the problem that was making Max and Abbey curse under their breath at the moment, was that Dabney had also read most of the Great Books. From Plato, to Aristotle, to Aquinas, to Descartes, and so on -- plus practically everything else in the Traveller library. He also seemed to possess a photographic memory. According to all the teachers and one actual expert, Dabney was a little child prodigy -- a "brainiac," as Max put it sometimes. Even though Dabney was years younger, Max and Abbey were at a real disadvantage in these games. And slightly jealous of Dabney's advantage.

"How so?" said Mr. Traveller finally, not saying whether Dabney was correct or not.

Max tilted his head to look, askance, at Dabney.

Hardly glancing up from his comic -- now a copy of Dr. Ghostly's Tomb of Terror -- Dabney said, "It's in one of those Sherlock Holmes stories. Sherlock says to Watson, 'How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.'" He shrugged, as though he had just absent-mindedly placed a square peg into a square hole. Simple.

"Say WHAT?!" Abbey practically shrieked.

Dabney frowned, actually deigning to look at her while he spoke. "Look, it's like this. No wait... now I remember. It's in The Sign of Four. Anyhow, Sherlock Holmes says to Watson, 'When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever's left, no matter how crazy it sounds, has got to be the truth.' So that's the way you should treat a story somebody tells you about seeing a ghost. Eliminate the impossible. Whatever is left, even if it sounds crazy, must be the truth."

"Well," Mr. Traveller interjected. "It's easy enough to say such a thing. But how would it work?"

Dabney was not quite as confident on this point. He fumbled a little with his comic book. "Well, I dunno... Let me think about it."

"Let me help you out a little... ," Mr. Traveller began.

"No, wait!" Abbey cried, practically standing up. "Was that the right answer or what?"

"Well, it might be. We'll just have to find out. Don't be so competitive," Mr. Traveller replied with a 'Sit back down in your seat' glance in her direction.

Abbey sat down, mumbling, "All I asked was a simple question."

Mr. Traveller continued. "Now, let's put Max in the spotlight. He hasn't said a word so far. Pretend, Max, that I am the person who has seen the ghost. This is what I tell you: 'I was driving along the road last night, coming home from my late shift at work, when I saw a man standing beside the road, trying to thumb a ride. He looked all white, as though he was glowing. I thought it was the headlights from my car that made him look that way. But then, just when I drove past him and when the lights weren't on him anymore, I saw that he was still glowing! All white and ghostly. And not only that, but I could see right through him. And when I drifted past him and didn't stop to pick him up, he disappeared into nothing. Yes sir, I believe I saw a ghost. A ghostly hitchhiker.'"

Dabney was looking up, the gears in his head obviously spinning at top speed. This spooky story was apparently more interesting than the one in Dr. Ghostly's Tomb of Terror.

Max had no idea what to say. He reached into his mind for something, anything. "Well," he answered, "maybe you would ask questions."

"What do you mean?"

Dabney blurted out, "Well, of course, you would have to... "

"Dabney, let Max finish his answer."

Max continued. "Umm, you would sort of interview the man. You would ask him questions. You would ask him questions that would help you decide whether he was making things up, or if he had seen somebody who just looked like a ghost, or if he had really seen a ghost."

"That sounds like a good approach," replied Mr. Traveller. "Find out if he was drunk, for instance. Find out if the late shift he said he was on is a really, really late shift that leaves him groggy and sleepy. He could have slipped into a sort of waking dream while he was driving if he was tired enough. And, gradually, if you eliminated all the natural explanations, maybe you would end up with 'he saw a ghost' as the last possible explanation." He shifted his pipe across his mouth. "But would you really put that kind of work into it? I mean, if you were at school and during recess or something a little boy told you he saw a ghost, would you really pour on the questions? Try to figure out if he really saw a ghost? Or would you go, 'Yeah, right. Sure you did.'"

"I would," Dabney said immediately. "I would ask the questions."

"I would probably ask some questions," said Max.

"It depends on who he was," said Abbey.

Everyone cocked their heads sideways a little at the curiousness of her answer.

"On who the ghost was?" said Dabney.

"No," Abbey said with disgust. "On who the person was who said he saw a ghost. If he was somebody I knew I could trust, then I would ask some questions. If he was somebody who liked to mess with you and play tricks on people, I wouldn't waste my time."

"Hmmmmmm... " Mr. Traveller grinned. "So none of you would automatically disbelieve. You wouldn't just write the whole thing off as an hallucination or a hoax. In other words, you are open enough to the possibility of ghosts to give the guy the benefit of the doubt -- to hear him out. Provided, of course," he added with a nod in Abbey's direction, "that you don't suspect from the start that he's pulling your leg."

There was a general murmur of agreement. And a general murmur in some stomachs. Mr. Traveller was piloting the car down the entrance ramp to Interstate 75 now. Breakfast was about ten minutes away.

"Hmmmmmm... " Mr. Traveller said again. "Well, let me just drop this little question into your brains. Don't answer, just think about it. What if somebody told you that he believed not only in ghosts, but also in extraterrestrial visitors, living dinosaurs, and abominable snowmen? What if he also told you that frogs have rained down out of the sky and that deep in the oceans there are squid so big that they occasionally try to eat a nuclear submarine? How would you react to that? Willy Leonard believed in things like that and a lot more things, too. I mean, really believed in them. And those beliefs strongly influenced his Lost World theme park."

"Frogs?" Max said. "Out of the sky? So there's a ride at this place where they pour frogs on your head?"

"Absolutely," Mr. Traveller said with a laugh and then, when he saw Max's face, he shook his head. "No, not really. It's mainly a dinosaur-themed water park. You know that. But, even so, it's a dinosaur-themed water park built by a man who believes some dinosaurs are still alive on planet Earth. That gives it a peculiar spin. It's like... Well, it's like the Haunted Mansion might be if Walt Disney had been an ardent, true-believer in ghosts."

"But I like the Haunted Mansion," Abbey said.

"I do, too! I mean, I love it," Mr. Traveller said. "I'm not criticizing it at all for being a stylized, fanciful treatment of ghosts. All I'm saying is that when a true believer does or says something there's an edge to it. It challenges you -- just like a guy saying he saw a ghost would challenge you."

"But you're saying something different now," Dabney countered. "This is totally different from the ghost thing that you started with. You're saying Willy Leonard believed in these things, not that he saw them. You said the ghost guy actually saw the ghost. Did Willy Leonard actually see these things or did he just read about other people seeing them and believe what they said?"

Mr. Traveller put his hand out the window and let the wind push at his open palm. "I don't know what he saw," he replied in a mysterious, faraway voice.

"Hmmmmmm... " Dabney murmured, apparently well aware of his father's theatrics, yet not entirely immune to them.

"Well, if you ask me, it seems like an awful lot of weird stuff to believe in all at once," Abigail said with finality. "Are we eating on the road or are we going to stop?"

"On the road," Mr. Traveler said. He pulled his arm back into the car and took another inhale from his unlit pipe. "We've got a long drive before we get to The Lost World."

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