I meant to report right to Mr. Tall when I got back, to tell him about R.V., but as I was heading for his van, Truska - the lady who was able to grow an incredible beard - grabbed my arm and made signs that she wanted me to follow her.

She led me to her tent. It was decorated more than most of the other tents and vans. The walls were covered with mirrors and paintings. There were huge wardrobes and dressing tables and a humongous four-poster bed.


Truska said something in her weird seal-like voice, then stood me in the center of the room and made a sign that I wasn't supposed to move. She grabbed a measuring tape and measured my body.

When she finished, she pursed her lips and thought for a few seconds, then clicked her fingers and hurried to one of the closets. She dug through it, coming out with a pair of pants. She found a shirt in another closet, a jacket in another, and a pair of shoes in a large chest. She let me pick my own T-shirt, underwear, and socks from one of the dressing-table drawers.

I stepped behind a silk screen to put the clothes on. Evra must have told her about my wish to find new clothes. I'm glad that he did, because I probably would have kept on forgetting.

Truska clapped her hands when I came out and quickly shoved me in front of a mirror. The clothes fit perfectly and, much to my surprise, I looked supercool! The shirt was light green, the pants were dark purple, and the jacket was blue and gold. Truska found a long piece of red satin cloth and wrapped it around my waist like a belt. That completed the picture: I looked just like a pirate!

"This is great!"I told her. "The only thing is,"I said, pointing at my feet, "the shoes are a little tight."

Truska took back the shoes and found a new pair. They were roomier than the first pair and the toes curled up just like Sinbad the Sailor's. They were really cool.

"Thanks, Truska,"I said, and started to leave. She raised a hand and I stopped. She pulled a chair over to one of the taller wardrobes and stood on it, reached up, and brought down a huge round box. She plopped it on the floor, opened it, and pulled out a small brown hat with a feather in it, the kind that Robin Hood wore.

Before I could put the hat on, she made me sit down, got a pair of scissors, and gave me a haircut, which I badly needed.

The haircut and hat were the icing on the cake. I almost didn't recognize myself in the mirror when I looked this time.

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"Oh, Truska,"I said. "I... I..."I couldn't find the words, so instead I threw my arms around her and gave her a big, sloppy kiss. I felt embarrassed when I let go, and was glad none of my friends had been around to see, but Truska was beaming.

I rushed off to show Evra my new look. He thought the clothes were great, but swore he'd never asked Truska to help me. He said she must have either been sick of seeing me look so scruffy, or Mr. Crepsley had asked her to fix me up, or she'd done it because she liked me.

"She does not like me!"I shouted.

"Truska loves Darren,"he sang. "Truska loves Darren."

"Oh, shut up, you slimy excuse for a reptile,"I growled.

He laughed, not the least bit offended.

"Darren and Truska sitting in a tree,"he sang, "k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Darren with the vampire carriage."

I jumped on him, wrestled him to the ground, and wouldn't let go until he cried for mercy.

When we were finished. Evra went back to taking care of his snake, and I went outside and continued with the day's jobs. I was on the go nonstop, because I had to cover for Evra and do the work of two. With all that coming and going, and the excitement of having new clothes, I totally forgot about R.V. and telling Mr. Tall about the ecowarrior's threat to investigate the disappearing animals.

If I hadn't been so forgetful, maybe things would have turned out differently, and maybe our stay wouldn't have ended in a bloodbath.

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