Central Park Story Book Two–Sample Chapter:



December 1st


11:00 p.m.

I KNOW WHEN someone hands you a secret map you’re supposed to go completely nuts and run all over the place trying to figure it out. Not me.

Maybe it reminded me too much of the homework I was supposed to be doing because I left it wedged between my dusty French primer and my untouched copy of Ivanhoe.

Now, lazing in bed one Sunday afternoon, thinking how Jennifer looked tolerably decent without her glasses and braces, I finally reached across my pillow and picked it up.

Jennifer had done a fine job splicing the two maps together, but what really caught my attention was how the two identical circles, one on the upper half of the map and the other on the lower, passed through a number of familiar places in the park.

Starting where the two circles met at the Bethesda Fountain, the northern circle rounded clockwise toward a promontory called ‘Hernshead’ off the Ramble Lake that I’d often admired from a distance. Continuing northwest, it intersected Balcony Bridge, which Jennifer and I had crossed on our early morning walks. Next, it passed the Swedish Cottage where we’d stopped to watch a performance of Hansel and Gretel that fall. Then, it swung northeast toward Belvedere Castle where I’d first spotted the cockatrice.

The pattern became even clearer when I examined the southern circle, which crossed several more familiar spots, including the statue of Balto, the Olmsted Flower Bed, and the Sheep Meadow.

All in all, I counted no less than seven familiar landmarks along the circumference of each circle. It was as if they had been placed there on purpose.

Then I noticed where Jennifer had marked each of the spots where I’d seen the mysterious light—Belvedere Castle at the top of the northern circle, the Olmsted Flower Bed at the bottom of the southern one, and the Bethesda Fountain where the two circles touched and we’d seen the light together.

It reminded me of something she’d told me when she’d handed me the map over Thanksgiving break.

‘It also got me thinking,’ she had said, ‘that if you saw the light at those three places, maybe you could find it somewhere else on the circles.’

Instead of tossing the map back where I found it, I zipped it in my backpack. If I had nothing better to do the following afternoon, I’d head to the park and check it out.


December 2nd


2:00 p.m.

I thought about asking Jennifer to join me in exploring the two circles since half of the map belonged to her. Then I remembered she’d told me she was busy studying for exams.

No. I’ll finish exploring them on my own and show her what I found when exams are finally over.

Yet, after picking up at the Swedish Cottage, I couldn’t find the light no matter where I looked. It wasn’t inside of the cottage, nor was it near the bench where Jennifer and I had sat eating ice cream that fall.

I pulled the map from my backpack and examined it again.

This time, I noticed the northern circle didn’t pass directly through the Swedish Cottage but farther to the east.

I crept ahead so I wouldn’t miss anything.

Sure enough, as I crossed a path leading to Belvedere Castle, the light suddenly appeared, glittering like newly formed icicles in the late afternoon sun.

However, I’d barely jumped a fence beside the Castle and found a spot where I could sit and enjoy the captivating scene, when I heard a horrific screech like a hundred roosters crowing at once.

Looking straight up, I was shocked to see the cockatrice grasping the side of the Castle tower.

I was used to seeing roosters at our farm in Connecticut, but this was no rooster—it was the Godzilla of birds.

Its head was ten times larger than my own, with blood-red eyes and an iridescent comb that looked like molten lava spilling down its feathered neck. Seeing it wrap its serpentine tail around the tower and snap its beak at me, I froze.

As it spread its bat-like wings and started diving in my direction, I came to my senses and flagged down a policeman.

“Shoot it!” I pointed at the creature.

The officer looked at the tower and back at me.

“I don’t know what you’re screaming about, son,” he grumbled, “but if you don’t come over that fence, I’m going to give you something to really scream about!”

When I looked again, I was surprised to see the creature was gone.

Not wanting to make an even bigger scene, I jumped the fence and ran off. Still, I couldn’t get the terrifying sight of the cockatrice out of my head because once you’ve seen one in the raw, it’s nearly impossible to forget.


(end of sample section)