Bored, I closed my eyes and tried to get some rest. Several minutes later, my parents started speaking in hushed tones.
"The bank called again," my mom said. "I think I can hold them off another month, but things aren't looking good."
"Did you ask them about refinancing?" my dad whispered back.
"Of course I did," she said behind gritted teeth. "But they say the house is worth even less than we owe."
My dad groaned before my mom shushed him.
"Oh, honey, we'll figure out a way out of this," she said.
"We just have to win that two hundred thousand," my dad said, his regular brightness back in his voice.
Oh. Is that all we had to do to save our house? Find Bigfoot. Well, crap. I knew things were bad, but not that the bank was knocking at our door.
I threw an arm over my eyes and tried to get comfortable and go to sleep for real, but I was too upset.
Two hundred thousand dollars might not seem like a lot to some people, but for us, apparently it meant keeping our house. And for me, it meant going to college without having to work three jobs and being in serious debt when I graduated. It meant a real shot at my dream of being a doctor. If we won.
Giving up on sleep, I blinked my eyes open and tried to focus on the pretty scenery along the highway, which, it turned out, wasn't very difficult because the Pacific Northwest was really beautiful. Dense forests lined both sides of the road, with trees so tall they blocked most of the sky from view. The closer we got to the property where the competition was going to take place, the quieter it got, and the more lush and otherworldly the scenery became. I imagined the tall trees uprooting themselves at night and dancing elaborate ballets with wood nymphs like in one of my nerdy fantasy novels.
I could understand why Bigfoot would rather settle here than in the rural Midwest. Lots of places to hide, plants and fish to eat, and fresh water to drink. Or maybe he just enjoyed grunge music and artisanal coffee.
"Honey, there's the turn ahead." My mom pointed a brightly polished fingernail at a sign on the right that read "Duckworthy Homestead. Private Property."
We turned onto the entrance road, the fog-covered mountains looming in the distance. Only a corner of the gray sky peeked out through the trees. I had hoped for a nice shade of blue, but the sky was gloomy bordering on ominous with heavy rain clouds threatening to burst. No wonder everything was so green. It was the famous Washington rain, good for growing trees, not so much for camping.
I nudged my sisters with my elbows to wake them.
"Ow!" Lyssa elbowed back.
My dad cleared his throat and gave us the stink-eye in the rear-view mirror.
"We're almost there." I gave her my most innocent smile.
"I'm up, I'm up!" Lyssa dove into her purse to get a mirror and lip gloss. "God, who made you boss?"
Sophie woke herself coughing.
I handed her a tissue. "Weren't you supposed to see the doctor before we left?"
She shook her head and coughed some more. "We were so busy getting ready for the trip that I forgot." Her eyes took in the overgrown bushes and moss-covered tree trunks. "Are we finally here?"
"Yup," I said.
"Thank god! I can't wait to get out of this car," Lyssa whined. "I still don't understand why we didn't fly."
My mom fluffed up her hair using the mirror on the visor. "You know your father doesn't like flying."
My dad paled at the mention of flying. He tried to cover his phobia with an extra jolly smile. "Plus, we have a lot of gear we need to bring, and it's just easier to do that with the car. Besides, didn't we have fun along the way?"
"Of course we did, honey," my mom said in her most chipper voice. "Wasn't it fun to see the World's Largest Ball of Twine, girls?"
"Yeah, totally worth going a hundred miles out of our way to see," I said. My mom turned around and gave me the glare of death. Her warning didn't have the same effect it used to when I was younger, but I still got the point.
We followed the winding road and pulled into a makeshift dirt parking lot, a half hour early, as always.
"You don't catch Wood Apes by showing up late," my dad said. He parked the van and we all stumbled out like zombies, legs asleep and necks cramped. I stretched and groaned, dread taking up residence in my stomach as the reality hit. We were about to make complete and total fools of ourselves on national effing television. Normally, I'd protest yet again, but after that overheard conversation about our mortgage, I swallowed my apprehension. My parents didn't need anything else to worry about.
"Let the humiliation begin," I mumbled and scanned the parking lot for the production crew. A few cars were parked, ranging from pickup trucks and Jeeps to expensive-looking SUV s, but I didn't see anyone who belonged to the vehicles. However, a paper sign tacked to a tree at one of the trailheads read: " Myth Gnomers Base Camp This Way" complete with an illustration of a gnome holding an arrow pointing the way. I had hoped some interns or production assistants could help us carry all our crap to the base camp. But that was wishful thinking.
This excerpt ends on page 21 of the hardcover edition.