School was not a place you'd associate with trouble. It had nice
buildings and pretty grounds and lots of trees. The students did
their work and got along well with the teachers. Parents and children
alike felt the school
was a healthy and happy environment for boys and girls.
This year, though, two problems had suddenly arisen at Hillcrest.
The first problem was pretty simple, and it wasn't totally new.
Mrs. Halstrom, the Principal, as well as most of the students and
teachers, and most parents too, had felt for a long time that the
school needed its own orchestra. The new part was that Mrs. Halstrom
had decided this was the year to do something about creating one.
Where was the money going to come
from for the instruments? That was the question everyone was asking.
Various ideas, including bake sales and car washes, were discussed.
But to buy enough instruments for a whole orchestra would take an
awful lot of bake sales.
The other problem at Hillcrest was
much, much, more mysterious: People's coats were flying off
and disappearing! And not just their coats! Their scarves, sweatshirts,
hatsanything that wasn't part of their regular, indoor layer
This mystery was a constant topic
of discussion. It seemed that whenever a student forgot, even for
a moment, to think about where his or her coat wasit was gone!
Everyone had a theory, but no one knew where the coats were. Or
how to bring them back.
if you went out to the big, blacktopped playground of Hillcrest
School at night, when all the boys and girls had gone home, you'd
find coats, sweatshirts, scarves and hats laying everywhere, face
down-pink ones, blue ones, striped ones, plaid ones, polka-dotted
ones. In fact, it was kind of a pretty sight, although the parents
of boys and girls who had worn the wraps to school might not have
been able to see it that way!
If you waited there behind a tree
until the night was very dark and the white stars were shining above
the hills, you'd start to hear something after awhile, near the
entrance-way that had been cut into the high, chain- link fence
halfway down Pleasant Road. A little while after that, you'd see
a little old man come pushing a noisy, single-wheeled cart onto
He was an odd-looking old man, only
slightly taller than a dwarf. A long red beard curled down from
his chin. In fact, he looked as if he'd stepped straight out of
some old fairy tale. If you kept watching, you'd see him walk around
the blacktop and collect the coats, one by one, talking to them
as he piled them onto his cart.