Baby for Sale. That's what the sign on the lamppost in front of the Bailey house said. Eight-year-old Alex read it aloud to his brother Max and his friend Jeffie Green. "Baby for sale.
"Whose baby is it?" Max asked.
"How much do they want for it?" Jeffie squinted at the sign. He'd started first grade and could read a little. He pointed to a word. "That says ten. Do they want ten dollars?"
Alex answered Max's question first. "It doesn't say whose baby it is." He answered Jeffie's question second. "The sign says they'll sell it for ten cents."
"Ten cents isn't much to charge," Jeffie said. "It must not be a good baby. My mom says if something is priced too cheap, it's not worth anything."
"Is the baby a girl or boy?" Max asked. "I'd like to have a little brother and I have a dime. That's ten cents. If it's my buddy Mark, I'm going to buy him.
"The sign says the baby's a boy. But it can't be Mark. He's four-years-old. Almost as old as you," Alex said.
"Mark is a little-little kid. "I'm a big-little," Max said. Max was five and the youngest kid allowed to roam the block. He was proud of that.
"Skylar Van Hart isn't even one yet," Jeffie Green said. "I'll bet Mr. Van Hart is going to sell him so he can go back to work."
Mr. Van Hart quit to care for their baby while Mrs. Van Hart worked. But even when people teased and called him Mr. Van-Mom, he didn't mind. "He'd never sell Skylar," Alex said. "He's crazy about him. And it's not the Collins, that's for sure. They just adopted Kaitlin."
"Then who is selling their baby?" Jeffie asked.
George Maxel came down his driveway and read the sign. "That's easy. What other family has a baby? And what girl hates her little brother?"
"Megan Whitney!" Alex said, slapping his forehead. "Why didn't I think of that?"
"She's jealous of Jon," Jeffie said, nodding. "My two sisters baby-sit there and they told me."
"I wouldn't be jealous of Jon. I like the way his nose turns up. And I like his bald head. I'm going to ask Mommy if I can buy him." Max Bailey ran up the walk, into the cream-colored house with burgundy shutters.
All the houses on Greenwillow looked the same except for color. Jeffie lived on one side of the Bailey's and his house was gray with green shutters. (They chose green because Green was their last name.) George lived on the other side and his house was white with blue.
"Let's go talk to Megan," George said, leading the way to the Whitney house. Megan was six-years-old the same as George's sister Tabitha. Jeffie was eight like Alex. George was nine. "Let's tell her it's illegal to sell babies," he said. "That will scare the pants off of her."
Alex gasped and covered his mouth, then chuckled. "What's illegal mean?"
"Against the law," George said, ringing the Whitney's front door bell.
Megan threw open the door and stepped out. "Stop that ringing."
"You're under arrest," Alex said.
"You have the right to remain silent," George told her.
"You're the one who should be silent. My mom has a headache. She doesn't want to hear any more bells. The phone's been ringing all morning."
"Why?" Alex asked. "Does everyone want to buy Jon?
"No one's called about him. I put signs up all over the neighborhood. I guess no one wants him."
"You priced him too cheap," Jeffie said. "People think he's worthless."
"Or they don't want to break the law," George said. "Did you know it's illegal to sell or buy a baby? You could be put in jail."
Megan shrugged. "I'll give him away then. Which one of you wants him?"
"Not me!" George backed away, holding up both hands. "I hate babies. They poop their pants."
Max came running up the walk in time to hear. "That's why we can't have Jon. Mommy says a pup is bad enough. Hambone just pooped in the hallway."
"You're not supposed to say that. Mom and Dad say poop sounds bad," Alex told his brother. "You're supposed to say potty."
Max held his nose. "Hambone pottied on the rug and it stinks. Like poop." He burst into giggles.
Megan put her hand on his shoulder. She bent her knees so she could look into his eyes. "I'll trade you Jon for Hambone. Jon wears diapers. You can't even smell it when he potties in them."
"No way is he trading! We've been begging for a dog for a year," Alex said. "We just got Hambone when we moved here and we like him. We're not trading our beagle pup for a dumb baby."
The phone rang inside the Whitney house. "There it goes again," Megan said.
"Why is everyone calling if they don't want Jon?" George asked.
Megan buried her face in her hands. "Don't you boys know anything? All the mothers are phoning to talk about the sidewalk sale."