Keith, the boy in the rumpled shorts and shirt, did not know he was being watched as he entered room 215 of the Mountain View Inn. Neither did his mother and father, who both looked hot and tired. They had come from Ohio and for five days had driven across plains and deserts and over mountains to the old hotel in the California foothills twenty-five miles from Highway 40.
Alone in room 215 and unaware that he was being watched, the boy began to explore. He got down on his hands and knees and looked under the bed. He leaned out the open window as far as he could and greedily inhaled deep breaths of pine-scented air. He turned the hot and cold water on and off in the washbasin and slipped one of the small bars of paper-wrapped soap into his pocket. Under the window he discovered a knothole in the pine wall down by the floor and squatting, poked his finger into the hole. When he felt nothing inside he lost interest.
Next Keith opened his suitcase and took out an apple and several small cars-a sedan, a sports car, and an ambulance about six inches long, and a red motorcycle half the length of the cars-which he dropped on the striped bedspread before he bit into the apple. He ate the apple noisily in big chomping bites, and then laid the core on the bedside table between the lamp and the telephone.
Keith began to play, running his cars up and down the bedspread, pretending that the stripes on the spread were highways and making noises with his mouth-vroom vroom for the sports car, wh-e-e wh-e-e for the ambulance and pb-pb- b-b-b for the motorcycle, up and down the stripes.
Once Keith stopped suddenly and looked quickly around the room as is he expected to see something or someone but when he saw nothing unusual he returned to his cars. Vroom, vroom. Bang! Crash! The Sports car hit the sedan and rolled off the highway stripe. Pb-pb-b-b-b-. The motorcycle came roaring to the scene of the crash.
“Keith,” his mother called from the next room.
“Time to get washed for dinner.”
“O.K.” Keith parked his cars in a striaght line on the bedside table beside the telephone where they looked like a row of real cars only much, much smaller.
The first thing Mrs. Gridley noticed when she and Mr. Gridley came into the room was the apple core on the table. She dropped it with a thunk into the metal wastebasket beside the table as she gave several quick little sniffs of the air and said, looking perplexed, “I don’t care what the bellboy said. I’m sure this hotel has mice.”
I hope so,” muttered Keith.