We returned to Truth & Daring by Tim and Kristin Devine in this week’s session as a group of kids living in rural America, determined to succeed and shake off the dust of this small town. Our crew includes Aveline, an upper-middle class collector with a love of emeralds; Gonzo, a curious kid from the city who loves exploring the strange detached houses in town; Hina, a very shy girl who aspires to overcome her stage fright and audition for a play; Michelle, a brainy new kid with a love of tools; and Cassie, a scientific girl whose goal is to win the science fair and the scholarship that will let her escape. Together, we comprise the Future Millionaire’s Club, who meet in Hina’s family barn.
Our story begins when Gonzo shows up at the clubhouse carrying a photo with a strange-looking blur in the bushes in front of a house with a porch. He borrowed the picture from the house of the Magician, a game warden who has a habit of appearing and disappearing without warning. Cassie and Aveline recognize the Petry farmhouse in the photo, and Aveline raves about the delicious lemon-apple jam and pies the family have been selling at the market lately. Hina and Michelle think the picture looks like an alien, but it’s not clear enough to know for sure. Aveline leads us in a discussion of what we know and what we need to do. We decide to lure the Magician away from his house, so we can sneak in and loo for more clues. Hina will call and use her voice distorter to sound like an adult saying an animal is caught in a trap across town. Michelle will create that fake trap to look broken and will sprinkle fake blood around to make him think the animal escaped.
Once they have finished their work and the magician has left, Cassie and Gonzo sneak back in by crawling under the house and up through a loosened vent. They discover more pictures hidden in a desk drawer, one especially clear and close-up. It looks similar to a rabbit, but is clearly alien, covered in fur with enormous eyes and strange antennae. On the desk is a map marked with a circle around the Petry farm and the words “strange apples” written in ink. As the two shimmy out from under the house, the pin Cassie wears on her hairband falls off.
When we can, we visit the Petry farm. Aveline buys some peach apple jam and discovers that the fruit seems to be neither peach nor apple but somehow both. We decide to investigate the tent behind their barn, where we find seven small trees tended by aliens like the one we saw in the photograph. We see one bury blueberries and strawberries together in a hole, sprinkle something from its antennae, then a tree sprouts up in seconds covered in blue strawberries. Determined to study this fruit for her science project, Cassie snags an appleach and eats a blue strawberry that Aveline picks. Since Cassie seems okay, Michelle eats one too, but soon after, the two of them get incredibly sleepy and lay down for a nap. Aveline and Gonzo drag the two outside and wakes them with water. The whole time, the aliens seemed friendly or indifferent to us. Over the next week, we each prepare ourselves for whatever comes next. Michelle buys a Polaroid camera. Gonzo spies on the Magician and sees him making cages. Aveline avoids the rest of us but returns to the farm several times. Cassie carries through with her experiments and analysis of the fruit. Hina is rehearsing to maybe audition for the school play.
When we arrive back at the farm and enter the tent, we discover Aveline already there with the aliens! On her trips this week, she has guided the aliens into creating a fruit tree that grows emeralds. But before we can sort it out and get our pictures of the aliens and their work, Gonzo warns us the Magician has pulled up in his truck. He sets up cages and traps at the tent entrance and comes around to flush the aliens into his clutches. Gonzo goes outside to sabotage his truck, while Aveline and Michelle interrupts him, take his picture, and try to scare him off for trespassing. As we’re arguing with him to get him to leave, the aliens become agitated and the grasses and vines grow at exponential rates, pushing us all, including the Magician, out of the tent. No matter how hard we try, we’re not getting back in today. When we return the next day, the aliens seem to be gone, so we donate our alien fruit to the Petry family, so they can grow the special trees. It may take a lot longer now, but they’ll be able to keep the farm afloat.