Chilean Mine Collapse

|Chilean Copper Mine Collapse |
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|BCOM/275-Ralph Schoen |
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|7/16/2012 |
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|Nikawanni Coleman |

Chilean Copper Mine Collapse-30 Men Trapped

On August 5, 2010, a gold and copper mine near the northern city of Copiapo, Chile caved in trapping 33 miners in a chamber about 2,300 feet below the surface, www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38852964/ns/world_news-americas. For 17 days it appeared as if all of the men were deceased. Finally a small hole reached the miners refuge and they were able to send up messages saying they were still alive. After this a video camera and a modified phone was sent to the miners so that they could communicate as needed. Later small holes were used to send sugar, water, liquid nutrients and other supplies to help the miners maintain their health, www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38852964/ns/world_news-americas.

On October 13, 2010, 33 miners who had been trapped underground for more than two months returned to the surface after a successful rescue operation that inspired the Chileans and riveted the world (msnbc.com staff and news service reports 2010). It was very amazing as we watched the live feed of each rescue at work and home. We cheered for each one of them as if we personally knew them; the entire scene was very emotional even from thousands of miles away. It took a little over 22 hours to complete the rescues; many of the miners seemed to be the perfect picture of health once they came out. Some of them even danced, sang and shouted triumphs of joy after being rescued.

The miners had a good leader while being trapped underground; Luis Urzua was the shift leader. He organized the miner??™s lives while they were underground. They seemed to remain positive the entire time by keeping their environment clean, finding water and exercising. The miners for some reason never spoke of what happened before the 17th day of the entrapment. The stories all picked up on or after the 17th day, maybe some things are just better left not said. The emotional distress has been more lasting than the publicity received. They had hope to sell their stories and file lawsuits against the mining company but a year after the rescue the spotlight faded and the offers dwindled (msnbc.com staff and news service reports, 2010).

Mining reform is needed in most of the mines in Chile; the accident put the spotlight on the shafts (Chile Mining Accident, 2010-2011). Some of Chile??™s mining regulators were fired after this incident.

My thoughts are to communicate with the mining company and the families verbally (face-to-face), video conference can be used for any family members or staff that could not be present. This is a delicate matter and should be handled as such in a professional way. The hardest thing is that they can??™t see or speak to their family members to see for themselves if they are truly doing well physically and mentally as stated by the letters exchanged.

Internal News Release

Good afternoon, today we regretfully stand here to inform you of an unfortunate mishap at one of our mines. Please save all questions and comments until after we have issued the upcoming statements. As you may have heard through company communications we have a situation that requires our immediate attention and possibly the help of some of you. There are 33 miners trapped underground at mine X, we are doing everything we can to organize a successful rescue mission to get the men out. At this time we do not have exact plans but we are open to all positive suggestions that may help with the rescue.

We do ask that you all refrain from making any statements to the media at this time; all questions are to be directed to the company spokesperson and please be careful when speaking about this incident in the public. A separate meeting will be held with the families of the 33 miners informing them of the situation and rescue efforts. Please feel free to ask any questions at this time and if you have any safety information or updates to give to the rescue team please see Joe Blow at the end of table 1. Also please draft a memo to go out to all staff members so that everyone will be informed of the current situation.

Thanking you for your time, please remember to keep the miners and their families in your prayers each day.

To the Families of the Trapped Miners

We??™d like to first thank you all for coming, I??™m sure most of you know why you are here, if not we will explain the reason at this time. At this time we ask that you hold all questions and comments until the end of this statement. We have 33 trapped miners underground at this time, (ask for a point of contact for each family to visit Jane Blow on table A at the end of the meeting). To the families of the trapped miners we??™d like to offer our sincere empathy in helping in any reasonable way we can with the current situation.

Your loved ones are trapped in mine X, 2,300 feet underground. We are making every effort to rescue them as soon as possible. This is an unfortunate incident and we don??™t know the exact cause, but we are working on root causes and solutions as we speak. There has been 2 small holes for communication purposes, you can now send and receive letters to communicate with your loved ones. If there are any health issues we need to know about please speak with the medical team at table B on the right. This is a trying time and we hope and pray that you have patience with us as we attempt to rescue and keep your loved ones safe. Please feel free to direct all communications with our family liaison handling this situation, Mary Jones and Curtis Blow will you both step up beside me. They are here to help make sure everything goes smoothly and relay information between the families and the company.

Thank all of you for coming today, we will keep you updated daily with statements, take time to fill out all necessary information and paperwork as stated in the packets given to you. Refreshments are to your right, take your time asking and answering all questions necessary.

References

msnbc.com staff and news service reports. (2010, August 26). Retrieved from msnbc.com: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38852964/ns/world_news-americas/t/trapped-chilean-miners-told-rescue-could-take-months/

Chile Mining Accident. (2010-2011). Retrieved from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/c/chile_mining_accident_2010/index.html

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Chilean Copper Mine Collapse

Chilean Copper Mine Collapse

Pat Jones

BCOM/275

Ronald Baker

When dealing with a natural tragedy like the Chilean Copper Mine Collapse there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration when dealing with mishaps like this. There are legal factors that need to be considered first before the company can outreach to anyone. The first release will be the one to the families and internal staff of the mining company. The second will be the statement made to the local news and general public. Will show how the organization plans to ensure how the statements are not misinterpreted.

The first statement should be made to families and staff in a face to face setting so that the families can see the concern and worry that the company has for all the miners that are directly involves and those that are indirectly involved. The statement should be face to face so that there is a chance to explain what is known and what is in the planning stages the rectify the situation and free the trapped miners. The statement will also inform all that are impacted by the incident of the different channels that are going to be in place or are already in place to help all that are impacted to get the help that they are going to need. The statement would also detail the latest plan to get the trapped miners out of the mine. It would also include the locations of where the mines were working and where the closest safety point where food, water, and fresh air is located. The family and coworkers statement would be more frequent then the other statements that would be released to other media outlets. The family and coworkers statements would also outline and introduce the key personnel that is there to help the group with any services that would be needed to help them deal with the tragedy at hand.

The family and coworkers statement would be more on a personal level because of the nature of the audience that the statement is being presented to. The presenter would have to be ready to answer questions and to explain in a simpler term because the audience may not be as educated or up to date on the terminology. The family members also are not thinking all that clearly because they are focusing on the welfare of their family member and the efforts to get them out of the earth. The spokesperson for the family and coworkers statement would be either the companies spokesperson or one or more top executives.

The second statement is the statement that the organization is going to release to the media outlets. This should be accomplished by two methods and they are face to face and by memo. The spokesperson for the organization should read the prepared statement word for word so that the media outlets have the information and cannot make a bigger story then it is already going to be. This method of the statement helps to limit the liability of miscommunication and also minimizes the effect of misreporting the facts. The statements will also be more of a professional tone and be a lot more in line with what the organizations lawyers are advising them to publicize as to limit the amount of liability that is going to be placed on the organization.

The second statement will have a written statement so that if the media need a clarification on what was said then they have a written transcript in front of them to reference to. The spokesperson will probably have a question and answer segment to help address any questions that might arise that was not stated in the transcript. The spokesperson for the organization will have been well briefed and if he or she is not sure then there will be a team of professionals there to help address and issues that the speaker is not prepared for. The support staff is more likely to be the top executives and the company lawyers that will step in as needed.

The statements need to be different because you are dealing with two very different type of audience. The family needed to be presented face to face so that the organization does not seem like they do not care or unsympathetic to the situation that is affecting the lives of all involved. The second statement needs to be a prepared statement and face to face so that the media can??™t make it a bigger story then it needs to be. It shows how the organization plans to ensure that the statements are understood correctly.

Chilhood Depression

Depression, also known as unipolar mood disorder, for instance, is a common mental illness characterized by sadness, loss of interest in activities, decreased energy and recurring feelings of despair. The intensity and frequency of the symptoms differentiate the illness from normal mood swings. Depression is already the fourth cause of the global disease burden, and by 2020 it is expected to rank second following ischemic heart disease (UN Chronicle). Depression is one of the leading causes of teen suicides. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, in January of 2008, youths that attempt suicide usually have more than one mental health problem, often try to commit suicide more than once, and may have a family member who has attempted or committed suicide. Studies had shown that more than 90% of teens who try to take their life have a mental health problem such as depression, manic depression, schizophrenia, or severe behavioral or substance abuse problems. There are many different factors that can cause adolescents and children to fall into this kind of behavior. According to The Hindu, February of 2010, and the School Health Journal, August of 2009, some of these factors are pressure to perform well and failure in examinations, lack of family support system, family breakdown, over competitive education, alcoholism of a parent, financial problems, and sexual abuse along with other factors are reason to drive children to chronic depression.
Signs of depression can vary from child to child. In the School Health Journal, August of 2009, it states that some signs of depression are, being moody or stubborn and easily upset, becoming withdrawn and avoiding friends and activities, not enjoying things as much as usual, avoiding school, feeling unhappy, tiredness and lack of energy or attention, and also changes in apatite and weight. Along with the signs of depression there are also the symptoms that the child or adolescent feels while going through depression. Symptoms can also vary depending on the child affected by depression. On October 7, 2002 Josh Ulick wrote an article named Teen Angst ??“ Sick or Just Sullen In this article it states some of the symptoms children may be facing. Symptoms such as headaches, absence from school or drop in grades, bouts of shouting or crying, reckless behavior, extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and a loss of interest in friends. This article also states that major depression usually begins in late teens but has been diagnosed in children as young as four years old.
The Times (London), September 4, 2010, states that health professionals can be reluctant to label kids with depression, but they agree that it is being seen in younger and younger children ??“ so much so that depression counselors are even moving down the age range into pre-school centers for children under five. Depression in young is becoming so common that mainstream schools are increasingly employing on-site counseling services. Paul Bain says ???There is a lot of economic and social pressure. They live in a state of heightened anxiety. The kids have no way out and can only retreat into their own little minds. If I was in those children??™s states, I??™d be depressed too.??? and ???Children need to be exposed in bearable doses to what the real life holds. There should be a clear demarcation between parent and child.??? In my opinion I agree with Paul Bain. I believe that with stress of the economy it is becoming difficult for parents to maintain there normal life causing them to be much stressed and be angry or critical on a day to day basis. If the child cannot go to there parent for comfort there is no escape.
In an article in the New York Times written on September 4, 2007 by Alex Berenson and Benedict Carey, leading psychiatric researchers linked the 2004 increase in the suicide rate for children and adolescents to a warning by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the use of antidepressants in minors. The FDA warning, the researchers suggested, might have resulted in severely depressant teens going without needed treatment. In studies of data collected before ??™04, Dr. Gibbons, Dr. Mann and others found clear associations between prescription patterns and suicide rates. For instance, prescription rates for patients from ages ten to twenty-four rose steadily in the 90??™s, while the suicide rate in that age group fell 28% from 1990 to 2003, according to a government report. In a study, researchers at Columbia University, analyzing data from 1990 to 2000, found that for every 20% increase in the use of antidepressants among adolescents, there were five fewer suicides per 100,000 people each year. But an argument made in the Wall Street Journal on September 3, 2008 by Sarah Rubenstein states that, though it is still unclear whether a drop in antidepressant use is what caused the rise in suicide rate. The suicide rate pertains to the entire population and doesn??™t indicate who took antidepressants and who didn??™t. Dr. Ten Have and other experts, while noting that it may still turn that a reduction in prescriptions is a leading to increased suicides among young people, said that the new study neither proved nor disproved this.
More than 6% of children and adolescents may have generalized social anxiety disorder and thus increased risks of depression, dropping out of school, and suicide. And the prevalence rate for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is 12.6%, Dr. Murray B. Stein reported at the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. These findings are based on the results of a survey of 190 children and adolescents who were enrolled at primary care providers in the San Diego area. The patients, along with their parents, completed several questionnaires, including the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-IV (ADIS). They were primarily white, and about half were female; 54% were aged 8-12 years and 46% were aged 13-17 years. On the basis of the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-IV, the prevalence of generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) was 6.3% among children and adolescents who were moderately to severely impair. The prevalence -rate was 6% for lifetime major depressive disorder. But these diagnoses were highly dependent on the threshold level used, noted Dr. Stein of the University of California, San Diego (Clinical Psychiatry News).
According to the School Health Journal, over 8,000 children under ten years old suffer from severe depression and according to an article named Non Insured Teens Not Seeking Depression Help in USA Today Magazine in July of 2009, 8.2% (2,000,000) of American youths aged twelve to seventeen experience at least one major depressive episode. Before puberty, the rates of mood disorders are higher in boys; after puberty, girls experience about twice the rates found in boys says Scott Shannon in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal in January of 2008 states that females are twice as likely as males to attempt suicide. Factors that could possibly contribute to the rise in teen suicide rate include alcohol use, access to firearms, and the influence of the internet social networks says Sarah Rubenstein in the Wall Street Journal in the September of 2008. Teens, Drugs, and Sadness by Nancy Shute states that 500,000 teens attempt suicide each year. Out of that 500,000, 2,000 teens succeed in their suicide attempts.
A Yale study, presented at the recent joint Pediatric Academic Societies and American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in Boston, cites an overall increase of 59 percent in psychiatric-related visits between 1995 and 1999, compared with a 20 percent increase in non-psychiatric-related visits. “We reviewed 101,921 visits to the childrens ED at Yale,” says lead author Karen A. Santucci, M.D., assistant professor at Yales pediatric emergency department.” In 1995, 2.49 percent of the childrens ED visits were psych-related, compared with 3.94 percent in 1999.” In raw numbers, that was an increase of about 350 patients, a bigger increase than for any other chief complaint, she says. Of the psychiatric complaints, the most common diagnoses reported were behavioral changes, ingestions, suicide attempts, depression and violence. Behavioral complaints related to aggression and out-of-control behavior rose from 28 percent in 1995 to 35 percent in 1999 (H&HN Hospitals & Health Networks). Currently, 121 million people suffer from depression. Every year, one million people commit suicide, 60 per cent of which are the outcome of depressive disorders says the UN Chronicle. Only one in five teens gets treatment for their depression. The predicted level for patients receiving no antidepressants would have been 19%, but the level was actually at a high of 64% in the September 2005, reported in the Brown University Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology Update in September 2007.
Despite some federal support and several examples of success, however, far too few children and youths who need mental-health care are receiving it, experts say. Offering such programs requires support within the school and the district, cooperation with community health services, and backing from parents, who may be wary of schools involvement in the sensitive area of mental health. Often, it takes a determined school or community leader to make such programs happen, say mental-health professionals. And when districts do get involved, they can face legal challenges. Between 75 percent and 80 percent of children who have a mental-health need do not receive treatment, said Olga Acosta Price, the deputy director of The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, based at George Washington University, in Washington. At the same time, Ms. Acosta said, it is widely considered “best practice” among districts to have early-intervention teams at schools that can work with students when problems appear.
In 2000, the federal government spotlighted the issue by holding the Surgeon Generals Conference on Childrens Mental Health. A summary from that meeting presented the stakes: One in 10 children and adolescents suffers from a mental illness severe enough to cause impairment, but only about 20 percent of them receive care. Two years later, President Bush formed the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to study ways to improve mental-health services nationwide. A subcommittee focused on issues involving children and adolescents, again spelling out how schools should be part of supporting mental health for students. Children receive more services through schools than any other public agency, so “federal, state, and local agencies should more fully recognize and address the mental-health needs of youth in the education system,” the subcommittee said in its recommendations, released in February 2003. In addition to offering support services within schools, the commission recommended that teachers and other school personnel be trained to screen students for possible problems.
The only hope we have for children and adolescents to get through depression is by taking action. Adults need to be more aware of the way children are feeling and the way that stress and anxiety affect them. Finding children the help they need before things are pushed too far could greatly help lower the suicide and depression rates and can help stop children from hurting themselves.

Work Cited:
“Schools Role in Mental-Health Care Uneven, Experts Say.” Education Week 26.35 (2007): 14. Academic OneFile. Web. 4 Nov. 2010.
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Wachter, Kerri. “Generalized SAD prevalence might surpass 6%: social anxiety disorder is tied to increased risk of dropping out of school. (Children and Adolescents).” Clinical Psychiatry News 31.6 (2003): 1+. Academic OneFile. Web. 4 Nov. 2010.
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“GP Clinical: Journals watch – Childs play, gambling and asthma.” GP 15 Sept. 2006: 27. Academic OneFile. Web. 4 Nov. 2010.
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PAGE, DOUGLAS. “More Blues In ED” H&HN Hospitals & Health Networks 74.8 (2000): 24. Academic OneFile. Web. 4 Nov. 2010.
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Park, Katrin Eun-Myo. “Up to one fifth of the worlds children have mental or behavioural problems. (Health Watch).” UN Chronicle June-Aug. 2002: 27+. Academic OneFile. Web. 4 Nov. 2010.
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Berenson, Alex, and Benedict Carey. “Experts Question Study on Youth Suicide Rates.” New York Times [New York] 14 Sept. 2007, late ed.: A14. Print.
Braal, Bernice De. “Depression in Childhoon–is There an Epidemic Are Media Reports of Escalating Childhood Depression Accurate Bernice De Braal Discusses the Incidence and Lists Reliable Sources of Information for Practitioners, Parents, and Yound People.” School Health Journal (2009). Academic OneFile. Web. 20 Sept. 2010. .
“Depression a Leading Cause of Suicides.” The Hindu (English) 25 Feb. 2010. Print.
Naish, John. “Can Children as Young as Three Be Depressed More and More Pre-school Children Are Being Diagnosed with Depression. Are Their Parents to Blame, Asks John Naish.” The Times (London, England) 4 Sept. 2010. Print.
Rubenstein, Sarah. “Elevated Rate of Teen Suicide STirs Concern; Trend Linked to Drop in Use of Antidepressants After FDA Paised Worries About Risks.” Wall Street Journal [New York] 3 Sept. 2008, Eastern ed.: D1. Print.
Shannon, Scott. “Integrative Approaches to Pediactric Mood Disorders.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine Sept.-Oct. 2009. ProQuest Newspapers. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. .
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Auditors on auditing – an empirical study

Peter Ohman*, Einar Hackner**, Anna-Maria Jansson*** & Finn Tschudi****

* Mid Sweden University Department of Social Sciences 851 70, Sundsvall, Sweden Email: [email protected] ** Lulea University of Technology Department of Business Administration and Social Sciences 971 87 Lulea, Sweden Email: [email protected] *** Mid Sweden University Department of Social Sciences 831 25, Ostersund, Sweden Email: [email protected] **** University of Oslo Department of Psychology 0317 Oslo, Norway Email: [email protected]

Auditors on auditing – an empirical study

Abstract

Based on agency theory, an accountability model has been developed to describe and analyse the views of Swedish auditors regarding their reviewing of information provided by listed companies. 82 auditors were interviewed using the repertory grid technique and open interview questions. A sample of respondents was chosen to represent differences in experience, level of seniority, gender, firm and location. To check the stability in the thought patterns of the respondents, six retests were made and, to validate the results, two expert panels consisting of auditors and other representatives of the accounting and auditing profession were consulted. Principal component analysis of the mean grid for all the respondents showed a number of distinct patterns. The first component was related to judgement and the time-dimension and the second to auditing in practice. Auditors devote a relatively long time and considerable effort to issues that can be satisfactorily verified, but that are not of primary importance to the investors or to share prices. This auditing does not in any way violate the law or regulations, but the fact that they spend so much time reviewing auditing issues that they themselves do not consider to be of primary importance to stakeholders can be seen as a problem. Moreover, the auditors were very reluctant to make statements about any information except for that elicited according to current praxis. In addition to this traditional attitude, the auditors appear to be more concerned about their own situation than that of the accountees they are supposed to be protecting. There are no significant differences in the way in which the different groups of auditors perceive their reviewing on accounting information, with one exception. Auditors of listed companies perceive ???soft??? elements, such as CEO comments in the annual report and business strategies, as being of greater importance to investors and other interested parties than other auditors do.

Key words: Accounting, agency theory, auditing, repertory grid, stewardship, thought patterns.

After Enron

Corporate failures have given rise to questions and doubts amongst the public about the quality of accounting information and financial audit failure (Power, 1997). The main focus has been on public limited liability companies and their reports and disclosures. Revelations of ???shady??? annual reports accompanied by vague audit reports have been in focus (Chandler & Edwards, 1996), together with severe losses for investors and other interested parties. Recent examples such as the Enron, WorldCom and Skandia accounting disasters have further highlighted the dilemma of information asymmetry. How and why was it possible for large listed companies to misinform the markets, investors and analysts so badly without alarm signals from the auditors

Generally, the provision of accounting information and auditing are regulated in law. The accounting and auditing professions interpret the laws and create ???rules??? and recommendations for accounting and auditing practice (Cf. Jonsson, 1988, 1994). Widespread lack of confidence and doubts about the quality of accounting and auditing among investors and other interested parties, as a result of the recent accounting disasters, have given rise to strong demands for changes in the rules of the game, i.e. the laws, regulations and recommendations. The conditions necessary to change and the effects of such changes are now being studied and evaluated in many countries.

Because of the great influence of the accounting and auditing profession in Sweden (Edenhammar & Hagg, 1997), it is essential to examine how professional auditors perceive their area of responsibility in auditing accounting information and any possible changes in

1

their duties. This paper presents the results of an empirical study of the thought patterns of Swedish auditors on these matters.

The study has four main purposes:

???

to develop an accountability model of the relationship between accountees, accountors and auditors, based on agency theory and the stewardship approach.

???

to describe and analyse the views of Swedish auditors on their reviewing of information provided by listed companies, according to Swedish legislation and praxis.

???

to examine the opinions of Swedish auditors about making statements about the information provided by listed companies, if auditors were permitted to exceed present Swedish legislation and praxis.

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to compare and draw conclusions about the difference in thought patterns between different categories of auditors, with reference to their experience, seniority level, gender, firm and location.

An accountability model

The overall purpose of company accounting is to provide useful information. More specifically, the information should provide investors, creditors, employees, public authorities and other interested parties with a ???true and fair??? view of the firm and its operations. The 2

focus should be on the requirements of the users of the information for the purpose of decision-making (Hendriksen & van Breda, 1992).

Accounting involves a principal-agent relationship (Gjesdal, 1978; Mellemvik, Monsen & Olson, 1988). Agency theory analyses the relationship between two parties: investors and managers. The agent (the manager) undertakes to perform certain duties for the principal (the investor) and the principal undertakes to reward the agent (Jensen & Meckling, 1976). It is argued that in a modern corporation, in which share ownership is widely spread, managerial behaviour does not always maximise the returns of the shareholders (Pratt & Zeckhuser, 1985; Donaldson & Davis, 1991). The degree of uncertainty about whether the agent will pursue self-interests rather than comply with the requirements of the contract represents an agency risk for an investor (Cf. Fiet, 1995). Given that principals will always be interested in the outcomes generated by their agents, agency theory demonstrates that accounting has an important task in providing information after an event has taken place. This task is often associated with stewardship, in which an agent reports to the principal on the events of the past period (Ijiri, 1975).

In agency theory, incomplete or distorted information often constitutes a problem. Situations in which not all factors are known to both parties and certain consequences are not considered by both are known as information asymmetries (Hendriksen & van Breda, 1992). The agent may be able to take actions that are impossible to verify and therefore cannot be included in a contract. Such a state of affairs is referred to as moral hazard. Moral hazard usually implies an adverse selection, i.e. situations in which one party, typically the agent, has private information that is relevant for performing according to the contract (Besanko, Dranove & Shanley, 1996). Some information is then withheld and remains unknown to the principal. 3

One possible way in which to address the problem of adverse selection is to regulate the agents actions regarding the content and form of the accounting information to be reported. Auditors can be engaged by the principals to monitor the activities of the agent (Eisenhardt, 1989) and to ensure the quality of the information provided (Wolnizer, 1987). Without correct information, the principal will not be able to check up on the agent (Mellemvik et al, 1988).

Using agency theory and the stewardship approach, we can identify three significant parties to include in an accountability model. Based on the theories of Ijiri (1975) we have included the accountee, accountor and auditor in the model, and focus on their relationship concerning the fact that auditors are unable to review all the information provided by the accountor (Lee, 1993).

Figure 1 about here

The model can be linked to entity theory (Paton, 1962) as well as enterprise theory (Soujanen, 1954). According to entity theory, the operations of the company are seen as de-coupled from the owners of the company. At the same time the company has social responsibilities, as emphasised by enterprise theory. The information provided affects several interested parties, not only investors.

There are two types of information provided by the accountors. One type of information (a) goes directly to the accountees without being quality assured by the auditors before it is distributed. Accountors can choose what information to distribute and when this should take place. Such a situation may often involve moral hazard and obvious risks of adverse selection. 4

Another type of information is first presented to the auditors (b) for quality assurance before it is distributed to the accountees (c). Some of the information presented to the auditors (b) by the accountors is controlled by laws and regulations. It is left to the discretion of the accountors to decide about the content and form of the remainder of this information. In addition, the accountors must provide the auditors with further information on which they can make an assessment of the quality of the information presented to the accountees (c). Thus, not all the information delivered to the auditors is forwarded to the accountees.

Whether the information distributed to the accountees is controlled by laws and regulations or not, the information distributed is perceived as important (Burchell, Clubb, Hopwood, Hughes & Nahapiet, 1980). Accounting and information in general about a certain area of business directs the reader??™s attention to that area, sometimes thereby diverting attention away from other areas (Mellemvik et al, 1988). This has been referred to as ???the magic of accounting??? (Gambling, 1977; Grojer & Stark, 1978). This mechanism creates opportunities for accountors, primarily via the left arrow (a) in the model, to influence the overall picture presented to the accountees.

As can be seen in the model, the auditor is a link between the accountor and the accountee. The main duty of the auditors is to protect the principal and the public interest (Flint, 1988). However, auditors have been criticised repeatedly for their inability to protect investors and other interested parties (Lee, 1995). There is an obvious risk of the auditors neglecting their main duty and instead becoming the advocates of the agents (Bazerman, Morgan, & Loewenstein, 1997; Haynes, Jenkins & Nutt, 1998). Auditing firms are dependent on their clients to increase their share of the market (de Ruyter & Wetzels, 1999), and revenues from non-audit services to audit clients have become an increasingly important way for auditing 5

firms to improve their profitability (Arnold, Bernardi & Neidermeyer, 1999). The auditors may give more attention to arrow (b) than arrow (c) or disregard arrow (a) in the model. If that occurs, the independence of the auditors can be questioned.

The independence of auditors has been called into question and a growing interest has developed in examining what auditing is supposed to deliver compared to what it really ???delivers???. This ???expectation gap??? emerges when auditors and the public hold different beliefs about the duties of auditors and the responsibilities and the message conveyed by audit reports (Monroe & Woodliff, 1993; Koh & Woo, 1998). For example, according to Epstein & Geiger (1994) an expectation gap exists between auditors and investors regarding the level of assurance an audit provides. The role of auditors in fraud detection has been given as one particularly critical component of the expectation gap (Humphrey, Moizer & Turley, 1993). The public expects auditors to play a role in fraud detection, while auditors claim that their task is to deliver an opinion on the financial statements that can be described as ???true and fair??? (Power, 1997).

Similarities and differences between different categories of auditors

One of the core activities of auditing is to obtain and evaluate documentary and other types of evidence. Even so there are no definitive guidelines for this evaluation process. Auditing is a regulated function, but it is also based on the professional judgement of the auditors (Eklov, 2001). Differences in the application of auditing routines have been described in terms of ???structure vs. judgement??? (Dirsmith & McAllister, 1982) indicating the difference between a formal approach and allowing for individual judgement. Structure represents the 6

preformatted, systematic work that is dependent on instructions, manuals, computer support etc. In contrast, judgement emphasises the human capacity. Auditors are expected to rely on their own experience, to bring many aspects into consideration and to make assessments accordingly. There are differences in opinion regarding the merits of increased structure in auditing (Cf. Messier, 1995). Power (2003) claims that the trend towards greater structure is about legitimacy and control, which is not necessarily consistent with better or more efficient auditing.

Within strongly regulated social spheres, such as accounting and auditing, the actors tend to employ elaborated thought patterns and frames of reference. These thought patterns form the basis of selective action and behaviour (Patterson, 1996). The issues addressed in this study take place in the accounting and auditing context and deal with auditors??™ core activities and, to some extent, their professional identities, i.e. issues that can be assumed to be of great psychological significance to them. Well-developed thought patterns tend not only to be more complex and more balanced, but also more conservative and more difficult to change than other thought patterns (Hellgren & Lowstedt, 1997).

On the one hand it seems reasonable to focus on general thought patterns and to assume a high degree of homogeneity in the thought patterns of auditors, as professional auditors have a similar education and often face similar situations and tasks in their work. Auditors seek support from their colleagues and are involved in on-going interaction with other members of their profession (Pentland, 1993). Furthermore, Fischer (1996) claims that auditors have a tendency to rely on objectified knowledge, and that they appear to be highly constrained by the conventions of their profession regarding how to conduct an audit. Thus, auditors seem to show a high degree of socialisation. 7

On the other hand, auditors also interact with members of their firm and their audit team (Pentland, 1993; Grey, 1998). Auditors tend to ???identify??? themselves with their firm and those belonging to the same firm tend to adopt a similar approach to how to conduct an audit. Fischer (1996) reports that the conventions of how to conduct an audit appear to differ not only between firms, but also between audit teams within the same firm. Furthermore, auditors??™ knowledge and level of understanding develop gradually over time. New experiences are interpreted on the basis of prior knowledge (Cf. Berger & Luckmann, 1967; Patterson, 1996). It is therefore reasonable to assume that auditors interpret their experiences in the light of such prior knowledge, but also in the light of the common stock of knowledge within the auditing firm. Auditors mediate meaning through their behaviour, and they build their frames of reference through action, in interaction with other people in the same firm. Are there differences in the thought patterns of auditors with short experience and those with long experience, between auditors working in one auditor firm and those in other auditor firms etc Comparisons between different ???categories??? of auditors with respect to the corresponding ???external variables??? (experience, seniority level, gender, firm, location, etc.) are of interest. Do differences between different categories of auditors influence the general picture with respect to all auditors

Given that frames of reference are gradually and continuously developed (Cf. Bannister & Fransella, 1986) and that different audit tasks are normally performed at different stages of an auditor??™s career (Bonner & Pennington, 1991) it may be possible that auditors take a different view of the relative importance of different kinds of auditing issues depending on their level of experience. In this respect, it seems reasonable to make a distinction between ???hard??? and ???soft??? elements of auditing (Hackner, 1988). ???Hard elements??? refers to that which can be measured relatively easily, such as the purchase of shares, stock price drops, bad receivables 8

and capitalised organisation expenses. ???Soft elements??? refers to phenomena that are difficult to measure and often difficult to verify, such as comments from the CEO in the annual report and company strategies. Experienced auditors may devote more time to making judgements about whether the information provides a true and fair view than less experienced auditors do. These judgements demand a holistic view, which includes the soft elements. It is reasonable to assume that more experienced auditors may see such soft information as more relevant to investors??™ decision-making than less experienced auditors do. The relationship between accountees, accountors and auditors is particularly significant and problematic in the case of listed companies. Guided by information provided by the accountor, the accountee expects to be able to make well-founded decisions. The auditors of listed companies should be well aware of what information is relevant to investors for decision-making. The soft elements carry especial significance in these cases. Hence, it is important to investigate whether auditors with longer experience perceive soft elements as more important to investors than auditors with shorter experience do, and if the auditors of listed companies perceive soft elements as more important to investors than auditors of non-listed companies do.

Methods

Scientific approach

Our approach is neither synonymous with objectivism nor with pure subjectivism. Even if we reject the view that it is possible to determine a given reality ???out there???, our scientific position can rather be described as a double perspective, in line with Campbell (1988) and Bryman (2001). Analytical and interpretative approaches are combined in the study. Data is 9

collected in a structured way, but the data is comprised of the thought patterns and interpretations of actors. We combine statistical analyses of data with interpretations of these analyses and actor responses to open questions in interviews.

We assume that thought patterns on the actor level can be represented and analysed using cognitive maps (Fransella, Bell & Bannister, 2003) and also that it is possible to analyse cognitive maps on a group level (Tschudi, 2000). A basic question is to what extent frames of reference are comparable on a group level as well as on the individual actor level. The auditor makes sense of his or her world, interprets the situation at hand and acts accordingly. The subjective meaning of the individual auditor can be inter-subjective among auditors as a group, and thus be perceived as objective by the actors (Cf. Berger & Luckmann, 1967).

The repertory grid

Data was collected through structured personal interviews with a sufficient number of Swedish auditors to enable a certain degree of generalisation to be drawn from the findings. To chart the thought patterns of the auditors to reviewing and making statements about information provided by listed companies, we used a special type of cognitive map: the repertory grid. The psychologist George Kelly (1955) introduced the repertory grid technique as a method for exploring personal construct systems (Stewart & Stewart, 1981). It is a set of related (interview) methods that elicit responses in a structured manner, but the content and specific structure of responses varies between the respondents. It is a well-tested method that provides a reliable representation of the thought patterns of the respondents (Reger, 1990; Fransella et al, 2003). 10

When collecting empirical data using the repertory grid technique there are three specific steps to be carried out: 1) selecting elements, 2) eliciting constructs and 3) eliciting evaluations of the elements in terms of the constructs.

1) The elements can be people or objects, situations, actions, etc. (Tschudi, 1998, 2000). In general, either the researcher or the respondent can select the elements. A third possibility is to combine the two procedures (Reger, 1990). In the latter case previous studies can serve as a basis for the choice of elements and the respondents can then also choose their own elements.

2) To make sense of the elements, constructs need to be elicited. The classical way to elicit constructs is to use Kellys triadic method (Kelly, 1955). He emphasises that constructs are bipolar, so the respondent is faced with three elements and asked to describe in what way two of them are similar and how the third one is different. The characterisation of the similar pair is called the likeness pole; the characterisation of the third one is called the contrast pole. The procedure continues until a sufficient number of constructs have been generated. A variety of other methods of elicitation have also been suggested (Stewart & Stewart, 1981, Reger, 1990? Fransella et al, 2003).

3) Having established a relevant set of constructs and elements the respondent is asked to rate each of the elements in terms of each of the constructs, i.e. on the dimension formed by the two poles of the construct. There is a simplified example of a grid for an auditor in figure 2. In the example the auditor finds bad receivables to be the easiest (1) and productivity the most difficult (7) element to review. The other elements are given scores in between these two.

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Figure 2 about here

Sample

It was considered important that the auditors in the sample represented different categories fairly well with respect to experience, seniority level, gender, firm and location. Large as well as small auditing firms were included. The whole population of auditors in the greater area of a medium-sized Swedish city was selected to be studied. According to statistics from the Supervisory Board of Public Accountants there were a total of 43 active auditors in the area. Two of them were excluded as they had prior knowledge of the study. There were four nonresponses due to lack of time, leaving 37 to be interviewed. All 37 took part and produced complete data. To include auditors from more than one city, auditors from two larger cities and a small town were also included, making the total number of respondents 82. Access was the most decisive criterion when additional auditors were selected, but ensuring that different categories of auditors were represented was also considered important.

Pilot study and interview forms

A pilot study was made in order to test the techniques for data collection and to receive qualified feedback regarding our prior knowledge and assumptions. The pilot study took place over a period of two months. Two senior authorised auditors from two big auditing firms in different cities co-operated as ???co-researchers??? (Cf. Hackner, 2001). With their help, the grid, 12

the complementary interview questions and the manuals for the data collection process were continuously revised and improved.

A preliminary list of elements (auditing issues) was elicited based on previous research results, the accountability model, pilot studies using the repertory grid and suggestions from the two co-researchers. The auditing issues represented three primary types of audit: financial statement audits, operational audits and compliance audits (Arens & Loebbecke, 1997: 4-6) in addition to both hard and soft elements of auditing (Hackner, 1988). To elicit constructs we used Kellys triadic method, but supplemented this with a less constrained conversational approach and informal discussions (Cf. Stewart & Stewart, 1981). The constructs were treated as 7-point scales for the evaluation of the elements, representing a wide range of aspects relevant to the inherent problems in the accountability model. By repeated grid studies and discussions with the co-researchers, the final design of the repertory grid was determined. In the instructions for the interview sessions it was emphasised that the respondents should use their experience as auditors when answering the questions. In addition to the instructions for the grid interviews, a brief description of a fictive information technology company was provided as an illustration.

The grids generated in the pilot study were analysed statistically using Principal Component Analysis (PCA). An examination of the results and discussions with the co-researchers resulted in adjustments being made to the grid to be used in the main study. It was considered that an auditor was likely to only be prepared to devote limited time to such a non-profitgenerating activity, so it was decided that interview sessions should not exceed 90 minutes. Consequently the final grid was limited to 14 elements and 12 constructs, see appendix A.

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In addition to the grid interviews, background questions and questions of an open character were included. The background questions were used to categorise the auditors. The open questions focused on whether the respondents considered it possible to review an issue less extensively without this having a negative effect on the information needed by investors and other interested parties, and if they considered it possible to review an issue more extensively in order to provide more significant information. The final open question addressed the auditors opinions about the possible effects and consequences of expanding the auditing area. They were asked to comment on their feelings about making statements regarding information not normally commented on in current praxis.

Data collection in the main study

The fixed elements and constructs elicited in the pilot study were used in the grid interviews in the main study. Each interview session took place at the respondent??™s office and was conducted by one of the participants in the research team. The researchers took care to avoid introducing into the interviews any preconceived notions based on the frames of reference of the research team (Cf. Hackner, 2001). All of the respondents produced their data without communicating with anyone, except for the interviewer. Most of the interviews were carried out with only one respondent, but in some cases two or more auditors from the same auditing firm were interviewed simultaneously. The interviews were held within a period of seven weeks from November 2002 to January 2003. The respondents were encouraged to rely on their intuitive feelings, rather than to try to ???analyse??? the scores of the elements on the construct scales. Most respondents took 60 – 90 minutes to read the instructions, fill in the

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grid form and give responses to the other interview questions. Generally the respondents were motivated and had no problem filling in the grids.

As only Swedish-speaking auditors took part in the study all the documentation was written in Swedish. In the report, all the elements and construct have been translated into English. To make sure not to miss any of the conceptual content of the concepts a ???back translation??? procedure was carried out. The process did not reveal any translation problems of importance.

Data analysis

The repertory grid technique yields geometric, quantitative and qualitative representations of the respondents??™ construct systems. Different statistical methods can be used, depending on the purpose of the research (Stewart & Stewart, 1981, Reger, 1990). To analyse the individual grids we used the Flexigrid program (Tschudi, 1998) to perform the PCA. The PCA analyses the internal structure of a set of variables in order to identify the underlying components. This technique makes it possible to reveal basic dimensions in the thought patterns that are essential to the respondent, but which may be difficult to see or articulate during the interview. The program generates the components and they can be interpreted by examining the constructs with high factor loadings and the elements with high factor scores. When distinctive variables load high on a component or form tight clusters, a pattern may emerge (Walsh, 1990), mapping the thought patterns of the respondent with respect to area in focus.

One commonly used measure of the degree of complexity in a grid is the variance described by the first component. If a high percentage of the variance is described, the thought patterns 15

have a one-dimensional character, which indicates low complexity. An alternative way of determining the degree of complexity, is to find out how many of the components can be interpreted in a meaningful way when the data structure is compared with theoretical models, prior knowledge of the field studied and data collected using other methods (Tschudi, 1998).

For comparing individual grids and analysing homogeneity within as well as between different categories of auditors we used the Multigrid program (Tschudi, 2000). This program allows for a wide range of analyses, including computing the overall mean grid and computing mean grids for specified categories. Each individual grid can be treated as a string (vector) of 14 * 12 = 168 numbers (nr. of elements * nr. of constructs) and these vectors can then be correlated and the principal components describing the respondents can be computed. Furthermore, each person can be described by a vector, in which the values from an analysis of the grid of this person are either element factor scores for the first principal component or construct loadings for the first principal component. Regardless of which of these three options is used, high correlation between respondents or between mean values from categories of respondents represents homogeneity in the thought patterns of these groups.

To allocate the auditors to different, possibly homogenous, categories, 15 external variables (including one control variable) were used, see appendix B. Guided by the respondents??™ answers to the background and open questions, these external variables were chosen for the comparison of different categories of auditors.

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Findings

The general view of the auditors

The general picture for the 82 auditors shows moderate homogeneity. As can be seen in table 1, the homogeneity in the full grids is relatively low (.360), according to the mean intercorrelation between the variables. The same conclusion applies when looking at the results of a PCA in which the auditors are treated as ???constructs??? and their vectors of factor scores regarding the first component as ???elements???. For the constructs the homogeneity is higher, but still rather moderate. One possible interpretation of the finding that the mean intercorrelation is higher for constructs than for elements would be that the auditors have a more common ???language??? related to their use of constructs than similarity when they use that language to characterise the elements.

Table 1 about here

The second column in the table clearly shows that when ???noise??? is filtered away by using the vectors of factor scores or factor loadings instead of the vectors of all the combinations of elements and constructs, the percentage of the variance that is explainable increases. This observation supports the expectation that the first component purifies inherent patterns in the data.

For each of the three approaches above we can think of the person as a ???construct???. A twodimensional PCA analysis of these ???constructs??? reveals possible clusters. Distinct clusters (of respondents) represent a specific point of view. Had there been many such clusters a common 17

frame of reference for all the auditors could not be posited. We did not, however, find any such clusters, but the majority of points clustered around the central axis, so the mean grid can be said to give a fair representation of the respondents??™ thought patterns.

One measure of complexity used was the percentage of the variance in the mean grid explained by the components. The first component explains 52 % and the two first components together explain 76 % of the variance. Together these findings indicate a moderate complexity according to the mean grid. As a relatively high explanation value was represented by two of the components, while the third component did not allow an easy interpretation, the mean grid was further analysed in two dimensions. Figure 3 is a plot presenting a varimax rotated mean grid for all 82 auditors.

Figure 3 about here

The PCA of this mean grid showed some distinct patterns. The relations between the constructs that form three clusters give rise to the following interpretations:

In the first cluster five constructs are included. Furthest to the right in the plot we find ???very prediction dependent??? (the contrast pole for construct number 3), ???statements significant for share price??? (8), ???statements very valuable for investors??? (2) and even ???industry considerations required??? (9) and ???internal control not important??? (4). These can be interpreted as judgements of information related to the future. The other extreme of the five constructs (furthest to the left in the plot) represents the past.

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In the second cluster three constructs are represented. To the lower right in the plot we find ???very oral information dependent??? (12), ???statements significant for company image??? (11) and ???difficult to review??? (1). These have to do with judgements of soft information that is difficult to verify. The other extreme of the three constructs (to the upper left in the plot) focuses on hard information that is possible to verify.

In the third cluster four constructs are represented. At the bottom of the plot we find ???seldom reviewed??? (5), ???limited effort (time)??? (7), ???low review precision??? (10) and ???competence not sufficient??? (6). These can be interpreted as judgements showing a creative and comprehensive view. The other extreme of the four constructs (at the top of the plot) represents ???number crunching??? of selected parts.

The two axes in the mean grid represent two essential dimensions of the respondents thought patterns. The location of the elements in the plot supports the interpretations. The first dimension has to do with the time perspective. Auditing issues such as attest routines and CEO comments are two opposites on the time axis. Attest routines represent information from the past while CEO comments represent information about the future. The second dimension has to do with auditing practice. The auditors devote a relatively large amount of time to issues such as balance sheet items. They are well qualified to review these issues. On the other hand, issues such as productivity, strategies and environmental crime are seldom reviewed and the auditors are not qualified to review such matters with high precision.

The interpretations of the mean grid also indicate a gap between what auditors actually review and what is perceived as important for investors and other interested parties. The auditors

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devote a relatively large amount of time and effort to issues that are not of major importance to shareholders, and little time to issues that exert a major influence on share prices.

Comparisons between categories of auditors

To what extent can the overall mean grid be said to characterise the different categories of auditors according to each external variable One approach to this question is to correlate each external variable with the mean grids for the categories of that variable. For variables with just two categories, for example gender, there will be just one such intercorrelation. If there are more categories, there will be an intercorrelation matrix for each of the categories of a variable. Computing a total mean intercorrelation for all the variables gives a mean correlation of .877.

Even though the mean grids for different categories of auditors are quite similar to each other, the configurations might still show some differences. We therefore made a separate analysis of each category, making a total of 45 analyses for the 15 external variables. For 24 configurations the clusters identified above ??“ both for constructs and elements ??“ could be recognised as described above. Looking closely at the clusters we see that construct 12 is quite close to the cluster (3, 8, 2, 4, 9), and it is thus not surprising that in 11 configurations construct 12 seemed to belong more clearly to this cluster than to form a cluster with (1, 11). In the remaining 10 configurations the overall pattern could also be recognised, although in 2 or 3 cases it was fairly weak.

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To compare different categories of auditors according to their experience, seniority level, gender, firm and location we examined the content and homo-/heterogeneity of their thought patterns. If the correlation between members within a category is higher than the correlation between members of different categories, this indicates that the first category of auditors has developed a unique homogeneity in thought patterns not shared by those other categories. Generally, there were rather limited differences between the categories identified. No typical thought patterns could be found in any firm or city. Neither could differences between men or women, between authorised public accountants and approved accountants or between auditors with great or little experience be found. All correlation values (both inter- and intracorrelation) were between .30 and .45. The relatively low correlation values indicate a moderate homogeneity within as well as between categories of respondents.

It was not possible to see any clear differences between auditors with different experience and their view of the importance of soft elements (CEO comments and business strategies) to investors. However, one finding linked the degree of experience of auditors from listed companies with the soft elements of auditing issues. Auditors in listed companies perceive soft elements as more important to investors than auditors who do not work for listed companies.

To detect a conceivable interviewer bias we also examined possible differences between respondents interviewed by different interviewers. The results showed no sign of differences in the thought patterns of the categories of auditor checked.

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Open interview questions

The answers of the respondents to the open interview questions revealed a traditional attitude. Most of the respondents did not want to see any or only small changes in the way in which auditing was carried out. 30 % of the 82 respondents were of the opinion that they could not carry out the reviewing in a less extensive way without this having a negative effect on the information needed by investors and other interested parties for decision-making. Almost 20 % of the respondents felt that more extensive reviewing would not result in more useful information.

Among the respondents that were not entirely negative to changes, there was considerable consensus concerning their willingness to reduce the emphasis on one specific type of auditing issue. They considered that too much of their work involved tax supervision. Of those respondents who were not negative to changes every second argued that supervising taxes and other charges, such as employers??™ contributions to social security, is the duty of the tax authorities. Some of the respondents also criticised the fact that they are obliged to report economic crimes. They commented on the fact that criminal law is not included in the basic auditor training.

In general, the respondents were very negative to the idea of providing statements about any information except for that elicited according to current praxis. Only 7 % of the respondents were in favour of making statements that go beyond the present legislation and praxis. Despite the general reluctance to provide additional statements, none of the respondents considered such statements insignificant to investors and other interested parties.

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Retests

Although we failed to detect any clear differences between the grids for different categories of auditors, there could still have been individual differences between respondents. One way to test this, and to check the stability in the thought patterns of the respondents and the reliability of the data collection, was to make some retests. Therefore, six of the respondents were interviewed a second time, five months after the main interviews. They were presented with the same elements and constructs, but this time placed in a different order.

If no genuine individual differences existed, the similarity between two grids from the same person would be of the same magnitude as the correlation between any two grids from different respondents. For the six auditors that participated in the follow-up tests the mean intercorrelation between the first test and retest was .573. Although this is not an impressive degree of reliability it is clearly larger than the mean intercorrelation between different individuals, which was .360.

A related way of checking for consistent individual differences is to ask whether two grids from the same person have more in common than can be accounted for by the general factor (represented by the overall mean grid). When the general factor is partialled out will the correlation then drop to 0 All the partial correlations were positive, and the mean was .30, again testifying to the existence of ???real??? individual differences.

When asked about possible explanations to the differences between the first test and the retest, the six respondents argued in a rather similar way. Their frames of reference were partly 23

influenced by experiences in their daily work and general events relevant to their work or their business. Some of the respondents testified that specific events reported in the press had influenced his or her opinions and, consequently, his or her answers in the grid form. The auditors who participated in the retest were also asked about possible errors or omissions concerning the choice of elements and constructs. Generally the respondents were quite satisfied with these choices, thus substantiating that a thorough pilot study had been made and increasing the confidence in the validity of the study. Their confirmation indicates that the elements are representative of the domain.

Discussion and conclusions

Auditor tasks

The findings of this study indicate that there are two different types of tasks carried out by auditors. One type is the traditional tasks that focus on hard facts and number crunching, and involve checking certain parts of the company??™s business. These are the traditional tasks noted by Power (1997). Matters that are generally possible to verify are checked by the auditors. These are either historical events or matters that are regulated by reliable auditing procedures. These are the sorts of tasks that Swedish auditors approve of. Hence, the information that is quality assured by auditors ??“ arrow (b) and (c) in the accountability model ??“ can be described as primarily fragmentary, hard and historical. When reviewing this kind of information, for example balance sheet items, the auditors feel relatively secure (Cf. Pentland, 1993). The items can be reviewed using reliable auditing procedures and according to given laws and recommendations. When auditors have a clear structure and objectified knowledge to work 24

with, the responsibility is partly shifted from the individual level to the auditing profession (Cf. Power, 2003). The auditors feel that this shift in responsibility reduces the risk of their being held liable to pay damages.

The second type of task carried out by auditors focuses on information seen from the perspective of the investors. This kind of comprehensive, soft and future-oriented information is more difficult to review. The lack of reliable auditing procedures makes the auditors feel rather insecure and the fear of being held liable for damages is seen as a problem. This kind of information is rarely reviewed and commented on by auditors. Swedish auditors tend to leave this area of information to the companies, financial analysts and journalists. As a consequence this information ??“ arrow (a) in the model ??“ is normally presented to the accountees without being quality assured.

Figure 4 about here

Swedish auditors do not seem to be particularly eager to incorporate a more forward-looking quality control as part of their auditing domain. A possible explanation is that they feel secure on their own territory, together with accounting consultants and bookkeeping firms. ???Sticking to the knitting??? also produces higher revenues than jeopardising one??™s reputation in new and perhaps dangerous areas. According to Arnold et al (1999) revenue from non-audit services has become increasingly important as auditing firms seek to increase their profitability. The assistance and consulting offered by Swedish auditors is closely related to traditional auditing.

In June 2003 two expert panels consisting of notable representatives of the Swedish accounting and auditing profession and regulative institutions were invited to comment on the 25

results of the study. One of these panel debates was organised as a public seminar. These sessions confirmed the reluctance to see a more forward-looking quality control as part of the auditing domain. The representatives of the accounting and auditing profession used expressions such as ???back to basics???, ???cleaner review??? and ???not playing financial analysts??? when they discussed the results of this study and the auditing domain. The common feeling was that auditors should review and comment on some of the information, primarily hard and historical, provided by the accountors and delivered to the accountees. The importance for accountees??™ decision-making of other information, primarily soft and future-oriented, should be left to financial analysts and other actors to judge.

Auditor focus

The findings show that Swedish auditors appear to be more focused on the content of the information rather than the usefulness of the information to investors and other interested parties. It seems more important that accountors are seen to have done the ???right things??? ??“ that some of the information is checked and verified ??“ than that the information forms a useful basis for decision-making. Bazerman et al (1997) and Haynes et al, 1998) emphasise that auditors might be abdicating their duty of protecting investors. The results of this study point in the same direction. The respondents consider themselves to be less responsible to the accountees than to themselves or to the accountors. Two examples indicate that this is the case. First, auditors devote little time and effort to issues of major importance to investors and share prices. Instead they devote a relatively large amount of time to issues that are not of vital importance to investors, but that can be satisfactorily verified and reviewed by the auditor. Second, of those respondents who thought that reviewing information about the 26

future was significant to investors and other interested parties, only a few were also prepared to make statements about such information. Accordingly the auditors are rather uninterested in arrow (c) in the model.

The gap between what auditors do and what they perceive to be important to investors and other interested parties can be related to the ???expectation gap??? (Cf. Koh & Woo, 1998). The gap described here is maybe even more interesting, because the auditors spend their time reviewing auditing issues that they themselves do not consider to be of primary importance to investors and other interested parties. The auditors??™ work does not in any way violate laws and regulations, but they appear to be aware that they do not review the issues of most importance to investors and other interested parties. To solve this problem, they claim that they share the duty to protect investors and other interested parties with financial analysts. In fact, the auditors seem to be most concerned with their own interests. For example, two thirds of the respondents referred to the problems it would cause them as an argument for not reviewing and providing statements about information that they do not produce according to current praxis.

The expert panels confirmed the finding that Swedish auditors feel less responsible to the accountees than to themselves. The representative of the shareholders expressed the need for more independent auditors, i.e. auditors not afraid of questioning managers (accountors). There is a need for auditors with integrity who are willing to open a dialogue with investors and other interested parties (accountees). The representatives of the accounting and auditing profession were more interested in discussing the fact that laws and recommendations had become more detailed and that there is a risk that in the future auditors will be expected to act more like lawyers when reviewing accounting information. 27

Auditor traditionalism

The findings also point to the traditional orientation of Swedish auditors. A majority of the respondents were rather unwilling to make more than minor changes in their work over and above that required by adjustments of laws and recommendations. The most common proposal for change was to reduce the aspect of tax supervision included in the work. In general the respondents were very negative to the idea of providing statements about any information except for that elicited according to current praxis.

The expert panels confirmed this traditional attitude. External pressures have only succeeded in bringing about two significant changes in the work of auditors in Sweden in the last 25 years. They are both related to compliance audits. These changes have taken place partly because investors and other interested parties would like to see fraud detection included in the auditors??™ tasks (Cf. Humphrey et al, 1993). One of the changes was that auditors should check up on taxes and other charges. In this study more than four of ten respondents explicitly argued that it is the tax authorities that should review taxes and other charges, such as employers??™ contributions to social security. The other change was that auditors are now obliged to report economic crimes, another issue criticised by auditors in this study. The unwillingness of auditors to handle certain issues or to accept a role in the detection of fraud or to provide statements about information outside current praxis, are facts that indicate that Swedish auditors are not only traditional, but also rather uninterested in reducing the ???expectation gap??? between auditors and investors and other interested parties.

28

This traditionalism is connected to the characteristics of the auditing profession. Auditors work to great extent according to legislation and praxis without really considering if things can be done in any other way. Fischer (1996) refers to several examples of traditionalism. Auditors rely on past experiences, both their own and those of others, as documented in guides for audit planning and the execution of current audits. Working methods tend to be taken for granted and are not questioned. Auditors have a tendency to rely strongly on objectified knowledge such as ???what was done last year??? when planning and executing their work. The widespread traditional attitude among Swedish auditors may be a problem. It makes it rather difficult to extend the information flow in arrow (b) and (c) in the accountability model and thus reduce the information flow in arrow (a).

Comparisons made in this study point to rather limited differences between different categories of auditors. Irrespective of experience, seniority level, gender, firm or location, the thought patterns of the auditors do not diverge significantly from those found in the mean grid. In fact, the correlation values within and between different categories of respondents are in the same range as the correlation values in the mean grid. Nor could any decisive differences be detected between experienced and less experienced auditors in their view of soft elements and what is considered important for investors. The lack of differences may indicate a relatively rapid process of socialisation into the auditor profession, and also the importance of structure and traditionalism.

However, some respondents recognised the importance of judgements about soft and futureoriented information to investors and other interested parties for decision-making. Auditors in listed companies perceive soft elements as more important to investors and other interested

29

parties. A possible interpretation is that auditors in listed companies focus more on arrow (c) in the model than other auditors.

Possible future reforms and further research

Regardless of whether the information is controlled by laws and regulations or not, it would be helpful to both investors and other interested parties if the information for their decisionmaking was quality assured. Therefore it would be desirable for the information flow from accountor to accountee following arrow (b) and (c) to increase and the flow following arrow (a) in the accountability model to decrease.

If the auditors are to handle this task and quality assure the comprehensive, soft and future oriented information for accountee decision-making, some changes need to be made. It is necessary to develop improved auditing procedures for auditing and assessing this kind of information. Partly these procedures can build upon the familiar auditing procedures for fragmentary, hard and historical issues that the auditors spend time and effort on today. Serious judgements about future-orientated information can hardly be made without considering what has happened earlier. But this is not sufficient. For example, in order to check and judge CEO comments the auditors must be capable of making trend-analyses and industry-related judgements. One possibility is to use some kind of benchmarking. Comments from one manager could be compared with previous comments from the same manager and with current comments from other managers, active in the same industry or in other industries. An extended auditor domain also requires a change in the professional training of

30

auditors. A deeper understanding of creative judgement and a more comprehensive approach must be learnt, in addition to the more traditional elements of the training.

We do not claim that every auditor should be able to check and judge all sorts of events. Instead auditors could specialise on different tasks, and they could co-operate to produce more comprehensive auditing than at present. A retrospective auditor could be a teammember that focuses on information that can be relatively easily verified. A future-orientated auditor could ??“ with assistance from internal and external experts ??“ concentrate on information of great importance to investors and other interested parties. The question of payment need not necessarily constitute a major problem. It can be solved according to existing praxis in Sweden. Retrospective auditors could be paid by the accountors whereas future-oriented auditors, like the financial analysts of today, could be paid by the accountees.

Considering the traditional attitude of Swedish auditors, other parties involved must take action if any changes are to be made within the scope of a market-oriented solution. Without pressure from accountees it seems difficult to reduce the information flow in arrow (a) and extend the information flow in arrow (b) and (c) in the model. For example, if it became easier to attract capital to companies that allow auditors to make their internal memorandum public, it could be a driving force towards increased openness and a larger proportion of quality assured information.

One suggestion for further research is to link the accountability model to field-studies. An increasing number of field-oriented studies of organisational life in its context have been made in accounting research. Nevertheless, there are few studies into the practice of auditing in its real context and little research that can be called ???field-work??? has been conducted in the 31

sphere of auditing (Gendron & Bedard, 2001; Power, 2003). We therefore suggest that there is a need for more field-studies in auditing research, i.e. in-depth research and longitudinal studies of what auditors really do, what issues they work with, how they interact in working groups, and with clients and investors. As it is also relevant to discover how other actors perceive auditing and auditors, it is important to focus attention not only on the auditors.

The accountability model can also be used to compare the thought patterns of accountors (management representatives) and accountees (investors and other interested parties) regarding their view of the way in which auditors review and make statements about information provided by different kinds of public companies. It can also be of interest to compare the complexity and homogeneity of the thought patterns of different groups of actors in the model.

32

Figures and tables

Accountee**

Quality assured information for decision-making by accountees (c) Auditor***

Information for decision-making by accountees (a) (b) Accountor*

Information to be quality assured

* Accountor: Management representatives, agents in charge of operations with stewardship obligations and who are obliged to provide true and fair information. ** Accountee: Investors and other interested parties entitled to information for their decisionmaking process. *** Auditor: Independent professional, responsible for assuring quality of information, i.e. that it gives a true and fair view and is reasonably complete.

Figure 1: The accountability model

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Elements Constructs
Easy to review (1) – Difficult to review (7) Not prediction dependent (1) – Very prediction dependent (7) Limited effort (time) (1) – Great effort (time) (7) Low review precision (1) – High review precision (7) Statements insignificant (1) – St. sign. for company image (7)

Bad receivables Environmental crime Stock price drop CEO comments Productivity

3 4 7 4 3

1 1 6 7 3

5 7 3 3 6

5 2 1 1 7

7 4 3 5 1

Figure 2: A grid example

34

1 Easy to review 11 Statements insignificant 12 Not oral info. dependent

5 10 6 7

Often reviewed High review precision Competence completely suf. Great effort (time)

COMPONENT 2 ???Number crunching??? 3 Very prediction dependent 8 St. sign. for share price 2 St very val for investors 4 Internal control not imp. 9 Industry cons. required

5 10 6 7 1 11

C

(Bad receivables)

B A
12
(Purchase of shares)

(Stock price drop)

D L
(Attest routines)

(Org. Expenses)

9 4 2 8
???Past??? COMPONENT 1 ???Future???

H

(Interim report)

3

J
3

(Transfer prices)

8 2 4

F

(Employment terms)

I G
(Data security)

(Financial plan)

9
(CEO comments)

E M
9 I. considerations not req. 4 Int. ctrl. very important 2 Statements not valuable 8 Statements insignificant 3 Not prediction dependent (Productivity)

12 11 1

N

(Strategies)

K 7 6

(Environmental crime)

10 5
???Creative comprehension??? 7 6 10 5 Limited effort (time) Competence not sufficient Low review precision Seldom reviewed 12 Very oral info. dependent 11 St sign for company image 1 Difficult to review

Figure 3: Rotated mean grid for 82 auditors

35

Accountee

Quality assured fragmentary, hard and historical information for decision-making by accountees (c) Auditor Comprehensive, soft and future-oriented information for decision-making by accountees (a) (b) Accountor

Fragmentary, hard and historical information to be quality assured

Figure 4: Information flow and auditor focus in the accountability model

36

Mean inter correlation Full grids: the auditors and their vectors .360 with scores for all elements on all constructs as elements .330 Elements: grids with the auditors and their vectors of factor scores on the first component Constructs: grids with the auditors and .469 their vectors of factor loadings on the first component

Variance described by two components (%) 42

60

73

Table 1: PCA of mean grid for all respondents. Mean intercorrelation and percentage of the variance explained by two components.

37

References Arens, A. and Loebbecke, J. (1997) Auditing – an integrated approach (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Arnold, D., Bernardi, R. and Neidermeyer, P. (1999) The effect of independence on decisions concerning additional audit work: a European perspective. Auditing: A journal of practice and theory, Supplement 18: 45-67. Bannister, D. and Fransella, F. (1986) Inquiring man (3rd ed.). London: Routledge. Bazerman, M., Morgan, P. and Loewenstein, B. (1997) The impossibility of auditor independence. Sloan Management Review, (Summer): 89-94. Berger, P. L. and Luckmann, T. (1967) The social construction of reality. New York: Doubleday Anchor. Besanko, D., Dranove, D. and Shanley, M. (1996) Economics of strategy. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Bonner, S. E. and Pennington, N. (1991) Cognitive processes and knowledge as determinants of auditor expertise. Journal of Accounting Literature, 10: 1-50. Bryman, A. (2001) Social research methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Burchell, S., Clubb, C., Hopwood, A., Hughes, J. and Nahapiet, J. (1980) The roles of accounting in organizations and society. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 5(1): 5-27. Campbell, D. T. (1988) Methodology and epistemology for the social sciences. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Chandler, R. A. and Edwards, J. R. (1996) Recurring issues in auditing: back to the future Accountability, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 9(2): 4-29. Dirsmith, M. W. and McAllister, J. P. (1982) The organic versus the mechanistic audit. Journal of Accounting, Auditing and Finance, (spring): 214-28. de Ruyter, K. and Wetzels, M. (1999) Commitment in auditor-client relationships: antecedents and consequences. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 24(1): 57-75. Donaldson, L. and Davis, J. H. (1991) Stewardship theory or agency theory: CEO governance and shareholder returns. Australian Journal of Management, 16 (1): 49-64. Edenhammar, H. and Hagg, I. (1997) Makten over redovisningen [The power over accounting]. Stockholm: Studieforbund Naringsliv & Samhalle. Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989) Agency theory: An assessment and review. Academy of Management Review, 14(1): 57-74.

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Eklov, G. (2001) Auditability as interface: negotiation and signification of intangibles. School of Business Research Reports no. 2001:09. Stockholm: School of Business, Stockholm University. Epstein, M. J. and Geiger, M. A. (1994) Investor views of audit assurance: recent evidence of the expectation gap. Journal of Accountancy, 17 (January): 60-6. Fiet, J. (1995) Reliance upon informants in the venture capital industry. Journal of Business Venturing, 10: 195-223. Fischer, M. J. (1996) ???Real-izing??? the benefits of new technologies as a source of audit evidence: an interpretive field study. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 21(2/3): 21942. Flint, D. (1988) Philosophy and principles of auditing ??“ an introduction. London: Macmillan. Fransella, F., Bell, R. and Bannister, D. (2003) A manual for repertory grid technique (2nd e

Goosebumps

STAY OUT OF THE BASEMENT
Goosebumps – 02 R.L. Stine (An Undead Scan v1.5)

1

1

???Hey, Dad??”catch!??? Casey tossed the Frisbee across the smooth, green lawn. Casey??™s dad made a face, squinting into the sun. The Frisbee hit the ground and skipped a few times before landing under the hedge at the back of the house. ???Not today. I??™m busy,??? Dr. Brewer said, and abruptly turned and loped into the house. The screen door slammed behind him. Casey brushed his straight blond hair back off his forehead. ???What??™s his problem??? he called to Margaret, his sister, who had watched the whole scene from the side of the redwood garage. ???You know,??? Margaret said quietly. She wiped her hands on the legs of her jeans and held them both up, inviting a toss. ???I??™ll play Frisbee with you for a little while,??? she said. ???Okay,??? Casey said without enthusiasm. He walked slowly over to retrieve the Frisbee from under the hedge. Margaret moved closer. She felt sorry for Casey. He and their dad were really close, always playing ball or Frisbee or Nintendo together. But Dr. Brewer didn??™t seem to have time for that anymore. Jumping up to catch the Frisbee, Margaret realized she felt sorry for herself, too. Dad hadn??™t been the same to her, either. In fact, he spent so much time down in the basement, he barely said a word to her. He doesn??™t even call me Princess anymore, Margaret thought. It was a nickname she hated. But at least it was a nickname, a sign of closeness. She tossed the red Frisbee back. A bad toss. Casey chased after it, but it sailed away from him. Margaret looked up to the golden hills beyond their backyard. California, she thought. It??™s so weird out here. Here it is, the middle of winter, and there isn??™t a cloud in the sky, and Casey and I are out in jeans and T-shirts as if it were the middle of summer. She made a diving catch for a wild toss, rolling over on the manicured lawn and raising the Frisbee above her head triumphantly. ???Show off,??? Casey muttered, unimpressed. ???You??™re the hot dog in the family,??? Margaret called. ???Well, you??™re a dork.??? ???Hey, Casey??”you want me to play with you or not??? He shrugged. Everyone was so edgy these days, Margaret realized. It was easy to figure out why.

2

She made a high toss. The Frisbee sailed over Casey??™s head. ???You chase it!??? he cried angrily, putting his hands on his hips. ???No, you!??? she cried. ???You!??? ???Casey??”you??™re eleven years old. Don??™t act like a two-year-old,??? she snapped. ???Well, you act like a one-year-old,??? was his reply as he grudgingly went after the Frisbee. It was all Dad??™s fault, Margaret realized. Things had been so tense ever since he started working at home. Down in the basement with his plants and weird machines. He hardly ever came up for air. And when he did, he wouldn??™t even catch a Frisbee. Or spend two minutes with either of them. Mom had noticed it, too, Margaret thought, running full-out and making another grandstand catch just before colliding with the side of the garage. Having Dad home has made Mom really tense, too. She pretends everything is fine. But I can tell she??™s worried about him. ???Lucky catch, Fatso!??? Casey called. Margaret hated the name Fatso even more than she hated Princess. People in her family jokingly called her Fatso because she was so thin, like her father. She also was tall like him, but she had her mother??™s straight brown hair, brown eyes, and dark coloring. ???Don??™t call me that.??? She heaved the red disc at him. He caught it at his knees and flipped it back to her. They tossed it back and forth without saying much for another ten or fifteen minutes. ???I??™m getting hot,??? Margaret said, shielding her eyes from the afternoon sun with her hand. ???Let??™s go in.??? Casey tossed the Frisbee against the garage wall. It dropped onto the grass. He came trotting over to her. ???Dad always plays longer,??? he said peevishly. ???And he throws better. You throw like a girl.??? ???Give me a break,??? Margaret groaned, giving him a playful shove as she jogged to the back door. ???You throw like a chimpanzee.??? ???How come Dad got fired??? he asked. She blinked. And stopped running. The question had caught her by surprise. ???Huh??? His pale, freckled face turned serious. ???You know. I mean, why??? he asked, obviously uncomfortable. She and Casey had never discussed this in the four weeks since Dad had been home. Which was unusual since they were pretty close, being only a year apart. ???I mean, we came all the way out here so he could work at PolyTech, right??? Casey asked. ???Yeah. Well??¦ he got fired,??? Margaret said, half-whispering in case her dad might be able to hear. ???But why Did he blow up the lab or something??? Casey grinned. The idea of his dad blowing up a huge campus science lab appealed to him.

3

???No, he didn??™t blow anything up,??? Margaret said, tugging at a strand of dark hair. ???Botanists work with plants, you know. They don??™t get much of a chance to blow things up.??? They both laughed. Casey followed her into the narrow strip of shade cast by the low ranch-style house. ???I??™m not sure exactly what happened,??? Margaret continued, still half-whispering. ???But I overheard Dad on the phone. I think he was talking to Mr. Martinez. His department head. Remember The quiet little man who came to dinner that night the barbecue grill caught fire??? Casey nodded. ???Martinez fired Dad??? ???Probably,??? Margaret whispered. ???From what I overheard, it had something to do with the plants Dad was growing, some experiments that had gone wrong or something.??? ???But Dad??™s real smart,??? Casey insisted, as if Margaret were arguing with him. ???If his experiments went wrong, he??™d know how to fix them.??? Margaret shrugged. ???That??™s all I know,??? she said. ???Come on, Casey. Let??™s go inside. I??™m dying of thirst!??? She stuck her tongue out and moaned, demonstrating her dire need of liquid. ???You??™re gross,??? Casey said. He pulled open the screen door, then dodged in front of her so he could get inside first. ???Who??™s gross??? Mrs. Brewer asked from the sink. She turned to greet the two of them. ???Don??™t answer that.??? Mom looks very tired today, Margaret thought, noticing the crisscross of fine lines at the corners of her mother??™s eyes and the first strands of gray in her mother??™s shoulder-length brown hair. ???I hate this job,??? Mrs. Brewer said, turning back to the sink. ???What are you doing??? Casey asked, pulling open the refrigerator and removing a box of juice. ???I??™m deveining shrimp.??? ???Yuck!??? Margaret exclaimed. ???Thanks for the support,??? Mrs. Brewer said dryly. The phone rang. Wiping her shrimpy hands with a dish towel, she hurried across the room to pick up the phone. Margaret got a box of juice from the fridge, popped the straw into the top, and followed Casey into the front hallway. The basement door, usually shut tight when Dr. Brewer was working down there, was slightly ajar. Casey started to close it, then stopped. ???Let??™s go down and see what Dad is doing,??? he suggested. Margaret sucked the last drops of juice through the straw and squeezed the empty box flat in her hand. ???Okay.??? She knew they probably shouldn??™t disturb their father, but her curiosity got the better of her. He had been working down there for four weeks now. All kinds of interesting equipment, lights, and plants had been delivered. Most days he spent at least eight or nine hours down there, doing whatever it was he was doing. And he hadn??™t shown it to them once.

4

???Yeah. Let??™s go,??? Margaret said. It was their house, too, after all. Besides, maybe their dad was just waiting for them to show some interest. Maybe he was hurt that they hadn??™t bothered to come downstairs in all this time. She pulled the door open the rest of the way, and they stepped onto the narrow stairway. ???Hey, Dad??”??? Casey called excitedly. ???Dad??”can we see??? They were halfway down when their father appeared at the foot of the stairs. He glared up at them angrily, his skin strangely green under the fluorescent light fixture. He was holding his right hand, drops of red blood falling onto his white lab coat. ???Stay out of the basement!??? he bellowed, in a voice they??™d never heard before. Both kids shrank back, surprised to hear their father scream like that. He was usually so mild and soft-spoken. ???Stay out of the basement,??? he repeated, holding his bleeding hand. ???Don??™t ever come down here??”I??™m warning you.???

5

2

???Okay. All packed,??? Mrs. Brewer said, dropping her suitcases with a thud in the front hallway. She poked her head into the living room where the TV was blaring. ???Do you think you could stop the movie for one minute to say good-bye to your mother??? Casey pushed a button on the remote control, and the screen went blank. He and Margaret obediently walked to the hallway to give their mother hugs. Margaret??™s friend, Diane Manning, who lived just around the corner, followed them into the hallway. ???How long are you going to be gone, Mrs. Brewer??? she asked, her eyes on the two bulging suitcases. ???I don??™t know,??? Mrs. Brewer replied fretfully. ???My sister went into the hospital in Tucson this morning. I guess I??™ll have to stay until she??™s able to go home.??? ???Well, I??™ll be glad to baby-sit for Casey and Margaret while you??™re away,??? Diane joked. ???Give me a break,??? Margaret said, rolling her eyes. ???I??™m older than you are, Diane.??? ???And I??™m smarter than both of you,??? Casey added with typical modesty. ???I??™m not worried about you kids,??? Mrs. Brewer said, glancing nervously at her watch. ???I??™m worried about your father.??? ???Don??™t worry,??? Margaret told her seriously. ???We??™ll take good care of him.??? ???Just make sure that he eats something once in a while,??? Mrs. Brewer said. ???He??™s so obsessed with his work, he doesn??™t remember to eat unless you tell him.??? It??™s going to be really lonely around here without Mom, Margaret thought. Dad hardly ever comes up from the basement. It had been two weeks since he yelled at Casey and her to stay out of the basement. They had been tiptoeing around ever since, afraid to get him angry again. But in the past two weeks, he had barely spoken to them, except for the occasional ???good morning??? and ???good night.??? ???Don??™t worry about anything, Mom,??? she said, forcing a smile. ???Just take good care of Aunt Eleanor.??? ???I??™ll call as soon as I get to Tucson,??? Mrs. Brewer said, nervously lowering her eyes to her watch again. She took three long strides to the basement door, then shouted down, ???Michael??”time to take me to the airport!??? After a long wait, Dr. Brewer called up a reply. Then Mrs. Brewer turned back to the kids. ???Think he??™ll even notice I??™m gone??? she asked in a loud whisper. She meant it to be a light remark, but her eyes revealed some sadness. A few seconds later, they heard footsteps on the basement stairs, and their dad appeared. He pulled off his stained lab coat, revealing tan slacks and a bright yellow

6

T-shirt, and tossed the lab coat onto the banister. Even though it was two weeks later, his right hand, the hand that had been bleeding, was still heavily bandaged. ???Ready??? he asked his wife. Mrs. Brewer sighed. ???I guess.??? She gave Margaret and Casey a helpless look, then moved quickly to give them each one last hug. ???Let??™s go, then,??? Dr. Brewer said impatiently. He picked up the two bags and groaned. ???Wow. How long are you planning to stay A year??? Then he headed out the front door with them, not waiting for an answer. ???Bye, Mrs. Brewer,??? Diane said, waving. ???Have a good trip.??? ???How can she have a good trip??? Casey asked sharply. ???Her sister??™s in the hospital.??? ???You know what I mean,??? Diane replied, tossing back her long red hair and rolling her eyes. They watched the station wagon roll down the driveway, then returned to the living room. Casey picked up the remote control and started the movie. Diane sprawled on the couch and picked up the bag of potato chips she??™d been eating. ???Who picked this movie??? Diane asked, crinkling the foil bag noisily. ???I did,??? Casey said. ???It??™s neat.??? He had pulled a couch cushion down to the living room carpet and was lying on it. Margaret was sitting cross-legged on the floor, her back against the base of an armchair, still thinking about her mother and her aunt Eleanor. ???It??™s neat if you like to see a lot of people blown up and their guts flying all over,??? she said, making a face for Diane??™s benefit. ???Yeah. It??™s neat,??? Casey said, not taking his eyes off the glowing TV screen. ???I??™ve got so much homework. I don??™t know why I??™m sitting here,??? Diane said, reaching her hand into the potato chip bag. ???Me, too,??? Margaret sighed. ???I guess I??™ll do it after dinner. Do you have the math assignment I think I left my math book at school.??? ???Sshhh!??? Casey hissed, kicking a sneakered foot in Margaret??™s direction. ???This is a good part.??? ???You??™ve seen this tape before??? Diane shrieked. ???Twice,??? Casey admitted. He ducked, and the sofa pillow Diane threw sailed over his head. ???It??™s a pretty afternoon,??? Margaret said, stretching her arms above her head. ???Maybe we should go outside. You know. Ride bikes or something.??? ???You think you??™re still back in Michigan It??™s always a pretty afternoon here,??? Diane said, chewing loudly. ???I don??™t even notice it anymore.??? ???Maybe we should do the math assignment together,??? Margaret suggested hopefully. Diane was much better in math than she was. Diane shrugged. ???Yeah. Maybe.??? She crinkled up the bag and set it on the floor. ???Your dad looked kind of nervous, you know??? ???Huh What do you mean??? ???Just nervous,??? Diane said. ???How??™s he doing??? ???Sshhh,??? Casey insisted, picking up the potato chip bag and tossing it at Diane. 7

???You know. Being laid off and all.??? ???I guess he??™s okay,??? Margaret said wistfully. ???I don??™t know, really. He spends all his time down in the basement with his experiments.??? ???Experiments Hey??”let??™s go take a look.??? Tossing her hair back behind her shoulders, Diane jumped up from the chrome and white leather couch. Diane was a science freak. Math and science. The two subjects Margaret hated. She should have been in the Brewer family, Margaret thought with a trace of bitterness. Maybe Dad would pay some attention to her since she??™s into the same things he is. ???Come on??”??? Diane urged, bending over to pull Margaret up from the floor. ???He??™s a botanist, right What??™s he doing down there??? ???It??™s complicated,??? Margaret said, shouting over the explosions and gunfire on the TV. ???He tried to explain it to me once. But??”??? Margaret allowed Diane to pull her to her feet. ???Shut up!??? Casey yelled, staring at the movie, the colors from the TV screen reflecting over his clothes. ???Is he building a Frankenstein monster or something??? Diane demanded. ???Or some kind of RoboCop Wouldn??™t that be cool??? ???Shut up!??? Casey repeated shrilly as Arnold Schwarzenegger bounded across the screen. ???He??™s got all these machines and plants down there,??? Margaret said uncomfortably. ???But he doesn??™t want us to go down there.??? ???Huh It??™s like top secret??? Diane??™s emerald green eyes lit up with excitement. ???Come on. We??™ll just take a peek.??? ???No, I don??™t think so,??? Margaret told her. She couldn??™t forget the angry look on her father??™s face two weeks before when she and Casey had tried to pay a visit. Or the way he had screamed at them never to come down to the basement. ???Come on. I dare you,??? Diane challenged. ???Are you chicken??? ???I??™m not afraid,??? Margaret insisted shrilly. Diane was always daring her to do things she didn??™t want to do. Why is it so important for Diane to think she??™s so much braver than everyone else Margaret wondered. ???Chicken,??? Diane repeated. Tossing her mane of red hair behind her shoulder, she strode quickly toward the basement door. ???Diane??”stop!??? Margaret cried, following after her. ???Hey, wait!??? Casey cried, clicking off the movie. ???Are we going downstairs Wait for me!??? He climbed quickly to his feet and enthusiastically hurried to join them at the basement door. ???We can??™t??”??? Margaret started, but Diane clamped a hand over her mouth. ???We??™ll take a quick peek,??? Diane insisted. ???We??™ll just look. We won??™t touch anything. And then we??™ll come right back upstairs.??? ???Okay. I??™ll go first,??? Casey said, grabbing for the doorknob. ???Why do you want to do this??? Margaret asked her friend. ???Why are you so eager to go down there??? Diane shrugged. ???It beats doing our math,??? she replied, grinning.

8

Margaret sighed, defeated. ???Okay, let??™s go. But remember??”just looking, no touching.??? Casey pulled open the door and led the way onto the stairway. Stepping onto the landing, they were immediately engulfed in hot, steamy air. They could hear the buzz and hum of electronic machinery. And off to the right, they could see the glare of the bright white lights from Dr. Brewer??™s workroom. This is kind of fun, Margaret thought as the three of them made their way down the linoleum-covered stairway. It??™s an adventure. There??™s no harm in taking a peek. So why was her heart pounding Why did she have this sudden tingle of fear

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???Yuck! It??™s so hot in here!??? As they stepped away from the stairs, the air became unbearably hot and thick. Margaret gasped. The sudden change in temperature was suffocating. ???It??™s so moist,??? Diane said. ???Good for your hair and skin.??? ???We studied the rain forest in school,??? Casey said. ???Maybe Dad??™s building a rain forest.??? ???Maybe,??? Margaret said uncertainly. Why did she feel so strange Was it just because they were invading their father??™s domain Doing something he had told them not to do She held back, gazing in both directions. The basement was divided into two large, rectangular rooms. To the left, an unfinished rec room stood in darkness. She could barely make out the outlines of the Ping-Pong table in the center of the room. The workroom to the right was brightly lit, so bright they had to blink and wait for their eyes to adjust. Beams of white light poured down from large halogen lamps on tracks in the ceiling. ???Wow! Look!??? Casey cried, his eyes wide as he stepped excitedly toward the light. Reaching up toward the lights were shiny, tall plants, dozens of them, thickstalked and broad-leafed, planted close together in an enormous, low trough of dark soil. ???It??™s like a jungle!??? Margaret exclaimed, following Casey into the white glare. The plants, in fact, resembled jungle plants??”leafy vines and tall, treelike plants with long, slender tendrils, fragile-looking ferns, plants with gnarled, cream-colored roots poking up like bony knees from the soil. ???It??™s like a swamp or something,??? Diane said. ???Did your father really grow these things in just five or six weeks??? ???Yeah. I??™m pretty sure,??? Margaret replied, staring at the enormous red tomatoes on a slender, yellow stalk. ???Ooh. Feel this one,??? Diane said. Margaret glanced over to find her friend rubbing her hand over a large, flat leaf the shape of a teardrop. ???Diane??”we shouldn??™t touch??”??? ???I know, I know,??? Diane said, not letting go of the leaf. ???But just rub your hand on it.??? Margaret reluctantly obeyed. ???It doesn??™t feel like a leaf,??? she said as Diane moved over to examine a large fern. ???It??™s so smooth. Like glass.???

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The three of them stood under the bright, white lights, examining the plants for several minutes, touching the thick stalks, running their hands over the smooth, warm leaves, surprised by the enormous size of the fruits some of the plants had produced. ???It??™s too hot down here,??? Casey complained. He pulled his T-shirt off over his head and dropped it onto the floor. ???What a bod!??? Diane teased him. He stuck out his tongue at her. Then his pale blue eyes grew wide and he seemed to freeze in surprise. ???Hey!??? ???Casey??”what??™s the matter??? Margaret asked, hurrying over to him. ???This one??”??? He pointed to a tall, treelike plant. ???It??™s breathing!??? Diane laughed. But Margaret heard it, too. She grabbed Casey??™s bare shoulder and listened. Yes. She could hear breathing sounds, and they seemed to be coming from the tall, leafy tree. ???What??™s your problem??? Diane asked, seeing the amazed expressions on Casey??™s and Margaret??™s faces. ???Casey??™s right,??? Margaret said softly, listening to the steady, rhythmic sound. ???You can hear it breathing.??? Diane rolled her eyes. ???Maybe it has a cold. Maybe its vine is stuffed up.??? She laughed at her own joke, but her two companions didn??™t join in. ???I don??™t hear it.??? She moved closer. All three of them listened. Silence. ???It??”stopped,??? Margaret said. ???Stop it, you two,??? Diane scolded. ???You??™re not going to scare me.??? ???No. Really,??? Margaret protested. ???Hey??”look at this!??? Casey had already moved on to something else. He was standing in front of a tall glass case that stood on the other side of the plants. It looked a little like a phone booth, with a shelf inside about shoulder-high, and dozens of wires attached to the back and sides. Margaret??™s eyes followed the wires to a similar glass booth a few feet away. Some kind of electrical generator stood between the two booths and appeared to be connected to both of them. ???What could that be??? Diane asked, hurrying over to Casey. ???Don??™t touch it,??? Margaret warned, giving the breathing plant one final glance, then joining the others. But Casey reached out to the glass door on the front of the booth. ???I just want to see if this opens,??? he said. He grabbed the glass??”and his eyes went wide with shock. His entire body began to shake and vibrate. His head jerked wildly from side to side. His eyes rolled up in his head. ???Oh, help!??? he managed to cry, his body vibrating and shaking harder and faster. ???Help me! I??”can??™t stop!???

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???Help me!??? Casey??™s whole body shook as if an electrical current were charging through him. His head jerked on his shoulders, and his eyes looked wild and dazed. ???Please!??? Margaret and Diane stared in open-mouthed horror. Margaret was the first to move. She lunged at Casey, and reached out to try to pull him away from the glass. ???Margaret??”don??™t!??? Diane screamed. ???Don??™t touch him!??? ???But we have to do something!??? Margaret cried. It took both girls a while to realize that Casey had stopped shaking. And was laughing. ???Casey??? Margaret asked, staring at him, her terrified expression fading to astonishment. He was leaning against the glass, his body still now, his mouth wrapped in a broad, mischievous grin. ???Gotcha!??? he declared. And then began to laugh even harder, pointing at them and repeating the phrase through his triumphant laughter. ???Gotcha! Gotcha!??? ???That wasn??™t funny!??? Margaret screamed. ???You were faking it! I don??™t believe it!??? Diane cried, her face as pale as the white lights above them, her lower lip trembling. Both girls leapt onto Casey and pushed him to the floor. Margaret sat on top of him while Diane held his shoulders down. ???Gotcha! Gotcha!??? he continued, stopping only when Margaret tickled his stomach so hard he couldn??™t talk. ???You rat!??? Diane cried. ???You little rat!??? The free-for-all was brought to a sudden halt by a low moan from across the room. All three kids raised their heads and stared in the direction of the sound. The large basement was silent now except for their heavy breathing. ???What was that??? Diane whispered. They listened. Another low moan, a mournful sound, muffled, like air through a saxophone. The tendrils of a treelike plant suddenly drooped, like snakes lowering themselves to the ground. Another low, sad moan. ???It??™s??”the plants!??? Casey said, his expression frightened now. He pushed his sister off him and climbed to his feet, brushing back his disheveled blond hair as he stood up.

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???Plants don??™t cry and moan,??? Diane said, her eyes on the vast trough of plants that filled the room. ???These do,??? Margaret said. Tendrils moved, like human arms shifting their position. They could hear breathing again, slow, steady breathing. Then a sigh, like air escaping. ???Let??™s get out of here,??? Casey said, edging toward the stairs. ???It??™s definitely creepy down here,??? Diane said, following him, her eyes remaining on the shifting, moaning plants. ???I??™m sure Dad could explain it,??? Margaret said. Her words were calm, but her voice trembled, and she was backing out of the room, following Diane and Casey. ???Your dad is weird,??? Diane said, reaching the doorway. ???No, he isn??™t,??? Casey quickly insisted. ???He??™s doing important work here.??? A tall treelike plant sighed and appeared to bend toward them, raising its tendrils as if beckoning to them, calling them back. ???Let??™s just get out of here!??? Margaret exclaimed. All three of them were out of breath by the time they ran up the stairs. Casey closed the door tightly, making sure it clicked shut. ???Weird,??? Diane repeated, playing nervously with a strand of her long red hair. ???Definitely weird.??? It was her word of the day. But Margaret had to admit it was appropriate. ???Well, Dad warned us not to go down there,??? Margaret said, struggling to catch her breath. ???I guess he knew it would look scary to us, and we wouldn??™t understand.??? ???I??™m getting out of here,??? Diane said, only half-kidding. She stepped out of the screen door and turned back toward them. ???Want to go over the math later??? ???Yeah. Sure,??? Margaret said, still thinking about the moaning, shifting plants. Some of them had seemed to be reaching out to them, crying out to them. But of course that was impossible. ???Later,??? Diane said, and headed at a trot down the drive. Just as she disappeared, their father??™s dark blue station wagon turned the corner and started up the drive. ???Back from the airport,??? Margaret said. She turned from the door back to Casey a few yards behind her in the hallway. ???Is the basement door closed??? ???Yeah,??? Casey replied, looking again to make sure. ???No way Dad will know we??”??? He stopped. His mouth dropped open, but no sound came out. His face went pale. ???My T-shirt!??? Casey exclaimed, slapping his bare chest. ???I left it in the basement!???

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???I??™ve got to get it,??? Casey said. ???Otherwise Dad??™ll know??”??? ???It??™s too late,??? Margaret interrupted, her eyes on the driveway. ???He??™s already pulled up the drive.??? ???It??™ll only take a second,??? Casey insisted, his hand on the basement doorknob. ???I??™ll run down and run right up.??? ???No!??? Margaret stood tensely in the center of the narrow hallway, halfway between the front door and the basement door, her eyes toward the front. ???He??™s parked. He??™s getting out of the car.??? ???But he??™ll know! He??™ll know!??? Casey cried, his voice high and whiny. ???So??? ???Remember how mad he got last time??? Casey asked. ???Of course I remember,??? Margaret replied. ???But he??™s not going to kill us, Casey, just because we took a peek at his plants. He??™s??”??? Margaret stopped. She moved closer to the screen door. ???Hey, wait.??? ???What??™s going on??? Casey asked. ???Hurry!??? Margaret turned and gestured with both hands. ???Go! Get downstairs??” fast! Mr. Henry from next door. He stopped Dad. They??™re talking about something in the drive.??? With a loud cry, Casey flung open the basement door and disappeared. Margaret heard him clumping rapidly down the stairs. Then she heard his footsteps fade as he hurried into their father??™s workroom. Hurry, Casey, she thought, standing guard at the front door, watching her father shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand as he talked with Mr. Henry. Hurry. You know Dad never talks for long with the neighbors. Mr. Henry seemed to be doing all the talking. Probably asking Dad some kind of favor, Margaret thought. Mr. Henry wasn??™t handy at all, not like Dr. Brewer. And so he was always asking Margaret??™s dad to come over and help repair or install things. Her father was nodding now, a tight smile on his face. Hurry, Casey. Get back up here. Where are you Still shielding his eyes, Dr. Brewer gave Mr. Henry a quick wave. Then both men spun around and began walking quickly toward their houses. Hurry, Casey. Casey??”he??™s coming! Hurry! Margaret urged silently. It doesn??™t take this long to pick your T-shirt up from the floor and run up the stairs. 14

It shouldn??™t take this long. Her dad was on the front walk now. He spotted her in the doorway and waved. Margaret returned the wave and looked back through the hallway to the basement door. ???Casey??”where are you??? she called aloud. No reply. No sound from the basement. No sound at all. Dr. Brewer had paused outside to inspect the rosebushes at the head of the front walk. ???Casey??? Margaret called. Still no reply. ???Casey??”hurry!??? Silence. Her father was crouching down, doing something to the soil beneath the rosebushes. With a feeling of dread weighing down her entire body, Margaret realized she had no choice. She had to go downstairs and see what was keeping Casey.

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Casey ran down the steps, leaning on the metal banister so that he could jump down two steps at a time. He landed hard on the cement basement floor and darted into the bright white light of the plant room. Stopping at the entrance way, he waited for his eyes to adjust to the brighter-thanday light. He took a deep breath, inhaling the steamy air, and held it. It was so hot down here, so sticky. His back began to itch. The back of his neck tingled. The jungle of plants stood as if at attention under the bright white lights. He saw his T-shirt, lying crumpled on the floor a few feet from a tall, leafy tree. The tree seemed to lean toward the T-shirt, its long tendrils hanging down, loosely coiled on the soil around its trunk. Casey took a timid step into the room. Why am I so afraid he wondered. It??™s just a room filled with strange plants. Why do I have the feeling that they??™re watching me Waiting for me He scolded himself for being so afraid and took a few more steps toward the crumpled T-shirt on the floor. Hey??”wait. The breathing. There it was again. Steady breathing. Not too loud. Not too soft, either. Who could be breathing What could be breathing Was the big tree breathing Casey stared at the shirt on the floor. So near. What was keeping him from grabbing it and running back upstairs What was holding him back He took a step forward. Then another. Was the breathing growing louder He jumped, startled by a sudden, low moan from the big supply closet against the wall. It sounded so human, as if someone were in there, moaning in pain. ???Casey??”where are you??? Margaret??™s voice sounded so far away, even though she was just at the head of the stairs. ???Okay so far,??? he called back to her. But his voice came out in a whisper. She probably couldn??™t hear him. He took another step. Another. The shirt was about three yards away. A quick dash. A quick dive, and he??™d have it. 16

Another low moan from the supply closet. A plant seemed to sigh. A tall fern suddenly dipped low, shifting its leaves. ???Casey??? He could hear his sister from upstairs, sounding very worried. ???Casey??”hurry!??? I??™m trying, he thought. I??™m trying to hurry. What was holding him back Another low moan, this time from the other side of the room. He took two more steps, then crouched low, his arms straight out in front of him. The shirt was almost within reach. He heard a groaning sound, then more breathing. He raised his eyes to the tall tree. The long, ropy tendrils had tensed. Stiffened. Or had he imagined it No. They had been drooping loosely. Now they were taut. Ready. Ready to grab him ???Casey??”hurry!??? Margaret called, sounding even farther away. He didn??™t answer. He was concentrating on the shirt. Just a few feet away. Just a few feet. Just a foot. The plant groaned again. ???Casey Casey??? The leaves quivered all the way up the trunk. Just a foot away. Almost in reach. ???Casey Are you okay Answer me!??? He grabbed the shirt. Two snakelike tendrils swung out at him. ???Huh??? he cried out, paralyzed with fear. ???What??™s happening??? The tendrils wrapped themselves around his waist. ???Let go!??? he cried, holding the T-shirt tightly in one hand, grabbing at the tendrils with the other. The tendrils hung on, and gently tightened around him. Margaret Casey tried calling, but no sound came out of his mouth. Margaret He jerked violently, then pulled straight ahead. The tendrils held on. They didn??™t squeeze him. They weren??™t trying to strangle him. Or pull him back. But they didn??™t let go. They felt warm and wet against his bare skin. Like animal arms. Not like a plant. Help! He again tried to shout. He pulled once more, leaning forward, using all his strength. No good. He ducked low, hit the floor, tried to roll away. The tendrils hung on. The plant uttered a loud sigh. ???Let go!??? Casey cried, finally finding his voice.

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And then suddenly Margaret was standing beside him. He hadn??™t heard her come down the stairs. He hadn??™t seen her enter the room. ???Casey!??? she cried. ???What??™s??”??? Her mouth dropped open and her eyes grew wide. ???It??”won??™t let go!??? he told her. ???No!??? she screamed. And grabbed one of the tendrils with both hands. And tugged with all her strength. The tendril resisted for only a moment, then went slack. Casey uttered a joyful cry and spun away from the remaining tendril. Margaret dropped the tendril and grabbed Casey??™s hand and began running toward the stairs. ???Oh!??? They both stopped short at the bottom of the stairway. Standing at the top was their father, glaring down at them, his hands balled into tight fists at his sides, his face rigid with anger.

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???Dad??”the plants!??? Margaret cried. He stared down at them, his eyes cold and angry, unblinking. He was silent. ???It grabbed Casey!??? Margaret told him. ???I just went down to get my shirt,??? Casey said, his voice trembling. They stared up at him expectantly, waiting for him to move, to unball his fists, to relax his hard expression, to speak. But he glared down at them for the longest time. Finally, he said, ???You??™re okay??? ???Yeah,??? they said in unison, both of them nodding. Margaret realized she was still holding Casey??™s hand. She let go of it and reached for the banister. ???I??™m very disappointed in you both,??? Dr. Brewer said in a low, flat voice, cool but not angry. ???Sorry,??? Margaret said. ???We knew we shouldn??™t??”??? ???We didn??™t touch anything. Really!??? Casey exclaimed. ???Very disappointed,??? their father repeated. ???Sorry, Dad.??? Dr. Brewer motioned for them to come upstairs, then he stepped into the hallway. ???I thought he was going to yell at us,??? Casey whispered to Margaret as he followed her up the steps. ???That??™s not Dad??™s style,??? Margaret whispered back. ???He sure yelled at us the last time we started into the basement,??? Casey replied. They followed their father into the kitchen. He motioned for them to sit down at the white Formica table, then dropped into a chair across from them. His eyes went from one to the other, as if studying them, as if seeing them for the first time. His expression was totally flat, almost robotlike, revealing no emotion at all. ???Dad, what??™s with those plants??? Casey asked. ???What do you mean??? Dr. Brewer asked. ???They??™re??”so weird,??? Casey said. ???I??™ll explain them to you some day,??? he said flatly, still staring at the two of them. ???It looks very interesting,??? Margaret said, struggling to say the right thing. Was their dad trying to make them feel uncomfortable she wondered. If so, he was doing a good job of it. This wasn??™t like him. Not at all. He was always a very direct person, Margaret thought. If he was angry, he said he was angry. If he was upset, he??™d tell them he was upset.

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So why was he acting so strange, so silent, so??¦ cold ???I asked you not to go in the basement,??? he said quietly, crossing his legs and leaning back so that the kitchen chair tilted back on two legs. ???I thought I made it clear.??? Margaret and Casey glanced at each other. Finally, Margaret said, ???We won??™t do it again.??? ???But can??™t you take us down there and tell us what you??™re doing??? Casey asked. He still hadn??™t put the T-shirt on. He was holding it in a ball between his hands on the kitchen table. ???Yeah. We??™d really like to understand it,??? Margaret added enthusiastically. ???Some day,??? their father said. He returned the chair to all four legs and then stood up. ???We??™ll do it soon, okay??? He raised his arms above his head and stretched. ???I??™ve got to get back to work.??? He disappeared into the front hallway. Casey raised his eyes to Margaret and shrugged. Their father reappeared carrying the lab coat he had tossed over the front banister. ???Mom got off okay??? Margaret asked. He nodded. ???I guess.??? He pulled on the lab coat over his head. ???I hope Aunt Eleanor is okay,??? Margaret said. Dr. Brewer??™s reply was muffled as he adjusted the lab coat and straightened the collar. ???Later,??? he said. He disappeared into the hallway. They heard him shut the basement door behind him. ???I guess he??™s not going to ground us or anything for going down there,??? Margaret said, leaning against the table and resting her chin in her hands. ???I guess,??? Casey said. ???He sure is acting??¦ weird.??? ???Maybe he??™s upset because Mom is gone,??? Margaret said. She sat up and gave Casey a push. ???Come on. Get up. I??™ve got work to do.??? ???I can??™t believe that plant grabbed me,??? Casey said thoughtfully, not budging. ???You don??™t have to push,??? Casey griped, but he climbed to his feet and stepped out of Margaret??™s way. ???I??™m going to have bad dreams tonight,??? he said glumly. ???Just don??™t think about the basement,??? Margaret advised. That??™s really lame advice, she told herself. But what else could she say She went up to her room, thinking about how she missed her mother already. Then the scene in the basement with Casey trying to pull himself free of the enormous, twining plant tendrils played once again through her mind. With a shudder, she grabbed her textbook and threw herself onto her stomach on the bed, prepared to read. But the words on the page blurred as the moaning, breathing plants kept creeping back into her thoughts. At least we??™re not being punished for going down there, she thought. At least Dad didn??™t yell and frighten us this time. And at least Dad has promised to take us downstairs with him soon and explain to us what he??™s working on down there. That thought made Margaret feel a lot better.

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She felt better until the next morning when she awoke early and went downstairs to make some breakfast. To her surprise, her father was already at work, the basement door was shut tight, and a lock had been installed on the door. The next Saturday afternoon, Margaret was up in her room, lying on top of the bed, talking to her mom on the phone. ???I??™m really sorry about Aunt Eleanor,??? she said, twisting the white phone cord around her wrist. ???The surgery didn??™t go as well as expected,??? her mother said, sounding very tired. ???The doctors say she may have to have more surgery. But they have to build up her strength first.??? ???I guess this means you won??™t be coming home real soon,??? Margaret said sadly. Mrs. Brewer laughed. ???Don??™t tell me you actually miss me!??? ???Well??¦ yes,??? Margaret admitted. She raised her eyes to the bedroom window. Two sparrows had landed outside on the window ledge and were chattering excitedly, distracting Margaret, making it hard to hear her mother over the crackling line from Tucson. ???How??™s your father doing??? Mrs. Brewer asked. ???I spoke to him last night, but he only grunted.??? ???He doesn??™t even grunt to us!??? Margaret complained. She held her hand over her ear to drown out the chattering birds. ???He hardly says a word.??? ???He??™s working really hard,??? Mrs. Brewer replied. In the background, Margaret could hear some kind of loudspeaker announcement. Her mother was calling from a pay phone at the hospital. ???He never comes out of the basement,??? Margaret complained, a little more bitterly than she had intended. ???Your father??™s experiments are very important to him,??? her mother said. ???More important than we are??? Margaret cried. She hated the whiny tone in her voice. She wished she hadn??™t started complaining about her dad over the phone. Her mother had enough to worry about at the hospital. Margaret knew she shouldn??™t make her feel even worse. ???Your dad has a lot to prove,??? Mrs. Brewer said. ???To himself, and to others. I think he??™s working so hard because he wants to prove to Mr. Martinez and the others at the university that they were wrong to fire him. He wants to show them that they made a big mistake.??? ???But we used to see him more before he was home all the time!??? Margaret complained. She could hear her mother sigh impatiently. ???Margaret, I??™m trying to explain to you. You??™re old enough to understand.??? ???I??™m sorry,??? Margaret said quickly. She decided to change the subject. ???He??™s wearing a baseball cap all of a sudden.??? ???Who Casey??? ???No, Mom,??? Margaret replied. ???Dad. He??™s wearing a Dodgers cap. He never takes it off.??? ???Really??? Mrs. Brewer sounded very surprised.

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Margaret laughed. ???We told him he looks really dorky in it, but he refuses to take it off.??? Mrs. Brewer laughed, too. ???Uh-oh. I??™m being called,??? she said. ???Got to run. Take care, dear. I??™ll try to call back later.??? A click, and she was gone. Margaret stared up at the ceiling, watching shadows from trees in the front yard move back and forth. The sparrows had flown away, leaving silence behind. Poor Mom, Margaret thought. She??™s so worried about her sister, and I had to go and complain about Dad. Why did I do that She sat up, listening to the silence. Casey was over at a friend??™s. Her dad was no doubt working in the basement, the door carefully locked behind him. Maybe I??™ll give Diane a call, Margaret thought. She reached for the phone, then realized she was hungry. Lunch first, she decided. Then Diane. She brushed her dark hair quickly, shaking her head at the mirror over her dressing table, then hurried downstairs. To her surprise, her dad was in the kitchen. He was huddled over the sink, his back to her. She started to call out to him, but stopped. What was he doing Curious, she pressed against the wall, gazing at him through the doorway to the kitchen. Dr. Brewer appeared to be eating something. With one hand, he was holding a bag on the counter beside the sink. As Margaret watched in surprise, he dipped his hand into the bag, pulled out a big handful of something, and shoved it into his mouth. Margaret watched him chew hungrily, noisily, then pull out another handful from the bag and eat it greedily. What on earth is he eating she wondered. He never eats with Casey and me. He always says he isn??™t hungry. But he sure is hungry now! He acts as if he??™s starving! She watched from the doorway as Dr. Brewer continued to grab handful after handful from the bag, gulping down his solitary meal. After a while, he crinkled up the bag and tossed it into the trash can under the sink. Then he wiped his hands off on the sides of his white lab coat. Margaret quickly backed away from the door, tiptoed through the hall and ducked into the living room. She held her breath as her father came into the hall, clearing his throat loudly. The basement door closed behind him. She heard him carefully lock it. When she was sure that he had gone downstairs, Margaret walked eagerly into the kitchen. She had to know what her father had been eating so greedily, so hungrily. She pulled open the sink cabinet, reached into the trash, and pulled out the crinkled-up bag. Then she gasped aloud as her eyes ran over the label. Her father, she saw, had been devouring plant food.

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8

Margaret swallowed hard. Her mouth felt dry as cotton. She suddenly realized she was squeezing the side of the counter so tightly, her hand ached. Forcing herself to loosen her grip, she stared down at the half-empty plant food bag, which she had dropped onto the floor. She felt sick. She couldn??™t get the disgusting picture out of her mind. How could her dad eat mud He didn??™t just eat it, she realized. He shoveled it into his mouth and gulped it down. As if he liked it. As if he needed it. Eating the plant food had to be part of his experiments, Margaret told herself. But what kind of experiments What was he trying to prove with those strange plants he was growing The stuff inside the bag smelled sour, like fertilizer. Margaret took a deep breath and held it. She suddenly felt sick to her stomach. Staring at the bag, she couldn??™t help but imagine what the disgusting muck inside must taste like. Ohh. She nearly gagged. How could her own father shove this horrid stuff into his mouth Still holding her breath, she grabbed the nearly empty bag, wadded it up, and tossed it back into the trash. She started to turn away from the counter when a hand grabbed her shoulder. Margaret uttered a silent cry and spun around. ???Casey!??? ???I??™m home,??? he said, grinning at her. ???What??™s for lunch??? Later, after making him a peanut butter sandwich, she told Casey what she had seen. Casey laughed. ???It isn??™t funny,??? she said crossly. ???Our own dad was eating dirt.??? Casey laughed again. For some reason, it struck him funny. Margaret punched him hard on the shoulder, so hard that he dropped his sandwich. ???Sorry,??? she said quickly, ???but I don??™t see what you??™re laughing at. It??™s sick! There??™s something wrong with Dad. Something really wrong.??? ???Maybe he just had a craving for plant food,??? Casey cracked, still not taking her seriously. ???You know. Like you get a craving for those honey-roasted peanuts.??? ???That??™s different,??? Margaret snapped. ???Eating dirt is disgusting. Why won??™t you admit it???

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But before Casey could reply, Margaret continued, letting all of her unhappiness out at once. ???Don??™t you see Dad has changed. A lot. Even since Mom has been gone. He spends even more time in the basement??”??? ???That??™s because Mom isn??™t around,??? Casey interrupted. ???And he??™s so quiet all the time and so cold to us,??? Margaret continued, ignoring him. ???He hardly says a word to us. He used to kid around all the time and ask us about our homework. He never says a human word. He never calls me Princess or Fatso the way he used to. He never??”??? ???You hate those names, Fatso,??? Casey said, giggling with a mouthful of peanut butter. ???I know,??? Margaret said impatiently. ???That??™s just an example.??? ???So what are you trying to say??? Casey asked. ???That Dad is out of his tree That he??™s gone totally bananas??? ???I??”I don??™t know,??? Margaret answered in frustration. ???Watching him gulp down that disgusting plant food, I??”I had this horrible thought that he??™s turning into a plant!??? Casey jumped up, causing his chair to scrape back across the floor. He began staggering around the kitchen, zombielike, his eyes closed, his arms stretched out stiffly in front of him. ???I am The Incredible Plant Man!??? he declared, trying to make his voice sound bold and deep. ???Not funny,??? Margaret insisted, crossing her arms over her chest, refusing to be amused. ???Plant Man versus Weed Woman!??? Casey declared, staggering toward Margaret. ???Not funny,??? she repeated. He bumped into the counter, banging his knee. ???Ow!??? ???Serves you right,??? Margaret said. ???Plant Man kills!??? he cried, and rushed at her. He ran right into her, using his head as a battering ram against her shoulder. ???Casey??”will you stop it!??? she screamed. ???Give me a break!??? ???Okay, okay.??? He backed off. ???If you??™ll do me one favor.??? ???What favor??? Margaret asked, rolling her eyes. ???Make me another sandwich.??? Monday afternoon after school, Margaret, Casey, and Diane were tossing a Frisbee back and forth in Diane??™s backyard. It was a warm, breezy day, the sky dotted with small, puffy white clouds. Diane tossed the disc high. It sailed over Casey??™s head into the row of fragrant lemon trees that stretched from behind the clapboard garage. Casey went running after it and tripped over an in-ground sprinkler that poked up just an inch above the lawn. Both girls laughed. Casey, on the run, flung the Frisbee toward Margaret. She reached for it, but the breeze sent it sailing from her hand. ???What??™s it like to have a mad scientist for a dad??? Diane asked suddenly. ???What??? Margaret wasn??™t sure she heard right. 24

???Don??™t just stand there. Throw it!??? Casey urged from beside the garage. Margaret tossed the Frisbee high in the air in her brother??™s general direction. He liked to run and make diving catches. ???Just because he??™s doing strange experiments doesn??™t mean he??™s a mad scientist,??? Margaret said sharply. ???Strange is right,??? Diane said, her expression turning serious. ???I had a nightmare last night about those gross plants in your basement. They were crying and reaching for me.??? ???Sorry,??? Margaret said sincerely. ???I??™ve had nightmares, too.??? ???Look out!??? Casey cried. He tossed a low one that Diane caught around her ankles. Mad scientist, Margaret thought. Mad scientist. Mad scientist. The words kept repeating in her mind. Mad scientists were only in the movies??”right ???My dad was talking about your dad the other night,??? Diane said, flipping the disc to Casey. ???You didn??™t tell him about??”going down in the basement Did you??? Margaret asked anxiously. ???No,??? Diane replied, shaking her head. ???Hey, are these lemons ripe??? Casey asked, pointing at one of the low trees. ???Why don??™t you suck one to find out??? Margaret snapped, annoyed that he kept interrupting. ???Why don??™t you??? he predictably shot back. ???My dad said that your dad was fired from PolyTech because his experiments got out of control, and he wouldn??™t stop them,??? Diane confided. She ran along the smooth, closely cropped grass, chasing down the Frisbee. ???What do you mean??? Margaret asked. ???The university told him he had to stop whatever it was he was doing, and he refused. He said he couldn??™t stop. At least that??™s what my dad heard from a guy who came into the salesroom.??? Margaret hadn??™t heard this story. It made her feel bad, but she thought it was probably true. ???Something really bad happened in your dad??™s lab,??? Diane continued. ???Someone got really hurt or killed or something.??? ???That??™s not true,??? Margaret insisted. ???We would??™ve heard if that happened.??? ???Yeah. Probably,??? Diane admitted. ???But my dad said your dad was fired because he refused to stop his experiments.??? ???Well, that doesn??™t make him a mad scientist,??? Margaret said defensively. She suddenly felt she had to stick up for her father. She wasn??™t sure why. ???I??™m just telling you what I heard,??? Diane said, brusquely tossing back her red hair. ???You don??™t have to bite my head off.??? They played for a few more minutes. Diane changed the subject and talked about some kids they knew who were eleven but were going steady. Then they talked about school for a while.

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???Time to go,??? Margaret called to Casey. He picked the Frisbee up from the lawn and came running over. ???Call you later,??? Margaret told Diane, giving her a little wave. Then she and Casey began to jog home, cutting through familiar backyards. ???We need a lemon tree,??? Casey said as they slowed to a walk. ???They??™re cool.??? ???Oh, yeah,??? Margaret replied sarcastically. ???That??™s just what we need at our house. Another plant!??? As they stepped through the hedges into their backyard, they were both surprised to see their dad. He was standing at the rose trellis examining clusters of pink roses. ???Hey, Dad!??? Casey called. ???Catch!??? He tossed the Frisbee to his father. Dr. Brewer turned around a little too slowly. The Frisbee glanced off his head, knocking the Dodgers cap off. His mouth opened wide in surprise. He raised his hands to cover his head. But it was too late. Margaret and Casey both shrieked in surprise as they saw his head. At first, Margaret thought her father??™s hair had turned green. But then she clearly saw that it wasn??™t hair on his scalp. His hair was gone. It had all fallen out. In place of hair, Dr. Brewer had bright green leaves sprouting from his head.

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9

???Kids??”it??™s okay!??? Dr. Brewer called. He bent down quickly, picked up the baseball cap, and replaced it on his head. A crow flew low overhead, cawing loudly. Margaret raised her eyes to follow the bird, but the sight of the hideous leaves sprouting from her father??™s head wouldn??™t go away. Her whole head began to itch as she imagined what it must feel like to have leaves uncurling from your scalp. ???It??™s okay. Really,??? Dr. Brewer repeated, hurrying over to them. ???But, Dad??”your head,??? Casey stammered. He suddenly looked very pale. Margaret felt sick. She kept swallowing hard, trying to ride out the waves of nausea. ???Come here, you two,??? their father said softly, putting an arm around each of their shoulders. ???Let??™s sit down in the shade over there and have a talk. I spoke to your mom on the phone this morning. She told me you??™re upset about my work.??? ???Your head??”it??™s all green!??? Casey repeated. ???I know,??? Dr. Brewer said, smiling. ???That??™s why I put on the cap. I didn??™t want you two to worry.??? He led them to the shade of the tall hedges that ran along the garage, and they sat down on the grass. ???I guess you two think your dad has gotten pretty weird, huh??? He stared into Margaret??™s eyes. Feeling uncomfortable, she looked away. Cawing frantically, the crow flew over again, heading in the other direction. ???Margaret, you haven??™t said a word,??? her father said, squeezing her hand tenderly between his. ???What??™s wrong What do you want to say to me??? Margaret sighed and still avoided her father??™s glance. ???Come on. Tell us. Why do you have leaves growing out of your head??? she asked bluntly. ???It??™s a side effect,??? he told her, continuing to hold her hand. ???It??™s only temporary. It??™ll go away soon and my hair will grow back.??? ???But how did it happen??? Casey asked, staring at his father??™s Dodgers cap. A few green leaves poked out from under the brim. ???Maybe you two would feel better if I explained what I??™m trying to do down in the basement,??? Dr. Brewer said, shifting his weight and leaning back on his hands. ???I??™ve been so wrapped up in my experiments, I haven??™t had much time to talk to you.??? ???You haven??™t had any time,??? Margaret corrected him. ???I??™m sorry,??? he said, lowering his eyes. ???I really am. But this work I??™m doing is so exciting and so difficult.???

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???Did you discover a new kind of plant??? Casey asked, crossing his legs beneath him. ???No, I??™m trying to build a new kind of plant,??? Dr. Brewer explained. ???Huh??? Casey exclaimed. ???Have you ever talked about DNA in school??? their father asked. They shook their heads. ???Well, it??™s pretty complicated,??? he continued. Dr. Brewer thought for a moment. ???Let me try and put it in simple terms,??? he said, fiddling with the bandage around his hand. ???Let??™s say we took a person who had a very high IQ. You know. Real brain power.??? ???Like me,??? Casey interrupted. ???Casey, shut up,??? Margaret said edgily. ???A real brain. Like Casey,??? Dr. Brewer said agreeably. ???And let??™s say we were able to isolate the molecule or gene or tiny part of a gene that enabled the person to have such high intelligence. And then let??™s say we were able to transmit it into other brains. And then this brain power could be passed along from generation to generation. And lots of people would have a high IQ. Do you understand??? He looked first at Casey, then at Margaret. ???Yeah. Kind of,??? Margaret said. ???You take a good quality from one person and put it into other people. And then they have the good quality, too, and they pass it on to their children, and on and on.??? ???Very good,??? Dr. Brewer said, smiling for the first time in weeks. ???That??™s what a lot of botanists do with plants. They try to take the fruit-bearing building block from one plant and put it into another. Create a new plant that will bear five times as much fruit, or five times as much grain, or vegetables.??? ???And that??™s what you??™re doing??? Casey asked. ???Not exactly,??? their father said, lowering his voice. ???I??™m doing something a little more unusual. I really don??™t want to go into detail now. But I??™ll tell you that what I??™m trying to do is build a kind of plant that has never existed and could never exist. I??™m trying to build a plant that??™s part animal.??? Casey and Margaret stared at their father in surprise. Margaret was the first to speak. ???You mean you??™re taking cells from an animal and putting them into a plant??? He nodded. ???I really don??™t want to say more. You two understand why this must be kept secret.??? He turned his eyes on Margaret, then Casey, studying their reactions. ???How do you do it??? Margaret asked, thinking hard about everything he had just told them. ???How do you get these cells from the animals to the plant??? ???I??™m trying to do it by breaking them down electronically,??? he answered. ???I have two glass booths connected by a powerful electron generator. You may have seen them when you were snooping around down there.??? He made a sour face. ???Yeah. They look like phone booths,??? Casey said. ???One booth is a sender, and one is a receiver,??? he explained. ???I??™m trying to send the right DNA, the right building blocks, from one booth to the other. It??™s very delicate work.??? ???And have you done it??? Margaret asked. ???I??™ve come very close,??? Dr. Brewer said, a pleased smile crossing his face. The smile lasted only a few seconds. Then, his expression thoughtful, he abruptly climbed

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to his feet. ???Got to get back to work,??? he said quietly. ???See you two later.??? He started walking across the lawn, taking long strides. ???But, Dad,??? Margaret called after him. She and Casey climbed to their feet, too. ???Your head. The leaves. You didn??™t explain it,??? she said as she and her brother hurried to catch up to him. Dr. Brewer shrugged. ???Nothing to explain,??? he said curtly. ???Just a side effect.??? He adjusted his Dodgers cap. ???Don??™t worry about it. It??™s only temporary. Just a side effect.??? Then he hurried into the house. Casey seemed really pleased by their dad??™s explanation of what was going on in the basement. ???Dad??™s doing really important work,??? he said, with unusual seriousness. But, as Margaret made her way into the house, she found herself troubled by what her dad had said. And even more troubled by what he hadn??™t said. Margaret closed the door to her room and lay down on the bed to think about things. Her father hadn??™t really explained the leaves growing on his head. ???Just a side effect??? didn??™t explain much at all. A side effect from what What actually caused it What made his hair fall out When will his hair grow back It was obvious that he hadn??™t wanted to discuss it with them. He had certainly hurried back to his basement after telling them it was just a side effect. A side effect. It made Margaret feel sick every time she thought about it. What must it feel like Green leaves pushing up from your pores, uncurling against your head. Yuck. Thinking about it made her itch all over. She knew she??™d have hideous dreams tonight. She grabbed her pillow and hugged it over her stomach, wrapping her arms tightly around it. There were lots of other questions Casey and I should have asked, she decided. Like, why were the plants moaning down there Why did some of them sound like they were breathing Why did that plant grab Casey What animal was Dad using Lots of questions. Not to mention the one Margaret wanted to ask most of all: Why were you gulping down that disgusting plant food But she couldn??™t ask that one. She couldn??™t let her dad know she??™d been spying on him. She and Casey hadn??™t really asked any of the questions they??™d wanted answered. They were just so p

Chili Fest Folks

SOC 101
Journal Writing Assignment One

Today is Saturday and it??™s a typical Michigan winter day, some clouds in the sky, a bit windy, light snow, cold but not unbearable. We, my 3 teen daughters and I, are at the Chilly Fest in Pt. Huron. This event is being held both indoors and outside at the McMorran Place. There are all different age groups here but I did notice many families grouped together enjoying the activities. The first thing we did was head indoors to find the Chili Cook Off. We encountered this huge line of people all crowded together. I did not know what the line was for but got in it just in case it was something fun to do. I observed that the people around me were not smiling and in fact looked a bit upset. After a few minutes the girls pointed out to me that I had cut in line, the line went much further back. This was not very observant on my part and I removed myself from the line. I now understood what all the unhappy faces were for! What I wondered is why most people just don??™t politely say something like Ma??™am I??™m sorry but you must not have noticed the end of line is back there. Are people too uncomfortable or shy to point out this small injustice, wouldn??™t that be easier then standing there silently fuming. We have now found the chili. There are 15 restaurants competing for your attention and all happily handing out samples of their chili. I watched different individuals as they took the chili, some were quiet or shy about it and would take the sample and walk away, while others stood there eating it and chatting with the cooks. There were approximately 10 round tables set up and they were all filled. What struck me was how many people were just sitting there with their family members (or so it looked) but not talking with each other, just gazing off in to space. It could be due to the big loud crowd, I am not sure. There were a few couples or small groups standing around drinking a beer or some other beverage engaging in conversation and seemingly having a good time, laughing, touching an arm and paying attention to each other. Now that we have had our fill of chili we head outdoors. The first thing we do is go stand in line for the horse wagon ride. I notice a blind man standing off to the side talking to himself. He was a bit dirty and ragged and the group was ignoring him. The couples were huddling together and the smaller children were rolling in a pile of snow. I waited for someone to talk to him but no one did. After approximately 10 minutes I did move over to him and listened to what he had to say and talked with him. This lasted through the ride. He did say how he couldn??™t wait to go get some chili and I noticed that it looked as though he had already had some. There was chili on the tip of his nose and drippings down his white coat. I helped him off the wagon and we went our separate ways. The wind was picking up and the crowds were thinning out. After a couple of more activities we headed to the Maritime Center on the St. Clair River for some hot chocolate and a doughnut.
After ordering the hot chocolates I told the girls they could have any doughnut they wanted and watched them to see how they would decide. They all went for the size of the doughnut. They didn??™t even consider the small doughnuts. The ones they picked were so big I told the girls we could use them as rafts out on the river! When the worker handed me the hot chocolates they were plain. I asked if she had any whipped cream. She said sure and then also decided to add some decorative sprinkles. It was a much better presentation! When we sat down I noticed a couple of people ordering hot chocolate and she offered them the whipped cream and said she had gotten some nice sprinkles in and would they like some She must have observed our happy faces. The center was peaceful and relaxing. There was one couple sitting close together drinking coffee and looking at something on their laptop. There were a few people alone reading a book. I wonder if the river has something to do with the warm calm atmosphere inside. One elderly gentleman did stop at our table on his way out. He commented on how he had raised 5 daughters and that is why his hair was white. We chatted for a bit and he was on his way. It is my impression that many people are just looking for someone to listen to them. All you have to do is glance at them and smile and usually a conversation will follow.