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It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and his book:
Zonderkidz (April 1, 2008)
Rob West doesn't just write about tree ships. He sometimes retreats to write in the flying ship he built in his own back yard--it's the only place he can escape his wife, three sons (and their cronies), two dogs, three cats, two doves . . . and, when she chooses to drop in out of the sky, a duck!
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $4.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (April 1, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Beamer was an alien. He wasn’t a ten-legged slime bag with fourteen eyes, unless, of course, you believed his big sister. Still, Beamer was an alien — no question about it. He didn’t belong here. He couldn’t even breathe here.
His mom said it was just the humidity. Sure! Methane was more like it! When they found his shriveled, oxygen-deprived body, they’d be sorry.
Now he’d been sent to some place called a cellar — clearly an alien environment. Nobody in California had a cellar.
Beyond the small pool of murky light at the foot of the steps, a heavy gloom spread out across the room like a fog bank. He stepped down from the last creaking step. “Hey!” he yelped, recoiling back up the step. “What is this stuff?”
He kneeled down to test the floor with his fingers. Weird, man . . . spongy, like maybe it wasn’t a floor at all but something alive, like a tongue for something with a digestive system!
Dust was what it really was — several years’ buildup. Beamer stepped down again hesitantly, sending a puff of it into the air. The wind outside picked up, rattling the high, grime-coated windows. The structure above him creaked and groaned like a cranky old woman.
Then something scritched and scratched. He turned . . . and froze!
It was huge, with tentacles attached to a disgustingly bloated body. Not a second too soon, Beamer dived to the floor to avoid a twisted tentacle reaching over his head.
Now, point-blank in front of him, was a large bin of shiny, black rocks — no doubt the shrunken, dehydrated remains of creatures the beast had already devoured.
Beamer scooted back frantically on all fours. At the same moment, a high whining sound came from behind. He lurched to his feet and whirled around, bumping into a cart, which sped rapidly away. Suddenly he was pelted in the face by a strangely filmy object. A moment later he was wrestling with an entire barrage of filmy, flimsy, smelly things.
Aiiii! Germ warfare! his mind screamed.
There was a screech. “Yiiiii!” Beamer yelped, as a small creature flashed by. It leapt to a table and fled through a break in a window.
Beamer shot up the steps like a missile and blew through a door into a short hallway. He slammed the door behind him and leaned against the opposite wall, breathing heavily.
“Mother!” A shrill voice from upstairs brought him spinning around in panic. “Did you know they’ve got a vacuum laundry chute up here?” The voice continued. “Shoots clothes down to the basement like spit wads!”
Beamer’s mother stood in the entryway wearing tattered, cut-off overalls and a tool belt. “Well, at least something works around here. Beamer!” she exclaimed in amazement, “What are you wearing on your ear?”
“Huh?” Beamer removed a pair of girl’s underwear from his left ear — Vacuum laundry chute? Whoever heard of a vacuum laundry chute? — and threw them down disgustedly.
“Hey, Mom!” the shrill voice called again. “I can’t find my pink Nikes.” It was Beamer’s big sister, Erin. At fourteen going on fifteen, she was God’s self-proclaimed gift to the ninth grade. Of course, that was back in Katunga Beach. Middleton was a whole new ball game.
That’s what this alien world was called — Middleton — a middle-sized city in a middle-sized state, smack dab in the middle of Middle America — a thousand miles from the nearest beach!
Only a week ago, Beamer was hanging out in a cool, high-rolling suburb of L.A. on the cutting edge of the early teen set. Now he was carting boxes around a broken-down house in a prehistoric neighborhood on an ancient street probably named for somebody’s dog. Murphy Street. It certainly wasn’t Shadow Beach Lane.
Beamer scrunched up his nose. The house even smelled old — as in fossilized. The discovery of an electrical outlet had been a great relief. He wasn’t sure Xbox came in a windup version.
He banged through the screen door onto the front porch and picked up another carton. His mother was standing there, holding a scraggly plant in a pig-shaped pot.
The lady realtor who had given it to her was bustling toward her car, her mouth on auto-speak. “If you run into anything unusual,” she called, “don’t panic. I’m sure it’s not dangerous. The previous residents were . . . uh . . . different — scientists or rock singers or something — but harmless. Anyway, just call if you have a question.”
“I will,” Beamer’s mother responded absently, still looking in bewilderment at the ugly pot.
Beamer looked at the ramshackle porch swing and the peeling paint around the windows. Rock singers in this dive? Who did she think she was kidding? Then again, that same lady had managed to sell this overgrown pile of bricks to his otherwise genetically superior parents.
Beamer MacIntyre shifted the box in his arms, pried open the screen door with his pinkie, and spun through into the house. The antique door immediately fell off its hinges. Mrs. MacIntyre, or Dr. Mac, as her kiddie patients called her, groaned and pulled a screwdriver from her tool belt.
Beamer trudged slowly up the staircase with his load. “Move, you dunderhead,” his sister growled as she pounded down past him like an avalanche. “Mother, isn’t this place air-conditioned? I’m about to die!”
“It’s the humidity, honey,” her mother answered. “You’ll get used to it.”
“Mo-o-o-o-ommm!” Erin wailed, charging into the crate-littered living room. “D’you mean there’s no air-conditioning?!”
“No, I mean you’ll get used to the humidity,” Dr. Mac replied. “Air-conditioning is being installed — one for upstairs and one for downstairs. Your father is out arranging things now. Last I heard the downstairs one will be working tomorrow.”
“What about the upstairs one?” Erin asked with a shrill note of panic.
“Uhm . . . not for a couple of weeks, I’m afraid.”
“Weeks!!! So I’m supposed to wake up every morning with my hair dripping? That does it; I can’t start school — not ’til the air conditioner’s working.”
“Calm down, honey,” her mother said. “Your hair always looks just fine. I’m more concerned about whether that oversized octopus of a coal-burning, water-heating furnace in the basement will keep us warm in winter.”
Octopus? Furnace?! Beamer cast a glance down at the basement door, his cheeks picking up a definite reddish glow. Oh great! So I had a battle with a furnace! What were those little black things then? At least nobody saw me . . . I hope.
“Now go finish unpacking. I’m sure your shoes will show up,” Dr. Mac said, turning her daughter around and pointing her back up the steps. “Go on.”
Erin groaned and lumbered up the staircase, then accelerated past Beamer to the top. She triumphantly stuck her tongue out at him and yanked open a door.
Beamer finally reached the second floor. Straight ahead was a wide but short hallway with two doors on the left and one on the right that opened into bedrooms. Immediately to the right of the staircase was a short, narrow hallway that led to the upstairs bathroom and a spare bedroom beyond. He kicked open the door to his room — the second one on the left — and promptly tripped over something in the doorway. “Oomph!” he gasped as he and the box’s contents simultaneously thudded to the floor.
Groaning, he propped himself up to see the spilled items strewn, like a comet’s tail, across the floor toward the tall, twin front windows. Through a window he noticed clouds gathering above the rooftops. Back in L.A. we had rain programmed down to just one season a year. Here I am, two time zones and half a continent away from home. “Marooned in Middle America,” he moaned out loud. “I’d rather be on Mars.”
Suddenly a blood-curdling scream shook the windows. It sounded like his big sister was in trouble, which meant it also sounded like fun. He charged into the hallway and saw a door that he hadn’t noticed before that was nestled in that narrow hall next to the main staircase. The door was now open, revealing a narrow set of steps going up. He careened up the stairs and saw Erin standing off to the side, frozen in place, eyes glazed over like she’d been zapped with a stun gun.
“Hey, Erin, what’s the matter?” he taunted her. “See an itsy-bitsy — ” Then he saw it. “Awesome!” he gasped.
Their nine-year-old brother, Michael, clattered up the stairs on his hands and feet like a cocker spaniel, followed by their mom, who was tightly gripping a vicious-looking broom. They too caught Erin’s freeze-dried expression and tracked along her sight line.