Read an Excerpt
Done. Finished. Ready to test.
Randy O'Rourke stood back to admire his latest invention. The black box on his bedroom floor was two feet high and three feet long with a hinged lid. It looked like an ordinary box, but it wasn't.
It was a Ditto Box.
Randy grabbed the receiver off the old crank phone that he'd rescued from the junkyard. The phone was hooked up to Jacob Silverman's house next door. Each crank of the handle made the bell ring in Jake's bedroom. On the third ring, he would answer. Cr-rank.
Randy's three-year-old sister barged through the door. "Play with me," Suzy whined.
"What are you doing in here?" Randy hung up the phone. When he was inventing, no one was allowed in his room. There was a black and yellow sign on his door. Suzy couldn't read, but she knew it said KEEP OUT.
"I can't play. I'm working. I have to test my new invention."
"Bad brother sent old 'vention away!" Suzy stomped her foot. "Brain Man used to play with me."
"I didn't send Brain away. He went to Future World on his own. He wanted to live with other robots. I miss Brain too, but he's happier there."
"I not happy," Suzy said. "I mad."
Suzy had blue eyes and blonde curls. She looked like a skinny version of Shirley Temple, the child movie star that their mother loved. Only Shirley smiled all the time, and Suzy frowned and whimpered most of the time. Mom and Dad said she was going through "the whiny-threes."
"Yo, Randy." Jacob Silverman stuck his head through the door. "Your mom said I'd find you upstairs."
"Go away," Suzy said. "Randy can't play."
"Neither can you," Jake said. "Your mom says it's time for yournap."
"Not sleepy," Suzy said. But she left, crying and dragging her doll by one leg.
"Way to go!" Randy slapped hands with his best friend.
"My phone rang, but only once. The KEEP OUT sign is still up, but your door's open. I'm getting mixed signals," Jake said. "What's happening? Is your new invention finished or not?"
Randy stepped out in the hall and took down the sign. Then he bowed to Jake and waved him toward the black box.
Jake circled the box, studying it. He opened the lid and looked in. "Empty," he said, looking disappointed. "What is this thing, anyway?"
"A special kind of copying machine. I call it a Ditto Box."
Jake lifted the lid again. "What goes inside?"
"Whatever you want to copy." Randy's homework lay on his desk. His mother made him do it right after school. He chose a paper he'd finished. "Done your math yet?" he asked, waving it under Jake's nose.
"Watch." Randy hadn't tried the new machine, but he felt sure it would work. Opening the box, he laid the paper inside and shut the lid.
"You lay a paper on top of most copying machines," Jake said.
"This isn't most copying machines." Randy pushed a red button.
The box made a humming sound. A rainbow of light shone through the lid.
Jake gasped. "The box is made of heavy wood. How can the light--"
"Who said that?" Jake gasped, looking behind him.
Grinning, Randy handed him the math. "What difference does it make? Your homework is done."
"Wow!" Jacob grabbed the paper. "It works great! But why did you make the box so big? No paper is that large."
"Who says the Ditto Box is just for papers? Run home and get your new ball glove."
"My ball glove?" Jake stared at him. "You're going to copy my new ball glove?"
Randy nodded, and Jake grinned. "You love that thing, don't you?"
Without waiting for an answer, he left.
Randy watched from his upstairs window.
Jake's black hair whipped around his head in the breeze as he ran across the lawn to his house. Randy had asked his folks for a new glove just like Jake's. Mom and Dad said his old one was good for another season. Maybe it was, but Jake's glove was soft as pie, and the leather smelled good. It would take Randy until Christmas to save enough money to buy one.
He saw Jacob come out of his house and run back across the yard.
He pounded up the stairs. "Quiet," Mrs. O'Rourke called. "Suzy is trying to sleep."
"Sorry," Jake yelled. Ducking into Randy's room, he handed him the mitt. "Here. Do your stuff."
Randy laid the mitt inside the box and closed the lid. He pushed the red button. It hummed. A rainbow of lights flashed. Ditto, a voice said.
"My glove is done." Randy's voice shook. His green eyes sparkled.
"Let me see!" Jake jerked the lid open. "Hey! My glove's the only one in here."
Randy grinned. "Don't worry. Mine's right...here." A new glove slid out the end of the Ditto Box. Picking it up, he smelled the leather. "Mm," he said blissfully.
"Awesome," Jake said. "That copying machine is really something."
"Yeah." Randy doubled his fist and pounded it in the glove.
"Let me try it on."
"You have one just like it," Randy said, but he held out the mitt.
"There's something different..." Jake started to slip his hand in the mitt, and then stopped. "This glove is for someone who's right-handed!"
"So? I'm right-handed," Randy said, reaching for his new mitt again. It was soft as butter, and the color of butterscotch pie.
"But I'm left-handed," Jake said. "You know that."
"What's your point?"
"You dope. Your Ditto Box reversed the mitt."
"You don't have to shout!" Randy yelled.
"Whaa!" Suzy cried from her bedroom across the hall.
Randy paced the floor. He ran his fingers through his red hair. He scratched his head. "Backward worked out great for the glove. But it could be a disaster with some things."
"Like math?" Jake whispered.
Randy nodded. "Let's take a closer look at that paper. This could be bad news."