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Flyboy of Underwhere
By Bruce Hale
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
Everybody wants to be the hero; nobody wants to be the sidekick. It's true. Ask any two kids playing Batman and Robin, or Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Nobody wants to be Robin.
And the doctor? Forget about it.
(It's not just the dorky costume, either. Heroes get to be cool. Sidekicks get to tell the hero how cool he is.)
That's my problem. I don't want to be the sidekick. But sometimes I feel like I'm not even the hero of my own life.
If you've heard about our adventures from my buddy Zeke and his twin sister, Stephanie, you'll know that he's the Lost Prince of Underwhere (the place, not the cottony-fresh stuff you're wearing under your clothes). And Stephanie? She's the Lost Princess.
What am I? The Lost Cheese Wrangler, the Lost Beebee Stacker, the Lost Whatchamadingy.
It's my own fault. I just can't make up my mind about some stuff. And a hero should be able to make up his mind, right?
It's like that guy, Hamlet, said: "To be or not to be . . . something."
Let me explain.
My story starts with me nosing through the construction site, searching for Fitz, my talking orange cat. (He meows, sure, but he also talks English. More on that later.) Then I spotted something that looked like trouble.
Melvin Prang, school bully, was slipping into the secret passage to Underwhere, carrying a mysterious bag. Since Steph, Zeke, and I have been fighting to free Underwhere from the dirty rotten UnderLord and his pet zombies, this worried me.
Underwhere didn't need another bully.
Just then, Fitz turned up.
"Mwrr reer eerow," he said in his weird cat talk, jerking his head toward the sidewalk. He's been chatty ever since this Throne that looks like a fancy toilet came to Zeke and Steph's house. (More on that later too.)
I figured he meant we should go get my friends. Fitz smelled them coming up the street before I saw them. (Which doesn't mean that they're stinky, really—just that Fitz has a keen nose.)
"Hey, guys!" I dashed over and told them what I'd seen.
"Melvin's in Underwhere?!" cried Steph.
"Actually, he's always in underwear," said Zeke. "I'm guessing boxers."
"Real funny." Steph's jaw tightened. "Melvin could cause some serious damage down there!"
"What should we do?" I said.
"Duh, Hector—go after him," Steph said. She began pulling her curly brown hair into a ponytail.
"No time for primping, Stephasaurus," said Zeke.
Her chin went up. "I'm not sliding down that filthy tube without some basic preparations."
Fitz batted at my leg. "Reer mmrow!"
I knew how he felt. Waving my hand between them, I said, "Uh, guys? About Melvin—"
Zeke made a face. "Aw, hush!"
"Don't shush me," I said.
"No." He pointed past my shoulder. "The guys from H.U.S.H."
I turned. Yikes.
Two men were getting out of a silver car. They wore identical black suits and dark sunglasses. They might just as well have had government agent stamped across their foreheads, except their foreheads were covered by two really phony-looking wigs.
"Hold it!" cried the tall one with blond surfer hair. Unfortunately the wig didn't hide a honking great mole on his cheek. That mole had its own zip code.
Zeke, Steph, and I exchanged a look. The spies were between us and the construction site.
What to do?
"Now, children," said the chubby one from under a mop of red clown curls. "We've got a bone to pick with you."
Zeke put up a hand. "Can't you pick it later? We've got to be somewhere."
Agent Mole planted himself in front of us and rumbled, "Sure do. Right here."
"Sheesh," said Zeke.
Agent Belly crossed his arms. "What's the big idea, giving us a painted toilet brush instead of a magic gizmo?"
"We never!" I said. Actually, we had—only a couple of days earlier.
Steph pulled her big-eyed innocent face. "What are you talking about?" She's pretty good at lying for someone who never practices.
"You know perfectly well," said the chubby spy. "Thanks to you three, your government wasted a week running tests on a toilet brush that you swore was some Brush of Wisdom from your 'Under-land.' We were disappointed and, urr, none the wiser."
"Disappointed," said Mole. His scowl was mean. It probably would've been meaner if he hadn't had to blow long, fake hairs away from his mouth.
"But the bathrooms did sparkle," Belly said to Mole. Mole grunted.
Steph held up her palms. "Honestly, we thought it was the real thing."
"That's right," said Zeke. "Somebody must have pulled a switch on us."
"Sure," said Agent Mole. "And you have no idea who."
Actually, we knew exactly who had swapped the brushes: our school custodian, Mr. Wheener.
Maybe if I told them, we could give these guys the brush-off.
"You should check out Mr. Wheener at our school," I said. "He's been acting suspicious."
Agent Belly tossed his curls. "Wrong," he said. "You should check out Wheener."
"But you're the spies," I said.
The chubby agent leaned toward me. "Don't get smart. Investigate this Wheener and bring us a real magical artifact, or . . . your grandmother might get deported."
"But she's a U.S. citizen!" cried Stephanie.
"Oh," said Belly. "Then your landlord might kick you out."
"But they own their house," said Zeke.
Agent Belly frowned. "Then your, uh . . . cat might choke on a giant hairball."
"Wurrr, meer roor reauwww," Fitz muttered.
I picked him up. "Stay away from Fitz."
"Give us what we want, and the pussycat will be fine." Agent Belly reached out to pat Fitz, who swiped his claws at the man.
Belly jumped back, and Agent Mole struck a kung fu pose. "Bad kitty!"
Hiding behind his partner, Agent Belly straightened his wig. "Let's see some results, children!" He backed toward the car. "Or things will get rough."
Excerpted from Flyboy of Underwhere by Bruce Hale Copyright © 2009 by Bruce Hale. Excerpted by permission.
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