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Too Slippery for Zapato Power?
Sparkly white flakes swirled down from the clouds.
"It's sticking!" Geraldo hollered.
Even though it was March, this was the first time we'd seen snow all year. Geraldo, Maria, Jason, and all the kids at recess were jumping for joy. I was too.
"HOORAY!" Jason screamed.
Usually I saved my super-powered sneakers for hero stuff. But I was too excited about the snow. I pressed the button on my Zapato Power wristband. Smoke whooshed out of my shoes, covering me in a cloud.
"Where'd Freddie go?" Maria asked.
Maria couldn't see me bouncing higher than the basketball hoop and sailing over the swing set. BOING!
"Freddie!" Maria called for me.
"Mrs. Blake says recess is over."
BOING! I landed at Maria's feet and turned off my Zapato Power. It was time to turn back into a regular kid, even if it was snowing.
"Let's go!" I said to Maria. When we got into the classroom,
Mrs. Blake asked us to open our math books and study for our Friday test.
But everyone's eyes, even Mrs. Blake's, kept drifting to the window, where fat snowflakes were falling. First the grass turned white, then the road.
"How much snow do we need to cancel school?" Jason asked.
"In Wisconsin, where I grew up," Mrs. Blake said, "we needed two feet of snow. But around here, it just needs to be slippery outside."
Slippery? Was that good for my super speed? I chewed my pencil.
SCREECH! Something was squealing outside. We dashed out of our seats to watch by the window.
"That blue car is stuck," Mrs. Blake said. "It can't get up the hill."
The snow was making everyone—even our teacher—forget it was math time. Part of me was excited. Slippery roads meant no school and no test tomorrow. The other part of me was worried. If cars couldn't move in the snow, could my super-powered sneakers?
"ANNOUNCEMENT!" The principal's voice came through the intercom. "SCHOOL WILL BE CLOSING EARLY."
"YAY!" everybody shouted, even Mrs. Blake. I was the only one in the room who wasn't smiling.
Maria and I walked home together.
By that time, snow had completely covered the steps leading up to Starwood Park, where we lived.
"Help!" Maria giggled, grabbing the rail.
We couldn't keep from slipping, and my purple zapatos were soaked. How could I run at super speed with wet shoes?
"I need my boots," Maria said. "At least you have some," I grumbled.
Maria looked at me. "You don't?" I shook my head. My super zapatos were the only shoes I had.
She patted my arm. "Don't worry. Alonzo probably has some boots that are too small for him."
Maria's big brother, Alonzo, went to high school, and her youngest brother, Gio, was in first grade. Since we were neighbors, Maria's mom let me wear Alonzo's clothes until Gio was big enough for them. At Starwood Park, people shared.
"Keep your fingers crossed for a snow day tomorrow!" Maria said at the door of her apartment, 28G.
I watched her go inside. But I didn't open my door to 29G, even though my nose was a Popsicle and I knew my guinea pig, Claude the Second, was waiting for me.
The metro train was rumbling by Starwood Park on its overhead track. Claude the Second would understand. There was something important I needed to find out.
I pulled my silver goggles out of my coat pocket and took a big breath. What would happen when I pressed the button on my purple wristband?
A puff of smoke cut right through the snowflakes. In half a blink, I was behind Starwood Park, running beside the overhead train track. The train zoomed by! Rápido! But not as fast as my Zapato Power!
As I ran, my speed made so much heat that it pushed the curtain of snow away from me and dried up the ground. I went faster and faster, not feeling cold at all—not even my nose!
The train fell behind me, just like every other day with Zapato Power in my shoes. If someone needed a superhero, Freddie Ramos would be ready. But in the meantime, my guinea pig was waiting for me back at 29G.CHAPTER 2
A March Blizzard
When I opened the door, my guinea pig wasn't the only one waiting.
"Freddie!" Mom frowned. "How come you didn't come straight home after school?"
"Mom! How come you're not at your office?"
"WHEET!" Claude the Second stood up in his cage and squealed. He didn't care who was home first. He wanted his afternoon carrot.
"Everybody canceled because of the storm. We closed the office early."
"So you get a snow day too!" I said.
Mom stopped frowning. "Sí, mi hijito." She kissed my forehead. "Let's have some hot cocoa."
While Mom heated the milk, I took off my purple zapatos. They were as dry as a warm blanket. So were my socks. My friend Mr. Vaslov would be happy to hear this. Just because he invented my super shoes didn't mean he knew everything about them. Inventions can do unexpected things. That's why you have to test them. Lucky for me, Mr. Vaslov chose me to be the Zapato Power tester.
We drank our hot cocoa on the couch in front of the television news.
A weatherman was standing beside a snow-covered highway with a microphone.
"It's a March blizzard," he said. "Wind gusts of fifty miles per hour are expected as the storm drops almost a foot of snow."
"A whole foot!" Mom put her hands on her cheeks. "And high winds! This sounds serious!"
I turned away from Mom to wink at Claude the Second, munching on his carrot. With Zapato Power, I could take care of us. But Mom didn't know my superhero secret. Shoes with super speed and super bounce are the sort of thing moms think are dangerous. And a good superhero doesn't upset his mom.
"Remember the jigsaw puzzle Uncle Jorge sent me for Christmas?" Mom said.
"The one called Snow Queen?" I asked. "With a thousand pieces?"
"Yes," Mom answered. "This might be a good time to put it together."
We settled down at the table with the puzzle. My job was to find all the straight edge pieces for the border. Mom sorted the different colors. That kept us busy until nine o'clock. In between, we ate dinner and watched the snow through the window. We could see it piling up on the ground under the sidewalk lamps. Sometimes it poured out of the sky in a steady stream. Other times, the wind roared like a speeding motorcycle, and snow blew around in crazy circles.
Just before I went to bed, we watched the news again. The reporter was still outside with his microphone, telling people to stay home. Some people do not listen to their own advice.
The next morning, I looked out the window and saw cars completely buried in snow. The street had disappeared beneath a white blanket. So had the sidewalks and the bushes.
"Qué bonito." I whistled. "Wow!" Mom turned on the news. Every school in the city was closed. So were the government offices and most businesses. It was a snow day
"Hooray!" Mom bounced in her blue fuzzy slippers. She was still wearing her nightgown, and her long black hair wasn't combed.
"What do you want to do?" I asked.
Mom yawned. "Dormir. Sleep."
"Go back to bed, Mom!" I laughed. "Pretend it's Saturday morning."
While Mom took off her blue slippers and got under the covers, I put on my purple zapatos. There was a big white world outside I wanted to explore.
But first I had to open my front door. I pushed and pushed with my shoulder. Something was blocking me. It was snow!
"The wind made drifts of two feet in some places," a voice behind me said. "People can't get out of their houses."
I looked back at the television.
The news reporter was talking about how this was the first time in five years we had a big snow in March.
"Get out and enjoy it, kids!" he said.
I opened the window for another way out. That's when I saw a man in a red hat. It was Mr. Vaslov, my friend who takes care of Starwood Park. He waved a red mitten as he pulled a sled behind him.
"Climb out, Freddie," he said.
Our apartment is on the first floor. With the snow so high, stepping out of the window was almost as easy as stepping out of a bathtub. Mr. Vaslov helped me onto his sled.
"Where are we going?" I asked. "To my tool shed," Mr. Vaslov said. "I have a new invention to show you."CHAPTER 3
The Human Snow Shovel
Inside the tool shed, Mr. Vaslov moved some tools off his workbench and asked me to sit down.
"Here you go," he said, snapping what looked like mini-sleds under my sneakers. "Zapato Snowshoes."
"Cool!" I said. "What do they do?"
"Let's go outside and see." Mr.
Walking with the snowshoes wasn't easy. I felt like a duck. "The snow is deep, Freddie," Mr. Vaslov pointed around Starwood Park. "People can't get around."
"How can I help?" "Put on your goggles," he said, "and press the button on your wristband. Starwood Park needs some Zapato Power."
My feet smoked as I zoomed ninety miles an hour in the heavy snow. Everywhere I ran, snow blew out behind me, just like a snow blower.
In less than fifteen minutes, Starwood Park had paths on all the sidewalks, just wide enough for people to get through.
"Your new invention is great!" I told Mr. Vaslov.
"Thanks, Freddie!" He grinned. "Now you can help me rescue some friends."
He put my snowshoes in the tool shed and handed me a shovel. We spent the next hour shoveling out apartments blocked by the snow.
When we cleaned Maria's door at 28G, her mother rushed out to kiss us.
"Gracias, gracias," she said.
"No hay problema." I grinned.
Sometimes I didn't need Zapato Power to feel like a hero.
Maria came out of 28G wearing pink boots and gloves. Her little brother, Gio, was behind her, pulling a yellow plastic sled.
"Can you go to the hill with us?" he asked.
Mr. Vaslov took my shovel. "I can't. But Freddie can if he asks his mother first."
"Yippee!" Gio yelled, running through the snow paths I'd made on the sidewalks.
By the time we got there, every kid from Starwood Park was at the hill. But most of them were watching because only six kids had sleds.
Gio walked to the top with his yellow sled, then stopped, dead still, his eyes glued on the long way down. "Have I ever done this before?" he asked.
"Not sure," Maria said. "You might have been too little the last time we had a big snow."
Gio didn't remember sledding. But I remembered the winter my dad came home from being a soldier for a little while. We rode together in the sled, laughing all the way down the hill. I'm proud that my dad was a hero, but I'll always miss him too.
"Do you want me to go with you?" I asked Gio.
"Yes!" He hugged me. Little kids don't mind being mushy.
We climbed onto the sled and Maria gave it a push.
"WHEEE!" Gio yelled.
As we swooshed down the hill, I noticed all the kids without sleds, watching with big eyes. Suddenly I had an idea so good, it felt like it came from my super zapatos, not my brain.
"Let's all double up!"
"Then everybody gets a turn!" Maria said.
She asked her friend Jasmin to share. Soon all the kids were pairing up. Now more kids were sledding than watching, with lots of happy cheering.
"Faster! Faster!" Gio shouted all the way down the hill.
At the bottom, he jumped out and grabbed the rope pull. "Let's go again, Freddie!"
"Not so fast!" A girl in a green coat stepped in front of us. "I want a turn!"
The girl chomped on a wad of purple bubblegum. I recognized the grape smell right away. Erika! She was not one of our favorite people at Starwood Park.
"On my sled?" Gio gulped. "Yeah!" Erika grabbed the rope out of Gio's hand and ran up the hill. "Stop her!" Gio cried.
It was too late. We waited forever until Erika came back down.
"Here!" She dropped the sled at Gio's feet as she popped a purple bubble. "Your sled is too slow. I'm going to find a better one."
"She didn't even share her ride," Gio griped, picking up the rope.
Keeping as far away from Erika as we could, we went down the hill about a dozen more times. Then Gio walked over to a snowdrift and started digging with his mittens.
"What are you doing?" I asked. "Building a snow cave," he said.
I started to help. Maria came over too. Pretty soon we had a space just big enough for three kids to sit crowded together.
"Who's inside there?" A face appeared at the cave entrance. We saw a purple mouth and smelled grape bubblegum. Erika!
"Go away!" Gio yelled. "This is our snow cave!"
"Says who!" Erika banged on the top with her fists. Snow fell down on our heads.
"It's crashing in!" we all screamed and crawled out.
By that time, Erika had walked away laughing.
"I'm tired of the way she's always ruining everything," Maria complained.
"Me too!" Gio folded his arms.
I nodded, wondering what I should do about it. Zapato Power was good for running fast. But I needed more than super speed to keep Erika from bothering my friends.CHAPTER 4
The People in Building D
On Saturday morning, Mr. Vaslov rang the doorbell while Mom and I were eating breakfast.
"Sorry to disturb you so early," he said.
"Is something wrong?" Mom asked. "The furnace in Building D broke."
"In this cold weather?" Mom said. "That's awful!"
Building D was where Erika lived. Did that mean she was shivering? I wondered if I should be sad about that.
"Fire trucks took everyone to Starwood Elementary," Mr. Vaslov said. "They spent the night in the gym. It was on the news."
Camping out at the school? Getting on TV? Why do mean people like Erika have all the luck?
"They need food," Mr. Vaslov said. "I'll call the neighbors," Mom said.
"We'll make meals."
"Thank you," said Mr. Vaslov. "And would you mind if I borrowed Freddie? There's something he could help me with."
"Of course," said Mom, picking up the phone. "You can have him all day."
Outside, Mr. Vaslov handed me the zapato snowshoes. "With people sleeping at the school, we need a path on the stairs to bring supplies. How about it, Freddie?"
Mr. Vaslov didn't have to ask me twice. Snow flew everywhere as I zoomed up and down, faster than any machine.
In five minutes, the steps between Starwood Park and Starwood Elementary were clean. Mr. Vaslov sprinkled salt on them to keep them from getting icy.
"The sidewalks around the school need clearing too. Are you too tired?"
"No hay problema," I said.
"Good work, Freddie!"
We walked into the building with a click, clack, clatter.
"Your snowshoes sure are noisy on floors." Mr. Vaslov laughed.
He showed me how to fold up the snowshoes and put them in the inside pocket of my winter coat.
"Keep them handy," he said. "You never know when you might need them."
Then we went into the school gym. People immediately surrounded Mr. Vaslov to ask him when the furnace would be fixed in Building D.
"Not before Monday, I'm afraid. We need a new part."
A gray-haired lady with a red wart on her chin turned away with a groan. Then she hobbled off, rubbing her back as if sleeping on the floor hadn't been the best adventure of her life.
"Abuela?" a girl asked. "Are you all right?"
The voice sounded familiar to me but it was a lot nicer than I'd ever heard it before. Bubblegum popped near my ear. I turned to face Erika.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
"I'm here with Mr. Vaslov," I said, pointing to where people ere lined up to talk to him. He was taking notes on a clipboard.
"Last night he came over on the fire trucks with us." She yawned, showing off her purple mouth. "He helped set up the blankets and sleeping bags."
For once, I didn't have to wonder if Erika was telling the truth. Mr. Vaslov always helped the people of Starwood Park.
"Freddie!" He waved at me. "I've got another job for you."
For the rest of the afternoon, I ran back and forth between Building D and the school, carrying things Mr. Vaslov pulled out of the apartments for the people camping out in the gym. "We want to make the people of Building D as comfortable as possible," Mr. Vaslov said, checking his clipboard list.
That meant finding Pedro's teddy bear in 19D and Mrs. Wu's pillow in 35D. It also meant filling Erika's green backpack with her comb, toothbrush, and purple bubblegum. Eeew! Sometimes being a hero was tough.
I ran back to the school carrying Erika's backpack as far away from my body as possible. My plan was to toss it at her feet, like somebody feeding a lion, and get away in a Zapato Power flash. But when I walked into the gym, there was crying and commotion
"MY MONEY!" the gray-haired lady with the red wart on her chin wailed.
"Somebody stole my abuela's purse!" Erika shouted. "Call the police!"
Excerpted from Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow by Jacqueline Jules, Miguel Benítez. Copyright © 2014 Jacqueline Jules. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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