Freddie Ramos Takes Offby Jacqueline Jules, Miguel Ben??tez
Freddie finds a mysterious package outside his apartment containing sneakers that allow him to run faster than a train, and inspire him to perform heroic deeds.
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Freddie Ramos Takes Off
By Jacqueline Jules
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2010 Jacqueline Jules
All rights reserved.
A Box Changes My Life
A box changed my life. It was sitting outside Apartment 29G when I came home from Starwood Elementary.
My name, FREDDIE RAMOS, was written on it in big black letters. I'd never gotten a package like this.
"What did you get?" a deep voice asked.
I looked up to see Mr. Vaslov. He had a paintbrush in his hand. Mr. Vaslov takes care of Starwood Park Apartments, and he is always fixing something.
"I don't know yet," I said. "I can't open the box. It's taped up like a mummy."
"I'll look in my toolshed," Mr. Vaslov said. "I've got scissors there."
I followed him with my mummy box.
"Be careful," he said, as we walked. "The paint is still wet."
The toolshed looked bright, white, and all brand new. The last place Mom and I lived didn't have someone like Mr. Vaslov always trying to make things look nice. When big kids wrote bad words on the walls, the words stayed there a long time.
"Where did I put my scissors?" Mr. Vaslov said.
While Mr. Vaslov searched, I peeked in. I'd never seen inside the toolshed. There were tables and shelves full of wires, cables, batteries, and electronic stuff.
"Did you take apart a billion computers?" I asked.
"No," Mr. Vaslov laughed. "Only fifty."
Just as I was about to ask him why he was cutting up computers, Mr. Vaslov found his scissors.
We opened the box. First we saw lots of white packing popcorn.
Then we saw a sheet of purple paper. It had five words printed on it.
"'Zapato Power.'" Mr. Vaslov pushed his bushy gray hair away from his face. "That sounds interesting."
"Yeah." I turned the purple paper over. "Except I'm not sure what it means."
"Zapato?" Mr. Vaslov asked.
"Doesn't that mean shoe in Spanish?"
"It sure does. But what kind of power is shoe power?"
I dug my hands back into the white packing. This time, I pulled out two purple sneakers with silver wings on the side.
"Exactly what I need! Uncle Jorge is the best!"
I figured it was Uncle Jorge in New York. No one else mailed me presents. I put down the sneakers and looked for a signed card in the packing popcorn.
"That's strange," I said. "Uncle Jorge always sends funny cards with his gifts."
Some of the popcorn spilled on the floor while I searched the box, but Mr. Vaslov didn't complain. Instead, he leaned down to pick up the purple sneakers.
"Nice!" he said. "A lot better than what you're wearing."
We both looked at my shoes. They were all torn up. Maria from next door said they looked like a dog chewed them. Mom promised to buy me new ones as soon as she paid this month's bills. Now Mom could use the money to buy something for herself. I had brand new purple sneakers with silver wings on the side!CHAPTER 2
I Race the Train
"Try them on," Mr. Vaslov suggested. "See if they fit."
The purple sneakers hugged my feet like they were made for me.
"Wow! They feel great!"
"All right, then," Mr. Vaslov said in that voice grownups use when they're tired of you and ready to go back to their own stuff. "Go try them out. The train should be coming by any second."
I stared at him. "Have you seen me racing the train?"
He grinned. "How could I miss it? You're out there by the track every afternoon."
It was true. After a long day at school, trying to sit still every time Mrs. Lane reminded me, I needed to let loose. And the train rumbled by on its overhead track, shouting, "Race Me! Race Me!" We were a mile from the station. When I heard the train coming, I spread my arms out, like an airplane taking off. Airplanes can beat trains. Of course it was just pretend, but racing made me run faster.
"Here it comes!" Mr. Vaslov smiled as the walls of the toolshed started to shake.
I waved a quick goodbye and headed out the door.
The purple sneakers made a soft buzzing sound. My feet felt light. I ran faster and faster until the grass was just a blur beneath me.
Smoke whooshed out of my heels. The wind whipped across my cheeks. My legs whirled so fast I could hardly see them.
But I could see the train. It was up there beside me, falling behind! And I was zooming ahead, like a supercharged engine in my purple sneakers. Rápido! My pretend game had turned real! I was as fast as an airplane, racing the train. And winning!
When I got to the station, I dropped to the ground behind the fence. The train roared in over me. I'd just run a whole mile in a few seconds!
Talk about Zapato Power! I looked down at my purple sneakers. They were super shoes. I had super power! Where did Uncle Jorge get shoes like this? How fast could I get home to call him?
I stood up and spread out my arms.
My feet took off like jet wheels on a runway. One blink later, I was back at 29G.CHAPTER 3
"Gracias!" I shouted into the phone. "Thank you!"
"You're welcome," Uncle Jorge said. "What did I do?"
"You sent me Zapato Power! The fastest sneakers in the world!"
"Sneakers?" Uncle Jorge repeated. "Sorry. It wasn't me."
If Uncle Jorge hadn't sent me the shoes, who had?
"So what else is happening?" Uncle Jorge asked. "How's your head? You still keeping it short like a soldier?"
I laughed. Uncle Jorge always teased me about my hair. He said it made me look like my hero dad.
We talked a few minutes more. I told him about getting an A for the first time in spelling, and about the new basketball courts at school. Even though I'm shorter than most of the other guys, I can still get the ball through the hoop.
Excerpted from Zapato Power by Jacqueline Jules. Copyright © 2010 Jacqueline Jules. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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