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Colin stopped outside the door of his apartment. He took off his left sneaker.
His friend Webster gasped, then grinned. "Superb," he said.
Colin unlaced the right sneaker. "Wait till you get a whiff of this one. It's even better." He pulled it off and wafted it under Webster's nose.
Webster closed his eyes and sighed happily. "Ferocious!" he said. "There's no other guy in the world going to beat that. Not Jack Dunn, not anybody. Those have to be the stinkiest sneakers in the world."
Colin had carefully placed them side by side and Webster touched one with his toe.
"But I'm still nervous about your leaving them outside the door."
"I have to," Colin said. "My mom won't let them in the apartment till I'm absolutely, finally ready for bed."
"Even if you bag them?"
"Even if I triple-bag them and lock them in my closet," Colin said. "And anyway, as my mom says, who'd want them? Who'd touch them? I'm having trouble myself." He pulled out the key that he kept on a cord around his neck.
Mr. Sabaton and his bulldog, Bruno, came down the stairs from his upstairs apartment. Bruno was on his leash. His little flat bulldog nose twitched. It found the floor and made a direct track toward the sneakers.
"Hold, boy! Back!" Mr. Sabaton ordered. He scowled at Colin. "Are those abominations yours?"
"A bomb what?" Colin asked.
"Those are sneakers, Mr. Sabaton," Webster explained. "They aren't Slam Dunkers, but when Colin wins the Stinkiest Sneakers in the World contest he'll get three pairs of Slam Dunkers. They're the best."
Mr. Sabaton's nose wrinkled. "Someone is vulgar enough to have asmelly-sneaker contest?"
"Sure. It's up in Jamison Park. The people who make Slam Dunkers are running it. Slam Dunkers are probably so classy they never stink up. I'm Colin's manager," Webster went on. "You know, his coach for the competition. Jack
Dunn, he's in our class and he's a real jerk, he's trying, too. But his stinkies aren't in the same league. We think he cheats, too. "
Bruno had managed to drag Mr. Sabaton close to the sneakers. But now, just a paw length away, he sat back on his hind legs and moaned.
Webster gazed at the dog in awe. "See that? Those sneakers are so nasty even the dog's gagging."
Mr. Sabaton pointed at Colin. "Young man, I need to speak to your mother. Your shoes are polluting the entire building. They can't be left out here."
"My mom's at work," Colin said.
"Your father then."
"He's sleeping," Colin said. "He works nights."
"You could speak to Amy," Webster said. "Colin's sister. But she's only seven. We're ten," he added helpfully. Webster was always helpful.
"Humph," Mr. Sabaton said.
"Anyway," Colin told him, "tomorrows the competition. It'll be over soon. I won't be leaving my new ones outside."
"Humph," Mr. Sabaton said again.
Colin and Webster watched him stomp down the corridor between the apartments. Bruno seemed to be in a hurry to get out into the fresh air.
"Who'd want them? Who'd take them?" Webster asked, imitating Colin. -Mat guy for one. He'd dump them and then bingo. No prize. Remember, one pair of those Slam Dunkers belongs to me. My fee."
"I know. I know." Colin opened the apartment door. "Mr. Sabaton won't touch them. He keeps to himself, but he's an OK guy. My mom says his bark's worse than his bite."
"His bite's probably better than his wimpy dog's." Webster took one last look at the smelly, stinky sneakers before he followed Colin into the apartment.