Read an Excerpt
I’m floating at the side of Turbo Terry’s Turtle-kart Track as the turtle-karts whiz past. It’s making my hammerhead eyes go double goggly.
“Don’t look at me like that!’ says Rick Reef, who is floating next to me. The pointy-faced reef shark (who is my number one enemy) waits until everyone is looking the other way, then pings the side of my head with the edge of his fin.
“Hey-y-y-y-y-y-y! I can’t help looking at you like that,” I say, trying to stop my hammer from flubbering. “I have eyes on each side of my head! I look at everything-whether I want to or not. And in your case it’s definitely not.”
Rick pulls up the collar on his leather jacket. He always does this when he wants to look tough. “Yeah, but you don’t have to be so starey about it.”
“It’s the turtle-karts. They’re going so fast, they’re making my eyes all weird.”
Three more turtle-karts zoom around the bend, their flippers whizzing like speedboat propellers and the electric eels underneath zapping up extra power for speed. Riders are hanging on to the turtle’s backs with their fins or tentacles, all wearing brightly colored crash helmets with cool dragonfish or super squid cartoons on the side. I have to admit that this trip to Turbo Terry’s Turtle-kart Track could have been really fantastic, if it hadn’t been for five rotten things. . . .
1. It’s my birthday. I hate my birthday. (No, really, I do. You’ll see why later.)
2. Mom and Dad have taken us all to the turtle-kart track. (You think that’s good? Think again, because . . . )
3. Mom and Dad are staying to watch! (How uncool is that? So uncool you can make hot sea-cucumber kebabs out of it.)
4. Everyone is noticing Dad because he’s the mayor of Shark Point and he’s telling everyone it’s his number one son’s birthday! (Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaad! Don’t!)
5. And worst of all, Dad thought it was a good idea to invite my whole class–including Rick Reef (number one enemy) and Donny Dogfish (number one enemy’s sidekick and general pain in the tail).
I did try to persuade Dad that Rick and Donny shouldn’t come turtle-karting-in fact I’ve done nothing but try to persuade Dad ever since the invitations went out. Even this morning, when we were getting ready to leave, I tried again. But Dad was having none of it. “As mayor of Shark Point, I want everyone to get along,” he said. “I know you and Rick don’t see eye to eye, but maybe bringing him along today will be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
Why do grown-ups say such weird things? There’s nothing beautiful or friendly about someone who wants to flubber your head all the time.
See? He’s done it again!
This time Rick pings my head so hard, my best friends Ralph and Joe have to grab hold of each side of the hammer to stop it from flubbering. Rick and Donny swim off toward the turtle-kart pits, snorting with laughter. It’s nearly time for our session on the track to begin, but I’m really not in the mood now. I sigh loudly-so loud it makes a passing school of sardines dive for cover.
Why did I have to be born a hammerhead? Why couldn’t I have been born a great white like my all-time hero Gregor the Gnasher? No one would make Gregor the Gnasher’s head TWANG like a ruler on the side of a school desk-not without getting their bottom bitten off, anyway.
Gregor is the bravest, strongest shark who has ever lived. Not only is he Underwater Wrestling Champion of the world, but he’s also a movie star and the number-onemost-photographed-shark-under-the-sea. Three years in a row.
Ralph puts his fin on my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Harry, just wait till we’re in the karts. Rick’ll be smiling on the other side of his face by the time we’ve beaten him on the track!”
I look at Ralph. Since he’s only a pilot fish, it’s hard to imagine him beating anyone on the track. He’s too small to reach the controls, for a start, so we’re going to have to share a kart.
I feel something quivering behind me and rotate my eyes to see my friend Joe. Joe is a jellyfish, and although he’s not exactly a coward, he tries to avoid anything that might put him in danger. And since he’s very good at finding out about stuff that might put him in danger, he ends up avoiding lots of things.
That’s Joe thinking about karts. But it’s not his mouth that’s popping, it’s his backside. He does that when he’s scared.
Ralph fins me in the ribs. “For Joe, karts equal farts.”
Joe says, “You might laugh-”
(Which we do.)
“-but turtle-karting is the seventeenth most dangerous thing you can do on a Thursday.”
“It’s Saturday,” Ralph points out.
“Whatever.” Joe waves his tentacles around angrily, and turns a bit purple.
“Okay,” I say. “Have we done the other sixteen more dangerous things today?”
Joe scratches his head with three of his thirty-six tentacles. “No.”
“Then we’ll be okay,” I say.
“Come on, Harry!”
I turn and see Dad waving to me as he finishes signing autographs for a group of mirror carp.
“Time to get you on the track!”
I swim as slowly as I can toward the rickety old equipment shed next to the kart pits. I swim slowly because I know that soon everyone else will get really excited as they find the right racing jacket and fin gloves, but I’ll just feel really embarrassed. The reason I’ll feel really embarrassed is because once everyone is in their gear, the pit chief, an old hermit crab called Nobbly, will start handing out the crash helmets.
I can feel my heart sinking like an anchor at the thought, and the water around my face warms up as my cheeks start to turn red.
Rick and Donny get cool helmets with dragonfish pictures. Ralph gets a super-cool helmet with a pirate ship on either side and a skull and crossbones on the back. Even Joe’s bottom stops tooting as Nobbly hands him a helmet shaped like a swordfish’s head.
“Wow!” Joe says as his tentacles fight an imaginary duel with the sword-fish. Then it’s my turn.
“Oh,” says Nobbly. “Hmmm. A hammerhead. . . .”
Nobbly starts searching the shelves for a helmet that will fit. I can hardly bear to look. I know exactly what’s going to happen.
Rick and Donny are snickering in the corner-high-finning and using their fins to make hammer shapes on the sides of their helmets.
My cheeks are now so red you could use my face to warn ships about the rocks around Shark Point.
Nobbly looks at Mom and Dad. They just smile. Dad pats me on the head with a fatherly fin. “I’m sure they’ve got something in your size, son.”
A few minutes later I’m not just embarrassed, I’m wishing the seabed would open up and swallow me whole.
“It’s okay, I’ll go with Joe-there’ll be more room,” says Ralph, trying really hard not to laugh. Behind me, I can hear Rick and Donny snickering again.
I watch as Ralph and Joe climb into their turtle-kart.
“It’s not that bad, son.” Dad says.
I just bite my lip and look straight ahead.
Nobbly couldn’t find a single helmet to fit over my hammer head. So instead he found two! As I slide into the seat and Nobbly straps me in, I catch sight of myself reflected in the window of Turbo Terry’s store.
I’ve got a helmet over each end of my hammer head. They’re held in place by thick lengths of seaweed tape. But the seaweed tape doesn’t cover the fact that both helmets are for babies and have pink cartoon starfish on them.
Bop-de-bop-de-bop-bop-bop! Shish! Shish! Shish!
That’s Rick playing bongos on the two helmets while Donny dances around me, making cymbal noises out of the corner of his mouth.
“Enough of that, you two,” says Nobbly, squeezing my fin protectively with his claw. Rick and Donny swim off to their turtle-karts. Trails of giggle-bubbles stream from their mouths.
“Ready?” Nobbly asks, tickling the electric eel beneath my kart to get the turtle warmed up.
“Yes, I suppose so,” I say through gritted teeth.
“Gentlefish!” shouts Nobbly. “Start your engines!”
And we’re off!
Luckily, it isn’t long before I forget about the double embarrassment of the double starfish helmets and actually start to enjoy myself.
The kart track is a figure eight with an over-under section in the middle. If I steer my turtle well, I can take it at full speed without having to brake.
Joe seems to be doing the best out of everyone. Because he has so many tentacles he can do about thirty-six things at once, so steering and braking at the same time is a breeze.
“Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” Joe yells with excitement as he races past the finish line, starting his second lap. Ralph is hanging on for dear life, but seems to be enjoying it too.
I overtake Donny easily and see Rick up ahead of me, just going around a bend. He’s pushing the electric eel far too hard and the turtle-kart’s gears are grinding in protest. The turtle itself is frowning up at Rick.
I tickle the eel in my kart and coax a little more speed out of the turtle. I’m starting to gain on Rick. I may be a hammerhead with two helmets and goggly eyes, but I’m not going to give up without a fight. I put my head down to reduce resistance against the water and flick my tail to give me a tiny bit of extra thrust. You’d better watch out, Rick, I say to myself. You might be the fastest shark on the swimming team, but I’m going to prove I’m better than you at karting!
Rick looks back over his shoulder and locks his eyes on me. I look straight back at him-as best as I can. Rick’s face is all screwed up with determination, like there’s no way he’s going to let a hammerhead with two baby crash helmets strapped to his head get past. Yeah, well, having to wear two helmets is making me twice as determined to beat him.
I push on, continuing to catch up with Rick. When I’m almost on his tail, I see him look past me. I glance back and see that he’s looking at Donny. Rick makes a signal to Donny with his tail. Donny suddenly turns his turtle and swerves around, going up the shoulder onto the upper section of the track-just as Joe and Ralph are coming past! Joe swerves and skids to a halt just before the crash barrier. Donny continues over the hump, across the other side, just as I round the corner about to overtake Rick.
Then I realize what is happening. Donny’s steered himself onto a collision course with my turtle! There’s nothing I can do. Donny spears into the side of me, sending me right off the track.
“You boys! Stop that at once!” Nobbly calls from the pits.
I turn the steering wheel with all my strength, but it’s not enough. The turtle shell hits the crash barrier hard and we bounce back, straight into Donny. This pushes Donny into Rick and sends all three of us off the track.
The three turtle-karts spin to a halt and we lie there panting, trying to get our breath back, as Nobbly, Dad, and Mom dash over.
“Oh, my little starfish!” Mom wails.
“Are you okay, son?” Dad calls.
Nobbly tuts and mutters under his breath as he frees us from the turtle-karts, which immediately swim off in disgust. He chases after them to make sure they’re okay.
“Have you hurt your hammer? Can you swim in a straight line?” Mom cries.
“I’m fine, Mom! Don’t have a sea cow.” I wriggle as Mom hugs me and showers my two crash helmets with kisses.
“I think that’s enough turtle-karting for today,” says Dad, lifting me up off the seabed. “Time for your birthday party, I think.”
I remove the helmets from each end of my hammer head and sigh. At least one thing’s for sure-my party can’t possibly go as badly as the turtle-karting. . . .
I have to sit at the head of the table in the restaurant. Dad is next to me, showing all his teeth in his best grin. This is because he’s noticed the other diners nudging each other with their fins and whispering to each other that they’re in the same restaurant as the mayor of Shark Point. Joe and Ralph are on my other side. Joe is gazing at the party food on the table in front of us. I know that the food is usually the best thing about a party, but not this party. In my head I start making a list of reasons why I don’t want to eat it.
1. Reef rolls–there is NO way I’m eating anything that includes Rick’s last name.
2. Jelly-and-iceberg cream–I’m not sure I can eat anything that reminds me of Joe, either.
3. Rainbow-fish trifle–the pink layer is exactly the same color as the awful baby helmets I had to wear.
4. Sea-cow-cheese and sea-cucumber sandwiches–cut by my mom into the shape of my hammer head. Great.
Ralph looks at my mouth. “Okay,” he says. “Make sure you have some rolls, sandwiches, and trifle. I’m not excited about the jelly. It’s really difficult for me to get it out from between your teeth, and even if I can get it out, it always dissolves before I can swallow it!” Ralph is a pilot fish, so he gets his food from the leftovers between my teeth.
Yes, it is as gross as it sounds.
“I thought it was my party food,” I say to him out of the corner of my mouth.
“It might be your party food,” Ralph hisses out of the corner of his mouth, “but it’s my lunch.”
I sigh and look down the table. Rick and Donny are at the other end. They’re on their best behavior for once because of the scolding they got from Nobbly for causing the accident.
Mom is nowhere to be seen.
This makes my heart sink so low it feels like it’s about to drop out of my tail. I know what’s coming next and it’s not going to be good.
I close my eyes and wish that I was a lone shark, like Gregor the Gnasher (when he’s not busy being famous). If I was a lone shark, I wouldn’t have to bother with birthday parties, because lone sharks never do anything in groups. And they definitely never have to invite their number one enemies to their birthday parties. Maybe it won’t be that bad this year, I say to myself. But then . . .
1. The lights dim.
2. Music starts to play and the angelfish waiters form a choir around me and start singing “Happy Birthday” (except they sing “Harry Birthday”!).
3. Everyone in the restaurant stops eating and starts staring at me.
4. Mom appears, carrying an enormous birthday cake.
Mom. MOM! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?!?
Not only is the cake huge and fluffy and layered with sparkly rows of fish eggs, but Mom has also used the pinkest of pink-plankton icing to pipe two kissing sea horses on the top, and the whole thing is lit by a candlefish.
At the other end of the table, Rick and Donny start grinning so wide, a whale could swim down their throats.
Mom places the cake right in front of me. “There you are, gorgeous. Now blow your candlefish out and make a wish!”
With my cheeks glowing as pink as the cake, I lean forward to blow out the candlefish. The candlefish looks down at me and glares.
“You’re a boy,” he whispers.
The candlefish shakes his head in disgust. “I’ve been stuck in all this horrible icing for a boy!”
I blow a stream of air bubbles into his face, but he stays upright.
“And why have you got two sea horses kissing on your cake?”
“I don’t know,” I hiss, blowing another stream of bubbles into his face.
But he keeps on complaining, standing upright in the icing. “You should’ve had two piranhas fighting.”
“Be quiet!” I yell.
And then something truly terrible happens. I lean forward to push him over, but I lose my balance and topple forward, hammer head first, into the cake.
“Oh no!” Mom cries.
As I pull my head out of the cake, great clumps of plankton icing slide down my face.
“Harry’s pink!” Rick yells.
“Like a girl,” Donny says with a snicker.
“I’m out of here,” the candlefish mutters as he swims for the door.
“Quick, make your wish,” Mom says, dabbing at my head with a seaweed napkin.
I can’t stand it anymore. This has been the worst birthday ever! Rick and Donny, the dopey pink crash helmets, the dopey race, the dopey kart, and now the dopey cake all over my face!
“I wish”-I shout, getting up from the table-“I wish that it wasn’t my birthday!”
Another piece of icing slides down my face and sticks to my top lip. Great. I’m wearing lipstick.
Rick and Donny can hardly float, they’re laughing so hard.
There is a stunned silence. Then Mom begins to sniffle. “It took me ages to find pink plankton for the icing!” she wails.
Dad puts a fin around her.
I swim as fast as I can for the door. I just want to get away. Once I get outside the restaurant, I shake my head in the cooler water, trying to get rid of every last bit of icing. Ralph and Joe swim out behind me.
“Are you okay?” Ralph asks.
“No, I’m not okay!” I yell. “I’ve had enough. Enough of Mom! Enough of Dad! Enough of Rick! Enough of Donny! And enough of my goofy head and everyone laughing at it!”
Joe pats me on the shoulder with about six of his tentacles. “Come on, Harry, it’s not that bad. It’s bad, yes, but not really, truly, awfully, terribly, humongously baddy-bad, like it is for me. I mean, you’ve only got three fins, a tail, and a hammer to find clothes for. Have you ever gone shopping with your mom and tried to find a hoodie with thirty-eight arms? No, you haven’t. So things are much worse for me.”
I shrug off Joe’s tentacles. “But at least you only need one helmet. I’ve had enough! Lone sharks like Gregor the Gnasher have the right idea. They don’t put up with moms and dads and double pink crash helmets and double-double pink cakes! No, they live in the open sea by themselves and do their own thing. No one bothers them, and they have a wonderful life!”
“But you’re not a lone shark,” says Ralph. “You’re a hammerhead!”
That’s when I have a brain wave. I look at him and start to smile, and my icing lipstick slides into my mouth. “Not for much longer. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to become a lone shark. I’m going to leave Shark Point for good and I’m going to go out into the ocean, and no one will ever be able to laugh at me again!”