Captain Tweakerbeak's Revenge: A Calliope Day Adventure

Captain Tweakerbeak's Revenge: A Calliope Day Adventure


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385327121
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 06/12/2001
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.57(h) x 0.74(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Charles Haddad is a journalist for Business Week magazine.

Read an Excerpt

Little Miss Prissy Toes

Oh, brother, groaned Calliope Day. Look who her fourth-grade teacher had picked today to ump the kickball game at recess. Little Miss Prissy Toes herself, also known as Noreen Catherwood. It was bad enough that Calliope had to sit next to her in class. But to have to listen to her be umpire was too much.

Calliope sat cross-legged in the thinning grass alongside the kickball diamond. Twisting the untied lace of one of her red Keds, she eyed Noreen while awaiting her turn up at the plate.

Noreen stood behind the pitcher's mound in her shiny black shoes and lacy white socks. You didn't see that every day. Most kids wore sneakers to recess. And most kids didn't stand erect, nose raised ever so slightly. But that was how Noreen stood as she peered down over the pitcher's shoulder. You'd have thought she was a queen inspecting her troops.

Calliope smirked. Noreen, the teacher's pet who raised her hand to answer any question, who never lost her homework and finished every assignment on time--that was the girl Calliope knew from school. Such a girl was a stickler about the rules but she had to be a wimp on the playground. Calliope watched closely as Thomas swaggered to home plate.

Tall and broad, Thomas was built like the rear wall of the school. He could kick the ball out of the playground. If he connected, that is. Thomas had a hard time raising his giant foot in time to kick the ball.

Hunched forward, eyes focused on the big red ball in the pitcher's hands, Thomas looked determined today. And no wonder. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, one out gone and the game tied 3 to 3. If he kicked the ball out of the playgroundnow, their team would win and he'd be a hero.

Swoosh! went Thomas's foot as he missed the first pitch. He missed the second pitch as well. The third pitch skittered along the lumpy ground toward the plate. Thomas's eyes darted frantically, trying to keep up with the ball. He cocked back his leg and swung it forward mightily.

Calliope rose up on her knees for a good look, but Thomas's foot again swooshed past the ball. Or did it?

Thomas certainly didn't think so. He swore his foot had tipped the ball, which--if true--would give him another chance at the plate.

But Noreen wouldn't hear of it. No matter how hard Thomas blustered, Noreen wouldn't give in. Not even when a glowering Thomas looked ready to charge the mound like an angry bull.

Wow, thought Calliope. There was only one other girl who had stood up to Thomas, and that was her. Maybe Noreen wasn't as prissy as she looked.

Calliope stood. It was her turn at the plate. Could she succeed where Thomas had failed? She imagined herself prancing across home plate as her team cheered.

Hey, it could happen.

Oh, Come On

Calliope wasn't half as strong as Thomas but she had an eagle eye. Her foot clobbered the first pitch, sending the ball wobbling over Noreen's head and into the outfield.

Calliope dashed toward first base. She looked out to left field, where Joey tried to scoop up the spinning ball in one hand and then fumbled it. Yes! Head down, Calliope raced on.

As she rounded second and then third base, Calliope again looked out to left field. Joey held the ball in both hands above his head. He heaved the ball to home plate. Plop, plop, plop, the ball bounced past Calliope.

Jamie, the girl playing catcher, grabbed the ball and stepped between Calliope and home plate.

Now, most kids would have slowed down or veered away, accepting defeat. But not Calliope. She dropped bottom-first and slid into Jamie. The catcher buckled. As Jamie collapsed, Calliope felt the ball glance off the back of her neck. The touch was so slight and so fleeting that she doubted the tumbling Jamie even knew she'd tagged her.

But Noreen knew. She immediately cried, "Out!"

Calliope jumped to her feet. "Oh, come on," she said, stomping her foot on home plate. "No way am I out."

"I'm afraid you are," said Noreen, who had positioned herself between home plate and the pitcher's mound. She stood as straight as a ruler, arms crossed.

Calliope shouted over her shoulder. "Jamie, am I out?"

A dusty Jamie stood behind home plate. She stared down at the kickball, which she rolled in her hands. After a moment she looked up and answered Calliope with a shrug.

Good old Jamie. You could always count on her to keep things muddled. "See?" said Calliope, pointing at her indecisive tagger. "Jamie says I'm safe."

"It doesn't matter what Jamie says," retorted Noreen. "Mrs. Perkins named me ump and I say you're out."

True enough. But that didn't make Noreen right, did it? Not in Calliope's playbook. She glanced toward the back of the playground. There stood Mrs. Perkins, still huddled with the other teachers. Mrs. Perkins kept her students in sight, but no way could she see them well. And that meant Calliope had some wiggle room to make a little trouble.

Calliope looked back at Noreen's shiny black shoes and lacy white socks. How lovely--and easy to soil. She marched off home plate and stomped in a circle around Noreen. Dirt and stones splattered Noreen's feet.

Not once did Noreen flick her perfect ponytail in irritation. She raised her sharp nose ever so slightly and smiled down on the circling Calliope.

It was a smile that made Calliope feel three years old. She cut short her war dance.

Noreen raised each of her feet and gently shook off the dirt and stones.

Calliope couldn't help smiling. Lacy socks, my foot. Noreen acted dainty but she was about as delicate as her teenage brother Frederick's crowbar. And just as steely.

Noreen returned Calliope's smile. The way they grinned at each other, you'd have thought the two of them were the best of friends all the time. And, in fact, Calliope was having a good time. She loved a good argument. And judging by the twinkle in her opponent's eye, Noreen did too.

Calliope, however, was no Thomas. She wouldn't glower for a minute and then stomp off in defeat. No, she was just beginning to fight.

Calliope kept smiling, if only to buy time. She plunged both hands into the pockets of her jean shorts and thought. If arguing wouldn't change Noreen's mind, then what would? The answer, she found, was in the bottom of her left pocket.

Copyright 2002 by Charles Haddad

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