“Fast paced and full of heart! I gobbled up every word of this book buffet!” —Frank L. Cole, author of The Afterlife Academy
Ever since he took a bite of a legendary dessert last summer, twelve-year-old Guster Johnsonville has never been the same. In fact, when a strange little man dressed as a conquistador comes clattering into the barn at the back of the Johnsonville farmhouse one afternoon, he forces Guster to face the truth: Guster is now the most delicious thing in the whole world, and a terrible monster is coming to eat him. The monster is one of the Yummies—a pack of horrible, ferocious creatures with an appetite for sweets. What other choice do Guster, Zeke, and Mariah have than to run away from home to escape the mysterious beast?
On the run in a far corner of the world, Guster and his siblings discover a secret settlement known as the Delicious City. Now, with the Yummies hot on their trail and the Delicious City’s Mayor determined to feed Guster to the beasts, Guster must embrace his talents as an Evertaster if he’s going to save the city from collapsing and get his family out alive. “The perfect recipe for edge-of-your-seat action!” —Peggy Eddleman, author of Sky Jumpers
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The Delicious City
By Adam Glendon Sidwell
Future House PublishingCopyright © 2016 Adam Glendon Sidwell
All rights reserved.
— A Taste of Danger
Twelve-year-old Guster Johnsonville tasted a barely perceptible — but unmistakable — hint of danger in his tuna fish sandwich.
It lurked in silence between the relish and mayo, a blinking red blip on Guster's radar that told him something was horribly wrong.
He could not have known it were there if it weren't for the fact he was, like so few people are, an Evertaster — a remarkable boy with more taste buds on a single square inch of his tongue than there are cheese wheels in all of Wisconsin.
To Guster, bread was not sliced from a loaf; it was sliced from a world of experiences: the water the wheat drank, or the sun that shined on the field. Guster could taste history. He could taste time. He could count the wrinkles in a raisin with the tip of his tongue. The world was filled with wonderful delights and devastating disappointments, all waiting to reveal themselves.
But this tuna fish sandwich held so much more, and it worried him.
"This sandwich tastes ..." said Guster before stopping himself.
Mom looked up from the kitchen counter where she had just pulled two loaves of her famous Mabel's Bountiful Banana Bread straight from the oven. Her fists balled up inside two quilted oven mitts which she placed firmly on her chubby hips and stared down at Guster, the bun atop her head bobbing forward like an apple. She raised one eyebrow. "Yes?" she asked, waiting.
"Delicious," Guster said, forcing a grin. He did not want her to misunderstand: it was not her sandwich-artistry, and especially not her cooking, that he questioned. Ever since making that unfathomable dessert called the Gastronomy of Peace one year ago, Mom had gained a new command of her kitchen. Whether it was her slow-simmered red ravioli sauce, or her fluffy-as-a-cloud eggs, she alone could make the foods that Guster craved.
It was as if the One Recipe had forged some kind of invisible link between them — one so strong that if dinner wasn't made by Mom, Guster didn't want it.
Even the neighbors had taken notice. Mom was no dunce when it came to the kitchen. They'd been buying up Mabel's Bountiful Banana Bread by the pound. Mom slapped a sticker on the loaves' plastic wrapping that said just that.
"Good." Mom smiled. "Tell your sister that I have some deliveries for her to make this afternoon."
Guster nodded and took his red plastic plate with the tuna fish sandwich on top out the screen door and onto the farmhouse's porch.
"This tastes funny," he whispered to Mariah who sat on the top step.
"You always say that," she shot back. "Whether it's too much clam in the clam sauce, or too much dough in the doughnuts. Guster, try to enjoy your lunch for once."
Guster winced. He'd hoped Mariah would understand. She knew he never complained about Mom's cooking. Not anymore anyway. Not ever since he'd taken a bite of the legendary dessert called the Gastronomy of Peace when Mom had made it for him last summer. It was the most delicious thing he — or anyone — had ever tasted. He was certain of that.
I'm different now, he thought.
He hadn't been able to go without Mom's cooking since. It was the only food he craved. Restaurants held no appeal. Nor did frozen foods. They hardly had before anyway, but now it was much worse. It had to be home-cooked. Outside the borders of the farmhouse, there was nothing Guster wanted to eat. It had to be made by Mom.
With that bond came a price.
Guster knew Mom's cooking. He could tell which recipe she'd used, or which frying pan she'd cooked with, or even how long she'd stirred her sauce. That's what was odd. Mom had made him the tuna fish sandwich. She'd served it to him just minutes ago. Next to her signature mom-ness, slid between the tiny grains of relish and the squishy mayo, was something that she couldn't have put there. Something that had touched the tuna: danger.
Guster had never tasted anything like it before, and it baffled him. But he had also learned to trust his hunches.
"I saw a nature program once. It said wolves can smell fear in their prey," said Guster. "That's what this tastes like — like these tuna were afraid of something."
"Yeah," Mariah said. "Of becoming sandwiches."
Guster frowned. Now she was starting to sound like Zeke. That's not what he'd meant. He'd eaten plenty of tuna sandwiches that hadn't tasted like this.
"No. It's like ... like something was hunting them," said Guster.
"Your tuna fish sandwich is coming after you?" asked Mariah quizzically.
Guster shook his head. "No, something was coming after them."
Mariah peered at Guster. "You can tell all that from a sandwich?"
Guster shrugged. I think so, he thought. There were a lot of things he thought he noticed in his food ever since tasting the Gastronomy of Peace. Details that seemed to come to him in flashes. Details that came at a steadily increasing rate. He still wasn't sure what to make of it all, but he knew one thing for certain — there was something in that sandwich.
"Guster, you only think about how the taste of things affects you!" Mariah applied a fresh coat of lip gloss as she stared in a little handheld mirror. "Try thinking about others for once."
Guster was startled. Try to think about others? What did she mean by that? A year ago, Mariah had been more eager than anyone to help Guster solve the clues he'd found carved into the handle of an antique eggbeater. But now that Mariah was fourteen, she seemed far more concerned about makeup and boys than she did about listening to her brother.
Why didn't she understand? wondered Guster. But then again, there wasn't anyone who really could. Guster was the only person ever, in the history of the entire world, to taste the Gastronomy of Peace. He had held the fate of the world on the end of his spoon in that castle in France; sometimes the memory of it still haunted him. He tried to remember that single bite. It grew harder and harder to relive the memory as that day slipped further into the past. He longed to taste just one more bite of the great chef Archedentus' creation, to savor its flavor. But he couldn't. He'd made the right choice: the world was not yet ready for the Gastronomy of Peace.
"Guys, come quick!" A cry from the woods interrupted Guster's daydream. Zeke broke out of the trees on the edge of the Johnsonville property into the backyard. "There's something you've got to see!"
Mariah rolled her eyes. "What is it this time Zeke? Mummies?"
Zeke smiled mischievously. "Nope. Even better. But you don't have to come if you don't want."
Guster still never knew when to believe Zeke's wild stories. Now that Zeke was sixteen, slim as a stallion, and licensed to drive, he didn't have much time for Guster anymore. Zeke was, according to Zeke, the shining star of the high school football team. Everything was about touchdowns and monster trucks. Zeke was at practice or Betsy's so much, sometimes it seemed like he'd already moved out of the house.
It was just one of the many things changing for the Johnsonvilles; Guster wasn't sure he liked it.
He wrapped his sandwich up in a napkin, set it down on the railing next to him, and followed Zeke to the edge of the property and into the woods. Mariah trailed behind them.
Guster wondered whether he should tell Zeke about the sandwich. He decided against it. Zeke wasn't likely to care what Guster had tasted, even if Guster could convince Zeke that the taste was real.
They hiked into the tangle of trees and past a small pond, little gnats buzzing around in the summer heat and landing on Guster's forehead. He and Zeke had spent many summer hours exploring the woods behind their house. Guster knew every path and tree within a mile.
He didn't mind exploring the woods. In fact, he preferred it. There was something liberating about venturing into the forest before dinner time.
The trail became spongier and wetter the further they went, and the trees changed until eventually Guster no longer recognized where they were. When they came to a fork, Zeke darted off the trail and whacked his way through a bush.
"Where are you taking us?" Mariah asked.
"You'll see," Zeke said, stomping down on a branch to make a path. "Betsy and I found this place this morning, when she was supposed to be doing chores."
"You and your girlfriend wanted a little alone time, Zeke?" Mariah teased.
"Bull's-eye, sister! When you've got a girl like Betsy, you take all the romantic alone time you can get!" Zeke said in a drippy, dreamy voice.
Guster almost laughed. Clearly Zeke wasn't ashamed of Betsy being his girlfriend anymore.
They followed him into the undergrowth. The leaves blocked out the sun so that the light splashed the forest floor in mottled polka dots. They weaved their way through old trunks and fallen logs until Zeke stopped in a clearing.
"Here," said Zeke.
Guster looked around. He didn't notice anything peculiar.
"What?" asked Mariah.
Zeke leaned up against the oak next to him and casually pointed straight up. Guster followed the trunk upward with his eyes. About three feet above Zeke's head there was a giant, crescent-shaped chunk of wood torn from the tree, like some enormous creature had taken a huge bite. Guster felt the air rush out of his lungs.
"You think it's a bear?" Mariah asked, her voice trembling.
Zeke looked smug. "Not a chance. Whatever took that bite was way bigger than a bear."
Guster knew Zeke was right. The missing chunk was at least a foot wide. Only a creature twice as tall as Zeke could have done something like that.
"You know what I think did it?" said Zeke. "A Sasquatch."
"That's ridiculous," said Mariah.
"Is it? I heard stories at Camp Cucamunga that Bigfoot roamed these parts before people ever got here. No doubt Bigfoot is angered by human settlements on his territory. It won't be long before he punishes us for our pride and carelessness!"
Mariah blinked at Zeke. "Right," she said. "No wonder you're so excited to go to Camp Cucamunga this summer — so you can hear more tall tales. It was probably just a chainsaw. Right, Guster?"
Guster was barely listening. He approached the trunk, and, standing on the roots, he tried to get a closer look. The wood was shredded, like it had been torn away by an angry shark. A thin layer of spit oozed over the top of the splinters. This certainly was no chainsaw.
What sort of creature would eat a tree? Guster wondered. As far as he knew, there were no such things as giant beavers.
"Whatever it was, it was really big," said Guster.
Zeke's face went white. For the first time, he looked like he was actually taking his own discovery seriously. Had he thought it was some kind of joke?
"You ... you think so?" Zeke stammered.
"We really should get back to the house," said Mariah. "You know, in case Mom's looking for us."
Guster doubted Mariah was worried about Mom, but he wasn't going to argue. He could hear the tension in her voice. They turned and bushwhacked back toward the path. Guster could almost feel Zeke's anxiety turn into smugness as they marched down the hill.
Whether he intended to or not, Zeke hadn't been fibbing this time, Guster thought as he brushed aside branches.
"With keen eyes like these, I'll be awarded a woodsman's badge for sure when we get to Camp Cucamunga next week," Zeke said, breaking their silence. "I'm going to get the highest score in archery. And row all the way across the lake. This is going to be a landmark year at camp — starring me." Zeke prattled on to no one in particular. It sounded like he was trying to take his mind off the splintered tree.
Guster sighed. He'd never been to camp. Last year had been the first year he'd been old enough to go, but the Chef in Red had attacked them in an abandoned patisserie in New Orleans, and Mom whisked them away to Aunt Priscilla's in Key West. By the time camp started, they were already halfway to Africa.
This year was going to be different. He was finally going to get his chance.
They crossed a small stream that ran back toward the farmhouse. Mariah bent down to get a drink. It was a hot, muggy Louisiana summer, and Guster was parched, so he knelt down too. The water tasted heavy, like it was thick with minerals, but it was fresh enough until something made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. There had only been a trace, so he had almost missed it: it was the same taste of danger he'd found in his sandwich.
He shook his head. That was impossible. The tuna had come from the sea somewhere, probably caught in a net, and the stream was only a few miles away from the farmhouse. But the tastes were undeniably the same. Was the danger getting closer?
Guster tried to clear his head. Am I sure that's what I tasted? He filled his cupped hands with water again and brought it to his lips, then dropped it before he took a drink. No, I'm being silly. He stood up and turned down the path back toward the farmhouse. He couldn't tell Zeke. Zeke wouldn't listen any more than Mariah had.
So he took the lead. He tried to double his pace without looking hurried. Mariah and Zeke followed behind, matching his speed without complaint. The day was beginning to stretch into evening, and though there were a few more hours of daylight, the fireflies began to glow faintly, signaling that the night was not far off. Guster did not want to be caught out in the woods when darkness fell.
When they arrived in the backyard, a familiar silhouette was waiting for them on the back porch, its bun perched atop its head.
"Zeke! Mariah! Guster!" Mom shouted in the same sharp voice she always used to call them to action. If they didn't obey, there would be swift consequences. Guster knew that from experience. It also meant food.
The trio scrambled past Mom into the kitchen, fighting to be first. Henry Junior and their dad, Henry Senior, were already seated at the table. Mom's signature baby blue apron was stained with red sauce.
"Guster, you didn't tell Mariah about making the deliveries," said Mom. She sighed. The two loaves of banana bread were still on the counter.
Guster had completely forgotten. "I ..." was all he could say. He was caught.
Mom shook her head. Disappointment crossed her face.
Without another word, she turned and removed a green casserole dish from the oven and set it on the center of the table, the smell of piping hot ravioli steaming up into their faces.
"Calories! Calories!" cried Zeke, pounding his fork and knife against the table.
One look from Mom silenced Zeke, forcing him to set down his silverware. He folded his hands like an angel.
"I mean, such a pleasure to dine with you lords and ladies this evening," Zeke said in the most sugary, polite voice he could muster.
Guster scrunched up his nose. The tomatoes in the sauce smelled fresh. Mom had clearly used the Felicity Casa special recipe, which meant that it would have plenty of spice and a robust, lingering flavor.
Dad blessed the food, and Guster served himself up a big helping of ravioli. The first bite was complex: meat and cheese, all wrapped in a pasta envelope. He sorted out the tastes in his mouth until he found familiar flavor that came with every dish Mom made.
He swallowed. He thought he saw Mom smile out of the corner of his eye. She still did that every time he ate her meals.
"Mom, do they have power outlets at Camp Cucamunga for my blow dryer?" asked Mariah.
"In the bathrooms, dear," said Mom. "Which reminds me, you all need to get your backpacks packed by tomorrow night so that you'll be ready to go."
"Can't wait," said Guster.
Mom glanced at Dad.
"Mom, Guster said he tasted something funny in your tuna fish sandwich today," said Mariah. "He thought it was going to eat him."
Mom put her fork down.
Mariah had sold him out. Why would she do that? She seemed to be less and less on his side lately. Usually his older sister was someone he could talk to.
"It's not like that," said Guster. "It was like ... like ... something dangerous." And then he wished he hadn't said it that way.
It was frustrating. He couldn't explain what he tasted in that sandwich any more than he could explain the color blue. However he described it, he was bound to sound crazy.
Mom sighed and glanced at Dad again. Her round moon face tightened. "Guster, you're not going to Camp Cucamunga this year," she said.
The words fell like a stone on Guster's chest. "What!" Guster pushed himself back from the table. "Why?"
Mom spoke calmly, "We've been touch with Felicity Casa. She's coming here to help you with some special training."
He couldn't believe this. Did she know what she was doing to him? He'd been looking forward to going to camp for years. It was finally his chance to go, and now they were taking that away? He ran out the back door, slamming it behind him.
He stood on the porch, watching the sky turn twilight gray as the sun set. The screen door swung open behind him. Dad stepped out onto the porch.
Henry Senior was tall and slender, with a large nose that stuck out from his face like the bow of a battleship. His brown khaki pants were hitched up past his belly button, just like they always were. He wore the collared shirt of an insurance salesman.
Excerpted from Evertaster by Adam Glendon Sidwell. Copyright © 2016 Adam Glendon Sidwell. Excerpted by permission of Future House Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsJoin the Future House Beta Reader's Club!,
Chapter 1 — A Taste of Danger,
Chapter 2 — Felicity's Experiments,
Chapter 3 — The Most Delicious Thing,
Chapter 4 — The Bus Station,
Chapter 5 — Not Everyone's Your Friend in New York City,
Chapter 6 — Fatty Bubalatti's,
Chapter 7 — Vanilla Midnight,
Chapter 8 — The Last Horizon,
Chapter 9 — The World's Most Dangerous Runway,
Chapter 10 — The Mountaineers,
Chapter 11 — The Delicious City,
Chapter 12 — Mayor Bollito,
Chapter 13 — The Streets of El Elado,
Chapter 14 — Princess Sunday's Castle,
Chapter 15 — Trial by Taste,
Chapter 16 — The Mom, The Mayor, and The Mercenary,
Chapter 17 — In the Mayor's Mansion,
Chapter 18 — The Scoop,
Chapter 19 — Mom's Cell,
Chapter 20 — Zeke's Binge,
Chapter 21 — The Fires Below,
Chapter 22 — The Belly of the Beast,
Chapter 23 — The Shield of Seasons,
Chapter 24 — The Battle of El Elado,
Chapter 25 — Yummy's Last Stand,
Chapter 26 — Heir to the Throne,
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