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A Thump in the Morning
THUMP-BUMP! THUMP-BUMP! THUMP-BUMP!
I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes.
THUMP-BUMP! THUMP-BUMP! THUMP-BUMP!
Who was making noise so early on a Sunday morning? And right outside my window?
CRaSH! WaaaaaaaGH! It sounded like broken glass. And somebody crying!
I grabbed my purple sneakers. There was no time to get dressed. Somebody at Starwood Park needed help — maybe even a hero's help. And with my purple sneakers, I had Zapato Power! That's super speed, the kind superheroes have.
I ran outside in my red and blue pajamas. My purple sneakers were smoking. I was ready to help.
Gio, my next-door neighbor, cried while his little dog, Puppy, barked at a big hole in Mrs. Tran's window.
"Did you break that window?" I asked Gio.
"My ball broke it when I bounced it on the wall."
Puppy agreed. "Ruff! Ruff!"
Gio is five. He only goes to kindergarten in the morning. He hasn't had time to learn a lot of things — like how neighbors don't like basketballs crashing into their apartments.
"Watch out!" I shouted.
Mrs. Tran hollered something in a language we didn't understand and threw Gio's basketball out of the hole in her window.
The ball bounced on the sidewalk and rolled down the hill to the street.
"My ball!" Gio cried.
He chased after it, but the basketball was way too fast for him. And a red car was coming around the corner. If Gio wasn't smart enough not to bounce a basketball off a window, he might not be smart enough to stay out of the street. It was time to use my super speed to save the day.
In one blink, I was at the curb, scooping up the ball, just as the red car sped by.
"You saved my ball!" Gio said, as he rushed up to me. "You're fast!"
I sure was. With my purple zapatos, I could save a ball from going into the street. I could save a puppy from a speeding car. I could even outrun a train. But I couldn't save Gio from Mrs. Tran, his mother, and his sister, Maria.
"What were you thinking?" Gio's mom came down the hill with Puppy at her heels. "Why were you throwing a ball against the building?"
"Who's going to fix my window?" Mrs. Tran asked.
"You're in trouble now," Maria said.
"I'm sorry!" Gio cried. "Lo siento."
"Ruff! Ruff!" Puppy said.
Everybody was barking, crying, or asking questions. I used my Zapato Power to get out of there, fast.
In half a blink, I was at Mr. Vaslov's toolshed. He takes care of Starwood Park. If something's broken, Mr. Vaslov is the guy to fix it.
I knocked on the door.
"Freddie!" Mr. Vaslov said, when he saw me. "What are you doing in your pajamas?"
I looked down at my blue and red striped pajama pants. "Superheroes don't always have time to get dressed," I said.
Mr. Vaslov smiled and waved me inside his toolshed with a screwdriver. I looked around at all the tools and cut-up computers. Mr. Vaslov does more than take care of Starwood Park. He invents things like special shoes that go ninety miles an hour. I have Zapato Power because of Mr. Vaslov.
"So what's the problem?" Mr. Vaslov asked.
I told him about Gio and Mrs. Tran's window. He picked up a broom and started out the door.
"Time for some clean-up," he said.
"Do you need help?" I asked.
Mr. Vaslov pushed back his bushy gray hair. "Sounds like everybody is pretty upset. I'd stay out of the way for a while if I were you."
Just then, we heard the metro train rumble on its overhead track in the back of the building. My feet started to tingle in my sneakers. I waved at Mr. Vaslov. Then I took off ...CHAPTER 2
A Softer Ball
The metro train goes right by Starwood Park. I've been racing it since I moved here, just for fun. But when Mr. Vaslov gave me my purple zapatos, it got a lot more interesting.
I ran beside the overhead track. Smoke swirled around me as my legs spun faster and faster. The wind whooshed against my face so hard, I had to blink my eyes. Rápido! I zipped past the train, flying on the ground. ZAPATO POWER! Nothing could touch me! I was faster than a rocket!
But still too young to leave the house without telling my mother.
"FREDDIE! WHERE ARE YOU?" Mom shouted all over Starwood Park.
I raced back up the hill to where Mom stood with her hands on her hips. "Where did you go? I was worried."
"To tell Mr. Vaslov about Mrs. Tran's window," I said.
"I'm glad you're all right."
Mom hugged me. She's been mushy ever since last year, when we lost my soldier dad and my grandmother, Abuela. Mom says we only have each other now, so she deserves extra hugs whenever she gets worried about me.
"And I'm glad you know better than to throw balls through windows," Mom added.
"Gio needs a softer ball," I said.
"Yes, he does," a deep voice behind us agreed. It was Mr. Vaslov. He held a blue and white beach ball.
Mom laughed. "Gio won't break any windows with that!"
"I know." Mr. Vaslov smiled. "That's why I'm giving it to him."
"You're such a nice man!" Mom said. "We're lucky to have you at Starwood Park."
Mom was right about Mr. Vaslov. He gave me my purple zapatos, and he gave Gio a new ball without yelling at him for breaking the window.
"Accidents happen," Mr. Vaslov said. "It's part of life."
"Thanks!" Gio shouted, as he took the beach ball. "Can I play with it now?"
"Throw it as high as you want," Mr. Vaslov said. "It shouldn't hurt anything!"
We all stood watching Gio toss the ball for a few minutes. Then Mom put her hand on my shoulder.
"Freddie? Do you know you're still wearing pajamas?"CHAPTER 3
An On-Off Switch
The rest of my Sunday wasn't too exciting. We didn't have anything to do except clean the house. I really miss my abuela on Sundays. When she was alive, we went over to her house for dinner. Now, Mom and I usually clean Claude the Second's cage. Cleaning guinea pig poop is just not as much fun as eating tamales. And Mom gets cranky when Claude the Second waddles off his newspaper and leaves tiny presents on the carpet.
"Get the vacuum cleaner!" Mom ordered, scooping up my guinea pig.
I rushed down the hall, forgetting all about the smoke that comes out of my purple zapatos every time I run.
"Thanks!" Mom said, handing me Claude the Second so she could take the vacuum. "You were so fast you were smoking!"
Luckily, Mom cared more about cleaning up Claude the Second's poop than why I could run so fast. She didn't know about my Zapato Power. Mom already worried enough. Knowing I had super speed and was trying to be a superhero wouldn't make her feel any better. I needed to be more careful. My purple zapatos were just fine when I walked. But the second I picked up some speed, I zoomed off like a rocket! It wasn't just a problem in front of my mom, it was a problem on the playground.
"How come you turn into a puff of smoke when you run?" my friend Maria asked the next day at recess.
Super speed is not an easy thing to hide during a basketball game.
"Come on, Freddie!" Hamza said. "Don't be a hog. Let somebody else get some points for a change."
"How do you know it's Freddie?" Maria asked. "All I can see is a magic wind stealing the ball."
I tried to slow down, but my super zapatos wouldn't let me. And my hands were just as itchy as my feet. With super speed, I was always next to the ball. It was natural to grab it and go for the hoop. That's what a basketball player does.
"I quit!" Geraldo shouted, when I got my thirtieth point. "The rest of us don't have a chance!"
PE wasn't any better than recess that day. Mr. Gooley, our gym teacher, took us outside to practice the fifty-yard dash.
"Freddie!" Mr. Gooley hollered. "You can't run across the field before I blow the whistle. It's not fair."
Zapato Power was the best thing on earth when I was alone. But when I was with my friends, it felt a little like cheating.
"What's wrong, Freddie?" Mr. Vaslov asked me after school on Monday. "You've lost your superhero smile."
We sat down on the steps of his toolshed. Mr. Vaslov listened carefully as I explained the problem.
"Your shoes need an on-off switch." Mr. Vaslov patted my shoulder.
"That's a great idea!"
Mr. Vaslov stroked his chin, thinking. "Now's the time to add improvements, while I'm still developing and testing the shoes."
"And trying to make a second pair," I added.
"Right again, Freddie." Mr. Vaslov chuckled. "I still haven't figured out how to make my invention work for anybody but you."
"But what about controls? Do you think you can make them?" I asked.
Mr. Vaslov leaned down and touched the silver wings on the sides of my shoes. His face looked like my mom's when she's trying to decide if she can buy new clothes for me.
"Give me a few days to come up with something, Freddie. I'll do the best I can."CHAPTER 4
Inventions Take Time
I'm not the most patient guy. Every afternoon, I knocked on Mr. Vaslov's toolshed. He opened the door halfway to talk to me.
"Are you finished?"
"Not yet," Mr. Vaslov answered. "But I have a great idea."
"What?" I asked.
"A wristband with a button you can press."
"Sounds great! When will it be ready?"
"Inventions take time, Freddie." Mr. Vaslov gently closed the door.
The days went by slowly. I got tired of watching my friends play basketball at recess while I pretended to have a sore ankle. And Mr. Gooley got tired of my excuses about why I couldn't run during PE.
"What hurts today, Freddie?" Mr. Gooley asked, when I came up to him, holding my hand over my left ear.
Mr. Gooley let me sit on the bench again, but I could tell he was getting suspicious. I didn't have any body parts left to complain about. Keeping my super speed a secret was taking a lot of brainwork. It's not easy to come up with good excuses.
"Mr. Vaslov!" I knocked on the toolshed door a week later. "Is my on-off switch working yet?"
For the first time, no one answered. I knocked again, louder and harder. The door pushed open. I saw a bunch of wires and a purple wristband on the table. Was that the wristband Mr. Vaslov was making for me?
I stood outside the toolshed for a few minutes, debating if I should go inside when Mr. Vaslov wasn't there. Then, I heard crying.
Who was in trouble? From the moment I got my purple zapatos, I'd been watching out for chances to be a hero. Once, I saved Gio's puppy from a speeding car. I saved his basketball, too, after Mrs. Tran threw it out the window. But being a superhero meant helping people all the time.
"WaaaaaGH!" The sound was behind me, way up near my apartment, 29G.
I couldn't resist. I turned around.
In half a blink, I was standing in front of Gio. His crying was a lot louder and slobbery in person than it was from far away.
"My ball," he wailed, "the one Mr. Vaslov gave me. It's gone!"
This wasn't exactly a superhero rescue. But Gio was my friend and my neighbor. I zipped around the building in my purple zapatos, to see if I could find his ball. No luck.
"Where did you see it last?" I asked.
"When I was playing with it," he answered.
Talking to Gio made me feel like a detective. I had to ask a lot of questions to get any information. "Where were you playing with it?"
He pointed to the grass behind Building G. "Mr. Vaslov told me to throw the ball up in the air, not at the windows or the wall."
"Good advice," I said.
I ran around the building a couple more times, but I still couldn't find Gio's ball. He went inside to get Puppy and I decided to try to find Mr. Vaslov again. Maybe he knew what had happened to Gio's ball. Nobody knew what was going on at Starwood Park like Mr. Vaslov.
When I got back to the toolshed, the door was still open. Mr. Vaslov wasn't anywhere around. I saw the purple wristband on the table again. Was it ready yet?
I stepped inside the toolshed for a closer look.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Zapato Power Freddie Ramos Springs Into Action"
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. A Thump in the Morning,
2. A Softer Ball,
3. An On-Off Switch,
4. Inventions Take Time,
5. The Purple Wristband,
6. Are You Stuck?,
7. A Superhero with a Mom,
8. An Extra Button,