Read an Excerpt
“I’ve called you here today, men, because I have an important announcement. One that will change our lives.”
Henry Mosley licked his finger and carefully flipped a page of densely scribbled notes on the yellow legal pad in front of him. He cleared his throat, looked up and made eye contact with his audience.
Henry’s audience was small--just Reed Hamner and Riley Dolen, his best friends--and they were sitting at his kitchen table after school, but still, he knew that every good public speaker, not to mention every effective leader, understood the significance of Looking a Man in the Eye.
Henry Mosley was twelve years old. He had recently watched a documentary about General Douglas MacArthur with his grandfather, an army veteran, during which he had been very impressed with Military Precision and Choosing Words Carefully, not to mention Examples of Bravery and Inventiveness.
Earlier, at school, Henry had told Reed and Riley that he needed to speak with them regarding a Subject of the Utmost Importance and that they should meet at his house at precisely 1600 hours.
Reed had been late, of course, because it took him a while to figure out what 1600 hours was, and he was always late because he got lost a lot, even though he only lived three streets over. Riley had not only been on time, but he had also brought granola bars and Ziploc bags of fresh vegetables and bottles of water for all three of them because he knew that meetings required snacks, and Riley was always prepared. Always.
“I am proposing,” Henry continued, reading carefully from his notes, “that we Undertake and Implement a Series of Daring Experiences and Grand Adventures the likes of which the history of Western civilization has never seen, at least not from twelve-year-olds in suburban Cleveland.”
Reed scratched his ear and looked confused. Reed frequently looked confused. Riley snapped a carrot stick in half and looked thoughtful--his usual expression.
“Why?” Reed finally asked, a hint of panic in his voice. “Why are we underwhatsitting and implewhoositting?”
“Henry’s got spring fever,” Riley explained, somewhat dismissively, Henry thought.
“What I have in mind is so much bigger than that,” Henry said. “I’m working to create a series of tasks that will Prove Our Manhood and show us What We’re Made Of. And if we play our cards right, we just might Alter the Course of History a time or two. And, of course, Impress Girls and Get Them to Notice Us.”
“What made you start thinking about things like experiences and adventures and bravery and what we’re made of?” Reed was chewing a fingernail and looking as if he had to go to the bathroom. Urgently.
“What happened during fifth period?” Riley asked. “And what got you talking so official-like and, I dunno, epic?” Henry had a way of always sounding like whatever he was currently reading or watching, and Riley racked his brains to remember whether their reading list lately had included any books about military history or Greek mythology.
“Remember how we read Huckleberry Finn and Treasure Island and the book about how the kids tried to save their father from the space-time continuum thingie and that other book about the boy who got stuck in the woods after a plane crash? I got to thinking--what would our stories be like? What would an author write about us? Let’s face facts: We may be the most boring twelve-year olds on the planet.”
“We’re not boring, Henry,” Reed said in a small voice.
“Really? Because I’ve been thinking about our lives lately and perfect attendance does not count as exciting.”
“Well, we don’t just go to school, we also, um, we, ah, well, there’s . . . and then, of course, er . . .” Reed looked to Riley for help, but Riley just shrugged.
“Exactly,” Henry said. “Nothing interesting ever happens. Luckily, I have plenty of ideas.”
“What kind of ideas?”
“You leave the details to me.” Henry patted his legal pad confidently.
“Does that mean you’re in charge? Like the boss or something?” Reed always cared about who was in charge. He was the only boy in his family--he had three older sisters and three younger sisters--and he never got his way at home. Never. Not ever.
“Of course not. This is a democracy; we vote on everything.”
“Then I vote no. I don’t want to complain or worry anyone, but adventures sound dangerous. And I have a curfew. I don’t have time to change history if I have to be in the house by eight o’clock on weekdays. Or whatever the new way of saying eight o’clock is.”
“The voting starts later, when I tell you each plan. The idea to go ahead with Becoming Men of Action and Daring, Masters of Adventure, well, I’ve already made that executive decision for all of us.”
“Like I said, my curfew is eight on school nights and that’s only if I’ve gotten my homework done. And doesn’t daring usually mean painful? I don’t like pain.”
“There might be some pain,” Henry allowed, “but not much. Probably. Hardly any. Maybe a little, but no blood. Definitely no blood. Well, okay, maybe a smidge, but not enough to worry about.” To Reed, Henry sounded as if he’d be disappointed if there weren’t pain and blood.
“What do you think?” Reed looked at Riley, who had been taking notes. Riley’s mother was a reporter and his father was a court stenographer, so Reed and Henry were used to seeing Riley quietly scribbling in a notebook, not only in class, but during routine conversations. Riley’s attention to detail had resolved more than a few arguments over the years when they went back and consulted his jottings. He wasn’t a big talker like Henry and he wasn’t a nervous babbler like Reed. He took notes.
“I want to see what happens,” Riley said now, looking up from his notebook. “I’m in.”
“See? Even without a formal vote, majority rules,” Henry said, smiling.
Reed put his head between his knees and tried to breathe slowly because he’d heard that this technique made your heart stop racing and helped the swirly blobs in front of your eyes go away. The upside-down position only made his ears ring more loudly.
“I’m going to tweak the ideas for a few more days,” Henry said to the top of Reed’s head, “and we’ll reconvene this weekend and get started.”
“Reconvene?” Reed asked. “You mean meet up?”
“Don’t worry, Reed,” Riley said. “I know a website where you can draw up your last will and testament.” Although he was only twelve, Riley had already written several drafts of his own will. He liked to be prepared.
“See how interesting things have gotten already?” Henry asked. “Did you think when you got up in the morning that you’d be writing a will in the afternoon? My plan is revving things up around here.”
“I’m not sure I’m the kind of person who was meant for an interesting life,” Reed said, raising his head. “I think my Inner Courageous Guy might be hibernating. Or nonexistent.”
“That’s exactly why we need to start doing Interesting Things That Will Build Our Character,” Henry said. “Otherwise we could wind up like Dwight Hauser.”
Reed and Riley both frowned. At their school, Dwight Hauser was just another way of saying “stuck-up, pushy jerk,” “puke-spewing slimeball” or “nose-picking, booger-eating punk.” Dwight Hauser was an out-and-out bully, but Henry, Riley and Reed knew that he was yellow clear through, because he only picked on girls or younger kids. Hauser was always surrounded by a rumor-spreading group of tiny-minded toadies who had been scheming for years to slip iguana poop into the beef stew in the lunchroom.
“Well, if you put it like that,” Reed said, “I’ll keep you guys company. If you insist.”
“You wait and see,” Henry said. “You’re going to wind up thanking me for coming up with this Plan of Action. I have a feeling, men, that it’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to us.”