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Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies is the eighth collection of spooky short stories for ages 8 to 12 by popular author David Lubar. This is the perfect pick for young readers who like a few chills and a lot of laughs.
Welcome to the Weenie Zone! Here are thirty hilarious and harrowing stories that will scare you, make you laugh, or get you to see the world in a whole new way. Find out where the author got the idea for each story at the end of the book.
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Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies
And Other Warped and Creepy Tales
By David Lubar
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 David Lubar
All rights reserved.
From the instant I heard about PeaceJoy Charter School, I knew I had to go there. I'd spotted a big article about it in the newspaper my parents were reading at breakfast. There was a headline on the front page of the local section: BULLY-FREE SCHOOL SET TO OPEN IN SEPTEMBER.
Wow. A school without any bullies. According to the article, students from anywhere in the city or the surrounding suburbs could apply to go there. I closed my eyes and pictured it. I smiled as I saw smart, unathletic kids walking safely and happily through hallways decorated with inspiring posters about working together and being friends with everyone.
Imagine that — a school without a single bully.
Better yet — imagine a school with just one bully: Me. All those pathetic little losers would be at my mercy. They say bullies feel bad about themselves. Not me. I feel great. I'm strong and powerful. And I'm smart. Smart enough not to get caught. Smart enough, at times, so that even my victim doesn't realize he's being bullied.
Yeah, that's how good I am at making little whiny rodents feel fear and misery. I can make them tremble, blink back tears, and look in vain desperation for an escape route. But, as good as I am, nobody is perfect. I'd coasted through sixth and seventh grades without getting caught, but some of the teachers at my middle school had started to look at me like they were suspicious. When I walked through crowded hallways between classes, most kids tried to avoid getting too close to me. I had a feeling I'd end up in trouble before I finished eighth grade. I was afraid that my reputation for being a troublemaker would follow me to the high school, which was right across the street. So, it was time for a change, and for new hunting grounds.
I'd convinced my parents to fill out an application to PeaceJoy. That was easy enough. They aren't all that smart. Sometimes, I wonder where I came from. Maybe I had a great-great grandparent who was related to some brutal warlord or military genius. I sure didn't share any traits with my parents. I could twist them both around my little finger. They'd do anything I asked.
I had to write an essay as part of the admissions process for the school. That was a joke. I knew exactly what they wanted to hear. I tossed in phrases like "tired of being picked on," "peer pressure," and "self-esteem," and capped it all off with "I just want to be allowed to learn at my own pace in a fear-free and nurturing environment." It was priceless. I laughed the whole time I was writing it.
I got accepted, of course. The letter from PeaceJoy came two weeks before school started. I would be a member of the first graduating class. I'd walk the halls along with fifty-nine other students drawn from sixteen different middle schools in this part of the state.
I couldn't wait.
My dad dropped me off in front of the school the first morning.
"I'm proud of you, son," he said. "It takes a real man to admit his weaknesses."
"And strengths," I said as he drove off.
I merged with a group of kids going up the steps, and looked around, wondering who would be my favorite target this year. Maybe I could trip someone on the stairs. That was always fun. But it might be smarter to wait until I had a better sense of my classmates.
I went tumbling.
Someone had tripped me.
I looked around as I got up, but I couldn't tell who had done it. It had to be an accident. Nobody here would dare do that on purpose.
I went in through the doorway.
"Hey!" I shouted again as someone smacked the back of my head. I looked around. Once again, I couldn't tell anything. But as I took a good look at the kids near me, I realized something disturbing.
I wasn't towering over the crowd.
This wasn't the way I'd pictured things. This wasn't the fantasy that had entertained me ever since I'd learned about PeaceJoy. Most of the other kids were my size ... or bigger. There were one or two runts, but they didn't look scared. Their expressions were tough. They seemed alert, like they were looking all around for any source of danger. Or maybe they were looking for targets.
The teachers, who were waiting inside, led us into the auditorium. I got hit twice more before I took a seat. I sat in the last row, so there'd be nobody behind me. I noticed a banner over the stage:
PEACEJOY CHARTER SCHOOL: MAKING SCHOOLS SAFER EVERYWHERE
Everywhere? That didn't make sense.
A huge kid sat on my left. He was so big, at first I thought he was a teacher.
"Give me your lunch money," he said.
I didn't even try to argue. That's how scary he was. Right after I handed over my money, the kid on my right said, "Give me your sneakers."
He was even bigger.
I looked around the auditorium, wondering who I could steal lunch money and sneakers from. That's when it hit me — and it hit me so hard, I almost threw up. I wasn't the only kid who realized it would be great to be the one bully in a school full of victims.
Everyone had that idea. Every bully in sixteen different schools. And, based on the banner, the people who ran PeaceJoy already knew it. They were making schools safer by stuffing all of us here. Other schools would be safer. But not this one, for sure.
It was going to be a rough year.CHAPTER 2
There's a poem my grandmother taught me:
Little bugs have lesser bugs
Upon their backs to bite 'em.
And lesser bugs have smaller bugs,
And so on, ad infinitum.
Being as I was a young lad when I first heard this, she had to explain to me that "ad infinitum" meant infinitely. And, of course, she then had to explain what "infinite" meant. But I understood the basic idea that the small bugs that bit people had their own smaller bugs that bit the people-biting bugs. And those smaller bugs had even smaller bugs to deal with. And so on.
It seemed fair.
I mention bugs because the place we moved to isn't all that clean. The bugs don't really bother me. But it's hard not to notice them as they scurry in the shadows or dart beneath the cabinets.
On the bright side, the people around us are interesting. From the start, I could tell it was a lively neighborhood, filled with the scents of exotic, spiced foods and the sounds of rhythmic, pulsing music. One person, in particular, caught my eye. Her name was Lolana. Pretty name. Pretty girl.
She noticed me, too. The first day there, when I was walking to school, I could tell that I'd caught her attention as I moved past the stoop where she and her friends were gathered — waiting, I assume, for the last possible minute before heading out. I didn't react in any way that would reveal how keenly I was aware of her response. Though I allowed myself a smile once I'd moved past her.
She played it cool. So did I. We didn't even exchange glances for a week. And those first glances, when they came, were fleeting, as if a lingering gaze would admit too much interest.
Eventually, knowing she'd never be the first to break the silence, I spoke.
That was all. An opening.
Another week, and we were walking to school — not really together, just side by side. She told me very little about herself. I told her less about my own past.
We became friends. Not boyfriend and girlfriend, but a boy and a girl who were friends. This was better, since I would eventually betray her. No, betray is not the right word. I guess "exploit" would be better. Still, she'd feel a wound in her soul. But the wound of a friend's betrayal stings a little less than that of a beloved's deceit. Even so, I felt sad about that eventual wound. I hoped she would get over it.
Two months passed before the rumors started. First, a homeless man was found in an alley between a barber shop and a tattoo parlor. His death was attributed to blood loss. Though there was no spilled blood at the scene.
Two weeks later, a girl from our high school disappeared. The police believed she'd run away. But her friends swore she had no problems at home and no reason to leave town.
It was time.
"Let's have an adventure," I said to Lolana after school.
"Like what?" she asked.
"Let's pretend we're running away. I'll make sandwiches. We'll go off to the woods for a moonlit picnic."
She raised one eyebrow. "Are you asking me on a date?"
"No. I'm asking you on an adventure." I gave her my best innocent smile.
She touched my arm. "I'll make cookies."
I met her on the corner about an hour before sunset. I had a flashlight to help mark our way and matches to make a campfire when we got there. She had a container of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.
I have to say, her face looked radiant and bewitching in the light of our fire. I love the dance of light and shadows cast by flames. We sat and ate the sandwiches and still-soft cookies, and I waited for him. I knew he'd come. I just wasn't sure when or how. I hoped he wouldn't hurt her. That would make me sad.
"How lovely ..."
The voice came from above. Good. Some of them are silent, prizing stealth. The talkers are easier to deal with. They allow themselves to get distracted by their own words. I looked up. He was perched on a tree branch overhead, his figure silhouetted against the quarter moon.
Lolana let out a gasp and clutched her chest with one hand, just below her neck. I doubt she realized the significance of this gesture.
"Huh?" I shouted, scrambling to my feet. I forced my heart to speed up, as if I'd been seized by terror. I trusted that I sounded sufficiently startled.
He dropped from the branch, landing between us as silently as a cat dropping from a couch to a carpet.
"A picnic," he said. "How lovely. May I join you?"
He bared his fangs, then laughed.
Perfect. He planned to toy with us. I wasn't surprised. Most of his kind were narcissistic fools who equated longevity with wisdom.
"No, on second thought, I don't think I'll dine with you," he said. "I think I'll dine on you. I've quite a thirst."
Lolana was trembling now. Poor girl. She looked at me as if I could rescue her.
"Who wants to be first?" he asked.
I turned and fled, stumbling and staggering away through the underbrush.
I hadn't gone far before I heard Lolana scream.
The vampire laughed. "Don't worry. I'll chase down the coward next. And he'll suffer for his lack of chivalry. But first, my dear, I need to get to know that lovely neck of yours — and the lovely blood pulsing beneath it."
He turned toward her and grabbed her shoulder. His back was to me now.
I closed the distance between us in an eyeblink. As I slammed against him, I reached around and put one hand beneath his chin, yanking his head back.
Lolana collapsed. She was unharmed. I could tell. But her heart had slowed. She'd fainted. Good. She didn't need to see what was about to happen.
The vampire let out a gasp of surprise and confusion. I had already arched his body backward, revealing his own neck. He struggled, but he was a mere vampire. They're strong. But just as parasites have lesser bugs to bite them, blood-sucking vampires have greater blood drinkers to feast on them.
He needed human blood once a week to survive.
I needed vampire blood once a year.
It was feeding time. I drank what I needed. Unlike a vampire, I can walk in the sun. I can eat human food, though it does not nourish me. And I can see my reflection. I saw it once when I was feeding. My eyes turned red, almost glowing. I thought it made me quite handsome and intriguing.
When I was finished feeding from the vampire, I dropped the body. In a moment, it collapsed into ashes. One strong gust of wind, and there'd be no sign left of him, and no more mysterious deaths in town. I turned my attention to Lolana. Poor girl. I'd used her as bait. But she hadn't been harmed. She wouldn't remember much of this. With luck, I'd be able to bring her to a safe location before she woke. All she'd really know is that her friend had vanished one night. As for me, I'd slip off in search of a good place to await next year's feeding.
"Sweet girl," I whispered as I stroked her hair. "You have no idea how much you helped me."
I picked her up gently to carry her back to town.
She shifted in my arms. Her eyes opened. By the time I realized the meaning of the red glow and look of long-simmering hunger, it was too late. She'd already grabbed my head and forced it back.
I struggled, but she was far stronger than I was — impossibly strong.
"I'm sorry," she said as she held me immobile. "I really liked you. But I like the blood of those who drink vampire blood even more. More than like it, I need it. But not often. Once a decade is enough."
As she clamped her mouth on my neck and feasted, I heard my grandmother reciting the rhyme about smaller bugs. I guess larger bugs have larger bugs to feast on them, too. Ad infinitum.CHAPTER 3
FROZEN IN TIME
That had to be it.
The sticky note on the fridge read: Hope you had a good day at school. Special treat in freezer. Love, Dad.
That was in blue pen. Below that, in pencil, was: Just one, Alexis.
That was from Mom, who doesn't spoil me as much as Dad does but is still pretty much a softy except when I leave a mess or forget to pick up after myself, which happens a lot because I've always got a thousand things zipping through my mind, and I get distracted pretty easily.
Please be fudge bars ...
I opened the freezer door and felt the cold air brush my arm. When cold and warm air meet, you get convection. That's one of three forms of heat transference. There was also a visible swirl of condensation, because cooler air holds less moisture.
Oops. I realized I was standing there with the door open. I turned my attention to the contents of the freezer.
I found myself face-to-face with an unopened box of my favorite frozen fudgy treat, Double Fudgy Choco Bars. I unzipped the cardboard strip on the end flap that stood between me and icy, sweet delight and grabbed my treat.
The doorbell rang.
Oh, fudge. I was totally looking forward to sinking into the big easy chair by the window in the living room and reading my new book as I savored my treat.
I went to the front door, stood on my tiptoes, and looked through the small glass section that was just a bit too high to be convenient. I was home alone. Mom and Dad were both at work. But I was old enough to be here by myself. And I was smart enough to know you don't just fling open the door without checking to see who's there.
"Huh?" I'm rarely startled. But Mom was on the porch. Why would she be ringing the bell? She has a key. And why did she look so young? Aging is a gradual process. I wrote a paper about it for my science class last month. Everything is controlled at the cellular level. There are these things called telomeres that are connected with aging.
Mom rang the bell again, pushing the button three times in rapid succession.
I opened the door.
It wasn't Mom. The woman looked like Mom did in her photos from college. Except for her eyes. Those reminded me of someone else.
She grabbed my arm and said, "I'm here from —"
Before I could pull free, she vanished. But she didn't vanish like something blinking off. She collapsed into a bright pinpoint of light and shot away from me at a forty-five-degree angle.
"I need to sit down," I said as I staggered back from the door. Great. Not only was I seeing impossible things, I was also talking to myself. I closed the door and headed for the living room. Perceptions can be altered in a variety of ways. Perhaps I'd encountered a neurotoxin of some sort. I thought back through my day to see if I'd done anything that could explain the current state of my brain.
I went back to the door, peeked through the window, and saw Mom again. Still not exactly Mom, but a little bit older than she'd been a minute ago.
I pulled open the door, but stepped back so she couldn't grab my arm.
"I'm here from the future," she said. "I'm —"
Collapse, zoom, bye.
I closed the door. But I stayed where I was. Whoever I'd encountered, she seemed to have a very limited time to give me her message. I wanted to help maximize that time.
"I'm you," she said, the instant the door opened. I guess she knew I'd already gotten the first message, about how she was from the future.
She went on. "I don't have much time." Her eyes drifted from me, and she said, "We keep extending the duration. It's all based on synchronizing subatomic particles with the right harmonics. Pretty fascinating. Anyhow, I need to tell you —"
Collapse, zoom, bye.
So that's why she looked like Mom, but had Dad's eyes. She wasn't Mom. She was me from the future.
Some kids would have a hard time believing time travel was possible. Not me. I was fascinated by it. Ever since I was little and discovered science, I've wanted to work on something spectacular and world-changing when I got out of college, like teleportation or immortality. I loved the idea that I grew up to work on time travel. And, as for proof that she was really me and not someone playing an elaborate joke, the way she — I mean I ... or maybe we? — got distracted was exactly how I acted.
Excerpted from Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies by David Lubar. Copyright © 2016 David Lubar. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Frozen in Time,
In Warm Blood,
The Duggly Uckling,
Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies,
All the Tricks,
Tanks for Your Contribution,
The Girl Who Covered Her Face,
Bangs in Your Eyes,
Haunting Your Thoughts,
Stunt Your Growth,
The Principle of Discipline,
Serves You Right,
The Quilty Clown,
A Word or Two About These Stories,
Starscape Books by David Lubar,
About the Author,