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Super Schnoz and the Invasion of the Snore Snatchers
By Greg Urey
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2014 Gary Urey
All rights reserved.
Every superhero has a weakness," TJ blurted out one day while Vivian, Jimmy, Mumps, and I were sitting inside our secret hideout, the Nostril.
The morning sky was bright blue and the air was already hot and sticky. Summer vacation was almost over. My friends were back from their camps and my smell tour of the surrounding countryside was an amazing success. I had added sixty-four new odors to my scent dictionary and managed to go the whole summer without getting sunburn on my nose. (My mom had stocked up with several hundred gallons of SPF 500 sunscreen.)
"What weaknesses are you talking about?" I asked TJ.
"You know, like how Kryptonite makes Superman shrivel like a worm on sizzling asphalt."
"And how Aquaman turns belly up if he's out of water for more than sixty minutes," Mumps added.
"Don't forget Wolverine," Jimmy said. "The Muramasa Blade completely destroys his self-healing powers."
Vivian, who had been playing with her pet gecko, Mr. Sticky, looked up. "That's nothing," she said. "What about Janet van Dyne—aka the Wasp?"
"What about her?" Jimmy asked.
"Her weakness is the Blob, who ate her in Ultimatum, Issue Two, and then remarked she tasted like chicken!"
For the next ten minutes, Vivian and the Not-Right Brothers argued back and forth about which superhero had the weirdest weakness: Thor letting go of his hammer for more than one minute; Venom, Spider-man's nemesis, and his vulnerability to extreme heat; Power Girl's negative reaction to natural elements; and the Green Lantern's strange aversion to the color yellow.
While my friends jabbered away, I reached up and grabbed my Super Schnoz costume off its hanger. I took a huge whiff of the fabric. The tantalizing odors of my last Super Schnoz adventure made the hairs inside my nose tingle. Even though it had been two months since our battle with ECU, I still smelled the rancid odor of burning Stryker combat vehicles, the pungent pastrami sandwich rotting away on Mr. Toby's desk, and the disgusting fragrance of Muzzle's aftershave lotion—an astringent mix of rubbing alcohol and menthol.
But most of all, my ultrasensitive, bloodhound-like scent membranes inhaled the nasty nasal sensations of the Gates of Smell.
"What's your weakness, Schnoz?" TJ asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. "Maybe it's cayenne pepper. Snorting six bottles of the stuff nearly burned away my nasal lining."
"Cayenne pepper isn't your weakness," Mumps joked. "It gives you power the way rays from the sun fuel Superman's superhuman hearing, strength, and X-ray vision!"
Vivian and the Not-Right Brothers cracked up.
"Don't worry," Vivian reassured me. "I know that stuff wasn't good for your nose. Hopefully, you'll never have to arm yourself with cayenne pepper again. But if you do, you need to carry a spray bottle of saline solution to moisten the inside of your nasal passages after every blast."
"Schnoz will need more than a spray bottle to moisten that huge honker!" TJ squealed. "He'll need a whole tanker truck full of the stuff!"
"Very funny," I said sarcastically. "If it wasn't for my nose, you'd be floating downstream on a smelly river of SPOIL. ECU would have destroyed our school, town, and possibly the entire world."
Vivian gently picked up Mr. Sticky, placed him back inside his plastic mini-rainforest habitat, and closed the lid. "I don't know Schnoz's weakness, but I know the town's weakness. And it has nothing to do with sniffing pepper," she said.
I shot Vivian a confused look. "What are you talking about?"
She wiggled her finger, indicating I should follow her. "Let's go for a ride," she said. "The evidence is right under your nose in downtown Denmark, and you're not even aware of it."CHAPTER 2
CUP OF JOE
Vivian, the Not-Right Brothers, and I hopped on our bikes and cruised down the street. There's no way my nose could have missed something. After all, my greatest strength was the mighty booger blaster in the center of my face. The protruding proboscis had the power of flight and was capable of delivering a pepper-crusted snot missile so powerful that it could destroy a whole fleet of armored tanks. (Just ask the losers at ECU!)
Tall mountains surrounded the town of Denmark on all sides. The downtown area consisted of Main Street and a few smaller side lanes. I had explored all of them while searching out new smells for my mental scent dictionary.
Vivian's bike brakes squealed to a halt in front of Sleepy Joe's Coffee Shop.
"What are we stopping here for?" Jimmy asked.
"Look around, Schnoz," Vivian instructed. "Tell me what you see."
I scratched the tip of my nose, wondering what point she was trying to make. "I see a coffee shop and a bunch of stores," I said.
"I see the same thing," Jimmy said.
"Okay. Then tell me how many coffee shops you see?"
TJ started counting. "One ... two ... three ... six ... ten ... eleven ... twelve. There are twelve coffee shops on Main Street."
"Schnoz, when you moved here last September at the beginning of the school year, there were two coffee shops in town," Vivian said. "Since then, ten new ones have opened up. Don't you think that's a little strange?"
I shrugged. "People just like their cup of morning joe, that's all."
Vivian let out an exasperated sigh. "Ugh! Then please tell me the names of some other businesses besides coffee shops."
"The Soundproofing Emporium," I said.
"And the White Noise Outlet," Jimmy said.
"Ear Plugs 'R' Us and the Earthquake Emergency Bargain Bin," Mumps added.
"Don't forget about the North American Seismological Laboratory that just moved into the old toothpick factory," TJ chimed in.
"What's that place all about?" Mumps asked, wiggling his loose bottom tooth. "I don't even know what 'seismological' means."
"Seismology is the study of earthquakes," Vivian replied. Then she turned to me and pointed to the shoppers strolling down Main Street. "Take a look at those people's faces," she said. "What do you see?"
I flared my nostrils and then took a good look at them. They were grown-up men and women. They all looked exhausted with big bags under their eyes.
"They look like they haven't slept in weeks," I said.
"Exactly!" Vivian exclaimed. "And what would cause people to not sleep?"
I just stared at her, not knowing how to respond.
"Noise!" Vivian yelled. "Loud racket in the middle of the night that keeps people up. That's why there are so many new coffee, ear plug, and soundproofing places in town."
"What's your point?" I asked.
Vivian stepped up to me and tapped the end of my nose. "You are my point," she said. "Schnoz, you are the world's loudest snorer! You are the reason people aren't getting enough sleep! Every night the power of your snoring causes a small earthquake that registers a 4.5 on the Richter scale, and it's getting worse. Why do you think a scientific laboratory that studies geological disturbances moved to town?"
"I've never once heard myself snore!" I fired back.
"No one hears themselves snore because they're asleep when it happens," TJ said.
"Um ... Vivian's right, Schnoz," Jimmy said. "You do have a bit of a snoring problem."
"If I'm such a loud snorer," I said, "then why didn't someone tell me a long time ago? Or when my family first moved here?"
Vivian, Mumps, TJ, and Jimmy stared at the ground, like they were ashamed to answer my question.
"Because your snoring has become the town's cash cow," Vivian said finally.
"If it wasn't for your snoring," Jimmy said. "Main Street would look like a ghost town with abandoned shops and boarded-up windows. As far as this town is concerned, your snoot is an economic engine."
"Well, I find it hard to believe that you four knew about my snoring and never told me about it," I said.
"Because at first your snoring was kind of funny," Vivian said. "It was like the rumble of a distant evening thunderstorm. But over the last few months it has gotten a lot worse."
"It's true, Schnoz," TJ said. "There is a direct correlation between the escalation of your snoring, a seismological lab coming to town, and all the new coffee shops opening for business."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing! My nose felt like someone had sucked it dry with a vacuum hose. I was shocked, confused, and downright angry. I shifted my bike into gear and peeled out, racing as fast as could toward home.CHAPTER 3
A CURE FOR SNORING
My parents were still at work when I wheeled up the driveway. I parked my bike and walked into the house. Mom and Dad had done extensive renovations in the last six months. I hadn't paid much attention to all the construction until now.
They'd had the entire foundation of the house reinforced with thick concrete. Workers had added steel frames to some of the walls. Mom had secured all of the heavy mirrors and pictures tightly. Dad had strapped all of our bookcases and cabinets to the walls to prevent overturning. He had even bolted down the refrigerator to keep it from toppling over. Stuffed away in a cabinet under the kitchen sink was a huge duffel bag labeled Disaster Kit, and it was filled with bottles of water, non-perishable food, and medical supplies.
In other words, my parents were earthquake-proofing the house.
I ran upstairs and threw open their bedroom door. Scattered on top of their dresser were receipts for thousands of dollar spent at downtown stores like the Soundproofing Emporium and the White Noise Outlet. I remembered that over the past few months they had added extra insulation and padding in their room. The padding was a thick foam called Quiet Jams, specially designed for musical recording studios.
Mom and Dad had soundproofed their bedroom to escape from my snoring!
Lately Mom had been coming into my room at night to check on me. She never turned on the light, but just sat quietly on the edge of my bed, intently watching me for a few minutes. I'd pretended to be asleep. Now I realized she was probably worried that I would die in the middle of the night from excessive snoring.
I was just about to run into the kitchen and drown my sorrows in a glass of root beer when the doorbell rang. I threw open the door and saw Vivian standing there.
"What do you want?" I asked.
"We need to talk," she said and then barged through the front door and plopped down at the kitchen table.
I poured us two glasses of root beer. "I honestly had no idea that my snoring was so bad," I said. "I wish somebody had told me."
"Have your parents taken you to the doctor lately for a check-up?"
"My mom took me for a physical a couple months ago," I said, stroking my nostrils. "But the only thing the doctor did was look inside my nose. He tried to use a normal endoscope to look up there, but it was way too small. The doctor had to rig a telescope with a spotlight so he could see what was going on way up inside my beak."
"He was probably checking for an abnormality that would cause you to snore so loudly. See, your parents did take you to a doctor about your snoring but didn't tell you because they thought it might hurt your feelings."
I shrugged. "Well, I never went back. So he obviously didn't find anything wrong with me." "The thing to remember, Schnoz, is that snoring is not your fault. I've Googled the causes and there are lots of reasons. In most cases like yours, it's not a medical emergency. Loud snoring just annoys other people more than anything."
We opened up my laptop and typed "causes of snoring" into the search engine. The top four reasons were mouth anatomy, nasal problems, body weight, and sleep apnea.
"What's sleep apnea?" I wondered.
"From what this website says, it's a condition that causes the throat tissues to completely block your airway, preventing you from breathing for ten seconds or longer."
"Creepy," I said.
"Totally," Vivian agreed. "Look, let's get TJ, Mumps, and Jimmy working on this with us. We'll gather all the information on snoring cures and give them a try."
Vivian and I slapped each other a high-five and set out to find a permanent cure for my snoring.CHAPTER 4
The next morning, I was sitting with my mom and dad at the breakfast table. My parents looked horrible. They had dark circles under their eyes, and their faces were all red and splotchy like someone had smacked them around with a fly swatter.
"Do I have a snoring problem?" I asked, slurping down a spoonful of cereal.
Mom and Dad gave each other a weird look.
"Everybody snores, Andy," Mom answered. "Why do you ask?"
"My friends told me why Denmark has so many coffee shops and noise reduction stores in town. It's because my snoring is so loud. Is it true?"
"You snore a little," Dad said. "But, like your mother said, everybody snores."
"But not everybody snores so loudly that it causes minor earthquakes," I said.
"Where did you get such an idea?" Mom asked me.
"I'm not stupid. I know you spent thousands of dollars soundproofing your bedroom and earthquake-proofing our house."
Mom scooted next to me. "You do snore, Andy," she said. "And it can be a little loud at times, but we love you and I'm sure you will grow out of it soon."
"It's kind of embarrassing," I said. "I mean, my nose is as big as a mountain, and from what I'm told, I snore as loud as a space shuttle launch."
"You're perfect just the way you are," Dad said, and then they shooed me out the door.
I met Vivian and the Not-Right Brothers inside the Nostril to plan our snoring attack. The list of cures we discovered online ranged from conventional advice—using nasal strips and taking decongestants before bed—to completely wacky things, like sleeping upside down with your feet tied to a tree limb or strengthening your throat muscles by yodeling on a hillside.
"When my dad snores at night," Mumps said, "Mom gives him a hard elbow to the ribs and then yells for him to go sleep on the couch."
Vivian rolled her eyes. "Let's start with the easiest cures," she said. "Nasal strips just might do the trick. They work by lifting the nasal passages to keep them open for normal airflow.
"Think again," Jimmy said. "Nasal strips are for people with normal-sized noses. Using one on Schnoz is like sticking a Band-Aid on an elephant's trunk. It won't do a thing."
"Duct tape might work," TJ mused. "It works for everything else. I read an article about a guy who made a two-story house using nothing but duct tape."
"Hmmm ..." I mumbled. "I guess we could give it a try."
"Then let's do it," Vivian said. "We'll duct tape our way to a peaceful night's sleep."
Twelve-hours and sixteen rolls of duct tape later, the gang had finally managed to duct tape my nose open.
"How does it feel?" Mumps asked.
"Not very comfortable," I wheezed. "It feels like the time my nose got stuck inside a porthole when we visited the USS Constitution on our field trip to the Boston Navy Yard."
"There are a lot of things more important than comfort," Jimmy preached. "Like the town of Denmark getting a good night's sleep."
"How will I know if it works?" I asked.
"Simple," TJ said. "Your snoring routinely causes an earthquake that registers a 4.5 on the Richter scale. We've all felt the effects."
"Dishes break, window panes rattle, furniture topples over," Vivian added. "There could even be small cracks in the walls and foundations of older buildings. We'll ask people tomorrow if any of those things happened in the middle of the night. That's how we'll know if we cured your snoring."
"But the most important thing is the coffee shop action in the morning," TJ said. "If people are lined up down the block to get their caffeine fix, we'll know the duct tape didn't work."
Vivian and the Not-Right Brothers wished me luck and I went to bed. When the morning came, I peeled off my duct tape nasal strips and rushed around the house. I looked for broken dishes, toppled furniture, cracks in the walls. I saw no sign of damage! Hope rose in my chest like a helium balloon as I threw on my clothes, hopped on my bike, and raced downtown.
As soon as I reached Main Street, my hopeful helium balloon deflated into a lump of latex. Hundreds of people lined the streets, their eyes baggy from lack of sleep, waiting patiently for their cup of morning coffee.
I saw Vivian and the Not-Right Brothers pushing their way through the early morning cappuccino crowd. Their faces looked as disappointed as I felt on the inside.
"No big deal," Vivian said, trying to sound optimistic. "We just go back to square one and try again."
Excerpted from Super Schnoz and the Invasion of the Snore Snatchers by Greg Urey. Copyright © 2014 Gary Urey. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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