Tar Pit

Tar Pit

by Tor Seidler

Paperback(1ST HARPER)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780064410465
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/01/2001
Edition description: 1ST HARPER
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.14(w) x 7.64(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range: 9 Years

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Chapter One

Edward Small, Jr., woke up at seven-fifteen, got dressed for school, and waited in his bedroom window until his father left for work. His father, Edward Small, Sr., was a finicky little man, only five feet six. As always, he left for the store at seven-thirty on the dot. He kissed Mrs. Small good-bye on the doorstep down below, then walked neatly along the flagstones that curved around the oak in the front yard, the sun gleaming on his bald spot and on the metal tape measure hooked to his belt. His work shirt was spanking clean and his trousers had a sharp crease, but his fussiness did nothing for his looks, which weren't much. Nor had picky eating habits kept him from having a slight potbelly. All in all, he cut a pretty unimpressive figure — especially when seen from an upstairs window.

As his father backed the Carpet City van carefully out of the driveway, Edward checked himself against the ladder of pencil marks in the window frame. He was still at the five-feet-five-inch slash he'd been stuck at since Christmas. Edward clumped downstairs, wondering if he would ever grow.

He stopped short of the kitchen doorway. The yellow tulips he'd picked for his mother were falling apart in the milk bottle over the sink. He turned and crossed the front hall, careful not to tread on the faded old rug there, and went out the front door. It was May, so there weren't too many tulips left, but he found a couple of nice lipstick-red ones and took them around to the back of the house.

"Morning, Mom," Edward said, catching the screen door before it could slam.His mother worked several hours a day soliciting advertisements by phone for theMolebury Weekly Gazette. In his opinion, however, she should have gone door to door. Then nobody could have resisted her sales pitch. Even standing by the stove in her robe and furry slippers, with her corn-silken hair in curlers, she looked like a movie star to him.

"Why, thanks, hon," she said, putting down her spatula.

While she replaced the yellow tulips with the red ones, he sat down at the kitchen table and took his vitamin pill. It contained three times the adult daily requirement of calcium, which helped your bones grow.

The telephone rang, and his mother nestled the receiver between her ear and shoulder.

"Morning, Hank," she said, finding a pen. "Mnn. Mnnnn."

Mr. Henry Forster, chubby editor of the Gazette, was giving her the names of prospective clients. But even as she took notes, she remembered to sprinkle chives in Edward's scrambled eggs, and she fenced in the yellow mound on his plate with four slices of bacon, not too crisp.

After breakfast he went up and woke his sister, Priscilla, who was only in sixth grade and didn't have to be at school until nine. Then he got his green book bag, which hadn't been opened last night. Yesterday was not one of his banner homework days. He'd headed straight for the tar pit after school, and although he'd skipped his Monday-night TV shows especially to study, he'd gotten hooked by the "Thunder Lizard" chapter of his favorite book, The Age of Dinosaurs — the chapter with the map of the great inland sea that covered most of the Plains states during the Jurassic period. But all that was a hundred million years ago and had nothing to do with school.

Edward took his book bag downstairs and again detoured the rug in the front hall. His mother was waiting by the door, and he made only a sheepish attempt to avoid her good-bye kiss.

As he walked down Summit Street, the sun leaking down through the freshly leafed-out locust trees created shifting patterns on the sidewalk. They brought to mind the plates on the backs of certain armored dinosaurs, and Edward got so lost in this pleasant thought that he forgot to keep a lookout over his shoulder. Just as he came to the Lundquists' holly hedge, a familiar twangy voice called out from behind him: "Hey, Small! Wait up!"

Edward hustled on toward Waverly Avenue. But Billy Gritch, who was six feet tall even without his cowboy boots, had a long, loping stride you couldn't escape from completely. Billy's idea of a really good joke was shouldering you "accidentally" into the dark green claws of the Lundquists' holly hedge. But mercifully that was behind them, so he had to be content with a simple knuckle punch in the arm.

"Lucky I caught you, huh, Small?"

"What do you mean?" Edward asked, as the shooting pain in his arm subsided.Billy's shirttails were hanging out from under his Molebury High letter jacket. His red hair stuck up like a straw fire, and he had mocking green eyes and freckles. "Well, you wouldn't want to cross Waverly all by your lonesome in the morning rush hour, would you?" he said with a smirk.

Billy took his elbow and guided him across the avenue the way Edward used to guide his little sister when she was in first grade. When they reached the curb in front of the First Methodist Church, Billy let him go and hiked up the books under his non-pitching arm. "See, nothing to be scared of. What do you say?"

Edward mumbled something that sounded sort of like "Thanks."

"Aw, don't think nothing of it, Small. You do that stupid essay?"

Edward shook his head at the cluster of little footballs and crossed bats and stars sewn into the M on Billy's jacket. "I got second-period study hall."

"How about Krumb-bum? You get those proofs to come out?"

But Edward hadn't done his math homework yet either, and seeing as he had nothing to copy from, Billy strode on ahead.

Edward ran into him again soon enough, in first-period history; then again in third-period English. After this came a dumb class in agriculture that you didn't have to do any work for. Then came lunch...

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