Excerpt from Small Steps by Louis Sachar, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Small Steps

By Louis Sachar

Small Steps
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2006,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2008,
    288 pages.

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A rusted Honda Civic drove noisily down the street and parked across from the mayor’s house. Armpit had finished digging his trench and was attaching PVC pipe. The mayor had gone back inside.

The driver-side door had been bashed in, and it would have cost more to fix than the car was worth. The driver had to work his way over the stick shift and then exit on the passenger side.

The personalized license plate read: X RAY.

“Armpit!” X-Ray shouted as he crossed the street. “Armpit!”

The guys at work didn’t know him by that name, but if he didn’t say something X-Ray would just keep on shouting. Better to answer and shut him up.

“Hey,” he called back.

“Man, you’re really sweating,” X-Ray said as he came near.

“Yeah, well, you’d sweat too if you were digging.”

“I’ve already dug enough dirt to last one lifetime,” said X-Ray.

They had met each other at Camp Green Lake.

“Look, don’t call me Armpit around other people, all right?” Armpit said.

“But that’s your name, dawg. You should never be ashamed of who you are.”

X-Ray had the kind of smile that kept you from hating him no matter how annoying he was. He was skinny and wore glasses, which were now covered with clip-on shades.

He picked up Armpit’s shovel. “Different shape.”

“Yeah, it’s for digging trenches, not holes.”

X-Ray studied it awhile. “Seems like it would be harder to dig with. No leverage.” He let it drop. “So you must be making a ton of money.”

Armpit shrugged. “I’m doing all right.”

“A ton of money,” X-Ray repeated.

Armpit felt uncomfortable talking about money with X-Ray.

“So really, how much you got saved up so far?”

“I don’t know. Not that much.”

He knew exactly how much he had. Eight hundred and fifty-seven dollars. He hoped to break a thousand with his next paycheck.

“Got to be at least a thousand,” said X-Ray. “You’ve been working for three months.”

“Just part-time.”

Besides working, Armpit was also taking two classes in summer school. He had to make up for all the schooling he’d missed while at Green Lake.

“And they take out for taxes and stuff, so really I don’t take home all that much.”

“Eight hundred?”

“I don’t know, maybe.”

“The reason I’m asking,” X-Ray said, “the reason I’m asking is I got a business proposition for you. How would you like to double your money in less than two weeks?”

Armpit smiled as he shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

“I just need six hundred dollars. Double your money, guaranteed. And I won’t be taking out any taxes.”

“Look, things are going all right for me right now, and I just want to keep it all cool.”

“Don’t you even want to hear me out?”

“Not really.”

“It’s not against the law,” X-Ray assured him. “I checked.”

“Yeah, you didn’t think selling little bags of parsley for fifty dollars an ounce was against the law either.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault what people think they’re buying. How is that my fault? Am I supposed to be a mind reader?”

X-Ray had been sent to Camp Green Lake for selling bags of dried parsley and oregano to customers who thought they were buying marijuana. That was also why his family had to move from Lubbock to Austin shortly after he was released.

“Look, I just don’t want to do anything that might screw things up,” Armpit said.

Excerpted from Small Steps by Louis Sachar Copyright © 2006 by Louis Sachar. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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