Thats what you think? That I came here to screw things up? Man, Im offering you an opportunity. An opportunity. If the Wright brothers came to you, you would have told them its impossible to fly.
The Wright brothers? asked Armpit. What century are you living in?
I just dont get it, said X-Ray. I dont get it. I offer my best friend an opportunity to double his money, and he wont even listen to my idea.
All right, tell me your idea.
Forget it. If youre not interested Ill find somebody else.
Tell me your idea. He actually was beginning to get just a little bit curious.
Whats the point? asked X-Ray. If youre not going to even listen . . .
All right, Im listening, said Armpit.
X-Ray smiled. Just two words. He paused for effect. Kaira DeLeon.
It was eleven-thirty in Austin, but it was an hour later in Atlanta, where Kaira DeLeon, a seventeen-year-old African American girl, was just waking up. Her face pressed against Pillow, which was, in fact, a pillow. There wasnt much oomph left in the stuffing, and the edges were frayed. The picture of the bear with a balloon, which had once been brightly colored, had faded so much it was hardly visible.
Kaira groggily climbed out of bed. She wore boxer shorts and was unbuttoning her pajama top as she made her way to what she thought was the bathroom. She opened the door, then shrieked. A thirty-year-old white guy, sitting on a couch, stared back at her. She clutched the two halves of her pajama top together and slammed the door.
The door bounced back open.
Doofus! Kaira shouted at the man, then closed the door again, making sure it latched this time. Cant a person have some privacy around here! she screamed, then made her way to the bathroom, which was on the opposite side of her bed.
Over the last three and a half weeks shed been in nineteen different hotel suites, each with no fewer than three rooms, and one with six. So really, it was no wonder she went through the wrong door. She didnt even remember what city she was in.
She suspected that Polly, her psychiatrist, would tell her she had done that on purpose; something about wanting to show her body to her bodyguard. Maybe she was better off not telling Polly about it. Everything she said in her therapy sessions was supposed to be confidential, but Kaira suspected that Polly, like a parrot, repeated everything to El Genius.
She had no privacy not in her hotel room, not even in her own thoughts.
The problem was that, except for Polly, there wasnt anybody on the tour she could talk to. Certainly not her mother. And not her doofus bodyguard. The guys in her band were all at least forty years old, and treated her like she was a snot-nosed little kid. The backup singers were in their late twenties, but they seemed to resent her being the center of attention.
The only time she felt at peace was when she was singing. Then it was just her and the song and everybody else just disappeared.
Her concert tour would take her to a total of fifty-four cities, so she wasnt even half done yet. She was now on the southern swing. From Atlanta theyd be going to Jacksonville, then Miami, Birmingham, Memphis, Nashville, Little Rock, and Baton Rouge, and on to Texas: Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Originally the tour was supposed to include San Antonio instead of Austin, but that was changed at the last minute due to a monster truck rally at the Alamodome& #150; not that Kaira cared, or even knew about the change.
Other people took care of things like that. Other people took care of everything. Kaira had accidentally left Pillow behind in New Haven, and Aileen, the tours travel coordinator, took a flight back to Connecticut and personally searched the hotel laundry until she found it.
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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