Our best day last week we heard Mrs. Caconi and Officer Trixles wife, Bea, discussing hair that grows out of your ear hole. Apparently Darby Trixle has big bushes of ear hair Bea has to clip every week. We could hardly keep from laughing out loud when we heard this.
Thats the one thing we have to be wary of down here: noise. Were pretty sure they can hear us in the apartments above, if we arent really quiet.
Hey Jimmy, you working today? I ask once we determine no one is in Mrs. Caconis apartment.
Jimmys been helping Bea Trixle, who runs the canteen, our island store. He doesnt get paid for it, but whenever he works, Bea gives his mom a discount on whatever she buys. Sometimes Theresa helps too, but only if Janet Trixle isnt around. Theresa is the same age as Janet, but she and Janet cant stand each other. According to Theresa, Janets only real interests are rules and collecting stuff for her fairy jail.
Im off at two, Jimmy says. You gonna bring Scout to see the flies?
Jimmy really likes flies. He knows a lot of unusual facts about them too. Flies puke when they land. Flies taste with their feet. Apparently they puke, then they lick the vomit up with their toes.
Sure, I say. But Scouts gonna want to play ball.
In the last few weeks, Jimmy has become my best friend on Alcatraz, despite the fact that he stinks at baseball. If a baseball flew into Jimmys glove he wouldnt know what to do with it. Hed probably use it to brush his teeth. Maybe hed plant it in the ground to grow a big old baseball tree. The kid has no idea.
Jimmys nose lifts in the airah, ah, ah choo. He sprays me with snot and knocks his glasses off.
I wipe off my arm. Thanks a lot, Jimmy, I say.
Ah, ah, ah choo. He sneezes again, but this time he turns his head away and gives the ants a bath instead of me. You want me to play? he asks.
Of course, I say. I always want you to play.
Jim cocks his head as if he doesnt quite believe this. But Scout plays all the time. Hes good, right?
Hes not great or anything.
Jimmy grins. Oh, okay. Me neither.
I dont know what to say to this. Even in our secret place it seems better not to tell Jimmy that Scouts not great is so much better than his not great that it isnt fair to compare.
Cmon, lets go. I want to find Annie and get my arm warmed up before Scout gets here, I say.
Crawling back, Jimmy picks his way slowly and carefully, stopping every time he has a question. Think Scoutll like my fly project?
Jimmys latest project is to teach flies tricks. He wants to hold a circus and charge admission.
Course, I say.
Jimmy starts moving forward, then he stops again. Think Scout will like me?
Sure. I told him all about you.
Jimmy considers this. Good, because Ive got a new idea. Im thinking the problem is quantity. I dont have enough flies.
I sit back on my haunches and wait while Jimmy launches into a technical explanation of his breeding plans. There is no stopping Jimmy Mattaman when he gets talking about his flies.
When he finally gets to the door, I scamper after him, covering the same ground in one-third the time. Youre fast, he observes.
Excerpted from Al Capone Shines my Shoes © Copyright 2009 by Gennifer Choldenko. Reprinted with permission by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. All rights reserved.
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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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