Monday, November 25, 2013

Victory Dance!

Yahoo! And I'm even done early so that I can run away for Thanksgiving and not be counting words or fretting about any of my characters getting left behind!

Here's a little snippet from chapter two...a fun launching pad for a rather exciting series of adventures!

It was the day after their trip to Spain and the students were debriefing with Mr. Wiseman during their Gifted and Talented class. They had been anxious to finally reach the last period of the day so they could finally break the silence and talk about their mission. The class waited patiently as Mr. Wiseman read back through the report, watching him as he periodically popped a lemon drop in his mouth from his stash on his desk.

Espi sat in her usual seat in the front row, chewing on her thumbnail and swinging one foot nervously from side to side. X sat just behind her, staring at his empty desktop with his hands tucked in his lap. Every few seconds, he glanced up at his teacher, blinking rapidly, before he returned his gaze to his desk. Peter’s long legs stuck out into the aisle as he sat with his elbows propped up on the desk positioned immediately behind X. He chewed on his lower lip and counted the ceiling tiles again. The twins sat a few rows over and whispered in their secret language. Charlie sat with his left foot resting on the seat of the desk in front of him, an ice pack covering his bandaged ankle.

Mr. Wiseman cleared his throat and all the students sat up at attention, eyes focused on the top of their teacher’s head. A few moments of expectation passed, but Mr. Wiseman continued reading, making a few notes with his red pencil. “A false alarm,” Peter said in a quiet voice resulting in a few chuckles from his fellow students. The laughter finally broke the silence that filled the room, the spell that seemed to hang over everyone. Leaning forward in his seat, Peter tapped X on the shoulder. When his friend turned around, he whispered, “Maybe it’s my terrible writing that has him so enthralled. He doesn’t usually take this long to review our reports.”

“That’s what I was thinking. I hope there’s wrothing nong. Uh, nothing wrong,” X stuttered. “I’ve been nervous all day. Ever since we got back yesterday and Charlie was injured, I’ve had this terrible feeling that we just had our trast lip. Last trip.”

Peter nodded and patted X on the shoulder before responding. “Mr. Wiseman would never just pull the plug on our missions. He would be sure that we all had a chance to talk it through. This is the first trouble we’ve had since the trip to the circus, and I’m sure he’ll take that into consideration.”

“I hope so. I’ve been chewing my nails all day long. Mira...look at my hands,” Espi thrust her hands onto X’s desk. “Mi mamá took me to get a manicure this past weekend and now look. They are a mess. My mom is going to explode. Ugh.” She shook her head sadly and went back to chewing on her pinkie nail.

Peter leaned back in his chair and turned to face Charlie. “How’s the ankle? Is it still swollen?”

With a wince, Charlie leaned forward and shifted the ice pack. “Yeah, it’s pretty puffy.”

“The doctor wants the swelling to go down...” Charlotte added.

“ they can do the x-ray.”

“Then they’ll know whether he needs...”

“...a cast or a splint.” Charlie finished with a frown.

“Sorry, man,” Peter said. “Let me know if you need help carrying your backpack or anything.”

“Thanks. So far, Charlotte has been...”

“...your pack mule,” she said with a smile, “Hee-haw!”

At the sound of Charlotte’s donkey sound-effects, Mr. Wiseman looked up from the report and smiled. “Thanks for being patient, team. I know you are anxious to talk through yesterday’s mission, but I needed to get my thoughts in order. You can imagine my surprise upon your arrival yesterday afternoon, so it’s been very helpful for me to have Peter’s report to grasp a better idea of what transpired while you were gone. Peter, great job with the write up, by the way. You managed to paint a very complete picture for me of what happened on that street and I believe that it will be helpful as we make decisions related to future missions.”

“What do you mean ‘decisions’? Espi blurted. “We were as careful as we could be. Please let us go back. Por favor, Señor Wiseman.” Her fellow students nodded, leaning forward in their seats in support.

Mr. Wiseman lifted a hand in the air. “Calm down, calm down. I have no intention of terminating our Time Bender missions.” A collective sigh filled the room. “What I mean is that we need to learn from this experience before moving on. By making appropriate changes, you will be a better team and better able to face any new challenges you might face. Do you understand?” The students nodded silently.

“Okay. Good. Now, I did have an opportunity to talk with Charlie and Charlotte’s mom and dad yesterday. I called them just before the bell rang, after you five reappeared in a pile on the floor in front of my desk.” This memory garnered a laugh from everyone.

Peter chuckled, “The look on your face, Mr. Wiseman, was priceless.”

“Yeah, your eyes were bugged out of your head,” giggled Espi.

“Well now, put yourself in my place. You had only been gone a moment and then suddenly there you are: Espi gripping Charlotte’s pigtail, Charlotte clutching the cuff of X’s pants, X clinging to Peter’s belt loop and Peter grasping Charlie’s hand who is sprawled on the floor grabbing his ankle. What a mess!”

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lost and Found

Case No. 241
Date: 11/17/12

Location: Pamplona, Spain
Time: August, 1974

GT Team: Peter, X, Espi, Charlotte & Charlie

The first thing we heard upon landing on the cobblestoned street was, “¡Cuidado! ¡Los torros vienen!” Turning to Espi, we listened, terrified, as she translated for us.  

“Run! Bulls are coming!”  

Scrambling to our feet, we ran for a nearby fence and clambered over the top into a sea of spectators. As we huddled safely on the other side of the wooden barrier, I (Peter) slipped the Time Bender into my sweatshirt pocket and zipped it shut. From a previous experience, we had learned the importance of making certain that our ticket home was secure, and while I don’t particularly like to have this responsibility, somebody has to keep the Time Bender safe.

Once we had caught our breath, we paused a moment to take in our surroundings.
Charlotte climbed onto Charlie’s shoulders to get a better look over the crowd. “What can you see?” stuttered, X, still recovering from our sudden arrival. “Where are we?” Before Charlotte could answer, Espi piped up.

“It’s the running of the bulls! Mama mía, we must be in España and if what my Tío Alfredo says is true, we’re in for some excitement.” Charlotte jumped down her twin brother’s shoulders and we squeezed into a circle around Espi to hear what she had to say.  She had to shout to be heard over the boisterous crowd that pressed against us on every side. “Back in the 1970’s, uh, 1974, I think, my uncle took a trip to Pamplona, España to run with the bulls. He was sweet on my Tía Noemi and he thought that by doing something so macho, he would win her heart. I guess it worked, because they got married the next year. My tío loves to tell the story over and over about how he ran down the street in front of the stampede of torros shouting, ‘¡Noemi! ¡Noemi! ¡Noemi!’ It makes my tía blush every time he says it. In fact, one time...”

“Uh, Espi,” X interrupted. “As much as I love to hear your stories about your family,” he shrugged and indicated the crowd, “we kind of need to figure out why we’re here.”

Espi looked at each of us and laughed, “Lo siento. Sorry, guys, you know me, always yakking! Okay, according to Tío Alfredo the bulls are released on one side of town at eight o’clock in the morning.  This is signaled with a rocket being fired.  Then the runners, wearing red scarves and white shirts,” indicating a few men waiting on the cobblestoned street, “race in front of the bulls all the way to the bullring.  They will fire more rockets once all the bulls have been corralled, right through there.”  Looking to our left, we could see the bull’s destination:  the bullring.

“How many of these lunatics will be running in front of the bulls?” I asked.

“I think hundreds, but you would know better, Number Boy,” she teased.

“Right.”  I scanned the crowd, allowing my ticker tape brain to count what I saw.

3,631 spectators.

412 children sitting on shoulders and peering over the wall.

1 boy and 1 girl sitting on the wall.

Just then, the crowd broke out in song. We turned to Espi, waiting for an explanation. She grinned, “Before the beginning of the encierro, the bull run, they sing a benediction.  A prayer to St. Fermín for safety.”

“If they wanted to be safe...” Charlotte mumbled.

“...they’d stay on this side of the fence,”  Charlie finished.

“What about you, Peter?  Do you see anything interesting,” X asked me.

“Not really. Just lots of people waving flags and scarves. Do you remember reading anything about this?  Maybe in a newspaper or magazine?”

X closed his eyes and I knew that he was scanning anything he’d ever read in search of an article or story about Pamplona and the running of the bulls.  We waited, watching X’s eyes twitch, his eye balls moving behind his eyelids as if reading.  If he had ever read something, he would find it somewhere in his photographic brain.

The singing around us rose to a deafening crescendo and then we all jumped as the air was filled with crash of the first rocket.  At the same moment, X’s eyes popped open.  “I got it!”

“Bien, because here come the bulls!” Espi exclaimed. “Quick! What happened?”

“There was an accident years ago when a young child ran out into the corridor, just as the bulls crashed past.” 

“Was it a boy or a girl?” I asked.

X closed his eyes again and then shouted, “A boy! Octavio Gorriz. He was six years old.”

I looked back toward the young boy sitting on the wall. He waved a red scarf and cheered along with the crowd. He was about the same size as my cousin, Nick and Nick had just turned seven.  I made an executive decision, “Come on. I think I see our target.” Unfortunately, we were crushed together and it was almost impossible to move through the throng.

As we shuffled along, stepping on toes and trying to squeeze through the spectators, I turned to Espi. “How long is the run? How much time do we have, do you think?”

“Tío Alfredo said it was fast. Four minutes maybe? The run is only about 900 yards long.”

The numbers clicked and flashed in my mind:  900 yards in 4 minutes...that’s about 15 miles per hour.  The average bull weighed 2,403 pounds, versus the average man weighing in at 185 pounds...that means the beast is almost 13 times heavier.  The odds of little Octavio surviving a collision with a bull...a million to one.

We were still several yards away and I wasn’t sure we would make it. We could already feel the rumble of the hooves of the bulls as they approached. If we were going to reach the boy in time, we would have to get creative.  Turning to the twins, I gave them a nod and they smiled before springing into action; Charlie tossed Charlotte up into the air.  She landed lightly on the shoulders of a burly man standing nearby, but before he could protest, she had bounced back into the air, springing from spectator to spectator.  While his sister traveled over the mass of people, Charlie wriggled, rolled and spun between the men and women in the crowd.  Within moments, they had arrived at the wall, just inches from the boy.

But they were too late.

As the runners came within view, yelling and waving newspapers to attract the six bulls who thundered behind them, Espi, X and I watched in horror as the young Octavio waved and yelled, “¡Papi!” before jumping off the wall.  From where we pushed against the crowd, we could hear his mother screaming, but we were still to far away to do anything.

Suddenly there was a flash of green as Charlotte launched herself off the fence, did a backflip and landed on the cobblestones below, her hands stretched out to the boy. Charlie was right behind her.  They each seized one of Octavio’s arms and swung him up in the air, back to the safety of his mother.  Then Charlie, with no time to lose, grabbed Charlotte and tossed her up and over the fence.  As Charlie stepped toward the barrier, he slipped on the wet cobblestone and twisted his ankle, causing him to fall to one knee. As he tried to stand up, it was obvious that he couldn’t put any weight on his injured leg, which made running impossible.  He began limping toward safety, dragging his bad foot behind him and I could hear Charlotte yelling for him to hurry.  The thundering throng was just a few feet away when I finally reached the barrier.  I threw myself over the wood, reaching out to Charlie while X grabbed my leg.  Charlie managed grab my hand just as the Time Bender began to vibrate and I could only hope that Espi and Charlotte where hanging onto X.  As the runners and bulls rumble past, the street began to spin, and we were headed back to school.  The last thing we heard over the roar of the crowd was a man yelling, “¡Noemi! ¡Noemi! ¡Noemi!”

Recorded by Peter.

Mr Wiseman looked up from the report and shook his head.  Looking around at the five students sitting in Room A-1, he sighed before saying, “I think I speak for us all when I say that was cutting it a little close.”


So, I succumbed.  

While I spent most of the week trying to talk myself out of participating in NaNoWriMo this year, my story continued to thunder around in my head like a herd of bulls.  I guess I'm in for another month of living vicariously through my students from Great Heights Middle School.