Amos and the Chameleon Caper

BOOK: Amos and the Chameleon Caper
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YEARLING BOOKS
are designed especially to entertain and enlighten young people. Patricia Reilly Giff, consultant to this series, received her bachelor’s degree from Marymount College and a master’s degree in history from St. John’s University. She holds a Professional Diploma in Reading and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra University. She was a teacher and reading consultant for many years, and is the author of numerous books for young readers.

For a complete listing of all Yearling titles,
write to Dell Readers Service,
P.O. Box 1045, South Holland, IL 60473.

Published by
Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers
a division of
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
1540 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

Copyright © 1996 by Gary Paulsen

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.

The trademarks Yearling
®
and Dell
®
are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.

eISBN: 978-0-307-80392-4

v3.1

Contents

Duncan—Dunc—Culpepper sat on the edge of one of the stiff, molded plastic seats at the bus station in Des Moines watching his best friend for life, Amos Binder, pace the floor in front of him.

“Cheer up, Amos. It can’t be that bad.”

“You haven’t met her. My cousin Tiffany is a pain. She’ll want us to have tea parties and play dolls with her. And another thing—she cries all the time. You never met a bigger sissy.”

Dunc watched a bag lady poking through the trash can near the door of the bus depot. He pulled his suitcase a little
closer and turned to Amos. “It’s been a few years since you’ve seen her. Maybe things have changed.”

Amos put his hands in his pockets. “I doubt it. Tiffany’s family is in the process of moving to Washington. They only invited us down here to hold her hand while they get everything settled. Boy, am I glad your parents said you could come with me. Imagine—spending the whole spring break taking care of Tiffany by myself.”

“I don’t understand. I thought you said Tiffany was the same age as us.”

“She is, but wait till you see her. She can’t even go to the bathroom without an escort.”

“If you feel that way, why didn’t you just tell your parents you didn’t want to come?”

Amos sat down. “They didn’t give me that option. My dad was still sore about the ice cream.”

“Ice cream?” Dunc raised one eyebrow.

“Yeah. He’d been after me for a few months to rake the front lawn, so out
of the goodness of my heart—and also because he was withholding my allowance—I decided to rake the leaves last Saturday.”

“What happened?”

“About noon, I heard Sergio’s ice cream truck coming down the block. I’d been working steady for a good ten minutes, so I thought I’d buy me a triple decker and take a short break.”

“Your dad was mad because you took a break?”

“No. He was mostly mad about the hole in Mrs. Johnson’s windshield.”

Dunc sighed and waited.

“I was all set to order—one scoop of pistachio nut, one of marshmallow fudge, and one scoop of my favorite, pizza swirl supreme. But when I got close, a telephone rang from somewhere inside the truck. I was pretty sure it was Melissa calling to ask my opinion about that deranged Australian dude we have to write about in English. What’s his name?”

Dunc knew that Melissa Hansen was Amos’s one and only true love. For years
Amos had tried everything he could think of to impress her. Nothing ever seemed to work out. Not even hiring a mariachi band and standing in front of her house waving a fluorescent
HELLO MELISSA
banner. If anything, she was less aware of him now than before. Dunc also knew that if Amos were the last human on earth, Melissa still wouldn’t call him about an English assignment—especially in an ice cream truck.

Dunc sighed. “The paper was on Hitler, Amos, and he was Austrian, not Australian. And it wasn’t an English assignment, it was for history class. Oh, and just in case you’re thinking about doing it, it was due last Wednesday.”

“That’s the one. Anyway, I didn’t want to bother Sergio, because he was busy waiting on some little kids. So I ran around and jumped in the passenger side to answer it for him. Melissa likes me to get it on that all-important first ring, you know.”

Dunc nodded. He had given up trying to tell Amos that Melissa could care less
what ring he answered it on, since she never called him anyway. Amos could be stubborn about things like that.

“I had plenty of time and probably would have made it, but I forgot I still had the rake in my hand. When I reached inside I accidentally hit the brake release with the handle, and the truck started rolling down that little hill in front of our house and stopped in front of the Johnsons’.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“The truck stopped when it rammed Mrs. Johnson’s new car. And you know that fake ice cream cone Sergio used to have on the top of his truck?”

“Used to have?”

Amos nodded. “Last time I saw it, the top scoop was still sticking through Mrs. Johnson’s windshield. My dad gave me a choice: Either get a night job or come to Des Moines and baby-sit.”

“Did you ever answer the phone?”

“That’s the worst part. It turns out it wasn’t a phone after all. It was just a bell Sergio rings to attract customers.”

“I think you made the right choice—about coming to Iowa, I mean.” Dunc looked at his watch. “I wish they’d hurry up and get here. It’s getting late.”

“It may be a while. Tiffany’s dad is some kind of big-shot politician. He said he’d come for us as soon as his last meeting let out.”

A man in a badly stained suit who hadn’t had a shave in days sat down beside Amos. “Hey, kid. Got a quarter? I need it to buy coffee.”

Amos scooted to the other side of his chair and whispered to Dunc. “This guy smells, and I don’t think he’s ever seen coffee. Let’s get out of here.”

They picked up their bags and moved to the window at the front of the lobby.

Amos stared out at the metropolitan buildings. “I didn’t realize Iowa had any big cities.”

Dunc cleared his throat. “Des Moines is the largest city and also the capital of Iowa. Its population is approximately two hundred thousand. Chief exports are—”

“If I wanted a rundown on vital statistics, I would have—Dunc, look, that grandma is crossing the street in front of traffic.”

A small, bent, elderly woman was attempting to fight her way between oncoming cars to cross the street.

They heard the squeal of brakes and saw the woman fall. Her cane flew into the air and landed near the bus depot.

The boys raced outside. A cabdriver was already helping the woman to her feet. Amos handed her the cane.

“Thank you, sonny.” She tried to take a step and fell back against the driver. “Oh my. I can’t seem to get my bearings. I must be a lot worse off than I thought.”

The cabdriver pulled out his wallet. “Here, lady. Take this, it’s all I have.” He shoved a wad of money at her. “I can’t be part of no lawsuit or I’ll lose my job.”

The woman looked at the money. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll use this money to go to the doctor and we’ll pretend this little accident never happened.”

“That’s fine with me.” The driver hurriedly stepped back into his cab and drove away.

Dunc picked up the woman’s purse and brushed it off. “Can we help you get some-place, ma’am?”

“Goodness no. I’m on my way to see my doctor. His office is just up the street.” The woman took her handbag and tottered down the sidewalk and out of sight.

Dunc rubbed his chin. “Hmmm.”

Amos looked at him. “Now cut that out. Every time you make that stupid sound, it’s a sure sign you’re gonna get us into some kind of trouble.”

“Amos?” Dunc led the way back to the curb. “Did you actually see the cab hit that woman?”

Amos shook his head. “No. I hate the sight of blood. I’m pretty sure I had my eyes closed.”

“I don’t think it hit her. I think that woman fell after the cab had already stopped.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Lots of things. Her bright green eyes,
for one. It’s hard to explain. It was like they were laughing at us. And another thing …” Dunc looked through the bus station window. “Amos, that man has our bags.”

A thin man with tattoos covering both arms had their suitcases and was moving quickly to the back exit of the bus station. Dunc started running after him.

“Hiii-yaaa!”

A girl in a white karate
gi
raced past them. She gave the man a vicious kick in the middle of his back and a quick chop on the side of his neck. He dropped the bags and crawled out the door, groaning.

She turned to Dunc just as he got to her and stuck out her hand. “Hi. I’m Tiffany, Amos’s cousin.”

BOOK: Amos and the Chameleon Caper
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ads

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