Dunc's Undercover Christmas

BOOK: Dunc's Undercover Christmas
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OTHER
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THE
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Thomas Rockwell
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TO
FIGHT
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GIRL
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RICH
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BOBBY
BASEBALL
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JELLY
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THE
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YEARLING
BOOKS/YOUNG
YEARLINGS/YEARLING
CLASSICS
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
Dell Publishing
a division of
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
1540 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

Copyright © 1993 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 trademark Yearling
®
is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The trademark Dell
®
is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

eISBN: 978-0-307-80377-1

v3.1

Contents

Duncan—Dunc—Culpepper and Amos Binder, his best friend for life, were sitting on the old couch in Dunc's basement. Dunc was replacing the burned-out bulbs in last year's Christmas tree lights. He carefully unwound each strand. Plugged it in. Checked, cleaned, and tightened each bulb.

Amos was sure that Dunc was spending too much time on this job. After all, what was a burned-out bulb here and there? But he knew Dunc. Dunc was neat and precise
to the point of driving Amos crazy. He also knew it would be next to impossible to rush him—even on a beautiful day in the middle of December, when they should be outside having fun.

Amos waited. He scratched his neck. He rubbed up and down against the back of the couch. Then he really let go. He slid down to the floor and rolled around like a puppy.

Dunc watched him a few minutes. “That's a bad rash. How did you get it?”

“From the grocery store.”

“You got a rash from the grocery store?”

“Well—sort of.” Amos sat up. “I was following my mom down the cereal aisle. If I don't go to the store with her, she comes home with all kinds of junk. You know, vegetables and green stuff.”

Dunc nodded.

“Anyway—I was in the cereal aisle picking up a couple of boxes of Fruit Slams, when it happened.”

“What?”

“The phone rang. I could tell it was Melissa.
She has that different sort of—sharp, bell-like, ring. I always know when it's her.”

Dunc nodded again. Melissa Hansen was Amos's dream girl. As far as Amos was concerned, she was the most perfect girl in the world. He was always certain she was calling him. Dunc knew that Melissa had not called Amos at the grocery store. Not just because Amos was in the grocery store but mainly because Melissa Hansen didn't even know Amos's name. And from all indications didn't want to.

“Well, since it was Melissa calling for me, I thought I'd save everybody some time and get it myself. I let go of the Fruit Slams. Took a shortcut over Mrs. Bundy's grocery cart—she got a little excited when I stepped on her bread—and from there on it was pure instinct.”

Dunc was positive that somewhere in Amos's genetic makeup was a wild gene that caused him to go stone crazy whenever he heard a telephone ring. He couldn't prove it, but someday he intended to do a
study on it. It would be a long study, with notes and reams of information, and each point would be catalogued and subcatalogued, and—

“I climbed out of Mrs. Bundy's cart right up on the top shelf of canned goods. It was great. I could see the whole store from up there. I wish you could have seen me. I was in perfect form. Right foot down, arms up, head back. Class act all the way. I had a fix on the phone and was closing in. Then things started to go wrong.”

Dunc took out another bulb. “What happened?”

“Spinach. Cans of spinach. They started rolling underneath me. I couldn't stop. I took a nosedive and wiped out the whole top shelf.”

Dunc frowned. “I don't get it. What caused the rash?”

“When the shelf ended, I kept going. Right over the fruit and vegetable section. I landed headfirst in the middle of the strawberries. That's what did it. I'm allergic.”

“Did you ever get to the phone?”

“No. By the time I crawled out of those slimy strawberries, Melissa had already hung up. She's particular that way. She likes me to pick it up on that all-important first ring.”

Dunc shook his head. “That's too bad. About Melissa, I mean. What did the store manager say?”

“That's the funny part. I figured he'd be upset. At least want me to pay for some of the damage. But he didn't. He just stood there and made a noise sort of like the one Scruff makes when he has to go out. Oh, he asked my mom if she would consider shopping over at that new supermarket across town. Don't you think that's kind of weird? Asking a steady customer to shop somewhere else?”

Dunc put in the last bulb. “Well, I guess that does it. What do you want to do now?”

Amos stopped scratching. “I still have some Christmas shopping to do.” He looked at his watch. “And it's about time for Melissa
to get out of dance class. If we start for the mall now, we'll probably pass her coming out of Miss Borgia's studio.”

Dunc ignored the part about Melissa. “I thought you had all your Christmas shopping finished.”

“I do. At least, I have my family finished. I bought my mom this really cool basketball. I got my dad a new video cartridge. And I bought Amy the best thing of all: a game of Laser Chase.”

“I can see that you really put a lot of thought into choosing your gifts,” Dunc said.

“Yeah. It's tough. You wouldn't want to spend all that money and see stuff just lie around not being used. I try extra hard to get things a person really wants.”

“And if that person just happens to be you …”

Amos grinned. “Isn't Christmas great?”

Dunc shook his head. “I worry about you.” He stacked the strands of Christmas lights neatly on a shelf. “Who else do you need to shop for?”

“My cousin T.J. He's coming to visit for the holidays.”

“I've heard you talk about him. He's a little younger than us, isn't he?”

“Yeah, a year or so. But he's a neat guy. His dad is African American. His great-grandmother still lives in Ethiopia. She taught him to speak Amharic. That's her native language. He's always quoting old Amharic proverbs. But they lose a little something in the English translation.”

“What does ‘T.J.' stand for?”

“His whole name is Theodore James Tyler. But the only one who can call him that and get away with it is his great-grandmother.”

“When's he going to get here?” Dunc asked.

“He should be here day after tomorrow. I think you're really going to like him. He invents things.”

“What kind of things?”

“Oh, all kinds of things. You'll see when you meet him. His dad's some kind of scientist. I guess T.J. takes after him.”

Amos looked at his watch again. “Come on. I'll tell you more about him on the way to the mall. If we don't hurry, I'll miss my chance to wave at her.”

Dunc thought about telling him how pointless it was. That Melissa wouldn't recognize him, and even if she did, she wouldn't wave at him. He started to.

Instead he shook his head and followed Amos out the door.

The mall was ablaze with bright reds and greens. A Santa was taking Christmas Eve orders from small, wide-eyed children. The stores were bursting at the seams with shoppers. Christmas was definitely here.

“Too bad Melissa didn't notice you,” Dunc said.

Amos was looking at a remote-control robot. “Yeah. Next time I'll have to try a little harder to get her attention.”

Dunc smiled. “You would have thought stopping traffic and waving that fluorescent yellow ‘Hello Melissa' banner would do the trick.”

BOOK: Dunc's Undercover Christmas
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