Ellray Jakes the Dragon Slayer (7 page)

BOOK: Ellray Jakes the Dragon Slayer
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But in the past couple of weeks, when no one is supervising us,
WATCH OUT
! Because if no grown-ups are around, the game has become what we now call Extreme Dodgeball. And it’s very
unofficial
.

It’s like dodgeball in a mirror, in fact. Everything is the opposite.

In plain, supervised dodgeball at my school, for instance, you can’t kick the ball, or come back into the game once you’re out—or be a bad sport, cheat, or hit the ball at someone’s head. And the teams always start out even. But in Extreme
Dodgeball, you can do whatever you want.

So far, we haven’t been caught, which is cool and scary at the same time.

“Grab a ball and start playing!” Kevin yells as all us boys erupt onto the rain-shiny playground, nutritious snacks forgotten. The playground monitor is way across the playground, helping some girl with a bloody nose, it looks like.

“EllRay, think fast!” Corey shouts, and he hurls a dark red ball in my direction.

I catch it like I have superpowered magnet hands, then I toss it into the air and spike it into Stanley’s big plaid back as he hunches over the stretchy net filled with balls.
BOINK
! “You’re out,” I yell at Stanley, like we’re playing plain dodgeball and following the rules.

Stanley just keeps playing, of course.


You’re
out, loser,” Jared yells, slamming a ball into my shoulder from just two feet away—which hurts enough to make me want to hurt someone back.

Kids aren’t allowed to say “loser” at Oak Glen, by the way, but this is Extreme Dodgeball, so that’s the least of anyone’s worries. And anyway, I’ve already
picked up a ball and bopped it back at Jared. “Take that!” I shout, like we’re in a boxing ring and I just punched him one in the nose.

I pretend I can hear an invisible crowd cheer me on.
“Go, EllRay, go!”

By now, the kickballs are flying all over the place, but we are just scooping them up and slamming them into some other kid, anyone who’s playing. Even our own team members, and they’re just laughing! And though Jared did get me that once, I’m pretty much escaping being hit. Just a couple of grazes is all.

See, there are some good things about being a small guy. I’m bouncing around the playground like I’m a kickball myself!

This is
so much fun
. When I’m racing around, dodging kickballs and looking for the next guy to bash, there’s no Ms. Sanchez, no third grade, no playground rules. There’s no Alfie or Suzette Monahan or hidden pink jacket or hurt feelings, either, much less Mom and Dad telling me to make good choices. I grab a bouncing ball and spike it at my target like a pro beach volleyball player.
KA-BLAM!

“Ow!” someone yells.

“Baby!” Jared shouts to the yeller, but then he shuts up fast, because it’s his friend Stanley. And Stanley is holding his eye like there’s something wrong.

His twisted glasses are lying at his feet.

“Time out,” Kevin calls like it’s just an ordinary game, and it’s no one’s fault that Stanley maybe got hurt.

But unfortunately, I know better.

10
A GOOD DEAL?

“Dude. You are so lucky,” Kevin says to me after school for the third time since nutrition break.

“You don’t have to keep telling me that,” I say.

After they checked out Stanley Washington’s eye in the office this morning, he ended up going home before lunch. But not because his eye was messed up. It wasn’t. His glasses were. I mean the metal part that holds the glasses together.

The actual glasses were plastic, so they didn’t break.

His mom could have brought his old pair of glasses to school, Ms. Sanchez told us, her voice icy because of what happened during nutrition break, but Stanley had a dentist appointment this afternoon, so his mother just picked him up late in the morning and they took off.

“But dude. Nobody saw you hit him except me,”
Kevin marvels. “It’s like you were invisible!”

Invisible! Like Alfie. Maybe it runs in the family.

Stanley shouldn’t have called Alfie “Waffle,” that’s what he shouldn’t have done, I think, trying to come up with a good reason why it was Stanley’s own fault he got hit.

Not that anyone except Kevin saw me spike the ball at Stanley’s floppy-haired, glasses-wearing head.

“It’s because I’m so short and fast,” I say, shrugging. “It has its good points, I guess.”

“Yeah,” Kevin agrees, grinning. “Like sneaking around places, and creeping through fences, and getting away with stuff. Major stuff, like this.”

I don’t really like the way this is making me sound. “I’m not some
weasel
,” I object.

“No,” Kevin agrees hastily. “But you’re a real good shot, EllRay. And that counts for a lot. Especially when no one sees you.”

I’m not such a good shot as all that, I admit to myself half an hour later as I walk down our
driveway. I mean, we were just playing a game, and it happened to be Extreme Dodgeball. And all us guys—including Stanley!—know Extreme Dodgeball doesn’t have any rules, except to not get caught playing it, because it’s too rough for school.

It’s not my fault there’s just one playground monitor now, is it?

But part of me remembers snagging that ball on purpose, eyeing Stanley’s sarcastic, floppy-haired head, then tossing the ball into the air for a championship spike at just the right angle, glasses or no glasses.

Kickballs are soft rubber balls!

They’re not supposed to be hard enough to hurt someone!

And they didn’t. They hurt someone’s
glasses
.

Anyway, Stanley should have been watching out.

“EllWay,” a familiar voice calls from the kitchen door. “Why are you just standing there, looking at a twee?”

That’s “tree” in Alfie-speak. You have probably cracked the code by now.

“I was thinking,” I tell her. “We do that a lot in the third grade.”

“And you can’t think and walk at the same time,” she says like she’s just answered her own question. “Will you make me some toast?” she asks as she follows me into the kitchen.

Alfie’s not allowed to use the toaster—not since that time she decided to heat up a slice of cheese in our old one. “Where’s Mom?” I ask her, tossing my backpack onto a kitchen stool.

“She’s working,” Alfie reports. “She barely even heard me when I was talking to her.”

Mom has been really busy with the latest fantasy book she’s writing, and she gets so fuzzy, thinking about the people in the book, that she sometimes forgets about Alfie and me. Just a little. And that’s weird, isn’t it? For a kid’s mom to wander around the house thinking about pretend people’s problems when her own two kids have plenty of problems of their own?

Not that I mind taking charge. Which reminds me. “How did it go today?” I ask my little sister, popping two pieces of bread into the toaster. “Telling Suzette that you don’t care what she does, but she should leave you alone, I mean?”

“It went perfect,” Alfie says, smiling as she gets
a jar of peanut butter out of the fridge for her peanut butter and honey sandwich.

I’m in charge of the honey, because of that other time.

“So, you’re not invisible anymore?” I ask, thinking suddenly of me and Stanley, and how no one but Kevin saw it when I stealth-spiked that ball at his head.

“No, I still am,” Alfie says with a sigh, staring at the toaster as if that might hurry things up. “But she told me how I could break her magic spell.”

Her magic spell
. Great. “And how are you gonna do that?” I ask, waiting for it.

“By giving her something,” Alfie tells me, matter-of-fact. “One of my dolls. And she gets to choose which one.”

Okay. Alfie has a super-huge doll collection, it’s true, but she loves every single one of them,
and
all their clothes and stuff. She makes up stories about them and everything. One of Alfie’s dolls even has its own pink plastic pony.

“You’re solving your problem by
giving
her something?” I repeat, trying not to yell at her. “But—but that’s like Suzette’s a robber, Alfie! She
is
a dragon, and she has you in her power. You cannot let her steal from you. Not one of your dolls. I—I
forbid
it.”

“You’re not the boss of me, EllWay Jakes,” Alfie says, her brown eyes flashing. “And Suzette’s not a dwagon,” she adds. “And it’s not stealing if I give her the doll my own self,” she adds, like she’s repeating an explanation someone else gave her.

Suzette Monahan, that’s who.
GREEN
and
SCALY
Suzette, with her pinchy dragon face, her sharp, scratching claws, and her spiky, lashing tail.

“It’s a good deal, EllWay,” Alfie says, trying to convince me as the toast pops up.

“A good deal?” I say. I get the hot pieces of toast out of the toaster and start tossing them in my hands as I look for a plate. Alfie just stands there, holding her precious jar of peanut butter like it’s filled with pirate jewels.

I have to do
everything
around here?

“It is
not
a good deal, it’s a terrible deal,” I tell Alfie. “What Suzette is doing is probably against the law, even! Or it should be. And you can eat your toast cold, if you’re gonna let yourself get rooked by some goofy four-year-old robber. What do I care?” I
say, flipping her toast onto the counter. “And you’re not getting any honey for that sandwich, either.”

Because—I give up. If Alfie doesn’t have that getting-mad ingredient I’ve been trying to pass down to her after this latest stunt of Suzette’s, she’s a lost cause. Where’s that famous Jakes pride Dad is always talking about?

Alfie can just go through her whole entire life being bullied, that’s all.

She does not deserve a big brother like me.

“But we worked it all out like you told me to,” Alfie wails, her peanut butter and honey sandwich forgotten for the moment. “And I won’t be invisible
next week
. See, it’s perfect now!”

“So,” I say, arms folded across my chest like Dad does when one of us has done something really bad. “When is this great doll-choosing event gonna happen, Alfie? Because I want to see it with my very own eyes. I want to watch you get cheated by a bully.”

BOOK: Ellray Jakes the Dragon Slayer
11.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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