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Authors: Lutricia Clifton

Immortal Max

BOOK: Immortal Max
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Immortal
Max

Lutricia Clifton

Holiday House / New York

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to my editor, Julie Amper,
and the other amazingly talented, hard-working people
at Holiday House who made this book possible.
Being part of the Holiday House family is truly a privilege.

Thanks also to my friend, Barbara Flores,
who told me about a dog named Carl,
the inspiration for this book

Copyright © 2014 by Lutricia Lois Clifton

All Rights Reserved

HOLIDAY HOUSE is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

www.holidayhouse.com

ISBN 978-0-8234-3149-6 (ebook)w

ISBN 978-0-8234-3150-2 (ebook)r

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Clifton Lutricia.

Immortal Max / by Lutricia Clifton. — First edition.

pages cm

Summary: Twelve-year-old Sammy's summer is full of complications, but he comes to appreciate what he already has even as he is working toward his long-held dream of owning a purebred puppy.

ISBN 978-0-8234-3041-3 (hardcover)

[1. Dogs—Fiction. 2. Brother and sisters—Fiction. 3. Moneymaking projects—Fiction. 4. Single-parent families—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.C622412Imm 2014

[Fic]—dc23

2013023664

For my sons, Christopher and Jeffrey, who daily demonstrate unshakable faith in their mother, and Cookie, Daisy, and Jake, special dogs we have known that live on in our memories. In fairness to remarkable cats that shared their lives with us as well, I also dedicate this book to Pepper, Smudge, Whoopi, and Cleocatra.

Chapter 1

Come on, guys—
Hurry up
. . . .

The clock ticking. Time running out. I'm waiting for my turn, and the other kids are taking their sweet time. There's just this one last thing to do before summer vacation starts, and it's almost time for last bell.

I'm always next to last. Justin comes after me because his last name's Wysocki. Mine's Smith. Sammy Smith. But mostly, I'm called
Spammy
Smith. Why? Because that's how my cute baby sister pronounced it when she was learning to talk. My clever older sister made it my nickname. Sam became Spam. Spam became Spammy.

Chopped ham in a can.

There's three of us. Two sisters, no brothers. My older sister, Elizabeth—called Beth—is seventeen and leaving for college in the fall. She's the brainiac. After she finishes college, she wants to go to vet school. Roseanne—Rosie for short—is six going on seven. She wants to be a . . . well, that changes week to week, sometimes day to day. But it usually involves a tutu. And then there's me. Sandwich filling between a multigrain bagel and a French pastry.

“Well now, let's see who's next.” Mrs. Kellogg sifts through the class roll. She wears these lined glasses that make things different sizes. Finally, she finds the right line on her glasses and says, “Yee, it's your turn.”

No one could believe it. Our last day in elementary school and we're assigned a show-and-tell.
Bring in your collection
, Mrs.
Kellogg told us.
Or talk about your hobby, what you plan to do on your summer vacation. You know, something special
.

Yee Haan all but disappears behind the huge map of East Asia she holds up. Almond eyes peeking over a paper fence. She's going to see her grandparents in August.

She points out a tiny speck off the coast of China called Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China. She's always talking about being Chinese American. Of course, she has to explain the difference between the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China, how her grandparents escaped during the revolution, and how her parents immigrated to the United States and became naturalized citizens.

“I was born in Chicago,” she says, smiling. “That means I'm a natural-born citizen.”

I was ready to escape from
both
Chinas long before Yee reached Chicago. The clock on the wall ticks like a time bomb. I'm never going to get my turn.

But Yee's not done yet. Everyone
ooh
s and
ahh
s when she brings out her passport because they've never seen one before.

“Pass it around,” Mrs. Kellogg tells her.

“Well, the picture's not very good. . . .” Yee hesitates, looking reluctant, then says, “Okay, as long as you don't laugh.”

Yee has the prettiest hair of all the girls. Long shiny black hair. She's the most serious girl in class, too. You can tell that from her haircut. Straight-cut bangs. Straight-cut edges that brush her shoulders. And
never
a hair out of place. I grin when Yee's passport reaches me. Her hair has been pushed behind her ears so her moon-round face will show better. She stares back at me with furious eyes and pinched lips. Number one on the FBI's Most Outraged Juvie list.

“Oh. . . .”
Yee pauses, looking as excited as a serious person can look. “And I'm going to cheer camp so I can become a cheerleader. Because I'm a little person, I just know I'll be the top of the pyramid.”

Top of the pyramid? Then I get it. It's that thing cheerleaders do to make a human triangle with their bodies.

Glancing around sneaky-like, Yee whispers, “But my grandparents can't know because they don't approve of such things. So don't say anything to them. Okay?”

What? We're going to call them in Taiwan?

“Sidharth,” Mrs. Kellogg says when Yee sits down. “You're next.”

Sidharth Patel—Sid for short—brought his pet gerbil. “We are going nowhere this summer,” he says, “so I will have plenty of time to play with George. That's his name, George the Gerbil.”

Yee jumps to her feet, waving a finger at Sid. “It's disrespectful to give an animal a person's name.”

Mrs. Kellogg decides that Yee should explain her culture's belief. Mrs. Kellogg lucked out and got three kids in her class with different cultural backgrounds this year, not white bread like the rest of us, so we're always learning how they look at things.

Yee tells us how the Chinese name pets for their personalities. How the Chinese zodiac features twelve animals. How years are named for a zodiac animal, and how people born in an animal's year will be bestowed with its characteristics. Five minutes later, she sits down. Again.

“All right. . . .” Mrs. Kellogg pauses, looking at Sid. “Now explain the beliefs in your country about naming animals, Sidharth.”

This is Sid's first year in the United States. He was born in India and speaks English like a news commentator on the BBC. I figure Mrs. Kellogg is thinking about sacred cows, which Sid has told us are allowed to walk around wherever they want.

“I don't know much about naming cows. . . .” He's figured out she's thinking about sacred cows, too. “But my father told me that once, there were cows in every household. It was because cows are the givers of milk and important for survival.” He glances at Yee. “I believe they were considered part of the family and given regular names.”

Yee closes up like a clam. Scowling.

“That's all I know.” Sid looks at Mrs. Kellogg. “I didn't have
a cow when we lived in India. And here I can only have a small pet, which I can never let out of its cage. If George escapes, our guests will think we have rats and won't stay with us.”


Oh
, that's right. You live at the hotel on the highway.”

Our school's on the edge of town. It's the kind of town that's not too big and not too small. A movie theater on the square. A McDonald's and a DQ. A Walmart and Farm & Fleet, where mostly country people shop. And the Midwest Jewel Inn.

“Yes, my family is in the hotel business. It's our bread and butter. We live in rooms behind the check-in desk. George lives with us . . . in his cage.”

Yee's hand pops into the air again, but Mrs. Kellogg ignores it. Her way of calling a cease-fire in the cultural war between China and India.

“George is cool,” I whisper as Sid returns to his desk.

“Thanks, Sam.”

Sid is a mealy kid, pale and weak looking, like oatmeal, but he's Kid Genius in the classroom and kicks butt on the soccer field. He's not a show-off, though. He's the kind of guy my grandpa would've said had “substance.”

“Anise, I believe you're next.”

Anise Pierce shows us a brochure of Disney World, where her family is vacationing this summer. Last year, they went to Disneyland. The year before, Six Flags over Texas. I don't know where they went before that because she didn't live here then. But I'm sure it had a
humongous
water slide, a
humongous
roller coaster, or a
humongous
something else.
Humongous
is Anise's favorite word. She uses it to describe something that's over the top. She finally finishes comparing Space Mountain with Splash Mountain and walks toward her desk.

“Oh. . . .”
She pushes coffee-brown hair out of her eyes. “And my mom named us after spices that match the color of our skin. The dried seeds, not the plants, which are always green. That's how I got to be named Anise and my sister Saffron. She's yellower than I am. My brother's name is Mace. Mama didn't know
what color that was, but it sounded like a good spice name for a boy.”

BOOK: Immortal Max
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