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Authors: Patrick Jennings

Lucky Cap

BOOK: Lucky Cap
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EGMONT
we bring stories to life
First published by Egmont USA, 2011
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 806
New York, NY 10016
Copyright © Patrick Jennings, 2011
All rights reserved
1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2
www.egmontusa.com
www.patrickjennings.com
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Jennings, Patrick.
Lucky cap / Patrick Jennings.
p. cm.
Summary: Enzo starts middle school after an amazing summer trip with his father, a new manager at a popular sporting goods company, with a prototype baseball cap that seems to bring Enzo popularity and success.
ISBN 978-1-60684-054-2 (hardcover)—ISBN 978-1-60684-275-1 (electronic book)
[1. Conduct of life—Fiction. 2. Popularity—Fiction. 3. Caps (Headgear)—Fiction. 4. Middle schools—Fiction. 5. Schools—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.J4298715Lu 2011
[Fic]—dc22
2010051413
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner.

Dedicated to the Writers of the Cave

1.
The End of the Most Amazingest Trip in the History of Time

“We're heading home after checkout, Enzo,” Dad told me one morning in the restaurant of a Sacramento hotel as I was busy scarfing down French toast stuffed with cheese and drenched in maple syrup.

I will never eat stuffed French toast again.

The trip was over? How did this happen? All six weeks couldn't possibly have come and gone so fast. Time is so unfair. It whizzes by when you're having the most incredible fun of your life, then drags when you're totally miserable, like, say, when you're stuck at the wedding of people you're not even sure you know.

Dad and his boss, Evan, set their hands on my shoulders, to steady me. I was feeling pretty wobbly. Then they took turns tousling my hair. I hate having my hair tousled.

“Don't!” I whined like a little kid, and pushed their hands away.

Evan laughed. “Don't take it so hard. Even the most awesome things have to come to an end sooner or later.”

I seethed.

“We'll always have our memories,” Dad said.

I scowled.

“And don't forget the killer sportswear!” added Evan.

“I can't tell you how great it was getting to spend so much time with you.” This was Dad. They were tag-teaming me with bright sides. I bet they discussed how to handle me beforehand.

“Ditto that.” (Evan.) “You're a great kid, Lorenzo Harpold. I hope I have a son like you some day.”

“We're closer than ever.” (Dad.)

“What an awesome, awesome adventure!” (Evan.)

“Totally!” (Dad.)

“You said it yourself, Enz: ‘The most amazingest trip in the history of time!'” (Evan.)

Sure, every word of it was all true, but it wasn't helping. How could it? I wasn't just disappointed or let down or sad. I was crushed. Like, by a steamroller.

Hearing that being crushed by a steamroller is bad, but you'll always have your memories, is not helpful.

The end of the trip was a steamroller.

“Well,” Dad said, glancing at his watch, “we'd better get going.”

Evan nodded and they both scooted out of the elbow-macaroni-shaped booth, leaving me behind, in the middle of the elbow, in shock.

“Come up when you're ready, Enzo,” Dad said.

Then he and Evan headed off to our rooms. To pack.

We had stayed in a different hotel every night on the trip—big, fancy ones, the kind rich and famous people stay in. All of them had huge lobbies and lots of elevators and swimming pools and weight rooms and vending machines… and restaurants. I got to order whatever I wanted. I ordered pizza till I got sick of it, then switched to burgers and fries till I got sick of them, then switched to grilled cheese sandwiches, then went back to pizza. I bet if we stacked up all the pizzas we ate, they would have been as tall as the Tower of Pisa—which was Evan's joke, but so what?

When we didn't eat in our hotel's restaurant, or go out to eat, we ordered room service. Room service has to be one of the greatest things ever invented. Anytime you feel like eating something, you just pick up the phone and press a button and someone answers and you tell them what you want and, almost before you hang up, there's a knock at the door and some hotel person in a uniform has a silver tray with a silver dome on it. When they lift the dome—voilà!—there's your pizza, or whatever. It's like having a food genie. Your wish is their command. And it's all delicious. And you get to eat it in bed. And you don't ever have to do any cleaning up; you just put the dirty dishes out in the hall, and later someone comes by and takes it all away. I'd kill to get room service at home.

And not only did the hotel people wash our dishes, they also changed our sheets, made our beds, and cleaned our bathrooms. They even did our laundry. We never had to do anything, ever, except sleep, eat, and watch TV. It was the life.

But it was all over. The big checkout time.

A girl in an apron came by. “You finished?” she asked, all cheerful.

“Completely,” I muttered.

“You don't want to take the rest of that up to your room?” she asked.

She looked to be about the same age as my oldest sister, Desi, who was seventeen. She was probably working at the restaurant during the summer to make a little extra money, maybe saving up for college, but more likely saving up for makeup. She was wearing a ton of it.

Girls. I don't get them.

“No, thanks,” I said.

She kept clearing, every now and then peeking at me and flashing this big, silly smile. Finally, she said, “Awesome cap.”

I reached up and touched the visor of my cap. It was awesome all right. I felt slightly less crushed.

“Thanks,” I said.

It all started with the cap. Without the cap, there would have been no trip. No presidency. No stardom. No miracles.

Dad gave it to me the day he told us about the Kap job.

Since I was little, Dad had worked as general manager at G&W Sporting Goods, the dinky chain of mom-and-pop stores that sold boring sporting goods like fishing tackle, golf clubs, and tennis rackets. Then, about a year ago, he decided he had gone as high as he could at G&W and applied to a few different sporting goods places, such as Kap. No one in the family, including Mom, believed he'd even get an interview. People from normal families like ours just didn't get upper management jobs at the coolest athletic and fitness apparel company in the world.

Then Kap called him in for an interview. We were all excited, but we figured that the interview was as far as Dad would get. We didn't tell him that, of course. We wished him luck.

After the interview, Dad told us how the offices were brand-new and huge and made of steel and glass, and had a fitness center, a game room, and a coffeehouse. He said the employees were all young and hip. Dad was not young or hip. He didn't stand a chance.

But about a month and a half ago—two days before the trip, that is—he came home from work and gathered us in the kitchen for an announcement. My sister Nadine wasn't home, but the rest of us were. And my best friend, Kai, was hanging out at my house that day, so he was there, too.

“I got the Kap job,” Dad said, like it wasn't earth-shattering news.

All of us gasped at the same time. Except Mom. She just nodded like a giant bobblehead. She must have already known about it.

I was blinking like crazy, I remember, trying to wake myself up. Finally, I said, “No…
way
!”

“Way!” Mom said, and started hopping up and down and clapping.

I couldn't believe it. My old, unhip dad got the superstar dream job! It was our family's first-ever miracle.

We all exploded in total happiness, jumping around and yelling and cheering and high-fiving. Kai, too. Then Mom got out some fancy glasses and a bottle. She popped the cork and filled the glasses with something gold and bubbly. She handed us each one. Kai, too.

He was all, “Whoa! We get to drink
cham
pagne
?”

Mom laughed. “It's just sparkling apple juice, Kai.”

“Oh,” he said. “I should have known.”

We all clinked our glasses together and started chanting, “Kap! Kap! Kap! Kap!” We didn't plan it or anything. We all just did it at the same time. It was like… I don't know…
magic.
It made us crack up, and that made us slosh our sparkling apple juice, which made us crack up even more. Despite my sisters' giggling and shrieking, and acting dorky in the annoying way they do, I'd say it was probably the best time I'd ever had with my family.

It's not easy having a good time with your family when you have four sisters. That's right:
four
sisters. Desi, Susana, Lupe, and Nadine. I call them the Sisterhood. All of them are teenagers. I'd appreciate some sympathy.

Dad clinked his glass with his wedding ring for quiet. We got quiet pretty darn fast. His first announcement had been amazing, and my hopes were high for the second.

“As part of my training as Kap western states assistant general manager,” he said (we applauded), “I will be hitting the open road, traveling the entire length of this great state of California, then venturing into Oregon, Washington, Utah, and Nevada before returning home.”

“That sounds like a long trip, Daddy,” Lupe, the youngest and annoyingest of my sisters, said. “How long will you be gone?”

Dad looked at Mom, who sighed. They had obviously discussed this before, too.

“The rest of the summer,” Dad finally said.

The Sisterhood (minus Nadine, who wasn't home) let out a whiny,
“What?”

“When do you leave, Daddy?” Lupe asked, on the verge of tears. Lupe is the family drama queen.

“Early tomorrow morning,” Dad said, wincing.

The Sisterhood (minus Nadine) wailed.

Me? I was too shocked to make a sound. Dad was going away for the rest of the summer? It was only the middle of July. He was leaving me in the house for a month and a half with five females? This was the worst tragedy in my history. (Up till then.)

Talk about an emotional roller coaster.

“On the plus side,” Dad said over the girls' moaning and groaning, “I'll be dropping into Kap outlets, meeting other Kap people, learning the ropes, and checking out the new products, even trying some of them out…”

That stopped their sobbing. All of us are real fitness freaks (except Nadine, though she did a few exercisey things like tae kwon do and, for some reason, archery—and, besides, she wasn't there). We got what Dad was saying. He was going to be one of the first people in America to wear and use brand-new, brand-name Kap products, before they hit stores, even,
and
he was going to get paid to wear and use them. We were speechless. Our dad had become a god.

“Do you get to k-keep them?” Susana asked in a hushed voice.

“He does,” answered Mom, beaming.

Mom is a personal trainer with her own fitness center in the backyard, and a huge fan of new athletic gear and apparel. Especially apparel. She owns enough clothes to dress every mom in northern California.

Dad smiled like a king. “Fear not, my fine, physically fit family. There will be plenty of Kap perks for everybody from now on.”

“Whoa!” Kai breathed.

We all stared off into space, imagining it.

Desi was probably figuring she would become the most popular girl at Pasadero High. She was already popular. She was junior class president last year, in fact. Her dad working for Kap and bringing home lots of cool new clothes would probably make her a lock for student body president next year, her dream. (Why would anyone want to be president? Presidents sit in boring meetings all the time.)

Susana—who is a year younger than Desi, and also athletic, pretty, and smart—didn't care as much about being liked or popular or elected as Desi did. Susana mostly cared about gymnastics. Dad's new job would mean new leotards and maybe some gymnastics equipment at home. Maybe a balance beam, or some crash mats.

Lupe was a cheerleader, and acted like it. I don't mean to stereotype. It's just that she's all the things you probably think of when you think
cheerleader:
stuck-up, sassy, fake, obsessed with her clothes and hair. She seriously believed she was the prettiest, smartest, nicest (ha!), and most talented student at Stanislaus Middle School. I'm sure she expected to top herself in eighth grade—maybe become the prettiest, smartest, nicest, and most talented middle-school student in California, or maybe America, or the
world.
Dad's news probably just made her surer of it.

As far as I knew, Kap didn't make archery equipment or tae kwon do apparel (the little outfits and the colored belts), but Nadine (who wasn't there) wouldn't care. I doubted she would get very excited about Dad's news at all. Nadine doesn't really do excited. Mostly, she slouches, sulks, and writes in her journal.

I realized I was so busy thinking about everybody else's dreams that I didn't have time to come up with anything for myself, and, before I could, Dad pulled out a cap from somewhere.

“This is for you,” he said. “It's a prototype. No one in the world has one like it.”

The cap was made of blue, stretch-fit material, which meant there wasn't one of those clunky adjustable straps in the back, which was good. The visor was blue, too, and was sturdy and flat, as all great visors should be. The Kap logo—a fat capital
K
—was sewn onto the front of the cap. A smaller one was sewn onto the back.

I glanced at Kai. His mouth was open, but nothing came out. He was overcome by the cap's supreme amazingness.

“Go ahead, Enz,” Dad said. “Try it on.”

I set the cap on my head and pulled the visor down to eyebrow level, where visors belong. The thing fit like a glove. Dad guided me to the mirror over the couch. I looked like a prince who had just been crowned, but not one of those fancy, old-fashioned princes in tights. More like the Prince of Sports. Like an Olympic gold-medal winner up on a pedestal. I wanted to bow, or do something ceremonial anyway. I stood up straighter, held my shoulders back and my chin up. I curled my lip, made my game face.
Man,
I looked good.

BOOK: Lucky Cap
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