Authors: Bill Doyle
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2012 by Bill Doyle
Cover art and interior illustrations copyright © 2012 by Scott Altmann
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Doyle, Bill H.
Stampede of the supermarket slugs / by Bill Doyle; illustrated by Scott Altmann.
“A Stepping Stone Book.”
Summary: Cousins Keats and Henry tackle the difficult job of ridding the Purple Rabbit supermarket of a giant Wallenda slug.
[1. Slugs (Mollusks)—Fiction. 2. Cousins—Fiction. 3. Magic—Fiction.]
I. Altmann, Scott, ill. II. Title.
PZ7.D7725 St 2012
Random House Children’s Books supports
the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
For my big brothers, Tom and John
For Dylan and Addie
“RUN FASTER!” HENRY
shouted to his cousin. “They’re catching up!”
“I’m … trying …,” Keats huffed.
One of his legs was tied to Henry’s. They were running on a trail through the woods. Keats heard footsteps right behind them. His heart pounded as he fought to speed up.
Then Henry and Keats burst out of the woods into bright sunshine.
The waiting crowd cheered. The cousins were winning the three-legged race!
Each year, the mayor of Tophat threw a giant summer picnic. Everyone in the small town packed the park for a day of food, music, and games.
“There’s the finish line!” Keats panted. He spotted their moms up ahead with other cashiers from the Purple Rabbit Market.
Keats’s mom whooped. “Way to go, boys!”
“Watch out behind you!” Aunt Elena warned.
Keats glanced back and his stomach flip-flopped. The eight-year-old Riske twins were right on their heels!
“Don’t worry, cuz,” Henry said with a wink. “It’s in the bag.”
Usually Henry and Keats made a good team. They were both nine and best friends.
But Henry was faster and taller than Keats. So running with their legs tied together was tricky.
Still, they just had to hang on a little longer.
“We’re going to win!” Keats said with a grin. He was used to finishing books first, not races. Then—
A sheet of paper flew out of nowhere and covered Keats’s face.
“I can’t see!” he yelled, and stumbled against Henry.
Keats peeled off the paper. He tried to toss it away. Instead, the paper soared up in the air. Like a dive-bombing bird, it shot down again.
It covered Henry’s eyes. “Ack!” he cried. He made a blind rush for the finish line, jerking Keats sideways.
Keats crashed face-first into the grass. As he fell, he yanked Henry down with him.
The Riske twins whizzed past and won the
race. Crawling, Henry dragged Keats across the line for second place—just in time. They rolled out of the way as the other teams sped to the finish.
Henry laughed. “That was hilarious!” he said, pulling the paper off his face. He shoved it in his pocket so he could untie their legs.
Keats spit out a mouthful of grass. “That was the opposite of hilarious,” he groaned. Had he really just wiped out in front of the whole town?
As everyone clapped and hooted, the mayor strode over from the judges’ table. He gave the Riskes the first-place trophy. Then he handed a tiny second-place medal to the cousins. Henry pinned it to his shirt and made a funny bow.
“Thank you, you’re too kind!” he gushed, kidding around. “Thank you to all our fans!”
“Oh brother,” Henry’s mom said. She put an arm around Henry’s shoulders and ruffled Keats’s hair. “Congratulations, Keats. I’m surprised you could even finish the race with a ham for a teammate!”
After the awards were handed out, the crowd broke apart. People wandered over to the barbecues to start grilling lunch.
When they were alone, Henry offered the medal to Keats. But Keats shook his head. He felt lousy about falling down. “Keep it,” he said. “You deserve the medal more. I tripped.”
“How about we share it?” Henry said. “Besides, tripping wasn’t your fault. This crazy sheet of paper was out to get us!” He took the paper from his pocket and started to rip it up.
. A sound came from the paper.
Keats frowned. “What’s that noise?” he asked.
Henry shrugged and kept shredding the paper.
“Hold on,” Keats said. He took a closer look. Parts of a drawing were on each scrap of paper. A nose covered one piece. An ear was on another. A third piece had an eye—and the eye was winking at him!
All thoughts of the race flew out of Keats’s head. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” he asked.
Henry’s jaw had dropped. He tugged Keats over to a picnic table. They put the paper back together like a puzzle.
Soon a colorful drawing of a face gazed up at them. The face had a patch of hair on top and a pointy beard. It was Mr. Cigam, the magician! He had hired the cousins to do odd jobs around his house earlier that summer.
“Stunner,” Henry said. “This must be some kind of magic note!”
Keats nodded. “It was trying to get our attention during the race.” He put the last piece—the mouth—in place. Right away, Mr. Cigam started to talk.
Greetings, Henry and Keats!
I have a new odd job for you. A Wallenda slug has invaded the Purple Rabbit Market! If I cannot get rid of it, the supermarket will be named a hazard zone and shut down
Your tasks are to catch that slug and remove it from the supermarket before someone else discovers it. When you complete those two things, I will arrive to pay you for your work
P.S. I’ve left you the recipe for Sleep-Slug Potion in the store’s office. The recipe is in the—
Mr. Cigam’s voice was cut off. A gust of wind blew the scrap of paper with his mouth off the table.
“Get that mouth!” Keats said. “He was about to say where the recipe is!”
The scrap fluttered in the air like a butterfly. Keats dove for it but missed. Henry chased the mouth as it wafted over a big bowl of cheese puffs. It landed in a jug of pink punch. Henry stuck both hands in the punch.
A little girl licking cheese-puff powder off her fingers watched him splash around. “Yuck,” she said, and ran off.
“Sorry!” Henry called after her. He plucked the paper out of the jug and put the mouth back in the picture. But the paper was all soggy. The words came out sounding mushy.
“Theeee … recipeee,” Mr. Cigam’s mouth said, “is … in the …”
Henry and Keats leaned forward to hear better.
“… lost Ann fund.…”
Then the paper lips became so soggy, no words came out at all.
“The potion recipe is in ‘lost Ann’s fund’?” Henry said. “Who’s Ann?”
Keats shook his head. “I have a bigger question. Do we even want to do this?” he asked. “The last time we worked for Mr. Cigam, we almost got eaten by a crazy shark-headed zombie!”
Henry’s face turned serious. “Cuz, we have to do it for our moms,” he said.
The cousins looked over at the snack table. Their moms were laughing with the other workers from the Purple Rabbit Market. If the store were shut down, they would all lose their jobs.
Keats sighed. “We don’t have a choice,” he agreed.
“I’m sure it will be fine,” Henry said,
scratching his chin. “After all, how tough can it be to catch one slug?”
Keats’s stomach flip-flopped again. When Henry scratched his chin, it was a sure sign that he was lying.