Read Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies Online
Authors: David Lubar
“Cool,” I said. The book looked older than anything I owned. Even before I opened it, I could tell the pages had turned yellow and crumbly. On the first page, hand-printed in pen in an old-fashioned style, far neater than the way we write in schoolâexcept for that annoying Martha Senglemonger, who thinks she's all so perfect and better than anyoneâwere the words:
Wow. That was old. I looked across the table, where a man was explaining to a woman why he couldn't sell a $50 set of wrenches to her for three dollars.
I looked at the book again. There was a stickie in front with $200 written on it. No way. No way at all, never ever. That was more than I'd spend on a whole shelf full of books.
But I had to have it.
I checked out the other books on the table. There was one that looked a lot like the book I wanted, except that the leather felt fake. I flipped past the title page to find the copyright date. The book was just ten years old. I turned back to the cover. The price was $5.
I watched the man. He was watching the lady who'd wanted the wrenches as she walked away empty-handed. A man picked up a stack of magazines and said, “Two dollars, right?”
“Right,” the guy behind the table said.
“Great.” The man tossed two dollars into a cash box and left with his purchase.
It's just wrong for anyone to ask so much for a book,
I thought. He wasn't being fair, but I could fix that. As he turned his attention to a woman whose twin toddlers were about to grab a stack of fragile drinking glasses, I swapped the two stickies. Then, staying where I was, I held up the book and said, “Hey, Mister. Would you take four?”
Barely glancing my way, he said, “Five, kid. Firm. Take it or leave it. I'm sick of haggling with cheapskates.”
“Oh, all right. You win.” I tossed a five-dollar bill in the cigar box and walked off with the book, forcing myself not to run until I reached the corner.
I waited until I got home to take a close look at my new treasure. I knew the pages would be fragile, and I didn't want to risk turning them while I was I walking. As soon as I got to my room, I opened the cover and turned past the title page. The next page just read:
One must move slowly through the arcane arts. Each discovery is a key to the next.
On the next page, there was a spell. It was a little hard to read everything. The letters were written in a fancy style with lots of curls and swirls, and some words were spelled in weird ways. But the spell was simple.
Keep Milk from Spoiling.
That didn't interest me. We have a fridge. And if the milk spoiled, there was a corner store two blocks away that was open 24/7. I turned the page. Or tried to. It was stuck. I tried to lift it at the top and at the bottom. I even tried slipping a fingernail under a corner. No luck. It was as if the rest of the book were a solid block.
“Stupid book,” I said. I tossed it into my closet.
But later that day, I got curious, and went online to see if there was any information about this Simon Albergensis. It turned out he'd been sort of famous, way back in the 1700s. He'd lived in London, and claimed to be a sorcerer. There were rumors that he had created a spell for eternal life. He was murdered by his great rival, Roderick Magnatesta, just before his ninety-seventh birthday. Magnatesta was caught right after the murder, as he was searching through his victim's house. He was executed for his crime. One article I found ended with:
Had he not been murdered, Simon Albergensis might have lived forever.
“Lived foreverâ¦” I said out loud. I retrieved the book from my closet and studied the edges of the pages. Maybe that immortality spell was trapped in there. It might be possible to separate the pages. But there was no point in bothering with that unless I could prove that his spells worked. And that would be easy enough to do. I could try the milk spell.
I grabbed two glasses from the kitchen and put some milk in each. They'd taught us in science class how an experiment needs a control sample to compare against the sample being tested. After I poured the milk, I gathered the material for the spell. I found every ingredient I needed, except for a sliver of willow bark, right in my kitchen. And the bark was easy to find right down the street from me. I mixed a variety of herbs in a bowl, along with a splash of vinegar and the piece of bark. I chanted the words that were listed, soaked a clean piece of knitted wool in the mixtureâgood thing I have lots of scarvesâand tied the cloth around one of the glasses.
This will never work,
I thought as I carried the two glasses up to our attic, which got very warm this time of year. I left the glasses there, figuring that the milk would definitely be sour by the next morning.
When I woke, I went right up to check the milk. As I lifted the trap door to the attic, a rotten odor hit my nose. Yeesh. The milk had definitely gone sour. I picked up the glass without the wool. It smelled awful. I didn't need to taste it to know it had spoiled. I took the glass downstairs and poured the milk out in the sink, then rinsed everything with some water.
I went back to the attic. The smell lingered, but it wasn't as strong. I picked up the other glass and gave it a careful sniff.
It smelled like fresh milk. I took a tiny sip, bracing myself for an unpleasant experience.
It seemed fine.
I took a bigger sip.
The milk was warm, but it tasted as fresh as ever.
The spell worked!
I drank the rest of the milk, then ran to my room to grab the book.
As I opened it to the milk spell, the page lifted slightly. It had become unstuck.
A shiver ran through my body, as if I'd chugged a large glass of ice-cold milk. I turned to the new page and discovered a spell for making it rain. How could I resist? It was a sunny day, without a cloud in the sky. I had to go into the woods behind the school to find one of the plants I needed, and I gagged a little when I scooped up the earthworm I'd uncovered, as instructed, from a hole dug from shaded ground near an iron fence. But early that afternoon, I danced in the rain, laughing like I owned the world and everything in it. Which might not have been far from the truth, depending on what spells lay ahead.
I dried my hands before opening the book. The page with the rain spell was loose. I turned it.
As I read over the spell for banishing all insects from an area of three hectaresâwhatever that meantâI wondered how far away the immortality spell was. The book wasn't very thick. Maybe there were seventy or eighty pages. I was getting impatient with unspoiled milk and rain-on-demand. Still, I did the insect spell. It was easy enough. But I didn't bother trying to check to see if it worked.
The next spell was for a way to treat a purple shirt so it would resist all flames. I made the shirt, which had to be worn during the final stage of the spell, but didn't test it out with fire. I was pretty sure all the spells worked, but I had no desire to find myself in a burning shirt. Besides, I was eager to get to the next spell.
I turned the page and froze. I stared down, surprised by the unexpected difference. All the other pages had been white, with words written in dark-brown ink. This page was black, inscribed with silver ink.
The spell was, “To slay your mortal enemy.”
That was a problem. I didn't have a mortal enemy. I wasn't going to slay anyone. Though there were two or three kids in the neighborhood I wouldn't mind hurting a bit.
Just the idea of murder made me start to sweat. I opened the window in my bedroom, then went back to the book.
I can't slay someone.
Still, unless I cast the spell, I'd never be able to turn the page. Which meant I'd never reach the spell that would make me live forever. And I needed to reach that spell. Maybe there was some sort of balance to the magic. To live forever, you first had to take another life. I thought about how amazing it would be to live through a thousand years of history. I couldn't even imagine what new technologies there'd be. Maybe I could even walk on Mars, or visit a city built beneath the ocean. I needed to live forever. I deserved it. It was my right!
There had to be someone I could cast the death spell on. I smiled as a handful of candidates came to mind. I realized I felt totally calm as I narrowed the list down. That's when I knew I could really do it.
I read the spell. In old language, with lots of “haths” and “thines,” it said, “Have your victim drink bespelled milk. Have your victim dance in bespelled rain.”
My hands clutched the book tighter.
“Have your victim stand in bespelled land, free of insects. Have your victim wear a purple shirt, bespelled to ward off fire.”
I dropped the book, but it remained open, and my eyes couldn't avoid the final line.
“Have your victim cast stolen spells.”
As if a hot wind had blown through the room, the page turned on its own, revealing a message for someone who had perished centuries ago.
“Thus I exact my vengeance on you, Roderick Magnatesta, for I knew you would slay me and steal my work. I laid this trap because the greedy are easy to ensnare, and you are the greediest of all. Perish, fool. Vengeance is mine, for I know your death will not come until you've suffered great pain.”
“No!” I screamed. “I'm not him!”
The shirt grew hotter. And tighter. I ripped at it, but it wouldn't tear.
“No!” I screamed again, as the heat became unbearable. On the table, the page turned again. It was blank. This was the last spell. There was no everlasting life.
For me, there was only the opposite.
STRIKEOUT OF THE BLEACHER WEENIES
used to love
baseball. I played every summer in my old town. When I moved to Shrepsburg, I was happy to see the town had a league. And Mom was happy I signed up. She can't come to the games very often because she works two jobs, but she's glad I have something to do. I went to the tryouts and got picked by the Phantoms.
The league was also a good way to make friends. I got to know Doug, Willy, Adam, and most of the other guys pretty well, but I guess my closest friend by the end of the season was Gordy. That's weird, since he's a total nerd, and I'm not. I met him before our first practice, when Mom dropped me off at the field. Everyone else was tossing balls around. Gordy was sitting on the first row of the bleachers with his face buried in a book.
String Theory and the Superluminal Neutrino
,” I said, reading the title aloud. I stumbled a bit on
He looked up and smiled. “It could be the key to teleportation, though string theory is being challenged. Still, an intriguing read.”
“Right.” I started to turn away.
“Gordy,” he said, holding out his hand. “You're new.”
“Lance,” I said. “I am.” We shook. His grip was not that of a nerd. Later, I found out he liked to go rock climbing.
The coach, Mr. Parker, called us together and gave us a quick talk. “We're here to play baseball,” he said. “We're here to do our best. To learn. To have fun. And to win.”
I noticed he put winning last in his list, and he didn't shout the word, like my last coach did.
I fit right in with the team, even though I was the new kid. Baseball is a universal language. I got to play third base because I have a good arm and fast reflexes. I can snag a sizzling grounder that's hopping like a runaway bottle rocket, and make the throw to first fast enough to beat most runners.
Opening day, we played the Cruisers. Since all the teams in the league are from town, we take turns being “home” and “visitor.” The bleacher along the first base line was considered the home-team side, and the one along third was for the away team. There was no real rule or sign. It was just one of those things everyone in town knows. Today, we were the visitors.
“Wow, a lot of people came,” I said when we took our seats in the dugout, which was actually just a bench. Both bleachers were filled. Some people brought lawn chairs, others stood near the fence that ran between the bleachers and the base lines. I saw three people on our side with “Go Phantoms!” signs. The other side had at least a dozen signs.
“The league is a big thing around here,” Gordy said. I noticed he was now reading
Parallel Universes and the Space-Time Continuum
“My parents and both my uncles came,” Adam said.
“My dad and my grandmom are here,” Willy said.
“My mom's here,” I said. I glanced over my shoulder at her. She'd managed to get some time off, but she'd have to leave before the game ended. Still, it was great she'd come.
As the Crusiers took the field, I heard a shriek from the home-team bleachers. A woman holding a sign that read
(yeah, that's how she spelled it) leaped out of her seat and ran over to the Crusiers' coach, screaming, “Left field?! No way! Not my Howie!”
“Here we go,” Gordy said.
“That was quick,” Doug said.
Nobody on our team seemed at all surprised by the outburst.
From what I could tell, the woman was furious that her son had been placed in left field instead of at first base where she felt he belonged.
The coach talked to her for a moment. She screamed some more, then stormed over to her son and dragged him away.
“Good grief,” I said. “What's her problem? I like the outfield.” That was true. You might not get as much action, but you get a chance to save the day with a spectacular catch, and you get to make some heroic throws.
“She's a Bleacher Weenie,” Gordy said.