Read Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies Online
Authors: David Lubar
“We just have to do it,” I said. “Push someone hard enough so they go all the way around. Then, we'll see exactly what happens.”
“We tried that,” Albert said. “Everyone's tried it, lots of times. You can't get enough speed to do it.”
“Let me see,” I said. “Emily, you sit. Albert, you push. I'll watch. I want to see how far she'll go.”
Emily sat, then glared at Albert and said, “Don't you dare push me all the way around.”
Albert pushed. I watched. As hard as Albert tried, he couldn't get Emily to go much past the point where the chains of the swing were parallel to the ground. The problem was obvious.
“There's not enough force to go all the way around,” I said.
Albert stepped away from the swing and dropped to the ground, exhausted. “We need a bigger kid.”
“No,” I said. “We need
.” That word made me tingle. I'd been looking for an excuse to do some rocketry experiments. I unhooked one of the swing seats from its chains. “Come on. We have work to do.”
I headed to my house, and down to my basement lab. Albert and Emily followed, arguing about the best breed of dog, the tastiest sandwich, and other undecidable issues.
“These should do,” I said, taking two of my homemade rockets from the shelf where I stored all my dangerous experiments.
“We need to figure out who's going to go around,” I said.
“Him,” Emily said, pointing at Albert. “I'm not turning inside out.”
“It's not going to happen,” Albert said.
That pretty much solved the problem. The one who believed there was no danger would be the one to go.
“How much do you weigh?” I asked Albert.
He sucked in his stomach. “Why?”
“I need to figure out the thrust necessary to make you go around,” I said.
Albert told me. I got my calculator and did some number crunching, verifying my rough guess that two rockets would be enough. Then, I wired the rockets to the seat and rigged up an ignition switch.
“All set,” I said.
We headed back to the playground, where I reattached the seat.
“Are you sure this is safe?” Albert asked.
“Positive,” I said. It's okay to lie in the name of science. I was pretty sure it was safe, but it was nearly impossible to be positive about this sort of thing. Worst case, Albert's butt would get a little singed.
Albert shrugged and took a seat. I stepped to the side and offered the ignition switch to Emily. “Want to launch him?”
“Sure.” She took the switch.
“I'll get him started,” I said. It would be difficult for the rockets to move him from a dead start. They'd have to overcome his inertia. I didn't bother explaining that. I gave Albert a push, got him moving, and kept pushing until he was swinging pretty high.
“Hit the switch when he's all the way to the rear,” I said. “We want to take full advantage of gravity.” I smiled, because that's exactly what NASA did when they used the pull of the sun to help fling a probe out of the solar system.
I moved safely out of the way. Albert swung up, then back. “Now!” I said.
Emily hit the switch. The rockets kicked in. I felt a thrill as I watched my invention perform perfectly.
“Wow,” Emily said as Albert swooped down toward the ground, and then up toward the top of the swings.
“Whoooaaaa!” Albert yelled.
“We did it,” I said as he swung all the way around.
“He's not inside out,” I said as Albert finished his loop.
“I hate to be wrong,” Emily said. “But I guess in this case, it's good I was wrong. I mean, I guess I wouldn't want to see him turned inside out. That would have to hurt.”
“I imagine so,” I said.
“Hey, isn't it supposed to stop?” she asked.
I looked at Albert. He was jetting up to his second loop. And the chain, which had wrapped once around the top bar, was shorter. If you know anything about physics, you know that this helped speed him up, since he was traveling in a smaller circle. Or spiral, actually.
“The rockets are still firing,” Emily said. “They're way too strong.”
Albert yelled again. But I couldn't tell what he was trying to say.
“I thought you figured this out,” Emily said.
“I'm a kid,” I said. “I make mistakes. It's only in the movies where the young scientist figures everything out perfectly.”
Albert had made his third loop. The chain was even shorter.
“Aaaaoooowwww!” he yelled. At least he was putting a bit of variety into his yelps.
As he completed his next loop, I realized that he'd conk his head on the pole once the chain got short enough.
“Jump!” I yelled.
He sailed pretty far.
We ran across the playground to the crash site. Albert lay on his stomach.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Sey,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
“Uh-oh,” I said.
“What?” Emily asked.
“Don't you see?” I asked.
“No,” she said.
But I guess Albert saw. “Em pleh,” he said.
“His body didn't turn inside out. But his brain did,” I said. “That's why he's talking backwards.”
“So I was right!” Emily said.
Albert stood up and got in her face.
“On!” he said. “Gnorw yllatot.”
“Right,” Emily said.
I sighed and headed back to my lab for more rockets. I wasn't sure how to reverse things. Maybe he had to go backwards. Or maybe he'd have to do a headstand. This was going to take some experimenting to fix. But that was okay. I loved science. And I had lots more rockets.
know all the
tricks,” Bruce said as he walked into the school auditorium.
A sign on an easel outside the entrance promised:
THE AMAZING WOWZOWIE WILL AMAZE AND MYSTIFY YOU.
As if that awkward phrasing wasn't enough to ensure a crowd, further words announced:
LAST CHANCE TO SEE HIM BEFORE HE RETIRES.
“Just don't spoil anything for me,” his friend Connor said, following Bruce down toward a pair of open seats in the third row.
Bruce wasn't even sure why he'd bothered to come to the magic show. He'd seen it all. He knew how everything was done, from classics like the linking rings, the cut-and-restored rope, and the vanishing birdcage to newer illusions like the trisection box and the center-stage levitation. He'd read every magic book in the town library, and bought other books with his allowance. He had catalogues from magic shops and a stack of magazines for magicians. He knew all the tricksâeven the real big illusions like turning a woman into a tiger and making a car vanish. But there wasn't anything else happening that Saturday afternoon, so he'd asked his mother for money for a ticket to the show.
“Oh, man,” Bruce whispered when the magician walked onto the stage. “He's not going to be very good.” The guy wasn't even wearing a tuxedo or anything. He just had on a ratty-looking old jacket like the one Bruce's math teacher wore, a white shirt, and brown pants. His shoes needed a shine. There was a handkerchief draped over his closed fist.
“It's going to turn into a cane,” he said to Connor.
“Sssshhhh,” Connor hissed as the handkerchief turned into a cane.
The magician spun the cane in his hand, then placed it on a small table that stood to his left. The rickety table wobbled under even this light load.
“Told ya,” Bruce said. He watched to see how quickly he could guess what the next trick would be.
The magician reached into an open trunk and picked up a silver ball.
“It's going to float,” Bruce said. “It's an old illusion, called
He'll cover it with a cloth first.”
Connor hit him on the shoulder. The magician covered the ball with a large cloth. Beneath the cloth, a shape rose up. The ball was floating.
Around Bruce, kids gasped. Bruce told Connor how the ball floated. Onstage, the magician glared at him.
Bruce thought. He hadn't realized he'd talked that loudly. But it wasn't his fault. It was the magician's fault for using such an old and obvious trick.
The next trick, a vanishing-milk pitcher, wasn't any better. Bruce explained the secret behind that one to Connor, too. Even though Connor acted like he was angry, Bruce realized Connor really wanted to know the secrets to the tricks. Everyone wanted to know. And, except for the magician, Bruce was the only person in the audience who could reveal those secrets. He felt like the most important person in the auditorium.
“I need a volunteer,” the magician said.
A hundred hands thrust into the air. Bruce raised his hand, too. It would be cool to be onstage. He figured he'd make a great assistant, since he knew all the tricks. Maybe he could even take over and save the show.
But the magician didn't look at him. He picked some silly little girl from the back of the auditorium. When she came up onstage, the magician handed her a soda bottle, along with a metal tube that was just large enough to cover the bottle.
Bruce's gut clenched with a pang of envy. He knew what was going to happen. And if it had been him up there, he could have had some fun ruining the trick. But the stupid little girl played along, and everyone laughed at her as she kept failing to follow the magician's instructions. No matter how hard she tried to copy his moves, covering the bottle with the tube and then turning it upside down and right-side up, when they lifted their tubes, her bottle, unlike the magician's, was always upside down.
Bruce explained the trick to Connor. He realized he should have spoken during the applause, so nobody else would hear him. But the applause hadn't lasted long before dying. And he'd been louder than he intended, again.
The show hobbled painfully toward the end, by way of a chain of unspectacular tricks.
I can't wait for this to be over,
As if on cue, the magician said, “And now, for my last feat.” He paused and looked at the audience. “I need a volunteer.”
Bruce's hand shot up. As he raised it, he realized the magician was already pointing at him.
“How about you, young man?” he asked.
It's about time.
Bruce left his seat and walked up the side steps to the stage. “I know all the tricks,” he said to the magician when he reached him.
“How nice,” the magician said. He flashed Bruce a big smile with teeth that, up close, revealed the dinginess of coffee stains. “There aren't many people who are so fortunate. Wait right here.”
The magician dashed to the side of the stage. A moment later, he wheeled out a big box, painted in shiny black paint and decorated with large red exclamation points and yellow question marks. From close up, Bruce could see the markings had been badly painted by hand. The magician pulled a tape measure from his pants pocket and checked Bruce's height. “Perfect,” he said.
The audience laughed. Bruce didn't think it was much of a joke.
The magician flipped open the lid of the box. “Climb in,” he said.
Bruce climbed into the box and lay down. There was a semicircular cutout at one end that his neck fit into, and a pair of smaller cutouts at the other end for his ankles. His head and feet stuck out.
The magician closed the lid and picked up a saw.
Bruce turned his head toward the audience and smiled. He wondered whether he should tell them how the trick worked right now, or wait until after it was done. It might be even more fun to reveal the secret right in the middle of the action.
“I know how it's done,” he said, just loud enough so the magician could hear him.
“I don't,” the magician said. He started to saw into the top of the box.
The magician's words echoed in Bruce's mind, slowly taking on their full meaning.
Bruce knew exactly how the trick should be done. He also knew the magician hadn't done the secret thing to the box that would make it only seem like Bruce had been cut in half.
“Fifty-three years,” the magician said, his voice hushed so only Bruce heard. “I've been performing magic onstage most of my life. Every show, there's a little monster like you who tries to ruin things. Well, this final trick isn't going to mystify anyone, but it will sure amaze them.”
“No!” Bruce screamed. He tried to pull himself free, but the lid was locked right down over his neck and ankles. He could twist and thrash, but he couldn't escape.
The magician paused in his sawing and scanned the audience. “Anybody want to guess how it's done?”
Not a hand went up. He resumed sawing.
“Stop!” Bruce screamed again and again as he heard the saw moving through the wood at the top of the box. He couldn't see the blade. The box blocked his view. But he could imagine it moving closer and closer to his body.
The audience screamed in mock horror.
Bruce's own screams turned into wordless wails as he felt the blade reach his stomach.
His eyes fell on Connor, who shouted, “I want to enjoy the last trick. Don't ruin it for me.”
Not the candlesticks,”
said as Dad reached toward the mantle above the fireplace.
“We need a lot of silver,” he said.
“Then take your chess set,” she said.
“That's a collector's item,” he said.
“And the candlesticks are a family heirloom,” Mom said. She pointed to me. “We'll be passing them along to Serena someday.”
“Nobody will be passing anything to anyone if we don't stop that creature.” Dad lifted one of the candlesticks from the mantle and hefted it, as if trying to gauge how much it weighed.