Chapter One: Summer
Summer did not want to wake up. She screwed her face up with concentration, attempting to muster up a quick stomachache so she wouldn't have to face another horrible day at Jefferson Junior High. As if her daily routine at the school wasn’t bad enough, today she was supposed to play in a soccer game that she was thoroughly dreading. With both hands firmly resting on her forehead trying to warm it to fever temperature, she peeked out from beneath her rumpled bed covers.
The hands on her Gothic Girl
alarm clock pointed to 7:45 a.m. Arrgh... she could swear the hands moved faster on school mornings.
“Summer! Wake up kiddo, you're gonna be late for school!” Her Dad's baritone voice floated up from downstairs.
“I'm not going to go. I feel sick.” Summer knew it was feeble but the best, and unfortunately, most overused excuse she could think of. She felt like she would do anything to get out of the soccer game that she was supposed to play in that morning.
Downstairs Jasper, Summer's father, moved to the stove and retrieved a batch of gourmet pancakes. “Get a move on, the bus will be here any minute!”
Summer, with a reluctant sigh, threw off the bedcovers and shuffled to her nearby bathroom. Her fingers groped for the switch.
As the light clicked on, Summer gazed at her reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror with distaste. Nelson, her small tabby, watched from a stool near the sink as Summer made a perfunctory inspection of her facial features.
“You don't have to worry about having a giant nose, too many freckles, and glasses. Be thankful you're a cat.”
Nelson meowed sympathetically as Summer made a gagging gesture at her reflection, gave him a pat on the head, and turned on the shower. “Not to mention the fact that I’m probably the worst soccer player ever.” She thought miserably.
Her parents had divorced when she was six. The custody battle had been long and arduous. In the end, the agreement had been that her parents would split the time fifty-fifty. Summer never understood the reasons for the divorce, but loved them both. Fortunately, they never tried to get her to “take sides,” but she constantly found herself frustrated and caught in the middle.
Her Dad was eccentric, to put it mildly. He had a big picture of Thomas Edison in the living room and Summer even caught him talking to it once or twice when he didn’t know she was looking. He was forever tinkering, hoping to make a monumental scientific breakthrough. Summer observed that almost everything he made backfired or exploded. In many pictures ofher Dad, he had used a grease pencil to stencil in his eyebrows because of the constant singeing they had been subjected to.
Her Mom was the opposite. Queen of her legal firm, Jones, Bartholomew and Edwards
, she represented herself in the divorce proceedings and practically reduced her Dad’s attorney to an ineffectual schoolboy. She was efficient, levelheaded, and persistent. A consummate pro.
When she was little, Summer had spent countless hours trying to imitate both of them, secretly hoping to insure their love and approval through a carefully orchestrated performance. She realized soon enough that she couldn’t maintain the façade, especially when she entered Junior High.
Life at Jefferson was a constant struggle. She was reminded every day of how unpopular and geeky she was. She spent countless hours trying to figure out how to change her destined social status at school. This was the reason she signed up for the soccer team. She was terrible at sports, but hoped that by making the team, even though she was just an alternate, she might gain a few brownie points with her peers. Of course, it hadn’t worked. She was as unpopular as ever, and a terrible soccer player to boot.
Dressed in her neatly pressed uniform, Summer went downstairs. Her Dad was busy sprinkling candied pecans on top of a stack of perfectly browned pancakes. Summer noticed that he placed a very strange fork-like contraption next to the two plates. Ignoring this, she plodded to the kitchen pantry, took out a box of Alpha-O's cereal, and slumped into her spot at the table.
“Honey you're missing the opportunity to be the first to try my latest invention... a fork with a hydraulic attachment for regulating the flow of maple syrup over pancakes!”
Summer pretended not to hear as her father took the fork, positioned it over the stack of pancakes, and pushed the button. Nothing happened. He frowned and fiddled with the contraption.
“I can't figure out what could be wrong.” Jasper shook the fork up and down and placed a searching eye next to the tiny spout.
Summer rolled her eyes. “Here it comes...” She had watched her Dad struggle with his gadgets countless times before and could anticipate what was coming next. With a loud “GLURK,” hot maple syrup shot out of the end of the fork, drenching both the table and Jasper in a sticky mess.
“Whoops!” Her Dad struggled to control the sputtering device, fumbling with his sticky hands as the fork flew out of his fingers. It landed clattering on the kitchen floor, spraying out the last of its syrupy contents. Jasper, with practiced calmness, walked over and picked it up. While wiping the dripping syrup from his face with the back of his hand, he raised an analytical eyebrow at the device. “Hydraulic overload. Of course. Should have seen it. This will definitely mean further testing.”
Summer groaned as he went to the kitchen sink and began to clean up. Why couldn't her Dad at least try
acting normal once in awhile?” “Its no wonder I have such problems trying to be cool.” Summer thought. She was convinced that all of the evidence pointed to the fact that she had inherited a major dose of “geek genes” from her dad. She scowled as she munched a couple of bites of the soggy cereal while Jasper filled the sink with bubbling soapy water.
“So, are you ready for the big soccer finals?”
“Dad, I'm fourth string. I never play.”
Jasper pulled his sticky fishing hat from the scalding water.
“I'm sure you will get your big chance today. I have a funny feeling about this game. Just wait and see, you're gonna do great!”
Summer forced a smile. It was always the same thing. Her Dad was an optimist, constantly mentioning “silver linings” and stuff like that. Summer didn't believe life was that simple. When you are the most unpopular girl at Jefferson Junior High, “silver linings” were hard to come by.
She glanced down and noticed that the letters in her cereal bowl spelled out the word "L-O-S-E-R". She was certain her Dad was wrong about everything.
Excerpted from Amazing Adventures from Zoom's Academy by Written and illustrated by Jason Lethcoe. Copyright © 2005 by Written and illustrated by Jason Lethcoe. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.