"You know what the Wallaces' dog can do?" Robert asked. He slapped the steering wheel. "He can fetch his own leash when he wants to go for a walk. Can you believe that? Otis fetches his own leash!"
Excerpted from The Last Dog on Earth by Daniel Ehrenhaft Copyright © 2003 by Daniel Ehrenhaft. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, 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.
Robert had an annoying habit of slapping the steering wheel while he was talking and driving at the same time. Logan hated that.
Logan Moore hated a lot of things.
Mom said that hate was a strong word and that Logan shouldn't use it. Logan didn't agree. If hate was a strong word, then that was fine by him. If there had been a stronger word, he'd probably have used that one. In fact, hating was such a big part of his life that he kept a running list of all the things he hated.
The list changed from day to day. It could change from hour to hour, even. Sometimes it was bigger, sometimes smaller; sometimes it was just one word--Robert--so Logan never wrote the list down. He kept it in his head, where he kept everything else that mattered.
Right now the list read as follows:
THINGS I HATE
1.Being in the car with Mom and Robert
2.Listening to Robert jabber on and on and never shut up about the Wallaces' dog
5.The name Otis
The list always ended the same way, because even on a beautiful June afternoon--with summer vacation just starting and the sun blazing and the wind whipping through the open car window--Logan could count on being angry for one reason or another. At the very least, he could always be angry that Mom had married Robert, whose pockmarked face looked like the surface of an asteroid and whose mission in life was to be the All-Knowing Dictator of Everything. Logan could also be angry that his father had run off when Logan was seven and was now living the high life somewhere in the boondocks in a mansion he'd built by himself that probably had a hot tub and a trampoline--but Logan wouldn't know because his father had never invited him to the place and never would. (Not that Logan even wanted to go.) And of course he could be angry about being angry all the time, since it was a lousy way to feel.
But Logan had gotten used to all that sort of stuff. He'd had to get used to it, or else he'd go crazy. And then, who knew what could happen? He might turn violent. He might turn to crime. Then he would end up being one of those kids you see on talk shows: the kids whose heinous behavior proves to the studio audience that teenagers are, indeed, very evil--and isn't it high time we did something about it?
Today Logan was just angry because Robert had burst into his room without knocking. Again. Then he'd torn the place apart, searching for the TV remote control. Again. He couldn't find it, of course, because Logan didn't have it. But that didn't stop him from throwing all Logan's stuff all over the place . . . his clothes, his books, everything--even the lousy baseball mitt that he never used because it was so stiff that it felt like concrete, and besides, there was nobody to play catch with, anyway.
Then Robert told him to clean up the mess.
And on top of all that, Mom and Robert were dragging him to the Wallaces' Summer Kickoff Barbecue for the eighty billionth time. Logan would rather have his eyes poked out with a sharp stick. He'd rather be hurled into a pit full of poisonous snakes. He'd rather do anything than be stuck in the same place as both Robert and Devon Wallace.
But there was no point in dwelling on what he'd rather be doing.
Every year, the Wallaces hosted the same Summer Kickoff Barbecue. Everybody in Pinewood was invited. That was the Pinewood spirit. Pinewood was the lame housing tract in the lame town where they all lived--that being Newburg, Oregon, otherwise known as Lameville, USA. And every year, the star attraction of the barbecue was Devon Wallace, the King of Lameness himself.
Devon was fourteen, just like Logan. They'd been in the same class since they were five. They were both going to start ninth grade at the same high school in the fall. Given Logan's luck, they would probably go to the same college, work at the same office, and end up buried in the same cemetery, too.
For the longest time, Mom and Robert had been putting up a fight to make Logan become better friends with Devon. It didn't take a genius to see why. From an adult point of view, Devon was perfect. He was a perfectly adequate student. He had perfect blond hair and perfect teeth. He was one of those kids who looked as if he belonged in a toothpaste commercial. He played about a zillion different sports, too, including soccer and water polo--yes, water polo--all perfectly.
Logan, on the other hand, had messy brown hair and a crooked smile (which most people never saw). People said he looked like his mother. Why, he wasn't sure. Mom was a middle-aged woman. How could he possibly look like her? He and Mom were both skinny, though, and they had blue eyes, which was probably what people were talking about.
As far as school went, he hated it and skipped whenever he could. And when it came to sports, he was decent at minigolf, but not much else. He liked to go hiking. But you couldn't beat anybody at hiking.
In other words, he didn't rate so high on the perfection scale.
So it was natural that his mother and stepfather would want him to hang out with Devon Wallace. They were hoping that some of Devon's perfection would rub off on him. Unfortunately, Mom and Robert missed what every single other adult also seemed to miss about Devon--namely, that he was an ass.
He was the worst kind of ass, too: a mean one. When adults weren't around, Devon spent all his time bragging or picking on other kids--especially if they were younger. He treated Logan as if he were an idiot because Logan didn't get good grades. As if grades had anything to do with how smart you really were.
From the Hardcover edition.