X marks the spot, p.1
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       X Marks the Spot, p.1

           Tony Abbott
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X Marks the Spot


  X Marks the Spot

  (Treasure Island)

  Tony Abbott

  Chapter 1

  Splish … splash ….

  I opened my eyes. I was lounging in a very comfy beach chair on the shore of a beautiful tropical island.

  The sun was blazing, breezes were blowing through tall palm trees, warm waves were tickling every single one of my toes.

  “Ahhhh …” I sighed loudly, shifting up for a better view. On a blanket next to me was my best-friend-even-though-she’s-a-girl, Francine (Frankie) Lang.

  “Frankie, this is truly the life,” I said. “Just the waves, the sun, the sand. No bushy-eyebrowed, assignment-giving English teacher Mr. Wexler—”

  “No bun-haired, flower-dressed, book-loving librarian Mrs. Figglehopper—” Frankie added.

  “Just the whole beautiful beachy extravaganza!” I finished, popping open the cooler and munching a bunch of crunchy chips. “What I mean is, whoever created vacations has my vote to win the official Devin Bundy coolness award, don’t you think?”

  “Think? Not unless I have to,” she said with a chuckle. “And speaking of coolness, how cool is it to wear a jacket and tie when you go surfing?”

  “Not very,” I said.

  “How about a long dress?”

  “Even worse.”

  “Then we have a severe dress-code alert, Devin. Because somebody’s surfing the surf on a surf board—and they’re all dressed up!”

  Standing for a better look, I noticed two people riding a big fat surfboard over a giant wave. In front was a guy with bushy eyebrows and a frowny face, his hair flying up in little wisps. Behind him was a woman in a totally unsurferlike flowery dress and tightly bunned hair.

  “That’s not somebody,” I said. “It’s Mr. Wexler! And Mrs. Figglehopper! Our teacher! And our librarian! But what are they doing here?”

  Before Frankie could answer, the giant wave surged. It got huger and huger until it towered over the beach like a tidal wave.

  “Holy cow!” I cried. “They’re coming right for me!”

  “Run for the hills!” Frankie shouted.

  “But there are no hills! And I can’t run! My feet are stuck in the sand—wipeout!”

  The giant wave slammed into me and threw me down—wham!—

  Right out of my desk—

  And onto the floor—

  Of Mr. Wexler’s English class.

  To the sound of everyone laughing.

  “Owww!” I groaned. Sitting up, I saw Frankie sprawled on the floor next to me.

  “You were sleeping too?” I asked.

  She rubbed her eyes and nodded. “Dude, you totally busted my dream when you fell out of your desk. I was at the mall. Shoes were free. What was it for you? Since you screamed ‘wipeout,’ I guess it was the beach dream again?”

  I nodded. “The cooler was chock-full of chips.”

  Frankie sighed. “Waking up is so cruel.”

  “At least everyone’s laughing,” I said.

  “Um … not everyone.”

  Frankie was right. Mr. Wexler wasn’t laughing.

  “Frankie and Devin—!” our teacher growled as he stormed down the aisle, his head wobbling on his neck.

  I knew that head wobble. It was all about him being disappointed in Frankie and me. It was because Frankie and I weren’t the best students in the sixth grade at Palmdale Middle School.

  We were not even close to being the best students.

  It’s just that Frankie and I are not too good at the reading thing. All those words. All those pages. Not only that, people expect you to read every single one of them or it doesn’t count. More later; here comes Mr. Wexler.

  “So, my two wonder students,” he said, glaring down at us, “may I presume you were dreaming again?”

  Frankie helped me up. “Sorry, sir,” she said. “I guess we drifted off to sleep.”

  “And off our chairs,” I said.

  “You’re always drifting off,” Mr. Wexler said. “How do you expect to report on your character?”

  “Oh, I’m not sure you’d want to hear about my character,” said Frankie. “I haven’t really formed it yet.”

  I nodded. “My mom said she hoped I’d develop a character some day. But I’m not so sure.”

  “No, no,” said the teacher. “That’s not what I mean. You’re both supposed to choose characters from the book we’re reading and do a report on those characters.”

  “The book we’re reading?” said Frankie. “Why is it always books in this class? Books, books, books!”

  “It’s called English class, Francine,” Mr. Wexler said, his eyebrows fusing into a single hedge over his eyes. “We read books. And today we’re reading the great classic adventure book by Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island. You were supposed to go to the library last week and check out a copy—”

  “Last week?” I said. “Weren’t we on vacation last week?”

  The man positively grunted at that. “No, but maybe your minds were on vacation while the rest of us were hard at work reading Treasure Island.”

  It didn’t look good for us. Mr. Wexler didn’t look so good, either. The little veins on his neck had become big veins, and he was turning several shades of red.

  Luckily, Frankie came to the rescue. “I have an idea, Mr. Wexler,” she said brightly. “How about Devin and I go to the library now and get copies of this book you’re talking about, read it tonight, then do our reports first thing tomorrow morning!”

  I wiped my forehead. “Phew! Good save from Frankie. Can we, Mr. Wexler? Can we, please, huh?”

  Mr. Wexler squinted first at Frankie, then at me. His mouth made all sorts of interesting sounds, but none of them sounded like words. Finally, he breathed out.

  “All right. But I’m only doing this because for some freakish reason you have actually gotten good grades in here before. Frankie, you do a report on Jim Hawkins. Devin, you take the character of Long John Silver. They are both major characters in Treasure Island. Read the book tonight and give your reports tomorrow.”

  “We’ll do it,” said Frankie. “After all, Mr. Wexler, you just said we get good grades if we want to, right?”

  He continued narrowing his eyes at us. “The question is, do you want to? Understanding the characters is the key to the real treasure of this book. Now, scoot to the library and check out a copy! You have three minutes. Go!”

  We went. Down one hallway, then the next, then the next, until we pulled up right outside the library. Just before Frankie tugged open the doors, I stopped her.

  “Wait,” I said. “Let’s think about this. Every time we go in here, something weird happens. You know what I mean.”

  Frankie nodded, giving a slight shudder. She was thinking what I was thinking. We actually have gotten a couple of good grades in English, and it was because of what happens in Mrs. Figglehopper’s library. But if I told you what happens—what really happens—you’d say it was impossible.

  Very impossible.

  In fact, that’s exactly what Frankie and I call what happens in that library.

  The Very Impossible Thing.

  I looked at her. She looked at me. We both wondered if it would happen again.

  “Time’s running out,” she said. “Tick, tock.”

  “Okay,” I said, “but don’t say I didn’t warn us.”

  Gulping loudly, we pulled the library doors open and barged right in.

  And smushed our faces into a solid wall of cardboard boxes.

  Chapter 2

  “Ow!” I groaned, bouncing back into the hall and clutching my poor nose. “What gives?”

  “Not my forehead, for sure,” said Frankie, rubbing her eyebrows as she scanned the boxes blocking our way. “This looks like m
oving day. Devin, do you think the library’s moving away because we don’t use it enough?”

  I blinked. “I don’t know, but Mr. Wexler gave us only three minutes to get the book, so we’d better find out. I see a little space between some of the boxes. Follow me.”

  I slipped between two tall columns of cartons and entered what turned out to be a zigzagging maze of boxes. First we went right, then left, then right again.

  “How can we find the book in all this?” I said.

  “Mrs. Figglehopper will know,” said Frankie.

  “Sure, but first we need to find her. Mrs. Figglehopper!”

  Now, let me tell you, Mrs. Figglehopper has never met a book she didn’t like. She’s all about books. Big books, small books, all books. But especially classic books.

  It’s like Mrs. Figglehopper and Mr. Wexler are the one-two punch of classic books. He assigns them and she just happens to have shelfloads of them in her library.

  Talk about a plot? It’s a conspiracy!

  “Mrs. Figglehopper?” Frankie called.

  “Hello? Hello!” called a voice from somewhere in the maze. We recognized it right away as the voice of the librarian herself. “Who’s there?

  “Me!” I replied.

  “And me!” said Frankie

  “Me and me who?” Mrs. Figglehopper called over the walls of boxes. It sounded like she was getting closer.

  “Us and us! Frankie and Devin!” I said. “We need a book. A classic book.”

  Just then, her head popped up above the wall of boxes. “Oh, there you are! I’m in the middle of reorganizing my collection of books. Thus, all the boxes.”

  “We thought you were moving,” I said.

  “Ha! Never!” said the librarian, finally slipping between the boxes and into view. She had a clipboard with a yellow pad on it. “Now, what brings you here today?”

  “Mr. Wexler sent us to find a book,” said Frankie. “It’s called Treasure Island—”

  The lady’s eyes beamed. “I love that book! It’s a story about pirates and a quest for buried treasure!”

  “I like treasure,” I said. “Well, I would if I ever found any.”

  “You will if you read the book!” Mrs. Figglehopper said. “Robert Louis Stevenson forever changed the way adventure stories are written. They are adventures, but it’s his characters that you remember.”

  “We have to do reports on characters,” said Frankie.

  “Then Treasure Island is the book for you,” she said. “I have one copy left. It’s in a carton marked ‘CLASSICS,’ in the workroom. Over there.”

  She pointed over a tall stack of boxes.

  I looked. “I can’t even see the workroom. All I see is one thing. Boxes and boxes.”

  “Devin, that’s two things,” said Frankie.

  Mrs. Figglehopper laughed. “Here, let me draw you a map.” She drew a big square on her pad, then a zigzagging line across it to a big X.

  “Ooh, a treasure map,” said Frankie.

  The librarian beamed. “I think of books as treasures. Sometimes you have to hunt for the right one. But the reward is that much greater! So, happy hunting!”

  An instant later, Mrs. Figglehopper was gone.

  “I like treasure hunts,” said Frankie, setting off into the maze.

  “Me, too,” I said, taking a sharp left by a box marked Sea Creatures. “Except that there’s not really a treasure at the end of this hunt. There’s only staying up all night reading, then writing a book report.”

  After turning enough times to make my head spin, we finally found the workroom. Frankie held up the little map. “The X means it’s right over … there!”

  And there it was. The carton marked CLASSICS.

  But that isn’t all that was there. Right behind the carton, we spotted something else.

  “The zapper gates,” I whispered.

  “The zapper gates,” Frankie whispered back.

  I was reminded of the Very Impossible Thing.

  The zapper gates was Mrs. Figglehopper’s name for an old set of security gates she kept in the workroom. They’re the kind that are supposed to go zzzt-zzzt when a book isn’t properly checked out. Mrs. Figglehopper kept them in the workroom because she said they were busted beyond repair.

  But Frankie and I knew those gates were far from busted. In fact, we found out the hard way that if a book goes between them, a bright blue light flashes out and the wall behind the gates cracks open and the book goes in and then you go in and you get shook up like you’re in a blender, and then—plop!—there you are.

  Right in chapter one of the book!

  With all the characters, and settings, and everything!

  How do I know? I know, because The Very Impossible Thing has happened to Frankie and me.

  And each time it happens, we get all twisted and stretched and knocked around, and the next thing we know, we’re in a classic book. And the only way out is—you guessed it—to read our way to the end.

  Nodding toward the gates, Frankie asked, “Do you think it could ever happen again?”

  “Part of me still thinks we dreamed the whole thing.”

  But I had to admit that being dropped into a book wasn’t all bad. By the time we got to the end, we knew that book backward and forward. We turned that into a bunch of surprise good grades on Mr. Wexler’s tests, which totally freaked his eyebrows.

  “Let’s just get the book,” said Frankie.

  I pulled off the lid of the carton. Digging to the bottom, I found a book with gold letters set on a blue cover.

  “Treasure Island,” I said. “Got it.” I flipped open the book, and something green fluttered out.

  “A bookmark,” Frankie said. She picked it up.

  It was a feather, a bright green bird feather.

  “Where do you suppose she got this?” I asked.

  Frankie sniffed the feather, then handed it to me. “People keep stuff given to them by special friends—”

  I stared at her. “You mean … like a … boyfriend?”

  She nodded. “Maybe—”

  “Well—eeewww!” I tossed back the feather.

  “I don’t want it!” she shrieked. She flung it at me.

  “Get the boyfriend thing off me!” I threw it back.

  She dodged it. “Take it away!”

  She tossed it, then I tossed it, then she tossed it, then I tossed it, then it happened.

  The feather—Mrs. Figglehopper’s precious green boyfriend-feather bookmark—suddenly twirled up in the air out of reach, then shot straight down like a dart.

  “It’s heading for the gates!” I cried. “It’s—”

  Kkkkk! The room flashed with bright blue light.

  Suddenly—crrrakkk!—the whole wall behind the gates began to crack open. Smoke poured out into the workroom. The light and the smoke surrounded us and we were pulled toward the crack—right into the smoky light and darkness.

  “It’s happening again!” Frankie yelled. “Help!”

  “Me also!” I shouted.

  Then—thumpety-thumpety—we were pulled through the crack and sent rolling across a wooden floor. I just got a glimpse of a room full of dark old furniture and dirty glass windows when—wham!—we slammed hard into a table.

  Stinky liquid spilled across the table, over us, onto the floor, and onto a pair of big huge boots.

  When we stopped rolling, I noticed that the big huge boots belonged to a big huge man. He was dressed in a dirty blue coat that dragged on the floor. He had a deep scar on one bearded cheek, and a nasty scowl on his lips.

  “Um, sorry, dude—” I began.

  But the guy burst up from the table and began screaming words that sounded very inappropriate.

  As if that wasn’t bad enough, he pulled out the longest, shiniest, sharpest sword ever made, and shook it in the air over our heads.

  That’s when I freaked.

  “Ahhhhhhh!”

  Chapter 3

  And I kept on freaking. “Ahhhhhh
ahhh!”

  “So!” the man roared, continuing to swish his sword over our heads. “You’ve come to hunt me down, have ye? Well, you fish-eyed, goose-legged lubbers, I’ll chop and I’ll whack and I’ll cut and I’ll—”

  “Whoa, guy!” I cried. “Most people wait till they know us to get rid of us!”

  “Yeah,” said Frankie, clutching my arm. “It’s way too early for slicing and dicing. It’s not even lunchtime. So how about you put Mr. Pointy down? Please, mister big dude—”

  The man stopped chewing up the air and stared at us, blinking his red eyes. “Pah! I see by your strange clothes and strange talk that you be not from around here!”

  “We sure be not,” said Frankie, unclutching me. “And, by the way, where is here, anyway?”

  “Here?” he snarled. “Why, England, of course!

  With a mighty grip, he lifted us both off the floor and leaned his stubbly face close. “Call me Captain, if you like. Others do. But tell me, you haven’t seen an ugly seafaring man with one leg, have you?”

  “Not even one with the usual number,” I said.

  “Good!” he snorted. “Tell me if you spy anyone with a single leg. Or somebody with bad teeth. Or someone who can’t see.”

  “Man,” I said, “your friends need some spare parts.”

  “Friends?” he cried. “Pah! They are coming to do me harm! And that reminds me of a song!”

  The guy then decided to sing. If you can call his combination of yelling and groaning singing.

  “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest—

  Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

  On hitting that last note, he slid his cutlass back into his belt, slumped in his chair, took a long swig from his bottle of stinky liquid, and dropped his head on the table with a resounding thud.

  Frankie and I stood trembling until we heard the guy begin to snore. It sounded like someone sawing wood.

  “Interesting guy,” she said. “Nice character, really. I think we’d better stay on his good side.”

  “I’m not sure he has a good side,” I replied. “You see that scar? He’s nasty from every angle. He scares me.”

  Frankie chuckled. “I heard. You scream like a baby, you know.”

 
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