Trapped in transylvania, p.1
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       Trapped in Transylvania, p.1
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           Tony Abbott
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Trapped in Transylvania

  Trapped in Transylvania


  Tony Abbott

  Chapter 1

  “Blah, blah, mumble, mumble,” somebody was saying. “Mumble, mumble, blah, blah, blah …”

  It was first thing Monday morning in Mr. Wexler’s English class. I was feeling all bright and fresh after sleeping through the weekend.

  Behind me sat my best-friend-for-life-even-though-she’s-a-girl: Francine—Frankie—Lang.

  “Blah, blah,” the voice went on, which was making me sleepy all over again. To keep myself awake, I turned around.

  “Hey, Frankie,” I whispered.

  “Hey, Devin,” she whispered back.

  I admire Frankie very much, and now she was proving why by doing two things at once. First, she was tugging on her hair. Second, she was staring at the ceiling.

  “Wanna catch some tube time in the AV room between classes?” I asked.

  She flicked her eyes down to me. “Sure, what’s on?”

  “Does it matter?”

  “No,” she chuckled. “Anything’s better than English class.”

  I was just about to agree, when that distant talking suddenly got louder.

  “Blah, blah, mumble, mumble … Devin and Frankie!”

  I froze. Frankie froze. We were caught. Again.

  “Stand up, you two!” Mr. Wexler said, storming down the aisle and screeching to a halt at our desks.

  When we stood up, he frowned deeply at us. As he frowned, his eyebrows, which were so close and so thick, turned into one long bushy hedge.

  “You haven’t been listening to a single word I’ve been saying, have you?” he said, his voice all snarly. “You think this is playtime for you, don’t you? Do you think school is just one big joke? Why do you even come to class if you’re not going to listen? Have you ever tried to learn anything?”

  “If this a quiz,” said Frankie, “I’m pretty sure I suddenly need to go to the nurse.”

  I raised my hand. “The answers are: yes, no, sometimes, our parents make us, and once a long time ago but it didn’t work.”

  Mr. Wexler’s nose was this little button just big enough to keep his glasses from falling into his teeth. Right now the nose was turning bright red.

  “The sad thing is, you two don’t even bother to apply yourselves!” he said. “Neither of you is living up to your potential!”

  “I’m due for a growth spurt soon,” said Frankie.

  “Oh, yes!” Mr. Wexler said, oozing a fake smile. “So funny. The king and queen of the smart comeback.”

  “Let me get this straight,” said Frankie. “You want us to come back when we’re smart?”

  “And you think I’m a king?” I asked.

  Mr. Wexler’s single bushy eyebrow wriggled.

  “Please just take your seats and wait here!” He hustled back to his own desk.

  Frankie turned to me. “Where are we supposed to take our seats if we have to wait here?”

  I shrugged. “Teachers speak a different language.”

  At least it seemed so to Frankie and me.

  You see, we aren’t what you call the best students in the sixth grade at Palmdale Middle School. In fact, some people might say Frankie and I are nowhere near the best. We’re probably somewhere in the middle.

  Maybe lower middle. Okay, middle lower.

  Everybody says we don’t do great in school because we don’t read. But we do read! Lots.

  Okay, a little.

  Fine, we don’t read. But it’s only because we have lots of our own stuff to do and it takes up every second of our time. People keep trying to wreck it, though. They make these big fat books just so that teachers like Mr. Wexler will have something to teach.

  But for me and Frankie, it’s like—why read when there’s so much other stuff to do?

  Anyway, more later. Here comes Mr. Wexler.

  “Since you two are such classic cases of not applying yourselves,” Mr. Wexler said as he walked toward us, “here’s a real classic for you—”

  Wham! Wham!

  He dropped a thick book on each of our desks. “You don’t like paying attention in class? Okay, I’ve got some homework for you. You will read this big classic book and you will give an oral report—both of you—in front of the whole class—tomorrow! You’ll discuss plot, character, setting, and theme. And maybe, just maybe, I won’t call your parents! And remember—read the whole book! That means every word!”

  At that moment, the bell rang and we bounced out into the bustling school hall with everyone else.

  “Frankie, it’s bogus,” I said, trying to hold the big fat classic book in one hand as we tramped to our lockers.

  “That thing hanging from your nose?” she said. “I think it’s pronounced booger.”

  I rubbed it off. “No. It’s bogus that we have to read this superlong chubby book. Look at it. It’s full of pages from beginning to end. Not only that. There’s printing on every single one of them!”

  “What’s the bad evil thing called?” she asked.

  “D … R … A … Dracula?” I said. “That can’t be right. Dracula is a movie.”

  “Some book. Doesn’t even know what it is.”

  Frankie looked so glum her hair drooped. I hate that. I like when she’s just happy and fun. But Frankie is very sensitive to sad stuff and I try to notice it and make her feel better. Just then, an idea came to me.

  “Hey, Frankie, how about you come over to my house after supper? Maybe if we work together there’s some kind of shortcut we can find. One head is better than two, right?”

  “That’s what they say,” she said, finally smiling again. “You know, Devin, I never told you this, but sometimes, I like how you think. If that’s what it’s called.”

  I slapped her five, and we agreed to meet at my house after supper for a mondo cram session at 6:30.

  At 7:48 sharp she showed up.

  Chapter 2

  “You’re late for our mondo cram session,” I said as Frankie stumbled in through the window of my little upstairs room. Frankie always climbs a tree to get in.

  “I had to do stuff,” she said, a little yawn seeping out of the corner of her mouth.

  “Like what?”

  “Well, first I had to think about coming over here. Then, I had to, you know, actually come over here. So that’s two things. Stuff like that takes time to work out.”

  I nodded. “I hear you. Life’s brutal that way.”

  She dumped her copy of the chubby book on my floor and lay down next to it. “So, do we have to start working right away or can we take a break first?”

  “I’m not into torture!” I said. I closed the door and stacked her book and mine squarely against it to keep it closed. “This is a long, thick, and heavily chubby book,” I said. “We have to work ourselves up to it. We have to prepare.”

  Frankie cracked a grin. “Okay, let’s prepare!”

  Here’s a list of the stuff we did to prepare.

  1. I fluffed the pillows before I stretched out on my bed. They needed lots of fluffing. Fifteen minutes.

  2. I shot hoops, using my dirty socks as the ball and my hamper as the basket. Score: six socks, eighteen points (from the bed each basket is a three-pointer). For some reason, Frankie didn’t play, even after I offered her a choice of right or left sock. Twelve minutes.

  3. We couldn’t start working until we found what smelled under my bed. We couldn’t find it. I think it moved to the closet. Frankie said no way was she looking in my closet. She calls it “the Black Hole of Palmdale.” Almost an hour.

  4. To get our thumbs in shape for reading, we both tried to tear a deck of cards in half. The cards didn’t tear, but I did hurt my thumbs. Then we played cards until
my thumbs felt better. Forty-five minutes.

  5. Frankie painted her toenails and fingernails pearly white. Bored with watching her, I did my left thumbnail with a red marker, then found it wouldn’t wash off, even after repeated rubbings. Cool. Thirty-two minutes.

  6. When we were almost nearly ready to begin to start making notes on the chubby book, Frankie sharpened our pencil with my dad’s electric sharpener. But she totally got into it. Soon only the eraser was left. Of course we had to find another pencil. Twenty-six minutes.

  7. We had to rest after the search for a second pencil so we flipped around on the TV to see if any thing good was on. That’s when I knew we had luck on our side.

  “Dracula!” I yelped. “It’s actually on. The movie!”

  “The movie of the chubby book?” said Frankie.

  “And, the movie of our report!” I said. “Frankie, we’re golden!” I refluffed my pillows and got into position.

  The next thing I remember, the window was open, Frankie was gone, the sun was up, and my mom was banging pots in the hall to make me open my door because it was jammed shut by two fat chubby books.

  “Uh-oh,” I mumbled, rubbing my eyes. “D-Day.”

  A half hour later, lugging the books with me, I caught up with Frankie in the hall outside Mr. Wexler’s class.

  “Where did you go last night?” I asked her.

  “It was this morning,” she said. “And I went home to sleep. I was so exhausted from all our preparing.”

  “But you saw the Dracula movie, right?”

  She made a face. “No, did you?”

  I made the same face. “Frankie, when I said we were golden, I was only half right. We’re golden brown. Totally toasted.”

  And we were. As soon as we stepped into the classroom, Mr. Wexler bounced up from his desk.

  “Ah! Our guests of honor have arrived,” he cried gleefully. “Devin and Frankie, we’re all waiting to hear about that great classic work of literature, Dracula. You may begin your fabulous oral report anytime. Now would be a fine time.”

  Frankie and I stood shivering at the front of the room.

  “I only know one thing about Dracula,” I whispered to her. “That he’s a vampire.”

  “A guy that bites other people?” she whispered.

  “Whoa! That’s two things we know!” I said. “Hey, maybe we’re golden again. I’m thinking if we can stretch out the report maybe we’ll bluff our way through it and get straight As!”

  “Or at least not fail,” said Frankie.

  “At least,” I said.

  “Now stop stalling, you two,” Mr. Wexler said. “Please begin with a few words about the theme of the book.”

  We did rock, paper, scissors, and I won.

  Frankie gave out a deep groan.

  “Dracula’s theme …” she began, “is very complicated. I say this because Dracula is not only the name of the book, it’s also the name of a person in the book!”

  “Excellent on the theme, Frankie,” I said, nodding thoughtfully. “Does anybody have any questions?”

  No one did. But Mr. Wexler started mumbling something and rubbing his forehead.

  “Dracula is an interesting character,” he said. “We’ve been discussing character in class for the last two weeks, so please tell us what he is like.”

  I took a shot at that. “Dracula is quite a character. In many chapters you hear people saying, ‘Hey, Dracula, you’re quite a character.’ And you know what? He is!”

  “Good one!” Frankie slapped me five. “Our work here is nearly done!”

  Mr. Wexler grumbled loudly. “Forget character. Tell us about the plot. Can you summarize the plot?”

  Frankie shook her head. “I can’t.”

  “Aha!” Mr. Wexler chirped. “You can’t because you didn’t read the book—”

  “I can’t summarize the plot,” Frankie said, “because it doesn’t happen in summer. It happens in winter.”

  Laughter erupted in the class.

  Mr. Wexler breathed deeply as if trying to calm down. “Yes, well, let’s move on to the setting of the story, shall we? We’ve been talking about setting in class—not that you two would know. So … where does the story take place?”

  I jumped. “The whole story takes place …”

  “Yes?” Mr. Wexler said.

  “In a book!”

  Frankie clapped. “Stick a fork in us—we are done!”

  We started happily back to our seats.

  “STOP!” Mr. Wexler screamed. His single eyebrow rolled like a caterpillar across his forehead. His face turned a shade of purple I’d never seen before. And weird little veins popped out all over his neck and head.

  “You … you … you!” he sputtered.

  “Us … us … us?” I replied.

  “You … didn’t read this book!” he said. “You don’t know anything about this book. In fact, you don’t know anything about any book! And I can’t take it anymore! Maybe you should start spending more time around books. I’m sending you both to the library.”

  Frankie clutched her throat then clutched me. “The library? Where all the b-b-books are?”

  Mr. Wexler nodded with a kind of crazed delight. “And the librarian will make you learn to love every single one of them.”

  “The librarian?” I mumbled. “Not …”

  “Mrs. Figglehopper!” he said. “She’ll teach you to respect books!”

  “I’ve heard about her,” I said. “She loves books so much it’s scary.”

  Mr. Wexler was rocking slowly on his feet now. “Yes, by golly, Mrs. Figglehopper’s just the one for you two! You’ll be different after visiting her.”

  “That doesn’t sound good,” Frankie whispered.

  “It sounds bad,” I said.

  “Go!” yelled our teacher. “To the library! Right away. GO-GO-GO!”

  In less time than it takes to sneeze, Frankie and I were in the hall and on our way to the library.

  Chapter 3

  We wound through the school hallways, taking the longest way possible.

  “We passed the library five times already,” said Frankie. “Care to make it an even hundred?”

  I sighed a deep sigh. “It’s no use, Frankie. We’d just get caught, and it would be worse. Besides, we’d run out of life trying to dodge our fate. Let’s get it over with.”

  I pushed open the double doors. We stepped in.

  “Welcome to the library!” chirped a woman who was standing behind a long curving counter near the doors.

  She was somewhere between the age of my mother and the age of my grandmother. She wore a dress with big flowers all over it. Her hair was all up in the back and had streaks of gray in it.

  A sign on the counter next to her said CHECKOUT.

  “Hello, Mrs. Checkout,” I said. “We’re here to see Mrs. Figglehopper, the library lady.”

  “I’m Mrs. Figglehopper, the librarian,” the woman said. “And you must be Frankie and Devin.”

  Frankie staggered back. “She knows about us already! Life is closing in on us, Devin!”

  “I won’t go down without a fight,” I squeaked.

  “Follow me,” Mrs. Figglehopper said. “I want to show you where you’ll be working.”

  “Working?” I shot a fearful glance at Frankie.

  “I know, dude,” she said. “It’s happening so fast.”

  In two quick moves, Mrs. Figglehopper brought us to a room marked WORKROOM.

  “I don’t like the sound of that,” I whispered.

  It was a small room with two tables set against one wall. They were stacked with crumbly old books.

  Next to the tables was a desk with a computer. Beside it were boxes filled with all kinds of library junk.

  “What are those?” I asked, pointing to something set against the back wall of the room. It looked like a doorway with no top. The sides were about four feet high.

  “Security gates,” Mrs. Figglehopper said. “But I like to call them zapper
gates, from the sound they make—”

  “The sound they make when you put innocent kids in them?” Frankie asked.

  The librarian gave a little smile. “No. Libraries use security gates to stop people from removing books without checking them out.”

  “People actually steal books?” said Frankie.

  “Some people will do anything to read,” Mrs. Figglehopper said, giving us a strange look. “Just as some will do anything not to read.”

  “Talk about reading,” I said. “It’s like she’s reading my mind!”

  “Check it out,” Frankie whispered. “I’m keeping mine blank.”

  “Never mind the zapper gates,” the lady went on. “They are cracked and don’t work right. Here’s what I want to show you.…”

  She waved her hand at what filled up most of the rest of the room. Shelves and shelves and stacks and stacks of old books. Some had covers that were cracked. Some had pages that were ripped or falling out.

  “They look like they belong in a museum,” I said.

  Frankie chugged a short laugh. “Or a graveyard! Some of those books look pretty dead.”

  “That’s why I want you to help me bring them back to life,” said Mrs. Figglehopper with a rumbly little chuckle. “I want you to help me repair them. These stacks hold the great classics of literature. They are very special works that people have read and reread for years. Little by little I’m fixing them so they can go back in the library where they belong. And you’re going to help me.”

  “Us?” I said. “You want us to actually handle books?”

  “We don’t know anything about books,” said Frankie. “Just ask Mr. Wexler.”

  The library lady nodded. “I think as you repair them, you will find that they are so interesting, you will want to read them. Wonderful worlds will open up to you. Your imagination will be enriched. Then maybe you will have more fun learning in Mr. Wexler’s class. He’s really a very good teacher, you know.”

  I looked at Frankie. “Why does it feel like everyone’s plotting against us?”

  The lady chuckled again. “You’ll learn lots about plots in this room. And the sooner we get started, the sooner you’ll discover how terrific books are—so let’s begin!”

  She took one book and showed us how to clear away the old smelly glue that was all crusted inside the cover. Then she put on some new smelly glue into what she called the “spine” of the book. That’s the outside part between the front and back covers.

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