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How To Be a Hero On Earth 5

Payne, Rob

27 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0143051989 / ISBN 13: 9780143051985
Published by Puffin
Condition: Very Good Soft cover
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0143051989 Little wear on the cover. Bookseller Inventory # Z0143051989Z2

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Title: How To Be a Hero On Earth 5

Publisher: Puffin


Book Condition:Very Good

About this title


Canadian John Fitzgerald is less than thrilled when his eccentric father sends him to England to spend his summer with relatives he’s never met. Then on his way over his plane takes a wrong, and quite disturbing, turn over the Atlantic and drops into a parallel universe—Earth 5—where things are not quite the same: days have fifteen hours, distortion waves warp his brain, and a nefarious government agency decides that inter-dimensional visitors must be eliminated at all costs. Talk about your lousy vacation.

But John is no wimp. Together with an unlikely band of fellow non-dimensionals—including Delores the Texan goth, Gus the cane toad–licking Australian, and a truly embarrassing Earth 5 version of his father—he sets off to a remote island that holds the key to their escape home. Like most journeys involving public transportation, this trek will not be easy. Evil scientists, killer cutlery, and nerds with big plans threaten to really ruin John’s summer. With time running out, the gang scrambles to save the day, the universe, and perhaps even their vacations...

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

“Do you know what makes a perfect burger?”

Gavin Price was the manager of Burger Hut, a fast-food chain like every other one in the world: full of plastic utensils, heat lamps, and underpaid worker bees like me. Our burgers were as thin as cardboard and our fries were as limp as dead rats’ tails. Actually, they kind of tasted that bad, too, because the owner rarely changed the cooking oil.

“Well, John?” Gavin asked, his zits hovering too close for comfort. “Do you know what makes our hamburgers better than those other chains?”

“The quality of the meat?” I said.

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“The bun?”


“The price?”

Shake, shake, twitch. I had a feeling this conversation might go on forever if I didn’t nail a guess soon. There was a Burger Hut manual filled with slogans and tips that I was supposed to have memorized, but who had time for pointless stuff like knowing the best way to enforce the two-ketchup-packets-per-customer rule? I had homework. I had a life.

“Come on,” Gavin said, pumping his fist in the air in a lame attempt to get me excited. “When people walk through the door and look at our menu, what do they expect?”

“Change for a five-dollar bill?”

He closed his eyes, his shoulders slumped, and he pulled at his greasy hair in mock frustration. Then, to my disgust, he reached the same hand into a tub of briny water. “They want pickle! My rule of thumb is to take three good-sized slices and space them out around the bun edge. That way, the customer gets savoury satisfaction in every bite. We want our clients to experience a flavour sensation.”

Some people took their jobs way too seriously.

Officially, I was known as a Condiment Painter, which meant I had to put three pickles and a dollop of onions, mustard, and ketchup on each burger, a job so complex that NASA was bound to see my potential and recruit me for an upcoming scientific mission. My co-worker Kevin Flarch was a Foundation Builder, responsible for the very technical task of putting the patty into a bun and handing it to me.

“Think you’ve got the hang of it?” Gavin asked.

“I hope so,” I said, then mumbled, “If not, I’ve got serious problems.”


“I said, thanks for your help.”

Gavin patted me on the head like I was a simpleton and wandered toward the front, pausing briefly to glance over Kevin’s shoulder. He rose on tippytoes.

“Nice work on that chicken burger,” he murmured. “Real nice. Good rapid action with those tongs.” He then disappeared around the corner and began lecturing Amanda and Hakim about mega-sizing meal combos—that is, getting customers to pay fifty cents more for two cents’ worth of extra fries and drink.

“I was going to mention your sloppy work,” Kevin began.

“Shut it, Flarch,” I said.

“Aw, come on, Fitzgerald, lighten up. I don’t even know why you take that crap from Gavin. If the dawg brought that attitude to my house, I’d beat him into submission with a frozen fish patty and lock him in the walk-in freezer.”

“They do say fast food can kill you,” I said. “But really, I find things go more smoothly when I nod and act dumb. He goes away within a few minutes.”

“No, no, no ... You have to demand respect. You’ve seen how I’ve established my status around this place. That’s why everyone calls me the Don of the Deep Fryer.”

“Nobody calls you that.”

“It’s on my employee profile in the backroom.”

“I saw you write it.”

“Still, no one erased it, because they respect my place in the food chain.”

I dumped a handful of pickles onto a cheeseburger, not really caring where they ended up. One tumbled off the patty all the way to the floor and rolled under the bun rack. Kevin picked it up, wiped off most of the grime, and flipped it into his mouth.

“When’s your last exam?” he asked.

“Math on Thursday.”

“Do you care?”

“Not really.”

Of course that was a lie, but for some weird reason, worrying about school wasn’t considered cool. The fact was that I cared a lot, because I wanted to get into university and leave this stupid job behind. There was no way I wanted to be asking “Do you want fries with that?” when I was thirty. And having skin that was grease-burn free was another motivating factor.

“You gonna work full time this summer?” Kevin asked.

“I don’t know yet. I’d like to, but my parents have other ideas.”

“They want you to be poor and hang around the house? My mom loves to see me out the door. She says it’s the only way to keep the living room clean.”

“My dad thinks I should go to England.”

“The country?”

“No, the planet,” I replied sarcastically. “Yeah, I’ve got relatives in the U.K. who I’ve never seen, and my dad is pushing me to go. He says it’ll be good for me to ‘experience another culture.’ Personally, I think he wants me out of the house so he can renovate my room.”

“That Nate’s a crazy one.”

This was an understatement. Nate, my dad, was a physics professor at the local university, an occupation renowned for encouraging adults to act bizarre. Most of his colleagues had handlebar moustaches, wore ragged sweaters, and smoked pipes—and those were just the women. I hated parties at our house, because during dinner inevitably someone would break into a foreign language for no reason at all. They were nuts and my dad was just as bad. When he got an idea in his head, the obsession would last for weeks. At the moment he was redecorating the entire house in a space-age motif and building a small planetarium in the back garden. The rec room was already painted silver and Dad had bought a robot-shaped drinks cart off eBay.

“I didn’t know Nate was English,” Kevin said.

“He was born in London. He moved here when he was twenty. Haven’t you ever heard him talk?”

“I thought he had a speech impediment.”

Amanda turned the corner, pulled off her hairnet, and a wave of long, silky blond hair cascaded over her shoulders and down her back. I dropped the burger I was making, my throat tightened and every possibly smart thought in my head wafted away, like smoke from the grill.

“Wayne Astley came in with some guy in a hockey jacket,” she said. “I felt like a total insect. ‘Oh, hello, we go to the same school and I’m serving you onion rings.’ How humiliating.”

“Don’t worry,” Kevin said. “He’s a moron and a terrible quarterback. The seniors won one game last year. It was snap the ball to Wayne, watch him get sacked. Snap the ball to Wayne, see him throw an interception. That guy could get tackled sitting on the bench.”

“You’re so missing the point,” Amanda said. “I have a reputation.”

Kevin scraped crude off the burger spatula and tossed it into his mouth. “What, and I don’t?”

She was about to reply, but stopped to watch me wipe splattered mustard off my sleeve. I glanced up and smiled. The corner of her lip rose in disdain, and with a snort she marched off toward the employee room. Last summer I had seen her at the beach in a white bikini with red hearts, and the image had burned itself into my memory so irrevocably that normal conversation with her was impossible.

Kevin wandered to the deep fryer, dipped a corner of a hamburger wrapper into the oil, and watched it turn crisp and brown. That reminded me of one of my dad’s stories.

“You know what they eat in Scotland?” I asked.

“Scottish food?” Kevin said.

“Well, yeah, I suppose. But they also eat deep-fried Mars bars. They put dough around the whole thing and throw it into the oil for, like, five seconds. The outside goes crispy and the inside is runny. They’re supposed to be really good. My Aunt Edna eats tons of them, which is why my mom calls her ‘old horse thighs.’”

“I thought your relatives lived in London.”

“They’re all over the place.”

Kevin snagged a pickle from my bucket. He dangled the floppy green condiment over the grease for a few seconds, and then dropped it, causing a small splash and a sizzle. We watched the pickle bounce across the surface of the fryer, slowly shrivelling up like a raisin.

“Interesting,” he said. “Almost looked like that pickle was running for its life ...”

“You know what else Scottish people eat?”

“Deep-fried Snickers bars?”

“No. This stuff called haggis, which is basically sheep’s guts ground up with spices and cooked in the animal’s own stomach.”

Kevin grimaced. “Ouch! What’s wrong with these people, don’t they have supermarkets and real food? I’d rather eat the mop.”

He motioned toward the bucket in the corner. After every shift, one of us had to go over the entire kitchen, cleaning up the thin layer of grease that made the floor wickedly slippery.

“How much will you give me to eat an entire string?” he asked. “A hundred bucks?”

He lifted the handle out of the grey water and let droplets fall like fingers being drummed across a table. Kevin was always doing stupid things for money, but this was really gross.

“You’ll get a disease,” I said.


“You could die—or at the very least you’d sue me.”

He nodded in agreement and let the mop fall back into the water with a messy splash. He gave me a thumbs-up and rolled his shoulders casually, like he was really tough, but I could tell he was glad that I hadn’t laid any dough on the countertop. Earlier in the year he’d spent two nights in hospital for eating five pennies.

“No way could you drag me away from Toronto for summer,” he said. “It’s the only decent time of year in this country.”

“Trust me, I’m trying to get out of it. I don’t want to waste my holiday with a bunch of people I don’t know. And if their Christmas gifts are any indication, they’re really lame. They send socks—no kidding—wool ones.”

“Sounds like travelling to England is like going back in time.”

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