Mindtwisters: Stories to Shred Your Head
AbeBooks Seller Since June 25, 2004Quantity Available: 1
AbeBooks Seller Since June 25, 2004Quantity Available: 1
About this Item
Title: Mindtwisters: Stories to Shred Your Head
Publisher: TorKids, New York
Publication Date: 1997
Binding: Soft cover
Dust Jacket Condition: No Jacket
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: First Edition
About this title
Think bungee jumping is a thrill? Meet a kid who skydives down the funnel of a tornado.
Why not visit the shop in the local mall that sells alternate universes in little bottles. It's a lot of fun. Unless, of course, you open the little black bottle labeled "thermonuclear war." Now that could be a real blast.
Hungry? A roadside restaurant in the middle of nowhere serves up a soup so delicious you may never want to leave. Or can't....
Worried you might be turning people off? Well, how about the boy who must be locked up in a lead cell, otherwise people around him begin to disappear?
Ever wonder what that evil neighbor of yours had got locked up in the attic? How about the entire world....
Welcome to the world of MindTwisters. Hold on tight, you're about to be blown away....
A rainy Friday afternoon. My bowling bag pulls down on my arm. If my arms were rubber, my knuckles would be dragging on the ground from all those Friday afternoons lugging my ball to Grimdale Lanes. But it's something I have to do. Something I want to do.
"Do we have to bowl today, Henry?" my sister Greta asks as we get off the bus. "My thumb hurts."
"Maybe it wouldn't hurt if you didn't suck it."
She pulls her thumb out of her mouth, and hands me her bowling bag. "Then you carry my ball," she says. "It's too heavy." Greta's six, although sometimes you'd think she was younger. Usually Mom is home when Greta comes home from school, but she works late on Fridays--the only weekday I get to go bowling after school.
The skies let loose as if the rain has waited for us to get off the bus. My waterproof jacket isn't that waterproof. Greta's bright orange poncho makes her look like a walking traffic cone, but at least she's dry. Finally we reach the double glass doors of the bowling alley, and they slide open automatically to admit us.
Instantly we are hit by the familiar smell of greasy pizza and floor wax. It's a madhouse. The high school has leagues at five, and it's already after four, so most of the lanes are taken up by big kids warming up. We wait in a slow-moving line in front of the counter until we reach the attendant-a fat man with a stubbly beard, and suspicious eyes.
"Size?" snaps the fat man.
"We have our own shoes," I tell him. "We just need a lane." I wonder how many years I have to keep coming here for him to know me by name. But then again, I don't know his name either. To me, he's just "the fat guy who gives out lanes."
"Sorry, all the lanes are full," says the fat guy. "I just gave out the last one."
I take a look down the alleys. Movie theaters and bowling alleys really clean up on days like this...a rainy afternoon can do that. But then I notice that there's a single dark alley, right next to lane 24.
"What about lane 25?" I ask.
"We ain't got no lane 25," says the fat man. "It only goes up to 24."
"Look kid, it's been a long day. All right? Why don't you give me a break, huh? You want a lane, come back tomorrow."
Greta twirls her finger in her hair and grins at me. "Oh well, I guess we'll have to go home. Too bad," I say.
But then a high school guy and his girlfriend--the ones who were in front of us and got the last lane--turn to us. "Why don't you bowl with us," offers the girl.
The fat man grabs my money, and we go off with the high school couple. They've been assigned to lane 24.
The high school guy goes first. He sticks his butt out, holds the ball against the tip of his pointy nose, and launches himself himself down the approach for his first throw. Not interested, my eyes wonder to the lane beside us. It should be lane 25, but unlike the other lanes, it has no number, and unlike the others, it doesn't share a ball return with another lane-it has its own ball return. The lane is dark, and its pins are in shadows.
The high school couple have thrown their first frames, and since I'm not paying attention, Greta seizes the opportunity to pull her light-weight pink ball out of her bag, and go ahead of me. She plods up to the foul line, drops the ball with a heavy thud, and it meanders its way down the alley, lazily taking down three pins.
"Yaay!" she cries. On her second shot, she knocks down another one.
The pins are reset, and I step up to the lane carrying my personalized deep green ball. As soon as I'm in place, my mind begins to clear. It's always like that. I forget the rainy day. I forget school, I forget home; I just think of the pins and my ball. My dad was a great bowler. He tried to teach me, but I was too young, and then one night, after a long day at his construction site, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car. I think about him sometimes. I think about how I could have saved his life if I had been there, because I'm always alert in the car. But mostly I think good thoughts about him. Especially when I bowl. I imagine the way he bowled, how his ball never made a sound when it left his hand, and touched the lane, gentle as a kiss. Each time I bowl, I try to do the same.
With the high school couple and Greta behind me, I focus all of my attention to a pinpoint, lean forward, and begin my approach. At the perfect moment, I release the ball...and it clunks down hard on the wood, careens a crooked path toward the pins, and plops into the gutter before it can take down a single pin.
"Guttrrrr Balllll," says Greta, like an baseball umpire would say, "Steeeerrrrike!"
"Tough break, dude," says the high school guy.
I don't look at anyone. I put my hands over the little air blower to keep myself busy until the ball return spits my ball back to me. I take it and go for the second shot.
Again I prepare to imitate my Dad's bowling form. I inherited my dad's big feet, and his bad teeth--you'd figure I might have inherited his bowling skills, too. Right? I throw the ball with all the heart and guts I can spare...and again it rolls diagonally down the alley, this time tapping the ten-pin enough to make it wobble, but not fall down.
I stare at the pins grinning at me--like a full set of mockingly perfect teeth, before the bar comes down, and sweeps them away.
The high school kid snickers, flipping back a lock of tatted hair. "Not very good, are ya?"
His girlfriend raps him in the stomach. "Shut up. You'll hurt his feelings."
But the fact is, he's right. I'm not very good. And how can I get any better if I can only afford to bowl once a week? I look around at the expert bowlers hurling strikes and spares in every frame. Then I turn to look at the dark lane beside us. I know why the attendant wouldn't give me the last lane: he didn't think I deserved it. He might be just "the fat guy who gives out lanes" to me, but to him, I'm probably just "that kid who can't bowl."
Suddenly the lights flicker on, on the mysterious extra lane. I hear the ball return crank into action. I look back to see if the attendant switched it on from behind his counter, but he's not even at his station. And no one is coming this way to claim the lane.
"Thanks," I say to the high school guy. "But we'll bowl over here now. C'mon Greta."
Greta dutifully grabs her ball, and brings it over to the empty ball stand of the numberless lane. I figure someone will eventually kick us off, but until then, I'll bowl all I want to bowl!
As I put my ball down, I begin to feel uneasy, and I don't know why. It seems a degree or two warmer over here in this lane, and yet I feel a chill set in. There's a smell here, too. An earthy, organic smell, like a wet pile of November leaves. And there's a sound--a whooshing, whispering sound. I turn my head from side to side, until I zero in on where the sound is coming from. It's the ball return.
"Can I go first?" asks Greta.
"Shhh!" I get down on my knees, and lean closer to the dark opening of the ball return. Deep within, I can hear the groaning of belts, pulleys, and rollers, but beneath all that noise there's something else; A sound just at the edge of my hearing. I put my ear closer to it, and feel against the side of my face a warm wind flowing out of it. That wet-leaf smell is stronger here, and as I take a breath of it, that air feels strange. It feels thin and...well...unfulfilling--like the air you get when you keep your head under your covers too long.
Then the sound suddenly changes, and the air pressure flowing from the ball return seems to change, too. There's a sudden mechanical rumble, and for an instant I see something large and white eclipsing the dark hole.
Instinctively I launch myself back, away from the ball return--and its a good thing I have fast reflexes, because the second my head is out of the way, a bowling ball blasts out of the ball return, flies down the ball stand, and smashes into Greta's bowling ball with bone-crushing velocity.
"Close one, huh kid?" says the high school guy with a smirk. I ignore him, and look at the ball. It's not my green ball. This one is shiny white--but not just shiny. It's wet, dripping with a clear, slippery slime that puddles on the floor beneath the ball stand.
"Gross!" says Greta. "A bowling-booger."
I approach it, not sure what to make of it...and that's when I notice that the force of its impact has cracked Greta's ball in half.
As soon as Greta notices, tears begin to pool in her eyes. She can't stand bowling, but that doesn't matter right now--all that matters is that something of hers has been broken. That always calls for tears.
"It's okay, Greta. It's all right, we'll get you a new one," I say, even though I'm sure a new bowling ball won't be in the family budget until her birthday, which is a long way off.
I turn to look down the silent, well-waxed lane, just waiting to be bowled on, then I look at the slimy white ball one more time. Suddenly I don't feel like bowling today.
"C'mon, Greta, let's go home."
"Can we play Barbies?" she asks.
"Yeah, sure, whatever, lets just go."
I put my own ball back into the bag, and leave Greta's ruined one where it is. Then I take my sister's hand, and we head out into the rain.
* * *
When we get home, Phil is on the couch, watching the sports channel.
"Hi squirts," he says as we enter. Phil is Mom's current boyfriend. Lately we find him over even when Mom isn't home. Phil eats our food, puffs cigarettes in our air space, and spends Mom's money whenever he can. I'd call him a sponge to his face, if I didn't think he'd punch my head in for it.
"You oughta get your TV fixed, everyone looks purple," he tells me, then blows a big cloud of Camel breath in my face. I cough from the stench of the smoke. He laughs.
"Your lungs are too sensitive, just like the rest of you," he says. "We gotta toughen you up, kiddo!"
"Yeah, sure, toughen me up."
Greta has already slipped off to her room to play, and since I promised I'd play with her, I follow her, prepared to endure whatever girlie nightmare she has planned. Anyway, it's...
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