Chapter 1. San Diego Today
Jimmy Mendez lived in a little house on a side street in the Grantville neighborhood of San Diego with his mom, who was a housewife, and his dad, who was often away at sea.
Jimmy was nine years old and would be starting fourth grade in the fall. That seemed like a long way off to him. At the moment he was still in Third Grade, but that would be over in a few weeks. That too seemed like a long way off. More importantly, Jimmy had just gotten brand-new tires on his Christmas bicycle, and as soon as he delivered the horror mask to his mom, he ran out to the back patio to see how the bike rode.
"Thanks, Jimmy," his mom called fondly from the kitchen. A heavy, dark-haired woman with pleasantly dimpled cheeks and loving eyes, she raised the mask over her face and said "Boo!" It was a face Jimmy had cut out from a pattern. It was on a kind of round piece of gray construction paper, and glued to a Popsicle stick with white office glue. "What is it?" mom called out as she looked through eye-holes cut into a puffy gray shape.
"A mushroom," Jimmy said as he lifted the bike.
"Were you studying mushrooms today?"
"Oh, yeah. Funguses." Remembering a school assignment, he dug in his back pocket and extracted a crumpled sheet of paper. He unfolded it carefully on the table. "See these lines here?" He pointed to a beautifully symmetrical pattern of fine spokes radiating from a central blank spot. "Those are mushroom spores. We cut the head off one and put it on a white paper under a glass jar. In a couple of hours it made these lines." He added proudly. "A mushroom puts out two million spores a minute."
"That's very interesting." Mom cleaned a few last dishes.
Jimmy forgot about kindergarten and gripped his bicycle. He hefted it by the handlebars. The tires felt nice and fat and hard. "Yeah, this is going to be great. It'll probably be a lot easier to pedal. Thanks, mom!" He rode out on the sidewalk, raced up and down the dips of driveways.
"Jimmy!" his mother called from their driveway a few minutes later, when he had reached the far street corner, and was thinking of crossing even though he knew he wasn't supposed to.
"What?" he shouted back. He turned and rode toward her with the big old Schwinn wheels twirling. Their spokes reflected sunlight. Patches of shade and light alternated on Jimmy's upper torso as he sped along.
"Watch the driveways! Car could come out any second."
"I'll call you the minute daddy calls to say he's home."
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Copyright © 2014 by Jean-Thomas Cullen, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.