Chapter 4 Part 1

When I was at the SAS in Shanghai I sent the student the first three chapters of my new book Duck Duck Moose. This is what I sent them.

Chapter One
He was surrounded by five dark brown-spotted, gray, snapping squirrels. He never ran from a fight, but five against one was pretty poor odds. Always a very fast runner, today he felt flat-footed; his legs were weak and shaky. Even if he could get past the squirrel directly in front, the others would surely catch him in a second.
“I’ve had just about enough of this from you,” he yelled, turning around slowly to stare down each of them. Mouth open, the squirrel on his left leaped at him, just missing his hip when he jerked away. This was definitely not a good way to start off the morning.
“You guys don’t scare me,” he shouted, hoping his shivering and nervous twitching wasn’t showing. “Come on. Which one of you is next?”
The squirrels began to make the circle around him smaller, coming closer and closer. He wanted to shout, “That’s it! Which one of you hairy rodents will be the first victim?” Unfortunately, all that came out of his mouth was a weak “Hiss,” followed by a loud “Quack.”
All his attention was on his would-be attackers until he heard the “Quack.” He looked down. Gone were his cool multi-colored sneakers. Gone were his cool worn jeans. Gone was everything he had put on that morning on that was cool. Instead he was staring at webbed feet, skinny brownish orange legs, a feathered body and a wide flat beak. He responded in the only way he could. “YAAAAAAAA!!!!!”
A short, slightly overweight boy with beady eyes and ears that stuck out from his bowl cut hair appeared from out of nowhere. He was yelling and waving his arms, trying to shoo the squirrels away. “Get out of here. Git! Git!” His voice cracked half way through the sentence. The squirrels scattered.
The duck lifted his head and stared up at the boy. “I didn’t need you to help me. I was doing perfectly fine without you.”
“Didn’t look that way to me,” the boy said, “The squirrels were just about to …” There was a brief pause, and in a voice that could have shattered glass, he yelled “A talking duck?!”
“Duck?” the duck yelled back (well, it sounded like “duck,” maybe it was “AAWWWKKK!”)
“You sound like Moose?” the boy answered.
“HOLD IT!!! STOP!” Before we go any further there are certain things that must be cleared up.

First, if you thought the squirrels were going to do the duck in, and you were going to use this short book for an easy book report, think again.Second, in this story cats will be ridiculed and dogs will be given a hard time, but no animals will be physically harmed.
Third, if you don’t like to read stories about talking ducks and wimpy boys who get into all kinds of messes, put this book down and pick up another book. But not so fast, the duck wasn’t always a duck, he was once … hmmm … where to begin … OK, let’s start at the very beginning.

Chapter Two

If you looked up the word “bully” in the dictionary, you just might find a picture of 13-year-old Maxwell Thomas Drake III beside the definition. He bullied anyone and everyone, anytime and everyday, alone or in groups, on weekends and holidays. Maxwell (or as everyone called him, Moose), was all muscle. Even his muscles had muscles. And, hidden behind the smirk that was always on his face were pointy uneven teeth. When he took off his black baseball cap, which he almost never did, his black hair flopped in all directions. A big cowlick of hair hung down over his left eye like a pirate’s patch.
On the flip side, if you looked up the word “wimp” in the dictionary, you just might find a picture of Roger Tweedle. Roger was slightly overweight and shorter than most kids his age. His hair looked like someone had put a bowl on his head and cut around it, except for long, skinny sideburns that reached down to his earlobes. His bird-like eyes and long slender nose, not to mention ears that stuck out from his head like a stubby pair of wings, earned him the nickname of Tweety.
All summer Roger had worried about the getting bullied on the first day back to school. For a full week before school was to start, Roger had nightmares every night.
Hardly sleeping at all the night before that first day, he got up early and dressed quickly. He had a plan though; he would get to school before anyone else, sneak into a boy’s bathroom and hide there until the bell rang for homeroom. Then, in the crowded hallways, he could slink into his homeroom, temporarily safe until lunch or recess, or after school when he would need to come up with different escape plans. No wonder he couldn’t sleep without nightmares.
“Have a good day, ” his mother said. He grabbed his lunch bag and strapped on his red backpack tightly so no one could snag it. “Remember,” she said, “seventh grade is when everything you do counts toward college. No time for fooling around. You’ve got to be serious about school.”
Roger was always serious about school. What he had to be serious about today was trying to stay alive.
Roger’s stopped taking the bus long ago; the teasing there had been unbearable. For him, it was like being trapped in a cage with no way to escape. So he left home extra early and, in commando-like fashion, “stealthed” his way to school. He scooted down side streets, crouching low as he walked behind hedges, and cut through driveways. Sort of blazing his own trail and making every effort to keep out of sight of … well … everyone. When he got to the school, he zipped up the steps, opened the main door slowly, and looked up and down the hall. Seeing the coast was clear, he slid inside. Halfway down the hall, he heard footsteps behind him. He broke into a run.
“You can run but you can’t hide.” It was the voice of the dreaded Moose! If he could only get to his homeroom, he would be safe. Room 102 was just up ahead. It was going to be all right. He reached for the doorknob and yanked. It was locked.
He turned to run down the hall, but was jerked back. Moose had caught up to him and held his backpack. Roger knew how a fly in a spider’s web must feel.
For a second, Roger felt the pack swing free, but then he was jerked back into the waiting arms of Moose.
“Let me go,” yelled Roger
“Don’t even think of getting away” said Moose with an evil laugh.
“Let me go, you, you …” Roger couldn’t stop himself from shaking. He felt himself about to cry even though he knew this was the worst thing he could do.
“What should I do with you?” asked Moose. “Pull off your ears? Steal your pants? I need a new book bag. Know where I can get one?”
“You want my bag, “ said Roger weakly. “Let go, and I’ll give it to you.”
Foolishly, Moose loosened his grip. Roger let the left strap slip off his shoulder and Moose stepped back, hands out ready to receive the backpack. In a surprisingly bold move, Roger swung his bag full force at Moose, knocking him backward. With out a moment’s hesitation, Roger headed back down the hall, kicked open the entrance door with his foot and jumped over the steps, landing on the sidewalk. He ran between two parked cars and bolted out into the street, never checking to see if there was any on-coming traffic. Luck was on his side, and he made it safely across the street and into the neighborhood park.
Furious at being tricked by such a twerp, Moose was in hot pursuit, following Roger’s path exactly. The driver of a moving van going a little over the 15-mph speed limit saw him dart out from between the same two cars. He slammed on his brakes. The wheels screeched and the smell of burnt rubber filled the air. There was no way he could stop in time.
Chapter Three

Somewhere suspended way above the clouds, but below the planets, was a very large gray and white two-story building. No one really knew what kept it suspended up there. The building was so big that if you stood at one end, you couldn’t see the other end. In fact, you couldn’t see any end if you stood in the middle. The first floor was full of various administrative offices and classrooms. The second floor was one humongous room filled with servers, computers and monitors. Behind the gray building were condominiums and behind them was a mall, a movie theater, a pharmacy, athletic fields, and a town much like, well like yours.
The people that lived there called themselves “Uptheres” simply because they lived up there above the clouds. If they lived in the condominiums behind the gray building, they were “Uptheres Backtheres” and if they lived in the town, they were “Uptheres Outtheres.”
If they lived in the condominium and worked on the second floor of the gray building, they were called the “Uptheres Backtheres Upstairs,” and if they lived in the condominium and worked on the first floor they were called … you guessed it the “Uptheres Backtheres Downstairs.” So what would you call a person living in town and working on the second floor of the gray building? Think a moment … that’s it, the “Uptheres Outtheres Upstairs.”
Stanley and David stood at the back of a group of four other “Uptheres Outtheres Downstairs” trainees who were about to start their final training to become “Uptheres Outtheres Upstairs.” They were all in a special computer training lab located in the first floor of the gray building. Everyone except the Boss was wearing a big white badge with the bold dark red letters, UOD (see above because I’m tired of repeating it). He could have been called the “Uptheres Outtheres Backtheres Downstairs Upstairs Overalltheres Boss” (UOBDUOB), but he preferred to be referred to as just “The Boss” (TB). TB had a booming deep voice and had just begun his welcoming lecture. Everyone was listening intently. Everyone, that is, except Stanley and David.
David was taller and huskier than Stanley. A small rim of dark brown hair marked the boundary between David’s shiny baldhead and the tops of his ears. Whenever he wore a turtleneck sweater, it made him look like a giant underarm deodorant container.
Stanley was skinnier and less muscular. His thinning, once full head of jet-black hair made him look the younger of the two. No one would ever guess that he would be 150 years old on his next birthday. Neat and well dressed, his shirts and pants always had well-defined creases.
Both wore glasses and dark blue baseball caps with the same letters embroidered on the front – but arranged differently. David’s read “LISTEN,” while Stanley’s read “SILENT.” They had already completed their four years of classes and tests, and were now starting their internship year. At the end of this year, their work as UODs would be evaluated by a special panel of “Senior Uptheres Evaluators” (SUE) who judged if they were eligible to become UOUs. If they didn’t make it the first time, they would be given another six-month trial. If they didn’t make it, they would be UODs forever, and would be saddled with a boring desk job.
“The most important thing to remember,” said the Boss, pointing to a sign above each monitor, is this:
Never push the emergency Purple Button *
*In the event of an emergency call the Boss immediately!”
The Boss
“Never Touch The Purple Button!!”
For four years, all their instructors and the Boss took every opportunity to talk about the emergency Purple Button. “Pay attention, class – Purple Button, blah, blah, blah” or “Remember class – Purple Button, yada, yada, yada.” Everyone listened intently. Everyone, except Stanley and David. Hearing the words Purple Button was a signal for Stanley and David to mentally drift off. David thought about how he could improve his serve in tennis, and Stanley thought about taking pictures of the clouds.
“OK, class,” The Boss said, rubbing his hands together. “Today is what I like to call a live fire exercise. You’re all going online in real time. Like they would say in the Navy, if we had one, ACTION STATIONS – THIS IS NO DRILL!”
There was an excited murmur among the students.
The Boss slowly looked around the class, his eyes focusing on David and Stanley. “Your job is to monitor what is going on. If you see anything that looks like an emergency, you are to push the Purple Button immediately and then call me. Right?”
David and Stanley nodded yes instinctively.
The Boss pushed his way through the group and stopped in front of Stanley and David. “So both of you would push the Purple Button first and then call me?”
They both nodded yes, but in unison said “No!”
“What is it? Yes or No?” He was definitely annoyed.
“No? Yes”
Stanley and David stood silently.
“I want to see the two of you in my office as soon as I’m finished talking.”
Most people think the Uptheres are perfect, that they never do anything wrong and that there will always be nice to one another. The fact that Stanley and David weren’t paying attention gives you a little clue that this isn’t true. But a better example probably is Eric and Rebecca, two of the other class members.
Eric was short and chubby. If you looked at his shirt, you can always tell what he had for his last meal. Rebecca was tall and slim. She was so very well organized that she was often late for class, because she had to check and recheck everything. Rebecca didn’t like David because he didn’t ask her to the Fall Dance or the Winter Dance or the Spring Dance, or any dance period. She didn’t like Stanley because Eric didn’t like Stanley. Eric didn’t like Stanley because Stanley knew how to slurp up a big bowl of spaghetti heaped with tomato sauce, without getting one drop of anything on his white shirt and never seem to gain one ounce no matter what he ate. Eric also hated David because Rebecca hated him. They laughed loudly as the Boss continued to stare at David and Stanley in silence.
After the Boss finished, he hurriedly went to his office.
“Nice going,” smirked Eric, his shirt already showing a yellow stain from the egg he had for breakfast.
“The two of you,” said Rebecca with a smile “will be the first WDITTF.” David and Stanley looked puzzled. “Way Downthers in The Toilet Forevers,” she chuckled. And with a turned up nose, Rebecca and Eric left laughing.
This was definitely not a good way for David and Stanley to start off the morning. Their visit to the Boss was short, but not so sweet. The Boss was allowing them to participate in the “live fire” exercise after giving them another face-to-face pay attention and Purple Button lecture.
Stanley and David, their ears still red from the chewing out they had received, returned to their computer stations, located next to each other. Each of their monitors had a Purple button. It was larger than the other buttons, and was encased in a clear plastic covering that had to be lifted before it could be pushed. It was located to the left of two smaller red buttons and just underneath a row of flashing orange buttons.
“How long do you think the Boss will be mad at us?” asked David.
Stanley thought for a moment. “He’s got so much on his mind that by this afternoon he’ll have forgotten all about this.”
“He seemed pretty mad,” said David. “Do you think that will stop us from ever getting our degree? I heard about this guy two years ahead of us who …”
Stanley shook his head. “Will you ever stop worrying? Everything will be fine.” Turning his attention back to his monitor, Stanley said, “Pay attention to your monitor for now.”
Each had a certain area of the world to watch. They had learned about human behavior in the classroom and now they were to observe it first hand. If they had any questions or if they saw something they didn’t like, they were to tell the “Uptheres Backtheres Downstairs Area Supervisor” (UBDAS) assigned to supervise their area. He or she would answer the question or handle the situation from there.
“Are you sure the Boss will forget about it by this afternoon?”
Stanley stared at David, but didn’t answer. David was a worrier. Every test he took, he worried about flunking. Every new food he ate, he worried about getting sick. Every time he exercised, he worried about overexerting himself. If he didn’t have any worries, he worried about why he didn’t have anything to worry about. Every time he was beginning to worry, he would pull at his left ear, twice downward, three times upward and once outward.
The two didn’t look at or talk to each other for the next hour. Stanley was watching a family with little kids have breakfast when David tapped him on the shoulder.
David was pulling at his left ear.
“Could you look at this for a second. I’m worried about what’s going to happen.”
“It’ll be fine,” said Stanley, continuing to look at his monitor.
“No seriously,” said David, his voice getting higher and louder. “Please look!”
Stanley continued to look at his own monitor.
“Pleeease!”
Another worry that’s not a worry, thought Stanley. He leaned over to look, an annoyed expression on his face. Was this the beginning of a whole year of worrying and being asked to look? But what Stanley saw changed his expression from annoyance to panic. One boy was chasing another boy. The first boy had already crossed the street. The second boy was about to run between two parked cars into the street. A big red moving truck was barreling down the street faster than the speed limit.
“Do something,” shouted Stanley
“What?” David responded.
“Get an UBDAS.” Stanley looked left and David looked right. There was none in sight. “Call the Boss,” Stanley pleaded.
“You call,” replied David.
“It’s your monitor,” insisted Stanley.
The events on the monitor were moving in slow motion. With hands shaking, David picked up the phone and dialed 911.
The line was busy. He tried it again. Busy. They looked again for a supervisor. No one was in sight. “We’ve got to do something NOW!” There was panic in his voice.
Stanley lifted the plastic covering on David’s purple button. “Push it!” he yelled.
“You push yours.”
“I’m scared!”
“We’ll push yours together. “
Both hands went on the purple button and they pushed. The image on the screen froze leaving the truck stopped 30 feet from boy who was frozen in a running position. The screen went blank and was replaced with questions and instructions
If this is an emergency, press one.
If this is not an emergency, press escape.
David pressed one.
If this is a life or death emergency, press one.
If this is another kind of emergency, press two.
David looked at Stanley. Stanley pressed one.
For a temporary soul transfer, press one.
For a start the whole thing over with a different results, press two.
David pressed two
Option Invalid. Situation too far along. Please try another.
Stanley pressed one
Place your cursor over the person in question and click twice.
David moved the cursor over the boy who was frozen in the street 30 feet from the truck and double clicked. A small box appeared. Inside the box was the following information:

Name: Maxwell Thomas Drake III
Nickname: Moose
Age: 13
Likes: Computer Games, Sports
Dislikes: School, homework, cleaning room
Favorite Movie
The Mighty Ducks
Favorite Sports
Hockey
Favorite Food
Pizza
Words from the profile began to flash in white, then red, then yellow. The monitor went black
Soul match in progress.
(less than 1 minute remaining)
David was now tugging at his ear. “We shouldn’t have pushed that button” said David, pacing back and forth. “We’re going to get in so much trouble”
(less than 30 seconds)
“We had no choice,” replied Stanley calmly, although his insides were shaking.
(less than 20 seconds)
The screen flickered, and flashed bright yellow and purple streaks. The word Drake appeared so tiny at first you couldn’t read it, but grew in size until it filled the entire screen. Then, the screen went dead.

“That’s it. We’re done. We broke the screen. We broke the computer. We pushed what we shouldn’t have pushed.

We’re done. We’re … but just then the picture on the screen returned. In the center of the screen was a duck surrounded by five dark brown-spotted gray snapping squirrels.

I asked the students to write what happened next ,their own Chapter 4. In the next post Chapter 4 Part 2 you’ll see what they wrote. But I would like middle grade children all over the world to send me their Chapter 4′s. and I will post them. Let’s see how many I can get.

Send them to  joel@stresslessshrink.com

Thanks and happy writing.

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