Sample text for Nightmare at the bookfair / Dan Gutman.

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Chapter 1

The Book Fair

"Hey Dinkleman!"

I turned around. Lionel Jordan slammed his locker shut and slung his backpack over his shoulder. The three o'clock bell had just rung and the hallway was filling up with kids. Lionel and I have been best friends since I don't know when.

"You tryin' out for lacrosse, Dink?" Lionel asked.

"No doubt," I told him. "I'll meet you over at the field."

In most towns, middle school starts in sixth grade. But they had some overcrowding problem in the elementary schools, so they had to put the fifth grade into the middle school in our town. That meant we got lockers, and we didn't have to sit in one room staring at the same teacher all day. It also meant we could go out for sports for the first time. I thought about trying out for football, because I'm pretty big for my age. But I'm not very good. Me and Lionel decided we'd have the best chance of making the lacrosse team because all their best players moved up to high school this year.

"I hope you make the team, Trip," my social studies teacher, Mrs. Babcock, said as she walked by my locker. "Don't forget to study for the quiz tomorrow."

"Oh, I'll know everything about the three branches of government, Mrs. Babcock," I promised.

The media center is right around the corner from my locker. There was a big sign on the wall -- this way to the book fair!

Ugh. I make it a point not to set foot in the media center if I can help it. I don't like to read. Never did. I mean, I read okay, I guess. I read when I have to. It's just kind of boring to sit there looking at words on a page. I'd rather run around.

One time the media specialist, Miss Durkin, told me that if I like sports so much, I would probably enjoy reading sports books. But why read about kids running around playing sports when I can be running around playing sports myself?

"Excuse me, is your name Trip Dinkleman?"

It was Mrs. Pontoon, president of the PTA. She was standing outside the media center. I guess she knew my name because her daughter Lauren is in a few of my classes.


"We need a big strong boy to help us move some crates," Mrs. Pontoon said. "Can you help us out?"

"I'm kind of on my way to lacrosse tryouts," I told her.

"Oh, this will only take a few minutes."

Snagged! I followed her into the media center. Mrs. Pontoon talks really fast.

"The PTA wants to buy the school one of those super high-tech whiteboards, you know, the kind that hook up to a computer and you can print things out?" Mrs. Pontoon said, barely stopping to take a breath. "But they're very expensive so we had to raise the money, and my original plan was to hold a fund raiser where we'd have the students sell gift wrapping paper, but Principal Miller didn't like the idea of kids knocking on strangers' doors so he said we could have a book fair instead and we need some help because Mr. Dunn the custodian told me he had to mop the cafeteria so it will dry in time for the chorus to come in so it's very nice of you to help...."

Mrs. Pontoon is one of those ladies who never stops talking. My mom says that if you asked Mrs. Pontoon what time it is, she would tell you how to build a clock.

The book fair wasn't set up yet in the media center. They had these giant crates -- taller than me -- scattered around. There must have been ten of them. Mrs. Pontoon told me that all the books for the book fair were in the crates. She needed help opening them and sliding them into a line along the wall. I pushed against one of the crates. It was really heavy. This was going to be a big job.

If I had finished at my locker a few seconds earlier, it occurred to me, I would be at lacrosse tryouts instead of helping set up the book fair.

Miss Durkin came over with a plate full of cookies. I have a total sweet tooth, and I pounced on it.

"Since you're nice enough to help, Trip, the least I can do is offer you a treat."

I feel sorry for Miss Durkin. She's always really busy because she's also the media specialist at my old elementary school. She works there three days a week and comes to our school for two days. And she doesn't even have an assistant. She always seems stressed out.

I opened the latch on one of the big crates and pushed the two sides apart. When the crate was opened up, it was like a big set of bookshelves. It was filled with picture books for little kids. The books were all lined up and organized, ready for kids to buy them. Maybe it wouldn't take too long after all.

I struggled to push open the next crate, which was even heavier. When I finally got it open, I could see why it was so heavy. It was filled with dictionaries and encyclopedias. Ugh. Who would want to buy one of them?

The crate was too heavy to slide. I had to rock it back and forth to get it to move across the floor. That's what I was doing when, suddenly, I don't know what happened, I guess I rocked it too much or, I don't know, but some of those fat ones on the top shelf must have leaned or something, and the next thing I knew the whole shelfful of them was coming down, and I tried to get my hands up, but...

Bam! Oh, my head!

Copyright © 2008 by Dan Gutman

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Books and reading -- Fiction.