An excerpt from the sequel
Max the Mighty (excerpt)
My name is Maxwell Kane and the thing you should know about me is this: even though I'm a big dude with a face like the moon and ears that stick out like radar scoops and humungous feet like the abdominal snowman, inside I'm a real weenie. A yellow-bellied sap sucker. A gigantic wuss. A coward.
I'll do just about anything to avoid a fight. I'm scared if I hit somebody they might stay hurt forever, or worse. And then they'd haul me off to prison and everybody would say what did you expect, the boy is a bad apple just like his jailbird father.
Okay, maybe I am a little weird, but if you really think about it everybody is weird. That's the truth, and if you don't believe it then maybe you better listen up while I tell you about me and the Bookworm and what happened when the whole weird world was out to get us. *
It started like this. One day after school gets out I'm kind of moping along, minding my own business. Taking the long way home because there's nothing to do when I get there, so why hurry? I'm making sure not to step on any cracks and my brain is telling me don't be such a moron, it doesn't matter about cracks in the sidewalk. But my feet won't listen and they keep being careful, because you never know about cracks, do you?
Get a life, my brain says.
That's when I hear the girl screaming. She's not saying anything, just screaming so loud it puts a shiver in my bones. It makes me freeze up and not move and wish I could be invisible, or at least small. It makes me wish I could turn my ears off like you switch off a radio, and not hear anything. Most of all I want to run away and hide somewhere safe.
Because you can tell from the scream that somebody wants to hurt her.
The girl keeps screaming and my brain is going, mind your own business. Somebody else can help her, not you.
But there isn't anybody else and the screaming doesn't stop and before I know it my stupid feet start running over the cracks in the sidewalk, taking me closer and closer to trouble.
When I get to the corner of the block, I see this gang banger messing around in the middle of the street. He's strutting around on with his hands behind his back and he's got this sneering expression like he knows a really funny joke and you'll never get it.
"Keep screaming," he says. "Nobody cares."
The scream is coming from this skinny red-haired girl who's maybe eleven or twelve years old. She's got bright green eyes and freckles and her clothes are about two sizes too big and she's screaming bloody murder even though nobody's touching her.
"You big creep!" shouts the red-haired girl. "Lunk head! Bug brain! Give it back!"
"Louder," the gang banger says. "I can't hear you."
Then he catches sight of me, and his grin gets wider and wider. "What do you know," he says. "Dinosaur boy to the rescue. I thought I felt the ground shaking."
Before I can stop my mouth from saying something stupid it goes, "Huh?"
The gang banger loves it. "Huh?" he says. "Is that dinosaur talk for 'I'm retarded'?"
That's when I notice the skinny red-haired girl is staring at me. It's not a friendly kind of stare - she probably thinks I'm one of the gang-bangers, or maybe a retard like he says.
I go,"Leave her alone."
"Take it easy, Maxi Pad. We're just having a little fun," the gang banger says. "You got a problem with that?"
The girl shakes her fist at him and goes, "Give it back or else."
The gang banger looks at her puny little fist and smirks. "Oooh," he goes. "You gonna hit me?" Then he dances around, taunting her, and I see he's got hold of this small green back pack. A girl's back pack, for carrying school stuff.
"Give it back to her," I say.
He crosses his eyes and makes an oink-oink noise. "Pig boy," he says. "You better go home to granny."
I try to grab it but he darts away, his teeth flashing white because he's having such a good time. "Moron Max," he laughs. "You're scaring me."
The red-haired girl makes a move but she can't touch him.
"Bookworm bookworm, ugly little bookworm," he chants.
"Shut up!" she says. She's so mad her eyes look like they're full of green electricity.
"Worm girl!" the gang banger cackles. "Whattaya have in here, worm food? Is that it?"
He opens up her back pack and roots around inside with this totally mean look on his face. Then he goes, "Whoa! What have we here?"
He pulls out a couple of paperback books and tosses them over his shoulder. Pages scatter and blow away like white leaves.
"Oh, you're real tough," the girl says. "You can beat up a book. I bet you never even read a book."
Then the gang banger whistles and pulls something else out of the back pack. A hard plastic helmet with a light on the front, like miners wear so they can see in the dark.
"Don't you dare touch that!" the girl shouts. Then she goes mental and tries to grab the miner's helmet.
He grins and ducks away. "Finder's keepers!" he shouts. "Losers weepers!"
But Worm isn't weeping, she's going nuts. Jumping up and crying and trying to grab the helmet. He keeps dancing away, laughing in her face.
I wait my chance, and when he isn't looking I get behind him and lift the helmet off his head.
"Hey!" he bellows.
But I hold the miner's helmet up high and he can't reach it.
"Gimme that," he says, "or I'll punch your lights out."
The gang banger curls up his fists and sets up on his feet like a boxer and for a moment I think he really is going to punch me. Then he looks at the girl and he looks at me and he spits on the ground by my feet.
"Who cares about your stupid junk," he says, and saunters away like he couldn't care less. Like he's the coolest dude in the whole wide world because he ripped up a book and scared an eleven-year-old girl.
The girl has eyes like green laser beams and this fierce loo on her freckled face, like she thinks I'm the enemy, too.
I go, "Here," and give her the helmet.
The way she holds it in her hands, you know it means something special.
"What's it for?" I ask.
"None of your business," she says. And then she hugs the scratched-up old helmet to her chest and runs away, her thick red hair flying up like it wants to wave goodbye.
My brain didn't know it yet, but that's when trouble really started, the day I met a girl called Worm.
© 1998-99 Rodman Philbrick
Max the Mighty
From Kirkus Reviews , February 15, 1998
From Horn Book
Rod Philbrick on Amazon.com
The author, Rodman Philbrick e-mail:
After writing the last line of 'Freak The Mighty', I assumed that would be the last I'd hear from Maxwell Kane, who narrates the book. But then a funny thing happened. I started getting letters from young readers who had ideas for sequels. Most of their ideas were continuations of 'Freak The Mighty', or 'improvements' to make the ending happier. Others went far afield. One story even ended up on the moon. Talk about inventive imaginations! I realized I'd better write a sequel before someone beat me to it. A couple of years went by, and then out of the blue I got the idea for a character who was as avid a reader as the kids who had been writing to me. Worm, short for 'Bookworm'. She carries her books in a backpack, reads even while walking, and uses a miner's light to illuminate the page at night. And when she gets in trouble there's only one person she can turn to - Maxwell Kane, who once walked high above the world with his best friend Kevin, slaying dragons and rescuing fair maidens. Worm thinks Max is some kind of hero. Max thinks the idea is total baloney. "Me a hero? You must be cracked!" And that's where the fun - and the adventure - start. I don't know if 'Max The Mighty' is better or worse than 'Freak The Mighty', but I'm sure my readers will let me know.
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