Authors: R. L. Stine
Tags: #Children's Books.3-5
Clack, Clack, Clack.
The Ping-Pong ball clattered over the basement floor. “Yes!” I cried as I
watched Mindy chase after it.
It was a hot, sticky June afternoon. The first Monday of summer vacation. And
Joe Burton had just made another excellent shot.
That’s me. Joe Burton. I’m twelve. And there is nothing I love better than
slamming the ball in my older sister’s face and making her chase after it.
I’m not a bad sport. I just like to show Mindy that she’s not as great as she
thinks she is.
You might guess that Mindy and I do not always agree on things. The fact is,
I’m really not like anyone else in my family.
Mindy, Mom, and Dad are all blond, skinny, and tall. I have brown hair. And
I’m kind of pudgy and short. Mom says I haven’t had my growth spurt yet.
So I’m a shrimp. And it’s hard for me to see over the Ping-Pong net. But I
can still beat Mindy with one hand tied behind my back.
As much as I love to win, Mindy hates to lose. And she doesn’t play fair at
all. Every time I make a great move, she says it doesn’t count.
the ball over the net is not legal,” she whined as she
scooped out the ball from under the couch.
“Give me a break!” I cried. “All the Ping-Pong champions do it. They call it
the Soccer Slam.”
Mindy rolled her huge green eyes. “Oh, puh-lease!” she muttered. “My serve.”
Mindy is weird. She’s probably the weirdest fourteen-year-old in town.
Why? I’ll tell you why.
Take her room. Mindy arranges all her books in alphabetical order—by
author. Do you believe it?
And she fills out a card for each one. She files them in the top drawer of
her desk. Her own private card catalog.
If she could, she’d probably cut the tops off the books so they’d be all the
organized. Her closet is organized by color. All the reds
come first. Then the oranges. Then the yellows. Then come the greens, blues, and
purples. She hangs her clothes in the same order as the rainbow.
And at dinner, she eats around her plate clockwise. Really! I’ve watched her.
First her mashed potatoes. Then all her peas. And then her meat loaf. If she
finds one pea in her mashed potatoes, she totally loses it!
Weird. Really weird.
Me? I’m not organized. I’m cool. I’m not serious like my sister. I can be
pretty funny. My friends think I’m a riot. Everyone does. Except Mindy.
“Come on, serve already,” I called out. “Before the end of the century.”
Mindy stood on her side of the table, carefully lining up her shot. She
stands in exactly the same place every time. With her feet exactly the same
space apart. Her footprints are worn into the carpet.
“Ten-eight and serving,” Mindy finally called out. She always calls out the
score before she serves. Then she swung her arm back.
I held the paddle up to my mouth like a microphone. “She pulls her arm back,”
I announced. “The crowd is hushed. It’s a tense moment.”
“Joe, stop acting like a jerk,” she snapped. “I have to concentrate.”
I love pretending I’m a sports announcer. It drives Mindy nuts.
Mindy pulled her arm back again. She tossed the Ping-Pong ball up into the
“A spider!” I screamed. “On your shoulder!”
“Yaaaiiii!” Mindy dropped the paddle and began slapping her shoulder
furiously. The ball clattered onto the table.
“Gotcha!” I cried. “My point.”
“No way!” Mindy shouted angrily. “You’re just a cheater, Joe.” She smoothed
the shoulders of her pink T-shirt carefully. She picked up the ball and swatted
it over the net.
“At least I’m a
cheater!” I replied. I twirled around in a
complete circle and belted the ball. It bounced once on my side before sailing
over the net.
“Foul,” Mindy announced. “You’re always fouling.”
I waved my paddle at her. “Get a life,” I said. “It’s a game. It’s supposed
to be fun.”
“I’m beating you,” Mindy replied. “That’s fun.”
I shrugged. “Who cares? Winning isn’t everything.”
“Where did you read that?” she asked. “In a bubble gum comic?” Then she
rolled her eyes again. I think someday her eyes are going to roll right out of
I rolled my eyes, too—back into my head until only the whites showed. “Neat
“Cute, Joe,” Mindy muttered. “Really cute. You’d better watch out. One day
your eyes might not come back down. Which would be an improvement!”
“Lame joke,” I replied. “Very lame.”
Mindy lined up her feet carefully again.
“She’s in her serve position,” I spoke into my paddle. “She’s nervous. She’s…”
“Joe!” Mindy whined. “Quit it!”
She tossed the Ping-Pong ball into the air. She swung the paddle, and—
“Gross!” I shouted. “What’s that big green glob hanging out of your nose?”
Mindy ignored me this time. She tapped the ball over the net.
I dove forward and whacked it with the tip of my paddle. It spun high over
the net and landed in the corner of the basement. Between the washing machine
and the dryer.
Mindy jogged after the ball on her long, thin legs. “Hey, where’s Buster?”
she called out. “Wasn’t he sleeping next to the dryer?”
Buster is our dog. A giant black Rottweiler with a head the size of a
basketball. He loves snoozing on the old sleeping bag we keep in the corner of
the basement. Especially when we’re down here playing Ping-Pong.
Everyone is afraid of Buster. For about three seconds. Then he starts licking
them with his long, wet tongue. Or rolls onto his back and begs to have his
“Where is he, Joe?” Mindy bit her lip.
“He’s around here somewhere,” I replied. “Why are you always worrying about Buster? He weighs over a hundred pounds. He can
take care of himself.”
Mindy frowned. “Not if Mr. McCall catches him. Remember what he said the last
time Buster chomped on his tomato plants?”
Mr. McCall is our next-door neighbor. Buster loves the McCalls’ yard. He
likes to nap under their huge, shady elm tree.
And dig little holes all over their lawn. And sometimes big holes.
And snack in their vegetable garden.
Last year, Buster dug up every head of Mr. McCall’s lettuce. And ate his
biggest zucchini plant for dessert.
I guess that’s why Mr. McCall hates Buster. He said the next time he catches
him in his garden, he’s going to turn him into fertilizer.
My dad and Mr. McCall are the two best gardeners in town. They’re nuts about
gardening. Totally nuts.
I think working in a garden is kind of fun, too. But I don’t let that get
around. My friends think gardening is for nerds.
Dad and Mr. McCall are always battling it out at the annual garden show. Mr.
McCall usually takes first place. But last year, Dad and I won the blue ribbon
for our tomatoes.
That drove Mr. McCall crazy. When Dad’s name was announced, Mr. McCall’s face turned as red as our tomatoes.
So Mr. McCall is desperate to win this year. He started stocking up on plant
food and bug spray months ago.
And he planted something that nobody else in North Bay grows. Strange
orange-green melons called casabas.
Dad says that Mr. McCall has made a big mistake. He says the casabas will
never grow any bigger than tennis balls. The growing season in Minnesota is too
“McCall’s garden loses,” I declared. “Our tomatoes are definitely going to
win again this year. And thanks to my special soil, they’ll grow as big as beach
“So will your head,” Mindy shot back.
I stuck out my tongue and crossed my eyes. It seemed like a good reply.
“Whose serve is it?” I asked. Mindy was taking so long, I lost track.
“It’s still my serve,” she replied, carefully placing her feet.
We were interrupted by footsteps. Heavy, booming footsteps on the stairs
“Who is that?” Mindy cried.
And then he appeared behind her. And my eyes nearly bulged right out of my
“Oh, no!” I screamed. “It’s… McCall!”
“Joe!” he roared. The floor shook as he stomped toward Mindy.
All the color drained from Mindy’s face. Her hand grasped her paddle so
tightly that her knuckles turned white. She tried to swing around to look behind
her, but she couldn’t. Her feet were frozen in her Ping-Pong-ball footprints.
McCall’s hands balled into two huge fists, and he looked really, really
“I’m going to get you. And this time I’m going to win. Throw me a paddle.”
“You jerk!” Mindy sputtered. “I-I knew it wasn’t
McCall. I knew it
Moose is Mr. McCall’s son and my best friend. His real name is Michael, but
everyone calls him Moose. Even his parents.
Moose is the biggest kid in the whole sixth grade. And the strongest. His
legs are as thick as tree trunks. And so is his neck. And he’s very, very loud.
Just like his dad.
Mindy can’t stand Moose. She says he’s a gross slob.
I think he’s cool.
“Yo, Joe!” Moose bellowed. “Where’s my paddle?” His big arm muscles bulged as
he reached out to grab mine.
I pulled my hand back. But his beefy hand slapped my shoulder so hard that my
head nearly rolled off.
“Whoaaa!” I yelped.
Moose let out a deep laugh that shook the basement walls. And then he ended
it with a burp.
“Moose, you’re disgusting,” Mindy groaned.
Moose scratched his dark brown crew cut. “Gee, thanks, Mindy.”
“Thanks for what?” she demanded.
“For this.” He reached out and snatched the paddle right out of her hand.
Moose swung Mindy’s paddle around wildly in the air. He missed a hanging lamp
by an inch. “Ready for a real game, Joe?”
He threw the Ping-Pong ball into the air and drew his powerful arm back.
The ball rocketed across the room. It bounced off two walls and flew
back over the net toward me.
“Foul!” Mindy cried. “That’s not allowed.”
“Cool!” I exclaimed. I dove for the ball and missed. Moose has an amazing
Moose slammed the ball again. It shot over the net and whacked me in the
“Hey!” I cried. I rubbed the stinging spot.
“Good shot, huh?” He grinned.
“Yeah. But you’re supposed to hit the table,” I told him.
Moose pumped his fat fists into the air. “Super Moose!” he bellowed. “Strong
as a superhero!”
My friend Moose is a pretty wild guy. Mindy says he’s a total animal. I think
he’s just got a lot of enthusiasm.
I served while he was still throwing his arms around.
“Hey! No fair!” he declared. Moose charged the table and clobbered the ball.
And flattened it into a tiny white pancake.
I groaned. “That’s ball number fifteen for this month,” I announced.
I grabbed the little pancake and tossed it into a blue plastic milk crate on
the floor. The crate was piled high with dozens of flattened Ping-Pong balls.
“Hey! I think you broke your record!” I declared.
“All right!” Moose exclaimed. He leaped on top of the Ping-Pong table and
began jumping up and down. “Super Moose!” he yelled.
“Stop it, you jerk!” Mindy screamed. “You’re going to break the table.” She
covered her face with her hands.
“Super Moose! Super Moose!” he chanted.
The Ping-Pong table swayed. Then it sagged under his weight. He was even
starting to get on my nerves now. “Moose, get off! Get off!” I wailed.
“Who’s going to make me?” he demanded.
Then we all heard a loud, sharp
“You’re breaking it!” Mindy shrieked. “Get off!”
Moose scrambled off the table. He lurched toward me, holding his hands
straight out like the zombie monster we’d seen in
Killer Zombie from Planet
on TV. “Now I’m going to destroy you!”
Then he hurled himself at me.
As he smashed into me, I staggered back and fell onto the dusty cement floor.
Moose jumped onto my stomach and pinned me down. “Say ‘Moose’s tomatoes are
the best!’ ” he ordered. He bounced up and down on my chest.
“Moo… Moose’s,” I wheezed. “Tomat… I can’t… breathe… really… help.”
“Say it!” Moose insisted. He placed his powerful hands around my neck. And
“Ugggggh,” I gagged. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move.
My head rolled to the side.
“Moose!” I heard Mindy shriek. “Let him go! Let him go! What have you done to
“M-Miiindy,” I moaned.
Moose pulled his hands from my throat and lifted his powerful body off my