Authors: Matt Christopher,Stephanie Peters
Text copyright © 2004 by Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc. Illustrations copyright © 2004 by Michael Koelsch
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
is a registered trademark of Catherine M. Christopher.
“Hey, dudes, what’s up?” Belicia “Bizz” Juarez swooped into the park and braked her inline skates to a stop in front of Jonas Malloy and Charlie Abbott. “Why aren’t you riding the ramps and rails?”
Jonas shook his head. “They’re crammed full of newbies,” he said glumly. “It’s Beginner’s Day, remember?”
Bizz’s face fell. “Oh, yeah,” she said. Beginner’s Day was when kids still learning about inline skating and other extreme sports — newbies — got the skatepark all to themselves. Newbies were paired with older, experienced skaters who watched over them as they tried out different equipment and moves. Bizz had nothing against kids improving their skills. She just wished they wouldn’t get in her way when she wanted to skate!
Jonas shaded his eyes against the bright November sun and pointed. “Hey, isn’t that Savannah by the pyramid, with Alison?”
Bizz followed his gaze. Sure enough, Savannah Smith stood next to the pyramid ramp. She checked her inlines, then skated hard up one slope of the pyramid. When she reached the top, she gave a little hop, made a quarter turn in midair, and rolled down another slope. Alison Lee, the teenager who watched over the skatepark, applauded.
“What’s Savannah doing out there on Beginner’s Day?” Charlie asked. Charlie, a newcomer to town, was still getting to know the other kids. “I thought she was a good skater already.”
” Bizz replied loyally. “She’s
better than those newbies out there! I’m going to rescue her.” Bizz took off full tilt to the pyramid.
“Yo, Bizz, hold up.” Alison stepped in front of Bizz. “You know you’re not supposed to be out here today.”
“I’ll clear out in a sec,” Bizz said, “but I’m taking Savannah with me. She’s too good to be out here!”
“Thanks, Bizz,” Savannah said quietly. “But I’d really like to stay and practice. Alison’s teaching me a lot and —”
Bizz cut her off. “You’ve got better things to do!” “Like what?” Alison wanted to know. “Like — like —” Bizz looked around. Her gaze landed on the park’s roller hockey rink. It was empty. “Like play roller hockey with me and the guys, that’s what!”
“Roller hockey?” Savannah sounded doubtful. “Sure! We can use the park’s hockey equipment, can’t we, Alison?”
Alison sighed. “That’s what it’s there for.”
Bizz grabbed Savannah’s hand. “Then what’re we waiting for? Look” — she pointed to where Jonas and Charlie had been joined by Xavier “X” McSweeney and Mark Goldstein — “the rest of the crew is here. We can play three-on-three, no goalies. It’ll be a blast.” Before Savannah could protest, Bizz pulled her away from Alison and the newbies.
“Don’t forget to sign up for rink time!” Alison called out after them.
Minutes later, the two girls and four boys skated onto the roller hockey rink. Each carried a lightweight hockey stick and wore a helmet with a clear face mask. They had gloves on their hands and pads on their elbows and knees. Everyone but Savannah put mouth guards in.
Savannah eyed the hard rubber hockey puck anxiously. “I don’t have a mouth guard,” she said. “Maybe I should just watch.”
“We’ll be careful,” Bizz reassured her. “Savannah, you team up with Jonas and X. Charlie and Mark are with me.” She tightened the strap under her helmet. “Game on!”
Bizz faced off against Jonas. With the puck between them, she and Jonas tapped their sticks together three times, then attacked.
Bizz freed the disk and passed it quickly to Charlie. Charlie caught it on his stick and started to dribble toward the goal. Savannah skated to get in front of him. Charlie flicked the puck right under her stick, dodged around her, and made a break for the empty goal. Jonas and X tried to intercept, but neither reached him in time. Charlie shot — and scored!
Bizz cheered, then skated over to Savannah. “Sorry, I forgot to tell you to keep your stick blade on the ground,” she said. “That way, you’ll be ready to stop the puck if it comes near you. Okay?” Savannah nodded, and Bizz skated back for the next face-off.
This time, Jonas got control. Instead of passing, he took off like a shot toward the goal. Bizz chased him. Charlie streaked down next to her. Mark shifted nervously in front of the goal — and the fast-approaching Jonas.
“Stop him! Stop him!” Bizz yelled.
Mark’s eyes grew wide, but he skated forward and tried to put his body between Jonas and the goal. Moments before a collision, Jonas pulled up short and passed the puck to X. X deflected it into the goal. Mark spun to see what had happened, lost his balance, and fell.
Bizz skated a wide circle behind the goal, then dug the puck out of the net. As she passed Mark, she reached a hand down to help him up. “Good job standing your ground against Jonas,” she said, adding with a grin, “Now if you could just stand your ground the rest of the game . . .”
“Ha, ha,” Mark said. He took her hand and struggled to his feet.
Bizz won the third face-off. She looked up to see Savannah standing close to the goal. “It’s all yours, amiga!” She slapped a hard pass to her friend. But instead of stopping on Savannah’s blade, the puck bounced off and skittered over the sideline.
Bizz retrieved it, then skated up next to Savannah. “Sorry, my fault again,” she said. “I should have told you to keep your stick soft when you get a pass. You know, kind of cushion the puck a bit to control it. Next time, okay?”
“Got it,” Savannah said. The girls slapped high fives and went back to their spots.
For the next ten minutes, the two teams traded goals, joking and teasing one another the whole time. Bizz continued to offer Savannah pointers.
“Will you stop helping the enemy?” Jonas said at one point.
“Enemy-schnenemy,” Bizz retorted. “She’s a roller hockey newbie. I’m just cuttin’ her some slack.”
“Speaking of slack, I gotta take a break,” Mark said. He took off his helmet. “Anybody want to hit the water fountain in the Community Center with me?”
It turned out that everyone else was thirsty, too. Together, they skated to the center and drank big gulps of cold water.
“All right,” Bizz said as they started back toward the rink. “Everybody ready for round two?” But when they reached the rink, it was no longer empty. A boy was there taking shots on goal.
Bizz skated over to the newcomer. He looked a little older than she was.
“Excuse me,” she said politely, “we’re in the middle of a game.”
The boy slowly turned. “Excuse
” he sneered. “When I got here, the rink was empty. And there weren’t any names on the sign-up sheet. Well,
there’s a name. Mine.”
He turned away, raised his stick behind him, and slammed in another shot.
Bubbles of fury rose inside Bizz. Some of her anger was at the boy’s rudeness — but the rest was at herself. She’d completely forgotten to sign up, even though Alison had reminded her to do it. The boy had every right to be there. More, since he’d signed up for the time.
Then she had an idea. “Listen,” she said to the boy, “you wanna play with us? We’re going three-on-three, just goofing around and having fun. What do you say?”
The boy glanced over at the others. “Pretty motley-lookin’ crew,” he said with a sniff. “I’ll have to tone down my game to play at your level.”
Don’t do us any favors,
Bizz wanted to say. But instead, she gritted her teeth and replied, “I’m Bizz.”
“Frank,” the boy snapped.
X offered to give Frank his spot.
“Fine, but I’ll take the face-off,” Frank said, shouldering Jonas aside. Jonas frowned, but skated back next to Savannah.
This guy’s a real bully,
Bizz thought angrily as she readied herself for the face-off.
Well, he better not cause trouble.
Her anger cranked up another notch a moment later. Frank won the face-off and immediately fired a pass at Savannah. Savannah, caught off guard, bobbled the puck. It rolled on its edge until Charlie swooped in, scooped it up, and shot it straight into the goal.
Frank skated over to Savannah. “Whatsa matter with you?” he bellowed. The way he loomed over her, he looked like a grizzly bear standing on its hind legs.
Savannah shrank back. “S-sorry,” she stammered. Frank rolled his eyes and skated back to the face-off circle. “‘Sorry,’ she says. Oh, brother.”
“Give her a break. She’s still learning how to play hockey,” Bizz shot back.
“That right?” Frank draped his hockey stick across his shoulders and rested his arms on it. “Well, maybe she shouldn’t be out here, then. Maybe none of you should. You oughta leave the rink open to people who really know how to play.”
“People like you, you mean?” Bizz finally let her anger out full force.
“Yeah, me and my team,” Frank said.
Bizz spread her hands wide. “Team? What team? I don’t see anybody here but you.” By now, the others had gathered behind her. “You, and my buds here, that is.”
Frank drew himself up tall. “Oh, I’ve got a team, all right. And we’d
you guys in a heartbeat!”
“Ha!” Bizz let out a harsh laugh. “Wanna bet?”