Authors: Neal Shusterman
The Schwa Effect: Experiment #1
: The Schwa will be functionally invisible in your standard classroom.
: Nine random students, one classroom, the Schwa.
: We set nine students and the Schwa seated around an otherwise empty classroom (if you don’t count the hamsters and the guinea pig in the back). Then we dragged other students into the room, and asked them to do a head count.
: Three out of five students refused to go into the classroom on account of they thought there’d be a bucket of water over the door, or something nasty like that, which is understandable because we’ve been known to play practical, and less practical, jokes. Eventually we managed to round up twenty students to go into the room, count the people in the room, then report back to us. Fifteen students said that there were nine people in the room. Four students said there were ten. One student said there were seventeen (we believe he counted the hamsters and guinea pig).
: Four out of five people do not see the Schwa in your standard classroom.
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First published in the United States of America by Dutton Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2006
Copyright © 2004 by Neal Shusterman
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THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGUED THE DUTTON EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
The Schwa was here / Neal Shusterman.—1st ed.
Summary: A Brooklyn eighth-grader nicknamed Antsy befriends the Schwa, an “invisible-ish” boy who is tired of blending into his surroundings and going unnoticed by nearly everyone.
[1. Self-perception—Fiction. 2. Friendship—Fiction. 3. Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.S55987Sbe 2004 [Fic]—dc22 2004045072
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
For my grandparents Gussie and Dave Altman,
who will always be the spirit of Brooklyn to me
: The faint vowel sound in many unstressed syllables in the English language. It is signified by the pronunciation “uh” and represented by the symbol e. For example, the
, and the
It is the most common vowel sound in the English language.
I don’t really remember when I first met the Schwa, he was just kind of always there, like the killer potholes on Avenue U or the Afghans barking out the windows above Crawley’s restaurant—a whole truck load of ’em, if you believed the rumors. Old Man Crawley, by the way, was a certifiable loony tune. A shut-in, like Brooklyn’s own Howard Hughes, almost as legendary as the lobsters served up in his restaurant below. See, there was this staircase that went up from the restaurant to the residence on the second floor, but with each step it got darker around you, so when you tried to climb it, you kept thinking you heard the horror audience behind you yelling, “No, don’t go up the stairs!” Because who but a moron would go up to search for Old Man Crawley, who had fingernails like Ginsu knives that could dice, slice, and julienne you, then serve you up in like fourteen thousand plastic dog bowls. Those bowls, by the way, would probably be made by my father, the Vice-Executive Vice-Vice-President of Product
Development for Pisher Plastic Products. If you’re a guy, I’m sure you already know that their most famous product is that little plastic strainer at the bottom of urinals, and you probably still laugh every time you look down while taking a leak and see
® written in happy bold letters, like maybe it was to remind you why you were standing there.
But what was I talking about?
Oh, yeah—the Schwa. See, that was the whole point with the Schwa: You couldn’t even think about him without losing track of your own thoughts—like even in your head he was somehow becoming invisible.
Okay, so like I said, I don’t remember when I met him—nobody does—but I can tell you the first time I remembered actually noticing him. It was the day Manny Bullpucky jumped from the Marine Park Bridge.
It was a Saturday, and my friends and I were bored, as usual. I was hanging out with Howie Bogerton, whose one goal in life was not to have any goals in life, and Ira Goldfarb, who was a self-proclaimed cinematic genius. With the digital video camera his grandparents had gotten him for his bar mitzvah last year, Ira was determined to be Steven Spielberg by the time he got to high school. As for Manny Bullpucky, we kinda dragged him along with us to various places we went. We had to drag him around, on accounta he was a dummy. Not a dummy like Wendell Tiggor, who had to repeat the fifth grade like fourteen thousand times, but a real dummy. More snooty people might call him a mannequin, or even a
, because nobody calls things what they really are anymore. But to us normal people in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, he was a dummy, plain and simple.