Friday, July 20, 2012

THE POWER CLUB Chapter 3: “Practice Makes . . .?”

            “Don’t run until I tell you,” Damon directed his brother.  Eldon was no Vee, but he was all Damon had to practice on until school started.
            Like a runner waiting for the gun to go off, Eldon nodded and watched Damon intently, almost challenging him.  He stood in the family room, as close to the couch as he could get, to give himself more running room.
            Damon exhaled sharply, wanting to make the darkspace come as fast as it could, and let out a “hulp!”  Eldon took off running before the darkspace spread to half of the family room.
            “No, wait—!” Damon shouted, but it was too late.  Eldon reached the living room before the darkspace had spread to half of the family room.          Damon inhaled, and the darkspace vanished. “I said don’t run until I tell you to!”
            “I thought you said, “Go!” Eldon protested as he bounded back into the family room.
            “There’s a difference between ‘hulp!’ and ‘Go!” Damon argued, but this was getting him nowhere.  If he couldn’t make the darkspace come fast enough for an ordinary 11-year-old, he would never be able to compete with the Power Club.
            “What are you boys doing?” Their mom asked a she carried a basket of laundry through the living room.
            “Nothing!” they answered in stereo.
            “Damon,” she said, looking down at him, “you should know better than to teach Eldon to lie.”
            Damon lowered his eyes.  “Eldon’s helping practice so I can make my darkspace come quicker.”
            “Why do you want it to come quicker?”
            Damon dreaded this question, but he answered truthfully.  “Kyle and Danner and Vee formed a special club.  I tried to join, but they said my power’s not strong enough.”
            His mom sat her laundry basket by the steps leading upstairs.  “Damon, I don’t want you hanging out with those boys.”
            His dreams evaporated like heat from the freshly laundered clothes.  “Why not?”
            “What if someone gets hurt?  Remember your last run-in with a special club?”
            How can I forget?  They stole my bike.  Thinking about it still made Damon angry.
            “You’re lucky you weren’t seriously hurt,” his mom went on.  “ You had a guardian angel watching out for you.”
            Damon turned around so she wouldn’t see him rolling his eyes.  When his mother started talking about guardian angels, he knew she wouldn’t budge.  He jogged back into the family room to get away from the words he knew would be coming next, but Mom only said, “No more practicing on your brother!”
            “Okay,” he said, trying to sound dejected. Whether she knew it or not, his mom had left a loophole.  She didn’t tell him he couldn’t join the Power Club.  She said she didn’t want him “hanging out” with them.  But if I join,  I won’t technically be hanging out.  I’ll be one of them.  That logic would hold up in a court of law, even if it didn’t hold up in the Court of Mom.  In any case, he’d find better volunteers once school started in a few weeks.
            On the first day of school, Damon’s new teacher, Mrs. Fox, told the class about special programs.  They would be trained to use their powers for the military or to work in the district when grown.  But Damon couldn’t wait that long—not with the Power Club in his own neighborhood.
            Recess was the only other option.  Damon told his pals, Andy and Arick, to meet him by the basketball poles on the upper level of the playground.
            Andy went first.  He stood facing one of the basketball poles and took a deep breath.  He let out an explosive frost that covered the entire pole in seconds. 
            Damon went next.  He created a darkspace around another pole.
            Arick timed them both, studying a stopwatch through his thick glasses. “He’s got you beat by four seconds.”
            Damon and Andy turned to face two different poles —
            “Hey, stupids!  Don’t freeze the poles!”
            Four boys ran toward them.  Eighth graders.
            “Basketball poles are for playing basketball, dummies!”a shaggy, blonde-haired boy taunted them.  “You’re going to ruin them!”
            Damon knew Andy’s frost breath would wear off in a few seconds and there were never any lasting effects from his darkspace.  “No, we’re not.”
            But the older boys didn’t seem to care what Damon had to say.  “Get lost!” the blonde boy shouted.  He stood in front of one of the frozen poles and looked up at the sky.  His body began to glow and the air around them all turned very hot.  Melted ice dropped off the basketball poles and evaporated.   One of the other boys bent over and transformed himself into something resembling a large, metallic ball.  Then other boys tossed him around and threw him toward the hoops, ignoring Damon and his friends.
            Protesting that they had been there first would have been useless.  One didn’t argue with eighth graders.
            “Come on,” Arick said with resignation.
            They ran to the lower-level playground, where a swing set, jungle gym, and castle were set up.  The younger kids had already had their recess, so Damon and his friends had the playground to themselves.   Arick ran to the jungle gym and turned to face the others.  “Damon, try your power on me.”
            Damon released the darkspace.  As his night vision activated, he saw Arick standing there, a tiny speck next to the skeletal frame of the jungle gym.  Poor Arick.  He’s just gonna stand there—
            But Arick casually took off his thick glasses, put them into a case he pulled from his back pocket, and laid them on the ground.
            Damon watched, amazed, as Arick ran to the jungle gym and climbed up on it.  His friend, who had so much trouble seeing in plain daylight, climbed to the top of the metal bars, hung off of them, and spun around with confident abandon before he leaped off and ran to the castle.
            Can he see in the dark? The idea made Damon strangely anxious until he realized Arick was using his radar vision to get around.
            “This is too easy!” Arick called from atop the castle.  “Can’t you do anything else?”
            Damon’s amazement turned to irritation.  The Power Club’s rejection reverberated in his mind.  Is that the best you can do?  He thought for a moment. 
            Whoa. . . .  What if I create second darkspace?
            He concentrated and exhaled . . .  It was like blowing into a balloon that was already full of air.  Damon feared something might pop, but nothing did.  Gradually, the darkspace expanded. 
            Arick climbed down off the castle and ran toward the swings, but stopped.  “Hey, Damon!”
            Winded from the effort, Damon didn’t answer.
            “DAMON!”  Arick’s shouted.  He stood still, frozen in one spot.  “Cut it out!  Make it go away!”
            Damon’s stomach hurt as he inhaled.  The darkspace vanished.
            “What happened?” asked Andy, who had remained outside the darkspace.
            Damon filled him in.
            “And then all of a sudden,” Arick continued as he retrieved his glasses, “it got darker.  Everything disappeared.  My radar vision couldn’t detect anything.”
            “Is it some new power of yours, Damon?”  Andy was impressed.
            “I dunno.”  Damon didn’t want to admit he’d tried creating a second darkspace.  Besides, when kids used misused their powers, they could be reported to the teachers.  He turned to Arick.  “What do you mean everything disappeared?”
            Arick searched for the right words.  “Your darkspace got . . . darker.”

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