Chapter 10

Ari was having an awfully hard time getting to sleep. He almost wished the reason was another visit from Dewey Daylatch, because as weird as that would be, it wouldn’t give him the queasy feeling he now had in the pit of his stomach.

Uncle Ellery’s snoring wasn’t the problem either, but it would have been better if Uncle Ellery were snoring, because that would mean he was sleeping. Instead, Uncle Ellery, who usually went to bed early and slept like a log, had still been sitting at the deli booth flipping through a box of bank and business papers when Ari went to bed. Even worse, when Ari had taken the trash out that afternoon, there was something different hanging in the back hallway with the brooms, dustpans and deli aprons. It was Uncle Ellery’s old boxing gloves which used to hang in the basement with the snow shovel and the broken bike that nobody ever rode.

Even when Ari finally did fall asleep, he wished he hadn’t because whatever rest a good night’s sleep might have supplied was marred by more dreams–this time of Flossie Beemis rising out of an old grave as a giggling ghost, and Finbar Fenker, still cackling maniacally as he chiseled the name Ari Soffit onto a slab of granite.

Morning came as a relief, and Ari was happy to attack the mindless chore of restocking the drink cooler after breakfast. Seamus Angus, a high-spirited real-estate agent from down the street, was one of several people who worked for Uncle Ellery part-time, and today Seamus was handling the front counter while Uncle Ellery stocked deli salads for the Saturday rush.

Ari had two questions for Uncle Ellery, and he decided to ask the easy one first.
“Do you have enough help today, if I go out and work on a project after this?” asked Ari, as he stocked the last of the Orange Fizzes and started on the Lemonades.

“I’m good Ari,” replied his Uncle. “Seamus is here all day.”

“Uncle Ellery,” said Ari, getting to his hard question, “Why did you bring your boxing gloves upstairs? Are you going to fight?”

“Ari,” reponded Uncle Ellery, as he scooped potato salad into a stainless steel container, “I don’t know yet. I’m trying to work it out. Going to the gym’s not a bad idea for anybody though.”

Ari had to admit that Uncle Ellery was right. Going to the gym could be very good for a person. And as long as he could banish all thoughts of the hulking Dudge Hunker from his mind, maybe there was nothing to worry about. So, determined to forget all about boxing for the day, he patted his jacket pocket to make sure the note was still there. Then he tossed some cheese sticks, a couple of apples, a bag of trail mix and two lemonades in a bag. Ari knew he would never eat all that food. But he hoped that if he just happened to detour past the Feeny’s house on his way to the cemetery, maybe Arden would go with him.

The detour turned out to be unnecessary. The deli door jingled twice. First, the always-frazzled Mrs. Nibiks hustled in with little Jon-jon Nibiks on a leash, and then, Arden Feeny, clutching a spiral-bound notebook.

“Ari!” said Arden. “I know where we have to go!”

“You mean the graveyard?” said Ari, smiling because at least she wasn’t ahead of him this time.

“Yes!” said Arden, holding up her notebook. “For notes.”

“Good,” said Ari, holding up the lunch bag. “For our stomachs. Ready?”

As soon as they stepped out the door Ari’s stomach sunk a bit in shock. A gleaming black Daylatch motorcycle stood parked at the curb in front of the deli. On the sidewalk, Granny Frappler was sniffing in distaste at a poster the rider was holding up for her to look at.

“No sir,” said Granny Frappler, “you ain’t postin’ one of those ugly things on my storefront. Who needs it?”

The motocyclist shrugged, and got back on his bike.

“Who needs it?” repeated Granny Frappler as Ari and Arden passed. Just then Ari saw what “it” was. The motorcyclist must have wanted Granny Frappler to post the same type of sign Ari was now facing on the window of DiRosa Savings and Loan. It was a full-color image of Dudge Hunker with a winning grin, posed in just the right way to made his shiny muscles ripple.

Meet Dudge Hunker Of Hunkavites Vitamins, screamed the sign in day-glo letters, as he signs his new book “The One-Two Punch!” Saturday, April 7, at DiRosa Savings and Loan.

“Oh man!” said Ari. He’d really been looking forward to a day of not thinking about Dudge Hunker at all.

“Oh man what?” asked Arden, furrowing her brow as she studied the poster. “Yeah, he’s…pretty weird, isn’t he?”

Ari felt a strong urge to spill the whole story to Arden right then and there, from Wilton Daylatch and the deli loan to the conversation with Dewey that he still wasn’t certain had even really happened. On the other hand, there was his equally strong desire to push the whole thing out of his mind if he possibly could.

“Nothing really,” said Ari. “Let’s just go.”

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