Chapter 18

The deli was closed for the Founders’ Day celebration, but Ari woke up in no mood to celebrate. He could hear Uncle Ellery sparring with a punching bag in the basement–the chain rattling and clinking with every whomp whomp whomp of his uncle’s boxing gloves.

Ari washed his face and clomped down two flights of stairs to where Uncle Ellery was battling the heavy bag which was standing in for Dudge Hunker.
“So,” said Ari. “You’re really going to go through with it.”

Uncle Ellery stopped pounding the bag and looked at Ari in a way that startled him. He could see that Uncle Ellery really wanted him to understand.
“Wilton Daylatch is a total wacko,” said Uncle Ellery. “But I have to keep the store. Your folks worked too hard…I’ve worked too hard…we’ve all worked too hard to let it go.”

Ari nodded. Uncle Ellery was completely serious. There was no chance of changing his mind.
“Well,” said Ari. “Just make sure you eat something.”

Ari went upstairs and fixed himself a toasted bagel with cream cheese. Then he spent most of the morning searching the store again, hoping he’d spot some obvious hiding place that he and Arden had inexplicably missed yesterday. But there was nothing. Just the usual store stuff, the same old ceiling, and the same old wooden floor with its worn off paint.

He’d need another plan. Maybe he could get to Town Dock Park and take the boxing ring apart before anyone noticed. Maybe he could put up a sign that said “Fight Canceled–Go Home,” and everyone would. He sure couldn’t sit here in the empty deli doing nothing while Uncle Ellery waited to get pulverized by Dudge Hunker.


At least the weather could have cooperated, thought Ari grumpily as he made his way down Spoke Street toward the waterfront. Where’s a thunderstorm when you need one? Why does it have to be so darn sunny?

But it was sunny. And the gentle breeze drifting inland from the harbor seemed to have enticed everyone in town to drop whatever they were doing and come to the waterfront. Ari hurried past an ice cream cart and a swingset full of small children to the denser crowd beginning to cluster around the boxing ring in the center of the park.

“I don’t know about you,” barked a swaggering man who was leaning against the hot dog stand, “but I say the smart money is on Hunker!”

“I hear Soffit used to be good,” responded the hot dog vendor.

“Come on!” guffawed the leaning man. “Have you seen that guy? Have you seen Dudge Hunker?”

Ari tried not to listen. There were already too many people here. It was too late to sabotage the boxing ring or put up a sign now.

“GUTS in a can!” rang out an all too familiar voice from the other side of the boxing ring. “Get your GUTS in a can! Scare your sister! Disgust your mother! Get your GUTS in a can!”

Ari looked across the ring. There was Finbar Fenker. Selling…something from a basket on his bike.

“ARI!” called out Flossie Beemis from right behind Ari’s left ear. “Ari! You can watch the fight with me! It won’t be as scary if we hold hands…” She smelled like overripe bananas, and she batted her eyelashes and smiled.

“GUTS in a can!” yelled Finbar, who’d come over and was now waving an unidentified repulsive concoction in a clear plastic can in front of Flossie’s face.
Flossie let out a squeal so grating that Ari’s ears hurt, and she disappeared in a flash, leaving nothing behind but her banana scent.

“Maybe your other girlfriend wants to buy guts,” exclaimed Finbar. “Hey! Feeny Weeny Pinto Beeny! Oozing brains and ruptured spleeny!”

“Ari!” said Arden, who had suddenly appeared at Ari’s elbow. She brushed Finbar’s can of guts out of her face. “We’re going to have to create some sort of distraction. It’s all I can think of!”

“Like what?” asked Ari.

“I don’t know,” replied Arden. “A riot. A stampede. Just something. That guy’s going to kill your uncle.”

“GUTS in a can!” yelled Finbar with even greater enthusiasm.

“Come on,” insisted Arden. She pulled Ari brusquely away from Finbar and started across the park. “We have to cause a disturbance! Anything to stop the fight!”

Ari felt as hopeless as he’d ever felt. “Arden,” he said, “where are we going to get a stampede? There’s no zoo in DiRosa.”

“A horse farm?” suggested Arden.

“No,” said Ari.

“A pig farm,” she insisted. “Anything that’s caged up and needs to get out and run around like crazy!”

She was desperate, and so was Ari, but knowing that Uncle Ellery was scheduled for the worst pounding of his life made it impossible for him to think about something as crazy as a stampede.
“Arden,” said Ari, as calmly as he could. “You’ve lived in DiRosa your entire life. People here have boats. And cars. There are no farms here. Nothing to stampede. Nothing is caged up…” He stopped suddenly and his face registered the shock of a crazy idea he couldn’t believe he’d thought of.

“What?” demanded Arden. “You’re thinking something. What are you thinking?”

“There is something caged up in DiRosa,” said Ari slowly. “ There are TWO HUNDRED BOYS,” he continued pointing toward Duchy Street. “Two hundred caged up boys!”

“You mean the school?” asked Arden. “Do you mean Daylatch Academy?”

“It’s time for recess.” said Ari calmly. Then he turned, and bolted toward Duchy Street.

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