Chapter 22

“Okay!” yelled Ari, as the boys streamed past him and thundered down Duchy Street. “Okay! So when you get to the park, STOP THE FIGHT!”

“I don’t know,” said Arden shaking her head. “They’re not paying any attention to you.”

“Let’s go,” yelled Ari. “All they have to do is stampede the fight.” He tore down the hill after the blue mob with Arden right on his heels.

The crowd at the park was three times bigger than when they’d left, and most of it was densely packed around the boxing ring.
Wilton Daylatch’s voice on a loudspeaker cut through the din of the chattering crowd like a knife. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he oozed. “Let the match begin, and may the best man win!”

A starting bell rang out. The blue mob of boys hit the wall of spectators surrounding the ring and, amazingly, began to filter through and disappear into the crowd.

“Squeeze through!” commanded Ari, as he and Arden ducked under smelly armpits and between melting ice cream cones. The crowd was beginning to murmur, and sometimes roar, in unison. Although he still couldn’t see through, Ari guessed that Hunker and Uncle Ellery were facing off. Ari finally squished between two large men to find that the Daylatch boys were surrounding the boxing ring ropes like a blue moat.

“Kill Hunker!” yelled a boy in blue.

“Pop’im!” screamed another boy.

In the ring, Uncle Ellery was hanging back, as Dudge Hunker, towering like a colossus in the center of the ring, hopped forward and back taking token jabs at the air.

“No!” yelled Ari. “Stop the fight!”

“I don’t think they want to stop the fight,” said Arden.

The boys in blue began to tug at the ropes and scream harder.
“KILL HUNKER!” they bellowed.

Suddenly Uncle Ellery stopped and looked around at the mob of boys hanging from the ropes. His posture relaxed. “I’m not gonna kill him,” he muttered through his mouth guard, with a slight chuckle.

But Uncle Ellery had dropped his guard. And before he could turn his attention back to Hunker, who was bobbing and weaving around the ring, Hunker swung a meaty fist and landed a stunning blow into Uncle Ellery’s cheek.

Ari’s stomach sunk, as if he’d taken the punch to his own gut.

Uncle Ellery staggered back a step, then–before Ari could even see where it came from–rammed a lightening-fast right fist into Hunker’s forehead. Hunker stood stock-still, and looked down at Uncle Ellery with a mocking grin. Then he teetered, and crashed to the floor of the ring, shaking the ground under Ari’s feet.

The referee jumped into the center of the ring and began to count. “Ten…nine…eight…seven…”

Hunker raised his head slightly, then plopped back into the mat.


There was a fraction of a second of stunned silence from the crowd before the entire park erupted into a triumphant roar.

“You won!” cried Arden, grabbing Ari’s shoulder.

“We won!” screamed Ari. “WE WON!” He spotted Wilton Daylatch staring, shocked and appalled, from the judge’s stand. “Yo! Daylatch!” he called “We WON!”

Ari scrambled under the rope and over to Uncle Ellery who had retreated to his stool in the corner of the ring. The welt under his eye was swelling, giving his face a lopsided look. Uncle Ellery gave Ari a wry, and obviously painful, smile.
“You ready to go home?” he said.

“Yep,” Ari replied. Ari and Uncle Ellery climbed out of the ring, and started through the mob of spectators who stepped aside to let them pass, while offering congratulations and pats on the back.

Wilton Daylatch had descended from the judge’s stand and was about to slink grouchily into his dark limousine when a blue sedan screeched to a halt in front of him and a woman in a gray business suit stepped purposefully out of the car.

“Wilton Daylatch?” she began. “We’ve received extensive documentation from a Mr…um…Sneezy showing flagrant violations of child labor laws at Daylatch Academy.”

“What?” retorted Daylatch.

“Flagrant and well documented violations,” repeated the woman. “The school has been placed under the temporary management of Cherry Acres Boys’ Schools, Incorporated. You’ll have until tomorrow to clean out your office.”

“Let’s go,” said Ari to Uncle Ellery.

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