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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's
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Copyright Â© 2008 by Alloy Entertainment and Andy Behrens
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Published in the United States by Dutton Books,
a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014www.penguin.com/youngreaders
Produced by Alloy Entertainment
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New York, NY 10001
eISBN : 978-0-525-47898-0
For my dad, Leo.
Duncan Boone plugged his custom-airbrushed Fuego-Hammer AX50 electric guitar into an amplifier, twisted the volume knobs to their max, then flipped off the garage lights. He nodded, pleased with himself. Earlier, he had secured a dual-beam flashlight to a rafter with duct tape, angling it so it shone like a spotlight onto the garage floor. Now he stood in the light alone, listening to the amp hum. As his eyes swept over his dad's tarp-covered '65 Skylark, he imagined a rippling sea of fans in a vast arena. He triumphantly raised his arms.“Thank you!” he said in an affected English accent. “Thank yooooou!”
Duncan bent a note high up the fretboard. He eased a pair of mirrored sunglasses onto his face and patted the ruffles of his oversized tuxedo shirt, letting the guitar slide low against his hip. He placed an enormous feathered hat atop his head, then tilted it forward. He cleared his throat and began to count off:
“One, two . . . a-one, two, three, four . . .”
He leapt, the plume of his hat scraping the motor of the garage door opener. Duncan began to lash at his guitar, his face contorted as though he were in unholy pain. Waves of distortion erupted from the amp. Tools rattled against the garage walls. Duncan fell to his knees. His fingers slid down the neck of the guitar, then up again. He arched backwards until the hat fell off. He jiggled the guitar lightly, as if a few notes were stuck and he needed to shake them out. More blurts of distortion. With his eyes closed tight behind the sunglasses and a haze of noise gathering around him, Duncan didn't notice the garage door beginning to rise and sunlight sweeping across the floor.
His friends Jessie Panger and Stew Varney stood in the driveway, smirking. Jessie twirled a single drumstick in her left hand. Stew bobbed his head. They watched Duncan writhe, the guitar held aloft in his outstretched arms. A small crowd of passersby began to gather, attracted (or awed, or horrified) by the crushing sounds emanating from the two-car garage on the leafyâand normally quietâsuburban Illinois street. Duncan, still using the contrived accent, began to half sing/ half scream:
I'd eat a pound of cheese
Get attacked by killer bees
Hold it for an hour when I have to pee-eee
Expose myself to hepatitis C
And pay more attention in Spanish III
If I could just get you to talk to mâ
Jessie jerked the guitar cord from the amplifier.
“Sweet jam, rocker,” she said flatly.
She stood above Duncan, her arms folded across a black HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ T-shirt. Although she was a diminutive, pink-haired girl, Jessie could actually appear quite menacing. Duncan froze, lying on his back on the oil-stained garage floor with the guitar on his chest.
“Hey, Jess,” he said meekly. “Just, um . . . warming up a little.”
“Masterful rhymes,” she said. “Really. Cheese, bees, pee . . . wow. That's powerful stuff. I think we're all smelling Grammy.”
“They can't all be gems,” he said. “Just freestyling a bit.”
Duncan stood and removed his sunglasses. He immediately took notice of the six adults, four infants, and two Labradors gawking at him from the sidewalk.
“Hello, Mrs. Ludgin, Mrs. Marchetti. Hey there, everyone.”
The kids waved frantically. The dogs wagged. The adults scarcely moved. Duncan smoothed the billowed front of his ruffly shirt and hiked up his turquoise velvet pants.
“Dude,” said Stew, “you look like some sort of conquistador. But you're, like, nineteen percent more gay than other conquistadors. Not that I'm judging the lifestyles of Spanish explorersâat all. Because I'm not. That's totally not me. I mean, conquistadors can be gay, that's cool. I have total respect for gay conquiâ”
“Shut up, asselope,” said Jessie, smiling. “Unpack your stuff.”
She placed a small box of percussion instrumentsâa triangle, maracas, wood blocks, a cowbellâon the garage floor, then turned toward Duncan. “Were you trying to sound British just then? And what
with the new look? It's kind of piratey, I think. And it's a little
too. Please tell me you don't have pirate suits for the rest of the band. Peg legs and parrots, that sort of thing.”
Duncan self-consciously ran his hands down the ill-fitting pants, eyed the feathered hat on the garage floor, and, without much subtlety, kicked it underneath the car.
“No parrots or wooden limbs,” he said.
“Did you raid the theater-arts wardrobe closet again?” asked Jessie.
“Yeah,” he said. “No way they'll miss this stuff. It's from
freshman year. Awesome, eh?”
“Not so much, no,” said Jessie. “I'm not wearing a pirate hat, Duncan.”
“You think they're a little overwrought? I just thought we needed a stage presence that was more flamboyant. Nonconformist. I'd like us to stand out. I'm trying to cultivate a look that's consistent with the band's core principles.”
Jessie glared. Duncan shrank slightly.
“The costumes can be optional,” he said. “And I can return the hats. But they're not piratey. They're retro. Big diffâ”
Jessie asked. “We have âcore principles'? Really? We've never even had a gig. Not one gig. We
stand out when we play, dude, because we're the only living things in the room.” She gestured at the small dispersing group of people and pets. “
is officially the largest crowd that has ever seen us perform.” She paused. “But please, tell me more about the Blowholes' principles.”
The Blowholes were a trio of Elm Forest Township High School studentsâDuncan on guitar, Jessie on drums, and Stew on bassâthat had formed (as a thrash-metal band called Feely Dan) in Stew's attic five months earlier. Soon after they began playing together, they moved their practices to Jessie's basement (and briefly changed their style to ska, and their name to Toby Spliff) following a series of strongly worded complaints from a nearby senior center. But weeks of basement turf battles with Jessie's eleven-year-old brother ended with a small fire and the permanent expulsion of the band (which had shifted its style to hardcore punk and its name to Velveeting Disorder) not just from Jessie's house, butâby virtue of a one-sided vote of the Glenn Oaks Estates homeowners' associationâfrom her entire subdivision. The band next moved to the relative isolation of Duncan's garage (changing their style again to bluesy rock and their name to the Blowholes). The band, much to every member 's dismay, had yet to perform in front of an audience. Getting a gig had become a critical Blowhole priority.
“Our principles,” Duncan said. “Ahem. Right. Well, I've really been giving this a lot of consideration, and I'm thinking now that we're more of a concept-album band. Like Pink Floyd, maybe. But more accessible. We're like the double-album /rock opera type. We're definitely not a band that tries to churn out Top 40 singles. In fact, we
“That's a new principle for the Blowholes, isn't it?” asked Jessie.
“No,” Duncan said. “No, no. We just needed time to get in touch with this particular principle.”
“But now you're touching it.”
“Yes, I am.”
“You're changing the band's name again, aren't you?” she asked flatly.
“'Fraid so,” said Duncan, plugging his guitar back into the amplifier.
“But I was going to get a little spouting whale logo on the drum.”
“Sorry, Jess. The Blowholes have passed into history. We are now . . .” Duncan paused for effect. “Fat Barbie.”