Authors: Sigmund Brouwer
Copyright Â© 2008 Sigmund Brouwer
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording or by any information storage
and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission
in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Brouwer, Sigmund, 1959-
Maverick mania / written by Sigmund Brouwer.
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8553.R68467M4 2008 Â Â Â jC813'.54 Â Â Â C2008-903023-0
: The disappearance of his soccer team's leading scorer
during the championship finals leads sixteen-year-old Matt
to investigate and entangles him in a possible kidnapping.
First published in the United States, 2008
Library of Congress Control Number
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Fourteen minutes into the first half of our soccer game, a big blond-haired woman interrupted play. Wearing a loose Nike track-suit, she ran from the stands onto the field, screaming and waving her arms above her head.
She was being chased by a man with a shaved head who wore a white T-shirt, a red Scottish kilt and hiking boots. And if all that wasn't bad enough, there was the fact that I knew the man.
He was my dad. And he was trying to yell something over the woman's screaming.
I sighed, spun around and kicked the ball out-of-bounds to stop the play. It probably wouldn't have mattered. Nobody on the field was thinking soccer anymore, not even the referee. He didn't even bother to blow his whistle. He just stared at the screaming woman.
As for her, she ran like a blind cat with its tail on fire. One of the players from Almont Highâour opponentâwas a little slow getting out of her way. I think he simply couldn't believe his eyes. It wasn't until she hit him with a beefy shoulder that he knew it was for real. She sent him tumbling like a bowling pin. Everyone else suddenly decided it was a good idea to make plenty of room for her.
Trouble was, she didn't run in a straight line.
I once saw something like it on a televised rodeo. A bull lumbered around in all directions and ran at the rodeo clowns, who were trying to distract it from the fallen cowboy.
Just like the bull, this running, screaming woman with flailing arms seemed to aim at the players, who dodged and ducked in different directions so she wouldn't run them over.
And behind her, my dad kept chasing and yelling, with his Scottish kilt flapping around his knees. There were about two hundred fans watching this game, and they were on their feet screaming too, so it was hard to hear my dad.
The big blond woman in the Nike track-suit stampeded toward my side of the field. As she got closer to me, so did my dad.
I finally heard what he was yelling.
“It's only Larry!” he shouted. “It's only Larry! Slow down! It's only Larry!”
She didn't listen to him. She rumbled past me like a freight train as players wisely scattered.
“Hi, Matt,” Dad said, slowing down as he got near me. “Keep up the great work.”
“Sure, Dad,” I said. Dad's left eye was red and puffy. I didn't get a chance to ask him about it before he picked up speed again.
“Uh-oh. Watch out!” he yelled.
I followed his eyes. The woman had turned around and was headed right back at us, still screaming and waving her arms.
I dove one way. Dad dove another way.
She brushed between us and kept on running, arms in the air, high-pitched voice hollering. On my knees, I watched as Dad got up and began to chase her again.
“It's only Larry!” he shouted at her broad back. “It's only Larry!”
I shook my head sadly. This was just another day in the Carr family.
Let me explain my family this way: Dad has a zoo. Mom calls the police at least every ten minutes. My sister surfs in her bedroom. And I'm a sweeper.
But I'm the normal one. Sweeper is the position I play on the Thurber High School soccer team here in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The way I explain it to people who don't know much about soccer is that I'm like a free safety in football. Our team plays a 4-3-3 formation, with four defenders,
three midfielders and three forwards. I'm the fourth defender, the last guy between the other team and our goalie.
Other things about me: I'm sixteen. My brown hair is not too long, not too short. I don't have a pierced nose or eyebrow or lip. I'm not tall. I'm not short. I wear the kind of clothes that make me look like part of a crowd. I make everybody call me Matt, but my real name is Teague, which is Celtic and means “man of poetry.” Just so you get a picture of what I've had to put up with my entire life, there is not a single Celtic person in either my mom's or my dad's entire family history; they just liked the name because it was different. I don't like different. My goal in life, besides playing in the national championship game, is to be normalâunlike the rest of my family.
Mom is a dispatcher for the local police. She's the one who takes incoming calls and radios the messages to the officers in their cars. She applied for the job because she has always dreamed of being a detective, and she's a mystery freak. One entire room
of our house is filled with stacks of mystery books. She admits that at forty years oldâI know she's lying by three yearsâshe might be too old to become a detective. But she says a person should never stop dreaming. Right now, working as a police dispatcher is the closest thing she can find to reaching her dream.
My sister, Leontine, is fourteen and skinny with bony hips. She wears black everything and actually likes her name and tells everyone it means “brave as a lion.” Leontine is an Internet junkie. She surfs the web every possible minute from the souped-up computer in her bedroom. And she has orange-and-purple spiked hair.
Mom, who still wears hippie clothes from the 1970s, and Dad, who shaved his head because he was losing his hair anyway, both keep telling me that it's what's inside a person that matters. I agree with them in one wayâLeontine is a great sister. But in another way, I wish my family could be more like everyone else's. When we walk into church together every Sundayâlate,
of courseâI would love it if just once people didn't whisper among themselves as we passed them.
And Dad? He's a sixth-grade science teacher. His students think he's coolâpartly because of the earring he wears, partly because he's not afraid of what people think about him. (He plays the bagpipes and wears a kilt when he feels like it, and he isn't even Scottish.) But mostly they think he's cool because he's a great guy who respects his students; he never treats them like little kids.
There's one other reason they like him: his classroom zoo. He's got parrots, a possum and two iguanas in cages; budgies that fly around while he teaches; and a bunch of piranhas in an aquarium.
What Dad is most proud of, though, is his three-year-old boa constrictor. The snake is six feet long, and Dad says it will someday grow to as long as twenty-five feet. Everyone in the school likes the snake.
Well, everybody except for Freddy, the school janitor. Freddy is terrified of snakes.
Even though the boa constrictor lives in a glass cage, Freddy will not step into Dad's classroom to clean unless Dad has taken the snake away.
So, every Friday after school, Dad puts the boa constrictor in a gym bag and takes him out of the classroom for a few hours. This gives Freddy the chance to do his janitor duties.
It was Friday afternoon and, with the final bell, the beginning of spring break. It was also the first day of a weeklong high school soccer tournament. Dad stopped by on his way home from school to watch my team's first game. He must have taken the gym bag containing the boa constrictor into the stands with him.
Did I mention yet that the snake's name is Larry?
“I thought for sure that Larry would sleep through the game,” Dad said that night at the supper table. “He's only active when he's hungry, and we fed him a mouse on Wednesday. A big mouse too. It must have taken Larry about an hour to swallow it.
“I'll never cease to be amazed,” he continued, “by how Larry eats. He always positions the mouse headfirst, so it looks like the mouse is diving into his mouth.
Then he swallows, slowly. The last thing you see is the mouse's little tail disappearingâthe kids really get into watching that. Then itâ”
“Dad?” I said. We were eating spaghetti with meatballs, long strands of spaghetti that slurped down like mouse tails. I didn't need to be reminded of what I had seen plenty of times. After Larry managed to gulp the mouse whole, the mouse's body slowly moved down the inside of the snake like a tennis ball. Or like a big meatball.
“Yes, Matt?” Dad's left eye was swollen nearly closed. A great big shiner was already starting to show.
“Nothing,” I said. He wouldn't understand why I wasn't hungry anymore. I pushed my plate aside.
“Not going to finish?” Leontine asked me.
She didn't wait for my answer before she grabbed my plate.
“Finish your story,” Mom told Dad. “And explain your eye.”
Our dining room faces the front of the house. Most of Lake Havasu City is built on the side of a low desert mountain that overlooks a valley. Past that you can see a desert mountain range. At the bottom of the valley is Lake Havasu, long and skinny. It runs down the valley for nearly thirty miles. From the table, we had a great view of the reds and browns of the opposite mountains and the incredibly clear desert sky as it began to turn purple with the approach of evening.
I concentrated on the view. I didn't want to remember the rest of the story. What I hadn't seen I'd already heard as Dad drove me home from the game.
“Well,” Dad said, grinning. Low sunlight from the setting sun bounced off his bald head. “It's probably more Matt's fault than mine.”
“What!” I said. “My fault?”
Mom smiled back at Dad. Sometimes it makes me sick how often they give each other goo-goo eyes. Mom's still pretty,
I guess. She has long black hair, deep brown eyes and high cheekbones. Her family is from Mexico. My folks met while Dad was going to college in Los Angeles. I got my dark looks from Mom; Leontine got her looks from Dad's side, the family that came from Norway a couple of generations ago.
“Sure,” Dad answered me. “Your fault.”
He explained to Mom and Leontine. “Matt was playing such great soccer that I forgot all about Larry, who wasn't as asleep as I thought. Next thing I knew, I saw Larry exploring the loose folds of this woman's sweat jacket.”
“She was a big woman,” I explained, unable to resist. “Just huge. With a really big tracksuit. Lots of folds.”
“The woman was sitting in the stands below you, right?” Leontine said, sucking in a strand of spaghetti like a disappearing mouse tail.
“Exactly,” Dad answered. “Larry nosed under the bottom edge of her jacket, so I thought I'd better grab him before he went
any farther. I lifted the back of her jacket just as Larry touched her back. She thought it was me. After all, I was leaning down and reaching toward her.”