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It's pretty creepy when some stranger follows you, spies on you, and tries to discover the deep, dark, half-cool, half-rotten secret that only your two closest friends in the world know about. It's even creepier when it happens three times in one day.
It all started Monday morning, when Mookie and I were walking to school. He'd stayed over that weekend because his parents had won a free dinner at a restaurant in Vermont. Since we lived in New Jersey, it took them a while to get up there.
"I hope they bring me maple syrup," Mookie said as we headed out the door. "It's not just good for pancakes, you know. It's awesome on everything. Even chicken wings."
"I think I'd pick hot sauce," I said. "Not that I'll ever eat wings again."
Food didn't play a big part in my life— or death— these days. Anything I swallowed just stayed in my stomach and slowly rotted.
"Hey, there's no law that says you have to stick with one sauce. You can mix them. That's half the fun. Chocolate syrup and mustard are awesome on pretzels. I'd bet maple syrup and hot sauce would be great together. Sweet and spicy—yummmm."
He closed his eyes, spun around, and made chewing sounds. The chews turned into a "gaaaahhh!" when he tripped on his laces. The "gaaaahhh!" ended with a crash as he slammed into a couple metal garbage cans at the end of a driveway, spilling out a mess of leftover food, crumpled paper, and these large gray lumps that might have been cat litter.
I went to help put the garbage back. That stuff doesn't bother me. I can stick my face three inches from the grossest pile of week-old road kill without feeling a quiver in my gut.
Mookie had a pretty strong stomach, too. I'd seen him eat things that would make a cockroach puke. Once, he chomped down on a pickle he'd coated with strawberry jelly and dipped in crumbled fish sticks, just to gross out some girls at another lunch table.
But this stuff was making him gag. So I took care of the mess while he stood next to me and talked about the weirder and sloppier pieces.
"Whoa, that looks like a pig intestines."
"I really hope that's just chocolate pudding."
"Ick—who'd throw away that much oatmeal?"
"Oh, man— I think that's a diaper."
I finished up, then wiped my hands in the grass. "That's weird," Mookie said as he put the lids on the cans. "I don't remember that bush."
"By the blue house." He pointed back the way we'd come. "See that bush by the corner? It wasn't there before."
"So what. Maybe it's new. People are always planting things around here. Come on. Let's get going."
Mookie kept glancing over his shoulder as we walked. "Ever feel like you're being followed?"
"Only when you're behind me." I grabbed his arm and yanked him toward the school. Mookie got distracted pretty easily. Walking with him usually meant I did a lot of waiting up. Or backing up. Or grabbing and yanking. And a bit of picking up, since this wasn't the first time in his life he'd crashed into stuff. I figure he wipes out about five garbage cans on an average week. If people ever turned into objects, Mookie would become a bowling ball.
"No, not like that. I mean secretly followed, like by someone who doesn't want you to know he's there." He turned around again. "Whoa!"
"What?" I really didn't want to stand around talking.
We were going to be late for school if he kept this up.
He grabbed my shoulder. "The bush moved."
"Knock it off."
"Really," Mookie said. "Seriously. I think it's following us."
"Bushes don't move."
"Right. And dead kids don't walk."
Okay, he had a point there. You could sort of call me dead. Or half-dead. I'd accidentally gotten splashed with a whole jar of Hurt-Be-Gone by my friend Abigail's crazy uncle Zardo.
The formula was supposed to remove bad feelings. The problem was, he'd used one wrong ingredient. Yeah— just one. But it was enough to change my life, big time.
Now, I didn't have a pulse or heartbeat. I didn't feel pain. I didn't need to breathe. But I could walk, talk, and think. It's not as bad as it sounds. I could do some pretty cool things. Maybe even some brave things.
Mookie liked to call me a zombie. I didn't totally agree with that, but I definitely couldn't explain how I was able to pass for a living kid. If I could walk, I guess a bush could move. I turned and looked.
The bush was less than a block away. I stared at it, waiting to see if it would move again. It just sat there, quivering in the light breeze. But there was no doubt it had moved. Mookie was right. We were being followed.
Excerpted from Dead Guy Spy by David Lubar.
Copyright 2010 by David Lubar.
Published in January 2010 by A Tom Doherty Associates Book.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.