Read Roller Hockey Radicals Online
Authors: Matt Christopher
Copyright © 1998 by Catherine M. Christopher
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First eBook Edition: December 2009
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similiarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental
and not intended by the author.
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The #1 Sports Series for Kids: MATT CHRISTOPHER
irby Childs wiped the sweat off his brow, sweeping his straw-blond hair off his forehead. He pushed his glasses back onto
the bridge of his nose and stared up and down his new block at the green lawns and tall trees.
The lawns, the trees… even the houses were big here in Valemont. Not like in Minford, where he and his family had lived until
the day before yesterday. There, the houses scrunched up next to each other on narrow lots. Some were even attached on one
Back in Minford, you could sit on your front stoop and watch tons of cars and people and taxis and buses go by. There were
store windows to look at right on Kirby’s own block, and
lots of kids who lived close enough to visit on foot.
Here, if he ever found a friend, the kid would probably live a mile away, and he’d have to beg his mom to drive him over for
a “play date.” Kirby hated that expression: play date.
“Mom!” Kirby shouted, knowing she could hear him through the screen door. She was unpacking boxes in the dining room.
“What is it, honey?” his mother’s tired but cheerful voice rang out.
“Could you bring me a lemonade or a soda or something?”
There was a distinct moment of silence, then, “Kirby, I’m working very hard. You can get up and get your own drink. And if
you’re bored, I could use some muscle power.”
Kirby got up and went inside, dragging his feet with every step. Why did it have to be so hot? Why weren’t there any kids
around here? It was the end of June, and school had just gotten out.
have gone off to summer camp, could they?
That’s where his mom had said they’d gone. She’d been to Valemont a lot over the past couple of weeks, and she’d met the neighbors
and everything. She said they were very nice, but all their kids were in camp or visiting relatives. Stuff like that.
Kirby’s mom had her head buried in a box and was fishing things out onto the dining room floor. He went past her and into
the kitchen. He knew he shouldn’t have asked her to get him a drink. He knew he should be helping her. But why did they have
to come here to Valemont, anyway? What was so wrong with Minford?
He poured himself a lemonade and started wandering back toward the dining room. Catching sight of himself in the hallway mirror,
Kirby paused to fix his hair and his glasses — which were hanging crooked, as usual.
Kirby wished he were taller. He was thirteen,
but everyone said he looked eleven. He was too skinny, and his dad was always telling him to stand up straight. Kirby tried
it in the mirror. He still looked short, no matter what. His parents kept telling him he was going to start his “growth spurt”
anytime now. Kirby sure wished that time would come soon. He was tired of being made fun of.
An idea hit him, and Kirby went back and got his mom a lemonade, too. “Here, Mom,” he said, handing it to her.
His mom took it and gave him a big smile. Kirby thought his mother was one of the prettiest ladies he’d ever seen. She kind
of hid it, the way she dressed and didn’t use makeup. But she couldn’t hide her huge blue eyes and her blond hair. Kirby had
the same hair, but he didn’t like it on him. It was girl’s hair, all the way.
“Thanks,” his mom said. “Now, that’s what I call help!”
“When is Dad getting home?” Kirby sat down
on the floor next to her and took a gulp of lemonade.
“Not for another couple of hours. Daddy’s an executive now. They have to work long hours sometimes.”
“I know. You already told me. Does that mean he’s going to be home late for dinner every night?”
“Of course not, Kirby. But sometimes, yes.”
Kirby’s mom had worked as a therapist in Minford. She was going to work here in Valemont, too, eventually. But first she had
to get a bunch of new clients. In the meantime, she’d be around a lot. But Kirby knew she’d be too busy fixing up the house
to pay much attention to him.
“Whatcha thinking?” she asked him, giving him that penetrating look of hers. Sometimes Kirby wished his mom wasn’t a therapist.
Maybe then she wouldn’t be so interested in what he was thinking and feeling all the time.
“How come all the kids here go to camp?” he asked.
“Oh, so that’s it. I kinda figured.” His mom put an arm around his shoulders and gave him a squeeze. “You’ll get to know people
sooner or later. It’s just going to be tough for a little while until you do.”
“You know, it might do you good to get some physical activity, honey.”
Kirby rolled his eyes. “It’s too hot, Mom,” he said.
“Well, it’s going to be hot all summer, so if that’s your excuse, you might as well go to bed now and stay there till school
starts,” his mom joked.
“What am I supposed to do?” Kirby complained.
“You’re a good athlete,” his mom replied. “Maybe there’s a ball game going on somewhere.”
“Baseball takes eighteen kids, Mom,” Kirby reminded her.
“How about basketball?”
“Not my sport,” Kirby shot back. “Maybe after my growth spurt.”
His mom had to laugh at that one. “A natural-born comedian,” she said, shaking her head. “Okay, how about tennis? They have
some good courts down by the park.”
Kirby sighed. “Tennis is okay, but I feel stupid going over there and waiting around to find someone to play with. It’s kind
of pathetic, you know?”
“Mmmm,” his mom said, nodding. “I guess I can understand the feeling. It must be hard, being the only kid around and not knowing
anybody. But you know, if you get on your bike and take a ride around, you never know who or what you might find.”
“My bike’s at the store back in Minford, getting fixed, remember?” Kirby said.
“Oh, no — that’s right!” his mother recalled. “I’m sorry, honey. I forgot to pick it up. I’ll have to go back over the weekend
and get it. But hey — what about your skates? You could explore that way.”
Kirby thought about it for a minute. He didn’t
really feel like putting out all that energy for nothing. But he guessed it was better than hanging around and risking being
put to work. “Okay,” he said. “Where are they?”
“In the big box in the garage,” she told him. “Have fun, okay? Stick to the sidewalks and be back by suppertime.”
“I will,” Kirby assured her on his way out the door. “I’ll probably just go around the block a few times.”
But as he headed up the driveway, he spied a Valemont street map on the front seat of the car. Might as well take that along,
he thought. Maybe I’ll find some kids in one of these other neighborhoods. Reaching through the open car window, he grabbed
the map and tucked it into his pocket.
He went into the garage and found his skates, then sat there in the cool stillness lacing them up and putting on all his protective
gear: helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, wrist guards. Then he opened the garage door with the neat electronic
opener (there were
things that were better here) and skated off down the block.
It was true what his mom had said, he reflected as he pumped his legs to gain speed. He was a good all-around athlete. He
figured that if Valemont was like Minford, where the people you played sports with were the ones you hung out with, too, he’d
wind up having enough friends eventually.
The problem was this summer. It was going to feel like forever unless he found somebody to do things with.
After checking the map, he headed in the direction of downtown, which was about two miles away. Avoiding the main road, he
went past block after block of big, stately homes. Many of them had swing sets in the backyards, but he didn’t see a kid over
five on any of them. Nobody was biking in the street, or skating, or playing basketball in their driveway, or taking their
dog for a walk.
Maybe my folks will let me have a dog now that
we live here, he thought. Then he remembered his dad’s allergy to animal fur. Kirby might be able to talk him into getting
a fish or a parakeet, but that wasn’t the same as having a dog, now, was it?
About halfway downtown, Kirby passed a row of small stores. In front of one, a grocery, two boys were sitting on the curb,
drinking sodas. One was wearing mirrored sunglasses and had headphones on, connected to a CD player strapped to his belt.
He was nodding to the music. The other was bareheaded, with a buzz cut. He was looking up and down the street, squinting in
the bright sunlight. They seemed to be a year or two older than Kirby, but he figured he’d try introducing himself anyway.
After all, it looked like they were the only three kids in town. Kirby skated over and said “Hey” to the buzz cut.
Bad idea. The kid just looked Kirby up and down, chewing like he had gum in his mouth, then turned his head and spat on the
“Geek,” he muttered, and jabbed his pal in the arm.
The kid in shades looked up at Kirby and kept looking at him, not moving, not smiling.
Kirby backed off. “Never mind,” he said. “Forget it.”
“Forget what, geek?” Buzz Cut called after him. Kirby ignored him, and went on skating toward downtown.
Great, he thought. If everyone in Valemont is as friendly as those two, I’m going to be Mr. Popularity.
He thought about turning around and going back home, but he wanted to be able to say to his mom, “I looked everywhere, and
there was nobody.” Besides, if he turned back now, he’d have to pass by those two again.
Thanks, but no thanks, he said to himself.
As he passed the corner of E Street, he was thinking it was only ten more blocks to the town square. There was an air-conditioned
sandwich shop there. He remembered it from the day
they’d come looking at houses. He could go there and cool off, maybe get an ice cream soda or something.
He was fishing in his pockets to see if he’d brought any money with him when he heard a boy’s voice to his right shouting,
“He shoots… he scores!”
Kirby turned and felt his heart leap — there, in the middle of E Street, about half a block away, was a bunch of kids playing
hockey on skates!
Like a wanderer in the desert who sees an oasis of cool water, Kirby raced toward them, hoping they weren’t a mirage.
hoot the puck! Shoot the puck!”
Kirby skated to a halt, a couple of houses short of where the kids were playing, and leaned up against a big old tree.
“Ow!” cried the goalie as the shot struck his mask and ricocheted away.
“Aw, come on — that’s what masks are for,” the shooter called out.
“You try it,” the goalie replied. He whipped off his mask and offered it to the shooter. Billowing brown hair tumbled down
the goalie’s shoulders. “He” was a girl!
“Come on, Lainie,” said one of the other players. “Just stay in goal for a few more minutes.”
“Why can’t I do some shooting and one of you
guys play goalie?” Lainie complained.
“Because,” a third boy explained, “you’re our goalie for the games. If you don’t practice, how are you gonna get better?”
“Well, it’s hot under here.” Lainie put the mask back on. “I hope you all appreciate that.”
They went back to their practice, and Kirby sat down on the curb to watch. There were five of them in all. Two were playing
forward, shooting the puck at Lainie after passing it back and forth between them. Two were on defense, trying to prevent
the first two from getting off a shot.
Lainie stood in front of the net, guarding it with her goalie stick. She was in full getup, with big, flat-fronted leg pads
and arm pads. There was plastic armor under her white uniform, which had a red number 1 on it. And of course, there was the
big monster mask that protected her head and face, and hid the fact that she was a girl. No wonder she was too hot.
Lainie was tall — kind of cute, Kirby thought,
but also kind of tough. He thought she was pretty cool, too — stopping all those shots the guys were firing at her. Back in
Minford, none of the girls played any sports with the boys. Not once they were ten or eleven, anyway. But Lainie, taller than
any of the boys, was stopping most of their shots without much of a problem. She was definitely an athlete, Kirby decided.