by Edward Bloor
How It All Goes Down
Paul Fisher's got a weird obsession with zombies. Or at least, he sure seems to. He and his family are moving from Houston to Tangerine County, Florida, and all he can think about is how his old house reminds him of an empty zombie tomb. Dude's got some real fond memories of his childhood home, there.
Actually, Paul has good reason to get the heebie-jeebies as he bids farewell to his old stomping grounds. Something bad happened to him there. Something really bad. But try as he might, Paul can't remember what it was. All he knows is that it has something to do with the crazy thick glasses he has to wear. It also has something to do with his big brother, Erik.
Paul eases up on the zombie references once he starts school in Florida, because he's got something much more important, and much less creepy, on his mind—specifically, soccer. It's not all orange slices and juice boxes, though, because even though he's got some mad goalie skills, his mom and dad don't even seem to notice. They're both obsessed with big brother Erik's unbelievable placekicking chops. Football trumps soccer in the Fisher fam, so Paul's outta luck.
As if always coming in second isn't bad enough, one day, a huge sinkhole opens up underneath Paul's middle school, and half of the school buildings collapse into the earth. Mr. and Mrs. Fisher decide to transfer Paul to the school across town (well, thank goodness! At least they care enough about him to get him away from the gigantic sinkhole!), where he immediately gravitates to the soccer team. He ends up becoming such good buds with them all that he even chips in and pulls an all-nighter to help his new friend Tino save his family's tangerine grove from a freeze. (Mmmm, tangerine slushees!)
Unfortunately, Erik continues to mess things up for Paul. Not only is he mommy and daddy's pwecious bay-bee, but he's also an A-number one jerk. When Tino comes over to hang out with Paul one afternoon, Erik hits him so hard that Paul is initially worried he's dead. When Tino's older brother Luis finds Erik later to tell him exactly what he thinks of him, Erik gets his goon to knock Luis in the head with a blackjack, which, a few days later, actually does kill him.
The violence continues when Tino comes after Erik at a game for revenge. This time, Paul gets involved, too, attacking a coach so Tino can make his getaway. Erik confronts Paul afterwards, and his actions finally jog Paul's memories of that terrible childhood event—when Paul was in kindergarten, Erik and a buddy had held his eyelids open and coated his eyes in spray paint. Wow—can you say evil?
Erik finally gets what's coming to him when he's caught stealing from the neighbors, and Paul seals the deal by telling the cops about his involvement in Luis's death. Paul has to face the consequences of his own actions, too, and is expelled from his school for fighting with that coach.
But even with a criminal for a brother and a school expulsion on his record, Paul has never been happier. The kids at his old school think he's the man, and his parents are finally starting to pay attention to him, too. The zombies are long gone. Bring on the juice boxes!