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!
- We first meet Paul Fisher as he and his mom are tossing out the last bag of trash at their old house in Houston.
- They are moving to Tangerine County, Florida, and Paul's dad and brother are already waiting for them there. Real considerate of them to leave all the heavy cleaning to mom and little bro, right?
- As Mrs. Fisher looks around the house one last time, Paul lugs the trash bag to the car, and then takes a breather, staring off into the sunrise. Whoa, dude, didn't anyone ever tell you not to stare directly at the sun?
- It turns out someone has. His older brother Erik told him his glasses were so thick, that if he looked at the sun through them, his eyes would spontaneously combust. Sounds like a nice guy, that Erik.
- All this thinking about his jerk of a brother and looking around his neighborhood triggers an old memory…flashback alert!
- Paul remembers riding his bike down this street as a little kid, and being startled by a guy in a ski mask suddenly driving up behind him.
- The creepy masked guy chases poor little Paul, waving a metal baseball bat out the window. Whaaaat?
- Mini-Paul is in a panic, but manages to dodge right as the bad guy smashes his mailbox in with the bat.
- Now here comes the really weird part. Paul runs inside to his parents, hysterically crying, and insists that it was Erik, his brother, trying to kill him.
- His parents are baffled, and simply point at Erik, doing his homework at the dining room table.
- They blame it on his bad eyesight. But we start to get the feeling there's more than meets the eye to Erik.
- Flashback successfully completed, Paul realizes his mom is talking to him.
- She's found a cigarette butt in the garage, and wants to know if Paul knows anything about it. Oooooh, somebody's gonna get busted!
- Or not. He doesn't know where it came from, so they lock the door and drive away.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Friday, August 18
- The 800-mile road trip is pretty boring until Paul and his mom start passing farm after farm in Florida.
- Paul is totally into this whole new agriculture thing, and so he's really bummed out when they pass a humongous bonfire of citrus trees.
- His mom explains that they're clearing the land to make room for more neighborhood developments, like the one where their own new house is. That doesn't do much to improve his mood.
- They drive past a couple of these new, expensive, gated communities and finally enter their own, Lake Windsor Downs (sounds classy), and pull up to their new home. Its white color and aqua trim remind Paul of a Miami Dolphins football helmet.
- Paul's dad and brother, Erik, are waiting for them, but Erik seems to care more about stuffing his face with pizza than saying hi. Dude, you haven't seen your mom in two weeks! Give her a hug, for Pete's sake!
- Mr. Fisher fills them in on what they've been doing. His new boss, Old Charley Burns, is apparently never actually in the office, and has told him that he can make his own hours, too. Sweet!
- That'll allow Mr. Fisher to go to Erik's football practice every day, so he's excited, and starts gushing about all the great opportunities Erik will have playing high school football here.
- Paul, on the other hand, is bummed again. He hates it when his dad starts into what he calls the "Erik Fisher Football Dream"
- He goes up to his new room to do some unpacking, and is furious when he sees the movers have mistakenly put a box of Erik's football trophies there.
- He writes in his journal until late, and then goes to sleep—only to be woken almost instantly by Erik pounding down the stairs and peeling out of the driveway with his new friends.
Part 1, Chapter 2
Saturday, August 19
- BOOM! An explosion wakes Paul up in the middle of the night!
- Okay, turns out it was just lightning, so no biggie.
- Or is it a big deal after all? When he wakes up the next morning, Paul smells smoke.
- He gets his mom, and they run around looking for any sign of a fire.
- Mrs. Fisher finally calls 911, and twenty minutes later, a high-schooler in cut-offs shows up driving the fire engine. Okaaaay…..
- His name is Wayne, and he's a volunteer for the Tangerine Fire Department. And he's pretty chill, considering the fact that there's a fire somewhere!
- Oh, that's why he's so laid back. He explains that the smoke is coming from the muck fire in the field behind the development's wall. Duh!
- Wait, what? What in the world is a muck fire? Wayne tells them that the field's full of lignite, which is extremely flammable. The muck fire is always burning, and has been for as long as he can remember, but the lightning strike the night before must have stirred it up. There's no way to put it out. Like, ever.
- Mrs. Fisher is shocked and horrified, and threatens to complain to the Homeowner's Association about it.
- Wayne laughs and explains that they already know about it. He suggests that the Fishers learn to live with it, like everyone else does when they find out about it, and drives off, waving happily. Party on, Wayne
Part 1, Chapter 3
Saturday, August 19, later
- Another thunderstorm hits. Seriously? This time it knocks out the power in Paul's house for a few seconds.
- Paul decides, after helping his mom reset all the clocks in the house, to go for a bike ride in his new neighborhood.
- As he rides around through the dusty white sand of new construction, he passes the community's pretentious model homes and watches a brand-new house get an instantly lush, sod-square lawn (not at all like this one).
- Finally, he reaches the ornate guardhouse at the entrance, and the perfectly circular pond nearby. Sensing a theme here?
- He pedals back to his house to find his mom speaking with Mr. Costello, the president of the Homeowners' Association, who tells him that that lovely man-made pond is full of expensive koi, flown in from Atlanta. This place is so fancy, even their wildlife is imported!
- Just then, Mr. Fisher and Erik show up and start talking football with Mr. Costello. As it turns out, he has a son on the football team as well, so he goes to get him.
- Everyone gathers in the Fishers' "great room" to chat and meet Mike, Mr. Costello's son.
- He's a pretty cool guy, and it looks like he'll be the one holding the ball for the placekicker—who will be none other than… (trumpet fanfare) the amazing Erik!
- Paul knows this means poor Mike won't be getting much football glory, being in Erik's shadow, but Mike seems okay with that—he's already been accepted into college, and doesn't need to rely on a future in football as much as Erik does.
- Paul is worried, though, that this might change, once Mike gets caught up in the Erik Fisher Football Dream. (We aren't sure why this reminds us of Sharkboy, but it does.)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Monday, August 21
- Overnight, Paul's been thinking about how his family is going to change things in this new town. His dad will be making changes at his job with the county civil engineering department, his mom will be changing things in their Homeowners' Association, and Erik will change the football season for his high school.
- So, now Paul wonders, will he be making a difference somewhere, too? Like maybe on his middle school's soccer team?
- As he goes down to breakfast, his dad is just leaving, furiously lecturing Mrs. Fisher on his way out.
- He's not happy about the way Wayne handled her 911 call, and wants her to complain.
- When Paul leaps to Wayne's defense, his dad snaps at him and leaves. Someone sure got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning,
- After breakfast, Paul helps his mom continue to unpack. She tells him that a bunch of their stuff is in a storage unit now, since their new house doesn't have an attic or basement. Hey, less stuff to unpack!
- Later, Paul and his mom drive out to Lake Windsor Middle School to get Paul registered.
- It starts to rain (again) as they step into the school's office. Paul notices a field full of portables, connected by wooden walkways, outside the office window, and is told that all 7th and 8th grade classes are held in them. The main building is only for 6th graders. Talk about unfair!
- The lady explaining this is Mrs. Gates, the principal. Paul's mom tells her that Paul's vision is impaired, so she wants to give him a head start on learning his way around the school.
- Hm, we didn't realize his eyes were so bad.
- And maybe they're not. Paul gets mad at his mom for drawing attention to his vision, and insists he can see fine.
- Mrs. Gates takes them on the tour regardless, and Mrs. Fisher is less than impressed with the facilities.
- Paul asks about the soccer team, telling Mrs. Gates that he plays goalie. So, his eyes can't possibly be that bad.
- But Mrs. Gates has Mrs. Fisher fill out an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for Paul anyway, so the school can keep track of his special needs.
- As they drive away in the pouring rain, they notice that the field where the portables are has completely flooded. Tangerine sure is a strange place.
Part 1, Chapter 5
Wednesday, August 23
- The whole fam turns out for the high school football tryout camp. Erik doesn't need to try out—he has such mad placekicking skills that he's already guaranteed a spot. But he's there anyway.
- Paul notices a bird flying overhead, and recognizes it as an osprey.
- So if he can identify a bird from that far away, he must be able to see all right after all.
- Mr. Fisher and Coach Warner start talking about the team. Antoine Thomas is the name of the star quarterback, but the coach is really counting on Erik to give the team a boost.
- As Paul listens, he thinks about why he prefers soccer to football. He doesn't think it's fair that "some guy like Erik who hasn't even worked up a sweat can come in and grab all the glory" (1.5.12).
- He also remembers how his dad wasn't really into sports until Erik started getting good at placekicking. Since then, though, he's been obsessed. With football. And Erik.
- Mrs. Fisher notices storm clouds gathering (so what's new?) and hurries Paul to the car, so he won't get soaked. She's pretty upset that they're holding football tryouts and practices during the afternoons, since that seems to be thunderstorm time every day.
- Paul thinks the rain clouds are mad, because they can't find the tangerine trees they used to rain on. So now they dump their rain on people instead, out of spite. Hmmm, interesting theory…
- The rain stops, and Paul sees a group of kids playing soccer nearby. One of them is Joey Costello, Mike's younger brother. Paul joins them, and they kick the ball around a little. They're not very good players, so he thinks he has a pretty good chance of playing goalie for the team—and of making a difference.
Part 1, Chapter 6
Monday, August 28
- First day of school! As Paul is walking next to the community's wall towards the bus stop, something about the scene brings on…another flashback!
- Paul remembers standing in line at a bus stop as a kindergartener, with a 5th grade Erik and his friends making fun of him. Erik is telling everyone that Paul looked at the sun during that summer's eclipse, and that's why he has to wear super-thick glasses. He calls him Eclipse Boy. Poor little Paul goes along with the story, because he can't actually remember what happened to his eyes.
- Flashback over, Paul gets in line at his new bus stop. He sees his new friend Joey Costello, and they chat till the bus comes.
- Looking through his school information packet on the bus, he sees that vision-impaired students are to report to the office before class.
- He decides to ignore that, though, and heads first to homeroom, and then to science.
- In science, Mr. Murrow, the guidance counselor, sends for him. He tells Paul that, based on his IEP, a fellow student, Kerri Gardner, has been assigned to guide him around campus until he learns his way around.
- Paul insists that he can see fine, so Mr. Murrow offers a compromise—Kerri can just show him around for today.
- Once they get back to the portable, though, Paul tells Kerri he really doesn't need help. Like, seriously. Really. As in, go away now.
- She's all, what's up with the crazy thick glasses, then? And he says…ummm, I had an accident. In other words, he doesn't tell her the eclipse story that he used to whip out.
- Kerri's stoked that she can get a free day out of this, so she's cool with it, and leaves Paul alone to wonder why he didn't tell her about the eclipse, and why he can't remember what actually happened to him.
Part 1, Chapter 7
Wednesday, August 30
- Paul is up in his room, listening to Erik and his new bud, Arthur Bauer, practice place-kicking in the backyard.
- Arthur's sister, Paige, and his girlfriend, Tina, are out there too, doing homework.
- Arthur is becoming Erik's flunky—he's trying to worm his way into Mike Costello's job of holder on placekicks, and Paul can see that he'd do pretty much anything to get it.
- One thing he does is take Erik mud-running in his Land Cruiser, on the dirt road behind the development's wall.
- Because Erik Fisher doesn't drive. Erik Fisher is driven. As Paul puts it, "Tell me that isn't strange" (1.7.10).
Part 1, Chapter 8
Thursday, August 31
- Prescription astronaut goggles. Yup, Paul's got 'em. He's going to wear them to soccer tryouts tomorrow.
- As he goes with his mom to stow some stuff in their storage unit, she points out all the paint-color and mailbox violations on the houses in their development.
- She's been appointed to the Homeowners' Association's Architectural Committee, and is totally digging the job.
- Paul thinks she's going overboard, but she explains to him that she never lived in a nice house growing up, and she just wants to protect their family's investment.
- When Paul mentions soccer tryouts, she suggests that he call Joey Costello to see if he wants to go running.
- He does just that, and the two guys hit it off as they run.
- Joey shows Paul a house that's been struck by lightning three times. He figures it's probably the safest house in the neighborhood now, statistically.
- Paul has another theory: he thinks the lightning struck them so often because, before construction started on the development, that was the highest ground in the area. The lightning still remembers that, even if the people don't.
- Joey is looking at Paul a little funny by now. (We probably would be, too.) He tells him he's got to go, and that he doesn't think lightning can remember.
- Way to stifle your bud's creativity, Joey!
Part 1, Chapter 9
Friday, September 1
- After class, Paul and Joey head out to the soccer field for tryouts.
- They see Gino Deluca and Tommy Acoso practicing, and Paul realizes that this team will have some great players, after all.
- Coach Walski congratulates everyone on making the team (huh?), and then explains that while they'll all get uniforms and come to practices, only fifteen of them will actually get to go to away games (ohhhh).
- Paul gets his space goggles on and heads over to the goal, where another kid is playing goalie.
- The new team captain, Gino, tells him to move so Paul can try.
- Paul blocks every single shot, and Gino's impressed. Even though the coach didn't see it, he knows he's made it onto the "away" team. Woohoo!
Part 1, Chapter 10
Tuesday, September 5
- Mike Costello is dead.
- What, what?!
- Mike Costello actually died.
- Erik and Arthur pull up to their house after football practice and tell Mrs. Fisher and Paul that Mike was leaning on the goalpost when lightning struck it. It singed off all the hair on the left side of his head, and threw him a few feet into the air.
- The coaches tried CPR, and the ambulance and cops came, but it was too late.
- This is obviously too horrific for words—so why is Arthur fighting back a smile, covering his face with his hand as Erik talks about poor Joey Costello freaking out at the scene while trying to take Mike's shoes off?
- Paul and his mom are in shock—but then Paul hears Erik and Arthur laughing their heads off in the backyard, making fun of Mike's lightning "Mohawk" and Joey's reaction.
- He realizes that they're happy, because they'll actually benefit from Mike's death—more glory for them on the football team.
- These kids are sick.
Part 1, Chapter 11
Wednesday, September 6
- The school doesn't cancel classes, or even football practice, the day after Mike's death. In fact, they don't even mention the death at all. What kind of place is this?
- Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher are furious at each other. Mrs. Fisher thinks they should cancel afternoon football practices and hold them in the mornings instead for safety's sake. (Less lightening in the morning.)
- But Mr. Fisher is in too good with the coach, and doesn't want to "mess up his status" (1.11.6) by speaking out.
- At soccer practice after school, Paul wonders how he would feel if his brother had been the one to die.
- He realizes he'd feel relieved—wow.
- But he'd also feel sorry, because he knows Erik is somehow connected to his eclipse story, and he wouldn't want him to die before he has a chance to find out what really happened.
- Double wow.
Part 1, Chapter 12
Thursday, September 7
- Paul's mom is a woman on a mission. She calls all the football players' parents to get them to complain about the afternoon football practices.
- The principal, coach, and Mr. Fisher finally agree to have a meeting at the Fishers' home that night.
- Twelve parents show up, and the conversation turns to the fact that the koi fish in the pond are dwindling. Okaaaay…
- Mr. Bridges and Coach Warner finally arrive, and tell the group the students will be planting a tree in Mike's memory.
- Mrs. Fisher startles the crowd by suddenly demanding that the principal put a stop to afternoon practices during thunderstorms. Calm down there, Mrs. Fisher.
- Coach Warner steps in, explaining that it would destroy the team if they stopped practicing. The two of them argue for a while, until the coach finally tells Mrs. Fisher that if she wants to remove Erik from the team for safety reasons, he will understand.
- Mr. Fisher is horrified, but Mrs. Fisher won't be deterred, and continues to fight for morning practices.
- Slowly, the other parents come to Mrs. Fisher's defense, until the coach and principal agree to poll all the team parents to see if morning practices would work.
- The meeting breaks up, and Mrs. Fisher heads up to bed, pointedly ignoring Mr. Fisher.
- Oooh, burn!
Part 1, Chapter 13
Friday, September 8
- Paul is playing goalie during practice. The 8th graders in the team call him Mars now because of his goggles, but he's cool with it.
- Gino calls Paul over to the coach, who tells him that, because he has an IEP, he can't be on the soccer team. At all. For insurance reasons. Talk about bad news!
- Paul kneels down on the sideline, takes off his goggles, and starts to cry.
- When his mom comes to pick him up, he lets her know, in no uncertain terms, that she got him kicked off the team by filling out that IEP form.
- She sends his dad to talk to the coach and try to resolve the situation.
- While he's waiting, Paul sees another osprey flying by—this time holding a koi in its mouth.
- His dad returns, explaining that the only compromise the coach is willing to make is to let Paul be the team manager.
- Paul refuses. He wants to play.
- His mom apologizes, and promises never to mention his vision to anyone again. Hm, a bit late for that, MOM.
Part 1, Chapter 14
Friday, September 8, later
- On their way to the public viewing for Mike Costello, Paul notices osprey nests on the electric wires. His dad worries that they might short out the town's power, but Paul thinks they're smart to avoid the smoke of the muck fire.
- Paul and his parents see Mike's body in the casket, and then get in line to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Costello.
- After they express their condolences, Paul talks with Joey a little, before a priest comes in to lead everyone in prayer and speak about Mike for a while.
- Everyone starts leaving, and the Fishers head over to say goodbye to the Costellos. Joey asks Paul if he wants to go to the carnival with him tomorrow to take his mind off the tragedy, while their parents discuss the football meeting they held the other night.
- Kerri Gardner is there, too, and comes over to tell Paul she's heard he's a great soccer player. He can't think of a single thing to say.
- They all drive home in silence.
- This is a kind of a downer of a chapter. Sorry, guys.
Part 1, Chapter 15
Saturday, September 9
- It's Saturday at the Fisher household, so Paul's mom and dad are fighting again.
- She doesn't think it's appropriate to hold football practice on the day of Mike's funeral, but he insists on taking Erik anyway.
- Mrs. Fisher drives Joey and Paul to the carnival, and on the way, they catch the smell of citrus. Joey thinks it's gross, but Paul loves it. Hey, to each his own.
- They pass a cluster of cement houses, and then a defunct tangerine packing plant.
- Paul finds it comforting to finally see something old there, something that has a history.
- They get to the carnival, and Paul notices some kids kicking around a soccer ball.
- Joey nervously hurries him away, explaining that they're from Tangerine Middle School—"real gangstas" (1.15.40).
- They meet up with their friends, and go through a freak show exhibit.
- As Paul exits the dark building, he notices the Tangerine Middle School kids lined up to go in.
- He's been separated from the group, and when he finds them again, they hadn't even noticed he was missing. And Kerri's hanging out with some other guy.
- He's pretty bummed, and can't wait to leave.
- When his mom gets there to take him and Joey home, she is infuriated by the sight of a bunch of kids riding in the back of a pick-up truck. She's worried about their safety.
- Paul is miserable, and feels like he should be in the freak show, too, as Eclipse Boy.
- Well, at least that's better than being Elephant Man.
Part 1, Chapter 16
Monday, September 11
- It's a rainy Monday morning at school, when Paul and his friends get called into Mr. Murrow's office. It turns out Mrs. Gates got a call from the sheriff's department, saying that the freak show exhibit at the carnival had been vandalized by some soccer players.
- Hm. It wasn't them, so it must have been … the kids from Tangerine Middle.
- Mr. Murrow agrees to call Betty Bright, the soccer coach at Tangerine Middle, and ask her to straighten things out.
- As they head back into the rain to the portables, Paul tells Joey that he feels bad ratting those guys out. Joey can't understand why.
- Paul asks him if Kerri's going out with Adam, the guy she was with at the fair. Joey doesn't think so, and starts ragging on Paul.
- Buckle your seatbelts, Shmoopers, because things are about to get crazy:
- There's a loud whooshing sound, and all the rainwater under the portables is sucked towards the back of the field.
- Next, the wooden boards of the walkways start cracking, and the mud underneath starts sliding away in the same direction as the water.
- Teachers start looking out of their portables, and then begin evacuating their students.
- Panic breaks out: the walkways start splintering and portables start moving.
- What's up? Oh, nothing, just a GIANT SINKHOLE opening up under the field.
- Paul realizes his math class is being sucked underground, so without regard for his own safety, he runs to help.
- He and Joey, along with some 8th graders, form a line to help pull each kid out of the hole—while it's still growing.
- With portables crashing all around them, they save the last kids, and then all rush inside.
- Paul tries to clean his mud-caked glasses, but Gino grabs them and does it for him, telling him he's the best goalie in the county, and that they should have bent the rules for him.
- Awww, feeling the love, sinkhole-style!
- The school dispatches the buses early to send everyone home, and kids with broken arms and legs are sent to the office. And then hopefully the hospital.
- Paul gets home, freezing and muddy, and tells his mom about what happened.
Part 1, Chapter 17
Monday, September 11, later
- Lake Windsor Middle School is on the national news. Well, duh! Stuff like this doesn't happen every day.
- Amazingly, not many kids were seriously hurt.
- The local news that night features a geologist from the University of Florida, explaining that above-average amounts of storm runoff (rain) had caused an underground cavern to form and then collapse.
- Paul's dad comes home furious. As a civil engineer for the county, he was immediately hounded by reporters asking how they could have approved a school being built on top of a huge sinkhole.
- His boss, Old Charley Burns, was out of the office, as usual, so Mr. Fisher had to try and deal with the crisis on his own.
- When he couldn't find the geological surveys for the school campus, a reporter confronted him, asking how he could be so ignorant about goings-on in his own office. That did not sit well with Mr. Fisher, to say the least.
- Paul is pretty happy with the day's experiences, though. He's proud that he was brave enough to help. Even though he's still scared of his own brother, he feels like less of a coward now.
Part 1, Chapter 18
Tuesday, September 12
- The local newspaper prints a story on the sinkhole, as well as an announcement of a school meeting for 7th and 8th graders to work out a relocation plan. Ya think?
- Old Charley is back in town, and is taking over the case, which is fine by Mr. Fisher.
- He has declared the main building safe, so 6th graders will return to school on Thursday.
- But of course the field of portables is an official disaster area. And guess what the radius of condemned property includes? Half of the bleachers on the football field. So Erik just lost half his audience. Ha.
Part 1, Chapter 19
Thursday, September 14
- Well, it was only to be expected: Mr. Fisher is the new Director of Civil Engineering for Tangerine County.
- The local news did an investigation on Old Charley, and it turns out that he was corrupt, through and through.
- Builders would pay him under the table, and he'd approve anything they wanted, no matter how unsafe. Great.
- So now Mr. Fisher's pledging to turn it all around.
Part 1, Chapter 20
Friday, September 15
- Paul's family is driving to the school meeting, expecting to hear that it'll be months before school reopens.
- Because of that, Mrs. Fisher has been calling private schools in the area, and hit upon a Catholic school she likes.
- Mr. Fisher wants to hear what Lake Windsor Middle School has to say, first.
- When they arrive at school, Joey is upset that he and Paul didn't get interviewed after they helped save their friends.
- Seriously, they should probably get some kind of reward. At least a pat on the back and a gift certificate to the local ice cream parlor, right?
- Once the meeting is underway, Mrs. Gates explains the new plan: 8th graders will squeeze into the high school, and 7th graders will squeeze into the middle school.
- So far, so good. But the next part of the plan is the kicker—in order to make it work, 6th graders will have school from 7:30 am to 1 pm, and 7th graders from 1:30 pm to 7 pm, until the end of the semester.
- One last thing: 7th graders also have the option of transferring to Tangerine Middle School for the rest of the semester.
- Most parents are students are pretty ticked off, but Paul is ecstatic. He has a chance to start over at a new school without an IEP to ruin his soccer chances.
- He begs his mom and dad, telling his dad he doesn't care if he never pays any attention to him again, if he just lets him go to Tangerine Middle.
- Mr. Fisher doesn't understand, and protests that he does pay equal attention to him and Erik. But the important thing is that he says yes, Paul can transfer. Yippee!!
Part 2, Chapter 1
Monday, September 18
- First day of school! Again!
- Mrs. Fisher doesn't like the look of some kids karate-kicking each other out in front of the school, but Paul tells her to chill.
- She also wants to come in with him, but he nips that in the bud real quick.
- Paul goes into the office to let them know he's transferring from Lake Windsor, and they assign him a guide, Theresa Cruz, for his first day—not because he can't see, but just to be nice.
- Theresa is kind of weird, and doesn't say much all morning.
- Paul notices that the classes at Tangerine middle are pretty much the same as the ones at his old school, but the kids are way tougher.
- Finally, at lunch, Theresa opens up when Paul asks her about the school soccer team.
- Her brother Tino is the star player, but he won't be at practice tomorrow.
- Because he got suspended, along with a bunch of other guys from the team.
- For vandalizing the freak show at the carnival. Ahhh, so we've met Tino before!
- Theresa goes on to explain that the goalie is a girl—and that there are a few other girls on the team, too.
- Paul is flabbergasted, and Theresa is finally getting warmed up, bragging about how great the team is. Turns out they were second in the county last year.
- After lunch, though, she goes back to her quiet self.
- Paul discovers that his language arts teacher is Mrs. Murrow—the Lake Windsor counselor's wife.
- He decides to be as unnoticeable as possible in that class, so she never mentions him to her husband. The last thing he wants is that IEP following him over here.
- After school, Theresa introduces Paul to Betty Bright, the soccer coach.
- She makes him the backup goalie, and he does a killer job during practice.
- Afterwards, he sees the same pick-up truck his mom had gotten mad about at the carnival. It's Theresa's big brother Luis, picking her up from school.
- Paul heads back into the school building, where he meets his mom…coming out of the office!
- Oh, man, Paul starts freaking. She did have to bring his file over from Lake Windsor, after all. There goes soccer. There goes his new start.
- Except…"There is no IEP in your file" (2.1.89) Huh?
- Is this a Jedi mind trick or something? No! Paul's mom tells him his IEP somehow "got lost" on the way to Tangerine Middle.
- Phew! Paul is so relieved that he comes up with another one of his nutty theories. Maybe an osprey took it, and used it to feather its nest.
- This time, his mom agrees with him. But, uh, we're thinking that she may be the one responsible.
Part 2, Chapter 2
Tuesday, September 19
- Theresa is still guiding Paul around today, and they sit together at lunch.
- The soccer team is back from their suspension today, and they come to sit with them.
- This is not as awesome as it sounds. Victor, the team captain, starts razzing on Paul when he finds out he wants to play.
- Paul keeps his cool, though, and banters right along with 'em. Smooth move, man!
- That loosens things up a little, so they tell him all about how they vandalized the freak show.
- After school, Paul has his first soccer practice with the whole team there.
- He gets to play goalie, and makes a crazy-awesome save—only to have Victor come kick it out his hands into the goal.
- Tino tells Victor it doesn't count, and the two of them get into a fight until the coach breaks it up. Well, in any case, practice is over.
- One of the girls on the team, Maya, tells him on his way out that it was a great save, and that Victor's goal wouldn't really have counted anyway.
- As he drives away with his mom, he tells her about the girls on the team. She's impressed. Grrl power!
Part 2, Chapter 3
Wednesday, September 20
- Paul and Joey are comparing their soccer uniforms in Paul's backyard after school. Joey's is brand new, while Paul's has already seen some action.
- They hear Erik and Arthur driving through the mud behind the wall, near the muck fire, which is worse than usual today.
- Unfortunately, the high-schoolers decide to cut through the backyard—on foot—on their way inside.
- But when they see Joey, they start making fun of him. And his dead brother. Can you believe these guys?
- Joey can't quite grasp what they're doing at first, so, once they're gone, Paul reluctantly explains.
- Joey feels like a coward for not standing up to them. Paul tries to cheer him up, but Joey starts crying, and explains that the reason he had been trying to take Mike's shoes off, after he was hit by the lightning, was because that had always made him feel better. He had just wanted to help, but now kids are making fun of him for it.
- Paul tells that Tangerine Middle is awesome, and he should transfer. Maybe he will, Joey says.
Part 2, Chapter 4
Friday, September 22
- Paul gets to play in his first away game today!
- The Tangerine War Eagles ride in an old bus to Palmetto Middle School, whose team—and fans—play pretty nasty.
- Victor gets his guys pumped up, but the Palmetto Whippoorwills are violent, bloodthirsty cheaters—even their fans throw stuff at the War Eagles from the sidelines.
- Paul and his team are better players, though, so even when it starts pouring rain, they keep their cool.
- Well… until Tino gets knocked down, and starts punching the kid who did it in the face.
- The coach drags him off the field, and then puts Paul in for Tino. Not as goalie—as center forward!
- Paul plays fine until he somehow misses the ball on a kick, which gets Victor so screaming mad he's ready to kill him.
- The next time Paul gets a shot at the ball, a Whippoorwill knocks him down, grabs his space goggles, and smears mud into his eyes!
- Poor Paul goes nuts attacking the kid, till the coach drags him off the field, too.
- So he watches from the sidelines as the War Eagles manage to pull off a last-second win, with Victor scoring the winning goal—and cracking heads with the Whippoorwills' goalie at the same time.
- On the bus ride home, Victor apologizes for yelling at him. He was impressed with Paul's guts out there, and tells him he's a real War Eagle now. They're brothers.
Part 2, Chapter 5
Friday, September 22, later
- Joey's transferring to Tangerine Middle!
- Mrs. Gates is scared that his lawyer-day might sue them over Mike's death, so, even though Joey had already resumed classes at Lake Windsor after the sinkhole, she lets him transfer.
- Joey asks Paul if he'll show him around on Monday, but Paul figures it'd be better if Theresa did it, since she's got the inside scoop.
Part 2, Chapter 6
Saturday, September 23
- It's the first football game of the season, and it's a home game. On the field where half of the bleachers have been condemned. Hee-hee.
- The bleachers for the visiting teams' fans are roped off, but since there's nowhere else for them to sit, they eventually start ignoring the warning signs and sitting there anyway.
- Mr. Bridges runs across the field to get them off, but they're not budging, so he delays the game and calls the cops on them.
- With the bleachers cleared, the game can start. Erik's kick starts the Lake Windsor Seagulls off to a good start.
- But Antoine Thomas is the only other really decent player they have, so the other team scores the first touchdown.
- Just then, something completely and utterly unexpected happens (sarcasm)—it starts raining!
- Mrs. Fisher runs back to the car, but Paul and his dad stick it out.
- The Seagulls finally manage to score a touchdown, and Erik comes out to kick for the extra point.
- Everyone had been expecting Arthur to hold the ball for him, but instead, Antoine is out there with Erik.
- What happens next is like a scene out of Charlie Brown: Erik starts to kick, but at the last second, Antoine grabs the ball away and runs it across the goal line for a two-point conversion.
- Now for the best part—the momentum of Erik's kick flops him into his backside into the mud. Ah, sweet justice.
- The Seagulls win, and Paul and his dad head for the car.
- Mr. Fisher explains to the Mrs. that Erik helped win the game.
- This is cracking Paul up—seriously, his dad keeps harping on how much Erik contributed to the game.
- At home, they turn on the news. Oh, my. Oh, my my my.
- They have segment called "the Weak in Sports" (2.6.36).
- Even we couldn't make a better pun than that, and we're professionals.
- They show Erik's fall again and again. They show a close-up of Antoine laughing. Even the news anchors are making jokes about it.
- Mr. Fisher turns the TV off, and they all sit in silence. Paul is thinking that if he were anywhere else, he'd be dying laughing. But not here.
- Finally Mr. Fisher tells Erik he's just going to have to laugh it off. But Paul knows he won't. He also knows someone's going to have to pay for Erik's humiliation.
Part 2, Chapter 7
Tuesday, September 26
- The Tangerine War Eagles are playing their first home game, and the fan turnout is awesome.
- But. Paul's parents aren't even there. Neither are Joey's, even though he's on the team now, too.
- Paul and Joey are on the sidelines for now, watching Shandra, the goalie, and the other girls on the team.
- They're doing an amazing job, but so is the other team. At least this team is actually playing by the rules, though.
- At halftime, Coach Bright realizes that Victor's head wound from their last game has been reopened, and is bleeding again, so she asks Tino to get his dad to drive Victor to the ER for stitches.
- She puts Paul in for Victor, and the War Eagles take over.
- Maya scores a goal, and a little later…Paul kicks one in, too! Gooooooooooooal!
- Paul has never scored a goal before. Ever.
- The War Eagles are winning, so when the coach puts Joey in to play, and he's not all that great, it doesn't even matter.
- Victor gets back from the ER right at the end, and when he hears that Paul scored a goal, he is totally psyched.
Part 2, Chapter 8
Tuesday, September 26, later
- Paul's grandma calls to make sure he's okay, what with the sinkhole and all.
- His mom takes the phone, so Paul goes up to his room—but a few minutes later, she brings the phone back to him.
- Confused, Paul takes it. It's Cara, a girl from Lake Windsor Middle. She asks him about Tangerine Middle, and whether he's going out with anyone from there.
- He says no, and then Cara asks him if he remembers Kerri Gardner, and if he likes her.
- Paul does the deer-in-the-headlights thing, if you can even do that over the phone, and doesn't say a word.
- Cara says bye, and Paul calls Joey.
- Cara's his girlfriend, so Joey explains that they were scamming him—Kerri was listening in on the other line to see what Paul would say.
- Paul wonders whether Kerri is still going out with the guy she was with at the carnival, and asks Joey to let him know if he finds out. Interesting…
- Then he thinks about it for a while, and comes to the happy conclusion that Kerri Gardner must like him.
- Gee, we miss middle school. Not.
Part 2, Chapter 9
Wednesday, September 27
- Victor still can't practice with the team, because of his head injury, so Paul gets to play his position again.
- But sitting on the sidelines, Victor notices Joey, and starts picking on him.
- When Paul and Joey start walking away after practice, Victor and his friends join them.
- They tease Paul good-naturedly, and Paul gives as good as he gets.
- But not Joey. When they start ribbing Joey, Joey gets mad. Of course, the guys think it's funny, and keep giving Joey a hard time till they get to Luis's truck.
- Once they're alone again, Paul tries to calm Joey down, but he stays pretty upset.
- Paul's mom pulls up, and rolls down her window to say hi to the girls on the team, and give them a little encouragement.
- Paul tells her that they are their top players, and that two of them will probably be making the All-County Team.
- Mrs. Fisher is so stunned that she thinks there should be something about them in the newspaper.
- As they drive up to Joey's house, they see that both his neighbors' houses are covered with tents—like on ET!—and are being fumigated.
- The whole street is infested with termites, and Joey's house will be tented next week.
- Mrs. Fisher offers to let Joey stay with them while his house is fumigated, but that idea, not surprisingly, doesn't really appeal to him. A slumber party with Erik Fisher? No, thank you.
Part 2, Chapter 10
Friday, September 29
- Joey doesn't come to practice this time, but a newspaper reporter does.
- Paul's mom had actually called the paper to tell them about the girls on the team!
- Mr. Donnelly, the reporter, asks Coach Bright if he can talk to Maya and Shandra, but when Shandra hears, she takes off running into the school.
- Victor quickly introduces himself to the photographer instead, and hams it up for the cameraman—preventing him from going after Shandra.
- Coach Bright wants the news crew to leave, but they insist on getting the girls' names.
- So the coach gives them Maya's info, but tells them Shandra doesn't want any publicity.
- When they finally leave, Coach Bright pulls Shandra out of her hiding place, and practice resumes.
- When the newspaper comes out, there's no story. Just a mislabeled picture. Super.
Part 2, Chapter 11
Monday, October 2
- Paul's science class is assigned a big research project, which they have to do in groups.
- Paul forms a group with Tino, Joey, Theresa, and a kid named Henry D.
- Tino's cool with it, but makes sure they know he's in charge.
- Joey gets mad at Paul for putting him in the same group as Tino, and when Paul explains that it'll help him make friends with more soccer team members, Joey tells him that he quit the team.
- Paul can't believe it, but Joey goes on to say he doesn't want to play soccer at all anymore. He's going to switch to football.
- Then Joey says something awful about Tangerine Middle School. And we mean awful: "This place is like darkest Africa. Like the Amazon jungle. Like we're learning to live among the natives here" (2.11.31).
- Paul reflects, "I took in the ugliness of Joey's words, and I saw, for the first time, how different he was from me—different parents, different friends, different brother" (2.11.32)
- But does Paul stand up to his friend? Nope. Instead, he just mutters, "I'm sorry you feel like that" (2.11.32), and heads out into the hall, without Joey.
Part 2, Chapter 12
Tuesday, October 3
- Paul remembers something that happened on Joey's first day at Tangerine Middle.
- Joey had showed up in homeroom without Theresa as a guide, and when Paul asked him where she was, he told him that he didn't need a "guide dog" (2.12.8).
- Paul took offense at that, and Joey laughed, asking if he thought Theresa was good-looking.
- After considering it for a minute, Paul said he did, and Joey comes back with "(t)hen you've been here too long" (2.12.12).
- Paul warned him not to come in with an attitude.
- Why is Paul remembering this? Well, there's an incident in science class today.
- The students all get into their groups. Theresa takes charge of their group, telling the guys that they will do their report on a new variety of citrus her brother Luis has developed, called the Golden Dawn tangerine.
- This girl is on it—she's got stuff printed out for each of them, and has already divvied up the research jobs.
- She tells them that Luis wants to meet with them all, too, and then everyone can give their research to her, and she'll type it up.
- Joey offers to print it for her, if she just saves it on a disk, but Theresa admits they only have a typewriter.
- Tino immediately goes on the offensive, asking Joey if he's got a problem with that.
- Of course, this starts an argument. Joey insults Luis, which leads to Tino lunging at him and getting dragged out into the hall.
- Joey leaves the group, yelling at Paul that he's a coward for hanging out with these guys.
- The teacher takes him out, too, and Paul just stands there in shock.
- Theresa calms the class down, and they get back to work. Joey eventually comes back to class, but joins another group. Tino? Off in suspension.
Part 2, Chapter 13
Wednesday, October 4
- Paul is in the living room doing some research for the report online, when his mom tells him he should go use the computer in his room.
- They're hosting a Homeowners' Association meeting tonight, to discuss some recent break-ins, as well as the termite problem.
- Paul decides to stay down there and work while the meeting is in progress.
- First thing on the agenda is Mr. Donnelly's house—the one that's been struck by lightning three times.
- He's put up several lightning rods on his roof, but since he was only approved for one, he is in trouble. Really?
- Next thing on the list is the fact that all the koi are gone from the pond. All of them. Mr. Costello thinks they were stolen, but Paul knows the ospreys have been eating them.
- Up next—the muck fire! Because of all the complaints, the Homeowners' Association saturated the field with water, trying to put it out.
- Unfortunately, not only did it not put out the muck fire, but it also created the perfect swampy breeding ground for swarms of mosquitoes.
- And that's not all, folks—those mosquitoes carry encephalitis, and two kids actually died last year after being bitten!
- So the HOA will be spraying a cloud of pesticide all around the neighborhood every other evening until the mosquitoes are gone.
- But wait, there's more—the houses being tented for termites are getting robbed of their valuables.
- Is it just us, or is this the worse gated community ever?
- They discuss options for dealing with it, and then adjourn the meeting.
- Meanwhile, Paul has discovered a new file on the computer named "Erik-Scholarship Offers"
- He clicks on it, and sees that his dad has painstakingly put together a spreadsheet of potential universities for Erik, noting which ones have sent him letters.
- Paul hears his parents coming, so he clicks out.
Part 2, Chapter 14
Thursday, October 5
- Joey's back at Lake Windsor Middle School, and Paul is totally cool with that.
- In science class, Theresa tells Paul that people can't talk about Luis the way Joey did—he means too much to her and Tino. Paul tells her that he's not really friends with Joey anymore.
- She gives him a map to get to their house, so they can meet with Luis to discuss his new tangerine.
- Henry D. says his brother can drive him and Paul to the Cruz home after school—and guess who his brother is? Why, it's Wayne, of volunteer fire department fame!
- They head out, driving until they see a sign saying "Tomas Cruz Groves/Nursery"
- Wayne drops them off in front of a Quonset hut, which is a storage shed shaped like a "gigantic tin can that had been cut in half, lengthwise, and then pressed down into the ground" (2.14.32).
- Yep, that sounds about right.
- Luis is waiting inside.
- Luis takes the group out to the grove, and explains that their family has been growing and selling Cleopatra tangerines for 45 years.
- Then he brings them to another field, full of baby trees—the nursery. They also grow trees to sell to fruit groves.
- What they do is plant a rough lemon tree first, which is called the rootstock. Then, they cut a slit into it, and graft, or place, a new bud inside, and tape it up.
- That new bud is called a scion, and turns the rough lemon tree into something else, like an orange tree, for example.
- All of Luis's trees have the same scion grafted onto the rootstock—the Golden Dawn tangerine.
- Paul is totally into this stuff. Luis invites him to come back sometime, as he heads home again with Wayne and Henry D.—on the mosquito sprayer truck.
- Looks like Wayne is a jack-of-all-trades. (Jack-of-all-trucks?)
- Wayne comments that all the problems Lake Windsor Downs is having are like the plagues of Egypt in the Bible.
- Hm, this sounds important.
- Wayne knows why they're having termite problems, too. When the developers cleared the land for building, they set all the citrus trees on fire and then plowed them under. All that wood underground attracts termites. When they come to the surface to find water, they also find houses to chew on.
- Wayne drops Paul off at home, and starts spraying the insecticide.
- Paul sees Erik and Arthur practicing in the backyard, and they don't stop even when white clouds of pesticide start swirling around them.
- Seeing them coming in and out of focus in the cloud sets Paul off on another one of his flashbacks.
- The whole family was in their backyard in Huntsville, when Paul was in kindergarten. His parents were standing in front of him, and his dad was making Erik move around Paul in a circle, to test his peripheral vision.
- Paul kept saying that he couldn't see Erik, no matter where he moved behind him to either side.
- Suddenly, Paul felt Erik's breath on his neck, and screamed. Erik had snuck up on him.
- Mr. Fisher yelled at Erik, but their parents both ignored Paul as he started crying.
- They were arguing about his eyes, until finally, his mom insisted that she was taking him to get new glasses.
- That's when Paul got his super thick glasses. Now that his flashback's over, he realizes that that was also when he started to see Erik for what he really was.
Part 2, Chapter 15
Thursday, November 2
- Paul takes a moment to reflect on how his family has settled into this new community.
- His dad is in charge at the County Civil Engineering office—Old Charley Burns ended up having a heart attack from all the stress of bad press.
- His mom is in charge of several committees in the HOA, and Erik has made a name for himself on the football team.
- Paul himself has played in every soccer game this season, and the War Eagles have won every game.
- But more than the winning, it's the fear his team inspires that he enjoys. He's never been the one causing the fear before.
Part 2, Chapter 16
Saturday, November 4
- Paul has his mom drive him out to the Cruz grove again.
- He hasn't called or anything, so when he just shows up, Tino is less than thrilled.
- Luis is nice, though, and invites him to help them work.
- They spend three hours laying hoses out by each row of trees, and then they take a break, snacking on tangerines.
- Luis asks Paul what he likes about the tangerine business, and he says it's the smell.
- Luis agrees, and tells Paul that the closest he can come to describing that scent is a "golden dawn"
- Then he gives Paul and Tino each a tangerine clipper, and they slice a hole in the hoses by each tree.
- Paul's pretty sunburned by the end. While they're waiting for his mom to pick him up, Tino tells him it'd be okay if he put together the final report on his computer.
- Then he tells Paul that Luis injured his knee clipping tangerines when he was twelve. Luis didn't make a fuss when he was hurt, because he thought his mom wouldn't let him help anymore—but eventually it got so bad he had to have a pin put in, and he couldn't walk at all for a while.
- Luis didn't work again until his mom died.
- Luis also, it turns out, used to play goalie on the Tangerine Middle School soccer team.
- With all this sharing going on, Paul decides to tell get something off his conscience. He tells Tino that he's the one who ratted him and the other guys out for vandalizing the freak show exhibit.
- Tino kicks him in the backside, but then smiles, and waves as Paul gets into his mom's car.
Part 2, Chapter 17
Sunday, November 5
- Mr. Donnelly calls Mr. Fisher and invites the whole family over to meet some football bigwigs from the University of Florida.
- Mrs. Fisher is mad that Mr. Donnelly hasn't returned her calls about taking down those extra lightning rods, but Mr. Fisher tells her to let it go for tonight.
- As they walk to Mr. Donnelly's house, they're attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes, and run the rest of the way, screaming and slapping themselves. LOL!
- Erik is already there, of course, acting all fake and polite.
- Mr. Donnelly is a great host, chatting with each of them, and even telling Paul about his soccer coach's track career.
- Betty Bright was a champion hurdler, back when she was in high school. She was so good, she made the Olympic team in 1978.
- But in her preliminary race at the Pan American Games, she was hit in the eye by a competitor going over the first hurdle.
- (There's really something about eyes in this book.)
- She finished fourth because of it, and didn't get to move on to the finals.
- When the Olympics rolled around in Moscow two years later, the US boycotted them, so she lost her chance again.
- But, Mr. Donnelly tells Paul, Coach Bright did get a full college scholarship out of it, and had a great amateur career.
- Just then, Erik and Mr. and Mrs. Fisher come over to say their goodbyes.
- Erik drives off with Arthur, and Paul walks home with his parents.
- They go in through the garage door—which starts to trigger another flashback for Paul.
- His mom starts playing back a voicemail message from his grandma, and that seals the deal—flashback time again!
- Paul is a kindergartner, standing in his garage in Huntsville, as his grandparents walk in, carrying overnight bags.
- Erik pops out to say hello, right as Paul's mom whispers to him that he shouldn't say anything bad to his grandparents.
- As they get closer to Paul, his grandma looks at him funny. His grandpa gets right to the point, asking him point blank what happened to his eyes.
- Paul's mom insists that he's going to be okay, and shepherds them inside to talk, leaving Paul and Erik outside, staring at each other.
Part 2, Chapter 18
Tuesday, November 7
- The War Eagles have their last home game today.
- Paul scores an awesome goal, and the War Eagles are on their way to another victory, when the rain starts.
- The other team runs off the field to wait the rain out in their bus, but eventually just decides to leave—which means Paul's goal doesn't count.
- They're still undefeated and untied, though, so it's not all bad news.
Part 2, Chapter 19
Wednesday, November 8
- Mr. Donnelly has printed a huge soccer feature on the front page of the newspaper, describing the successes of the Tangerine and Lake Windsor teams.
- He also included a section on Paul's coach and her career as a hurdler.
- Paul wonders if she minds the publicity, like Shandra did.
- Hm, sounds like there's some kind of mystery there.
Part 2, Chapter 20
Chapter 20: Friday, November 10
- The War Eagles' final match is an away game—against the Lake Windsor team.
- Paul's mom is actually there to watch! So is Joey—and so are Cara and Kerri.
- It kind of stinks, though, because Paul starts the game on the sideline, and everyone from his old school sees it, of course.
- But when Victor and Gino go for the same ball and trip each other up, Victor starts yelling—and someone from the Lake Windsor team punches him in the face.
- Betty Bright puts Paul in for Victor, and he leads the team to their first goal.
- Lake Windsor ties it, in spite of an awesome, full-contact block by Shandra.
- But then Shandra starts to vomit, so Coach Bright puts another kid in for Paul, and moves Paul to the goal.
- Paul's freaking out—his nerves are getting to him, so when Gino kicks the ball at him, it bounces off his face and back to Gino, who kicks it again to score.
- Gino helps him up, and Paul cleans off his goggles, which are covered with blood from his nose.
- In spite of his nosebleed, Paul is ready now.
- He blocks everything Lake Windsor throws at him…er, kicks at him.
- But suddenly, the Lake Windsor coach comes over to Betty Bright and tells her that Paul is not eligible to play—he wasn't eligible for Lake Windsor, and he's not eligible for Tangerine.
- Betty Bright asks why, and Coach Walski responds that one reason is his address—he doesn't live in the Tangerine district.
- Coach Bright is unfazed by his threats to tell the County Sports Commission. She tells him her other goalie, Shandra Thomas, was just sent home sick.
- Shandra Thomas. Antoine Thomas's sister. They live in the Tangerine district. Not Lake Windsor.
- In other words, Antoine Thomas is supposed to be playing for Tangerine.
- So, if Coach Walski reports Paul, then Coach Bright will report Antoine.
- Coach Walski backs down, and the game continues.
- Victor is back in the second half, and helps the team tie the game up again.
- At the last second, Gino and Victor get tangled up again, and the ref gives Lake Windsor a penalty kick.
- This is Paul's moment of truth. He knows Gino, he knows how he kicks goals, he knows just where to block.
- But Gino kicks the ball to the right, not the left—Paul falls to the ground to the left, without a ball, burying his head in his arms…
- Only to realize that Gino had missed! The War Eagles win! They are the champions!
- Kerri comes over to congratulate Paul. Luis does, too. But not Joey.
- Paul's mom comes up, not understanding what the big deal is. She wants to take Paul right home, but finally agrees to let him ride back to his school on the bus with the team first.
- Mr. Donnelly gets a picture of Paul, Victor, Maya, and Cesar for the front page.
- Then they get back on the bus, and make their way, yelling in celebration, through an exuberant downtown Tangerine, with a parade of cars following them, honking and flashing their lights all the way.
- Paul is so worked up that he's crying by the time he gets off the bus. His mom's only comment? "Well, that was quite a ride" (2.20.14).
Part 3, Chapter 1
Monday, November 20
- The science group comes over to Paul's house to work on their report, and when they finish, they head out to the backyard to kick the soccer ball around a little.
- It's like déjà vu for Paul, though—suddenly they hear Arthur and Erik driving up.
- They walk through the gate, and Erik starts right in, "Look at this. I think it's great that these farm-labor kids get to spend a day away from the fields" (3.1.11).
- Tino looks furious, but Paul tells they're not worth it.
- That just makes Tino madder, so he confronts Erik.
- Arthur gets a blackjack out of his gym bag, but Erik tells him to put it away.
- That is, until Tino brings up Erik's famous televised flop. Then, Erik hits him in the face so hard that he spins in the air before he hits the ground.
- Paul thinks he may be unconscious, or even dead.
- Erik calms himself, and then stares at Paul with a strange look in his eyes. Paul thinks it may be sorrow, or even fear.
- He and Arthur head back out through the gate.
- Paul and Henry run to Tino, and he tries to get up, bleeding where Erik's ring had cut his head.
- He looks at the patio door for help, and sees something strange—a white shirt moves. Is that his dad? Did his dad see what Erik did?
- Tino won't accept any help from Paul. In silence, everyone leaves, and Wayne comes to drive them home.
- Paul is left alone to wonder what he should have done differently.
Part 3, Chapter 2
Tuesday, November 21
- Paul wants to ask his dad if he saw Erik hit Tino, but he just can't bring himself to do it.
- After school, he goes with his mom to the storage unit to get some winter clothes out.
- The second they close the unit's door, though, Mrs. Fisher realizes she's left the key inside.
- She panics, until she remembers that Erik has a key, too.
- They head out to the high school for a meeting Mrs. Fisher has about Erik's grades slipping. Paul can watch football practice while he's waiting.
- He hides under the bleachers there to avoid Erik and Arthur, and sees that practice is over.
- Luis's pick-up truck drives up, and Paul watches as Luis confronts Erik about hurting Tino—verbally confronts him, that is.
- Erik doesn't do as well with words—he's more of an action guy. He gets Arthur to walk past Luis while he's talking to Erik, take out his blackjack, and hit him over the head with it.
- Luis falls, and Erik and Arthur crack a joke and walk away laughing.
- Antoine Thomas and his friend, Brian, aren't laughing, though. They help Luis up, make sure he's okay, and walk him back to his truck.
- Paul's mom comes out of the school, and they drive home. The counselor told her she thinks Erik's grades will improve after football season is over.
Part 3, Chapter 3
Thursday, November 23, Thanksgiving
- On Wednesday, it finally gets cold, so Mrs. Fisher asks Erik for his key to the storage unit, so she can get some winter clothes out. But he's left it in his school locker, and can't bring it home until after school.
- She doesn't want to wait that long, so she decides to see if the employees at the storage place have another way to let her in.
- Meanwhile, Paul gets to school, only to find that a ton of kids are absent.
- He asks Henry D. why, and he tells him they're home "fighting the freeze" (3.3.33).
- Henry D. explains that families who grow citrus or vegetables need their kids to stay and help protect the crops when it gets this cold. They start bonfires in their groves, or do whatever else they can to create some warmth.
- Paul decides he'd like to go help Luis and Tino save their tangerines after school, and Henry D. agrees.
- He leaves a message for his mom, and then he and Wayne head over to the Cruz's.
- When they get to Luis's place, they see that the Cruz family has iced down their new grove.
- What? Aren't they trying to prevent just that?
- Wayne explains that they spray water on the trees when it freezes because that keeps them at 32 degrees. It's 31 degrees that kills a tree.
- But they can't just ice down all their trees, because it's expensive, so they use water pumps powered by diesel fuel to spray them.
- And there's no guarantee it'll work: the ice has to stay slushy, because if it freezes hard, branches will start cracking off.
- Ugh, you guys, this is seriously stressful.
- Paul and Henry tell Luis they want to help. Luis doesn't understand why, and is worried about insurance and permission—but his dad, Tomas, welcomes the help.
- The boys go with Tino, but Paul calls his mom first. She sounds kind of mad, but not really at him—it's weird.
- He doesn't tell her the truth about what he's doing though—just that it's a slumber party.
- The Quonset hut is filled with baby trees now, and Tino tells them that they shoveled a ton of dirt from their old grove last night to put around the Golden Dawns. They have to bury them in dirt up above the bud union, where they grafted on the Golden Dawn scions. Otherwise, the tangerine part will die and just leave the rough lemon rootstock.
- Tino explains that his dad and uncle are starting a huge bonfire in the Cleopatra tangerine grove, and Luis will be running the pumps to keep the new grove iced down.
- The boys will be helping everywhere—dragging brush and tires to the fire, hacking ice off branches, and hauling more dirt.
- Tino shows them some trees they'll be using for firewood. The trees are the highest in the grove, and already dead—they use them as lightning rods, to protect their citrus trees.
- Henry also notices some smudge pots, and asks Tino if they'll be carrying the diesel out to fuel them, too. Yup, that'll be another of their jobs.
- Tino shows them a big mounted thermometer, and explains that there are several of them spread out around the groves. He'll keep Luis posted on the temperature, and Luis will calculate what they need to do, and when, based on that.
- They're in for a long night, but everyone's pretty chill. Some trees are going to die, no matter what, but they're going to do what they can.
- Paul thinks about everyone in Lake Windsor Downs tonight, burning fake logs and drinking hot cocoa. Nice contrast, right?
- Time to work. First, they fill 100 smudge pots with diesel, light them, and keep them burning all night.
- Then, the crises start. The boys are kept running from one emergency to the next, as the bonfire threatens to go out, or the ice starts weighing down the branches.
- But they know they're losing. The temperature is down to 24 degrees, and Luis tells them that if it stays that cold for ten more minutes, he's calling the work off—it'll all be over.
- Paul realizes how exhausted he is, but as he looks over the frozen trees, glowing from the fires, he thinks it's beautiful.
- Luis and his dad and uncle decide to keep trying, but they send the boys inside to warm up.
- Paul is freezing—his fingers won't even close around a cup of coffee.
- Finally, Luis announces the temp has gone up to about 29 degrees—they're still in business.
- The boys get ready to go back out and help some more, but Luis has also said that Paul should stay in and sleep—he's a mess.
- Luis comes to check on him, and Paul tells him he saw what happened with Arthur and Erik. Luis smiles and says they'll talk later, and Paul crashes.
- When he wakes up, the guys are just coming back inside. Tino thanks, and Paul apologizes for his jerk brother. Group hug!
- Luis asks Paul to come outside, and tells him that Antoine Thomas and a friend have told Luis to come back on Monday, and they'd help him take care of Erik and Arthur.
- Hm, that doesn't sound so good.
- Finally, Paul's mom shows up to take him home.
Part 3, Chapter 4
Friday, November 24
- Paul wakes up at 4:30 am, and realizes that he has slept for 18 hours. No one woke him up to go to Erik's game, or even for Thanksgiving dinner.
- His dad eventually wakes up and starts complaining about the game. Antoine's friend, Brian, was the one snapping the ball to Erik. Mr. Fisher thinks he deliberately threw the ball badly, to make Arthur and Erik look like fools.
- Paul looks through the newspaper's coverage of the game, and then sees the picture of the new All-County Middle School soccer team.
- He wishes he were on it, but knows Shandra earned her place, and he's happy for her.
- His dad notices him cutting out the picture and asks if he made the team.
- Paul is really upset by the question. He grills his dad about what position he played, and how many games he played in—and his dad has no clue.
- And then he asks how many field goals Erik kicked this year. That one, his dad knows. But he just says that it was an important season for Erik's future this year.
- And then Paul's mom drops a bomb: what if Erik has no future in football?
- Ha! That's just crazy.
- The phone rings, and it's a neighbor telling them to look outside—someone has smashed all the mailboxes on the street and spray-painted "Seagulls suck!" all over the development wall.
- Paul goes out to see, and almost starts having a flashback—but passes out, instead.
- When he comes to, his dad is freaking out, yelling at him to tell him what happened. He doesn't know, but he feels okay… and weird at the same time.
Part 3, Chapter 5
Monday, November 27
- Paul's mom makes him stay home today, so he spends all day thinking about what Luis said—today is the day.
- But after school, Erik comes home fine.
- Then Kerri calls Paul to ask him to go with her to Joey's house after the Senior Awards Night on Friday, where they'll be planting a tree in memory of Mike Costello.
- To go with her, as her date!
- He agrees, obviously, but then has to hang up so his mom can start inviting people to an HOA meeting at their house that night.
- Paul checks Erik's "Scholarship Offers" file on the computer, and sees that all the schools that aren't contenders for the national title have been deleted, and a 'press packet' has been sent to the big schools.
- The HOA meeting starts, and Mr. Costello announces that the freeze killed off the mosquitoes. It also signaled the end of thunderstorm season.
- Paul tells them that the ospreys are the ones responsible for taking the koi, and then leaves, as the adults continue to complain about the muck fire, the termites, and the robberies.
Part 3, Chapter 6
Tuesday, November 28
- Luis Cruz has died.
- His dad found him dead in the grove. Getting hit on the head caused an aneurysm that killed him a few days later.
- The sheriff thinks maybe a branch hit him in the head while he was fighting the freeze. They don't know about Arthur's blackjack.
- Paul is so upset, he has to leave school early.
Part 3, Chapter 7
Wednesday, November 29
- Theresa Cruz calls Paul to tell him not to come to Luis's funeral. She doesn't want anything bad to happen.
- So their family knows what happened with Erik and Arthur. Paul's mind is blown a little—he's not used to families that tell each other everything.
- Paul goes out to the pond, and a little boy rides up on his bike.
- The kid tells Paul that his parents said there was a gator in the pond that eats kids.
- Paul ends up screaming at the kid that his parents were lying to him.
Part 3, Chapter 8
Thursday, November 30
- Paul puts on his suit, but leaves off the shirt, shoes, and socks. Then he goes into his backyard and pulls up a square of sod.
- He digs through the white sand under the sod until he finds regular dirt.
- Then he starts sobbing, thinking about Luis, letting his tears fall into the dirt.
- When he's done crying, he puts the sod back, takes off his suit, and throws it away.
- Okay, we admit it: this is a little crazy. But Paul actually feels better afterwards.
Part 3, Chapter 9
Friday, December 1
- Paul stays home from school, but he goes to the Senior Awards Night.
- The seniors carrying the memorial tree for Mike Costello spill a bunch of dirt on the floor of the gym, so Paul and Joey clean it up. Joey is acting friendly again.
- The ceremony starts, and after they talk about Mike, they move on to the awards.
- Paul notices that Tino and Victor are there, and freaks. What are they planning?
- In front of everyone, Tino walks up to Erik, kicks him in the gut, and then knees him in the face. He tells him that was for Luis.
- Victor tackles Arthur, and starts beating him up, too. Chaos breaks out!
- Coach Warner grabs Tino, but Victor escapes through the emergency exit, which makes the alarm go off.
- Paul gets into the fray, too, leaping onto Coach Warner so Tino can escape, as well.
- His dad and the coach demand to know who those boys were. Paul doesn't say a word.
- As soon as he gets the chance, Paul takes off running, too.
- He makes it to the wall behind their backyard, when Erik and Arthur drive up.
- Something has changed, though. Paul isn't afraid of them anymore.
- He confronts them, even challenges them to hurt him, and then realizes that all their threats and bluster are just… dumb.
- He tells them he saw Arthur kill Luis, and that he's not the only one.
- That freaks Arthur out, and he starts pleading with Erik to leave. Erik replies, "Shut up, Castor!" (3.9.79), but gets in the car. They drive away.
- That name—Castor—hurls Paul into another flashback. But this time, it's the memory. The one he's been trying to remember almost his entire life.
- Castor had been Erik's sidekick in 5th grade. They had spray-painted something on the development wall of their old neighborhood, and had gotten in trouble for it.
- They thought Paul had told on them—he hadn't—so they cornered him in the garage.
- Erik held Paul's eyes open while Castor sprayed white spray paint into them.
- Paul's mom tried to rinse his eyes out afterwards, but ended up having to drive him to the hospital.
- That's it.
- He remembers.
- Now that he knows the truth, he storms inside and confronts his parents, who have just arrived, and are about to yell at him for attacking the coach.
- He finally gets them to admit what really happened. They tell him they thought it was best for him if he didn't remember, so he wouldn't hate his brother.
- He asks accusingly if they thought it was best for him to hate himself, instead, and his mom and dad both break down crying.
- He leaves them there to answer a phone call from Joey. No date with Kerri for him tonight! But he feels all right. Finally.
Part 3, Chapter 10
Saturday, December 2
- Joey calls Paul to tell him that Betty Bright's car is parked outside Mr. Donnelly's house.
- He goes to check it out, and finds Shandra sitting in the coach's car.
- She tells Paul that Antoine is sick of lying about where he lives in order to play on the Lake Windsor team. He's also upset that Shandra can't get the soccer glory she deserves at Tangerine, because they don't want to draw attention to the fact that she plays there, while he's at Lake Windsor.
- Just then, Antoine and Coach Bright come out. They tell Paul that they're telling the truth now, and Mr. Donnelly will be running the story tomorrow.
- Antoine tells Paul that he should tell the truth, too. The others don't know what he means, but Paul gets excited.
- He goes home, and his parents tell him there will be an important meeting there the next day, and that he should be there, too.
Part 3, Chapter 11
Sunday, December 3
- The newspaper comes. Antoine is exposed. All victories of the Lake Windsor team are nullified, along with every record set by anyone on the team.
- Mr. Donnelly has also written an article defending Antoine's record, but it doesn't seem to help much.
- Paul's dad acts shocked about the news, and together with the coaches and other parents, decides to blame Antoine alone.
- But Paul argues with his dad, insisting that he knew Antoine wasn't from the neighborhood. His dad bows his head in defeat.
Part 3, Chapter 12
Sunday, December 3, later
- Paul's neighbors gather at his house for the meeting.
- Mrs. Fisher tells the group that she had discovered stolen items in her storage unit and had notified the sheriff.
- She admits to everyone that Erik and Arthur had been the ones robbing the neighborhood.
- Erik would keep watch outside homes tented for termites, while Arthur put on a gas mask and robbed them.
- Mr. Fisher explains that the sheriff has agreed that if all the robbery victims sign paperwork agreeing to accept restitution, either by having the stolen items returned, or by receiving their cash value, then they wouldn't press charges against the boys.
- The theft victims are mad. Why should they help the thieves out? Mr. Bauer tells them they won't get their stolen property back if they don't. Whoa—blackmail?
- Finally, though, they agree to the restitution.
- As they leave, they see that Joey has led the police to the Fishers' house, to pick up Arthur—for the murder of Luis.
- Arthur's dad immediately starts trying to explain it away, but Paul pipes up.
- He tells them that he saw the whole thing, and that Erik told him to do it. They question him a little more, and he agrees to give them a full statement later.
- The sheriff makes Mr. Fisher promise to keep Erik under house arrest for now.
- As the crowd disperses, Paul's grandparents show up. They're stopping in to visit on their way to Orlando.
- They all go inside, and Paul's mom and dad tell them everything. His grandparents tell them they're paying now for not punishing Erik when he hurt Paul, and they start arguing.
- Finally, Mrs. Fisher convinces them to take a tour of the house. Her dad agrees that it's nice—much nicer than the houses he made her live in growing up.
- That little dig almost makes her cry.
- Paul's grandparents leave, and his mom gets a call from his principal. They have a meeting tomorrow.
Part 3, Chapter 13
Monday, December 4
- Paul and his mom head to his school early for the meeting.
- His mom goes in first, and Theresa shows up.
- Paul gives her the finished tangerine report, and she starts crying. She yells at him for getting himself in trouble.
- The principal calls him into her office, where he finds out that Tino and Victor have been suspended for three weeks for fighting.
- But since Paul attacked a teacher, he has been expelled from all public schools in the county. He will have to finish the year at a private school.
- As he and his mom walk out of the building, all the kids outside start patting him on the back, and showing him their support.
- His mom is scared, but he gives them a thumbs-up.
- Mrs. Fisher drives him to the mall to buy him some new clothes, and when he gets home, he bags up all his old stuff to give to Goodwill.
Part 3, Chapter 14
Tuesday, December 5
- Paul's dad gets back from the police station with Erik after his questioning. He doesn't want anything to do with Erik anymore.
- Tino calls Paul to see how he is, and Paul tells him he's going to go to St. Anthony's now—but he's still planning on playing with the War Eagles next year.
- Tino tells him they've got orders pouring in for Golden Dawns, so he's been helping his dad. He invites Paul to help whenever he wants.
Part 3, Chapter 15
Tuesday, December 5, later
- Paul writes out his statement for the police on his computer. He only meant to write a paragraph, but instead he writes for hours, all about Erik, and even about Luis.
- He hands the disk to his parents, and leaves them reading it together.
Part 3, Chapter 16
Wednesday, December 6
- The first day of school, round three!
- As they head out, Mr. Fisher points out Mike Costello's tree.
- Paul thinks it's good that Mike has a tree. But Luis has a tree, too—a whole grove full, really.
- And as they continue driving, their route takes them through grove after grove. Paul rolls down the window, and catches the beautiful smell of a golden dawn.