First, a little setting the scene. This story takes place in a university town in California, on a street called Orchard Avenue. So far so good.
Next, a spot of intrigue. The street is home to a rather shabby antique shop run by a mysterious old man who everyone just refers to as the Professor—since they don't know what his real name is. A nameless professor? My oh my.
The neighborhood around the antique shop is filled with diverse families and their kids. All the kids spend time playing outside together—regardless of race—and they're all a bit afraid of the Professor. When you've got a common fear, that makes ignoring your differences a lot easier, after all.
Bottom line: the Professor is creepy, no one knows much about him except that he stares at children in stony silence, and people leave him the Shmoop alone.
But the Professor is the only person who witnesses the beginning of the Egypt Game. One day he looks out his window and sees three kids walking into a fenced-off storage yard.
There's an African-American girl and her little brother, and a blonde girl named April who has recently moved into the neighborhood.
The little boy has a plush octopus with him that he won't let go of. The Professor intends to watch them (hey, better than chasing them away), but a customer walks in and he has to leave.
Later, he returns to the window and sees that the kids have set up a shrine to a bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti. Um, not your average backyard game. They're also cleaning up the rest of the yard and making adjustments.
The Professor is called away from his window again, and when he returns all the children have gone home. So much for spying.