Aleca Zamm Fools Them All
1 Ford Kimble Knows Almost Everything
It was early Tuesday morning, a good twenty minutes before the first bell. That is just way too early to be at school, especially when you don’t want to be there anyway. But my reason for being early was that Ford Kimble was supposed to show up at any minute.
At least I hoped so.
I sat on the third swing from the left—my lucky swing—on the school playground. The reason it is my lucky swing is because one time
in first grade a mean girl pushed me off it so that she could have it. And then, when she tried to get on, she missed and lost her balance and fell right onto her booty. If that is not a lucky swing, then I don’t know what is!
Anyway, back to Ford.
I’d slipped a note into his desk the morning before. It told him to meet me here so we could talk about what had happened at my birthday party last Friday night, when I’d stopped time at the skating rink and Ford hadn’t frozen along with everyone else. It’s this thing I can do just by speaking my name. I just say, “Aleca Zamm!” and then it’s like everything turns into a photograph—everything stops happening. Well, except for me. And except for Aunt Zephyr. And also except for Ford Kimble, apparently,
which was how Aunt Zephyr and I had realized that we weren’t the only ones, that Ford Kimble must be a Wonder too. Now all I needed to do was find out what Ford knew.
I wasn’t sure, though, how much help Ford would be. He was way smart, but from the small amount of time I’d spent with him at the skating rink, he seemed like he would rather talk about how machinery works or about math facts. And let’s just say that math facts aren’t exactly my specialty. So I was worried that Ford and I wouldn’t have a lot in common. But Aunt Zephyr had told me that just because someone is wired differently from how you are doesn’t mean that they are wired wrong. And if anybody ought to believe that, it’s us Wonders.
Besides, I had to try to talk to Ford. Chances
were that he knew a lot about Wonders, just like he knew a lot about nearly everything else. After all, he was the only kid I had ever heard of who’d skipped two grades at once, which is pretty impressive. (I get really proud of myself just for skipping two checkers at once, and grades in school are way harder to skip than checkers.) Ford was only seven and already in the third grade. Also he was the only person I knew of who had become a Wonder before the age of ten. Everyone in my family who’d ever been a Wonder hadn’t started Wonder-ing until they were ten, just like me. Aunt Zephyr suggested that Ford might be an extra special Wonder just like he was an extra special smarty-pants. And I wanted to know what he knew.
“Artzy Sneakers,” a voice muttered behind
me. “With patented comfort design, Artzy is tops in durability and fashion.”
That was another thing Ford liked to do—recite commercials. He had a memory where he could hear something once and then say it exactly the same, word for word. He’d told us about it at the skating rink.
“Ford, you made it!” I said. “Did your parents mind bringing you early?”
“Parents of seven-year-old boys ask lots of questions,” Ford said. “Also I don’t like this. I had to get up at 6:05 instead of 6:28, and I did not have time to read this morning. But my parents were glad that I have a new friend, so they said I should deviate today.”
“Does ‘deviate’ mean the same thing as ‘throw caution to the wind’?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” Ford told me.
“Well, I’m just glad you’re here,” I added. “Grab a swing.” Ford took the swing to the right of mine. He was so small that his feet didn’t touch the ground.
Then Ford offered this information: “Continuous centripetal force and acceleration.”
“In accordance with Newton’s first law of motion,” he announced, “that is how swings work.”
“Okay,” I replied. “Let’s get down to business. The first day I stopped time, at school on my tenth birthday”—I reminded him of the date—“you saw everything stop, but you didn’t stop?”
“Correct,” Ford said. “Everything became still and quiet.”
“Then you must be a Wonder,” I explained. “Because if you weren’t, you would have been frozen when time stopped, just like everybody else. Only Wonders are immune to other Wonders. Aunt Zephyr said so. Did you notice anything unusual? I mean, other than time being stopped?”
“No,” said Ford.
“It was pretty cool, though, right?” I asked. “Did you see Wendell the Hamster in the first-grade classroom? He was running in midair on his wheel!”
“No,” mumbled Ford. He was looking at the ground, not at me, while he spoke. “I crawled into the coat cubby and held my smooth stone. I stayed in the cubby until I heard noise again.” He started digging into his pocket. “Have I showed you my smooth
stone? You can even hold it if you want to.”
“No, thanks, Ford,” I answered. “Listen, do you mean to tell me that time stopped and all you did about it was hide in the coat cubby?” I couldn’t believe it. That was the last thing I would have done. “Didn’t you even take the opportunity to . . . I don’t know . . . cheat on a test or something?”
“I don’t have to cheat on tests,” Ford said. “Tests are easy.”
“Right,” I replied. “For you, maybe. But didn’t you, like, I don’t know . . . pour glue into a mean kid’s hair or put a bug into a bully’s mouth? Because that would be perfectly understandable and I wouldn’t, like, judge you for it or anything.” I decided not to mention that those were things I had done.
“I like to hold my smooth stone when
my routine changes,” Ford insisted. “It feels soothing.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. Then I shifted in my swing, because all of a sudden I felt kind of uncomfortable, like maybe the pranks I had pulled while time had been stopped hadn’t been something anybody else would do.
“But the next day, when I stopped time again in the lunchroom, you must have done some exploring. That’s how you saw me.”
Ford wasn’t looking at me. He was staring into a tree. “Did you know that birds are marvels of engineering?” he asked. “Even if you and I had wings, we could not fly like birds do. We are not properly engineered for it.”
“That’s very interesting,” I assured him. “But what else do you know about Wonders?”
“I know lots of things.” Ford almost laughed. “But not about that.”
I was getting impatient. “Come on, Ford. You know all about what I can do, but what about you? You must have some Wonder ability, or you would be frozen like everyone else when I stop time. So what’s your thing? What can you do?”
“I don’t know,” began Ford. “It’s . . . hazy.”
“How do you mean?”
“I’m not entirely sure I can actually do anything,” he replied. “I have a funny thing, but only when you stop time. Not on my own.”
“What do you mean, a funny thing? Funny like ha-ha funny, or funny like what’s-that-weird-smell funny?”
“Not ha-ha. And not smells,” he answered. “I see things.”
“Oh, all sorts of things. But all jumbled up.”
I was becoming kind of frustrated, because getting the answers I needed was like trying to pull three-year-old smooshed bubble gum out of your soccer cleats. “Like what?”
“I didn’t see very much the first time. Probably because I was hiding in the coat cubby because I felt scared.”
“The first time?” I asked. “You mean it never happened before the first time I stopped time?”
“And never after?”
“Only when you stop time,” he said. “Never on my own.”
Wowee, that was interesting. I couldn’t wait to tell Aunt Zephyr about it. “Hmmm. So what was your funny thing? What did you do?”
“I saw a desk next to Walter Greenley. It wasn’t like the desks we have now. It was an old-fashioned desk, smaller. Wood and cast iron. I didn’t try to touch it, but I saw it. Then, when I came out of the coat cubby, the desk was gone. I asked Walter about it, but he told me I was a weirdo. Walter always says that about me.”
I didn’t know Walter Greenley, but it sounded like he needed a time-out. Anyway, I tried to focus on Ford and what he could do. Seeing an old desk didn’t sound like much of a power. “Did you see anything else?”
“Yes,” he whispered. “The other times
when you stopped time, there were people who looked . . . different.”
“Do you know my teacher, Mrs. Young?”
“Old Mrs. Young? Sure.” Everyone knew old Mrs. Young. She was older than most people’s grandmas and had been teaching at our school since some of our parents had been students there.
“Well, once, when time was stopped, I looked at Mrs. Young. There was a woman standing beside her. A young woman. And quite beautiful. Her hair was in a funny style, all curled under at the ends and tall on top. And that made me think, ‘Try Emerge Skin Care and watch a younger you emerge overnight. Visit our website to learn how you too can start looking younger today!’?”
I ignored the advertisement and focused on the information. “So you’re telling me that you saw an oddly dressed stranger next to old Mrs. Young?”
“Oh, no,” argued Ford. “Not at all. It was Mrs. Young. But not old Mrs. Young. This was young Mrs. Young.”