Dunc and the Scam Artists

Dunc and the Scam Artists by Gary Paulsen Read Free Book Online

Book: Dunc and the Scam Artists by Gary Paulsen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gary Paulsen
Duncan—Dunc—Culpepper sat on the living-room floor in his best friend for life’s house, Amos.
    Amos had baby-sitting duty today. His parents left him strict instructions. Visiting little cousins are human. No pounding, teasing, tormenting, name-calling, locking in the closet, or any other cruel or unusual punishment. They had taped a list to the refrigerator door. It was two pages of things Amos couldn’t do to his baby cousin. Luckily, the list did not include making a play area by wrapping a volleyballnet around the dining-room table legs and keeping the baby in one spot that way.
    Amos and Dunc were sitting on the living-room floor involved in a serious contest to determine who could stuff the most Oreo cookies inside his mouth without crunching them. Dunc had worked up to eleven but Amos was going for twelve when it happened.
    The phone rang.
    “It’s her!” Amos yelled, or tried to yell. With twelve cookies in his mouth it came out, “Uuufffer!”
    Instinct took over. It was probably not genetic codes—as Dunc thought—but for whatever reason, when Amos heard a phone ring, he assumed it was for him, assumed it was Melissa Hansen trying to call him, just him. Amos loved Melissa Hansen with all his heart, lived and died for Melissa Hansen and she didn’t consider him at all. Ever.
    But when the phone rang he couldn’t help it. He had to answer it on the first ring, on that all-important first ring or he was afraid she would hang up. It didn’t matter anymore that it was probably not Melissa—instinct hadtaken over. When the phone rang, he moved. And heaven help anybody in his way.
    Dunc rolled sideways to get clear.
    Amos came up in great form, powered by his right leg, left leg kicking back hard. Reflex told him where the nearest phone lay—exactly four point three meters due east, on the lamp table in the corner of the dining room.
    He would have made it.
    Even Dunc said later he would have made it.
    But he hung his right toe under the edge of the couch. It didn’t stay there—just hung for a fraction of a second. But it was enough. His body weight kept moving and he started down.
    Even then he would have cleared it, perhaps made the phone. But there was a goldfish bowl on the end table by the couch and showing the same classic form, he drove his head into the bowl, cartwheeled just once—without spilling a drop or killing the fish—and piled into the volleyball net under the table to land in a heap next to his baby cousin.
    The baby laughed and clapped his hands.
    Dunc answered the phone, listened, said, “No thank you,” and hung up. “It was a sales-person—theywanted to sell you a set of automobile manuals. I hope you didn’t want them.”
    Amos signaled frantically for Dunc to pull the goldfish bowl off his head. He had opened his mouth and Oreo crumbs were filtering out. The goldfish were nibbling at them.
    Dunc nodded and grabbed hold, then pulled the bowl off. Amos put the bowl back on the table and stood, brushing water and mushy Oreo pieces out of his hair. “I almost made it this time. Did you see how I corrected my forward body motion when I started to fall? I would have made it if the couch hadn’t been there. Oh well, I’m glad she called, even if I didn’t get to talk to her.”
    Dunc shook his head. “Didn’t you hear me? It was a salesperson … well, never mind. It doesn’t matter.”
    A car drove up outside and Amos nodded. “My folks. Maybe we’d better head on down to the mall before they get in here.”
    “But the baby.”
    “He’ll be fine until they get in the house. That net will hold him.”
    “He’s eating a goldfish.”
    “So? It’s good protein. Come on.”
    Amos headed for the rear door. Dunc held back until Amos’s parents were in the house before leaving the room just as the baby swallowed the fish.

“I can’t go to the mall.” They were riding downtown, lifting their front tires over cracks in the sidewalks. Dunc hit his brakes. “I just

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