- File Size: 3255 KB
- Print Length: 333 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1534443754
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (March 24, 2020)
- Publication Date: March 24, 2020
- Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07TGFB6M6
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,942 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Tyrannosaurus Wrecks (FunJungle) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 333 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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|Age Level: 8 - 12|
|Grade Level: 3 - 7|
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
1 THE SMOOTHIE OF JUSTICE
All the trouble with the tyrannosaur started the same day Xavier Gonzalez and I helped apprehend the Zebra Spanker.
Although we caught him at FunJungle Wild Animal Park in central Texas, the guy had already spanked zebras in thirteen other zoos around the country. He would slip into the exhibits while an accomplice filmed him, and then smack the poor unsuspecting zebras on their rear ends. The zebras would be understandably startled, and the Spanker would flee. The videos were then uploaded to YouTube, where they had become a sensation, each gaining more views than the last. Over thirty million people had watched the newest one.
The Zebra Spanker always wore a lucha libre–style Mexican wrestling mask, so no one knew what he looked like—or anything about him, really. It was rumored that he had done the first spanking as a lark, just to amuse his friends, but when it had gone viral, he had decided to keep it up. No one was even sure why he had chosen zebras—although I suspected it was because zebras are often among the easiest animals to get close to at zoos.
Zebras can actually be quite dangerous; a kick from their hind legs can shatter your ribs or crack your skull—and their bite can do some serious damage as well. But they are quite tolerant of humans and thus, their exhibits are usually built without the thick glass walls or wide moats that lots of other animals require. At many zoos, the zebras are only a few feet from the tourists, and so the Zebra Spanker rarely had to do more than reach over a wall or fence to strike his targets.
The Association of Zoos & Aquariums wanted the Spanker caught as fast as possible—although, sadly, this was a tall order for most zoos, which had shoestring budgets and small security teams. However, FunJungle wasn’t like most zoos. It was really a hybrid of a zoo and a theme park, and had become one of the biggest tourist attractions in America since its grand opening a little over a year earlier. FunJungle had a large security force, although it wasn’t exactly a good security force; it was mostly composed of people who had failed to get jobs in any other form of law enforcement. The man in charge, Chief Hoenekker, was competent, though, and he had been posting guards full-time at the zebra exhibit, figuring that even his least capable employee could still be a deterrent.
This turned out to be wrong.
The Zebra Spanker struck shortly after FunJungle had opened one Tuesday morning in the middle of June. Normally, the park would have been packed by that time, as school was out through most of the country, but there had been a massive storm the night before, dousing some parts of the Texas Hill Country with four inches of rain, and more was predicted. Since much of FunJungle was outdoors, many tourists had opted to do something else that day.
Even so, the FunJungle guard on duty, a young man named Chet Spivey, should have been better prepared. The Zebra Spanker’s modus operandi was to strike early in the day, when crowds were small. But on that fateful morning, Chet hadn’t reported to his post on time because he was busy chatting up a cute new barista at Clara Capybara’s Coffee Café. The Zebra Spanker and his videographer arrived at the zebra exhibit to find no one else around at all; the few tourists who had braved the weather had headed for the more popular FunJungle exhibits first.
At the time, Xavier and I were on Adventure Road, the main route around the park, heading toward SafariLand with Sage Bonotto, another friend from sixth grade. Xavier and I had become friends quickly upon my arrival at Lyndon Baines Johnson Middle School, as he was a FunJungle fanatic and aspiring field biologist; he had sought me out, knowing my mother was a renowned primatologist who worked at the park. I had gotten to know Sage because he was my lab partner in science. He liked animals too, particularly the lizards and snakes that were abundant on his family’s ranch. Sage was also the class clown, the kind of kid who would rig cans of Silly String to discharge in your locker, or leave whoopee cushions on the teacher’s chair.
My friends had slept over at my place the night before. I lived in FunJungle employee housing, which was a trailer park located behind the employee parking lot. The original plan had been to camp out, as there was a nature reserve right out my back door. However, the storm had chased us inside, forcing us to sleep in my small bedroom and make microwave popcorn instead of s’mores.
I had unlimited access to FunJungle since both my parents worked there. (Dad was the staff photographer.) I had gotten Sage in through the employee entrance at the rear of the park. Everyone who worked there knew me, and they often let me bring a friend in for free.
Xavier didn’t need my help to get in; he was a junior volunteer at the panda exhibit and thus had his own employee pass.
“We should try for another campout, later this week,” Xavier said. “Since this one got rained out.”
“We could do it at my ranch!” Sage offered. “There’s this great place on the riverbank I want to show you….”
“On the riverbank?” Xavier repeated skeptically. “Won’t it be two feet underwater after last night?”
“Yes, but I bought a submarine we can all sleep in,” Sage replied sarcastically, then added, “We’re obviously not going to sleep there if it’s flooded, dingus. But if it’s dry, I promise you, it’ll be one of the most awesome nights of your lives.”
“I’ve done a lot of camping,” I reminded him. In fact, I had spent the first ten years of my life camping, living in a tent in the Congo while my mother studied gorillas. “Unless you have a herd of elephants on your ranch, I doubt this will be as awesome as what I’m used to.”
Sage gave me a smug smile. “Trust me. It’ll be better.”
“What’s better than a herd of elephants?” Xavier asked incredulously.
“You’ll see,” Sage replied.
Xavier narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “You’ve been acting really weird lately. What’s going on with you?”
“Nothing’s going on,” Sage said, in a tone that indicated something was.
Xavier turned to me. “See? Weird.” Then he gasped with excitement as he noticed we were passing Savanna Sally’s Smoothie Shack. “Ooh! Who wants a smoothie?”
“And you’re calling me weird?” Sage asked. “We just ate breakfast. Teddy’s dad made us each, like, fifteen pancakes.”
“I’m still hungry,” Xavier explained. “Plus, I get twenty percent off with my employee discount!” He hurried over to the shack and announced, “One extra-large Safari Sogoodie Smoothie, please.”
As the name indicated, Savanna Sally’s was located near the fake savanna of FunJungle, which was in the enormous African Plains exhibit. Hundreds of Central African animals lived together there, including giraffes, impala, eland, cape buffalo, rhinos—and zebras.
“Extra-large?” I looked at Xavier’s ample waistline, concerned for his health. “Maybe you should go with a smaller size.”
“Smoothies are good for you,” Xavier said. “They have fruit in them.”
“And ice cream,” Sage said, pointing to Savanna Sally’s, where one employee was dropping a scoop of vanilla the size of a marmoset into the smoothie maker.
“There’s a lot more fruit than ice cream,” Xavier stated. “So that makes it healthy.”
“That’s not how nutrition works,” Sage argued.
Xavier started to argue back, but he was cut off by the whir of the smoothie blender, which was as loud as a helicopter.
In Xavier’s defense, the Safari Sogoodie was marketed as one of the healthier food options at FunJungle, but this was true only because most of the FunJungle food options weren’t healthy at all. At one shop, you could even get deep-fried fudge, which my father referred to as an “instant heart attack.” There was fruit in the Safari Sogoodie, but it was mostly high-sugar stuff like apples and grapes; and while the menu claimed it had blueberries in it, there were really only about five; purple food coloring was added to make it look like there were more.
The server handed the smoothie to Xavier and charged him $8.99. Like many of the beverages for sale in the park, it was oversize, to make people think they were getting some value for their money. Xavier needed two hands to hold it.
“Yikes,” Sage said, eyeing it warily. “Once you’re done with that, we can fill the cup with water and use it as a hot tub.”
“You’re hilarious.” Xavier took a sip of his Safari Sogoodie. The smoothies had originally been designed to be consumed with straws, but straws had been banned at FunJungle—and almost every other zoo in America—because people tended to drop them in the exhibits, and then the animals would eat them and get sick. Without the straw, Xavier’s lips were immediately dyed purple by the food coloring. Sage and I couldn’t help but laugh at him.
“What’s so funny now?” Xavier demanded.
“You look like a clown suffering from hypothermia,” I told him, which made Sage laugh even harder.
Xavier wasn’t pleased by this, but before he could say anything, we heard the braying of a startled zebra. It was a very distinctive sound, sort of a cross between a pig’s snort and a squeaky gate. I knew it well from my childhood in Africa.
“That’s a zebra,” I said. “And it sounds upset.”
“The Zebra Spanker must be here!” Xavier exclaimed.
“Oh, come on,” Sage told him. “There’s no way—”
At which point, a man in a neon orange lucha libre mask came running toward us with Chet Spivey in pursuit. “Stop that man!” Chet yelled. “He just spanked the zebra!”
It turned out that Chet had arrived just in time to spot the Zebra Spanker in the act. The Spanker had climbed over a railing at a scenic viewpoint and dangled into the African Plains to spank a large male zebra named Hochuli. (Given their stripes, all the male zebras at FunJungle were named after NFL referees.) The braying had alerted Chet to the crime, but the Spanker had already clambered out of the exhibit and was on the run. As they approached us, the Spanker had a huge lead on Chet, and it was getting bigger, as Chet, like most of FunJungle’s security, wasn’t in very good shape. He was already wheezing for breath, like he had run a marathon rather than only a hundred yards.
There weren’t any other people around to stop the Zebra Spanker except us. We were standing right in his path.
The Spanker was a big guy—much bigger than he looked in his videos. Over six feet tall and as muscular as a silverback gorilla. He didn’t appear very concerned by our presence. If anything, he seemed to think we would be excited to see him, like he was a celebrity. He actually grinned at us as he approached and exclaimed, “Hey, kids! It’s me!”
I wasn’t excited to see the Zebra Spanker at all; in fact, I loathed him. One of my biggest peeves was how many people ignored the warning signs at FunJungle—or any zoo—and bothered the animals, be it by tapping on the glass of their exhibits, yelling to get their attention, or throwing food to them. So I had no patience for anyone who climbed into exhibits and smacked animals that had been minding their own business.
But Xavier hated people who bothered the animals even more than me. If he caught people banging on the glass of the panda exhibit while he was on duty, he would point their bad behavior out to the crowd at the top of his voice to shame them, and then call FunJungle security to have them ejected from the park. (The security guards almost never showed up, but the threat of them usually sent the perpetrators scurrying off in fear.)
As the Zebra Spanker bore down on us, Xavier scowled at him with disgust and then, without even thinking about it, he threw his entire smoothie into the culprit’s face.
The thick, viscous mass of smoothie temporarily blinded the Zebra Spanker—and since it contained so much ice cream, it might have given him an external brain freeze as well. He yelped in surprise and careened toward us.
I stuck out my leg and tripped him.
The Zebra Spanker didn’t fall right away. He only stumbled and then tried to keep running, which is a very bad idea when you’re visually impaired and surrounded by open-air exhibits. The Spanker veered off Adventure Road, slammed into a low railing, and tumbled over it into the otter habitat. He landed on his rear in the fake stream and was instantly beset by hungry otters, who were lured by the smell of fruit on him.
This scared the pants off the Zebra Spanker. He still couldn’t see, and now little furry things that smelled like fish were crawling all over him and licking his face. “Help!” he wailed. “Someone get me out of here!”
Xavier, Sage, and I raced to the railing and looked down into the exhibit. Sage took his phone and started recording everything.
“Ha!” Xavier yelled at the Zebra Spanker. “Getting into the exhibits isn’t so much fun now, is it?”
“Please!” the Spanker moaned. “This isn’t funny!”
“I think all your fans might disagree.” Sage zoomed in on him and told us, “We definitely need to post this.”
Chet arrived at the railing, still gasping for breath and clutching his side in pain. He was so winded, it was difficult for him to speak into his radio. “Dispatch, this is Officer Spivey. The Zebra Spanker has been contained. Although I’m going to need some help getting him out of the otter pit.”
“The otter pit?” the dispatcher responded in disbelief.
“Yes,” Chet answered. “He fell in after being hit in the face with a…” He turned to Xavier. “What was that, anyhow?”
“A smoothie,” Xavier said proudly. “The Smoothie of Justice.”
Sage’s phone rang, interrupting his video. On the screen, I could see it was his mother calling. He stopped filming the Zebra Spanker and answered excitedly. “Hey, Mom! You’ll never guess what Teddy, Xavier, and I just did!”
I couldn’t hear his mother’s response, but it was obviously bad news. The expression on Sage’s face shifted from jubilation to shock. “What?” he asked. “How?!”
Sage listened to his mother a bit more, the frown on his face growing bigger and bigger. “Okay,” he said finally. “I’m coming home.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked him.
Sage turned to me, his eyes red with tears, and said, “Someone stole my tyrannosaur.”
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