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The eyes of kid midas, p.1

The Eyes of Kid Midas, page 1


The Eyes of Kid Midas

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The Eyes of Kid Midas


  Kevin burped, then giggled as a thought occurred to him. "I guess I'm the master of the universe."

  "Ah, put a leash on it!" said Josh.

  "No way." Kevin's imagination had been strapped to a post long enough. He stood up, hungry for something more than fast food, and climbed on a high boulder, reaching a hand up to the heavens.

  Josh laughed. "Whatcha gonna do? Part the Red Sea?"

  "Something like that."

  Josh stopped laughing and watched as Kevin stared through his glasses at the infinite depths of the star-filled sky.

  "Clouds," he whispered to the night. The frame of the glasses began to get warm, the lenses went dark and then silver. Directly above them, a gray spot appeared, like a hole in the sky, and clouds began to unfold, growing high above their heads— dense gray clouds, but the glasses reflected them in rich, swirling hues.

  "Pretty intense," said Josh. "Now stop it."

  for Jarrod,

  in whose eyes

  I can see infinity


  The Eyes of Kid Midas has evolved over a period of ten years from a campfire tale to this novel, and there are many people who have had a hand in shaping it.

  A very special thanks to all the kids who have heard the many incarnations of the story: Jeff, Jonas, Jason, Seth, and everyone at Camp Anawana; Tracy and all the kids at The Farm School; everyone at Phoenix Recreation; Vicki Croskrey and her students at Vista Verde School.

  Thanks to Steph, who had faith that I would eventually get it right; Lloyd, who midwifed Kid Midas's prolonged labor; Clinnette (C.J.), without whom it could never have been finished; and Elaine, without whose constant love and support Kevin Midas would never have crossed the threshold from dream to reality.

  With people like these, who needs magic glasses?


  Title Page



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  The Eyes of Kid Midas


  Four-eyes Midas Eats a Pinecone

  When Kevin Midas first saw the mountain, it was in perfect focus, because his glasses were not yet broken. The peak stood alone, like a single stone tooth that had been thrust up from deep within the earth, somewhere near the beginning of time. It wasn't part of a larger range; it didn't fit in with the rolling hills around it, it was just simply there, defying all attempts to explain it.

  The vans approached from the west, giving all the kids on the camping trip the most dramatic view the mountain offered. Its western face was a sheer wall of stone that towered hundreds of feet into the air. The eastern side was a much smoother slope, covered with pines—the same pines that blanketed the foothills around them. It was only half a mountain, really—as if someone had sliced it down the middle, leaving a granite cliff to face forever west.

  "Wow!" was all Kevin could say when he sawit. Even Josh looked up to stare at it. Josh, who was Kevin's most consistent friend, sat next to him for the entire three-hour trip, playing an endless supply of pocket video games. The sight of the mountain was the only thing that could take Josh away from his games.

  "There it is," said Mr. Kirkpatrick, the teacher driving their van, "the Divine Watch!"

  They pulled into a picture spot with the other three vans, and everyone got out to admire the magnificent peak before them. From photos, Kevin knew that the Divine Watch came to a sharp peak, but right now the top of the mountain shrouded in clouds. Even so, it was more impressive than pictures could ever show. No wonder the Indians had built legends around it.

  Most of the twenty kids on the camping trip had cameras, which now began to snap away like crazy.

  Bertram Tarson, who, thankfully, had not been in the same van with Kevin and Josh, watched the photo frenzy and rolled those golf-ball eyes of his.

  "For God's sake, it's only a stupid mountain," grumbled Bertram from behind a huge wad of bubble gum that Kevin could smell twenty feet away.

  Kevin couldn't say he hated Bertram Tarson, because hate was too mild a word for what Kevin felt. Bertram was more than a mere bully—he was a constant reminder that Kevin's life was out of his control. At home Kevin's parents controlled every waking moment, and in school control fell into the hands of the tough kids like Bertram, who, only three weeks into the seventh grade, had already resumed the endless pecking that kept Kevin angry and humiliated most of the time. Kevin wondered why nature pulled the cruel trick of making all the really obnoxious kids grow so much faster than the others. So much faster than him.

  As the shortest kid in the grade, with the thickest glasses, control of his own destiny seemed about as far from Kevin as a slam dunk on a basketball court. Bertram was proof of that.

  "Don't look now," whispered Josh, "but Bertram's staring at you." Josh, who was black, had no love for kids like Bertram, who saw everyone else in the world as potential targets for hatred.

  The fact that Bertram was glaring at Kevin was not a good sign. Everyone knew that Bertram needed a daily fix of cruelty, and he would often stare at his prey in advance, concocting some scheme.

  Bertram kept his eyes focused on Kevin for the longest time as he chomped up and down on his Big-League Chew with teeth so crooked they would make a horse cry. Bertram had worn braces for as long as Kevin could remember, but he suspected the braces would lose the battle.

  "What are you looking at, Shrimpoid?" Bertram finally said to Kevin. Then he reached into his mouth and pulled out a gum wad the size of his fist, depositing it into the waiting hand of Hal Hornbeck, a hulking kid who was Bertram's second-in-command. Hal was every bit as mean as Bertram, only less intelligent—which really didn't mean much. It was like calling a potato less intelligent than an onion.

  Bertram strolled back into his van, and Hal, who had been taking scowling lessons from Bertram, scowled at Kevin as he rolled Bertram's gum into a ball. He flung the ball at Kevin, but the gum missed the mark entirely, lodging itself in Mr. Kirkpatrick's hair. The gum clung to the hair almost as well as it clung to Bertram's dental work.

  Mr. Kirkpatrick turned to see Hal Hornbeck lumber into the van. Kirkpatrick just sighed. "All right, everyone," he said, "back in the vans; the Divine Watch awaits."

  Awaits what? wondered Kevin—because, through Kevin Midas's glasses, the lonely mountain cloaked in morning mist did seem to be waiting.

  The mountain loomed closer and closer in the windshield until all that could be seen was the immense rock wall.

  When the van door rolled open, Kevin was the first one out.

  The curtain of clouds had lifted to reveal the peak; a sharp point piercing the sky. Kevin, who at thirteen was rarely impressed by anything, was so overwhelmed, he had to lean back against the van for balance.

  Bertram was also the first one out of his van— but for reasons other than sight-seeing.

  Kevin's crystal-clear image of the mountain suddenly became a shadowy blur as Bertram ripped the glasses from Kevin's face.

  "The ball is in play!" shouted Bertram, who, after three hours of being cooped up in a van, needed a victim. No doubt he had been looking forward to this for hours.

  With his blasting boom box in one hand and Kevin's glasses in the other, Bertram ran to the edge of the trees with Hal, and they stood there gloating and
leering—waiting for Kevin to chase them.

  "Don't do it, Kevin," said Josh, who had seen the whole thing. "If you stop chasing them, they'll stop doing it."

  Sound advice, but the urge to go after them was so strong, Kevin didn't know if he could resist.

  He turned to see the teachers too busy with the head count to notice Kevin's plight. (Apparently Ian Axelrod was nowhere to be found. Ralphy Sherman swore he had succumbed to spontaneous human combustion somewhere along the interstate, but then, Ralphy said that whenever someone couldn't be found.)

  Bertram leered at Kevin with those awful bulging eyes as he spun the glasses on his index finger.

  "Bertram's like a zit," said Josh. "Ignore it and it will eventually go away."

  But Kevin simply couldn't do that. The ball was in play, and it seemed Kevin Midas was eternally condemned to play other kids' ball games.

  Already fuming mad, Kevin raced toward Bertram, and Bertram took off with Hal through the trees, leaving a trail of heavy metal for Kevin to follow.

  Kevin burst into a clearing filled with dead grass surrounding an evil-looking outhouse. Hal came from behind and put Kevin into the infamous Hornbeck Extremely Full Nelson (which was just like a normal full nelson, only more so).

  Kevin kicked and struggled against Hal, and the sport turned from a ball game to a rodeo.

  "Jest looga that dowgie go!" said Hal, putting on a fake Texas accent. "How fast you think we can rope this dowgie, Bertram?"

  Kevin had a fleeting image of himself with his arms and legs looped together like a calf in a rodeo, and being left there for the rest of the day.

  Hal took the edge off the nelson just enough for Kevin to see Bertram, standing ten feet away. A steady beat pounded from Bertram's tape player, which now rested on the ground, as Bertram dangled Kevin's glasses from his fingers. The game was no longer a rodeo, but a bullfight.

  "C'mon, Midas. Come an' get your glasses!" said Bertram. "Toro, toro!"

  Hal cackled with laughter. Kevin, barely able to breathe, could only grunt and snort like a bull.

  Josh lurched into the clearing and, as was often the case, immediately took up Kevin's cause. His parents were lawyers, and so Josh had a way of talking sense and logic into onions and potatoes.

  "You realize, Bertram," said Josh, "that you're already in enough trouble for the gum in Kirkpatrick's hair. If I were you, I'd lay low for a while."

  Kevin could almost hear the advice go in one car, echo a bit, then come out of the other.

  "Hal threw it," said Bertram.

  "It was your gum," said Josh.

  Bertram shrugged it off and returned his attention to the bullfight. Then Bertram's music, which had been blaring all the years Kevin knew him, suddenly stopped dead.

  Kevin could hear the rush of a distant waterfall and birds singing high up in the pine trees—sounds of nature that must have infuriated Bertram.

  "Huh?" said Bertram, turning around. Josh ejected the tape and backed away with it. Kevin's eyes went wide. No one who valued his life turned off Bertram's music. Bertram gritted his thoroughbred teeth, and growled like a hungry pit bull.

  "You had best give me back that tape!"

  Josh continued to back away with the hostage cassette, heading toward the outhouse.

  The small green outhouse was the size of a phone booth, and it had one of those odors you remember for the rest of your life. Josh swung open the door and an unholy strangling stench flowed out like invisible fingers of death.

  Bertram started toward him, but Josh held the tape out over the open hole of the grungy toilet.

  "Take one more step, and down it goes."

  Kevin, still in the crushing grip of the Extremely Full Nelson, watched as Josh Wilson rendered Bertram Tarson speechless. It was a moment for the record books.

  "C'mon, Josh, a joke's a joke," pleaded Bertram. "You wouldn't do that . . . would you?"

  Josh smiled. "Make you a deal. I'll give you back your music if you let Kevin go and give him back his glasses."

  Bertram didn't answer right away.

  "The offer is good for five seconds," said Josh.

  Bertram turned to Hal and nodded. Hal threw Kevin to the ground, and Kevin gasped a deep breath.

  "Good," said Josh. "Now the glasses."

  "The tape first."

  "You have three seconds," said Josh.

  Powerless to bargain, Bertram tossed the glasses to Kevin. Josh then tossed Bertram his tape, keeping his part of the deal—which, under the circumstances, was not the safest thing to do.

  "Josh, look out!" yelled Kevin, but it was too late. Bertram grabbed Josh by the neck andsmashed his back against the wall of the outhouse with a thud, pinning him there.

  "You touched my tunes," screamed Bertram, his face turning red. "Nobody touches my tunes!" Hal held open the outhouse door, and in one instant the plan became painfully clear. Bertram and Hal began to pull Josh headfirst toward the outhouse.

  "Listen," reasoned Josh, "you really don't want to do this. . . . Think of your conscience!"

  "I ain't got one," said Bertram.

  That's when Kevin threw the pinecone. It whizzed through the air and bounced off the back of Bertram's head.

  Bertram slowly turned to Kevin, who stood across the clearing with the determination of a gunslinger. Kevin had taken enough. He could sense something igniting inside himself—something that was about to explode.

  "Oh my God!" said Josh—realizing that Kevin meant business.

  Bertram offered up a sinister smile at Kevin's foolhardy attempt at bravery. "You threw a pine- cone at me, Midas?"

  Kevin, unflinching, pushed the glasses farther up on his face, and two words growled themselves out from the back of his throat.

  "Your mother."

  Bertram's smile faded. The only thing more sacred than Bertram's music was his mother. He dropped Josh, forgetting him completely, and stared at Kevin, fists clenched. His face was popping blood vessels, and his whole body quivered in fury.

  "My mother what?"

  Kevin clenched his own fists and readied himself for the fight. He stared straight at Bertram from across the clearing and shot his words from the hip.

  "Your mother's a pinecone."

  A hundred yards away, at the campsight, Miss Argus, the math teacher, was lovingly snipping gum out of Mr. Kirkpatrick's hair. So involved were they in their minor surgical procedure that neither they nor the other teachers observing the operation noticed when Ian Axelrod, finally turning up, came bounding from the woods and announced, "Hey, everyone, Bertram's fighting Kevin Midas!"

  In a matter of seconds all twenty kids had vanished from the campsight, racing through the woods to see the fight of the century.

  Kevin and Bertram rolled in the dirt, both delivering punch after punch. In seconds they were surrounded by a cheering mass of kids who were thrilled that somebody—anybody—was going to get beaten up. Josh tried to break it up, but Hal put him in an Extremely Full Nelson.

  Kevin had exploded, all right—he was a fireball of fury, finding more strength in himself than he'd ever known he had. At last he had discovered the courage to stand up to Bertram! At last, after all these years, Bertram would get what he deserved: humiliation at the hands of Kevin Midas.

  But as it sometimes goes, Kevin's fury just wasn't enough. Bertram was simply bigger and stronger—and all the righteous rage in the world wasn't going to change that.

  In the end, Bertram pinned Kevin down by the neck with one hand and brandished the pinecone in the other, holding it above Kevin's mouth.

  "Open wide, Midass," said Bertram.

  "Go to hell, Bertram!" yelled Kevin defiantly, and with that, Bertram rammed the entire pinecone into Kevin's mouth, until Kevin's cheeks bulged like a chipmunk's.

  Bertram got off Kevin, and stepped back to admire his handiwork.

  Then everyone but Josh began to laugh at Kevin—even Nicole Patterson, the girl whom Kevin had a not-so-secret crush on. The humiliation hurt
worse than his black eye and swelling mouth.

  "Hey," said some clown, "Kevin's eating a high- fiber diet!" More laughter.

  Kevin reached into his mouth and carefully dislodged the pinecone.

  The crowd started to thin, but Bertram still stood there like a proud hunter over his kill. Just besideBertram were Kevin's glasses, which had fallen during the fight. Without taking his eyes off Kevin, Bertram lifted his foot and very slowly brought his dirty Reebok down on the glasses, grinding them into the dusty ground with all of his weight until the glasses snapped.

  "Oops," said Bertram. He lifted his foot from the broken glasses, grabbed his tape player, and left the clearing, his victory now complete.

  Three weeks into the new school year, and his glasses were already destroyed.

  "He's gonna pay for this," mumbled Kevin, fighting back tears. "He's gonna pay."

  Josh just shook his head as he helped Kevin up. "Somebody's got to do something about him," said Josh. "The psycho's totally out of control."

  As they left, Kevin turned to look up at the mountain, which was nothing but a big blur now. "He's gonna pay," Kevin would always say when Bertram laid into him, but lately Kevin wasn't sure that Bertram would ever pay for anything. He wondered if the world was really a place where all the Bertrams and Hals were somehow brought to justice—or if it was like the mountain, which merely watched in silence as Kevin was beaten to a pulp.


  The Divine Watch

  Kevin didn't think of climbing the mountain until much later that night. The idea first occurred to him sometime around twilight, but he pushed it away. There were more pressing things to think about. Like how was he going to face the world looking the way he did?

  It was sunset now, and the white cliff of the mountain had taken on a bright red face, bathing the campsite in unearthly shades of scarlet and vermilion. Most of the other kids were clustered around the campfire, making s'mores, but Kevin wasn't about to leave his tent.

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