Central Park Story Book One–Sample Chapter:

 

Preface

 

I SWEAR I’M NOT CRAZY. If I tell you everything that happened at Central Park School and how I saved the world from destruction, will you believe me?

Maybe you’re tired of reading stories about people saving the world and are ready to slam this book in my face. If that’s the way you feel, I wouldn’t blame you one bit. I’m only trying to tell you my story’s different, if you’ll give me a minute to explain.

The question is where to begin.

Certainly not when I first stepped into my Great Aunt B’s apartment on 73rd and Fifth and saw it was stuffed with doll houses.

I guess if you’re going to run an antique doll house store for the uber-wealthy on the Upper East Side of New York City, you’ve got to have a warehouse to keep all your crazy stuff nearby. Then again, it wasn’t exactly what I expected when I first stepped in the door.

Also, it’s probably best I skip the part about my stepfather dumping me with the doorman and shouting, ‘Get lost, Christopher!’ Not that I blame him. I’d nearly set his house on fire the previous day. But how was I to know if you leave a frying pan full of hot oil on the stove and get stuck watching reruns of Marvel Comics upstairs that it would self-ignite?

Then there was the moment Aunt B told me I had to go to school the next morning. Not that it would matter. I’d already been kicked out of five schools in less than four years since the age of twelve, so why should I expect anything different this time around?

Two expelled me for less than ideal behavior; two I flunked out of within the first four months; and at the last one, the principal personally escorted me to my stepfather’s after I dumped a bucket of red paint on his brand new Corvette. At least I made sure the colors matched.

So that leaves me on the morning of September 3rd when Aunt B navigated me toward the 79th Street crosstown bus in Midtown Manhattan.

 

September 3rd

 

7:00 a.m.

“Just get off on the other side of the park when the driver says ‘Museum of Natural History’ and your school is on the opposite side of the street,” Aunt B smiled. Then in plain view of some girls my age, she shoved a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my hand. “Oh, and Hannah made this especially for you in case they don’t feed you.” (Hannah was her cook/housekeeper/slave.)

Of course, they’d feed me! Every school I’d ever been kicked out of fed me!

I felt my face turn as red as the strawberry jelly oozing out of the sandwich and watched the girls giggle ahead of me.

The bus turned out to be so packed with fat people I ended up staring into some guy’s sweaty armpit and barely noticed the greenery speeding past the window. The road must have been sunk below the ground because I was forced to lean forward to see the trees. Yet, there, beyond a drunk who was nodding off in the seat in front of me, I saw what looked like a primeval forest, broken by an occasional building or the backside of a statue.

I stared past the reflection of my eyes which were soaking it in like a sponge, yet somehow it made the greenery look even more inviting as if I were watching it pass through me instead of beyond the grimy window.

Though I knew it wouldn’t last like everything else in my life, it made me think of my parent’s farm outside of Hartford. They would take me for long walks along its boundaries and stop every so often to make sure I took in the views. Come to think of it, that’s probably where I picked up my love of sketching. I even remember the last night we camped behind our farmhouse to watch the stars revolve in a moonless sky and I asked them who or what put them up there.

My father laughed in the way he laughed at so many of the things I said. Then he told me, “God put them there so you’ll always remember the infinite love your mother and I have for you, Christopher.”

That was the month before he was killed in the war in Iraq and the year before my mother killed herself in a war with herself. (They tried to tell me it was an accident, but you can’t lie to a twelve-year-old.)

I started to cry at the thought of everything that had happened since, but the bus lurched to a stop, and my face slammed into the guy’s sweaty armpit.

I watched the rest of the greenery drop out of sight and moved to the front of the bus but I knew, right then and there, as if someone were whispering it in my ear, that the park would be a home away from home for me.

7:15 a.m.

“81st Street and Central Park West,” came the recording over the loudspeaker. “Museum of Natural History.”

By the time I pushed my way past all the fat people and made it to the door, the driver was already heading down the block.

I was pretty sure he waited till the last second before slamming the door in my face, but I figured he was one of those sadistic types—you know, the kind that grew up pulling the wings off of horseflies and watching them struggle on the pavement before grinding them in with his shoe.

I thought of grinding my own shoe into his foot as he stopped at the end of the block, only the guy with the stinking armpits shoved me out before I could make my move.

I could still see the park sparkling like the Emerald City of Oz at the end of the street and, off to the right, the Museum of Natural History. Beside it stood a box-like structure made entirely of glass with what looked like a giant white volleyball inside. As I drew closer, I noticed a sign that read ‘The Rose Center for Earth and Space’. It made me wonder if maybe I could hide inside and watch the stars revolve all day instead of having to go to school. Then it occurred to me that, next to school, museums were second on my hate list.

As I looked to the other side of the street, I saw something that appeared even more out of place than the giant volleyball in a box. Beside a herd of kids scrambling out of a bus like pygmies on amphetamines, two stretch limos came to a stop before the school entrance.

I paused to watch a chauffeur open one of the doors; next, I saw a red slipper appear, followed by a long, sleek leg and, finally, a girl my age.

She wore a bright red blouse and lipstick to match but otherwise had on the same grey skirt and jacket with the same school insignia as the other girls who had stopped to watch.

“The queen has arrived,” I heard one of them say.

If someone could drip with sarcasm, she would have been drowning in the stuff.

“Queen of what?” I asked sheepishly.

The girl stared at me like I was the biggest idiot on the block.

“Queen of Park Avenue, of course,” she laughed. “That’s Ashley Ferguson.” Then she giggled into the building.

“Totally annoying,” I said underneath my breath but, when I glanced at Queen Ashley Ferguson, I noticed she had stopped to stare at me.

It was only for a millisecond, but I knew the look. I’d seen it tons of times before and I imagine city girls aren’t that different than country girls in this respect. It was the I wonder who you are and I’ll find out soon enough but I’m not going to appear too interested right now look.

Something deep inside told me it meant trouble down the road; not the usual trouble of getting booted out of school but girl trouble—the worst kind there is.

 

(end of sample chapter)