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The Key with the Curse
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-183-X
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery
eBook Length: 56 Pages
Published: October 2004

From inside the flap

Finding a key leads two brothers into finding a cave that holds a terrible secret. Within the hidden chambers lies a golden sarcophagus. In the coffin is an insane pharaoh suspended in sleep for centuries and who is waiting for his trusted follower to insert the special necklace that will awaken him. If he regains his powers then the world will be lost and it is up to Andrew and Michael and their friends to find a way to prevent it from happening.

The Key with the Curse (Excerpt)

The Key with the Curse

I?d rather visit Daniel in the lionís den than come to bat in Mrs. Strongís game of humiliation.

Don?t get me wrong, I like sports; I?m not very good on skates, but I?m good in gymnastics, football, basketball and baseball. In Mrs. Strongís diabolical game, itís different.

It begins with a selection of players. The two captains are the brains of the class. Annette Ashwin is one of them, not my favourite person. Sheís a year younger than me, and is taking grades 3 and 4 together. She knows sheís smart. Bobbie Wright isn?t too bad, She doesn?t try to make me feel like a loser. Each captain picks a classmate for her team and it goes back and forth until I?m left standing alone. I?m the last chosen. Itís mortifying, but I don?t blame them. Itís the game. When a player comes up to bat, the captain on the other team selects a word from a common list and tosses it to the batter. The batter gets on base when the word is spelled correctly. Just like in baseball, runs are scored when one runs through the three bases and comes home. If you misspell, you strike out. Three strikeouts and the other team then comes to the plate. The other kids like this game. Mrs. Strong has come up with a few twists and a pitcher can throw a curve ball from a selected list of difficult worlds. If the batter gets a hit he gets a double.

"Spell ?horsemanship?." Annette says to Mark.

"H O R SE M AN S H I P," Mark gets to first base.

The game goes on. I keep trading places in hopes that three mistakes will be made and I don?t have to come to the plate. I?m just not a good speller. I hear a word and my mind goes numb. Using phonetics never seems to help. My knees shake and my stomach feels awful. I don?t know if others feel this way. Everyone is not a perfect speller like Annette, but I don?t see them mortified in front of their friends.

"Spell ?arithmetic?, Annette asks Barb Wexman. Barb is good and hits the ball out of the park. We?ve scored three runs and only Billy misspelled ?dungeons?.

I?m saved the first embarrassment and only come to the plate in the 2nd and 4th inning. I strike out each time. The words are hard and no one blames me. But I know, I?ve heard some of the comments.

"Mrs. Strong, can we trade Michael for Gwen? We had Michael last time."

Gwen couldn?t play sports if her life depended on it. Sheís not much of a speller either, but sheís better than me.

"No, once a team is picked, itís a team," Mrs. Strong says.

I feel even worse. I know itís a team game and I?m part of it, but I also know that no one wants me on their team.

I know all the baseball teams and the players, last yearís batting averages, bases stolen, homeruns. What would Willy Mays do in the bottom of the seventh with two out and the score in favour of the opposition?

Everyone knows. He?d laugh in the face of the pitcher and make the pitcher come to him. With a crack of the bat the ball would sail out of the park or be a line drive into the pocket between first and second base. Willy Mays would never have his knees shaking like mine.

I?m on deck and Mary Amis is up at the plate. Itís the seventh inning and the time is running out. We are down a run. The tying run is at second and Billy is on first with the winning run after spelling ?alfalfa?.

"Come on Mary!" I shout. "You can do it. Hit it out of the park."

Annette consults her list of words and chooses one. The co-captain of her team shakes her head. She calls for a time out. They go into a clinch and finally agree on a choice.

Maryís face is pale. She knows that the team will lose if she fails to get a hit. She and the rest of the team have written me off.

Annette says with a look of triumph, "spell ?catastrophic?."

Mary feels the pressure; she squints her face and starts ? "C A T R A no wait, itís C AT E S T R O P H I C?."

Everyone holds their breath; I most of all. Please may she be right.

"You?re out!" Annette cries and gives the correct spelling.

The world collapses around me. I feel like Casey at the bat, but at least Casey was a hitter. A groan comes up from my teammates.

I come to the plate. so numb I hardly know where I am. Itís execution day and I?m up against the wall waiting in front of the firing squad for the world ?FIRE?. If only I had been sick today, then I wouldn?t be the class loser. Maybe I can faint or the fire alarm will go off. Aren?t they supposed to test it this week?

Why me?

Annette consults her list. There couldn?t be many words left; maybe I?ll get an easy one. The co-captain shrugs when Annette points to the word. Something is up. Have they run out of words?

"Spell ?inch?."

I don?t see the joy in the eyes of my teammates. I don?t see the look of despair in the eyes of the other team.

Who?d have thought that the worst speller in the class would be given such an easy word?

My mind is blank. I try to picture the word on a blackboard with the letters two feet tall. Itís the only way I can hope to spell. I concentrate Inch, inch, inch my mind keeps shouting at me.

I begin, "I. N.. C?H?. I don?t see the look of triumph in my teammates? eyes. Michael has finally spelled a word correctly? my mind tells me that it couldn?t be that simple, there must be a trick. I really don?t know if inch is spelled that way or not E S?." I say, finishing the word.

My troubles with English only increased. I became used to being the spelling dunce.

My brother Andrew saw me moping in our room.

"You look like you have been run over by a garbage truck. Why the sad face?"

"Itís Thursday, my weekly day for embarrassment."

"Oh, so you had a spelling bee. Everyone isn?t a good speller," Andrew said trying to encourage his brother.

"Everyone isn?t like me. I couldn?t even spell ?inch? correctly. Everyone is laughing at me."

"Michael, why don?t you look at words as if they are codes, computer codes, and represent something specific. They do in reality, so with your gift for computers, you can use your skill and think of words as key elements in a program."

I rubbed my forehead. "Thatís not a bad idea. I can try. I have to do something."

"What is that you are studying?"

"Oh, my teacher said she wanted to help me and that I might be wise to study these books." Four spelling books were on my desk unopened. "Then she gave me this! Itís a new version of Spelling Bee Baseball. If I were a good speller I might like it."

Andrew checked through the sheet of paper. "Hey, man, this is cool. Remember, think of words as computer codes or command words and I bet you?ll hit a Home Run."

Playing Spelling Bee Baseball

Rules: 1. Divide the class in half through random selection, e.g. odd numbers one team, even numbers the other. (Making your own choices leaves the poor spellers to the last and enforces their feelings of inadequacy).

2. Choose a captain and an assistant captain (usually the best spellers in the class) for each team as the pitchers.

3. Select the words based on their difficulty i.e. easy words or words previously studied or used in earlier grades are recognized as Good for a Single Base. Harder words are Good for a Double. Difficult words are Good for a triple. They may include unusual words or words in advanced lessons or levels. Real teasers are Good for a Home Run.

4. The captain, in consultation with the co-captain, picks the word from the list after the batter on the other team is asked if she or he wants a Single, Double, Triple or Home Run word.

5. The captain pitches the word and if the batter is successful in spelling it, he or she advances to the base according to the difficulty of the word. The next batter comes up and the game continues like in baseball with runs scored pushing the team ahead depending on whether a Single, Double, Triple or Home Run. If a batter spells the word incorrectly he or she is íStruck Out? and the next batter comes to the plate. The base runners do not advance on a strikeout. Three strikeouts and the side retires.

6. The other team comes to the plate and the game continues through 7 or 9 innings. The game helps the players learn and whether or not a player strikes out is not viewed as a downer.

Other options can be adopted once the class is familiar with the game. These options make the game more interesting. It keeps the runners attention since they may be asked to spell a word that one of their team members at bat missed.

1. If the runner spells it correctly it constitutes a Stolen Base and the runner at the plate advances to first base.

2. A Double Play can take place if the batter strikes out and the pitcher asks one of the runners to spell the word in question. If the runner does not successfully spell the word then he or she is retired from the base

Would I ever live down being the only person in the world who couldn?t spell ?inch?? I was good in science, history and nearly everything except for spelling, and I found even more interesting subjects to pursue when adventures and mysteries started to change my life. I can?t say specifically when mysteries crept up on me, but after the Fossil Creatures it seemed that Andrew or my friends found things that seemed suspicious and when we took the time to look into them we discovered mysteries. Perhaps finding mysteries was a way to make up for a weakness that threatened to mark me for life. Why I found English so difficult was a mystery. I think it was because I did not like to read at first. I did like my parents telling us stories. Each night I pleaded with my father to tell us one of his many stories. His adventure stories lit up the imagination of my brother and me and later my sister, and that perhaps was the key to discovering mysteries and adventures that sometimes were literally under our noses.

The books The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in the series by C.S. Lewis and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl I liked. I decided to tape record the stories, then I would not have to read them again and I could listen to the stories as often as I wanted. When I asked my mother and dad if they could buy me tapes to do this they agreed. It took me 17 tapes to read in the stories that I really enjoyed.

Looking back at this, I discovered that my parents knew how much I disliked reading and understood that to read well takes practice. I did get practice by the time I made all those tapes and I discovered I?d rather read a book in peace and quiet than record and listen to my own voice. So reading started to become interesting, and I found a new world in books which months before I refused to open because they looked too thick or too difficult. Then I started to learn better English.

I improved my language skills, even spelling, but never was as good at it as some people like Andrew for instance. The Internet allowed me an opportunity to gain skills in language because if you don?t spell the words correctly the Internet never makes it easy for you to find out what you are hunting for.