LISTEN UP PEOPLE, because we've got a problem here. It's time to get really worried, and by that I mean majorly concerned, about Kyle Parker. he used to be a cool guy. Okay, not the smartest kid at school or the best looking, but he could always hold his own. Until recently. Until he failed to notice that Lucinda (who, btw, is really hot) has been following him around for weeks. Or that a volleyball was coming straight for his face during gym. But can you blame him at a time like this?
In case you haven't heard, Kyle's mom kicked his dad out of the house. Why? Because of a book. Kyle's dad's book. The one he's been writing and can't get published. Which means he can't make any money. Which means he can't support his family. So it's the big D. Divorce. Unless Kyle can pull a fast one and fake out the most famous editor in New York City.
By going undercover. Secret. Top secret. That's right. Kyle Parker is about to become his dad's secret agent. So pay attention because he's going to need all the help he can get.
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Atheneum Books for Young Readers
April 30, 2006
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Adobe DRM EPUB
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Excerpt from Secret Agent by Robyn Freedman Spizman
Funny way to start a story, but these are the two words that Kyle Parker heard his mom shout at his dad through the thick walls of their brownstone on Twentieth Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in New York City at four minutes before midnight on Wednesday, June 9, two weeks and one day before Roosevelt High School got out for the summer.
"Did you hear me, Walter? I said I've had it!"
"I heard you. Everybody in Manhattan heard you. Including our son."
"I doubt it."
So did Kyle. But maybe he was wrong. Maybe he was dreaming. And maybe his mother wasn't really telling his father she'd had it. And worse, much worse, calling him by his name.
That's right. Kyle's mom told Kyle's dad she'd had it a lot. Mostly with the book Kyle's dad had been writing for the past six years called Love in Autumn. Which, if you asked Kyle, was about as sappy as you could get. The name of the book. I mean, who wants to read a book about love? In autumn? Which just happened to be when Kyle's mom and dad first met.
On the skating pond.
In Central Park.
Which was autumn. Or fall. Or whatever you want to call it. Like I said, Kyle called it sappy. And figured that was why no one would publish Love in Autumn and send his dad some money. Which was the real reason Kyle's mom told Kyle's dad she'd had it. Because she was sick of being the one who earned all the money all the time. Even when Kyle's dad reminded her she didn't earn all the money, since Kyle's dad worked at the Open Book in Greenwich Village four nights a week.
"That's a part-time job for a high school kid!" Kyle's mom answered back. "Not for a grown man with a wife and a son and responsibilities!"
And stomped out of the room.
And slammed the door.
But never -- not once, not ever -- did she call him by his name.
Kyle wasn't the best-looking kid at Roosevelt High School. Nor the most popular. Nor the best athlete. But he wasn't a loser, either. I mean, girls liked him. Or, at least, some did. Or, at least, Lucinda Winston did. But she lived across the street. And still went to PS 126. And worse, way worse, had freckles.
Not that Kyle had anything against freckles. But what would his friends say? Which was a pretty stupid question since he knew exactly what they'd say. And, yeah, this is a delicate subject we're talking about here. I mean, Kyle knew there was nothing wrong with freckles, and anyone who thought different was stupid or prejudiced or both. So he just pretended that freckles had nothing to do with it and convinced himself that Lucinda was just too young (a whole six and a half months younger than he was) and lumped her into the kid category. Which, as you might imagine, thrilled Lucinda no end. In other words, it made her so furious there were times she hated the very mention of the name Kyle Parker. Which, of course, was another way of saying she had a mad crush on him.
Did she mind that his knees were bigger than his calves and that his elbows were bigger than his forearms and that his hair stuck up like the crown of a rooster?
Kyle was smart like his dad and hardworking like his mom and knew computers better than anyone on the planet. At least, that was the way Lucinda saw it. Though it wasn't what made her eyelashes curl and her big toes tingle anytime Kyle even glanced in her direction. It was his smile. His special smile. Which, Lucinda realized, was as corny as all get-out. Especially since he saved it for his dog.
That's right. That was the dog's name. Which was a pretty high-class name for a dog, any dog, especially a dog as goofy as this dog. Plus, he wasn't even Kyle's dog. You see, Kyle's dad was allergic. So, as far as Kyle's house was concerned, there may as well have been a sign above the door that read No Dogs Allowed (or cats or canaries, for that matter). Another kid may have turned sulky. But that wasn't Kyle's style. He became a professional dog walker. That's right. He walked Shakespeare for money. Because some dog owners, no matter how much they loved their dogs, either didn't have the time or didn't make the time to watch their four-legged friends take a dump.
Not to Kyle.
He was crazy about Shakespeare -- pooper-scooper and all -- even before four o'clock that afternoon. When Shakespeare changed everything forever.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Because it wasn't 4 P.M. It was 7 A.M. The morning after the night Kyle heard his mom shout, "The end!" Which meant Kyle wasn't thinking about Shakespeare. Or even his mom sitting across the breakfast table, biting her lower lip. He was thinking about his stomach. Which felt as if someone had tied it into a knot and yanked it so tight he was afraid he might double over and smash, face first, into his Grape-Nuts flakes. Kyle heard a grumbling noise. It sounded like a locomotive. Only it wasn't roaring down the tracks. It was inside his head. Getting louder. And louder. Until Kyle knew there was only one question that could stop it. Not by slamming on the brakes. But by turning his life into a head-on collision.
"Where's Dad?" Kyle said.
This isn't easy to say about a mother, any mother, especially Kyle's mother, since Kyle wasn't doing all that hot at the moment. But Polly Parker was cut-and-dry. What I mean is, there was no middle ground with Kyle's mom. Things were either good or bad. Right or wrong. No compromises. No second-guessing. Once she made up her mind, that was it. Finished. End of story. You might consider this hard-hearted. But as far as Mrs. Parker was concerned, she'd been raising two kids the past six years. And one of them happened to be her husband.
"Kyle, your father won't be living here any longer," she said.
She didn't shrug. She didn't reach across the table and hold Kyle's hand. She didn't say, "I'm sorry." Because that was another thing about Kyle's mom. She got right to the point. No shilly-shallying or dillydallying. Life was what it was. And it didn't get any better if you tried to dress it up with whipped cream and a cherry on top.
"Why?" Kyle said.
"I think you know why," his mom said.
So okay. So it's time we said something nice about Mrs. Parker. Which, actually, isn't all that difficult. Because Mrs. Parker probably worked as hard at her profession as anyone you will ever meet. Plus, she was great at it.
Great as a what?
As a headhunter.
No, she didn't shrink human skulls and stick them on the ends of spears. A headhunter is business lingo for someone who gets people jobs. Lawyer jobs. Teacher jobs. Executive assistant jobs. All kinds of jobs. And, yeah, Mrs. Parker got paid. And, yeah, she and her
family needed the money. But money wasn't the only reason she was so dedicated.
You see, Mrs. Parker believed that the right person in the right job for the right amount of money gave that person self-respect. Which was why she worked ten hours a day five days a week. I don't mean she showed up. I don't mean she put in her time. I mean, once she took you on as a client, it was pretty much a done deal that you were no more than three weeks away from starting your career.
And that wasn't all. She had another great quality. Mrs. Parker loved Kyle the way Kyle loved Shakespeare.
The no-compromising part of her personality?
That had nothing to do with Kyle. Oh, sure, he had to drink his milk and do his homework and be polite and get to bed on time. There was no cutting corners on any of that stuff. But with the big stuff, the stuff that mattered, the stuff that gave Kyle confidence and made him feel secure, Mrs. Parker never wavered.
So don't worry. Kyle wasn't shaking in his socks that if he chewed with his mouth open he'd be out the door with his dad. As far as Kyle's mom was concerned, there was the rest of the world, and then there was Kyle, and Mrs. Parker was as fierce as a grizzly bear when it came to protecting her cub.
Which was what she figured she was doing now. Protecting Kyle by giving it to him straight. No false hope. No pretending things might get better. Kyle's father was gone. She kicked him out. Deal with it.
"For good?" Kyle said.
"No chance you'll get back together?"
Mrs. Parker didn't answer. Not out loud. Instead, she closed her eyes. And took a deep breath. And, in spite of herself, she reached across the table and took hold of her son's hand. Because, remember, this was Kyle. The crack in her armor. And she was hurting him. And she knew it. And she'd rather rip her arm off at the socket than hear that tone in his voice or see that look in his eyes.
"What can I do, Kyle?" she finally said. "It's the book. He's been writing it for six years. Six years, Kyle. Without a penny. I have dreams too. I'm working ten hours a day, and for what? I want you to go to a good college. I want you to have everything you deserve. You're a smart boy, Kyle, and I can't keep paying the bills on your father's dream. It's killing me. I can't stand it any longer."
And she broke down. Right there at the kitchen table. Which may not sound odd to you. But as far as Kyle was concerned it was like the moon exploding or Tiger Woods hitting a drive less than two hundred yards. Kyle tried to move but couldn't. He tried to speak but couldn't do that, either.
So he just sat there.
Not just because of his mom's tears. But also because of her last sentence. "I can't stand it any longer," she'd said. Not him. She hadn't said, "I can't stand him any longer." She'd said it. Which meant his dad wasn't killing her. The book was. Because it wasn't earning any money. Because it wasn't published. Which meant Kyle had to do something. He had to figure out a way to make sure Love in Autumn got published. No matter what. No matter where. Then maybe, just maybe, his mom and dad might get back together.
But how do you get a book published?