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Chapter 9

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I grabbed a dish rag and tied it around my face. Then, cutting out the eye holes, I tested it out as a mask.

“You can do this,” I whispered.

“That’s right, you can,” a voice said. Iris stood at the door, arms folded.

“We’ve got to get a lock for that,” I said.

“You’re going to be great!” she yelled from across the room.

“I’m still mad at you,” I growled. But then I caught a glimpse of a picture on the wall. I was standing with my dad, working on a birdhouse together. I had lied to him today as well. I had promised him I would stay in the lair. How was I any different from Iris? We both had the same goal of saving the city and we had both lied in the process.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I should have told you everything from the beginning.”

“I forgive you.”

She whipped out her device and began playing a cheesy sentimental song.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“It’s a touching moment. It needs touching music.”

“Just stop, please.”

She blasted the emotional song even louder. “It’s just that I have a hard time making friends. I don’t really trust people. And since your dad is a villain, I made an assumption about you. I’m genuinely sorry, Tony.”

“Okay, okay, okay. Listen, we have a mutant refrigerator to take down.”

“Wait, we?” she asked, turning off the music.

“Of course,” I shot back.

“You want me as your sidekick?” Her eyes grew big.

“Not as a sidekick. A partner. We’re equals. I mean, you’ve been kind-of leading this mission the whole time.”

“But my parents are supervillains,” she said. “That pretty much disqualifies me from being a hero.”

“Wait, but so was my dad,” I said.

“Fair enough. But I don’t have any superpowers,” she said.

“Who cares? Lots of heroes don’t have superpowers. We’re a team.”

She grinned. “We need to make our outfits and fast. And by fast, I mean quickly. I don’t mean that we should stop eating because if we did, we’d run out of energy. In fact, I’m just going to grab one of this organic energy bars.”

“Wait, stop,” I warned her.

“Ugh, hippy food. Tastes like bird seed,” she said.

“It is bird seed. It’s a block of bird seed. I told you my dad works on bird houses.”

“Does he do bird condos?” she asked.

“Iris, I feel like you’re stalling. What’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing. I just . . . I’m used to be behind the scenes. This is my first time actually taking out a villain.”

“Mine, too,” I said. “But we’ve got this, right?”

“We got this!” she yelled. She ran to the kitchen and pulled out the scissors, cutting up my dad’s fanciest red velvet tablecloth. She sketched flames that rose up from two wings.

“What is that, Iris?” I asked.

“I’m not Iris. I’m Flaming Hot Wings!” she said as she cut out a mask for herself. She ran outside and came back with a backpack.

“Yes, here it is. A set of flares. It goes with the motif. I mean it’s not quite a flame thrower but it’s definitely not something someone my age should own.” She grabbed a grapple gun and a few hooks.

Then she stood in front of the mirror and waved her cape. Sure enough, it looked like wings – or at least like a glider.

“Flaming Hot Wings, you look like a hero,” I said. “You ready to go?”

“Hmm . . . almost. You need a cape as well,” she said.

“I don’t need a cape,” I shot back.

“I can make a breakaway cape easily. Is there anything you could use? An old sheet of some kind? We could make it look like a napkin.”

“That’s it! My baby blanket. It was a napkin from when I was born or came to life or whatever,” I said.

“It’s probably too small,” she said.

“No, it probably grew as well,” I ran upstairs and climbed the ladder to the attic. Sure enough, there was a box of baby items and the napkin had grown.

“It’s probably grown stronger as well,” Iris said, trailing behind me. We spent the next hour working on our hero outfits. At one point, Iris snapped at me for calling it a costume. “Costumes are for pretending. This is life or death, Tony.”

The late afternoon turned to evening and I began to wonder if Iris was stalling again.

“Should we go?” I asked.

“Don’t you think we should develop a plan?” Iris asked.

“I think we should just go for it. People always create plans and then those plans fail because you can’t create a plan for chaos. You just have to figure things out on the fly.”

“You’re right. I just . . . I plan. It’s what I’m good at. I have an algorithm that can predict crimes before they happen. This isn’t who I am.”

“And I sit alone at home all day. This isn’t who I am, either. But we need to do this.”

“You’re right,” Iris said, letting out a deep sigh. She pulled out her phone again and played an instrumental action song.

“Nope, no music. Please.”

“But we need an intro. And a catch phrase,” she said.

“Okay, how about Super Pizza and Flaming Hot Wings to the rescue!”

“No, no, no. That won’t work. That’s what someone says when the delivery guy shows up at a party. We need something better.” She snapped her fingers.

“Be wildly and unabashedly different!”

“That’s a horrible catchphrase,” I said.

“Too bad,” she retorted. And with that we ran out the door, down our driveway, over the hill, and toward the town. We were nearly out of breath when we reached the crumbled city center.

“Where is it?” I asked.

“It’ll find us,” Iris said.

“Don’t you think it’s odd that the refrigerator waited eleven years to attack?” I asked.

“I guess that is kind-of odd,” she shrugged her shoulders.

“And we never found out about the jar he was asking about.”

“You can ask him that when we capture him, okay? I’ll let you help with the interrogation when this is finished.”

“And I’m wondering where it’s been hiding for over a decade. I mean, something that big can’t just be hiding in a home,” I pointed out.

My heart was racing (yes, even pizzas have hearts) with every step we took. My mind replayed all the warnings my dad had given me about not breaking my crust.

The sun was setting as we marched into the town square.

“Where is it?” I asked. “It should be here by now.”

“Don’t worry. We don’t have to find it. It’ll find you.”

“What if it doesn’t?”  I asked.

“It’s after you, Tony. And I’ve got an idea for how we’re going to confuse it.”

Iris gathered together chunks of wood from the rubble and pulled out a magnifying glass.

“You carry a magnifying glass?”

“You do when you’re a detective. Or, when you’re pretending to be one,” she said with a sly smile.  She aimed it at a pile of papers and waited for the tiny flame. Within a minute, she had put together a working fire.

“Don’t you think it’s a little warm for a campfire?” I asked.

“I’m going to need you to act as a decoy. Stand behind the fire.”

My arm started sweating a thick, oily grease.

“It’s melting my limbs,” I said.

“Just wait.” She wiped the sweat off from her forehead.

“It’s too hot.” The flames grew higher, brushing up against my crust.

“One more second.”

It was too hot.

“I know people like their pizzas to be wood fired but this is a little extreme.”

“Trust me,” she said.

The mutant fridge appeared in the distance. It flew through the park and dashed toward me.

“Stay still,” she said.

“Easy for you to say. Your legs aren’t melting off.”

The fridge towered over me, aimed his icy gun finger at my face and blasted an ice bomb straight toward me. It exploded in steam. The fridge let out a stream of icy air. Everything was steamy.

“We need to stop the ice rays,” I said.

“Oh they’re not rays,” she corrected me. “Mathematically speaking, a ray continues forever. These are technically segments.”

“A math lesson now? Really?”

“It’s always a good time for math,” she answered. “Math is all around if you’re paying attention.”

The fridge spun around in the steam, spraying its ice at the fire. It was completely disoriented.

“We need to find a way to gunk up its ice gun,” she said.

I looked around for any kind of object that might work. Grass? It wasn’t gunky enough. Dirt? It would just fire it out. Unless maybe the dirt turned to mud.

I scratched my face and wiped the grease. That’s it. Grease! I hocked a giant, brown, greasy loogie. If you’ve ever seen a pizza launch a snot rocket, it’s about the nastiest-looking thing on the planet. And I was standing there holding it in my hand.

I jumped up, but my legs were still too slow and stretchy.

I spit another loogie into my hand. “Hey, I need you to put this into its gun.”

“I’m not touching your booger.”

“It’s not a booger, I swear.”

“Yeah, it is. It came from your mouth,” she answered.

“But it’s not. It’s a ball of grease, okay?”

“See, you just admitted that it’s snot.”

“I said ‘it’s not’ not ‘it’s snot.’ Geez.”

“I’m not touching it,” she said, shaking her head.

“No, I mean, it’s grease. I would put it on the fridge’s finger, but I can barely move. I need your help.”

The steam was disappearing.

“There’s no time! Please, just do it!”

She ran toward me and gagged as she picked up the glob of grease. “This is disgusting.”

“You don’t have to eat the grease,” I told her. “Just stick it in his ice gun finger thingy.”

Iris aimed her grapple gun at the fridge and shot it forward. Clank! It missed by inches. She reeled it back in and aimed again.

“We’re running out of time!” I yelled as a bolt of ice crashed beside me.

She pressed the trigger and the grapple hook shot around the robotic refrigerator. All at once, she flew forward and landed on top of the refrigerator.

Right then, the fridge whipped around and aimed its freezer finger at her face. My legs were like jelly, but I jumped toward it, propelling myself in the air and landing on its arm right as of ice sprayed out. My whole body seized up. The pain was excruciating.

“Give me the bottle,” the robot growled.

“Grab my hand,” Iris said. I stretched my arm out and noticed something. The cold air had snapped my cheese back into place. The pain was still intense, but I was okay. My right hand clasped her hand but my other hand remained lodged in front of the ice gun. Meanwhile, my giant pizza body dangled below.

“I need you to let go so I can gunk up the gun,” she said.

I stared down below. It must have been a thirty-foot drop.

“No way,” I said.

“You’ve got to do it. There’s no other option, Tony.”

“My crust. I don’t think it can handle it,” I told her.

“Listen, I ran some calculations while we were in our lab. You can drop at least forty feet. This is thirty-two and a quarter feet.”

“How do you know?”

“Proportional reasoning. You calculate . . . I see. You’re stalling. You’re trying to get me to talk about math. Look, you need to drop down, Super Pizza.”

I can do this. It’s scary but I can this.

“I can’t do this,” I said aloud.

“You have to,” Iris said.

All at once, I let go. I crashed down on my face and brushed the pepperonis.

“I’m alive,” I mumbled.

“Run!” Iris screamed.

I sprinted forward as fast as my cheesy legs could take me.

Iris hugged the giant metallic arm, edging closer to its freezer gun finger.

I sprinted down around the fountain, ducking down as it sprayed ice bolts and lobbed ice bombs the size of softballs. They cracked all around.

“I’m getting closer!” she yelled.

The refrigerator and I paced back and forth around the giant circular fountain. He lunged left and right, juking back and forth but I wasn’t fooled. I matched his moves.

“I got it!” she said, stuffing the greasy gunk in its robotic gun. The robot flailed around, sending Iris flying into the field. Instead of falling, she glided down and landed on her feet like a crazed cat. From a distance, it really did look like flaming wings.

“We’re good! We got this!” she yelled. “Use your cheese to your advantage. Be weird. Be wildly and unabashedly different!”

“That’s not our catchphrase,” I yelled.

“Yes, it is,” she said.

And maybe she was right. Maybe this was my chance to be weird.



  1. Although Iris doesn’t have superpowers, she does have strengths she can use in saving the day. What are those strengths?
  2. Why would Iris be bold in the beginning but suddenly find herself stalling and delaying in this chapter?
  3. In what ways do both characters have to depend on each other?
  4. What do you think of their catchphrase?