Authors: Tim Kehoe
Copyright © 2009 by Kehoe Companies, LLC
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: November 2009
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental
and not intended by the author.
This book is a
work of fiction
solely for reading entertainment.
It is not intended to be a guidebook for any of the experiments or activities described in this book.
The experiments and activities described in this book can be
and the reader should not attempt to recreate them. Before doing any kind of science experiment, readers are advised to
ask a responsible adult about the dangers
that may be involved and, with the help of that adult, take the necessary precautions. The author and publisher disclaim
any liability that is incurred from the application of the contents of this book.
Jeff Benz gave out most of the nicknames
at Central Middle School. The nicknames were never kind and, unfortunately, they usually stuck. Take Jimmy “Eagle-Eyes” Pierson,
for example. Jimmy had an unfortunate eye condition that made it difficult for him to accurately judge distances. Once, in
second grade, Jimmy walked into the cafeteria wall so hard it knocked him to the floor. Jeff Benz immediately stood up and
yelled, “Nice going, Eagle-Eyes.” And that was that. The nickname Eagle-Eyes was now pinned to Jimmy Pierson for the rest
of his life. (It didn’t matter to anyone that Jimmy had corrective surgery last year and now enjoyed perfect vision. No, to
the students at Central Middle, Jimmy Pierson would be “Eagle-Eyes” forever.)
Vincent Shadow didn’t have a nickname, but as he climbed out of his secret attic laboratory at 6:34
on Monday morning, he was afraid that today would be the day he’d receive one. Vincent was blue. His hands were blue. His
face was blue. Even the whites of his eyes were blue. As he closed the hidden door in the back of his bedroom closet, all
he could think about were the awful nicknames that Jeff Benz would assign to him.
“Pretty bird. Pretty bird,” Nikola said from inside his cage.
“Sshhh. You’ll wake everyone up,” Vincent said to the African Grey parrot his parents had given him for his ninth birthday.
Vincent named the bird after his favorite inventor, Nikola Tesla. And the fact that even his beloved parrot was mocking him
was a bad sign of what was to come.
Vincent quietly opened his bedroom door and looked out into the hall. His oldest stepsister, Gwen, usually hogged the bathroom
in the morning. But no one was awake yet. So he tiptoed into the bathroom and locked the door.
“Wigman,” Vincent said to himself. “The Huli Wigman of New Guinea. That’s what they’re going to call me. ‘Wigboy.’”
Vincent’s class had learned about the Huli tribe last year. They got a kick out of hearing that the Huli Wigmen dyed their
skin blue for tribal ceremonies. But looking in the mirror, Vincent’s worries turned from his new nickname to his own safety.
Not only were his skin and eyes blue, but his tongue and teeth were a deep navy blue as well. Vincent had experienced many
mishaps in the lab—spills, cuts, little electrical shocks, and once he even glued his fingertips together—but this, this looked
Vincent stood in the shower for thirty minutes, scrubbing as hard as he could, but nothing seemed to work. He tried all of
his sister’s fancy soaps and shampoos, but the mess just got worse. Not only was he still as blue as a blue jay, but now most
of the bathroom was blue, too.
“Hurry up, Vern,” Gwen said as she pounded on the bathroom door. “You’ve been in there for almost an hour!”
Vincent’s father, Norton Shadow, had remarried a few months ago, and Vincent went from being an only child, which he deeply
missed, to living with three stepsisters: Gwen, Stella, and Anna. Gwen was sixteen and went to Central High School on the
Upper West Side. Stella was Vincent’s age. In fact, their birthdays were exactly one week apart. But that was where the similarities
stopped. Anna was six. An aggressive, annoying, insistent six-year-old girl.
Gwen had called Vincent “Vern.” She had never done this before—called him Vern, that is. She had also never called him Vincent.
In fact, she had never called him the same name twice. While the names usually started with a V, she never seemed to come
up with “Vincent,” or even “Vinny,” for that matter. Vincent was pretty sure she did this on purpose. It drove him crazy,
but no one else in the family seemed to notice.
“I’LL BE OUT IN A MINUTE,” Vincent shouted to Gwen, who was now practically breaking down the bathroom door with her slipper.
Vincent tried to clean up as best he could and then wrapped a towel around his body, a second around his hair, and covered
his face with a third towel as he walked out of the bathroom.
He decided to wear a blue shirt, blue pants, and blue socks to try to camouflage his blueness. Vincent hoped that people would
think it was his blue clothes casting a blue reflection that made him seem so blue. But when he looked into his dresser mirror
and saw the Wigman chief staring back at him, he realized that this was going to be the longest day of his life.
Anna was sitting at the table eating a
bowl of cereal when Vincent walked into the kitchen.
“Mom! Mom! Vincent is
!” obnoxious Anna said. Vincent’s stepmother was standing at the sink with her back to Vincent. While the world may be full
of wonderful, kind, caring stepmothers, unfortunately for Vincent, Vibs, his new stepmother, was not one of them. Vibs was
nice enough to Vincent when Vincent’s father was around, but this morning Vincent’s dad was in Minneapolis on a job interview,
and that meant that Vincent was likely to get the full force of her awfulness.
In fact, Vincent’s dad was actually in Minneapolis on his second interview at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Vincent was
terrified that his dad might get the job. Then they would have to leave New York—and his inventions.
On a normal day, that thought would have occupied his mind, but on this particular blue Monday, Vincent was more afraid of
what Vibs would do when she turned around to find the great Huli Wigman chief in her kitchen. But she didn’t turn around.
“Why are you blue this morning, Vincent?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Vincent answered.
“No, Mom. I mean he
blue,” Anna insisted.
“We all get a little blue from time to time, Anna. Now be quiet and eat your breakfast,” Vibs said.
Gwen walked in and sat down next to Vincent. The noise from her headphones drowned out the awful sound of Anna chomping away
on her cereal.
“VANCE, WOULD YOU PLEASE PASS THE MILK?” Gwen said. Vincent passed the milk. Gwen didn’t notice he was blue.
Maybe this isn’t going to be so bad after all
, Vincent thought to himself.
But that thought was interrupted by a scream.
“WHAT DID YOU DO NOW?” Vibs yelled. “Is this some kind of joke? Do you think this is funny? Are you trying to hurt me? IS
THAT IT? YOU WANT TO HURT ME? Why do you always have to be so weird?”
Vincent could feel his eyes watering. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop from crying.
“Get upstairs and wash your face,” Vibs said as she pointed to the bathroom at the top of the stairs.
“I—” his voice cracked. “I already tried.”
“Well, try again!”
Vincent got up and walked out of the kitchen. He passed Stella on the stairs.
“Why so blue?” Stella said with a smile.
Vincent ignored her, walked up the stairs, and slammed his bedroom door behind him.
“What’s wrong with Vincent?” Stella asked her mom as she walked into the kitchen.
“I have no idea what’s wrong with that boy,” Vibs replied.
Vincent’s dad, Norton Shadow, had been
the assistant director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for as long as Vincent could remember. Vincent was born in New York
City and his parents practically raised him at “the Met.” He loved the Met. Or at least he did until his mom died.
Vincent’s mother had been an artist. On weekends, she and Vincent would spend hours walking through the Met, looking at all
the wonderful paintings. In fact, that’s where Vincent learned to draw.
His mother taught him how to recreate works by Picasso, DalÍ, Escher, and Hopper. It had been years since anyone had seen
Vincent without a black Moleskine notebook. He carried one everywhere he went, but it was toy inventions, not art, that now
filled the pages of his notebooks.