Frank einstein and the e.., p.1
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       Frank Einstein and the EvoBlaster Belt, p.1

           Jon Scieszka
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Frank Einstein and the EvoBlaster Belt


  “Holy evolution!” gasps Frank Einstein, crouched behind a log. “Talk about All Interconnected Life. This is amazing.”

  Two towering figures step forward.

  “This is such great proof. From microscopic bugs . . . to the biggest beasts. We all evolved. We are all connected.”

  Up in the tree, Watson nods. He is not thinking this is so amazing. He is thinking this is crazy. He is thinking this is scary.

  He would say something. But he can’t.

  And he really would like to, because he is seriously worried that this time Frank Einstein will not be able to think his way out of a jam.

  “Don’t worry, Watson,” says Frank. “I’ll think of something.”

  “BBBAAWWWKKKKRRR!” growls the megapredator.

  “CHHHHKKKKCHHHKKKKK!” rattles the monster next to it.

  Both slowly turn and look at the humans crouched behind the log.

  “Uh-oh” says Frank Einstein, suddenly realizing what it feels like to not be kings of the food chain. “It’s survival of the smartest now.”

  An orange-and-black and white-spotted monarch butterfly (A) flaps its wings and . . .

  . . . gets chomped in the jaws of a sticky-tongued green-and-black leopard frog (B) . . .

  . . . that gets suddenly swallowed by a leaping largemouth bass (C) . . .

  . . . that gets snagged by the sharp talons of a swooping red-tailed hawk (D) . . .

  . . . that gets clawed by a jumping orange-and-white-striped house cat (E) . . .

  . . . that gets chased through the woods by a barking hound dog (F) . . .

  . . . that suddenly stops when it hears two humans yelling (G) . . .

  “Head Butt!”

  “Spin Kick!”

  The hound dog stares at the two small humans battling each other in the meadow.

  “Bear Hug!”

  “Airplane Spin!”

  The dog doesn’t smell any food. It wonders what the humans are fighting over.

  “Butt Drop!”

  “Leg Lock!”

  A bigger human appears at the edge of the clearing.

  “Frank! Watson!” calls Grampa Al. “How about a little help putting up the tents?”

  “Awww,” says Frank Einstein.

  “I totally had you pinned,” says his pal Watson.

  Frank releases Watson from his headlock. Watson releases Frank from his leg lock.

  “And let’s show some hustle!” calls Grampa Al. “Because Atomic Al wouldn’t want to have to take you down with his Nuclear Piledriver.” He bends forward, flexing his arms into a wrestling pose.

  Watson looks at Frank in surprise. “Did he just say ‘Atomic Al’? Does that mean your Grampa Al used to wrestle?”

  Frank brushes the dirt and grass off his pants. “I never asked. But I would not be surprised.”

  The hound dog snorts and trots off into the woods.

  The orange-and-white-striped house cat, sitting safely high in a maple tree, licks its right paw.

  Frank gives Watson his hand and helps him up. Watson picks his flashy gold championship-wrestling belt off a nearby bush and flips it over one shoulder. “This championship match will be continued later,” says Watson.

  Frank grabs the belt. “You were two seconds away from tapping out.” He raises the belt overhead. “Wooooooorld Chaaaaampion—FFFFFrrrrraaaaaank EINSTEIN!”

  Watson karate chops Frank and takes back the belt. “No way! I had you right where I wanted you.”

  The two guys laugh. They stop, stand in the middle of the meadow, and take in the sight of the sunlit clouds in a deep-blue sky overhead, the sound of a bee buzzing circles around the flowering clover, the smell of the pond behind them, and the trees all around them.

  “How great is this?” says Watson. “Deep woods. Pure vacation. Nothing to do but goof around and relax.”

  Frank looks at the bee, the flower, the hawk overhead, the cat perched up in the tree. He sees something different. “It’s relaxing for us. Because we are the top of the food chain. But look around, Watson. We forget that we are part of all this. Everything living is connected.

  “And it’s kind of perfect this is Darwin State Park. Because it was scientist Charles Darwin who called life the Struggle for Existence. Every minute of every day—eat or be eaten.”

  “OK, that’s depressing,” says Watson. “But at least we get a vacation from that sneaky T. Edison and his evil Mr. Chimp. And we get to go fishing.”

  Frank whacks Watson’s championship belt. “Because we are kings of the food chain.”

  “And it’s good to be the king.”

  “And it’s good to relax for a change, and not have to fix emergencies . . .”

  The guys walk through the meadow and hop the stream toward the tents.

  A bang, splintering wood, a yell, a crash, the whoooop whoop whoop of a siren split the sunset calm of the woods.

  “Spoke too soon,” says Frank.

  He and Watson run for the tents.

  “WEEEEEE-OOOOOO, WEEEEEE-OOOOOO, WEEEEEE-OOOOOOOO!” wails something in the middle of the Darwin State Park woods.

  “Yaah! Hooo! Haaah!” Wild yells add to the din.

  A startled flock of crows explodes into the sky, flapping and cawing.

  Frightened squirrels, rabbits, and field mice run, hop, scramble for safety.

  Frank and Watson stop at the edge of the campsite and see where all the noise and commotion is coming from—a gigantic pile of dead tree branches jumping and shaking and howling.

  Right where their tents used to be.


  “Yaah! Hooo! Haaah!”

  “Oh man,” says Watson. “Maybe we are not the kings of the food chain after all. Something huge is eating our tents!”

  Frank picks up a hefty broken tree branch and swings it like a club. “And it’s attacking Grampa Al! We have to save him! Come on!”

  “Wait! What if it’s Bigfoot?!”

  “Then you can use your Head Butt.”

  Frank charges down the hill toward the thrashing, howling pile of craziness.

  “Look big!” yells Frank. “And noisy! And mean!”


  “Yaah! Hooo! Haaah!”

  Frank and Watson jump on the pile of branches.

  “We’ll save you, Grampa!” yells Frank.

  He smashes the branches covering the tents. “Take that!”

  Watson head butts whatever it is under the tent fabric. “Owwwwwwww.”


  “Yaah! Hooo! Haaah!”

  Something grabs Frank, wrapping him in a crushing python grip.

  Frank kicks and struggles, but he can’t move.

  Watson rolls on the ground, holding his aching head.


  “Yaah! Hooo! Haaah!”

  The mess of branches, leaves, and wiggling tent suddenly blows apart.

  And Frank and Watson see the monster that has been making all the noise.

  “WEEEEEE-OOOOOO, WEEEEEE . . . oh . . . ,” screeches a small robot.

  “Klink!” says Frank.

  “Yaah! Hooo . . . oops,” says Grampa Al, still punching and kicking,
with his glasses knocked sideways.

  “Fighting with Grampa Al?” says Watson.

  Frank turns to look at the Bigfoot holding him. But it is not Bigfoot. “Klank? What are you guys doing?”

  “Grampa Al told me to get a lot of wood,” answers Klank.

  Grampa Al adjusts his glasses. “I probably should have been more specific about not delivering a whole tree. I thought we were under attack. I went into defense mode. And then Klink started freaking out.”

  Klink straightens his webcam. “I was not ‘freaking out.’ The force of the falling plant life activated my new security alarm.”

  Klank lowers Frank to the ground.

  “Darn,” says Watson. “I thought we had found Bigfoot.”

  Grampa Al looks up at the setting sun. He calculates that they have about another half hour of good daylight. “We’ve got something bigger than Bigfoot. We’ve got a mission that has come from the Very Top.”

  “Ohhh, nice!” says Watson, pulling out his magnifying glass. “A secret spy mission? What is it? What is it?”

  Grampa Al pulls the collapsed tent out of the pile of branches. “Let’s get our tents up first. Then I’ll answer all your questions.”

  “Oooo! Oooo!” beeps Klank. “I have a question. How can you tell if an elephant has been in your refrigerator?”

  Klink spins his head around in an annoyed twirl. “What? This better not be one of your illogical jokes.”

  “Hmmmmmmm?” buzzes Klank.

  “Because I do not want to hear something that does not make sense. That makes me burn out my brain circuits.”

  Watson laughs. “Well, I’d like to know. How can you tell if an elephant has been in your refrigerator?”

  “If you see elephant footprints in the butter.”

  Watson cracks up laughing.

  “Ha. Ha. Ha.”

  “Bzzzzzzzrrrrrrr,” says Klink. “No! That cannot be true. Bzzzzzzz.” Klink’s brain circuits try to make sense of an elephant in a refrigerator. Klink’s brain circuits start to overheat.

  Watson laughs harder.

  “Ha. Ha. Ha.”

  “Elephant . . . refrigerator . . . footprints . . . noooooooooooo!”


  Klink blows a brain circuit and shuts down.

  “Aw shoot,” says Frank. “I wish you guys wouldn’t do that. Now we have to reboot Klink. Again.”

  Grampa Al claps his hands. “OK! Let’s get cracking! Tents up. Then I’ll tell you what we are really doing here.”

  Crickets begin to chirp.

  An owl hoots.

  “Because we are not here just for the camping . . .”

  Frank, Watson, Klink, Klank, and Grampa Al sit around a small fire inside a circle of stones just outside their tent.

  Bluish-white stars dot the inky night sky.

  One unseen cricket chirps in the dark beyond the firelight.

  Frank checks his watch and counts the number of chirps in fourteen seconds. He adds forty and calculates, “Seventy-two degrees.”

  “How do you know that?” asks Watson.

  Klink beeps. “The number of cricket chirps in fourteen seconds plus forty gives a fairly accurate estimate of the atmosphere’s temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.”

  “Seriously? Wow,” says Watson. He turns to Grampa Al. “But let’s hear more about our secret spy mission.”

  “Yeah!” says Frank, holding his hot dog roasting stick over the red-orange heat of the fire. “You should have told us when we were packing. I would have brought some of the inventions I’ve been working on. Like my Night-Vision Specs. My Super Silencer. My Complete Camouflage Cloak.”

  “And I would have brought my Spy Sneakers,” says Watson.

  Grampa Al spins his hot dog over the fire.

  “Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. But I couldn’t risk a leak.”

  Grampa Al puts his perfectly roasted hot dog in a perfectly toasted bun.

  “And let’s just say this is a camping trip . . . with a little extra research. Which is what I told your mom and dad so they wouldn’t worry about us. And why we brought along Klink for background intel . . .”

  “Very smart of you,” says Klink. “Because I have seriously enhanced my attachments for outdoor research.” Klink pops out a microscope, a magnifying glass, a telescope, a hatchet, and a custom Three-Pronged Hot Dog Roasting Fork.

  Grampa Al nods. “Nice. And Klank for muscle.”

  “Ooooo, oooo,” says Klank. “What is this button for?” He pushes a green button on Klink’s side.

  “Do not press tha—” says Klink, too late.

  A fishing pole, an umbrella, and a tiki torch all pop out of Klink—and he falls over on his side.

  “Oops. Sorry,” says Klank. He picks up Klink, folds in his new attachments, and sets him back on his feet. “Are we still going to tell ghost stories?”

  Klink buzzes. “Klank, you are such a . . . grrrrrrrrrr. And there is no scientific evidence for ghosts. So there is no need to tell stories about them.”

  “But I love spooky stories. And hot dogs!”

  Frank finishes the last of his hot dog and leans forward. The firelight flickers shadows on his face. “We can tell spooky stories later. What is this mission?”

  Grampa Al looks left and right into the dark woods surrounding their little circle of firelight. He lowers his voice. “Strange things have been happening out here in Darwin Park. Bees are dying. Frogs are disappearing. An entire cave of bats—gone. Something is seriously disrupting the life cycles up here.”

  Frank nods. “You mess with one part, you mess up everything.”

  Grampa Al turns to Frank. “Exactly. And here’s the mystery we are here to solve—any research teams that have been sent to this area, they have mysteriously lost all of their electronic data. And hikers and campers have reported being chased off by scary accidents . . . and strange animals. We need to find out what is happening.”

  “Bigfoot!” says Watson. “Or chupacabras! I knew it!”

  “Or ghosts!” adds Klank.

  “No,” says Klink. “That is just the plot of every Scooby-Doo cartoon. The bad guys pretend they are monsters or ghosts to frighten Scooby and Shaggy and anyone else from uncovering their criminal activity.”

  “This is no Scooby-Doo cartoon,” says Grampa Al. “Something bad is happening here in Darwin Park. And it is up to us to find out what, and who . . . is behind it.”

  The cricket chirps more slowly.

  “Why us?” asks Frank.

  Grampa Al pokes the fire with a stick. “I am working with some people to save the planet,” he says mysteriously. “And I thought this could be a great fit with your plan to study All Connected Life.”

  Frank loves this idea. “Genius, Einstein!”

  Grampa Al laughs, and answers, “Precisely. Genius, Einstein.”

  “Oh no,” says Watson. “We are not going to go do something dangerous in the woods right now, are we?”

  Grampa Al looks up at the almost-full moon. “Too late for anything tonight. Let’s turn in. Get a good night’s sleep. We’ll get our orders and roll out first thing zero nine hundred hours.”

  “Roger that!” says Frank Einstein.

  “What?” asks Klank.

  “That’s military talk for nine o’clock in the morning. And OK.”

  Klank splits a log with his metal hand. “OK. But I do have one more question.”

  “Ask away,” says Grampa Al.

  “Why did the elephant wear red toenail polish?”

  “Nooooooooooooooooo!” buzzes Klink. He pops out a toilet-plunger attachment and plops it over Klank’s mouth speaker.

  Frank and Watson laugh.

  Grampa Al scatters the fire’s coals inside the stones so they safely burn out.

  Everyone crawls into their sleeping bags for the night.

  Klink and Klank power down.

  The moon rises higher.

  The red coals of the fire slowly fade to black.

The cricket falls silent. Not because the temperature has fallen. But because it has been disturbed by the footstep of something not human. By the footstep of humans’ closest living primate relative.

  The morning sun rises slowly over a woven black metal fence in the northern end of Darwin Park.

  A kid with a bad haircut, green shorts, and size-five wing-tip shoes with black socks pulled up as high as they can go swings back and forth in a hammock tied between two trees. The kid is eating breakfast and looking at a blueprint of his new factory.

  An orange-and-black butterfly flits across a neatly mowed lawn in front of the long, low black factory building that is built right on top of a rushing stream.

  The kid is talking to a chimpanzee sitting in the lawn chair next to his hammock. The chimpanzee is wearing surf shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and flip-flops. He is also sipping a delicious frozen Banana ’n’ Ants breakfast drink of his own invention. This drink is decorated with one tiny pink umbrella.

  “I have to say, Mr. Chimp,” begins T. Edison (because of course it is T. Edison. Who else wears wing tips with black socks and shorts?), “this is a genius idea.”

  T. Edison takes a bite of banana muffin and a swig of water from a plastic bottle.

  “Take something everyone gets for free. And sell it back to them as something fresh and brand-new. Genius!”

  Mr. Chimp leans back in his lawn chair. He crosses his legs, takes a long slow sip of his Banana ’n’ Ants drink, and signs:

  T. Edison swings in his hammock, happily watching the stream of water rushing into one end of the building, and coming out the other as a tiny trickle.

  The orange-and-black butterfly flaps from flower to flower.

  “Sometimes I amaze even myself with my genius ideas.”

  Mr. Chimp eyeballs T. Edison. Mr. Chimp puts his drink down carefully, leans forward, and signs:

  T. Edison waves his hand. “Your idea . . . my idea . . . who can say where ideas come from? What matters is what you make of an idea.”

  Mr. Chimp shakes his head slowly. He stands up. He grabs T. Edison’s hammock and starts to swing it. Slowly at first. But then faster.

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