Peter was the leader of the boys, because he was the oldest. Or maybe he wasn't. Peter had no idea how old he really was, so he gave himself whatever age suited him, and it suited him to always be one year older than the oldest of his mates. If Peter was nine, and a new boy came to St. Norbert's Home for Wayward Boys who said he was ten, why, then, Peter would declare himself to be eleven. Also, he could spit the farthest. That made him the undisputed leader.
As a leader, he made it his business to keep his eye on things in general. And he was not happy with the way things were shaping up today. The boys had been told only that they were going away on a ship. As much as Peter didn't like where he'd been living for the past seven years, the longer this carriage ride lasted, the scarier "away" sounded in his mind.
They'd set out from St. Norbert's in the dark, but now Peter could see grayish daylight through the small, round coach window on his side. He looked out, squinting, and saw a dark shape looming by the wharf. It looked to Peter like a monster with tall spines coming out of its back. Peter did not like the idea of walking into the belly of that monster.
"Is that it?" he asked. "The ship we're going on?"
He ducked them, avoiding the hamlike right fist of Edward Grempkin. He was always keenly aware of where this fist was; he'd been dodging it for seven years now. Grempkin, second in command at St. Norbert's Home for Wayward Boys, was a man of numerous rules-many of them invented right on the spot, all of them enforced by means of a swift cuff to the ear. He paid little attention to whose ear his fist actually landed on; all the boys were rule-breakers as far as Grempkin was concerned.
This time the first clipped an ear belonging to a boy named Thomas, who had been slumped, half asleep in the carriage next to the ducking Peter.
"OW!" said Thomas.
"Do not end a sentence with a preposition, said Mr. Grempkin. He was also the grammar teacher at St. Norbert's.
From "Peter and the Starcatchers" by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, copyright (c) 2004 by Dave Barry and Page One, Inc. Used by permission of Disney Editions, an imprint of Hyperion Books for Children, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10011. All rights reserved.