On the day Norman Babcock was born, strange things happened. Norman heard some of the birthday stories right from his own mother—how all the lights in the maternity ward blew their fuses at the very moment the doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” How the dogs across town set up a strange chorus of howling right around that same time. How two guys coming off their shift at Witchy Weiner saw a rainbow in the sky—which might not sound that weird but really was when you added in the details that it was one in the morning and that the rainbow was shaped like a huge question mark....Well, that’s what they said. (It could have just been indigestion, though.)
So when a toad floating in a jar of bad smelling stuff to keep it perfectly preserved began waving at Norman right there in the middle of Mr. Feynman’s seventh grade bio class, Norman was not surprised. He was not surprised at all. His ability to communicate with the dead wasn’t limited to humans—animal ghosts had a lot to say, too, in their own way. Norman waved back at the toad, who seemed pleased to be acknowledged. It almost looked as if it was giving Norman a gummy smile, but the amphibian caught sight of someone at the back of the classroom. Its face turned pale, as much as that was possible for a dead toad.
Norman knew who sat at the back of the classroom, near the spider terrarium and the old hamster ball (abandoned since the sudden disappearance of the hamster last Tuesday) and the pink plastic pig that had been sliced down the middle to give the curious a good look at the inner workings of the porcine digestive system.
“Yeah, that’s Alvin,” Norman told the toad. “He likes to hit stuff. Think of him as our token Cro Magnon boy. No disrespect to cavemen, though.”
The toad blinked its bulbous eyes and made no expression, as if to suggest its utter acceptance of this description.
“Sad but true,” Norman said, running one hand through his shock of dark brown hair, which stood
straight up on his head like it was trying to escape.
The toad made a small croak, as if to whisper a secret, so Norman leaned in really close, his nose almost pressed up against the glass.
The toad eyeballed Norman, then looked down at itself. Then it flicked its tongue out to point to the classroom door.
“You want to go to a different room?” Norman asked.
The toad shook its head.
There was a sudden burst of laughter from the back of the room.
“No way!” came a voice that sounded like the start of a bad sound track to an even worse production of The Bullies of Blithe Hollow. “Dudes, for real—Norman is talking to his frog! Alvin says that ain’t normal!”
Norman sighed, bracing himself for a classic Alvin Attack. Mr. Feynman had a reputation for disappearing into the faculty bathroom with his newspaper when his students were supposed to be recording “scientific observations,” so Norman knew there would be no help from that quarter.
Excerpt of PARANORMAN: A NOVEL by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel cgranted with permission by Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. Copyright(C) 2012 LAIKA. All Rights Reserved
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