The Hurricanes of Weakerville Chapter Sneak Peek
Looking for new books? Each month, we’re sharing the first chapter of an upcoming book that you’ll want to add to your TBR list! This month, our featured title is The Hurricanes of Weakerville by Chris Rylander which goes on sale June 21.
The Hurricanes of Weakerville
By Chris Rylander
My name is Alex Weakerman, and the first thing anyone should know about me is that I love baseball.
The second thing is that I’m probably the worst in all of Iowa at actually playing it.
“It’s your pick, Noah.”
It’s the second-to-last week of seventh grade and we’re playing baseball in gym class. Now that it’s nearly summer, I thought we might get to do something a bit more relaxing, like Ping-Pong or checkers. But our gym teacher, Mr. Muskel—a.k.a. Mr. Muscles—is obsessed with stuff like “hustling” and sayings that go “sweat is just your fat crying.” So there’s no way he was going to be so merciful. As usual, Mr. Muscles picked his two favorite students to be team captains: Noah Figgins, a mouth- breather who speaks only in single-word sentences but is awesome at every sport imaginable, and Aliyah Perkins. For the record, Aliyah isn’t, like, that girl who makes my legs unsteady and hands shake every time I see her or anything. Okay, well, that’s not entirely true. But it has nothing to do with how popular she is. It’s because she’s the ace pitcher of the regional Little League team. Aliyah is probably the best thirteen-year-old pitcher in the state of Iowa, and possibly even the whole country. She played in the Little League World Series last summer, which means she pitched live on national TV with millions of people watching. She even got to be in a Nike commercial. Her team lost in the semifinals, but Aliyah pitched lights out. She threw nine scoreless innings between two games and had an absurd swinging-strike rate of 68 percent. So, yeah, I admire her quite a bit, from a baseball perspective.
Now she and Noah are mulling over who they’re going to select for their teams. I’m always one of the last two picked. No matter the sport, it always comes down to me or Emma Driver, a.k.a. the girl who literally eats her own dandruff instead of actually trying to participate.
And it’s not because I’m fat. Which I am. Always have been. My mom says I even set a record at the Weakerville Family Clinic for the largest baby ever delivered. She brings this up a lot, for some reason. I think maybe she’s proud for surviving such an incident. But that’s not why I’m picked last. There have been a lot of successful overweight baseball players, after all. Bartolo Colon, Tony Gwynn, Prince and Cecil Fielder, Matt Stairs, Rod Beck, Pablo Sandoval, and, of course, the Great Bambino, Babe Ruth himself. The difference is those guys were coordinated. They had natural athletic instincts. Being overweight isn’t why I can’t catch or throw or swing a bat without injuring myself.
But, honestly, how good you are isn’t even the most important criteria for getting picked in gym. For example, there’s a kid even bigger than me in our class: Brandon Sussman. He wouldn’t be able to run a lap around the bases if there were a rabid hyena chasing him. And yet he always gets picked second or third. He even has a nick- name teammates chant when he steps up to the plate.
“BRAN-DO! BRAN-DO! BRAN-DO!”
I definitely don’t get a nickname.
And there’s a reason for that. See, some kids make friends easily and some don’t. It’s that simple. And I just happened to be born with that weird trait that’s the total opposite of charisma. A trait so awkward, it doesn’t even have a real name. So, I just call it Flumpo. It’s that thing inside some of us that makes us stutter around classmates instead of cracking witty jokes. Or clouds our vision of what the new cool clothes will be when school starts in the fall, even though everyone else already seems to know. Having Flumpo means when you’re called on in class, you’ll probably accidently burp, fart, and sneeze at the same time, nearly killing the kid sitting next to you, instead of being able to simply and calmly recite the correct answer.
Like last year, when I brought some lemon cookies my dad made to class for my birthday, as is tradition, and nobody wanted one. Everyone said they looked like “pee cookies.” But then, two months later, Grayson Wu brought the exact same kind of cookies for his birthday, and he was basically crowned the class Snack King right there on the spot.
Well, that’s just Flumpo at work. I can’t explain it; nobody can.
But I’ve learned to work around my Flumpo well enough to get by. I have a hilarious best friend, I have the coolest grandpa in the world, and, most of all, I have baseball. All in all, that’s not so bad. I mean, there are worse things to be born with (or without) than Flumpo.
But Flumpo obviously has downsides, and gym class is one of them. Specifically, being picked last, or second to last, every single time.
Today Noah has the second-to-last pick, meaning he’ll technically decide who gets picked last. His half-opened eyes drift from me to Emma—who’s already suspiciously chewing on her own hair—and back again. His expression is totally blank, almost as if his brain has switched off and gone into Sports Mode.
One of his teammates prods him in the back. “Come on, just pick one, so we can play.”
He finally throws his chin in my direction. “Weakerman. I guess.”
I walk over to my team. Nobody acknowledges me— they’re already busy arguing over who gets to play what position. I stay quiet and await my inevitable fate.
Once all the other positions are picked, Noah glances at me.
“You got right.”
I always get stuck in right field. But I don’t blame them—it’s where I’d put myself if I were manager. Most kids are right-handed batters, which means very few balls get hit to right field. The whole ordeal is degrading, sure, but I can’t fault their statistical analysis. Besides, it means less chances for my Flumpo to make an unwanted appearance.
The game is mostly uneventful. The ball ends up in right only once, a dribbling grounder that squeaks through the infield. But our second baseman runs out to the ball first, so I don’t even have to embarrass myself trying to throw it in. In fact, I don’t touch the baseball the whole game.
But then comes my final trip to the plate.
At this point, I’ve learned to not even swing the bat at all. I just let Mr. Muscles, who’s always the pitcher for both teams, strike me out looking. It gets fewer laughs—and results in fewer self-inflicted injuries—than if I actually try to make contact. And sure enough, the opposing players are kicking at the dirt and joking around as I step into the batter’s box. They know I’m an easy out. But Mr. Muscles has apparently decided I should reach base at least once during my seventh-grade year. Because on the first pitch, he lobs the ball right at me.
I’m too startled to even move. The baseball bounces off my thigh and lands in the dirt near my feet.
Mr. Muscles’s expression doesn’t change, but I swear I see a sadistic glint in his eye.
“Take your base, Weaker-Man,” he says, pointing at first.
Mr. Muscles loves to pronounce my name with an emphasis on the second part. And I think we all know exactly why.
I put the bat down and start walking. “Come on, Weaker-Man, hustle!” he yells.
I pick up the pace to something of a scurry, but still nothing close to actual running. Running, in my experience, is just an invitation for Flumpo to come out.
Aliyah Perkins is playing first base. She’s pretending she isn’t awkwardly looking away as I approach. When I finally reach the base, I don’t even dare glance in her direction. I don’t want to know whether she knows I’m already as sweaty as a damp towel.
“Nice job stepping into that pitch,” Aliyah says. “Huh?”
I finally look at her. Her hair is tucked under a Chicago Cubs hat. She chomps on a massive hunk of Big League Chew bubble gum as I stare with my mouth hanging open like a largemouth bass.
“You’re down by three,” Aliyah says. “You need base runners. With nobody on, it’s as good as getting a base hit. You took one for the team. I like it.”
I can’t tell if she’s being serious or mocking me.
And now, see, right here is where if I didn’t have Flumpo, I’d pat my leg and smile to let her know I’m comfortable with my baseball ineptitude, then say something like:
Honestly, I’ve been training to get hit by that pitch for years. Three hundred squats, every morning. Three hundred more at lunch. Never once skip leg day. It’s not easy, doing squats in the cafeteria line, doing lunges while everybody around me is just trying to grab their burgers. But I knew I had to do it, for a moment just like this. To withstand Mr. Muscles’s fastball hitting my thigh. I did it for the sake of this team. Because you’re right: having a runner on first with no outs statistically doubles our chances to tie the game.
But when I open my mouth to try and actually say that, all that comes out is a faint wheeze that the wind picks up and carries away like an empty candy wrapper.
I take another breath and try again:
“Squatburgers, uh, I mean, skiplunge, you know?” My face starts burning. “Mr. Cafeteria . . . statistically doubles our . . . Muscles . . .”
Aliyah stares at me for a second, her mouth hinging open like she might laugh. But she says nothing. After a brief moment that feels like hours, she finally gives me a funny look and turns away, embarrassed for the both of us.
But then the next hitter steps to the plate, and I realize I have a more immediate problem than figuring out if there’s a way to save face in front of Aliyah.
Noah’s up next, and he’s probably the fastest kid in our class. He’ll almost definitely get a hit, and then will be running right behind me. In baseball, it’s against the rules to pass the base runner in front of you.
My chest cavity constricts like a dried fruit. I start breathing heavily. More sweat streams down my cheeks like tears. Am I having a heart attack? Can thirteen-year- olds have heart attacks?
Mr. Muscles lobs in the first pitch.
Noah crushes it.
My first mistake is just standing there watching as the ball rockets into the left-center-field gap. The school baseball field doesn’t have a fence, so any ball that gets past the outfielders will just keep rolling. It should be an easy inside-the-park home run.
Noah’s voice rips me back to reality. “Come on! Run, Weakerman!”
He’s already nearly to first base.
I start moving toward second. It’s definitely not some- thing anyone would call “running.” I’m too busy trying not to fall face-first into the dirt to run run. And so I’m not even close to second base when I feel Noah on my heels. He shoves me slightly. I stumble, slowing down to keep from tripping. He must realize pushing won’t help, because he just curses a few times while jogging in place as I regain my footing.
I round second base a few moments later. No idea where the ball is, but I keep going, desperate to get out of Noah’s way. To get off the base paths. To get out of sight. After what feels like several decades, I finally round third base. At this point, I’ve gotten my legs to move in a pattern that could be called running by some. I’m still not moving all that quickly, but everyone is yelling my name, so I don’t stop.
Honestly, it’s a minor miracle that Flumpo hasn’t tripped me up yet. I should be sprawled on the ground somewhere between first and second with a mouthful of dirt.
It isn’t until I’m approaching home plate that I see the catcher, Giada Rivera, standing in my way. She holds up the ball casually in one hand.
I stop and look back, my chest heaving as I gulp for air. Noah is standing on second base, shaking his head in disgust. He and everyone else must have been shouting at me to stop at third, not encouraging me to keep going.
Giada smirks and taps my shoulder gently with the ball.
“You’re out, Weaker-Man,” Mr. Muscles says, taking off his hat and rubbing his shiny bald head. “Take a seat.” I keep my head down and find a spot at the end of the bench. Aliyah is saying something to Noah—probably telling him he could have had a home run if I hadn’t been in the way. My team quickly moves on to cheering for the next batter, having expected nothing short of disaster from me all along.
But I can’t blame them.
Baseball, like everything else, is a game of numbers.
The statistics would have told anyone that this was the most likely outcome when I ended up on first base. Numbers don’t lie.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you don’t still have to play out the game.
The Hurricanes of Weakerville
Copyright © 2022 by Chris Rylander
All rights reserved.
About Chris Rylander:
Chris Rylander is the author of the Fourth Stall saga and the Epic Series of Failures trilogy, as well as Codename Zero and its sequels. A fan of baseball, statistics, and baseball statistics, he lives with his family in Chicago.