Tookie opened her mouth but couldn't speak. She was dying to say, Really? Me? Have you lost your mind? But instead a cross between a yelp, a sneeze, and a burp came out.
"Good for you." Theophilus indicated the candidates in the square. "This is a little crazy."
They both turned to Zarpessa Zarionneaux, who strutted confidently right over an open manhole that three girls had just fallen into. Her long, straight auburn hair streamed behind her. Her skin glistened in the sun. She wore a bright yellow dress that seemed electrified, with matching yellow shoes. Tookie assumed it was the ensemble Lizzie had mentioned the other day, the one she and Zarpessa had fought over at the clothing dump.
"She even makes trash look beautiful," Tookie murmured.
"Hmm?" Theophilus glanced at her in surprise.
"Oh, nothing." It pained her that her very first conversation with Theophilus was about Zarpessa. She considered telling Theophilus about Zarpessa's Dumpster digging, but then she clamped her mouth shut. No matter how much she envied Zarpessa, exposing something that awful was just too mean.
"What's your name, anyway?" Theophilus asked, looking at Tookie again.
Tookie gaped at him. He wanted to know her name? Her mouth tried to form the words. She felt Theophilus's T O OKE button in her hip pocket.
Suddenly a piercing voice rose above the din. "Theophilus!"
"I'd better go." Theophilus tipped an imaginary hat to Tookie. Then he whirled around and marched toward his beloved.
"Seven minutes left!" Mayor Rump bellowed.
A blinding neon-yellow flash filled the sky. The clouds vanished. The sun disappeared. Someone screamed. Everyone shaded their eyes or ducked their heads. Even the walkers paused for a moment and squinted upward. Another whoosh boomed through the air. "The Scouts!" a voice bellowed. "They're here!"
Scouts? Where? Tookie stood on her tiptoes, her heart beating like mad. People stepped back from a nearby lamppost that had started to vibrate, staring at it with a mix of wonder and terror. The lamppost began to lengthen, like a long telescoping pole. Snap! It broke apart and reassembled as a slender, mysterious looking woman in a black metallic jumpsuit. Her head glowed as if it contained a light bulb.
"A Scout!" Tookie whispered. She'd never seen one in person before.
The Scout's head began to blink, as if warning people that something amazing was about to happen. Then the woman marched to a thin girl with cheekbones so sharp they could slice a melon in half, and tapped her arm. The girl clutched her chest in disbelief. The Scout took her hand, and the bright light of her cranium flashed like lightning. And then . . . poof ! They were gone, and the lamppost was back where it had always been.
"Oh, my baby!" the girl's mother cried, running up to the lamppost, hugging it tightly and covering it with kisses. "My baby, my baby, my baby! First- draft pick!"
More gasps and screams rose in the crowd as the huge clock in the square ticked past the six- minute mark. Suddenly, Scouts from Modelland were everywhere.
An asteroid rocketed to earth, throwing up chunks of marble all around the square and causing nearby runway walkers to flee in hysterics.