Losing Joe’s Place

From the book:

Apartment 2C was directly over the deli in front, down a long, dingy hallway. I had to admit I was expecting the worst, but stepping into Joe's place was like entering the twenty-first century.
It was all one room, but big, and boy, had my brother ever decked it out! The place was wired for sound, with speakers all over. It was impossible to tell which ones were hooked up to the stereo, and which to the wide-screen TV and VCR. He had it all--from Nintendo to darts. At opposite ends of the room, Nerf basketball hoops were tacked to the walls. Between them was a "court," free of rugs and furniture, complete with tip-off circle and 3-point lines.
When you have muscles like my brother, you enjoy getting your picture taken a lot, so the decor was mostly photographs. Amid the snapshots were some of the calendars he'd posed for. Throughout his career, Joe had flexed his way through every month except April. (My birthday's in April. I've searched for some kind of meaning for this, but so far no luck. )
I threw myself onto the leather couch and sank three inches into the stuffing. Joe was right. He did have a fantastic apartment. Not what we'd expected, but definitely great. Only--something didn't seem right.
Don put it into words. "Why's it so dark in here?"
We investigated. There was only one window, and it was in the bathroom. That made the living area as dim as a church, while the people on Pitt Street had a spectacular floor to ceiling view of our toilet.
"Very amateurish," said Ferguson, shaking his head.
Don reddened. "Is there anything, oh expert of the world, that you actually approve of?"
Ferguson thought it over. "Stonehenge," he said finally.
"It was very well designed."
"Joe knows how to live, but he's such a flake," I said. "First, he forgets to pick us up at the train station. Second, he isn't even here to show us where we can put our stuff. Third, there's no note, no nothing."
"Let's hope he remembers to go to Europe," put in Ferguson.
"I mean, look at this place!" I went on, warming to the subject. "Probably $20,000 worth of electronics, and I can't see five books. With every barbell he lifts, a few more brain cells turn into muscle! "
We'd probably still be standing there waiting for Joe if Don hadn't noticed that the message light on the telephone answering machine was flashing. I leaned over and hit play.

"Hey, Jason," came my brother's voice out of the speaker. "Sorry I couldn't meet you guys, but my flight was pushed up by two days. Isn't the place great? You guys are going to have a ball, but watch out for Plotnick, the landlord. He's kind of funny about certain things. The car's parked on the street just down from the deli. Here are the keys."
"Whatever you do, DON'T lose me this lease. It's the best deal in town. Sell your friends, but hang onto that apartment."
"I'll send you a postcard from London. See ya."
"Oh, yeah--Plotnick doesn't know all three of you are going to be living here. I told him it was just you. Fake it. Say the others are houseguests or something."

"Houseguests?" Don repeated. "For three months?"
"Impossible," said the Peach. "You can't be a houseguest in a place with no windows. We're caveguests."
All this was lost on me. My attention was fixed on the car keys lying beside the answering machine, glinting in the lone shaft of sunlight threading the needle all the way from the bathroom.

* * *

We headed down to the car.
"I don't know how safe this is," said Ferguson on the staircase. "I think the supporting wood's almost rotted out."
"It's holding you up," snapped Don. "That's a miracle right there." Ferguson is a little chunky, but definitely not what you'd call fat.
"The building probably went up in the fifties," the Peach decided. "Which means the wood should be replaced--based on average maintenance, and humidity--"
"Shut up!" warned Don.
" . . . in the next three or four years. Of course, this architectural style began as early as 1941, in which case the stairs would become a hazard"-- he paused again, calculating--"now."
No sooner was the word out of his mouth than a basketball-sized hole opened up under Don's foot, and his leg disappeared to the thigh.
"Yep, 1941."
When we lifted Don and his leg out, he was looking at Ferguson as if to say, He's a witch! Burn him!
"Don't worry, guys," I stepped in. "We can mention this to the landlord when we go to introduce ourselves. He'll be happy no one was hurt."
We stepped outside into the hot afternoon and scanned Pitt Street for the Camaro. I frowned. In all the excitement, I'd forgotten where I'd parked the--
"Hey, Jason. Didn't we leave it right here?" Don was pointing to a spot in front of the deli.
My heart stopped. In the line of parked vehicles was an empty space just about the size of an aerodynamic black hole.
Oh, no!

Copyright © 1990 Gordon Korman, used by permission

Picture it: three young teens really on their own for the first time, staying in a cool pad in a foreign country. Toronto has a terrific nightlife. They have great summer jobs lined up. And Jason's brother, Joe (who is loaning them the apartment), also has a beautiful black Camaro which they can use while he's in Europe. Their only restriction is not to lose Joe his lease. This has got to be the greatest summer of their lives!

Now picture this: two of the three are soon out of work, their landlord doesn't allow more than a single person to stay in a single-tenant apartment, and Joe's Camaro is stolen. The boys are out of money and without transportation, and soon find themselves all fighting over the same girl. And to push things over the edge, Joe's missing-link friend Rootbeer (what kind of a name is Rootbeer, anyway?) decides to spend the summer at Joe's Place. Could things possibly get worse?

With Gordon Korman writing the story, they sure can. Jason and his friends Ferguson and Don are in for the most unusual and trying summer of their lives. And even if they can find a way to survive, it soon becomes obvious there is no way they can manage to avoid losing Joe's place!

This title is another which has won Gordon awards, and is widely accepted as one of his best works. It is the first novel he wrote in the first person, and Rootbeer Racinette (literally Rootbeer Rootbeer for those who don't know the French) is surely one of his strangest characters. The humor is fast and furious, and with the book still available in paperback, there is no reason not to read it!