Read an Excerpt of Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe

Chapter 2: When Mom’s Away

Once I finished eating, I realized that I forgot to call my mother to tell her that I’m up. She was out of town and wouldn’t be back until next week. You see, my mom is a writer and she’s in Maine at a writer’s conference. She’s only been gone two days, but I really miss her. I can’t wait until she gets back. I pick up the phone and start to dial her number when I remember that it’s the first day of the conference and she was probably in a seminar. Hanging up the phone, I decided that I would call her at 4’o’clock Maine time, which was in about 7 hours. I sighed and ran upstairs to get dressed. Of course I stopped by my brother’s room to spy on him. But when I peeked in, I saw him swinging at the air like he was fighting or something. Opening the door further, I could see Atticus pretending to box using Daddy’s old college punching bag. I admit it was a little surprising to see that he could carry it upstairs. (My brother isn’t exactly known for having strong muscles.) I walked around the bag being careful not to let it hit me in the face. When I got around to the other side of the bag, I saw Atticus wearing a white undershirt, basketball shorts, and Dad’s boxing gloves. He had a little sweat across his forehead and was punching away.

“Hey, Atticus!” I yelled over the punching.

He turned his head around and said, “What are you doing in here?”

“What are you doing? It looks to me like I’m catching my brother using our father’s most prized possession without his permission,” I responded looking him up and down.

Atticus went over to the door to his room and closed it really carefully. He whispered and said, “Don’t tell, but I’m going to try out for the wrestling team and my buddy, Shawn, told me that boxing was a great way to prepare for the mat.” He kind of jerked his chin upward as if to say, “You know what I mean”.

I just looked at him with a really blank expression on my face. Then I pointed my finger towards his door and said, “Did you hear that?” Then I slapped him on the back of his head.

“Ow!” he said rubbing his head.

“Dad is going to be so mad at you! What were you thinking?”

Atticus yell-whispered, “I was thinking that maybe I could be a pro wrestler. I was thinking that maybe I could show off my awesome athletic ski…”

“You were thinking that you wanted to get your butt grounded or worse,” I interrupted. “You know that punching bag is one of Daddy’s prized possessions. Grandpa bought that for him when he went away to college.”

“Don’t you think I know that? That’s why I didn’t ask. Listen, Riley, you cannot tell.”

“What makes you think you can boss me around?” I said with my arms crossed. “I’ll make you a deal. If you pay me 20 dollars then I won’t mention it to Mom on my phone call later on.”

Now it was his turn to cross his arms. “Get outta’ here! I’m not paying you 20 dollars of my hard earned…”

“Allowance?” I interrupted.

“Yeah, allowance. Anyway, you’re not going to sucker me into giving you my life’s savings.”

I just looked at him with a smirk on my face as I counted down the seconds until he gave in.

“Ok, fine.” He said digging into his football bank to pull out his money.

I happily accepted and then said, “Is this really your life’s savings?”

“Yeah,” he said--kind of annoyed.

“Oh, well--too bad. I have to talk to Daddy,” I said as I started out the door to go tell on him.

It took him a minute to register what I was doing, but when it did he yelled, “Hey!” and started behind me. I kept giggling and started to run faster, but I just couldn’t get my feet to move quickly enough. Atticus nearly caught me. By the time I got to Daddy’s office I was heaving with laughter.

“What’s wrong?” my dad asked looking worried as he covered up the phone receiver. I tried to say something but I couldn’t get the words out because I was trying to catch my breath. When my laughing finally quieted into a giggle, I told Daddy what happened. His face grew solemn and his eyes fiery. I could tell that he was furious. He finished talking with the man on the phone and marked a date on his calendar. When he got off the phone he yelled, “Atticus Richard, get your butt down here!” My eyes bugged out. Daddy rarely gets angry, but when he does he resorts to using our middle names.

In just moments, Atticus came around the corner and immediately said, “Liar!” When he got to the office he had a really scared look on his face.

“Sit down, Atticus,” Dad said as he rubbed his face in his hands. “Riley, please go to your room,” he added.

I ran upstairs and turned on the intercom so that I could hear their conversation. It was intense. I mean there was swearing and I’m pretty sure Dad said something about sending him to military school. But, the next thing he said shocked me even more. He told me to turn off the intercom. I obediently turned it off and tried to figure out how he knew that I was listening. I went to my room and sat down on my daybed. It was killing me that I didn’t know what was going on. I was really tempted to turn the intercom back on. If I tried to get a snack from the kitchen, I figured that I could probably hear some of their conversation. But before I could even get up from the daybed, I heard Daddy calling me. I smiled and wondered what he wanted? Maybe he wanted me to pick his punishment. Yeah, maybe that’s it.

When I went into the office Daddy asked, “Did you really take your brother’s money in exchange for silence?”

I smiled at him sheepishly and said, “Yes. Well, you see, I told him that if he gave me 20 dollars I wouldn’t tell Mom and I didn’t. I told you.” I said as my eyes fell to the floor.

He sighed and thought for a moment--probably thinking of our punishment. Finally he said, “Riley, give your brother back his money.”

Atticus smiled and said, “Yeah.”

“And, Atticus,” he continued, “you will spend the afternoon painting the shed, and after that you can take all of the recycling to the recycling dumpster.” Atticus started to protest, but by the look on Daddy’s face, it was obvious that he wasn’t in the mood.

I braced myself for my punishment when he said, “And since you like money so much, you will have to help Atticus exchange the bottles and cans for change.” (I started to cheer! I mean who doesn’t like more money?) “The money will be given to charity. Since Atticus is painting the shed first, you can start taking the recycling to the dump.”

I was a little shocked that he would send his very precious daughter to the dump all alone. I sighed and said, “O.k.” I went upstairs to put on my pink sweat pants and my favorite yellow shirt with the multicolored butterfly on it. I slathered on sunscreen and put on a hat. I said bye to Daddy and started out to the garage to get the wagon.


  1. Good conflict. Good setup for sister and brother going after each other and having a lot to learn. It will be interesting to see how they work through this. I like MGNs in which the parents have good sense, and this father seems to be a good father. I get tired of all the monster parents in children's books. gwlupo

  2. Great job, Halima! I really like your voice. Really nice job reeling the reader in and leaving us wanting more!

  3. This is really good. Be careful with point of view.

    " I pick up the phone and start to dial her number when I remember that it’s the first day of the conference and she was probably in a seminar."

    Every thing in this sentence is in present tense, which is correct considering the rest of the scene, except the word "was." This is past tense. "Is" would keep everything in the present.

    Writing is a never ending cycle of learn and apply. You have a wonderful start on a promising career (if that is what you want). Are you also artistic? I see your mother illustrates your book, so I wondered if you inherited any of those great genes.

    I received an email requesting I review your book, which is why I am here. After reading the excerpt, I cannot wait to read the rest of your story.