Preview "The Adventures of Hashbrown Winters"

Chapter 1 Piñata’s Secret Weapon

Every night just before bed, my mother always told me, “Hashbrown, one day you’ll do great things.” As I sat there, hiding next to a large, reeking dumpster with my best friend Snow Cone on one side and my pal Measles itching his armpits on the other, I couldn’t help but wonder just what she meant by that.

“I think they spotted us, Hashbrown,” Snow Cone said as several red paint balls exploded on the ground next to our hideout. “Perhaps hiding behind the dumpster was a poor choice.”

“Don’t I know it,” I said. “We’re standing out like one of Lips Warshowski’s cold sores. How could I be so stupid?”

Measles grabbed my collar, pressing his red splotched face practically in my ear. “They’re using red paint. Red paint, Hashbrown! I’m allergic to red paint. I’m going to break out in hives!”

“I thought you were allergic to all paint,” Snow Cone said.

Measles blinked. “That’s right, I am! Oh boy, this is not good. Why are we playing paint ball again?”

“Because we always play paint ball on Saturdays, Measles,” I said, scratching my head in frustration.

“Yeah, but not on my birthday,” Measles moaned.

“Your birthday’s in March,” Snow Cone said.

“Oh yeah. What month is this?”

“October!” Snow Cone and I shouted in unison. I guess you couldn’t blame him. Memory loss is a common side effect for someone who’s had measles on three separate occasions. Several more paint balls burst on the rocks next to the dumpster.

“These guys are terrible shots,” I said.

Snow Cone craned his neck to get a better look and smiled. “What do you expect from Pot Roast and Stilts?”

“You’re kidding me. That’s who’s shooting at us.”

Snow Cone nodded, a big grin stretching across his lips. Gregory “Pot Roast” Oberham and Ethan “Stilts” Drubbers were legally blind, and their helmets wouldn’t allow them to wear glasses. They couldn’t pass an eye exam if the letters were written on a billboard.

A warm breeze whipped around the dumpster bring- ing with it a ray of hope for our small team. It also brought a very disgusting odor of rotting tuna fish. Snow Cone pinched his nose closed. 

“Seriously, Hashbrown, why a dumpster?”

Some third grader appeared on the field looking very puzzled. He wore a scouting uniform and stared down cross-eyed at a compass. When he saw the three of us hiding behind the dumpster his eyes lit up. “Oh good, I found somebody,” he said, adjusting his glasses. “Do you guys know where I can find Blimpy Park? I think I’m lost.”

The boy was unarmed, and we were almost positive he wasn’t on either one of our teams, but we weren’t taking any chances. We quickly fired our weapons at him, transforming his khaki shirt into a multi-colored mess in a matter of seconds.

“I hate day camp!” he screamed, chucking his com- pass to the side and running wildly back in the direction he came.

“Just another innocent casualty,” Measles said, scratching his hip. More enemy fire peppered the ground.

“Look, If they’re the only two left, I think we should take them,” I said.

“I don’t know, Hash,” Snow Cone said. “Whiz nabbed Hopscotch by the rope bridge about two minutes ago. Roast and Stilts are the only ones I can see guarding the flag, but there could be more out there. It’s too risky.”

Suddenly the sound of heavy wheezing cut through the air. I flinched, expecting the worst, but was relieved to see Four Hips Dixon crawling toward me, his enormous belly pouring out from beneath his camouflaged T-shirt.

“Four Hips is here,” I said, grabbing Four Hips by his sleeve and dragging him up beside us.

“Yeah, I know. I saw him coming for a while,” Snow Cone answered. “I just assumed the battle would be over by the time he arrived.”

“Hey, that’s not funny,” Four Hips said, coughing into his hands. “I’ve never ran so much in my life.”

“What are you talking about?” Snow Cone squawked. “You crawled the entire time.”

I looked over at my portly friend. “Ah Four Hips you’re already out!” I hissed, glancing down at his shirt.

“Huh?” He looked up at me in confusion.

“You’ve been hit like three times.” I pointed to several obvious stains tagged around his mid-section.

“What?” Four Hips shouted in panic and examined his shirt. He wiped sweat from his forehead and gave a sigh of relief. “No, that’s just jelly. You had me going there for a second.”

“Jelly? Where did you get jelly?” Measles asked.

“I brought my own jar, duh. Do you want a spoonful?”

Measles shook his head. It figured Four Hips had found a way to bring along the most unusual snacks for our battle.

“Look, I say we make our move.” I crouched and checked my hopper for paintballs.

“Hashbrown wait for reinforcements!” Snow Cone ordered. “Don’t you remember what Piñata Gonzales said? They have a secret weapon on their team. Besides, Whiz should be here any second now. Where is he?”

“Piñata was bluffing as usual. If they had a secret weapon we would have seen it by now,” I argued. “It’s now or never.” Readying my weapon, I plucked a small glass orb from my pocket and gave it a kiss. It was a marble, but not just any old marble. It was my bull basher; my most prized possession. It brought me luck.

“I say we wait for Whiz,” Four Hips wheezed. “I don’t feel like crawling anymore and I think my can of Easy Cheese just exploded in my pocket.”

Refusing to listen to the advice of my friends, I sprung up from behind the dumpster with paintball gun blazing. My sudden attack surprised our enemies and Pot Roast was the first to drop due to Stilts’ friendly fire. Red paint splattered across his chest as he belched out an agonizing groan. “I’m done for!” he shouted. “Tell my ma’ I went down fighting!”

Stilts spun around, finger squeezing the trigger, send- ing a spray of red balls whizzing through the air like kami- kaze hornets. I was quick on my feet and barrel rolled just as the bullets cut above my helmet. With lightning speed I aimed at Stilts and sprayed him with thirty rounds of my own periwinkle blue paintballs.

“Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant,” Snow Cone shouted from behind the dumpster. I couldn’t help but grin. Clearly my moves had impressed Snow. I gave him a triumphant thumb’s up, tapping my trusty paintball gun against my chest. “Retreat!” Snow Cone screamed, issuing a new order.

I smiled, but shook my head. “Say again, good buddy?”

I dug my finger in my ear. Retreat? What was he talking about? Shouldn’t he be screaming something like victory or three cheers for Hashbrown or. . . ?

“Retreat Hashbrown!” Four Hips appeared from behind the cover of the dumpster hopping up and down like a possessed orca. Four Hips, Snow Cone and Measles flung their paintball guns into the air and charged off in the other direction. Out of the corner of my visor, a giant figure blazed into view. It was a set-up. Pot Roast and Stilts were only decoys and now Hambone Oxcart, Pordunce Elementary School’s number one bully was barreling down upon me toting a massive cardboard tube in his arms.

He was the secret weapon!

Hambone looked like a bearded brontosaurus, crash- ing through the trees and trampling anything standing in his way. Where did he come from? How did Piñata Gonzales convince Hambone to play on his team? More importantly, what in the world was he holding?
I tried to run, but it was useless. Hambone covered the distance in a matter of a few lumbering strides. In a final attempt to save myself I fired my paintball gun directly at Hambone. The bullets simply bounced off his muscular chest as if it were bulletproof. Grinning, he positioned the tube on his shoulder, revealing a can of fluorescent yellow paint emptying into the rear. It was no ordinary cardboard tube. No, it was a paintball bazooka!


I blacked out for a solid minute. When I awoke, Piñata Gonzales and Staples Ardmore stood dangling our captured flag above my head like a kite. I looked like one of my younger sister’s finger paintings.

“I told you to wait,” Snow Cone said, slugging me in the shoulder as the two of us, heavily plastered with paint, exited the course and headed toward our bicycles. It was a heartbreaking loss. My team had gone undefeated two years in a row.

“I don’t get it,” I said, skimming paint from my chin with a squeegee. “Since when did Piñata become friends with Hambone? Hambone doesn’t have any friends. He beats everyone up.” It just didn’t make sense. Hambone Oxcart ruled elementary school. No one messed with him. Not even the teachers.

Snow Cone grabbed my arm and pulled me behind a tree. “There’s the reason,” he whispered. Through the cover of branches we saw Piñata Gonzales, Petrol Giminski, and Staples Ardmore handing Hambone a stack of comic books and some green dollar bills. “They paid him off.”

“Dirty little boogers,” I said. “They stepped over the line.”

“Yeah but what are we going to do about it? We can’t cross Hambone.”

My blood boiled as we crept away from the trees. “Where was Whiz anyway?” I asked.

“Nature called,” Whiz said, poking his head up from behind his bike. In his hand he clutched a plastic bag filled with a dampened pair of his blue jeans. He now wore a pair of pink and green shorts, two sizes too small and dec- orated with tiny paintball helmets. “I got these for cheap at the gift shop,” he said, staring down proudly at his new clothing.

“That’s gross, Whiz,” I said and took a step back to give him some room.