I was so lost in the act of shoveling that I hadn’t noticed finishing our driveway and working over onto the Andersons’. I also hadn’t noticed them sneaking up behind me. When one of them grabbed my shoulder I whirled and found myself staring into Becky Larson’s pimple-strewn face.
“What are you doing here, Nelson?”
I pulled out one earbud. “I’m shoveling snow, freak. What’s it look like?”
“I don’t mean that. Why are you here?”
Three more girls moved into position to surround me. Jan Watterson, Sonya Hart and Lanie Schulz. The girls' geek squad. They were all carrying shovels and dressed for skiing. Being obscured by winter clothes made them look better.
“Why shouldn’t I be here? I live here.”
“Then where’s your house?”
“Right over…” I pointed to the empty field where my house was supposed to be and my jaw dropped. A quick look around confirmed the Andersons’ house, the Feegleman place across the street, and everywhere else was gone. I was shoveling snow in an open field.
“Okay, Admiral Nelson, now that you’ve opened the eye without the patch, why are you here? This is our planet.”
“We created it; this whole planet is the property of Gutsy.”
“The Girl’s Ultra-Technology Club. Gutsy. Now get your ass back home.”
“I don’t even know how I got here!”
“Great. Just great. And if we take you back we have to wait twenty hours for the capacitors to recharge.” She waved vaguely in Jan’s direction. “You think he’s cute, you deal with him. Make sure he doesn’t get in the way.”
Jan’s eyes popped wide and her face went scarlet as she hissed, “Becks, that was a secret!”
“You were going to tell him!”
“I hadn’t done it yet!” She somehow managed to look small. At six-foot four that was hard; she was the tallest kid in junior high; right then she looked like a really embarrassed flagpole.
I stared into her nonexistent chest, then way up into her eyes. Tears were forming.
“You really think I’m cute?”
She turned redder.
“Come down here, Jan.”
She got down on her knees, which was an impressive feat of engineering. From that position we were about the same height.
“I think you’re pretty too.” Okay, pretty like the Space Needle, but she kind of was. Also, she was the first girl who’d ever admitted an interest in me. I pressed my lips lightly against hers.
“Kissy face! Kissy face!” Sonya and Lanie chanted it in union.
“Come on you two voyeurs, let’s get to work. Leave the lovebirds be and we’ll mark out the ice castle’s foundation. We want to have a functional shelter in two hours.”
I let go of Jan’s lips and turned to Becky. “I could help, you know.”
“I guess. You come over here, then. Jan, you start up the ice shaper.”
And that’s how I became the only male member of the Girl’s Ultra-Technology Club.