Sam Samurai

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Sam Samurai Page 2

by Jon Scieszka

  I opened The Book to some strange diagrams and charts in the back. But that wasn’t what got us in trouble. It was what happened next.

  “So what cranks The Book?” said Fred.

  “What triggers the time warping?” I said.

  “You mean the green mist?” said Sam.

  A wisp of that very mist leaked out and curled around the samurai books.

  Sam jumped into his ready karate position. “Stop! No! Yamero! lie!”

  “What did we do?” said Fred. “What did we say?”

  The whirlpool of green time-traveling mist swirled around Sam’s kitchen. And just before we were flushed down four hundred years, I saw the answer. Time travel haiku.

  “So what cranks The Book?

  What triggers the time,warping?

  You mean the green mist?”


  Fred, Sam, and I stared at the helmeted head resting by the fire. It stared back at us. We were too freaked out to move.

  “I guess he wasn’t as fast as that guy in Lightning Samurai,” I finally said.

  Fred carefully leaned the spear back against the wall, then put his hands in his pockets. “You helped slow him down by taking out his legs, Joe. And you saved me by yelling a warning, Sam. But I didn’t mean to whack his head off. I was just going to keep him covered while we found The Book.”

  “Speaking of which,” said Sam. “Now I think we’d definitely better get The Book and get the heck out of here. I don’t know all of the samurai customs, but I’m pretty sure it’s not polite to remove a samurai’s head.”

  “Shouldn’t we at least clean him up or put him back together?” I said. “Maybe no one will notice for a while.”

  “That is disgusting,” said Sam. “How are we going to clean—” Sam looked at the armored body. Then he looked back at the head.

  Soft daylight filtered into the room from outside. I heard birds chirping. The morning sun began to light the corners of the room.

  Sam looked at the armor again. He looked at the head. Then he started to laugh.

  “Uh-oh,” said Fred. “He’s losing it.”

  I grabbed Sam by the shoulders. “Hang on, Sam. Don’t worry. We’ll find The Book. We’ll get back to your house.”

  Sam shook his head and only laughed harder. He tried to say something, pointing at the head. But the only sound that came out of him was something like, “Eep ooh eh urh.”

  Fred looked at me. “Lost it.”

  I nodded.

  Sam broke away from me. He picked up the head and tossed it to me.

  I didn’t want to catch it, but I couldn’t help myself. I caught the head and closed my eyes. It seemed oddly light. I opened one eye. I turned the helmet and mask over. That’s when I saw what Sam had realized. It wasn’t a head. It was an empty helmet and mask.

  Sam laughed. “That was no samurai. We just beat up a suit of armor.”

  Fred picked up the body. The arms and legs flopped loosely. Fred looked hugely relieved. The morning sun poured into the room. Now we could see we had taken on a suit of armor sitting in a dark corner. The shadows from the flickering fire had made it look like it was alive.

  We all sat down on the edge of the wooden platform in our socks. It felt good to be alive. I held the helmeted faceplate in my lap and looked it in the eye. “You want some more of that?”

  “Yeah, come on, metalhead,” said Fred. We both laughed.

  “Though I do think you’re right, Joe,” said Sam, cleaning his glasses with his T-shirt.

  “About what?”

  “We should put everything back just like it was, find The Book, and get out of here.”

  For once, we all agreed. Fred sat the samurai armor back on its stool. I gave him back its head. Sam searched the room for The Book.

  We met back at the fire pit.

  “As usual,” said Sam. “Nothing. Nada. No Book. Nowhere. Don’t you guys think this is starting to get ridiculous? I mean we get thrown around time by looking at a picture, or touching some numbers, and now from saying a group haiku! And what’s with the disappearing Book? Why can’t we ever hang on to it?”

  Fred frowned and pulled on his hat. That’s how I could tell he was thinking. “Yeah, what’s the deal with that, Joe?”

  “That’s what I was trying to show you,” I said. “In that same section where I found out about the Auto-Translator, there was a part about keeping track of The Book.”

  Sam’s eyes lit up. “So what did it say?”

  “It’s called the Eternal Return,” I said. “It’s something about how The Book has to change to fit in with whatever time it’s in.”

  “But what about holding on to it?” said Sam.

  “That’s the part I didn’t get,” I said. “It said ‘Look for the books of the time,’ and then it had a bunch of words in some other language and drawings and signs.”

  “Oh great,” said Sam.

  “Is that good?” said Fred.

  “It’s what we already know,” said Sam. “The Book disappears, then it turns up somewhere you might find a book. Brilliant. Oh man, I just know we’re going to get our heads cut off.”

  “That’s bad,” said Fred, sitting down next to Sam.

  “Come on, you losers,” I said, walking around the room. “Let’s think. We’re back in ancient Japan.”

  “Sixteen hundred, no doubt,” said Sam.

  “Did they have books then?”

  “They sure don’t have any tables or chairs,” said Fred.

  “I know they printed things with wood blocks,” said Sam. “Some of their books were illustrated action books like comic books.”

  Fred perked up. “So maybe they hide their books like I hide my comic books so my brothers don’t mess them all up.”

  “This is hopeless,” said Sam, holding his head in his hands.

  Fred scanned the room. “Like there,” he said. He pointed to a small ledge on the top of a wall. “That’s where I’d hide them.” We looked up and saw a row of book-size packages wrapped and tied.

  “I mean this is hopelessly easy,” said Sam.

  “Time Warp traveling mist, here we come,” I said.

  Fred and I boosted Sam up the wall. He stood with one foot on each of our shoulders. He stretched up and grabbed a dark blue package. That’s when a shadow fell across the room.

  An angry man’s voice shouted a very mean-sounding string of Japanese words at us. Then we heard an even more chilling sound—the chiiing sound a thin sharp piece of metal being pulled from its holder might make. The sound you might imagine from a sword being pulled free for action. The last sound you might hear before your head rolled off your shoulders.

  We turned slowly, with Sam still on our shoulders, toward the sound of our doom.

  A man in a kimono and wide pants, a real man this time, no tricky shadows, stood in the doorway. He had two swords stuck in his belt, just like the picture of the samurai Sam had shown us. In his right hand he held the sword that had made the noise. He didn’t look happy. And he was still speaking some very mad Japanese.

  “What the heck is he saying?” asked Fred.

  “I can’t understand a word,” said Sam. “But I’m guessing it’s something like, ‘Why are you three criminals stealing my best comic books? Stay right there. I will use my very sharp sword to cut you into tiny pieces to feed to the worms.”’

  “Mr. Samurai,” I said. “This is not what it looks like. We are just three innocent time warp guys looking for our Book. Book. Us. Ours.”

  The samurai guy frowned. He obviously didn’t understand a word I said.

  “What happened to the Auto-Translator?” said Sam.

  “I don’t know,” I said. “It must have got switched off.”

  “Well, I hope you’re good at sign language or have one very good silent trick up your sleeve,” said Sam. His legs started to shake. Fred and I started to shake, too.

  The samurai yelled something again. I think it was a question. But he didn’t wait
for an answer.

  He ran up to us, drew his sword back, and prepared to strike a serious two-handed blow.

  I remember looking closely at the strange little ponytail of hair the samurai had folded forward on the top of his half-shaved head. I remember seeing every detail very clearly and thinking, “We are about to get our heads sliced off by a guy with a very funny ponytail ... but it doesn’t seem that funny.”


  The samurai pointed his sword at Sam and motioned for him to get down. Fred and I slowly lowered Sam. The samurai grabbed the dark blue package roughly out of Sam’s shaking hands. More pointing with his sword and Japanese shouts moved the three of us into a line.

  “He’s going to try to take all three of our heads off in one swipe,” said Sam.

  “Let’s make a grab for The Book and open it really fast,” said Fred.

  “We’ll never make it against a real samurai,” I said.

  “Joe,” said Sam. “Our only hope is a magic trick—quick.”

  The samurai put the package down behind him, keeping his eyes on us the whole time. He drew his sword slowly back. I knew I had one chance, and probably only one chance to come up with a particularly great trick.

  I thought of the magic book I was reading and what trick might impress a mad samurai. The Coin Vanish? I didn’t have a coin. The Red and Black Card Switch? I didn’t have cards. The Number Prediction? This guy wouldn’t understand a word I said.

  “Oogala boogala” (or something like that), said the samurai.

  “Uh Joe ... the trick?” said Sam. “Some trick. Any trick.”

  The lightbulb went off over my head. Sam had given me the perfect idea. Any trick. “That’s it!” said. I thought of the first chapter of every magic book I ever read. It’s always about how you can make almost any trick work. You just have to command your audience’s attention.

  It’s like when you talk to your dog or cat. They don’t know what you are saying. They listen to how you say it. If you sound nice, they wag their tail or purr and rub on you. It doesn’t matter if you are saying the words, “Come here doggy-woggy. I’m going to tie your ears in a knot and whack you.”

  I didn’t need a great trick. I just needed to sound like a great magician. I looked the samurai in the eye and said in my best stage voice, “Mr. Samurai, observe.”

  I had his eyes on me now.

  “With nothing up my sleeve ...” I motioned to my two bare arms, since I was wearing a T-shirt ... “I will now present one of the most ancient and astounding tricks in the long and glorious history of magic.” (I copied most of that from listening to my Uncle Joe. He’s a stage magician sometimes, and he said that kind of talking while you set the trick up is called “patter.”)

  The samurai looked puzzled, but interested.

  “I will attempt to link this ring—” I made a circle with my thumb and first finger—“with this ring.” I made the same circle with my other hand and held them up.

  The samurai lowered his sword down in front of him. Sam breathed a huge sigh.

  I moved my hands back and forth, around and around, chanting, “Hocus pocus, toilet plunger, football touchdown, woof!”

  I crashed the two circles together, then held them up, now linked together.

  “Ta da!”

  The samurai looked stunned.

  I heard Sam whisper to Fred, “Now who’s lost it?”

  But I noticed the samurai give a half smile.

  “And to reverse this amazing effect,” I boomed in my biggest stage voice, “you simply reverse the spell.”

  I waved my linked hands around and chanted, “Football touchdown, toilet plunger, hocus pocus, woof!” I slipped my fingers apart and raised the now freed circles over my head.

  “Ta da!”

  Talk about a “Do or Die” trick.

  If the samurai liked it, we lived. If not—


  The samurai leaned back and back and ... actually snorted a laugh.

  Sam, Fred, and I started breathing again

  The samurai said something that sounded like, “Eeka waka dodo chacha is the stupidest trick I have ever seen.”

  “I know,” I said. “I think it’s the first trick I ever learned from my dad but—hey! What did you just say?”

  “Hey, I’m understanding Japanese,” said Fred.

  “The Auto-Translator must have kicked back on,” I said.

  The samurai laughed and shook his head. “That is the stupidest trick I have ever seen. Except for this one.” He slid his sword back into his belt and held up two hands—one a closed fist, the other with two fingers up.

  “Observe,” said the samurai. “I will magically make one finger jump from this hand with two fingers to this hand with no fingers.” He waved the two-finger hand around saying, “Jump to the other hand, now!” He smacked the two-finger fist down on the other fist. He held up both hands. Each one had one finger up.

  “Ta da!”

  We laughed like maniacs.

  The samurai laughed with us.

  I must say he wasn’t the smoothest magician I’ve ever seen. And he didn’t have very good patter. But we were so relieved he put his sword away, he could have poked himself in the eyeball and we would have laughed.

  The full morning sun blazed through the doorway. The samurai looked around the room.

  “But where do you come from? What is your province? What is your family? Why did you not answer me when I first asked you?”

  Sam and Fred and I looked at each other. We didn’t know what to say. Finally Sam spoke up.

  “We are traveling from the province very far away to the east called Brooklyn. We are looking for a lost book. It belongs to our ... um ... daimyo. We need to return it to him.”

  The samurai gave us a questioning look. “Bookalin? I don’t know Bookalin. But from the east, you are surely supporters of Tokugawa Ieyasu.”

  “E-eyuka what?” said Fred.

  “Yes, surely,” said Sam.

  “Who is your daimyo?” asked the samurai.

  “Our leader is ... well ... the mayor,” said Sam. “Our daimyo is Rudy Giuliani.”

  “Rudy Giuliani? Did he fight at Osaka?”

  “Hoboken, I think,” said Sam.

  “Hmm,” said the samurai. “No matter. It is good that you show such loyalty, and support Tokugawa. Especially in these times when so many armies are on the move. What are your names?”

  “Joe and Fred, and I am Sam,” said Sam, introducing us all.

  “My name is Tada Honda.”

  “Like the motorcycle?” said Fred.

  “A very old and honored name,” said Sam, talking over Fred.

  The samurai bowed. We bowed back.

  “Sooo,” I said, thinking of how to get out of there as quickly as possible. “It’s been nice talking to you. But we really do have to get going. Could we just peek at your blue book there? I think we have one just like it.”

  Honda picked up the thin blue package. “Ah yes. One of my most precious treasures.” The samurai slowly unwrapped the bundle. Fred, Sam, and I braced ourselves for the twirling thrill of time warping home. Honda opened the book and... and nothing happened. No time warping. No green mist. Nothing.

  “It’s my issue number one of Super Samurai Man,” said Honda. “Look what great condition.” He showed us an illustrated book of a crazy-eyed samurai guy.

  “Oh,” we all said, trying not to look too disappointed that it wasn’t The Book.

  “But why did you have it hidden up there?” asked Sam.

  “So my little brother wouldn’t find it and mess it up,” said Honda.

  Fred smiled.

  “The only thing more precious to me is the gift given to me by my daimyo—his armor.” He pointed to the suit of armor we had just put back together. “If anything happened to that, I would take the head of whoever dared touch it.”

  Fred quit smiling.

  “Well, of course,” I said. “No one should mess with a guy’s ar
mor. Everyone knows that.”

  “Where is your daimyo?” asked Sam. “And does he maybe have a thin blue book?”

  “My daimyo was lost at the battle of Sekigahara,” said Honda. “So now I am a samurai with no master. I am a ronin. But I have sworn to serve the master my daimyo served—Tokugawa.”

  Honda looked down. You could tell he still felt bad about losing his master. A single bird chirped outside. We didn’t say anything.

  Suddenly the sound of a ringing bell split the quiet. Honda looked up.

  “A runner.” He looked outside the door and down the road. “At last! It is the runner ahead of the troops of Ii Naomasa. Gather your weapons and armor. We will join the Red Devils on the road to Edo. We will go to see the great warlord Tokugawa and find the book for your daimyo Giuliani.”

  We sat down on the edge of the wooden platform and put on our only armor—our sneakers.

  “Join the Red Devils? Travel to Edo to meet Tokugawa?” said Sam. “Does that sound like a good thing? A safe thing?”

  We could hear the tramping sound of horses and feet. It sounded like a lot of feet.

  “Do we have a choice?” I said.


  Outside it was a beautiful spring morning. And I’m guessing the leader of the Red Devils was an amazing sight. I’m only guessing because we were on our knees, faces planted in the dirt when he passed. All I saw was an ant trying to get around a leaf.

  Fred, Sam, and I had run outside right next to the road to get a good look at a real samurai army. But as soon as the first red armored bodyguard came around the corner, Honda yelled, “Down! Down!” and pushed us down into a kneeling bow. “If you want your head to stay with you, keep it touching the ground.”

  We heard the clomp of the horses, jingling armor, flapping flags, and tramping feet, but no voices. It was kind of spooky. After a few minutes, we were hidden in a low cloud of dust. Sam coughed and sneezed. And sneezed and sneezed and sneezed. I peeked my head up to see if Sam still had his.

  Sam was rolling around on the ground, trying not to sneeze. Honda and Fred were up on one knee, still sort of bowed forward, but watching the passing procession.


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