October 6 should be declared a holiday for us Riordan fans. Not only do we have The Tower of Nero to look forward to, but Tristan Strong Destroys the World hits bookshelves on that date as well. With a title like that, we fully expect Kwame Mbalia’s new novel to pack an even bigger wallop than the best-selling, award-winning Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. Let’s get a head start, shall we?
Tricksters and Whispers
Nobody likes getting punched in the face.
Call it a hunch or an educated guess. Either way, I can confirm from firsthand experience that getting punched in the face is way down on the list of enjoyable activities. It’s somewhere between eating a halfway-scraped-off piece of burnt toast and giving yourself a wedgie. Nope. Don’t like it. Especially when it’s accompanied by my grandfather’s trash talk.
“C’mon, boy! Keep your head moving! Unless you wanna make your living lying down on the mat. You want me to build you a house down there? I can get you a one-room studio, utilities included.”
When I opened my eyes, Granddad was standing over me with his hands on his hips. Well, his mitts on his hips. He wore gray jogging sweats and a crisp white T-shirt that he had probably ironed. His afro, neatly trimmed and nearly all gray, moved from side to side as he grumbled and shook his head. He took off one mitt and held out a massive brown hand with scars on the knuckles. When I reached up with my right glove and he pulled me to my feet, I could feel the strength that had made him a legend in the boxing circuit.
“You gotta move,” Granddad said. He got into a boxer’s crouch and started bobbing and weaving his head. “You’re too stiff in there right now, like something’s holding you back. What’s wrong? You asked for this, remember? You tired?”
We were inside the old barn on my grandparents’ farm. The early-afternoon sun peeked through gaps in the walls, sending warm yellow rays down in stripes across the packed dirt floor. Granddad and I had been working all day—clearing out junk, sweeping, stuff like that. A makeshift boxing ring now stood in the middle of the open space, and a few other adults were setting up benches.
Why, I hear you asking, did I volunteer for this?