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Chapter One: Skate Master

Life was never easy for Alfredo Linguini. Being raised in a small New Jersey apartment by his single Italian mother was a bit of a struggle for her at sometimes, but America opened so many opportunities for the both of them. Growing up, his mother, Renata Linguini would tell him everyday and every night about stories of her golden days in Paris. She would constantly daydream about moving back to France.

"Oh, Alfredo, you would just simply adore Paris! When we can afford it, I'll promise you that we will have a home there," Renata would always say as she tucked him into bed. "Someday," she said softly, kissing him on his forehead.

By the time Alfredo turned twelve, he started searching for work to help support his mother and himself. We'll be in Paris in no time! he thought confidently to himself. Unfortunately, he came to realize that with every job he applied himself to, trouble was just around the corner.

His first job was as the neighborhood's paperboy. Unable to control his strength, he flung the newspapers too hard and managed to break a few windows. Most of the money he earned was spent replacing the windows he broke.

His second job was not so hot, either. Just before his fourteenth birthday, he worked at a nearby market, bagging groceries for customers and carrying the purchases to their cars. Every time, as he would lift the heavy bags, the groceries came bursting through the bottom of the sacks, causing a great mess all over the tiled floor.

"Don't feel defeated, Alfredo," his mother would always say after a trying day. "You just need to keep your head up and do what you're best at!" His mother was right. He might have been a bit of a disaster and unintentionally cause trouble, but he was good at one thing.

During his childhood, his school friends would call him "the skate master". Alfredo never thought much of it. He figured that it was just a catchy name for a kid who almost always had skates strapped to his feet. He never knew how good he was until that one day his bike tire got a flat…

Alfredo was twenty minutes late for his sixteenth job, which where he worked as a waiter at a drive-in diner. Skates were mandatory for the uniform. With the flat tire he had, there would be no way he would ever get to work. Out of desperation, he quickly buckled on his skates and began to race as fast as he could, dodging random obstacles in his path.

Not even a moment later did he reach his destination, making up for lost time by taking orders as quick as lightning. Only twenty-five minutes later, and all the customer's needs were met.

"Here's your order, sir! One cheeseburger and a chocolate shake," Alfredo announced, rolling up to the last customer's car window.

"Dang, boy!" the man exclaimed, taking the tray of food, "Where did you learn how to skate like that!"

"W-well, I-I…" the teen stuttered, embarrassed, rubbing the back of his neck.

"I saw you all the way back on Garden Drive!" the man boomed, lifting his hat off his balding head. "You are out of control!"

"Um, w-well…" his muttered reply.

"You know, if you gave lessons at the local skating rink, I bet a lot of youngsters would want to sign up. The rink will be the hottest spot in town!"

"Y-you know, I appreciate the offer, b-but—"

"Here," said the man, pulling out a piece of paper from his suit jacket. "A friend of mine owns the rink. If you make up your mind about wanting to work there, just tell Jim that Bob sent you." Alfredo took the card, studying each side before pocking it.

Despite his good efforts, Alfredo lost his sixteenth job by the end of the day. He trudged back down the street to retrieve his broken-down bike. Lifting his head up to look out for traffic at the corner of the crosswalk, he spotted a payphone illuminated by a street lamp. Pulling out the card out of his pocket, he glanced at the print, then looked back at the payphone.

Rushing over to the payphone, he jammed a quarter in the coin slot, and punched the same numbers that were impressed on the card. "Hello, is this Jim? My name is Alfredo Linguini…"

End of Chapter One

7 September 2007