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Ninja monkeys from outer space

Never let it be said that ninja aren’t good cooks. Ninja are excellent cooks. Afraid for my life as I was, I still managed to eat a whole plate of tangy jalapeño slices with cheese and an assortment of savory doughy things. Meanwhile, Steve showed off some of his pepper-slicing sword tricks for my amusement.

“And the best part is,” he was saying, “The bite-sized, easily concealable nature of the mini-appetizer. It’s perfect for the on-the-go ninja in hiding who always needs a free hand for his blade. Who doesn’t want to leave crumbs as evidence, and can’t be heard making crunching noises while on the job. In fact, the only downside to the operation is-”

“Hello, Steve,” interrupted a mild-sounding voice, “I see you’ve made a new friend. Won’t you introduce us?”

“Master!” cried Steve, and flung himself, face first, onto the ground.

I gaped.

To be sure, this new arrival was not what I was expecting of a ninja master.

For one thing, he was not dressed all in black. I could accept this. In the movies, the ninja master sometimes wears an extravagant satin bathrobe with a dragon embroidered on it, or a rising sun, or a tree, or some combination of all these things. But he rarely wears a T-shirt with a cartoon pig. And he never has a pair of headphones poking out of his jeans pocket. His sneakers are not blue and ratty looking.

But this was the case with the ninja master I suddenly found myself facing. Moreover, his yellow, fuzzy hair stood inches from around his head in thick helmet of curls, and he wore no mask. He was young, maybe about twenty.

Steve bounced back to his feet.

“Master!” he said, “I would like to introduce Kevin Dembling. He came to our lair by the secret path, and was led here…by the monkey himself!”

The master shook my hand. He wasn’t particularly scary. In fact, he looked just like one of the college students that are always hanging around the comic store where Jin and I buy books.

“Neat,” he said. His voice was mellow and friendly. “It’s nice to meet you, little dude. Always glad to meet another friend of ol’ Tim.”

I knew the monkey looked like a Tim!

“I followed him here, but I lost him somewhere along the way,” I said apologetically.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” said the ninja master, “Tim is a free spirit, even among the monkeys, who are the freest of the free. He goes where he wants, when he wants. When he wants to come back, he’ll come back. If only we could all be so lucky. The only thing we can do now is wait.” He gazed wistfully into the distance.

“Er. Yeah.”

This guy was nice, but a little vague for my taste. Besides, it was getting late, and I needed to get back home. Also, I had to call Jin, who, after she was done yelling at me for ditching her without warning, would be so jealous when she heard that I had spoken (and shared appetizers!) with a real, live cabal of ninja.

“Well, thanks for the food, Steve, and, uh, your Ninja Masterness,” I said, standing up and wiping my hands on my pants. “But I’ve really got to get going. My parents are going to start to worry, and-”

“Going?” said the ninja master. “You can’t be going yet, not for seven or eight years, at least. That’s how long it will take you to stay with us and train in the ways of the brotherhood!”

“What?!” I squeaked.

“Oh, don’t worry, little dude,” said the ninja master, scratching his fuzzy yellow head. “It’ll be fun.”

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