The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley
by Betty Dravis
Chapter one--Is Jeremy Going Nuts?
The day the Toonie leaped out of Jeremy Kern's computer and landed smack-dab in the middle of his life, he thought he was going nuts. Was he imagining things? Or was the funny little cartoon character for real?
The Toonie's name was Doog and if he was real, Jeremy had a big problem. Doog was the main character in a popular cartoon strip he had created called "Doog Days," which dealt with children's problems.
At the young age of twelve, Jeremy was already well known in Silicon Valley, and Doog was very popular with the Valley kids. They followed Doog's adventures in the cartoon that was featured weekly in the San Jose Mercury News, the closest large newspaper to the Kerns' rambling hillside home in Los Altos, California. When Jeremy had created Doog with Wise-guy––his pet name for his Orange computer––the boy never dreamed that anything like this would happen.
But here Doog sat, staring at Jeremy with a big, bold, mischievous grin. And he wasn't INSIDE the computer. How could that be?
Angry voices echoed down the hallway, pulling Jeremy back to reality. He frowned as he thought of his parents, Arthur and Jessica Kern. They were always arguing these days and when they raised their voices, it frightened him. Shut up! Shut up! he wanted to shout at the top of his lungs, but he couldn’t bring himself to defy them.
This had been going on for five killer weeks. Weeks that pitted his father against his mother, with him in the middle. Weeks that only saw an end to the raised voices, slamming doors, and banging cupboards when one of his parents stormed out of the room...or the house.
The atmosphere in the house was so oppressive, Jeremy stayed in his room most of the time, escaping into his computer. He couldn't face his parents or his friends, so avoided everyone. And he missed them, especially his best friend, Buddy O’Hara. And, yes, he had to admit he missed Buddy's little tag-along sister, too. Ashley was Buddy's twin and the three had been friends since first grade.
Jeremy knew he was chicken for not talking to his parents, or at least sharing his problem with his friends. But he just couldn't talk about it yet.
Sheesh!... Would he ever be ready?
Up until they began the constant bickering, his parents had been so "perfect" he was the envy of all his friends. Jeremy had everything he could want: decent, successful parents, good friends, a good education, and plenty of good food...lots of pizza.
But now he was so confused he didn't know what to do; so sad he'd bet a CD that even Buddy couldn't make him laugh. Every time his parents raised their voices, his pulse raced, his stomach churned, and sharp pinpricks of pain stabbed him behind the eyes. He was afraid they would do the ugly thing--the divorce thing--like so many of his friends' parents.
Jeremy was pleased with all the attention his cartoon strip was bringing him, but his parents' arguments were really getting him down, making it almost impossible to be creative.
How could he think straight when his life was such a mess?
That had to be why he was imagining things now. How else could he explain the twelve-inch Toonie with the bushy red eyebrows that was standing beside his computer?
- End of Chapter One -