Scavengers Excerpt: Fiddleheads, Solar Bears, and Pepper Bombs

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Slated for official release on September 2, Mike’s latest book, The Scavengers, can be pre-ordered from indie bookstores and other vendors right here, right now (Books ordered direct from will be signed by Mike). Below is an excerpt in which Maggie (who has re-named herself Ford Falcon) (her Ma, however, refuses to call her Ford Falcon) and her family are interrupted while harvesting fiddleheads.

As we walk, we keep gathering fiddleheads. Ferns mostly sprout in batches of seven, and Arlinda says you should never pick more than three from the same group. Ma and I snip the fiddleheads and toss them into Dad’s shirt-basket like teensy organic Frisbees. Sometimes I holler, “Bank!” and bounce them off his chest first. Dad smiles his crooked smile and just keeps plodding along.

Suddenly Dookie jumps out in front of us, his eyes wide and serious, his hands fluttering.


We all freeze.

Dookie speaks mostly nonsense, but when he flutters his hands and says “shibby-shibby-shibby” we pay attention, because that is what he does when he senses trouble, and Dookie has a sixth sense for trouble.

I am reaching over my shoulder for my SpitStick when I hear a twig snap behind me. Spinning on my heel, I snatch a pepper-bomb from my satchel with my right hand and even as I am turning I am raising it into throwing position. Drawing the ToothClub from my belt with my left hand (the ToothClub is better than the SpitStick for fighting in close), I raise the weapon and spin toward the sound.

The solar bear is only partially visible, just a face and one front paw sticking out from behind a tree trunk. But the dark black eyes are locked on us and the animal is standing still as a stone, which is a bad sign, because about the only time a solar bear freezes is when it sees something it would like to eat.

With a flick of my wrist I send the pepper-bomb flying. All that practice of throwing eggs at Dookie’s head pays off, because the pepper-bomb smacks the solar bear square in the snoot. There is a dusty red poof as the ground pepper is released, and the bear falls right backward onto its butt, where it howls and paws at its nose and eyes before giving an especially loud howl and crashing off into the brush at a run. We stand very still ourselves now, listening until the howling and crashing fade away.

Then everyone looks at me.

And I raise my fist and say, “Ford Falcon!”

“Yes, Maggie,” says Ma, pointing behind me, “you missed a fiddlehead.”

For more excerpts including the Introduction and Chapter One, please click here.

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