Read Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine Online

Authors: Abrashkin Abrashkin,Jay Williams

Tags: #anthology, #short stories

Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Copyright © 1958, 1986 by
Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin.

Cover art by Ezra Jack Keats.

Used by permission of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

All rights reserved.

*

Published by Wildside Press LLC.

www.wildsidebooks.com

THE DANNY DUNN SERIES

Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint

Danny Dunn on a Desert Island

Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine

Danny Dunn and the Weather Machine

Danny Dunn on the Ocean Floor

Danny Dunn and the Fossil Cave

Danny Dunn and the Heat Ray

Danny Dunn, Time Traveler

Danny Dunn and the Automatic House

Danny Dunn and the Voice from Space

Danny Dunn and the Smallifying Machine

Danny Dunn and the Swamp Monster

Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy

Danny Dunn Scientific Detective

Danny Dunn and the Universal Glue

DEDICATION

This book is for the little Foxes—Jane and John.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The authors are deeply grateful to Miss Terry di Senso, who guided us through two of the giant computers of the International Business Machines Corporation, and to Dr. Louis Robinson, Manager of the Mathematics and Applications Department, IBM, for his assistance, information, and painstaking reading of the manuscript. In all fairness to both Professor Bullfinch and Danny, we wish to point out that their position on homework is supported by Bulletin 1248-3 of the Educational Service Bureau, University of Pennsylvania.

CHAPTER ONE

The Face at the Window

Danny Dunn bent over a strange device that hung from the ceiling of his bedroom, directly over his desk. His red hair was tousled, and the thick freckles of his face were scrambled into a frown of concentration. His best friend, Joe Pearson, a thin, sad-looking boy, stood nearby with his hands deep in his pockets.

“Think it'll work?” Joe asked.

The apparatus consisted of a flat piece of wood about eighteen inches long. A ball-point pen was fixed into each end of it, at a slight angle. The bar of wood was supported by two pieces of clothesline which ran up to pulleys fastened to the ceiling, and then through a double pulley on one wall. A counterweight was fastened to the ends of the line. Beneath each pen was a sheet of paper.

“We'll see,” said Danny. “I'll try the first example.”

He pressed down on the center of the bar, and began moving it slowly. Both pens began to write at the same time:

“746 X $.24 = $179.04.”

“Wow!” Joe cried. “You did it! Two at once.”

Danny straightened with a grin. “Yep, it looks like my invention is a success. We can do two homeworks in the time it takes to do one.”

Joe rubbed his nose thoughtfully. “I just thought of something. Won't Miss Arnold catch on? They both look alike.”

“I thought of that, too,” Danny replied. “But we can fix it. By putting the papers at slightly different angles, we can make the handwriting look different. Now I can do our arithmetic homework while you're doing our English homework. It'll save us about half an hour for baseball practice.”

He studied the writing for a moment and then sighed. “If only we could save even more time. You'd think six hours of school would be enough for them, without making us take school home. If only I could build some kind of a robot to do all our homework for us…”

“Now, wait a minute,” Joe said hastily. “Let's not go overboard. I'm still not sure there won't be some kind of trouble from this pen board, like there generally is when you start inventing things. So far, I'll admit, it looks all right. But if you built a robot, we'd be in trouble for real.”

“Gee, thanks,” Danny said sarcastically. “Do you really think I could build a robot like that? Don't be crazy. Come on, let's rig the second pen board and you can start on the English homework.”

“Okay,” said Joe. “Got some more rope?”

Danny shook his head. “I already used some of my mother's clothesline. I don't dare swipe any more. You'll have to get a piece of your own.”

“All right I'll run home. I'll be back in ten minutes.”

Joe started for the door. “Lucky it isn't Monday,” he added. “She hasn't got any wash out today.”

As soon as Joe had left, Danny began fastening two more pens into slanted holes he had drilled in another piece of wood. He was working away, completely absorbed, when a noise attracted his attention.

He glanced up with a puzzled frown. There it was again—a kind of tapping. It seemed to come from the window. He put down the board and went to the little alcove in which he had his shortwave radio. The window was just above the radio table.

Next moment, he had frozen in his tracks. His eyes opened wide, and his jaw slowly dropped.

His bedroom was on the second floor of the house. But a face was peering in at him, as if suspended in mid-air.

For a second, Danny couldn't believe his eyes. The face was that of a girl. She had a turned-up nose, wide blue eyes, and shining brown hair gathered into a pony tail. Her lips moved, but Danny couldn't hear her speak. Then she pointed upwards.

“She's trying to tell me where she came from!” Danny said to himself. “My gosh! The moon!”

He pushed the radio table aside, and threw open the window.

CHAPTER TWO

The New Girl

“Hello,” said the face.

Danny stared. “You—you can speak English?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“But–but–but I thought—”

“What?”

“Well—how'd you get out there? What's holding you up?”

“A ladder.”

Danny stuck his head out the window. “Oh,” he said, in disappointment. “I see.”

“My name's Irene Miller,” the girl said. “My father is Dr. Miller, the astronomer. He's going to teach at Midston University, here in town. We just moved in next door.”

“Oh yes. Professor Bullfinch was talking about it. He said Dr. Miller was moving in last night, but I didn't know he—well, I didn't know there was a girl in the family.”

“Well, there is. I'm sorry to bother you like this,” Irene went on, “but my balloon is on your roof.”

“Your balloon?” Danny could not help smiling. “You look kind of old to be playing with balloons.”

“I know what you mean,” the girl laughed. “But this is a weather balloon. I sent up an anemometer on it.”

“To measure the wind speed?”

“Yes. I wanted to see if the wind velocity was high enough so I could do some kite flying.”

Danny looked at her with awakening interest, and a certain amount of respect. “Hey!” he said. “That's not a bad idea.”

“Glad you like it. Well, the balloon is stuck on your roof, and I thought I could climb up and get it, but the ladder isn't long enough.”

“I'll get it for you,” Danny said. “Come on in. I'll be right back.”

He went out into the hall and climbed the stairs to the attic. A small dormer window let him out on the roof. The balloon, a plastic one with the wind gauge fastened to the line below it, was caught on the television antenna. Danny cut it free, opened the valve to deflate it, and carried it into the house with him.

Back in his bedroom, he found Irene examining the pen board.

“I'll bet you don't know what that is,” he said, tossing the balloon on a chair.

“No. Some kind of writing machine?”

“Sort of. It's an invention of mine, so one person can do two homework papers at the same time.”

Irene looked doubtful. “It—it doesn't seem exactly honest to me,” she said.

“Why not?” Danny demanded. “What's wrong with it?”

“Well, for the other person—it would be like copying somebody else's homework, wouldn't it?”

Danny blushed. “Not if they really know how to do the work anyway. And Professor Bullfinch says that homework doesn't have much to do with how a kid learns things in school.”

“Professor Bullfinch?”

“Professor Euclid Bullfinch. He knows about most things. He's a physicist, and an inventor—like me,” Danny said proudly. “This is his house. I live with him.”

“All alone? Which of you does the cooking?”

“Huh? No—I mean, my mother and I live with him. My father died when I was just a baby. My mother took the job of being Professor Bullfinch's housekeeper. The Professor's my—my best grown-up friend. He's a great man. He has taught me everything he knows.”

“Goodness! That must be an awful lot to remember.”

Danny glanced sharply at her to see if she was making fun of him, but her face was perfectly innocent.

“Well, believe me,” he said, “what Professor Bullfinch doesn't know isn't worth knowing. He has his own private laboratory, and he's invented all sorts of things. He has done experiments with gravity, with nuclear particles, with guided missiles—he even improved on HIG… Oh, but you wouldn't know what that is,” Danny added loftily.

“No? Why wouldn't I?” Irene asked.

“Well, because… I mean—”

“HIG is the abbreviation for a hermetically sealed integrating gyroscope, used in inertial navigation of aircraft,” Irene said, with just a suspicion of a smile. “Want me to go on?”

Danny's mouth hung open, but for a second or two no sound came out. Then he said, “How—?”

“—did a mere girl come to know such a thing? Is that what you were going to say?”

“Uh—no. No, no. I was just going to say, ‘How interesting.'”

“Yes, it is rather interesting. Particularly in the way the axis of the gyroscope in HIG is used to make corrections in the direction of a—”

“No, I didn't mean that,” Danny interrupted. “I meant that it's interesting that you know about science.”

“Why not? Didn't you ever hear of women scientists, like Madame Curie, the discoverer of radium?”

“Oh, well—sure!”

“I'm going to study physics when I get to college,” Irene continued, calmly. “Speaking of HIG… of course, you are familiar with the principle of the Schuler-tuned pendulum?”

Danny swallowed, and ran his fingers desperately through his hair. He looked frantically around him. Then, fortunately for him, there was a step on the landing and the bedroom door opened. It was Joe.

“Hi, Joe,” Danny called with relief. “Come in. I want you to meet somebody.”

Joe stared. “Why, it's a girl!” he said.

“What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen one this close before?” Irene asked, a little put out at his tone.

“No. I mean, sure I have. But where'd you come from?” Joe said.

“This is Irene Miller,” Danny said quickly. “She lives next door. They've just moved in.”

“Hello,” Joe said gloomily. “I hope you'll be happy living around here. But I doubt it. It's a terrible neighborhood.”

Irene laughed. “Oh, I don't know. It doesn't seem so awful. The natives are friendly enough, when they aren't trying to impress people.”

Danny grinned. “I'm not so bad when you get to know me. I really have a heart of gold. I'm sorry I sounded snooty.”

“Want me to play soft music for you both, like in the movies?” Joe put in, sourly. “Let's get back to work, Dan.”

“Mmhm. Irene doesn't think my invention is honest.”

Joe looked disgusted. “What did you expect from a girl?” he said. “She wouldn't say that if she knew the kind of homework we have to do.”

“What kind do you have to do?” Irene asked.

“Well,” Danny answered, “for tomorrow, for instance, we have to read fifteen pages of the social studies book and write a short essay on some South American seaport, and—let's see—oh, yes, answer all parts of eight questions at the end of the chapter.”

“Whee-ew!” Irene gave a low whistle. “That seems like an awful lot for just one subject.”

Joe said, with a kind of mournful pride, “You see? I told you this was a terrible neighborhood.”

Danny put in, “Miss Arnold has always been a good teacher. Only in the last term she's begun to pile up the homework on us. Some idea of hers, to get us ready for high school. Aside from that she's really okay.”

“Oh, she's all right,” Joe growled. “But I wish we had a man teacher. Women are nothing but trouble.”

Irene bristled. “Oh, is that so?”

“Now wait a minute, Joe,” Danny said, quickly. “You've got to admit there are plenty of good women in the world. Like—like Madame Curie, for instance. And you shouldn't say things like that anyway. Think of Irene—”

“I didn't mean Irene. She's not a woman anyhow, she's a girl.”

“But she knows more about science than most guys do,” Danny went on. “She even knows HIG.”

“Hig who?” asked Joe.

“Not Hig who. It's not a person.”

“No? What is it?”

“It's a—er—a hermetically sealed integrating gyroscope.”

“Ah! Why didn't you say so in the first place?” said Joe. Then he thought for a minute. “So she knows Hig,” he said. “Is that good?”

Before Danny could answer, his mother called from the stairs, “Danny!”

Dan went out into the hall. Mrs. Dunn, a red-haired woman with a merry face, was standing at the foot of the stairs.

“Yes, Mom?” Danny said.

“Why don't you come down and have a snack, now? Milk and fresh doughnuts.”

“Gee, swell! We'll be right down.”

“Fresh doughnuts,” Joe sighed, joining Danny on the landing. “Now that's something I can understand. When I said ‘women,' I didn't mean mothers.”

“And my mother makes them better than anyone in town,” Danny said to Irene. “It was lucky for you that your balloon got stuck on the roof, after all.”

“Oh, it wasn't pure luck,” Irene remarked, with a sly smile. “I did it on purpose.”

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