This short introduction tells us about Paul’s departure from Texas with his mother. His father and his brother, Erik, have already been at their new home in Florida for a week. As he waits for his mother to make one final sweep of the house, Paul’s thoughts go to the time when he barely avoided being hit with a bat by someone that appeared to him to be his brother, Erik.
As his mother locks the keys inside the house, Paul knows that the zombie is locked out.
Each of the three parts of this book is divided into chapters identified by dates rather than by numbers as most books are. The author’s book titled Crusader is divided in a similar manner.
Paul’s first introduction to Florida, from the windows of his mother’s Volvo wagon, surprises him. He was expecting beaches with high-rise condos, not farmland. Soon the farmland turns to housing developments. The development where their new home is located is called Lake Windsor Downs. It is almost finished. When they reach their new home they are just in time for the pizza dinner that Paul’s father ordered.
After he goes to sleep, Paul is wakened by the sounds of his brother running down the hallway and a car pulling away from the house. When he can’t go back to sleep, he starts thinking about a zombie stalking along Interstate 10.
The zombie represents all the bad vibes in the family home in Houston. When they left Houston, they left the zombie. But, because it is a part of the family, it is following them to Tangerine.
During the night, Paul hears thunder and sees lightning. The next morning he and his mother smell smoke. His mother calls the local fire department. Wayne, of the Tangerine Volunteer Fire Department, responds. He explains that the smoke smell is coming from the muck fire that the lightning stirred up. There is lignite in the ground. The fire in the lignite cannot be put out. Paul’s mother makes a plan to report the situation to their homeowners’ association.
Muck fires are real. They somehow seem to be something unreal, but, like other strange occurrences in this book, they actually happen.
During the day a thunderstorm causes a short power failure. All the clocks on the electronic equipment in the house need to be reset.
Late in the day, Paul takes his bike out of the garage and notices that there is no smoke smell. Paul can see the wind that blows through the development because it is full of construction sand that Paul refers to as “white sugar sand.” On his bicycle, Paul stops at the model homes area of the development. Each of the home styles is named after a British royal family. Paul tells us that his mother likes that. Paul watches workmen lay squares of sod over white sugar sand until a new home has a lawn. As Paul continues to pedal around the development, he sees the guardhouse by the entrance gate. Nearby is a big pond. Paul guesses that it is “Lake Windsor.”
When he returns home, Paul sees Mom talking to a man whom she introduces to him. He is Mr. Costello, the president of the Homeowners’ Association. He and Mom had been discussing the muck fire. When Paul tells him that he was at the pond, Mr. Costello tells him that each development is required to have a retention pond for storm runoff. He asks Paul if he saw any koi in the pond. He says that the pond/lake has been stocked full of them. And, they are expensive.
Dad and Erik arrive. Mr. Costello goes home to get his son, who, like Erik, is into football. When he returns with his son, Mike, they gather in the Fisher’s great room to discuss high school football. The Costellos tell the Fishers that the Lake Windsor High team, the Seagulls, now dominates high school football in the area. Mike says that in the coming season he will be the number two quarterback. The Fishers know that means that Mike will be holding the football as Erik kicks it.
While the Costellos are definitely interested in football, they do not seem as intense about it as Erik and his father are. Mike’s future is not dependent on doing well in football. He has already been accepted into the FSU School of Engineering.
Koi are a colorful type of the carp fish family. They are prized for their vivid colors. They resemble goldfish, only they are larger.
In Japan, carp are a part of the holiday called Boys’ Festival. Boys’ Festival is a celebration of the country’s boys. It is on May 5th. (Japan has another festival, called the Doll Festival, for girls. It is on March 3rd.) Families in Japan fly carp streamers made of cloth or paper above their homes. Carp symbolize the power and energy that the families see in their boys. The strength and determination of the carp help them overcome difficulties in a way that the families want their sons to emulate.