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THE

MAYAN MISSION
Another Mission. Another Country. Another Action-Packed Adventure. 1,000 New *SAT Vocabulary Words

Karen B. Chapman

THE

MAYAN MISSION

THE

MAYAN MISSION
Another Mission. Another Country. Another Action-Packed Adventure. 1,000 New *SAT Vocabulary Words

Karen B. Chapman

Copyright © 2006 by Karen B. Chapman. All rights reserved. Published by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, 978-750-8400, fax 978-646-8600, or on the web at www.copyright.com. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Legal Department, Wiley Publishing, Inc., 10475 Crosspoint Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46256, 317-572-3447, fax 317-572-4355, or online at http://www.wiley.com/go/permissions. Wiley, the Wiley Publishing logo, and related trademarks are trademarks or registered trademarks of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and/or its affiliates. *SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Wiley Publishing, Inc. is not associated with any product or vendor mentioned in this book. The publisher and the author make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this work and specifically disclaim all warranties, including without limitation warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales or promotional materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for every situation. This work is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services. If professional assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. Neither the publisher nor the author shall be liable for damages arising here from. The fact that an organization or Website is referred to in this work as a citation and/or a potential source of further information does not mean that the author or the publisher endorses the information the organization or Website may provide or recommendations it may make. Further, readers should be aware that Internet Websites listed in this work may have changed or disappeared between when this work was written and when it is read. For general information on our other products and services or to obtain technical support please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at (800) 762-2974, outside the U.S. at (317) 572-3993 or fax (317) 572-4002. Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books. For more information about Wiley products, please visit our web site at www.wiley.com. Library of Congress Control Number: 2005926048 ISBN-13: 978-0-7645-9820-3 ISBN-10: 0-7645-9820-1

Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Book design by Kathie Rickard Cover design by José Almaguer Book production by Wiley Publishing, Inc. Composition Services

Table of Contents 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 ! @ # $ % ^
A Pejorative Label Felicitous News An Interminable Journey Hardy Survivors Poised on the Precipice Resolving an Imbroglio Empirical Evidence An Odious Operation An Audacious Plan Effulgent Nuggets of Gold A Harbinger of Things to Come Incontrovertible Proof An Incendiary Spark A Tortuous Trail The Day of Reckoning Hackneyed Advice Exercises Tricky Twosomes Hot Topics for SAT Vocabulary Chapter Reviews Answers Vocabulary List 1 17 27 49 61 79 89 101 111 129 141 155 173 189 199 211 219 221 231 249 275 279

About the Author
Karen B. Chapman, Ph.D., grew up in upstate New York and graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Biology. She received a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Genetics from John Hopkins University School of Medicine and went on to complete postdoctoral fellowships at both the Pasteur Institute in Paris and Harvard Medical School. Currently, she resides in Northern California with her husband and four young children.

1
A Pejorative Label lexa’s eyes opened slowly and began to take in her surroundings in the dimness of the early morning light. Everything looked so familiar—the desk littered with stacks of magazines, the old rocking chair strewn with clothes, the threadbare1 rug, and the Avril Lavigne poster tacked to the wall, its edges badly frayed. Reaching up to the window above her bed, Alexa raised the shade and yawned widely as the bright rays of sunshine flooded her room. But instead of getting up, she nestled her head back in her pillow and lay there languidly2 as she thought about the fact that she was home again, after her summer adventure in the Caribbean was abruptly curtailed3. As much as she loved her family and cherished her home in Ithaca, New York, she couldn’t help but feel ambivalent4 about being back. When she closed her eyes, she saw a white sandy beach, a spectacular expanse of clear blue water with dolphins cavorting5 playfully on the surface, and of course, she saw José.
1 2 3 4 5

A

Threadbare: frayed, worn, or shabby Languid: sluggish; lacking energy Curtail: to cut short; reduce Ambivalent: having a mixture of opposite feelings Cavort: to bound or prance about in a playful, boisterous, or sprightly manner

1

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The Mayan Mission

They had met earlier that summer at a Marine Biology station off the coast of Central America and immediately became fast friends, despite their disparate6 backgrounds. He was really the first boy in her life who she could actually call a boyfriend. Of course there was Justin, her date for the junior prom. But he wasn’t really a boyfriend. They didn’t decide to go to the prom together out of romance. It was more of a pragmatic7 decision—they both needed dates for the prom, so they decided to go together. Through a deal brokered by their friends, they jumped through the hoops of the junior prom—flowers, pictures, and a limousine rented with a group of friends. Alexa cringed whenever she thought about the awkward way that prom night had ended. They didn’t kiss. Instead, they sort of bumbled through a weird, awkward handshake on her front porch. The whole episode was so painfully embarrassing that Alexa was left wishing that she had gone to the prom with a group of girlfriends instead. José was different. They had met on the beach and their special friendship developed so naturally and so quickly. Alexa couldn’t believe that for the first time, someone she liked actually liked her, too. He was cute and smart and interesting. It was like a dream come true. But everything came screeching to a halt when Alexa returned home in the middle of the summer and José stayed on his native island in the Caribbean Sea. Now they were separated by over a thousand miles. Somehow, the distance did nothing to abate8 her feelings. The knowledge that she might not see him again didn’t cause her affection for him to wane9. It simply made her heart heavy as she climbed out of bed and got ready to go downstairs for breakfast.
6 7 8 9

Disparate: fundamentally different or dissimilar Pragmatic: practical, matter-of-fact Abate: to reduce; lessen Wane: to gradually decrease

The Mayan Mission

3

“Good morning,” Alexa’s mom Helen chirped. “How did you sleep? I bet it felt good to be back in your own bed.” “Uh, yeah, I guess so,” Alexa replied unenthusiastically, grabbing a banana from the fruit bowl. In her mind, she remembered the banana trees of the tropical island, and how José had once shimmied up the tree to fetch her a perfectly ripe, perfectly yellow banana. Alexa looked at the banana in her hand and decisively removed the shiny blue supermarket sticker. She peeled the skin and took a bite, but somehow it just didn’t taste right. It wasn’t quite the same as the banana plucked right off the tree. Helen looked up from her newspaper. “You know, since you have some time on your hands, you might want to think about cracking open some of those SAT study guides I bought for you,” she suggested cautiously. Alexa set the banana on the counter and avoided her mother’s probing gaze. Unconsciously, she pressed her lips together tightly, an expression that reflected the angst that she felt every time her mother brought up the SATs. She didn’t even want to dignify her mother’s suggestion with a response. She was so sick of all that trite advice about planning for the future. Alexa didn’t need to be reminded of the fact that she had scored poorly on the SATs. That disappointing number was lurking everywhere—every time she closed her eyes she saw it and felt it. It was like a pejorative10 label that she didn’t want to own or acknowledge. Of course, Alexa knew that she had to take the test over in the fall. But she certainly didn’t want to think about that now. It was summertime. “Your father wants you to stop by his office this morning,” Helen remarked casually. “I think that he has an idea to propose to you—something interesting for you to do with the rest of your summer.”
10

Pejorative: disparaging; belittling

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The Mayan Mission

“Really?” Alexa asked, brightening up at the shift in the conversation. “But there’s only six weeks left of the summer until school starts.” “Six weeks is a long time to laze around the house, wallowing11 in misery,” Helen cautioned. “You’ve been acting despondent12 ever since we got back, and I’m starting to get concerned. I know that you miss your friend José, but you’ll feel better when you get back to work and try to accomplish something meaningful...trust me. That’s why I was suggesting that you take the time now to study for the SATs. It makes all the sense in the world for you to use some of the time that you have now to study, before school starts up again and things get busy.” Helen sighed, exasperated at this ongoing conversation that went nowhere. “But since you don’t seem too eager to follow my advice, I think that you might want to hear what your father has in mind for you to occupy your time. It’s not so onerous13...I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” “What is it? What’s Dad’s plan?” Alexa asked eagerly. “He wanted to tell you himself. Why don’t you go see him after breakfast?” “I’m going right now,” Alexa declared, turning to grab her backpack out of the hall closet. “Alexa!” Helen called out. “What?” she replied, poking her head back into the kitchen. “That’s a meager14 breakfast,” Helen remarked, pointing to the halfeaten banana on the countertop. “I just made these healthy muffins—why don’t you eat one? You’re going to become emaciated15 if you don’t eat! You’ve hardly eaten anything the last few days—ever since we arrived back home.”
11 12 13 14 15

Wallow: indolent or clumsy rolling around, as if in water, snow, or mud: pigs wallowing in the mud Despondent: extreme discouragement, dejection, or depression Onerous: oppressive or troublesome; burdensome Meager: deficient in quantity or amount; scanty Emaciate: to become extremely thin, especially as a result of starvation

The Mayan Mission

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“Don’t worry,” Alexa replied, attempting to allay16 her mother’s concerns. “I’m going to stop at the Big Squeeze to get a smoothie on my way to Dad’s office. It’s filled with vitamins.” Her mother gave her a reproving17 glance. “OK, I’ll take one with me,” she said, taking a muffin in an effort to appease18 her mother. In reality, she wasn’t very hungry. Somehow, nothing looked palatable19. Maybe it had something to do with her heavy heart, she thought silently as she wrapped the warm brown muffin in a paper towel and popped it into her backpack. “Don’t forget to eat it,” Helen warned. “I won’t,” Alexa replied, giving her mother a reassuring smile. “Bye, Mom!” she called out, slinging the backpack over her shoulder. Alexa ventured out the door and into the bright morning sunshine for the short walk to the Cornell University campus, where her father worked as a professor of molecular biology. She couldn’t stop thinking about what kind of plan he had to propose. Alexa quickened her pace as her curiosity began to grow. Passing by the Big Squeeze, Alexa scanned the crowd. The popular smoothie bar was a big hangout for high school students, especially during the hot summer months when the cool, frosty drinks held an irresistible allure. Alexa and her best friend Laurie liked to go there every day. But today the crowd was sparse, and when Alexa perused20 the occupied tables and the short line at the counter, she didn’t see Laurie anywhere. Even though Alexa hated to hang out at the Big Squeeze alone, she decided to go ahead and order a strawberry smoothie. Her throat felt really parched21.
16 17 18 19 20 21

Allay: reduce in intensity or severity; alleviate, relieve Reprove: to convey disapproval of Appease: to bring peace or quiet to; soothe Palatable: acceptable or agreeable to eat Peruse: to examine with attention and in detail Parched: dry; thirsty

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The Mayan Mission

Alexa popped a straw into the icy drink, eager to assuage22 her thirst. Tugging at the thick, cold smoothie that was so reluctant to climb up the straw, she made her way out into the courtyard to find a seat. “Hey, Alexa!” a male voice called out. Alexa turned abruptly, her smooth brown hair swinging over her shoulder, searching the crowd for the source of the voice. When she realized who it was, she was absolutely flabbergasted23. It was Doug, the popular star of the varsity lacrosse team. The same Doug who rode in her carpool every day and yet still managed to pretend that she didn’t exist. The same Doug who always acted indifferent24 whenever their paths crossed in the hallways of Ithaca High School. Alexa stood there, motionless, too shocked to speak. “Hey, how’s your summer going? I haven’t seen you around lately,” he remarked casually, walking right up to her as if it were the most normal thing in the world. In his hand was the ever-present lacrosse stick, which he adroitly25 maneuvered as he talked, bouncing the ball off of the pavement and catching it in the net with quick, skillful flicks of his wrist. “Uh, yeah, I was away for the beginning of the summer,” Alexa managed, still stupefied26 by the fact that Doug had initiated a conversation. After years of acting aloof 27, why was he being so amicable28 all of a sudden?

22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Assuage: to put an end to by satisfying; quench, appease Flabbergast: to overwhelm with shock or astonishment; dumbfound Indifferent: having no marked feeling, interest, or concern Adroit: quick, skillful, or adept in action or thought; dexterous Stupefy: to amaze; astonish Aloof: emotionally distant, reserved, or remote Amicable: friendly

The Mayan Mission

7

“Where did you go? You look so tanned,” he remarked approvingly. “Uh...down south...uh, an island in the Caribbean off the coast of Central America,” she replied. “Wow, that sounds really cool,” he enthused. “Yeah, it was,” Alexa replied. She wished that she could think of something clever to say...something funny or irreverent29. But instead she felt utterly inarticulate30, unable to put together a coherent31 sentence. Doug bounced the ball several times in rapid succession, then caught it and twirled the stick in an adept32 display of virtuoso33 lacrosse skills. “Do you want to get something to drink?” he asked nonchalantly34, without taking his eyes off the ball. “I have something to drink,” Alexa replied, holding up her smoothie. “Oh, yeah,” he chuckled, flashing the winsome35 grin that got him voted “nicest smile” in the school yearbook two years in a row. “But that’s just fruit juice. What you really need is some wheatgrass juice,” he asserted36. “It’s really good for you—it’s loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Don’t go anywhere,” he commanded. “I’ll be right back.” Without giving her the opportunity to say no, Doug raced to the counter to procure37 two portions of wheatgrass juice. With a triumphant grin, he returned with two small white paper cups and handed one to her. Alexa eyed the opaque green liquid suspiciously. It looked like what it was...liquid grass. The thought of drinking the repulsive38 juice

29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38

Irreverent: critical of what is generally accepted or respected; satirical: irreverent humor Inarticulate: unable to speak clearly Coherent: marked by an orderly and logical relation of parts: a coherent argument Adept: very skilled Virtuoso: exhibiting the fine skill, masterful technique, and ability similar to that of a master musician Nonchalant: seeming to be coolly indifferent or unconcerned Winsome: charming, often in a childlike or naive way Assert: to state positively; affirm Procure: to get by special effort; obtain Repulsive: causing aversion or repugnance; disgusting

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The Mayan Mission

was horrifying. It looked and smelled utterly repugnant39. But how could she say no? In a swift motion, Doug tossed his head back and swallowed the juice in one enthusiastic gulp. “Mmm...” he hummed, as if he had just enjoyed a savory40 treat. Alexa took another look at the viscous41 green soup. She didn’t relish42 the thought of drinking it. “C’mon, try it! It’s good,” he cajoled43, smiling persuasively. Bravely, she put the cup to her lips and took a big sip. As soon as the pungent44 juice hit her tongue, she felt her stomach turn. Quickly, she swallowed it, in a desperate attempt to get the vile liquid off of her tongue. Once it went down her throat and into her empty stomach, she shuddered with revulsion. Immediately, she took a sip of her strawberry smoothie in an attempt to get the acrid45 taste of wheatgrass out of her mouth. Doug was laughing uncontrollably. “It’s not that bad!” he chuckled. “I drink this all the time, especially when I’m training.” “Maybe it’s an acquired taste,” Alexa remarked. “One that I haven’t acquired yet.” She studied his expression, trying to figure out if he was laughing with her or at her. Did he buy her this drink to make fun of her? Her face flushed with embarrassment. “Well, if it’s an acquired taste, then I’ll buy you another one tomorrow, so that you can acquire it,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “OK,” Alexa agreed, feeling a little bit better. His offer seemed genuine. All of a sudden Doug seemed sincerely interested in fostering46 a

39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46

Repugnant: causing disgust or aversion; offensive Savory: appetizing to the taste or smell Viscous: having a high resistance to flow; thick and sticky, syrupy Relish: to take keen pleasure in Cajole: to repeatedly urge with gentle appeals, teasing, or flattery; wheedle Pungent: affecting the organs of taste or smell with a sharp, acrid, or irritating sensation Acrid: unpleasantly sharp or bitter to the taste or smell Foster: to promote the growth and development of; nurture, cultivate

The Mayan Mission

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friendship, although she couldn’t fathom47 why he had had this precipitous change of heart. He had managed to ignore her completely for an entire year, and now he was acting so affable48 and congenial49. “OK, then, same time, same place, tomorrow,” he declared, tossing the ball to one of his buddies, who were huddled in a group on the sidewalk. “See ya,” he called out to her as he ran to join his friends. Alexa waved goodbye and started to head outside, still astounded and a bit suspicious of Doug’s atypical50 behavior. But despite her lingering doubts and a little voice in the back of her mind telling her to be more circumspect51 about Doug’s sudden interest, she decided she would go by the Big Squeeze again tomorrow morning. Alexa scanned the crowd one last time for Laurie, but she was nowhere to be found. She couldn’t wait to pick up the phone and call her friend. They had a lot to talk about now. Giving up on Laurie, Alexa walked briskly over the bridge that led to the Cornell campus and then slowed her pace when she reached the sun-drenched quad, a rectangular grassy area circumscribed52 by a ring of academic buildings. Dozens of summer students were scattered on the grass, lounging, reading, or talking with friends while they basked in the sunshine. A few dogs also dotted the scene, enjoying the good weather and spectacular scenery along with their owners. Alexa chuckled at the sight of the dogs frolicking on the quad. Despite the rules about keeping dogs properly restrained on campus, the canine species seemed to enjoy a special status at the university that was attributed to an old tale about a generous benefactor53 with a penchant54

47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54

Fathom: to understand the meaning or nature of; comprehend Affable: pleasant and easy to talk to Congenial: friendly and sociable; having a pleasant disposition Atypical: not conforming to type; unusual or irregular Circumspect: careful to consider all possible consequences; prudent, cautious Circumscribe: to draw a line around or surround by a boundary Benefactor: one who gives aid, especially financial aid Penchant: a strong liking or inclination

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The Mayan Mission

for dogs. According to the story, the wealthy philanthropist55 made his sizable donation to the university contingent on a curious mandate56: that dogs would be allowed to run free on campus. Every time Alexa heard this story, she couldn’t figure out if it was really true or if it was an apocryphal57 legend. But it didn’t seem to matter, because for many years the dogs did have an exalted58 status and free rein on campus, until finally the university imposed a leash law, requiring owners to properly restrain their pets at all times. Whether they were abiding59 by the rules or not, Alexa loved seeing the dogs happily romping in the grass. Somehow it added to the carefree ambiance on the quad that was so inviting. It was a teasing glimpse of college life that Alexa couldn’t wait to be a part of. Some students were sitting in groups, talking and laughing, while others were sitting by themselves, studying in the sunshine. Surveying the scene, Alexa was tempted to sit down on the grass, crack open a book, and join them. But her insatiable60 curiosity compelled her to continue on to her father’s office. What could he possibly have planned for her? Alexa quickly made her way up to the third floor of the tall brick building that housed the molecular biology laboratories. The sign on the closed door said “Professor McCurry.” She knocked softly. “Come in,” a gruff voice answered. Alexa opened the door and poked her head in. “Hi, Dad.” “Good morning,” he replied cheerfully, his face breaking into a warm smile. “C’mon in,” he beckoned, pushing his chair back from the computer screen. Alexa’s father was an esteemed61 professor of molecular

55 56 57 58 59 60 61

Philanthropist: a person who makes charitable donations with the intent of increasing the well-being of humankind Mandate: an authoritative command or instruction Apocryphal: of doubtful authenticity Exalt: to raise in rank, power; elevate Abide: to conform to; comply with Insatiable: incapable of being satisfied Esteem: to regard with respect

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biology, highly respected by his colleagues for his astute62 observations. His students were consistently amazed with his prescient63 ability to predict the outcome of their experiments before they completed them. Among his friends, Professor McCurry was also renowned64 for his collection of antique gadgets. His predilection65 for old devices was evident to anyone who visited his office—the shelves were filled with a plethora66 of vacuum tubes, Tesla coils, Crooke’s tubes, transformers, and Van de Graff generators. If anyone asked a question about the antiquated67 devices, Professor McCurry was thrilled to give them a demonstration and tell all about them. He was an erudite68 scholar of the history of science, able to recall the inventor of even the most arcane69 devices. On the highest shelf of the bookcase in his office, Professor McCurry kept a collection of antediluvian70 computers, all of which he had used at some point in the past. But as time went on and he continually upgraded his computer system, he was loath to toss out the outdated hardware. “There are files on there that I might need some day,” he would say. But the ancient computers were never touched and the thick layer of dust that coated them was never disturbed. When people saw his office, they often commented that Professor McCurry was an archetypal71 scientist. But to Alexa, he was just Dad. “I have a special surprise for you,” he teased. “Did your mother tell you what it was?” he asked. “No, she said that you were going to tell me. What is it?” Alexa asked. “Is it some job here on campus?”

62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71

Astute: having shrewdness and discernment Prescient: foreknowledge of events Renown: a state of being widely acclaimed and highly honored; famous Predilection: a partiality or disposition in favor of something; a preference Plethora: an overabundance or excess Antiquated: too old to be useful or fashionable; outdated Erudite: having or displaying deep, extensive knowledge Arcane: known or understood by only a few: arcane economic theories Antediluvian: extremely old and antiquated Archetypal: an ideal example of a type

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Her father shook his head, his eyes twinkling with merriment, as if he was about to bestow a great prize upon her. “What is it?” Alexa pleaded. “When you got back from Central America a few days ago, didn’t you say something about how you weren’t quite ready to come home yet and you really wanted to go back?” “Yeah,” Alexa agreed cautiously. “And you know that Nadine is an archeologist, right?” “Uh, yeah,” Alexa answered reluctantly. She really didn’t like talking about Nadine. She preferred to pretend that she didn’t exist. Right after her parents’ divorce was finalized, her father had introduced her to Nadine, his new girlfriend. Despite the fact that Nadine seemed eager to foster a friendship with her, Alexa coolly kept her distance. “Well, Nadine is working on the excavation72 of a Mayan ruin. You’re familiar with the ancient Maya, aren’t you?” Alexa shook her head. “It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t remember anything specific.” “They were a great civilization who inhabited Central America long before the arrival of the Europeans. You did learn about them in school, didn’t you?” “Not that I remember.” Professor McCurry clucked his tongue, showing his disappointment at this gross omission in her education. “There are some amazing ruins of ancient Mayan temples and cities scattered throughout the jungles of Central America. Some of these sites have been razed73 and

72 73

Excavation: the act of exposing or uncovering by digging Raze: to demolish or tear down to the ground

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pillaged74 by greedy treasure seekers, but others have been left untouched for more than a thousand years. They are yet to be explored!” He shook his head in wonder. “It’s an archeologist’s paradise.” Alexa’s jaw dropped. “Did you say Central America?” she managed to ask. Her heart started to race with hope and anticipation. José lived in Central America! “Yes, it’s in Central America. Isn’t that where you said you wanted to go? The site that they’re working on is in Guatemala. Now I know that you just came back from that part of the world, but I can assure you that this would be a completely different experience. This is an actual archeological excavation site in the middle of the jungle.” Alexa felt a tingle of excitement shoot down her spine. She had expected her father to propose some tedious75 job here on campus like filing papers or some such banal76 task. But he had surprised her. Excavating an ancient Mayan ruin in Central America sounded incredibly interesting. And the thought that she would be in the same vicinity as José was like icing on the cake. Maybe they could see each other! Mentally, Alexa tried to calculate how far away he would be. “Can you show me on the map? Would you be going too?” Questions tumbled out of her mouth. He chuckled at her enthusiasm. “Yes, but only for a day or two. I can travel there with you, but I can’t stay there the whole time. I’ve got a collaboration set up at the university in Belize City, so I will be staying in Belize while you’re at the dig in Guatemala—it’s not too far away. So, if you want to take this opportunity, you would be on your own for several weeks at the dig. There would be plenty of adults there to watch over

74 75 76

Pillage: to rob of goods by force or take as spoils; plunder Tedious: tiresome by reason of dullness, length, or slowness; boring Banal: lacking originality, freshness, or novelty

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The Mayan Mission

you—Nadine will be there, but we still need to have a serious discussion about whether you are ready for this level of independence.” Professor McCurry looked at her questioningly, as if he were gauging her response. “I’m ready!” Alexa exclaimed. “I’m seventeen now, and I’m going off to college in a year anyway.” He smiled when he saw the eager enthusiasm in her eyes. “You know, this is really an amazing opportunity for someone your age. Usually these digs are staffed by graduate students and a few very lucky undergraduates. Apparently, two of the students had to go home in the middle of the summer for personal reasons, and that opened up two spots.” He stood up from his chair and reached up to the bookshelf above his computer to pull down a thick paperback volume entitled The Ancient Maya: Treasures From a Lost Civilization. “Here, you can get started with this. There’s a map right in there.” Alexa took the book from his outstretched hand. The cover had a picture of a Mayan temple, a tall pyramid rising high above the jungle thicket. Alexa’s father glanced at his watch. “You know, I’ve got a faculty meeting at ten-thirty, but it shouldn’t take longer than an hour. Why don’t we have an early lunch together and I can tell you more about this trip. You can take that book down to the quad and read for a little while. I’ll come find you when I’m done, and we can head over to the Big Red Barn for a sandwich.” “Sounds good,” Alexa smiled, accepting his offer with alacrity77. She couldn’t wait to dive into the book.

77

Alacrity: promptness in response; cheerful readiness

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Deciding that the elevator was a waste of precious time, she raced down three flights of stairs and out onto quad. Alexa picked out a shady spot under an oak tree and sat down, resting her back against the trunk. Eagerly, she thumbed through the pages looking for a map. There! Guatemala and Belize...it was only a few hundred miles from the tiny island off the coast of Nicaragua that José called home. Alexa’s heart raced at the possibility of seeing José again. It was all so exciting. Curiously, she began flipping through the pages of the book, looking at the fascinating photos. Who were these people and why did their civilization end, leaving the jungle adorned78 with their seductive temples? Alexa was captivated79 with the beckoning images of ancient stone pyramids and the aura of mystery that enveloped them. She was utterly enthralled80 by the stunning photographs of huge stone monuments rising up above the jungle thicket. Without a doubt, she felt that her life was about to take an interesting turn. Alexa reached for her backpack and rummaged around inside. Her hand grasped the object she was seeking. Triumphantly, she pulled out the brown muffin, chock-full of grated carrots, dried fruit, and whole-wheat flour, lovingly baked by her mom. All of a sudden, she was ravenous81.

78 79 80 81

Adorn: to lend beauty to, enhance or decorate Captivate: to attract and hold by beauty, charm or excellence Enthrall: to hold spellbound; captivate Ravenous: extremely hungry

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Felicitous News

A

lexa sat down at a picnic table across from her father, bursting with questions. He had adumbrated82 this exciting plan in the vaguest of terms, leaving Alexa wondering about the specifics. “When do we leave?” she asked, eager for him to elaborate83 on the details. “And where, exactly, are we going? Will I be working on the dig, doing real archeology?” Alexa’s father chuckled at her enthusiasm. “Hold your horses, there! I haven’t even had a bite of my sandwich and you’re accosting84 me with a slew of questions,” he complained good-naturedly. “I’m sorry, but I just want to hear more,” Alexa apologized, even though she could tell that her father was actually very pleased with her enthusiasm. “I know I’ve said it before, but I just want you to really understand what a great opportunity this is,” he said, popping open the top of his Diet Coke. “Yes, you will actually be able to work on the dig and learn how archeology is done. You’ll be able to see firsthand what it’s like to be an archeologist working in the field and all that it entails85. Of course,
82 83 84 85

Adumbrate: to give a sketchy outline of Elaborate: to express at greater length or in greater detail Accost: to approach and speak to boldly or aggressively, as with a demand or request Entail: to have, impose, or require as a necessary accompaniment or consequence

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you won’t be compensated86, but you will be able to help out and learn. It’s basically a volunteer position.” “That’s OK,” Alexa said quickly. “It’s not like I was expecting to make a copious87 amount of money during summer break anyway. I love the sound of this job—it sounds so adventurous! I don’t have aspirations88 of being an archeologist when I’m older—I really want to be a marine biologist, but it definitely sounds more interesting than the jobs that my friends have this summer. I’m so happy that you were able to get this opportunity for me. It’s a real coup89!” “Actually, one of your friends will be going too. Remember how I said that there were two spots?” “Who’s going? Did you say it’s someone I know...a friend of mine? Who is it?” Alexa asked quickly, her curiosity skyrocketing. “I’m trying to remember his name...” Professor McCurry took a sip of Diet Coke, his forehead wrinkled in thought. “His father Nicholas is in the archeology department...what is his name?” he mused, frustrated with his faulty memory. “It’s a boy? Someone I know from school?” Alexa prodded, desperately curious. “Well, yes, of course you know him...he’s in our carpool. Doug! That’s his name!” Professor McCurry exclaimed triumphantly. “Doug? Doug is going too?” she asked, stunned at this development. She wasn’t necessarily opposed to the idea, but silently, she wondered if Doug already knew about this and maybe that’s why he’d acted so amiable90 this morning. Maybe he knew that they were going to be

86 87 88 89 90

Compensate: to make satisfactory payment or reparation to Copious: large in quantity; abundant Aspiration: a strong desire or ambition to achieve Coup: a brilliant, sudden, and usually highly successful stroke or act; a triumph Amiable: friendly, sociable

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spending the rest of the summer together and he wanted to start off on the right foot. “Yes, your friend Doug is going too. I just spoke to his father this morning. They’re going to be on the same flight that we are. We’re leaving really early Saturday morning. We’ll be flying into Belize City and then catching a smaller plane for the half-hour flight to Santa Elena in the northern part of Guatemala. Then we’ll be catching a ride to Tikal National Park, about 45 minutes away. I’m going to be staying there for a few days with you and then I’ll be heading back to Belize.” “Wow, Saturday...that’s soon. That’s only three days from now.” “Yes, I know it’s soon...are you OK with that?” he asked. “Sure!” she replied enthusiastically. “I’m ready to go anytime,” she added to emphasize the point that she truly was amenable91 to this exciting plan. “You know, I have to warn you about the accommodations. Just so you know now, you won’t be staying in a commodious92 suite at a deluxe cosmopolitan93 hotel when you’re at the dig. You’ll probably be in a tent. The accommodations will be simple and utilitarian94 at best. There probably won’t be any hot showers...there may not be running water at all—or toilets, for that matter. You’ll have to do without a lot of the amenities95 that you’re accustomed to at home.” “But where will I plug in my straightening iron?” Alexa joked, referring to the device that she used religiously every day to straighten the waves in her shoulder-length brown hair. Professor McCurry burst out laughing. He could see that she was kidding and he thoroughly enjoyed a sense of humor.
91 92 93 94 95

Amenable: readily brought to yield or cooperate; willing Commodious: roomy, spacious Cosmopolitan: having wide international sophistication Utilitarian: having utility, often to the exclusion of other values; practical Amenities: something that confers material or physical comfort

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“Seriously, it’s not a problem. I’ve been camping lots of times,” she offered, making every effort to be accommodating96. There was no question in her mind that she was willing to abjure97 luxury and conveniences in order to take advantage of this opportunity. Alexa took a big bite of her ham sandwich, eager to satiate98 her hunger. Her mind was racing as she thought about the upcoming weeks. Without a doubt, things were going to get interesting.

The next morning, Alexa rifled through her closet, searching for clothes to pack. Even though they weren’t departing for a couple more days, she wanted to take the time to pack carefully. With the phone pressed tightly to her ear, she searched the farthest reaches of her closet while she listened to her father talk about the details of their upcoming trip. Decidedly, she plucked a sweater off the shelf and then turned to toss it on top of the growing pile of clothes in her big suitcase. “Since our flight departs at six forty-five Saturday morning from Syracuse, we’ll be leaving here by three-thirty, just to be on the safe side,” he said. “It will probably take us about an hour and a half to drive to the airport and I think that it would be prudent99 to give ourselves a little extra time, just in case we run into traffic.” “But there won’t be any traffic at that hour,” Alexa pointed out. “You never know what you might run into...better safe than sorry,” he said. “Oh, and by the way, you’ll need to pack light—just your sleeping bag and a small suitcase or backpack. We don’t want to be encumbered100

96 97

Accommodate: to adapt oneself, become adjusted Abjure: to give up or abstain from 98 Satiate: to satisfy a need or desire fully or to excess 99 Prudent: marked by wisdom in handling practical affairs; exercising good judgment or common sense 100 Encumber: to put a heavy load on; burden

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with a lot of stuff. It’s just not practical to lug around big, unwieldy101 bags all of the way to this remote site in the jungle.” Alexa looked at the behemoth102 suitcase that lay open on the floor of her bedroom. A huge pile of clothes, shoes, and accessories were piled in its capacious103 cavity. “OK, Dad. But I’m going to have to go now, because I need to repack.” After saying goodbye to her father, Alexa looked at the big pile of clothes and sighed. The vast majority needed to go back in the closet. Although Alexa wanted to bring her big suitcase, she didn’t want to contravene104 direct orders from her dad. Alexa spied her brand-new black leather camera case and picked it up to inspect the digital camera inside. She ran her fingers lovingly over the smooth gray surface of the new camera she had just received the night before. Usually, her mother was much too frugal105 to indulge her with pricey electronic gadgets, so this gift had come as a surprise. Carefully, she placed the camera back in its case and gently set it in her backpack. She couldn’t wait to fill it with memories. After a half-hour of sorting through the pile of clothes, Alexa decided to take a brief respite106 from packing and check her e-mail. She was fervently107 hoping to receive an e-mail from José, but every time she checked her inbox, it was empty. Alexa remembered their tearful goodbye, when they had each promised to write diligently108. A full week had passed, during which Alexa sent five e-mails, but José had not yet reciprocated109. Even after Alexa wrote to tell José the exciting news that she

101

Unwieldy: difficult to manage or carry because of size or shape Behemoth: something of enormous size or power 103 Capacious: capable of containing a large quantity; spacious, roomy 104 Contravene: to act or be counter to; violate 105 Frugal: marked by economy in spending; thrifty, sparing 106 Respite: a short interval of rest or relief 107 Fervent: having great emotion or zeal 108 Diligent: characterized by steady and earnest effort 109 Reciprocate: to give in response or return
102

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was going to Tikal, he still hadn’t responded. Alexa felt disheartened110 every time she logged on to the computer and saw her empty inbox. She had so hoped they could keep their friendship strong by exchanging e-mails. Even though it wasn’t the same as a real face-to-face conversation, an epistolary111 friendship was better than no friendship at all. When she heard the telltale ding, that delightful noise that her computer emitted when e-mail arrived, her heart began to flutter. There it was—the letter she had been waiting and wishing for so ardently112. Eagerly, Alexa clicked on the coveted113 e-mail to open it.
Time: 10:05 A.M. To: Alexa McCurry From: José Consuales Subject: Great News! Dear Alexa, I am so sorry I have not been able to write. Do you remember that old computer in the town library that I used to access the Internet? Well, the archaic114 machine was out of commission for a whole week...but finally I fixed it and all of your e-mails came through! I am so happy to receive your letters and I am absolutely ecstatic115 that you are going to the great ancient Mayan city of Tikal. I have had so much good news in the past few days, but this is the best of all. So much has happened here in the days since you left. Do you remember how there was a lot of media attention focused on me after we freed the dolphin from captivity? I wasn’t sure if the coverage was going to make me look good or bad. Technically,

110 111 112 113 114 115

Disheartened: to cause to lose spirit or morale Epistolary: carried on by or composed of letters Ardent: characterized by strong enthusiasm or devotion; fervent Covet: to wish for longingly Archaic: characteristic of an earlier or more primitive time; antiquated Ecstatic: a state of intense joy or delight

The Mayan Mission freeing the dolphin was a crime. But when everyone found out about all of the extenuating116 circumstances, I was vindicated117 in most people’s eyes. Amazingly, it appears that the notoriety118 I gained actually worked in my favor. Someone heard my story on TV. They heard about my background and how I really wanted to go to college, but that I couldn’t afford it. You are not going to believe this, but I have been offered a scholarship! I can use this money at any college I choose, even one in the United States! This is a very special scholarship from a foundation that funds archeological expeditions of ancient Mayan ruins. Once a year, they also give away a scholarship to a person of Mayan descent. You see, although my father is Nicaraguan, my mother is from Guatemala. She is of Mayan descent, so I fit the bill for this scholarship. I was so surprised when I found out that I was going to receive this award. I didn’t even apply for it—I had no idea it even existed. They just saw me on the TV and decided that I was going to be the one. When they sent me the notification that I had been chosen for this scholarship, they also sent me a big brochure that describes the foundation and their activities. I devoured the whole thing from cover to cover. This is where I read that the archeologists who run this foundation are also working on an excavation in Tikal. Isn’t that cool? Maybe there’s some way I can talk them into letting me work there this summer. I will write to them right now and see if there is a possibility. Keep your fingers crossed for me. José

23

116 117 118

Extenuating: partially excusing or justifying Vindicate: to clear of blame or suspicion with supporting arguments or proof Notoriety: the state of being generally known and talked of, especially in an unfavorable way; ill fame

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Alexa was bursting with excitement, elated119 at this interesting development. It was so tantalizing to think that maybe José could go to Tikal too, and they could see each other. But the best part of his letter was the news that he was going to receive a scholarship. Alexa knew that José was an exemplary120 student—he was smart, hardworking, and always completed his assignments fastidiously121. In addition, he was very ambitious and he set lofty goals for himself. He wanted to go to college in the United States, even though, by his standards, the cost was exorbitant122. He lived in a humble home in a small fishing village in Central America and had begun working at a young age to help support his family. Alexa breathed a sigh of relief and contentment that José was going to have the opportunity to go to college. It simply didn’t seem fair to her that such a deserving person couldn’t go to college simply because he didn’t have enough money. Alexa reflected on the very different lives she and José lived. While her family wasn’t affluent by any means, paying for college tuition wasn’t an issue. Her provident123 parents had been saving diligently for years. In fact, for Alexa, going to college didn’t feel like something that was optional. Her parents made her feel like she was expected to go— it was incumbent124 upon her. But for José, given his impecunious125 circumstances, paying for college tuition would have been a formidable126 challenge. Alexa was thrilled that he was going to be able to achieve his dream. Alexa immediately fired off a reply e-mail, encouraging José to write to the foundation immediately and try to find a way to go to Tikal. As soon as she pressed Send Alexa sat back in her chair and waited. She

119

Elate: to fill with joy or pride Exemplary: deserving imitation because of excellence 121 Fastidious: displaying careful, meticulous attention to detail 122 Exorbitant: exceeding all bounds of what is customary or fair: exorbitant prices 123 Provident: providing carefully for the future 124 Incumbent: imposed as an obligation or duty; obligatory 125 Impecunious: lacking money; penniless 126 Formidable: difficult to undertake or surmount
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knew it wasn’t rational127 to sit and wait for José’s reply. It might take days. But somehow she felt connected to him through the computer and she didn’t want to get up. She was so preoccupied with her daydreams that she completely forgot she had promised to meet Doug at the Big Squeeze. Alexa started surfing the Internet, gazing at websites with photographs of the ancient ruins of Tikal. It looked so romantic.

The night before their departure, Alexa felt both excited and nervous as she finished her last-minute preparations for the trip. Knowing she was going to be groggy when her father came to pick her up 3:30 A.M., Alexa had her sleeping bag and backpack packed and ready to go down by the front door. Then she carefully set out the clothes that she planned to wear on the trip. Alexa looked at the clock on her computer screen: 7:47 P.M. “Alexa?” her mom called out from downstairs. “You should really try to go to bed early tonight,” she advised. “Your father is coming to pick you up awfully early in the morning.” “I know,” she replied. As much as it made sense to go to bed early, she knew that there was no way she could fall asleep before 9:00 P.M. Alexa looked at the blank screen of the computer. The last few days, she had developed a propensity128 for checking her e-mail all the time. “One last time,” she said out loud, logging on to her e-mail. When she saw her computer downloading a new message, she felt her heart lurch. Then her computer emitted that lovely dinging sound that signaled a new e-mail. When she saw that the sender was José, Alexa felt a sense of ineffable129 happiness. Quickly, she scanned the contents.
127

Rational: based on reason; logical Propensity: an innate inclination or tendency; predilection 129 Ineffable: incapable of being expressed; indescribable
128

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“Yippee!” Alexa shrieked when she finished reading the short missive130. “What’s going on?” Alexa’s mother called out from the kitchen, alarmed at the sound of her high-pitched cry. “Are you OK?” “Don’t worry, Mom,” Alexa responded. “Everything’s fine. Actually, it’s great!” Alexa sat back in her chair with a big smile on her face, thrilled with the felicitous131 news. José was going to Tikal. Alexa reveled132 in the knowledge that she would soon see him. It seemed too good to be true. Alexa clicked Reply and started typing rapidly, her face flushed with a euphoric133 glow. They had a lot of planning to do.

130 131

Missive: a written message; a letter Felicitous: marked by good fortune or happiness 132 Revel: to take intense pleasure, delight, or satisfaction 133 Euphoric: exaggerated feeling of great happiness, elation, or well-being

3
An Interminable Journey ood morning!” Professor McCurry chirped, opening the trunk of the car. “It’s not quite morning yet,” Alexa retorted, glancing at her watch. It was precisely 3:30 A.M. “It’s still the middle of the night,” she complained, plopping her backpack and sleeping bag into the trunk. “Were you able to get any sleep?” he asked, slamming the trunk closed. “No,” she replied succinctly. “I still can’t believe that we’re leaving this early in the morning.” “There’s no room for grumpy teenagers on the airplane to Tikal,” he teased. “Where’s the ebullient134 daughter I was talking to last night? The one who was chomping at the bit to go on an adventure? Is she still lying supine135 on the bed or wishing that she was?”

“G

134 135

Ebullient: zestfully enthusiastic Supine: lying on the back or having the face upward

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“Very funny,” she retorted sarcastically as she buckled herself into the passenger’s seat. “I just haven’t woken up yet.” “Somehow I have a feeling that you’re going to wake up soon,” he said, pulling out of the dark driveway. “Hey, why are you turning this way? Don’t you want to get on the highway?” “We have a couple of people to pick up. Don’t you remember? Doug and his father are coming with us. Doug’s father Nicholas is in the archeology department with Nadine. His specialty is the Aztecs and he and Nadine are working on a new book together about the ancient civilizations of Central America and Mexico.” “Oh!” Alexa gasped when she heard Doug’s name mentioned. Suddenly, she realized that she completely forgot about his invitation to meet at the Big Squeeze for a second round of wheatgrass juice. She had been so distracted with José’s e-mail that the “date” had slipped her mind. “What’s wrong?” “It’s nothing...I just forgot something.” “What did you forget? Do we need to turn around and go back to the house?” “Oh no, it’s not like that. It’s nothing really,” Alexa replied. “Good, because we’re running short on time. We’re also stopping to pick up Nadine.” “Nadine?” Alexa repeated. “She’s coming with us? I thought that she was already there.” “Well, she was there earlier this summer, but she came back here for a brief hiatus136 from her work. It just so happens that she needs to go
136

Hiatus: a gap or interruption; a break

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back to Tikal at the same time that we are headed there. So it’s serendipitous137 timing, because now we can all travel together.” Alexa shrugged impassively138 and looked out the window. She didn’t want to show her father how she really felt about his relationship with this woman. The pain that she felt from her parents’ recent divorce was still fresh. The knowledge that her father had begun a new relationship only served to exacerbate139 the uneasy feeling that she had about her new familial situation. But Alexa didn’t have time to ruminate140 about it now. The car meandered through the darkened suburban streets and pulled into Doug’s driveway, where Doug and his father, Nicholas, were waiting in the garage. Alexa hopped out of the passenger’s seat and nestled herself into the corner in the backseat while Professor McCurry helped the men put their bags in the trunk. Each of them carried just a single backpack and a sleeping bag. Alexa had to suppress a giggle when she realized Doug was without the ubiquitous141 lacrosse stick. He also looked uncharacteristically disheveled, as if he had just rolled out of bed and didn’t have time to run a comb through his unkempt142 hair. “Doug, why don’t you climb in the backseat with Alexa and your father can sit up here with me,” Professor McCurry directed. Silently, Doug climbed into the seat next to Alexa and grunted a laconic143 greeting before focusing his gaze on the scenery out the window. Alexa turned away from Doug and looked out her own window. Apparently, the genial144 behavior he displayed the other day at the Big

137

Serendipitous: finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for: serendipitous discoveries Impassive: devoid of emotion; expressionless 139 Exacerbate: to increase the severity of; aggravate 140 Ruminate: to reflect on over and over again 141 Ubiquitous: being or seeming to be everywhere at the same time; omnipresent 142 Unkempt: deficient in order or neatness 143 Laconic: using few words; terse or concise 144 Genial: having a pleasant or friendly disposition or manner
138

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Squeeze was just an anomaly145, she thought, because now it was back to usual. He was completely ignoring her. For a brief moment, Alexa considered apologizing to him for not showing up at the Big Squeeze, as she had promised. But the thought of bringing up this awkward topic of conversation was too daunting146. Within minutes, the car pulled up to Nadine’s apartment complex and Professor McCurry hopped out of the car and ran up the steps. “So, Alexa,” Doug’s father turned in his seat to address her, “are you looking forward to this adventure?” he asked, making an effort to be cordial147. “Yes, I am...but it’s hard to show my enthusiasm at three-thirty in the morning,” Alexa joked. “I agree,” Nicholas chuckled. Professor McCurry came down the stairs, struggling with Nadine’s huge suitcase. Alexa cracked a smile at the sight. Apparently, he hadn’t given Nadine the same lecture about packing light so that they could traipse148 through the jungle, unfettered149 by heavy baggage. Nadine bounded down the steps of the apartment complex, managing to look perky despite the early hour. Her long brown hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail and her eyes sparkled with enthusiasm. “Hi, everybody!” she said cheerfully, sticking her head into the open window of the car. “Good morning, Nadine,” Nicholas replied warmly. “Can’t wait to see Tikal, after hearing you rave about it for years. Why don’t you take my seat here in the front?”

145

Anomaly: deviation from the common rule; irregularity Daunting: having the effect of lessening courage or discouraging through fear 147 Cordial: warm and sincere; friendly 148 Traipse: to walk or tramp about 149 Unfettered: free of shackles, chains, or other restrictions
146

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“No, that’s OK,” she said quickly, “stay right where you are.” Nadine glanced in the backseat, assessing the seating arrangements. “I can sit right here in the back, next to Alexa. Is that OK with you?” she asked Alexa. “Sure,” Alexa replied unenthusiastically. She looked over at Doug, who was still staring out the window. Now she was going to have to move over and sit uncomfortably close to Doug, in order to make room for Nadine in the back seat. It was going to be painfully awkward. Alexa heard the trunk slam and her father hopped into the driver’s seat. There was no avoiding it. Alexa scooted over on the vinyl seat and Nadine settled in next to her. Before the car even pulled out of the driveway, Nadine started talking, her gregarious150 personality and boundless enthusiasm permeating151 the car. “Boy, you guys sure are in for a treat!” she exclaimed to Alexa and Doug. “Tikal is one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve ever seen.” “Maybe this would be a good opportunity to tell them about it,” Professor McCurry suggested. “We have a ninety-minute drive to the airport ahead of us. Hey, kids, listen up, because you have one of the most highly respected scholars of the ancient Maya about to enlighten152 you,” he said proudly. “Nadine wrote a tome153 on the subject—a huge book on the ancient Maya. So go ahead, Nadine, launch into one of your eloquent154 lectures,” he said, goading155 her to talk. “But keep it simple for the teenagers. If you delve into abstruse156 theories or concepts, they’re likely to tune out.” “Don’t worry, I’ve never had anyone fall asleep during my lectures,” Nadine said. “How about you?” she teased Professor McCurry.

150 151

Gregarious: marked by seeking and enjoying the company of others; sociable Permeate: to spread or diffuse throughout; pervade 152 Enlighten: to give information or knowledge to; illuminate, inform, or instruct 153 Tome: a book, especially a large or scholarly one 154 Eloquent: marked by persuasive, fluent speech: an eloquent speaker 155 Goad: to urge or prod, as if with a pointed stick 156 Abstruse: hard to understand; incomprehensible

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Everyone in the car burst out laughing as Professor McCurry assumed a sheepish expression. “I’m not going to answer that,” he replied. “I’m still waiting to hear your scintillating157 lecture about the Maya.” “OK,” she relented, “I’d love to tell you a little bit about the ancient Maya.” Alexa and Doug looked over at Nadine, waiting for her to begin. “The Maya were an indigenous158 people, native to the Americas. In other words, they were here before the European explorers, such as Columbus and Cortez, sailed to the New World. They had a thriving civilization that encompassed159 a large area from Southern Mexico to Central America. What was so special about the Maya is what they managed to achieve. They were an advanced culture with knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, and architecture. They actually developed their own calendar and written language—you’ll see some fine examples of Mayan hieroglyphs at Tikal. The Mayan civilization flourished during the classic period from 200 A.D. to 800 A.D. Contemporaneously160, Europe was wallowing in the Dark Ages. It’s really amazing what the Maya managed to achieve so long ago and under such adverse161 conditions—the city of Tikal is smack-dab in the middle of a jungle! But what’s really going to knock your socks off is the colossal162 temples that they built.” Nadine’s face glowed with effervescent163 enthusiasm. “Wait until you see these grand temples that are over a thousand years old. The ancient Maya managed to construct these incredible structures without the use of metal tools or even the wheel.”

157

Scintillating: animated and brilliant: scintillating conversation Indigenous: having originated in a particular area or environment; native 159 Encompass: to constitute or include 160 Contemporaneously: occurring during the same time period 161 Adverse: contrary or against one’s interests; difficult or unfavorable: adverse criticism 162 Colossal: of a size, extent, or bulk that elicits astonishment; immense 163 Effervesce: exhibiting liveliness, high spirits, or exhilaration
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Alexa studied Nadine as she talked about the Maya. Her zeal164 for her work was infectious. “Tikal was a big city in its heyday, around 750 A.D.,” Nadine continued. “It’s been referred to as the ‘New York City’ of the Mayan civilization. Not a bad analogy165, because Tikal was a center for trade and commerce during that era. But when you have an understanding of the history of that era, the grandiose166 ruins of Tikal have a haunting quality about them.” “Haunting?” Doug spoke up for the first time. “The ruins are haunted with ghosts?” “No, no,” Nadine laughed. “I wasn’t referring to ghosts. What I’m talking about is the fact that the great city of Tikal, a resplendent167 jewel of civilization in the jungle...well, it was completely abandoned by the Mayan people and no one really knows why. This enormous Mayan city lay absolutely empty and unknown to the rest of the world for over one thousand years. The jungle literally168 grew right over the buildings, obfuscating169 them from view. This is why you sometimes hear the Maya referred to as a ‘Lost Civilization.’ The first real expedition to Tikal was in 1848...and boy, did they ever get a surprise!” Alexa’s brow furrowed in thought. It was hard to listen to the tumultuous history of the Mayan civilization without thinking about José and the fact that he was of Mayan descent. “What happened to the Mayan people?” Alexa asked, her voice fraught170 with concern.

164 165

Zeal: enthusiastic devotion to a goal and tireless diligence in its pursuit Analogy: a comparison based on similarities between things that are otherwise dissimilar 166 Grandiose: uncommonly large and impressive in scope or intent; grand 167 Resplendent: splendid or dazzling in appearance; brilliant 168 Literally: in a literal or strict sense 169 Obfuscate: to render indistinct, obscure, or difficult to see; to hide by covering 170 Fraught: filled with a specified element; charged: a situation fraught with danger

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“The Mayan people still exist,” Nadine explained. “In fact there are still millions of people of Mayan descent living throughout Southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Some of these people are still living a traditional lifestyle, while others have adapted a more modern way of life. But the ancient Mayan cities such as Tikal, Uxmal, Palenque, and Chichen Itzá...they were all abandoned about a thousand years ago. The Mayan people themselves didn’t disappear, but their civilization did. This is why the ruins of Tikal have an enigmatic171 quality to them. We’re still trying to figure out the story behind them.” “If they had a written language, wouldn’t they have recorded some of the important events? Didn’t they write books about their own history?” Doug asked, perplexed172 with the mystery Nadine outlined. “Excellent question!” Nadine exclaimed. “But unfortunately, the answer is rather tragic. Yes, the ancient Maya did write thousands of books that are called codices. They were written on fig bark...” Nadine paused, her tone becoming uncharacteristically melancholy. “But sadly, all but four of these books were burned by the Spanish conquistadors back in the sixteenth century. This grievous173 act was so thorough that only four books remain. It was a gross iniquity174 with tragic consequences,” she commented somberly. “Despite the fact that this culture developed a written language and painstakingly recorded their history, the sad reality is that there are only a small number of extant175 manuscripts from the ancient Maya.” In the front seat, Nicholas shook his head in disgust. “Book burning has to be one of the most ignominious176 acts that was perpetrated by the early settlers.”
171

Enigmatic: resembling an enigma (something puzzling, ambiguous, or inexplicable); mysterious Perplex: to confuse or trouble with uncertainty or doubt 173 Grievous: characterized by severe pain, suffering, or sorrow: a grievous loss 174 Iniquity: a wicked act or thing; a sin or gross injustice 175 Extant: still in existence; not destroyed, lost, or extinct 176 Ignominious: deserving of shame or infamy; despicable
172

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Nadine nodded her head in agreement. “Ostensibly177, they were attempting to help the indigenous peoples by bringing them Christianity. They were proselytizing178 their religion. They wanted the Maya to abandon their own beliefs and convert to Christianity. The burning of the Mayan books was actually supervised by Friar Diego de Landa of the Catholic Church. In his own memoir, he wrote that the Mayan books were ‘superstitious and lies of the devil.’ So he simply burned the books. But from a different perspective, one might call this sad episode in history a travesty179 of mores180. The Spanish conquistadors basically expunged181 the culture, religion, and cumulative knowledge that the Maya had recorded in thousands of books.” Nadine shook her head sadly. Then she focused her intense gaze on the two teenagers sitting beside her, as if she wanted to hear their opinion on the topic. “So the question is, were they missionaries182 or mercenaries183?” “That’s a loaded question,” Professor McCurry commented with a rueful chuckle. “Sounds like a good topic for an essay question on a final exam,” Nicholas chimed in. “Uh, what do you mean?” Alexa asked. “Well, a missionary is someone who tries to persuade other people to subscribe to his or her religion. A mercenary is someone who is hired as a soldier in a foreign army—basically it’s someone who is paid to wage war. So the question was, were the Spanish conquistadors missionaries or mercenaries? Were they waging war or saving souls by forcibly imposing their religion on the Mayan people and burning their books?”

177

Ostensibly: to all outward appearances; plausible rather than demonstrably true: the ostensible purpose of the war 178 Proselytize: to induce someone to join one’s religion, cause, or party 179 Travesty: a debased, distorted, or grotesque imitation; parody: a travesty of justice 180 Mores: moral attitudes 181 Expunge: to strike out, obliterate, erase, or destroy 182 Missionary: one who is sent on a mission, particularly to do religious work in a foreign country 183 Mercenary: one who serves merely for wages, especially a soldier hired into a foreign service

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“Um, well, I think it depends on your point of view,” Alexa replied. “Now that’s what I call a diplomatic answer!” Professor McCurry exclaimed. “I wasn’t trying to sit on the fence,” Alexa replied defensively. “I think the burning of all those books—it sounds so tragic. It’s tragic because it’s irrevocable184. Here we are one thousand years later wondering what was in those books, but we’ll never know. They’re gone.” Alexa couldn’t help but think of José when she listened to the stories of the ancient Maya and their hardships. “So how did we learn all of these things about the ancient Maya if there are only four books left?” “Some of the history of the Maya was carved into stone monuments called stalae. You’ll see those when we get there. The Mayan written language was a unique form of picture writing called hieroglyphs. Of course, the Mayan hieroglyphs are completely different from the Egyptian hieroglyphs that you may be familiar with from school.” “How can you tell what the pictures are supposed to mean?” Doug asked. “With a lot of hard work,” Nadine said, smiling widely. “That’s what I do for a living—it’s my vocation185.” Nadine’s voice became even more enthusiastic and her gestures more animated186 as she talked about her specialty. “But I can’t take all the credit for what we know about the Maya today. Do you realize we didn’t even begin to decipher the Mayan hieroglyphs until the 1960s? It was actually quite difficult to break the Maya code. The task seemed insuperable187, until a key manuscript was found

184 185

Irrevocable: impossible to retract or revoke Vocation: a regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified 186 Animated: lively, spirited, or zestful 187 Insuperable: impossible to overcome; insurmountable

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and researchers started making headway. Today we’ve deciphered many of the Mayan hieroglyphs, but there’s still a lot of work to do.” “Well, if there’s work to be done, Alexa and Doug are ready, willing, and able...right, guys?” Professor McCurry glanced in the rearview mirror, watching the teenagers’ response. “Oh, yes, Doug has been chomping at the bit! He can’t wait to get to work,” Nicholas joked sarcastically. Alexa felt a stab of empathy188 for Doug. Apparently he did not want to be going on this expedition with his father. Alexa glanced over at Doug, who rolled his eyes in mock protest. Then his eyes met Alexa’s sympathetic gaze, and he gave her a brief smile—a tacit189 signal that he appreciated her gesture. “Well, I hope you’re all ready to dig, because we don’t have any room in our camp for laggards190 or lethargic191 student volunteers,” Nadine warned. “There’s so much work to be done that it’s imperative192 everybody pulls their own weight. A lazy worker at the camp is actually a liability193, because the group still has to haul in the food and water for this person who is not helping. So believe me, everyone will be working.” “What are we going to be doing, exactly?” Alexa asked. “We’re working at a new site, deep within Tikal National Park. We’ll all be camping out right at the dig, although for our first night there, we’ll be staying at a hotel right in the heart of Tikal, near all of the big temples. So you’ll have a day to see the touristy stuff, then the next day we’ll set out for the dig.”

188 189

Empathy: direct identification with and understanding of another person’s situation or feelings Tacit: expressed without words or speech 190 Laggard: one who lags or lingers 191 Lethargic: lacking alertness or activity; sluggish 192 Imperative: not to be avoided or evaded; necessary: an imperative duty 193 Liability: something that holds one back or acts as a disadvantage; drawback

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“What are we going to be working on?” Doug asked curiously. “Well, did you realize that there are hundreds of buildings at Tikal that have yet to be excavated?” Nadine asked. “They are still hidden in the dense jungle. When the city was abandoned by the ancient Maya over one thousand years ago, the jungle just grew right over these buildings, hiding them quite efficaciously194. There are lots of discoveries yet to be made.” Professor McCurry merged onto the highway and the conversation lulled as the car started gaining speed on the nearly empty roadway. The drive to the airport was quick and Alexa had to suppress the urge to groan out loud when they arrived at the Syracuse Airport at 4:40 A.M., before the airport even opened. Professor McCurry was a meticulous195 traveler who liked to arrive everywhere early. He always had all of the details, such as the tickets and hotel reservations, taken care of well in advance. He liked to plan ahead, in order to circumvent196 any lastminute difficulties. Alexa resisted the temptation to point out that they could have left an hour later and gotten a little more sleep. She knew her father would not appreciate any caustic197 remarks about his punctilious198 travel habits. So she kept quiet as they all congregated199 outside of the locked doors of the terminal. “Say, why don’t I get a picture of the whole group standing right here?” Professor McCurry suggested. “Alexa, why don’t you pull out that new camera of yours and I’ll snap a picture. I’m telling you, when you’re older, you’ll appreciate having these pictures so that you can look back nostalgically200 at the adventures of your youth.”

194

Efficacious: having the power to produce a desired effect Meticulous: extremely concerned with details 196 Circumvent: to manage to avoid or get around; bypass 197 Caustic: marked by incisive sarcasm; cutting 198 Punctilious: strictly attentive to minute details of form in action or conduct; meticulous 199 Congregate: to come together in a group or crowd 200 Nostalgic: a bittersweet longing for things of the past
195

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Alexa rolled her eyes, but dutifully pulled out the camera and handed it over. Professor McCurry backed up a few paces. “Closer together now...smile...say cheese!” he directed before snapping the picture. “Good job,” he commended them, handing the camera back to Alexa. Alexa couldn’t resist taking a look at the digital image in the camera’s window. Everyone in the picture was obediently smiling for the camera except for Doug, whose buffoonery201 made Alexa laugh out loud when she saw the picture. Unbeknownst to her, he had held two fingers up behind her head, simulating202 rabbit ears. He had acted like a clown and she was his target, but was he laughing with her or at her? She still couldn’t be certain. Alexa looked up, trying to catch his eye, but Doug was staring off in the distance, ignoring her again. When the airport doors were finally opened, they were the first ones in line to check in, and then they were the first ones to go through the security checkpoint. Alexa could see from the satisfied grin on her father’s face that he was very pleased to have successfully avoided the chaos203 that inevitably envelops the terminal when it becomes inundated204 with crowds of travelers. “OK, here’s everyone’s boarding pass,” Professor McCurry declared, doling out the tickets. “I think it’s about a four-hour flight to Miami...Alexa, I’ve got you sitting next to Doug, so that you guys can chat on the way there. Nadine, Nicholas, and I will be sitting in the row in front of you.”

201

Buffoonery: ridiculous, joking, or clowning behavior Simulate: to take on the appearance of; imitate 203 Chaos: a condition of great disorder or confusion 204 Inundate: to overwhelm, as if with a flood of water: the museum was inundated with visitors
202

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“Thanks, Dad,” Alexa said politely, although inside she was balking at the thought of sitting next to Doug for such a long flight, particularly when he was being so painfully quiet. The uneasy silence between them was going to make the journey seem interminable206. But what could she do about it now? She realized that she had to capitulate207 to her father’s plan. Dutifully, Alexa took the boarding pass from her father. With a long trip ahead, she hoped that she would eventually become inured208 to the discomfort of the awkward seating arrangements. “I’m going to go check out the magazines at the bookstore over there,” Alexa announced to her father. “OK, but don’t linger too long...I don’t want you to be late for the boarding call,” he said, his expression clouded with anxiety. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’m wearing a watch, and I know I have to adhere209 to the schedule.” Professor McCurry shook his head, looking dubious210. “I’ll be right back,” she promised, in an effort to alleviate211 his anxiety. She could see that he was considerably disgruntled212 at the mere thought of being late for the boarding call. But she couldn’t stand the thought of just sitting there at the gate doing nothing, so she set off for the bookstore. Alexa sifted through the eclectic213 collection of books on the “sale” table and then turned her attention to the rack of magazines that lined
205

205 206

Balk: to stop short and refuse to proceed Interminable: seeming to never end; endless 207 Capitulate: to cease resisting; acquiesce 208 Inure: to habituate to something undesirable, especially by prolonged exposure; accustom 209 Adhere: to carry out without deviation 210 Dubious: unsettled in opinion; doubtful 211 Alleviate: to relieve or make more bearable: aspirin alleviated the pain 212 Disgruntle: to make ill-humored or discontented 213 Eclectic: made up of a variety of different elements or sources: eclectic taste in fashion

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the wall. A different celebrity graced the cover of each magazine and bold headlines promised that sordid secrets about the famous stars would be divulged214 inside. Alexa walked right by the magazines. She didn’t have a proclivity215 for gossip. In fact, she detested the tabloid newspapers that published scathing216 articles about movie stars, attempting to defile217 their reputations. Some of the “secrets” the magazines disclosed218 were so outrageous it seemed to Alexa that they probably were not fact, but instead mere speculation219. The shocking headlines of the tabloid publications strained her credulity220. Alexa headed to the travel section of the bookstore. She browsed the extensive selection of travel guides that reflected the myriad221 destinations of the modern-day traveler. Curiously, she pulled down a book on Guatemala and began flipping through it. Inside, there was a diagram that depicted a chronological222 timeline of the ancient Maya, detailing a history that stretched back thousands of years. Alexa flipped through the pictures and became lost in the text that described the Mayan ruins. It was fascinating. “Alexa!” Startled, Alexa looked up from her book to see Doug at the foot of the aisle. “It’s time to go! C’mon, you need to hurry,” he said. “Your dad is really getting antsy. They’ve already started boarding our plane.”

214 215

Divulge: to make known or public something that was previously secret; reveal Proclivity: a natural propensity or inclination, especially a strong inherent inclination toward something objectionable 216 Scathing: harshly critical or injurious: a scathing review 217 Defile: to corrupt the purity or perfection of; sully, dishonor: defiling the flag 218 Disclose: to make known something that was previously secret; divulge 219 Speculation: a conclusion based on insufficient evidence; conjecture 220 Credulity: willingness to believe, especially on slight or uncertain evidence 221 Myriad: a large, indefinite number; innumerable: myriad fish in the sea 222 Chronological: arranged in order of time of occurrence

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“Do I have time to buy this?” she asked, holding up the book. Doug shrugged. “They just started boarding, so yeah, probably you have time to buy it. But your dad is looking really impatient.” “I know he doesn’t like to be late. But I really want to buy this—it’ll just be a minute,” she said, hurrying toward the checkout. “I’ll wait for you,” he said, standing near the cash register. As soon as the book was paid for, the two of them started racing back to the gate, weaving their way through the crowds of people. The terminal, which had been empty 20 minutes earlier, had filled up incrementally223 after several flights arrived and passengers streamed into the terminal. When Alexa saw the look on her father’s face, she began to regret her actions. Alexa gave him an apologetic smile, but Professor McCurry was implacable224. “Alexa, you said you were only going to be a minute, but you were gone forever! We almost missed our plane,” he said sternly, ushering her toward the line of people waiting to board. Alexa wanted to roll her eyes to show her disdain225 for such hyperbole226—she wasn’t gone forever, just 20 minutes. But she knew her father would see such a gesture as impudent227 and disrespectful. So instead she apologized contritely228 while dutifully taking her place in line. “I’m sorry, Dad. It’s just that I found this book on Mayan ruins and I needed to buy it. I’m sorry if I made you worry.” Alexa gave her father another apologetic smile, in an attempt to convince him that her penitence229 was real.

223 224

Increment: the process of increasing in number, size, or value Implacable: impossible to placate or appease 225 Disdain: a feeling or show of contempt and aloofness; scorn 226 Hyperbole: extravagant exaggeration; as in I ate a ton of food 227 Impudent: marked by offensive or cocky boldness; impertinent 228 Contrite: feeling regret and sorrow for one’s sins or offenses; penitent 229 Penitence: the quality or state of being penitent; having sorrow or regret for wrongdoing

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Professor McCurry’s face softened. “Well, that looks like a good book, but you need to realize that airplanes don’t wait for individuals browsing in bookstores,” he admonished230 her. “If we missed this plane, we would also miss our connection in Miami and our whole itinerary would be thrown out the window.” Alexa rifled through her backpack for her boarding pass while her father waited impatiently. Meanwhile, Doug pulled his boarding pass out of his back pocket, handed it to the attendant, and started down the ramp, but then turned to give Alexa an anxious glance as she searched for the elusive231 ticket. Finally, she pulled the ticket out of the depths of her stuffed backpack and quickly stepped forward to hand it to the attendant. After stowing her backpack under the seat in front of her, Alexa breathed a sigh of relief when she finally settled into her seat, her new book on her lap. Doug, already seated at the window seat with his seatbelt fastened, trained his gaze outside, where workers scurried about in the early morning light, loading baggage and directing other planes. Alexa glanced at her watch. It was going to be a long flight, especially with such a nontalkative seatmate. In an effort to palliate232 the boredom, Alexa began flipping through the pages of her new book, immersing herself in the tantalizing descriptions of Mayan ruins. She barely even noticed when the airplane took off and began its ascent. “Hey, isn’t that a picture of one of the temples at Tikal?” Doug asked. Alexa looked up, startled to realize that Doug had been reading over her shoulder. “Yes, it’s a picture of Temple IV.”

230 231

Admonish: to gently express warning or disapproval Elusive: tending to evade grasp or pursuit 232 Palliate: to make less intense or severe; mitigate

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“I can’t wait to see it,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a great place to watch the sunrise.” Alexa nodded in agreement. “That’s what it says in the guidebook.” “Do you want to?” he asked timidly. “Go to see the sunrise, I mean? Do you want to climb to the top of Temple IV to watch the sunrise?” “Yes, of course,” Alexa answered, not sure if he was asking her to go with him to watch the sunrise, or if he was merely inquiring in a general sense if this was something that she wanted to do. “Good. Nadine said we’re staying at the Hotel Jaguar tonight, so we’ll be within walking distance of the major sights. I have an alarm on my watch, so I can set it for five-thirty and we can be to the temple by six to watch the sunrise. Sound good?” “Uh...OK,” Alexa mumbled, nonplussed233 by this development. He was asking her to go with him. Tomorrow morning. For the second time in one week, Doug had surprised her. When the flight attendant came by with earphones for the movie, Alexa and Doug both opted to watch it. After the movie, the conversation between them started to flow as they traded funny stories about past family vacations. Alexa was surprised when they started making their descent into Miami. The time had passed by so quickly. “Let’s check the monitor for our connection to Belize City,” Professor McCurry urged the group as soon as they disembarked from the airplane and entered the terminal.

233

Nonplus: to put at a loss as to what to say or do; bewilder

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“Our flight arrived here on time, so we shouldn’t have any trouble making the connection,” Nicholas said assuredly as they all walked over to the television monitors that displayed the schedule of departures. “Oh, no!” Professor McCurry exclaimed, his eyes squinting at the monitor as he reread the schedule. “Our flight to Belize City is delayed for two hours. We’re going to miss our connecting flight to Guatemala.” He shook his head in despair and then his expression turned angry. “Now our whole schedule is thrown off and we’re going to be stuck in Belize City,” he ranted234. “These airline companies drive me crazy—they’re always changing the schedule to increase their passenger load and plump up their profit margins,” he said, railing235 against the airlines for putting them in such a predicament. “I doubt that something like that is going on,” Alexa said, refuting236 her father’s theory. “I bet that something was wrong with the airplane and they needed time to fix it.” “Oh, I don’t believe that for a minute,” he retorted. “With big corporations, everything is about the profit margin. It’s never about the needs of the individual,” he said firmly, concluding his rebuttal237. “And now we’re going to be stuck in Belize City, because we’re going to miss our flight to Guatemala.” Alexa decided not to argue any further. She didn’t want to incite her father to launch into a polemic238 about the pervasive239 role of big corporations in American society. He could go on for hours ranting about industry-funded lobby240 groups and the immense sway they wielded in politics. Alexa had heard his opinionated lecture on the subject many times already and she didn’t want to hear it again.
234 235

Rant: to speak or write in a angry or violent manner Rail: to express objections or scold in bitter, harsh, or abusive language 236 Refute: to deny the accuracy or truth of: he refuted the allegations 237 Rebuttal: the act of refuting by offering a contrary argument 238 Polemic: a controversial argument, especially one attacking a specific opinion 239 Pervasive: having the quality of being diffused or permeated throughout: a pervasive odor 240 Lobby: a group of persons engaged in trying to influence legislators in favor of a specific cause

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After a three-hour wait in the Miami Airport, the flight to Belize City finally departed. But by the time they landed in Belize at 7:00 P.M., their flight to Flores, Guatemala, had long since left. They were stuck. “I’ll go see what our options are,” Nadine offered. “My Spanish is fluent.” The rest of the group watched as Nadine ventured up to the counter to talk with the airline attendant. When she came back to the group, her demeanor was uncharacteristically morose241. “Well, we definitely missed the last flight of the day to Flores, so there’s no question that we’re staying here tonight. But the big problem is that all of the flights to Flores for the rest of the week are booked.” “So they’re just going to leave us stranded here?” Professor McCurry asked. “You have to understand that this is just a small local airline company and the airplanes are also very small. We’re a group of five people...this is not so easy to arrange at the last minute like this,” Nadine replied. “Isn’t there another airport near Tikal?” Nicholas asked hopefully. “What’s the name of that town...Santa Elena!” he cried triumphantly. Nadine nodded. “Yes, in theory, that would work, but that would be expensive. It’s a different airline that flies there and we would have to purchase all new tickets. Unfortunately, we’re on a tight budget and my boss on this dig is the most parsimonious242 person I’ve ever met. So let’s just drop that idea or any other idea that involves extravagant expenditures,”

241 242

Morose: sullenly melancholy; gloomy Parsimonious: excessively frugal or sparing

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Nadine said firmly. “Our other option is to hire a driver to take us there. I’ve never done this drive. The roads between here and Tikal might be rough...it definitely won’t be a newly paved divided highway,” she warned. “But I think that’s better then waiting here endlessly,” Professor McCurry argued. “I agree,” Nicholas chimed in. “How bad can it be to drive there?” “OK,” Nadine reluctantly agreed. “I’ll go make the arrangements.” A few minutes later, she returned with a triumphant grin. “It’s all set,” she said. “Tonight we’ll stay at the hotel here near the airport, and tomorrow morning a van will be waiting for us outside the hotel. It should only take us a few hours to drive to Tikal, so we should be there by lunchtime.” “You know, this actually might work out better than taking the plane. We’ll have a chance to see the countryside. I’m looking forward to it,” Professor McCurry said, his mood improving dramatically.

4
Hardy Survivors fter an uneventful evening at the airport hotel, Alexa felt a tingle of anticipation as she and the rest of the group waited on the curb for the van to pick them up. The morning sun bathed the drab gray exterior of the hotel in a cheerful golden hue. Everyone was in high spirits after their restful night in the hotel and a sense of adventure permeated the air as they waited to embark on the final leg of their journey. A ramshackle old van, rusting around the edges and sloppily painted a garish243 shade of bright green, pulled up to the curb. Alexa looked at the well-worn tires and the broken windshield wiper that stuck straight out instead of resting obediently on the windshield. The van looked like it was at least 20 years old—a relic from a bygone era. Two men hopped out and asked them a question in Spanish. Alexa had no idea what they were saying. Everyone turned to Nadine. As the only one in the group who spoke fluent Spanish, she was the designated interlocutor244. Nadine immediately became embroiled in a heated conversation with the men,

A

243 244

Garish: excessively vivid or flashy; gaudy: garish eye makeup Interlocutor: one who takes part in dialogue or conversation, often in an official capacity

49

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her face flushed with emotion as she pointed at the van. Finally, she turned back to the group. “This is our van,” she said, sounding defeated. “Can’t we get a different one?” Alexa asked. “This is not a propitious245 sign,” Nicholas muttered under his breath, shaking his head in disapproval as he looked at the old van. “No, there’s nothing else available right now,” Nadine answered. “We can refuse to go with them, but we’ll be taking our chances that we’ll find something else. And that may not be so easy. I’ve already checked into the bus schedule. There are tour buses that go to Tikal, but they’re all booked right now—it’s high season for tourism.” “Is this a reputable246 company?” Professor McCurry asked skeptically. “Actually, it’s not a company,” she answered. “These men here are just individuals who offer to drive people places for a fee. It’s a nominal247fee, I might add—just a pittance248.” “Let’s hope so,” Professor McCurry said, raising his eyebrows to emphasize his point. He hesitated for a moment as he stared at the old van. “Well...” he began slowly, “I vote we take it. It’s not that long of a drive and at least we’ll get there today. I can’t stand the thought of sitting around here, trying to figure out how to get to Tikal at some point in the nebulous249 future. I vote we go now.” Nicholas nodded reluctantly. “OK,” he agreed. “Then let’s load up the baggage.” The driver and his cohort smiled widely when they got the affirmative nod from Nadine. Immediately, they scrambled to load the bags in the back of the van.
245

Propitious: presenting favorable circumstances; auspicious Reputable: having a good reputation; honorable 247 Nominal: insignificantly small; trifling 248 Pittance: a meager wage or monetary payment; a small amount 249 Nebulous: indistinct, vague
246

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Alexa felt a prickle of apprehension in the pit of her stomach as she stepped into the rickety old vehicle. The adults settled into the first two rows of seats, while Alexa and Doug were relegated250 to the far back. “Hey, at least we won’t be constrained251 by seat belts,” Doug joked, holding up the broken buckle. He looked as if he was enjoying the adventure. “You can have the window seat,” he offered. “I sat by the window on the airplane.” “Thanks,” Alexa said sincerely, touched by his magnanimous252 gesture. As soon as the passengers settled into their seats, the van took off with a jerk and made its way outside the confines of the city, where the quality of the road quickly deteriorated. The ride became bumpy and uncomfortable as the driver negotiated the roadway, rife253 with potholes. Alexa kept her gaze focused on the passing scenery. They meandered through a quaint254 little town with a beautiful Spanish-style church in the central square and a farmer’s market, bustling with activity. But the next town wasn’t nearly as attractive. The small, makeshift houses looked as if they would tumble down in a strong breeze. Alexa felt a rush of empathy when she saw an indigent255 young mother sitting on a street corner, holding her infant. It was clear from her tattered clothes that she was living in privation256. As the van continued west, the towns became farther and farther apart, the road conditions became increasingly treacherous and their progress slowed to a crawl.

250 251

Relegate: to assign to an obscure place, position, or condition Constrain: to secure, confine, or keep within close bounds 252 Magnanimous: courageously noble and generous in spirit 253 Rife: abundant or numerous 254 Quaint: charmingly odd or unusual, especially in an old-fashioned way 255 Indigent: experiencing want or need; poor, impoverished 256 Privation: a state of extreme poverty

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“Now I know how popcorn feels when the popper gets hot,” Doug joked, as their vehicle bounced through the abundant potholes and gullies in the road. Alexa wanted to agree. It was stiflingly hot in the van and the continual bouncing up and down was starting to wear on her nerves. But before she had a chance to come up with a funny retort, the van suddenly lurched to the side and careened off of the road and down into a gully, coming to a sudden stop that caused all of the passengers to pitch forward in their seats. For a moment, no one said a word. They sat still in a stunned silence. Then, a flurry of Spanish broke out from the driver’s seat. “Alexa, Doug, are you OK?” Professor McCurry called out. “I’m OK, Dad,” Alexa replied. “Me too,” Doug added. “What the heck happened?” Nicholas asked, once they had ascertained257 that no one had been injured in the accident. “They said something happened to the steering, but they don’t know what,” Nadine translated. “Oh, great!” Professor McCurry groaned. “Now we’re hapless258 victims of misfortune, stuck in the middle of nowhere!” “Oh, c’mon...we’re not hapless victims, we’re hardy259 survivors,” Nadine said with forced cheerfulness. “The intrepid260 traveler does not give up when the going gets rough,” she continued, holding her finger in the air as she delivered her edict261.

257

Ascertain: to find out or learn with certainty; discover Hapless: having no luck; unfortunate 259 Hardy: capable of withstanding unfavorable conditions; sturdy, robust, and healthy 260 Intrepid: characterized by resolute fearlessness, courage, and endurance: an intrepid explorer 261 Edict: an order or decree issued by an authority
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“Well, we might as well get out of this van. It looks like we’re not going anywhere in a hurry,” Nicholas said. “We’ll be lucky if we ever get out of here,” Doug muttered to Alexa as they climbed out of the van. Alexa took a look around. It was a desolate262 area, devoid of any sign of civilization. A few sparsely scattered trees dotted the sun-parched field that flanked the empty roadway. There wasn’t a single house, store, gas station, or even a passing car in sight. “Are we stuck here?” Alexa asked Nadine, a hint of panic starting to creep into her thoughts. “Don’t worry,” Nadine reassured the group cheerfully. “This sort of thing happens all the time. They’ll fix the van, then we’ll be on our way. We may get there late, but don’t worry, we’ll get there.” Alexa looked over at the driver and his cohort, who were bustling about under the open hood of the van. “Maybe we should try to walk to the nearest gas station,” she suggested. “How far away is the nearest sign of civilization?” “I’ll check,” Nadine offered, walking over to the driver to confer with him in Spanish. “It’s about four miles away,” she translated. “But the driver says he can fix the van, no problem. And it would be really hot to walk that distance at this time of day. The sun is nearing its zenith263. Why don’t we sit in the shade for a little while and let them fix the van.”

262 263

Desolate: devoid of inhabitants; deserted Zenith: the highest point above the observer’s horizon attained by a celestial body

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“Sounds good,” Alexa readily agreed. Even though they had only been standing there for a few moments, she could already feel the top of her head getting hot from the intense tropical sunshine. They all headed over to the center of the field to congregate under the umbrage264 of a solitary tree. From this shady vantage point they watched the driver and his cohort disassemble the steering column, piece by piece, in the blazing late-morning sun. Soon an argument broke out between the two men. The assistant pointed off in the distance, as if he wanted to dispatch265 a messenger to the nearest town. He adapted an aggressive pose and wagged his finger in the driver’s face, as if he were threatening him. But the driver argued dogmatically266, pointing to the disassembled steering column that lay on the ground. Despite the threats from his cohort and the hot sun beating down upon him, the driver was not going to concede267 the argument under duress268. “This doesn’t look good,” Alexa moaned. She was growing increasingly restive269 in the face of the seemingly hopeless situation. “It looks like they can’t even agree if the problem is fixable. And we’ve already been waiting for an hour and a half.” “Don’t worry,” Nadine said. “Everything’s going to be all right.” Alexa rolled her eyes. She really didn’t want to hear such meaningless platitudes270. She wanted to know exactly how and when they were going to get out of this quagmire271.

264

Umbrage: Shadow or shade (can also be used to indicate resentment or offense: she took umbrage at his insult ) 265 Dispatch: the act of sending off, as to a specific destination 266 Dogmatic: characterized by an authoritative, arrogant assertion of unproved principles 267 Concede: to make a concession; yield 268 Duress: constraint by threat; coercion: confessed under duress 269 Restive: a feeling of impatience or uneasiness, usually as a result of external restriction or coercion 270 Platitude: a banal or trite statement; cliché 271 Quagmire: a difficult or precarious position; a predicament

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“It looks like the driver has won this argument,” Doug commented, pointing to the drama that was continuing to unfold before them. Having dissuaded272 his assistant from leaving, the driver resumed the assembly of the steering column while the passengers continued to watch with a mixture of fascination and anxiety. Within 20 minutes, the various parts of the car had been reassembled and the driver looked over at his passengers triumphantly, holding his thumb up in the air as if to celebrate his prowess273 as a mechanic. “Do you think it’s fixed?” Alexa asked skeptically. “They didn’t even test it yet. Is it really a smart idea for us to get back in that van when we don’t even know if the steering works?” Alexa couldn’t help but be wary274. “Let me go see what’s going on,” Nadine offered, getting up to walk over to the van. After conferring with the driver and his cohort for a minute, she returned to the group, along with the two men. “They said it’s fixed and ready to go!” she exclaimed. “They really deserve plaudits275 for their persistence. I’m going to tell them how much we appreciate their skill and effort.” Nadine turned to the men and lauded276 them effusively. The two men smiled at her lavish277 praise. “They’re just going to take a little break before we leave. They want a bit of a reprieve278 from the sun,” Nadine explained as the driver and his assistant sat down in the shade next to Alexa and got out a canteen and paper sack of food. The driver unscrewed the cap of the canteen and prepared to take a well-deserved drink. But first, he offered the food and water to his passengers.

272 273

Dissuade: to deter someone from a course of action by persuasion Prowess: extraordinary ability, superior skill 274 Wary: cautious, on guard, watchful 275 Plaudits: enthusiastic approval or praise 276 Laud: to praise, extol 277 Lavish: to give in abundance; very generous 278 Reprieve: temporary relief, as from danger or pain

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Alexa wondered if the water was really potable279. As thirsty as she was, she really didn’t want to get sick from contaminated water. She was also very hungry, but she was even more concerned about the food. Would it be rancid280 after sitting outside on such a hot day? The putrid281 odor that emanated from the paper sack suggested that it had turned bad. Alexa refused his generous offer as politely as she could, using a mixture of English, Spanish, and sign language. Then she turned to her father and repeated her question. “Are we really going to get back on that broken-down van?” Before he answered, Professor McCurry looked to Nadine and Nicholas, as if to ask their opinions on the matter. Both were vigorously nodding their heads. “Let’s just go and get out of here,” Doug said, voicing the sentiment of the group. Everyone was eager to get to their destination. “Normally, I wouldn’t condone282 such a thing,” Professor McCurry said to Alexa. “You really shouldn’t take any chances with vehicular safety. But we’re faced with a conundrum283 here. The consensus284 among the group is that we go,” he shrugged, as if to say that the decision was out of his hands. Alexa was surprised her father was being so compliant285 with the wishes of the group. Usually he was quick to form a cogent286 argument that supported his own opinion. The driver and his cohort motioned for them to get up and head back toward the van. It was time to go. But first, they needed to get the van out of the gully.

279

Potable: suitable for drinking Rancid: having a foul smell or taste 281 Putrid: being in a state of putrefaction; rotten 282 Condone: to forgive, excuse, or overlook 283 Conundrum: a difficult or insoluble problem; a dilemma 284 Consensus: an opinion reached by a group as a whole 285 Compliant: willing to carry out the orders or wishes of another 286 Cogent: appealing to the intellect or powers of reasoning; valid and persuasive: a cogent analysis
280

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“They want everyone to help,” Nadine said. “If we all push, it should be easy.” The driver climbed into his seat and put the van in reverse while everyone else positioned themselves to push from the front. When the driver gave them a signal with his hand, they all pushed, attempting to extricate287 the vehicle from the ditch. Despite their combined effort, the rear wheels of the van spun in place, digging deeper into the sandy soil. The driver hopped out of the van and said something in Spanish before heading to the back of the van to retrieve an item from the trunk. “He has an idea,” Nadine explained. “What is it?” Alexa asked, eager to hear what sort of innovative288 idea the driver was proposing. “He’s going to put some boards under the rear wheels to give them a little traction,” Nadine replied. “That should work,” Professor McCurry said. “We almost had it out anyway.” Sure enough, the driver’s ingenious289 idea worked like a charm and the van practically leapt out of the ditch. Alexa settled back into her window seat, wincing at the searing heat of the shiny vinyl upholstery. As soon as they started on their way, a refreshing breeze from the open window cooled them off. At the next town, they stopped to eat at a local restaurant. The food was simple but surprisingly delicious, and everyone’s mood improved measurably. After stopping at a small store to pick up bottled water, they settled back into

287

Extricate: to release from entanglement or difficulty Innovative: marked by the act of introducing something new, such as a creation or invention 289 Ingenious: marked by inventive skill, imagination, or cunning; clever
288

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the van for the final leg of their journey. Their progress was still slow and bumpy, but not nearly as aggravating. Everyone felt a sense of relief that they were on their way again. Alexa chatted easily with Doug as they watched the passing scenery and swigged water from big plastic bottles. They had been through so much together already that sense of camaraderie290 had developed. The social hierarchy291 of Ithaca High School seemed like a distant memory. By the time they arrived at the entrance of Tikal National Park, it was dark. Officially, the park was closed for the evening, but Nadine hopped out of the van and had a cursory292 discussion with the attendant at the booth. Smiling widely, the attendant waved them into the park, a wildlife preserve covering 25 square miles of tropical rainforest. Despite the fact that she couldn’t see a thing, Alexa felt a keen sense of anticipation bubbling up inside her. The long and difficult journey had not dampened her enthusiasm in the slightest. It had only served to heighten her excitement for this very moment, when she would set foot on the land of the ancient Maya for the very first time. Alexa gazed out into the darkness, trying to discern293 something about her surroundings. But all she could see was blackness. She couldn’t stop wondering if José had made it here as well. Was he somewhere out there in the darkness of this park? The van pulled up to the Hotel Jaguar, which consisted of an inviting group of bungalows nestled in the rainforest. Alexa’s spirits rose even higher when she saw the accommodations. Her father had warned her that they would not be staying at an exclusive294 five-star resort, but this hotel looked great to her eyes.

290 291

Camaraderie: lighthearted rapport and goodwill between friends Hierarchy: a group of people categorized according to rank, ability, or status 292 Cursory: performed hastily and without attention to detail 293 Discern: to perceive with the eyes or intellect; detect 294 Exclusive: tending to exclude most from entry, membership, or participation: an exclusive nightclub

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“Why don’t I go in and see if there’s room at the inn,” Nadine offered when the van came to a stop. “Our reservations were actually for last night, not tonight.” Professor McCurry groaned. He abhorred295 last-minute difficulties when he traveled. Nadine returned quickly, the dour296 expression on her face signaling that she had not been successful. “Sorry, folks,” she said, climbing back into the van. “There’s no room at the inn.” “Where will we stay?” Alexa asked. “I was able to get us a cabaña. It’s kind of like a little cabin.” “That sounds nice,” Alexa said hopefully. “It’ll be fine,” Nadine replied. “At least we won’t have to worry about pitching a tent tonight. But I’m just warning you that it’s more like camping than staying in a hotel. We’ll all be sharing one room and we’ll each have a cot—we’ll have to get out our sleeping bags. Oh, and I almost forgot, there’s no bathroom or running water. So we’ll have to use the public facilities at the campground. OK?” she questioned, looking at Alexa. “I’m fine with it,” Alexa reassured her. Truthfully, she wouldn’t have minded if they had to sleep outside with no roof over their heads. She was just so excited to finally be here. She couldn’t wait to wake up and have it be tomorrow so that she could finally see the spectacular sights in person. And, of course, she couldn’t wait to see José.

295 296

Abhor: to regard with loathing or horror; detest Dour: silently ill-humored or gloomy

5
Poised on the Precipice

“A

lexa,” a voice whispered in her ear. “It’s time to wake up!”

Alexa rubbed her eyes, groggy from sleep. The cabin was still dark and she was nestled snugly in her warm sleeping bag. Doug was standing over her, a flashlight and map in his hands. “C’mon,” he coaxed. “We have to hurry if we want to catch the sunrise from the top of the temple.” Alexa was bewildered for a moment, but then the memory of her promise popped into her mind. Two days ago when they were sitting on the airplane to Miami, she had promised Doug that she would go with him to the top of Temple IV to watch the sunrise. “You still want to go, don’t you?” he asked.

61

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“Of course,” she replied, grabbing a sweatshirt from the top of her backpack and quickly pulling it on over her rumpled t-shirt. The previous night, when Alexa realized that they were all going to sleep in the same room, she had decided that she was going to climb into her sleeping bag fully clothed in jeans and a t-shirt. The alternative—wearing her pajamas in front of everyone—seemed unimaginably embarrassing. “I’ll be ready in a second,” she said, fumbling with the laces on her sneakers. “But first I’ll need to make a quick stop at the ladies room.” Alexa rummaged around in the side pocket of her bag, searching for her hairbrush, but she couldn’t find it. “We need to hurry, or else we’re going to miss it!” Doug warned her. “OK, I’m coming,” Alexa assured him, deciding to forego the hairbrush. There wasn’t time for vanity. Instead, she grabbed her camera, attached the Velcro strap to her belt, and the two of them slipped out of the cabaña before the adults woke. “I’ve got to stop here,” Alexa pointed to the public restrooms that were clustered in the center of the campground. “OK, but make it quick. We’ve got a twenty-minute walk in front of us.” “I’ll be right out,” Alexa assured him as she slipped into the bathroom and scrutinized297 the facilities in the dim light provided by a single bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Mercifully, the restrooms were kept scrupulously298 clean by the staff and the building smelled like antiseptic299. Alexa didn’t waste any time in front of the mirror, but quickly finished her business and went back outside to join Doug, who beckoned her with his flashlight.

297

Scrutinize: to examine closely and minutely Scrupulously: conscientious and exact; painstaking, meticulous 299 Antiseptic: a substance that inhibits the growth and reproduction of disease-causing microorganisms
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“If we walk really quickly, we might be able to make it there before the sun comes up,” he said as they started off on the trail toward the Gran Plaza, the center of the ancient city. They made rapid progress on the well-trodden path, which meandered through the rainforest. Alexa was acutely300 aware of the dim jungle on either side of them. A variety of animal sounds emanated from the murky darkness. “What was that noise?” she asked nervously, unable to contain her growing trepidation301. “Don’t worry,” Doug said. “It’s nothing.” Alexa sighed. He was probably right, but nevertheless, she didn’t like the way he trivialized302 her concerns. “It might have been a jaguar, you know. This jungle is filled with them.” “Hey, that would be great!” he laughed. “I’m dying to see one.” “Yeah, right,” she said sarcastically. “I bet your bravery is just a façade303,” Alexa teased. “If a jaguar jumped out of the jungle right now, you would be cowering304 behind that tree over there. Kind of like the ‘brave’ lion in The Wizard of Oz. Remember how the lion pretended to be fearless at first, but then it turned out that he was a coward? Dorothy had to be the brave one.” Doug gasped, pretending to be gravely offended at her comment. “Hey, how dare you denigrate305 my bravery,” he retorted with mock indignation306. “Besides, as I recall, the lion actually turned out to be pretty brave in the last few scenes. He was going to the wizard seeking courage, but he actually had it all along.”

300 301

Acute: reacting readily to stimuli or impressions; keenly perceptive; sensitive Trepidation: a state of alarm, fear, apprehension, or dread 302 Trivialize: to make appear trivial or insignificant 303 Façade: a showy misrepresentation intended to conceal something unpleasant 304 Cower: to cringe in fear 305 Denigrate: to belittle, disparage, or minimize 306 Indignation: a feeling of righteous anger aroused from something mean or unjust

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Alexa burst out laughing. “I guess you’re right about that, Mr. Lion!” “And don’t forget, we’re going to be here for several weeks, so we’ll see who is brave and who is not, Dorothy.” Alexa laughed. Truthfully, she was terrified of spiders and snakes. But she was not about to reveal her weakness to Doug. After a few more minutes at a brisk pace, they stepped out of the dense jungle and into a cleared grassy area. Looming over them, in the dim twilight of the early morning, was the most awe-inspiring sight Alexa had ever seen. Rising out of the jungle like a colossus307 was a huge pyramid of stone that reached up through the treetops toward the sky. “Oh, my gosh!” she exclaimed. “I can’t even see the top!” “It’s absolutely incredible,” Doug agreed. “But that’s not the temple we’re looking for,” he said, consulting his map. “We need to keep going to reach Temple IV.” “I’m coming,” Alexa replied, even though she was inclined308 to stay right where she was and stare at the magnificent temple before them. By the time they reached the enormous Temple IV, they were breathless with exertion. “C’mon, we have to hurry...the sun is coming up,” he said, exhorting309 her to move even faster through the tangle of vines at the base of the massive stone pyramid. “Here’s the stairs. You can go first.” “Stairs? That looks more like a ladder,” she said, looking at the steep wooden staircase that rested on the ancient stone structure. The staircase was obviously intended to help visitors climb the structure without damaging the ancient stonework, but the steps were so narrow and the ascent so steep that Alexa feared the climb. The top of the temple was completely
307

Colossus: a huge statue (for example, the Statue of Liberty) Inclined: to be disposed to a certain preference or course of action 309 Exhort: to urge strongly by argument, advice, or appeal
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obscured by the morning mist, so it looked like the stairs headed straight up into the clouds. Alexa hesitated, remembering that there were really three things that truly frightened her...spiders, snakes, and heights. The thought of climbing hundreds of feet up the side of an ancient temple on a precarious wooden ladder was unnerving310. But she was even more afraid to admit this fear to Doug. “Go ahead,” he urged her. “I’ll be right behind you.” Alexa took a deep breath and started climbing, even though she was trembling with fear. She could hear Doug below her, but she didn’t want to turn around and look down. Instead, she kept her gaze focused on her goal above, the mist-covered pinnacle311 of the temple, and she kept climbing. Higher and higher she climbed, to the top of one of the highest preColumbian structures known in the Americas, rising some 212 feet above the ground. Alexa heard voices from above. Evidently, some people had managed to get up to the top earlier than they had. Finally, she reached the terrace, where a cluster of people were gathered, looking at the spectacular view. Alexa breathed a sigh of relief. A few seconds later, Doug was at her side and they both looked out over the treetops together. The confluence312 of leaves and branches from a multitude of treetops formed the jungle canopy, which stretched out like a green canvas313 below them. The early morning twilight was quiet and peaceful. A layer of mist gently rested on the treetops, like a diaphanous314 white blanket over a sea of green leaves. The hint of early morning light hovering beneath the horizon lent an ethereal315 beauty to the scene.

310 311

Unnerve: to deprive of strength or vigor and the capacity to act Pinnacle: the highest point; the culmination; summit 312 Confluence: the coming or flowing together at one place 313 Canvas: a piece of such fabric on which a painting is executed 314 Diaphanous: of such fine texture as to be transparent or translucent 315 Ethereal: not of this world; heavenly

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“We can go even higher, you know,” Doug said, breaking the silence. “There’s a ladder that goes all the way to the top. I’ll show you. Let’s go!” he said enthusiastically. Alexa groaned. Actually, she had already noticed the iron ladder that lead straight up, but she was secretly hoping they could just stay there to watch the sunrise. But no such luck. Now she was going to have to summon every last bit of fortitude316 she had to reach the top. Taking a deep breath to quell317 the fear that was rising up in her throat, Alexa put her hands on the metal rungs and started up. When she finally reached the top and sat down at the very top of the ancient stone temple, Alexa could feel her heart beating wildly. It wasn’t just from the exertion of the climb or the fact that she was poised on the precipice318 of a towering face of rock. The view was absolutely stunning. Doug sat down next to her and they both marveled at the scene spread out before them. They looked out over the remote, uninhabited jungle. The only sign of the ancient civilization that flourished319 in this spot was the tops of four temples that rose up out of the lush forest canopy. Silently, they watched the scene change before their eyes. The dim twilight became increasingly brighter and the sky began to lighten with a golden orange glow. It was as if the jungle was nudged awake with these first few rays of sunshine. The birds, which were quiescent320 in the darkness, awoke with the first rays of sunshine and broke the silence with a cacophony321 of chirps, songs, and whistles.

316 317

Fortitude: strength of mind that allows one to endure adversity with courage Quell: to pacify, quiet 318 Precipice: a very steep or overhanging place 319 Flourish: to grow well, thrive 320 Quiescent: being quiet or at rest; inactive 321 Cacophony: jarring, discordant sound; dissonance

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“I can’t believe how loud the birds are!” Alexa exclaimed over the incessant322 noise of the vociferous323 birds. “There must be a lot of them in the jungle. They are so boisterous324—it sounds like they’re having a party.” “Yes, and I can’t wait to be invited. Do you know there are toucans, parrots, and macaws in this jungle? There is even a resplendent quetzal...do you know what that is?” he asked. “No,” Alexa replied, shaking her head. “Is it a bird?” “Oh, yes,” Doug replied. “But not just any bird. The resplendent quetzal is supposed to be the most beautiful bird in the world—that’s why they call it ‘resplendent.’ It’s bright green and red with luminous325 feathers. The ancient Mayans used to wear these feathers on their headdresses. Very few people have the chance to see the quetzal in the wild. But I intend to while I’m here. You should, too—you should come birding with me.” “What do you do when you go birding?” Alexa asked. “You just look for birds and try to identify their species. It’s really fun.” The two friends became quiet again, consumed with the sight of the dramatic sunrise. The morning sun peeked over the horizon and the sky turned a beautiful shade of pale blue. Right before their eyes, the sunlight melted the mist, revealing the details of the leafy treetops below. Not a single human voice was audible326, only the sounds of nature. After trumpeting their morning songs, the birds quieted down into a period of restful repose327.

322 323

Incessant: continuing without interruption; unceasing Vociferous: marked by noisy and vehement outcry 324 Boisterous: loud and lacking in restraint; rowdy 325 Luminous: emitting or reflecting light 326 Audible: that is heard or is able to be heard 327 Repose: the act of resting

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“It’s so serene328 and beautiful here,” Alexa whispered quietly, so that she wouldn’t disturb the tranquility329 of the moment. They sat there in silence for another 10 minutes, just gazing at the spectacular scene and listening to the subtle sounds of nature. The temperature climbed with the rising sun and quickly burned off the chill of the early morning. All of a sudden, Alexa was cognizant330 of the fact that she was sweating in the steamy heat and humidity. The sun was bearing down on them with an intensity that was beginning to become uncomfortable. The sunrise was over so quickly, Alexa thought silently. The magical goldenorange glow of the sunrise was beautiful, but ephemeral331. Now it was daytime. The sun was shining with a blinding strength, the sky was an intense shade of blue, and a new day had begun. The dreamy colors of the sunrise were evanescent332, but Alexa hoped that the memory of that special moment would stay in her mind forever. “Let’s get a picture,” Doug said, as if reading her mind. “Good idea,” she replied, pulling out the camera. Alexa snapped a few pictures of the jungle canopy spread out below them. “Here, let me get a picture of you,” he suggested, grabbing the camera from her hands. “Smile,” he coaxed, snapping a picture. Then he held the camera out in front of the two of them and trained the lens on their faces. “Cheese!” he said as he simultaneously pulled her close to him and snapped a picture. Alexa laughed and grabbed the camera back from him. Curiously, she toggled through the stored images and stole a glimpse of this impromptu photo. He was sitting close to her with his arm around her shoulders, a silly

328

Serene: without disturbance; calm Tranquility: the quality or state of being tranquil (free from disturbance, agitation, or turmoil) 330 Cognizant: fully informed; conscious, aware 331 Ephemeral: lasting a very short time 332 Evanescent: tending to vanish like vapor; fleeting
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smile plastered on his face. It looked like they were boyfriend and girlfriend. Alexa giggled at the sight of it. The boy in the picture was so far removed from the aloof lacrosse star from Ithaca High. “We really need to go now,” Doug said, looking at his watch. “I promised my dad we wouldn’t be late for breakfast, but I think we might be.” “OK,” she said, reluctantly getting up from her perch. She could see that Doug was in a rush to get back to the camp. But actually, Alexa was terrified at the thought of getting on the ladder for the harrowing333 descent down the steep face of the temple. She approached the ladder and looked down. Just glancing at the treacherous drop to the ground far below made her dizzy. “Did you know this temple was built back in 470 A.D.?” Doug remarked as he started descending backward down the stairs. Alexa barely nodded in response as she looked at the ladder that loomed in front of her. “Tourists call it Temple IV, but it’s really the Temple of the TwoHeaded Snake, built over fifteen hundred years ago by King Yaxkin Caan Chac. That’s what it says in my guidebook.” “Temple of the Two-Headed Snake? Great,” she muttered sarcastically. “That’s all I need right now. The image of a two-headed snake to comfort me when I’m trying to get down.” “Hmmm...” Doug said, smiling mischievously he raised his eyebrows in a high arch. “Is Dorothy afraid of heights?” he taunted.

333

Harrowing: extremely distressing; agonizing

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Alexa could feel her whole body sweating profusely334 as she looked at the challenge before her. Truthfully, she was terrified. But she was determined to put on a brave face. “I’m fine,” she said tentatively. “Hey,” he said, his voice taking on a note of concern, “just follow me. I’ll be right underneath you. You can’t fall. I’ll catch you,” he added tenderly. “Just follow me,” he coaxed, taking a few steps down the ladder. Alexa felt comforted by his words of assurance. The kind words of support strengthened her resolve335 to face her challenge. Timorously336, she started descending, focusing on one step at a time. When they got to the terrace level, halfway down the temple, Alexa realized that the most difficult part of the descent was still before her. The ladder had been relatively easy, because she didn’t have to look down. She just stared straight at the face of the temple and descended rung by rung without looking down at the distant ground below. But the steep wooden staircase that led to the ground would have to be negotiated head on. She was going to have to go straight down, watching her every step, the treacherous drop always looming in her peripheral vision. “I’ll hold your hand,” Doug offered sympathetically when he saw the look of terror on her face. “You can’t fall—I’m right here,” he said, grasping her hand firmly. Alexa squeezed his hand tightly and tried to take a few steps down. But her body was so rigid with fear that her steps were ungainly337. “I’ve got you. You can’t fall. You’re doing fine,” he coaxed.

334 335

Profuse: produced or growing in great abundance Resolve: to make a firm decision about 336 Timorous: full of apprehensiveness; timid, fearful 337 Ungainly: lacking grace or ease of movement; clumsy

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Alexa started moving faster. His encouraging words were like a salve338 for her anxiety. They were almost to the bottom when Alexa saw something that shocked her...and thrilled her. It was José. He was standing on the ground below, along with two other gentlemen. He looked up at her curiously, a forlorn339 expression clouding his face when he noticed her holding Doug’s hand. “José!” Alexa shrieked. Excitedly, she waved vigorously with her free hand and called out a salutation340. “Hello, José! I can’t believe you’re here!” In the excitement of the moment, Alexa impetuously341 hurried down the rest of the stairs without watching her footing on the narrow wooden steps, slick with dew. Her foot slipped off of the slippery surface and she felt herself falling forward. Doug immediately strengthened his grip on her hand to keep her from plummeting to the bottom. Then, in a single agile342 maneuver honed by years of lacrosse practice, he pivoted on one foot to face her and grasped her other arm with his free hand. But his attempt to forestall343 her fall was not successful. Her downward momentum was simply too great. They both went tumbling down to the grassy field below, landing together in a jumbled pile. “Are you OK?” Doug asked in a muffled voice. Alexa was dazed from the fall and it took her a moment to realize that she had landed right on top of Doug. Immediately, she rolled off to the side and sat up. “I’m OK,” she answered. “I think you broke my fall.”

338 339

Salve: something that soothes or heals; a balm Forlorn: appearing sad or lonely because deserted or abandoned 340 Salutation: a polite expression or gesture of greeting 341 Impetuous: characterized by haste and lack of thought; impulsive and passionate 342 Agile: characterized by quickness, lightness, and ease of movement; nimble 343 Forestall: to delay or prevent by taking precautionary measures beforehand

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“Alexa!” José cried, running over to see her. “Are you OK?” he asked. “I’m fine, but it’s Doug that I’m worried about.” “Oh, I’m OK. Just a cut on my shin,” he replied, pointing to a small laceration344 on his leg that was beginning to bleed. “But it’s nothing.” Alexa looked at José and his big brown eyes looked into hers. All of a sudden she was bashful345. She was painfully aware of the fact that she had not even bothered to run a brush through her hair that morning and now she was sticky with sweat and covered with dirt. She felt a tinge of regret. Why did she forsake346 vanity today of all days? This was not how she had envisioned her reunion with José. But even more distressing was the fact that José looked dejected by the sight of her holding Doug’s hand. His typically sanguine347 demeanor was replaced with a look of genuine sadness. He didn’t realize that the hand-holding was truly an innocent, innocuous348 thing. It certainly didn’t reflect an amorous349 relationship with Doug. But Alexa could plainly see that José had construed350 their hand-holding as a sign of romance. She desperately wanted to find some way to exonerate351 herself. But how was she going to convince José that she was really enamored352 with him, not Doug? She knew that attempting to talk about such a delicate matter now, in front of Doug, would be too difficult. It would have to wait for a more private moment. José’s companions, both dressed in khaki-colored, safari-style outfits, were walking toward them.

344 345

Laceration: a jagged cut or wound Bashful: shy, self-conscious, and awkward 346 Forsake: to give up 347 Sanguine: cheerfully confident, optimistic 348 Innocuous: having no adverse effect; harmless 349 Amorous: indicative of love or sexual desire 350 Construe: to explain the meaning of; interpret 351 Exonerate: to free from blame 352 Enamor: to inspire with love; captivate

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“You kids sure took a tumble,” the older man remarked with a thick British accent. He adjusted his wide-brimmed sunhat over his gray hair as he looked at Alexa and Doug still lying on the ground. Alexa gave him a brave smile. “We’re not hurt,” she reassured him, as she stood up, brushing dirt off the seat of her pants. “Oh, you young folks are amazing,” the gray-haired man said admiringly. “If that had been one of us wizened353 old men falling down those steps, we would have broken a bone or two. Wouldn’t we have, Grady?” “Hey, speak for yourself, Rothschild,” the younger man retorted, chuckling at his companion’s self-deprecating354 humor. “I may have a few wrinkles, but I’m not wizened yet!” He smiled widely as he gave Rothschild a genial clap on the back. Grady’s thinning hair suggested he was in his mid-forties, but he looked to be in terrific shape. The welldefined muscles undulating355 under his thin tan t-shirt suggested that he exercised rigorously and didn’t let his muscles atrophy356 from leading a sedentary357 lifestyle. His swarthy358 complexion was that of someone who had spent many hours in the sun. “Alexa, this is Mr. Grady and Mr. Rothschild,” José said. “They’re from the foundation, the one that’s giving me the scholarship.” “Oh, hello,” Alexa said awkwardly, wiping the dirt off her hand before shaking hands. “And this is Doug Whittiker. He’s one of my classmates back home and he’s here with his father. His father and my father and Nadine, we all came here together. Our car broke down on the way

353

Wizened: shriveled, withered, dried up Deprecate: to belittle, depreciate 355 Undulate: to rise and fall in volume or pitch as if in waves 356 Atrophy: decrease in size or wasting away of a body part or tissue 357 Sedentary: characterized by a lack of physical activity and a lot of sitting 358 Swarthy: having a dark complexion or color
354

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here, and then this morning we decided to climb to the top of the temple to watch the sunrise,” Alexa mumbled, her trembling hands revealing just how flustered she was in the awkward situation. She was trying to find a way of explaining to José that Doug was not her boyfriend, but instead she rambled on and on. “We’re working on an archeological dig here in Tikal.” “Ah, yes,” Rothschild said. “I know of this excavation. You’re working on the newly discovered settlement area in the thick of the jungle in the northern quadrant of the park, aren’t you? There’s a consortium359 of archeologists from several different universities working on that dig, isn’t there?” “Yes, I think so,” she replied. “I think there are archeologists from both Guatemala and the United States working on the excavation. But I haven’t been there yet. We just arrived in Tikal and we’re hiking out to the site later today.” “Well, well, well...aren’t you lucky, José!” Rothschild exclaimed, looking at him with a twinkle in his eye. “When José wrote to us that he wanted to come to Tikal, I was puzzled. But now it all makes sense,” he said with an amused grin as he looked from Alexa to José. “Now I know why he wanted to come to Tikal before he received his well-deserved commendation360. As it turns out, I was able to get José a volunteer position on our excavation team, and we are working on a different site just several hundred yards away. So you two kids can see each other quite often,” he smiled satisfactorily, looking pleased with his own munificence361.

359

Consortium: a cooperative arrangement among groups or institutions Commendation: something, especially an official award, that commends (expresses approval or praise) 361 Munificence: showing great generosity
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Alexa felt her spirits rise as she heard this exciting news. But José, who was usually exuberant and talkative, was uncharacteristically taciturn362. Alexa couldn’t wait to talk with him alone and clear the air. This was not at all how she had envisioned their reunion. Over and over again, she replayed her dream scenario in her mind...they would lock eyes from a distance, he would come rushing toward her, they would fall together in a tight embrace, and then, maybe share a romantic kiss. In her dream, she looked beautiful and he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. But the harsh reality was that she had just rolled out of bed in the morning without so much as running a brush through her hair, she was hot and sticky, and now she had just fallen into the dirt. But the worst part of it was that now he didn’t even want to look in her eyes. She couldn’t wait to clear up the misunderstanding. “Actually, we are hiking out to the dig later today, too,” Rothschild continued. “But right now, we were just giving José a brief tour of the major sites. So, what do you think so far, young man?” “It’s incredible,” José said succinctly363. “Did you know that José’s antecedents364 were native to the Mayan highlands?” Rothschild asked Alexa. “This young man here is of Mayan descent! His ancestors constructed these acclaimed365 temples and built a great civilization,” he exclaimed approvingly. “Well, I can hardly take credit for this,” José said humbly, looking as if he felt uncomfortable receiving accolades366 for something he didn’t do.

362 363

Taciturn: temperamentally disinclined to talk; uncommunicative Succinct: characterized by clear, precise expression in few words; concise and terse 364 Antecedents: one’s ancestors or something that goes before or precedes 365 Acclaim: to praise enthusiastically and often publicly; applaud 366 Accolade: an expression of approval; praise

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“These temples were built more than a thousand years ago by anonymous367 Mayan workers. We will never know the names of the people who struggled under difficult circumstances to put one stone upon another. Only the names of the nobility368 are etched into stone for us to read centuries later. The monarchs369 will be recorded in the textbooks for us all to regard with reverence370, but it is really the working class that built these magnificent temples.” “My boy, aren’t you the precocious371 one!” Rothschild exclaimed proudly. “I’ve never heard such a sophisticated sentiment372 coming from the mouth of such a youngster. Yes, it’s true that the Mayan kings had a glorified status in their society and they ruled with an iron fist. By today’s standards, you might even say they were despots373. But what you have to understand is that back in those days, the people worshipped their kings—they were seen as having divine374 powers. That is why they built these magnificent temples for them. So don’t let the idolatrous375 practices of the Mayan society mar376 your view of their civilization, because it was a great one. They made great strides in architecture and astronomy, and they developed a written language.”

367

Anonymous: name unknown Nobility: a privileged class holding hereditary titles such as dukes, duchesses, earls, countesses, etc. 369 Monarch: one who reigns over a state or territory, usually for life and by hereditary right 370 Reverence: a feeling of profound respect and awe; veneration 371 Precocious: characterized by early development or maturity 372 Sentiment: a thought or attitude, especially one based primarily on emotion rather than reason 373 Despot: a person who wields power oppressively; a tyrant 374 Divine: God-like, having the nature of a deity; superhuman 375 Idolatrous: given to blind or excessive devotion to something 376 Mar: to impair or spoil
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“I certainly wasn’t trying to denounce377 the great civilization of the ancient Maya,” José said with a charming smile, “I was merely trying to point out the inequity378.” “Your comments are duly appreciated, my boy,” Rothschild said, putting his arm around José’s shoulders like a proud parent. “Thank you for edifying379 us with that observation. You certainly are attuned380 to the subtleties of the history here. I am very pleased with our choice for the recipient of the foundation’s scholarship. You are a fine young man.” Alexa looked over at José, who was blushing modestly from all of the compliments. She gave him a sympathetic smile. Alexa knew him well enough to know that he was modest at heart, preferring to eschew381 praise. “Excuse me,” Doug cleared his throat. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but Alexa, we need to get back to the camp right away. We’re supposed to be back there for breakfast and I promised my dad we wouldn’t be late. And I know for a fact that your dad wouldn’t want you to be late, either.” Mentioning how her dad didn’t like to be late was all Doug needed to do to elicit382 a response from Alexa. She knew she couldn’t dither383 in this awkward situation indefinitely. She desperately wanted to talk to José, but she knew that would have to wait. “Yes, you’re right,” she reluctantly agreed. “We should get going.”

377 378

Denounce: to condemn openly as evil or reprehensible Inequity: injustice; unfairness 379 Edify: to instruct, inform, or enlighten 380 Attune: to make aware or responsive 381 Eschew: avoid, shun 382 Elicit: to bring or draw out 383 Dither: to act nervously indecisive

6
Resolving an Imbroglio

“A

re you going back to the campsite?” Rothschild asked Alexa and Doug. “Because we’re headed that way, too. We can all walk together,” he suggested cheerfully. “Sounds good,” Alexa replied, hoping she would have a chance to talk to José on the hike back to the camp. They all set out single file on the narrow trail. “We have to move José out of his cushy quarters at the Hotel Jaguar and out into the field with the rest of the archeological team,” Rothschild said, as the trail widened up and they all walked together as a group. “Only one night of luxury for you, young man, and then from here on out, we’re going to be roughing it. We lead an austere384 lifestyle at the camp—there is nothing but the essentials: food, water, and a tent for shelter.” Grady laughed uproariously. “Except for the box of goodies that Rothschild has me carry in every week...it’s filled with Swiss chocolates,
384

Austere: severely simple or stark

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English toffees, and several bottles of fine brandy,” Grady teased. “Rothschild, you couldn’t lead the lifestyle of an ascetic385 if your life depended on it!” “Shush, Grady!” Rothschild exclaimed with a rueful smile. “I’ve already told José that we will share abstemious386 meals at the camp. We always eat and drink in moderation387, don’t we, Grady?” “Oh yes, nothing but the bare essentials,” Grady said sarcastically. “We never indulge in goodies.” Everyone broke out laughing, because they could tell from the innu388 endo in Grady’s tone of voice that he was implying just the opposite. “You stayed at the Hotel Jaguar last night?” Alexa asked, turning to José. “That’s where we were trying to stay, but it was all booked.” “Yes, I did stay there, and it was very nice. It was so kind of you to put me up there for a night,” José thanked Rothschild. “But don’t worry about me roughing it at a campsite in the jungle. I’m used to leading a very simple life.” “Ah, yes,” Rothschild replied. “I know that your family was very poor and you didn’t have many luxuries growing up. But despite these difficulties, you managed to succeed in your studies. That’s one of the reasons why we chose you to be the recipient of the scholarship from our foundation. You will rise from penury 389 to the lofty ivory towers of academia, and the world will be yours.” José broke out in a big grin at the mention of the scholarship. Going to college had always been his lifelong dream. “Check it out!” Doug exclaimed, pointing ahead. The path emptied into the grassy courtyard of the Gran Plaza.
385

Ascetic: one who renounces material comforts and practices self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline. 386 Abstemious: marked by restraint and moderation, especially as applied to eating and drinking 387 Moderation: being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme 388 Innuendo: an indirect or subtle implication (usually derogatory) in expression; an insinuation 389 Penury: an oppressive lack of resources; severe poverty or destitution

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Alexa gasped with wonder when she saw the spectacle before her. At the eastern and western ends of the plaza, two large ancient stone pyramids rose toward the sky. In the full light of day, the sight was absolutely stunning. They headed to the center of the courtyard, which was already dotted with tourists. “These magnificent temples were built by the greatest of all Mayan rulers, King Hasaw Chan K’awil,” Rothschild said in a booming voice, as if he were delivering a speech to a crowded lecture hall. He swaggered390 forward and turned to face the group with a proud look on his face, as if he had assembled the remarkable structures himself. “Wow!” Alexa exclaimed, taking in the amazing panorama. “Totally cool!” Doug echoed. Alexa glanced over at José, hoping that somehow they could share the excitement of this special moment. But he looked pensive391 as he stood there listening to Rothschild lecture. He looked as if he was thinking about something disturbing, Alexa noticed. She couldn’t wait to talk with him alone to unravel this imbroglio392 and set the record straight. “Right here we have Temple I and Temple II, dating back to circa 700 A.D.,” Rothschild continued, pointing to the two imposing pyramids that stood at opposite ends of the plaza. “You youngsters might be interested to know that these two temples were built to honor King Hasaw and his wife, Lady Twelve Macaw. See how the two temples are facing each other from opposite ends of the plaza? Back when these were built, an image of Hasaw was on the top of this temple, and his wife’s image was on the other temple. This way, they could look at each other for eternity.

390 391

Swagger: to walk or conduct oneself with a proud, arrogant air; strut Pensive: deeply and often wistfully or dreamily thoughtful; often suggestive of melancholy thoughtfulness 392 Imbroglio: a very embarrassing misunderstanding

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That’s the way Hasaw wanted it. How romantic,” he sighed, giving Alexa and José a knowing look. Alexa could feel her face flush with embarrassment. Was it really that obvious to everyone that she liked José? It seemed like it was obvious to everyone but José himself. “Ah, yes...King Hasaw and his wife were in love,” Rothschild said. “Hasaw was considered quite handsome in his day, a man of great pulchritude393 by all accounts, although you might not think so,” he said looking at Alexa. “Why not? What did he look like?” she asked curiously. “Well, back in the days of the ancient Maya, it was considered attractive to have a flat forehead. So, when children were mere infants, the Mayans used to press a flat board to their face to achieve this aesthetically394 pleasing result.” “Aesthetically pleasing?” Alexa repeated incredulously. “It sounds like just the opposite. That’s got to look terrible—and it sounds so torturous.” “Yuck!” Doug exclaimed. “And that’s not all,” Rothschild continued enthusiastically, as if he was taking great delight in their shocked reactions. “His eyes were crossed! This was also considered beautiful to the Mayans, and to achieve this result, they dangled an object right in between the infant’s eyes so their eyes focused on this target and became permanently crossed.” “No way!” Doug exclaimed. “But how could he see?” “Not very well, I imagine,” Rothschild answered. “But since crossed eyes and a flat forehead were considered the epitome395 of beauty by the

393

Pulchritude: great physical beauty and appeal Aesthetic: relating to beauty and the appreciation of beauty and good taste 395 Epitome: a standard, typical, or representative example of a class or type
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Mayans, that’s what they aimed to achieve. To our eyes, these traits would appear to be ugly aberrations396. But not to them. Standards of beauty are very different from one culture to the next and they are constantly evolving with time. Take body weight, for example. In some cultures, corpulence397 is considered attractive, whereas in our culture, it’s an anathema398. No one wants to be fat.” Alexa couldn’t take her eyes off the ancient structures that surrounded her. What is all of this over here?” she asked, pointing to the cluster of ancient ruins on the northern side of the plaza. “This is the North Acropolis, which actually has a hundred different structures in this jumble of ancient ruins that you see here. The Mayans tended to build new buildings on top of the old ones, so some of these ruins are very complex, from an archeologist’s point of view. Some of the structures date back to before the time of Christ,” Rothschild said, his eyes sparkling with excitement. José was quiet as he looked at his surroundings with profound respect. To Rothschild, the ancient Mayan ruins were fodder399 for his considerable intellect. But to José, it was so much more. It was hallowed400 ground, the site where his ancestors had lived and died. Doug, who had wandered off to the side of the plaza, called out to the rest. “Hey, check this out,” he beckoned them. “This is really cool!” “This is the ball court,” Rothschild explained, as they made their way over to join Doug, who was standing on a stone platform looking down at a small courtyard. The sides of the courtyard were flanked by stone walls that angled outward. “This is where the ancient Maya played

396 397

Aberration: a departure from the normal or typical Corpulence: the condition of being excessively fat; obesity 398 Anathema: someone or something intensely loathed or shunned 399 Fodder: a consumable, such as feed for livestock, that is used to supply a heavy demand 400 Hallowed: holy or sacred: a hallowed cemetery

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ball. It was not a sport for the weak of heart. It was a very rough game, played with a large, heavy black rubber ball that the players were not allowed to touch with their hands or their feet. They wore special pads around their ribs to keep them from cracking when they were hit by the ball. The object was to keep the ball in motion, and let me just say, they took their sporting very seriously.” “Sounds like fun,” Doug said enthusiastically, jumping down onto the stone ball court. “Young man,” Rothschild said, “you should know that back in the days of the ancient Maya, these games were not played for fun...they were played for life. The ancient Mayans were not pacifists401. There was great enmity402 between the various city-states of the Mayan world and they were constantly at war with their neighbors. This war-like mentality extended to the games they played. The losing team was sacrificed. They were literally slain right on the spot.” “No way!” Doug exclaimed, looking both horrified and fascinated at the same time. “Let me show you around,” Rothschild said, climbing down off of the stone platform and to the surface of the ball court along with Doug. “Grady,” he called out, “come show this young man how this ball game was played and what happened afterward,” Rothschild smiled mischievously as he beckoned his colleague. He looked as if he enjoyed talking about the macabre403 aspects of the ancient Mayan society. Alexa stayed up on the stone platform above, next to José. Now that they had a moment alone, it seemed like the perfect time to talk to him.

401

Pacifism: the belief that disputes (such as between countries) can and should be settled peacefully, without war or violence 402 Enmity: mutual hatred or ill will 403 Macabre: suggesting the horror of death; gruesome

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But she had no idea how to begin. It was so difficult to say what she was really feeling...that meeting him earlier this summer had been the most exciting thing that had ever happened to her, and that she had missed him over the past several weeks when they’d been apart. And, despite the fact she had been holding Doug’s hand earlier, they were not romantically involved. She desperately wanted to say all of these things in an attempt to mitigate404 the damage that had been done to their relationship, but the task seemed daunting. Alexa looked over at José, waiting for the right moment to say something. He was uncharacteristically quiet and serious as he studied the impressive height of Temple I. Usually, José was jocular405. He was always telling a joke or doing some funny antics that made her laugh. Sometimes, he even joked when Alexa thought it was more appropriate to be serious. But his usual levity406 was absent this morning, and Alexa missed the José she’d known so well. “Uh, José?” Alexa asked timidly, trying to get his attention. He turned to look at her, his big brown eyes focused on hers intently. His face was expressionless as he waited for her to speak. “Umm...uh, there’s something I think you should know,” Alexa began. “Doug and I—I mean, Doug was just holding my hand to help me down from the temple. I’m afraid of heights. He offered to hold my hand going down and I took it because I needed to. There was no other way I could get down otherwise. I was terrified!” “Really?” he asked cautiously. “He’s not your boyfriend from back home?”

404 405

Mitigate: to make less severe; alleviate Jocular: characterized by joking behavior and good humor 406 Levity: lightness of manner or speech, especially when inappropriate; excessive frivolity

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“No!” Alexa replied emphatically407, looking directly into his eyes to reinforce her point. José’s entire demeanor metamorphosed408 in an instant. The expression of grave concern melted into a joyful smile and his eyes sparkled with mirth409 as he laughed at himself. “I thought...well, never mind what I thought! I’m so sorry that I thought that. I didn’t even give you a proper hello.” Alexa fell into his open arms and the two friends embraced tightly. Alexa felt a huge sense of relief wash over her. Everything felt right between them, finally. Their reconciliation410 was complete. José held her tight in a never-ending hug and whispered something in Spanish. “What are you saying?” Alexa asked. “Oh, I just wanted to tell you something,” he said, smiling mischievously. He knew she couldn’t understand what he had said. “Just give me a hint,” she pleaded. José made a motion like he was zipping his lips closed. “My lips are sealed,” he said. “For now, at least!” Alexa burst into laughter. The zipping of the lips was something she had seen him do before. It was reminiscent411 of the very first time they had met. He knew she would remember this and that it would make her laugh. Alexa felt a warm glow inside. This was the José she knew so well and cared about deeply. “I’m glad we are here in Tikal together,” he said. “You are?” Alexa asked. “Yes,” he said. “Not only because I am so happy to see you, but also because I think that I’m going to need your help,” he added seriously.
407

Emphatic: expressed with emphasis; forceful and definite Metamorphose: to change into a wholly different form or appearance; transform 409 Mirth: gladness and great merriment, especially as expressed by laughter 410 Reconciliation: the act of reestablishing a close relationship 411 Reminiscent: tending to recall or suggest something in the past
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“What’s going on?” Alexa asked worriedly as she pulled back from their long embrace. “I have some suspicions...” he said, his voice trailing off as he looked down at Rothschild and Grady with narrowed eyes. “I’m not sure if these two people are who they say they are.” “They sure seem to know what they’re talking about.” Alexa looked down at Rothschild and Grady, who were busy lecturing Doug on the intricacies of the ancient Mayan ball game. To her eyes, the two men appeared to be redoubtable412 scholars, knowledgeable and dedicated to their field of study. José’s face contorted in a pained expression. “Last night, I overheard a conversation that made me think something sinister may be going on...something utterly execrable413,” he added, his brown eyes narrowing with contempt414 as he looked at Grady and Rothschild. “What did you hear?” Alexa asked. “I can’t tell you right now—here they come!” he whispered furtively415. “Don’t tell anyone what I just told you.” “I won’t,” she assured him, making a motion like she was zipping her lips. But José didn’t laugh at their little private joke this time. He looked serious, as if he was contemplating a weighty issue. What is going on? Alexa wondered silently. What could José have overheard that would cause him to turn against Grady and Rothschild and become so disaffected416? But she knew the answer would have to wait. Doug was rapidly approaching, pointing to his watch with an anxious expression.
412 413

Redoubtable: worthy of respect or honor; illustrious, eminent Execrable: detestable, very bad: execrable crimes 414 Contempt: the act of despising, hating 415 Furtive: characterized by stealth or secrecy; surreptitious 416 Disaffected: resentful and rebellious, especially against authority

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“Alexa, we really have to hot-foot it back to the campsite,” he said. “We’re late for breakfast and I know for sure your dad is not going to like it.” “I know, I know,” she reluctantly agreed. She desperately wanted to stay and talk to José, but she also wanted to avoid being rebuked417 by her father for being late. “If we’re seriously late, we’ll never hear the end of it. We’d better go.” “And we’d better go fast,” Doug repeated, beseeching418 her to leave immediately. Alexa looked at José, as if to silently ask, when will I see you again? Without a single word, José understood the question that she was communicating with a single glance. They knew each other so well that sometimes words were superfluous419. “I’ll come visit your campsite the first chance I get,” he said. “But how will you find it?” she asked. “Don’t worry,” he said, flashing a bright smile, “I’ll find it.”

417

Rebuke: to scold or criticize sharply; reprimand Beseech: to beg for urgently; implore 419 Superfluous: beyond what is required or sufficient
418

7
Empirical Evidence

“A

lexa, it’s time to wake up.”

Alexa felt a hand on her shoulder, gently nudging her. “What time is it?” she asked Nadine, who was standing over her, prodding her awake. Alexa looked at her surroundings in the semi-darkness of the early morning. The girls’ tent housed the eight female members of the archeological team, and last night they had all slept in a row on the nylon floor of the tent. Their sleeping bags, each a different color, were lined up side by side, nestled next to each other like crayons in a box. But now, all of the sleeping bags were rolled up tightly and neatly stowed away, their owners already up and about. “It’s about five-thirty,” Nadine replied. “Remember how I warned you that we start early? We need to get a lot of work done before the sun gets too hot.”

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“I’m coming,” Alexa said with all of the enthusiasm she could muster in her somnolent420 state. She always had a hard time waking up in the morning. “Boy, I slept like a rock,” she commented with a note of surprise in her voice. “When I first saw the tent, I wasn’t so sure I’d be able to sleep so well. It was so crowded in here. And we went to bed so early—I thought I’d be awake all night. But as soon as you turned out the lantern, I fell right asleep.” “Me too,” Nadine replied with a smile. “I think the fresh air has a great soporific421 effect, don’t you? I always sleep better when I’m camping than when I’m back home in my nice bedroom. I’m glad that you’re all rested, because it’s breakfast time.” Alexa rummaged around in her backpack for a clean t-shirt and a pair of pants. Spying her brush, she quickly ran it through her hair before pulling her smooth brown tresses back in a simple ponytail. A shower was out of the question. Last night, after they arrived at the dig, Nadine had explained the situation to her. There was no running water at the camp, so the workers took turns making the hour-long hike back to the main campground, where there was a public shower. Since this was a time-consuming endeavor422, and a seemingly extravagant waste of precious work hours that could better be spent making important discoveries at the dig, all of the workers tried to restrict their showers to once a week. Alexa was dismayed with the lack of showers, but she was determined to endure this hardship with equanimity423. She didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot by complaining loudly and clamoring424 for the luxury of a hot shower. But the worst part of their accommodations, the part that she had trouble accepting, was the fact that there were no
420 421

Somnolent: drowsy, sleepy Soporific: tending to induce sleep 422 Endeavor: an activity directed toward a specific goal 423 Equanimity: evenness of mind especially under stress; composure 424 Clamor: to make loud, insistent demands or complaints

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toilets. There was not even an outhouse. They were just supposed to go off into the woods to take care of their personal needs. Alexa thought that this was absolutely appalling425. Even though she had been camping several times with her family while growing up, they had always gone to a designated campsite, where there were public bathrooms and toilets that flushed. In actuality, she was a neophyte426 when it came to genuine wilderness camping. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it,” Nadine had told her when she explained the situation. Nadine herself appeared to be impervious427 to the hardships of camping in the jungle. “But how will we have any privacy?” Alexa asked. “What if someone walks up when you are...?” “Don’t worry!” Nadine laughed. “We have a covenant428 between the ladies and the gentlemen here at the camp that we’ve all agreed to abide by. See this tree here? This is the line of demarcation429,” she said, pointing to an imaginary boundary line extending into the jungle. “Ladies are on this side of the line and men are on that side.” “But what about at night time?” Alexa asked. “How do you find your way through the labyrinth430? “It’s no different,” Nadine replied. “Just take your flashlight with you.” “But what if you encroach431 upon the gentlemen’s territory in the middle of the night because you can’t see where you’re going?” Nadine laughed. “Well, that would be tantamount432 to a felony around here,” she joked. “So watch where you’re going! You’ll learn your way around soon enough.”

425 426

Appalling: inspiring horror, dismay, or disgust Neophyte: a novice or beginner 427 Impervious: not capable of being affected or disturbed 428 Covenant: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement 429 Demarcation: a boundary, separation, or distinction 430 Labyrinth: a complex system of paths or tunnels in which it is easy to get lost; maze 431 Encroach: to advance beyond proper or former limits 432 Tantamount: equivalent in value, significance, or effect; being essentially equal to something

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“But what about all of the nocturnal433 animals in the jungle that are awake at night and waiting to pounce on any intruders in their midst?” Nadine sighed loudly, revealing that she was beginning to feel exasperated434 by Alexa’s unending questions and inane435 concerns. “The vast majority of the wild animals are more afraid of you than you are of them,” she said. “Just use your flashlight and watch where you step. The most important thing is not to step on any snakes that might be on the path. If you don’t bother them, they probably won’t bother you.” Alexa rolled her eyes. She didn’t believe that trite436 saying about wild animals being more afraid of people than people being afraid of them. But sensing the impatient note in Nadine’s voice, Alexa knew this was not the time to launch into a tirade437 of complaints about the lack of a proper bathroom. If she started complaining now, Nadine would just view her as petulant438. So instead, Alexa vowed to view the situation with a good attitude. She knew her father expected her to integrate439 into the camp routine without whining. If the other women at the dig found the accommodations tolerable, Alexa guessed that she could probably tolerate them, too. In fact, as time went on, Alexa grew to enjoy the solitude of these little excursions440 into the forest. After her first foray441 into the jungle, Alexa headed back to camp, which was bustling with activity in the early morning twilight. The air was infused442 with the tantalizing aroma of coffee. Alexa didn’t drink coffee, but she loved the smell. It brought back memories of breakfast at home...pancakes with maple syrup, her parents lingering over the morning
433

Nocturnal: most active at night Exasperate: to irritate, annoy, or make angry 435 Inane: lacking significance, meaning, or point 436 Trite: boring from overuse; not fresh or original; hackneyed 437 Tirade: a long angry or violent speech 438 Petulant: unreasonably rude or irritable 439 Integrate: to join with something else; the process of unifying into a whole 440 Excursion: a journey made for pleasure; an outing 441 Foray: a venture or an initial attempt, especially outside one’s usual area: a model’s foray into acting 442 Infuse: to fill or cause to be filled with something
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paper, and then Saturday morning cartoons snuggled next to her dad on the big leather couch in their family room. But now, of course, all of that had changed. As difficult as it was to accept, her parents were recently divorced and Alexa was painfully aware of the fact that she could never relive these old family memories. Everything had changed, Alexa acknowledged, eyeing Nadine, her father’s new girlfriend, in the distance. Alexa spotted her father eating breakfast with Nicholas and Doug and she hurried over to join them on the big slab of granite that served as a makeshift table. “Good morning! Come have some cereal,” her father beckoned. “Sounds good,” Alexa replied, grabbing a bowl and spoon. After pouring herself a bowl of cornflakes, Alexa spied the milk carton, which was in a small, square-shaped box. “Hey, this is warm,” she complained when she picked up the carton. “Oops! We forgot to bring the refrigerator,” Doug joked. “Did we leave it by the palm tree at that fork in the path?” Alexa burst out laughing. “I wasn’t expecting a fancy breakfast buffet443, but seriously though, is this milk still good? It’s warm!” Alexa sniffed the carton suspiciously. It didn’t have the fetid444 odor of spoiled milk, but it didn’t smell like regular milk, either. “Don’t worry,” Professor McCurry assured her, “it’s fit for consumption445. It’s sterilized milk and it’s stable at room temperature for months, as long as the carton is unopened. It has a bit of a funny taste, but trust me, it’s better than foraging446 for food in the jungle.”

443

Buffet: a meal at which guests serve themselves from a variety of dishes that are all set out Fetid: having a heavy, offensive smell 445 Consumption: the act of consuming (eating, drinking, or utilizing) 446 Forage: to wander in search of food or provisions
444

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“We put in a requisition447 for a cow, but it hasn’t arrived yet,” Nicholas joked. Everyone laughed and then watched curiously as Alexa poured the milk on her cereal and tried a spoonful. They stared at her intently, waiting for her reaction. “It’s fine,” she said. “It tastes a little funny, but it’s not so bad.” “So how are you managing without a bathroom?” Professor McCurry asked, after Alexa had taken a few spoonfuls. “Fine,” Alexa replied curtly448 as she shot her father a disapproving look. She really didn’t want to talk about bathroom issues in front of Doug and Nicholas. It was too embarrassing. Why did he have to talk about such a private matter in front of everyone? She felt so discomfited449 by the topic of conversation that she tried to change it. “I think I saw a toucan in the forest when I was...when I was taking a walk.” “Really?” Doug asked excitedly. “What did it look like?” “It had a bright yellow face and a huge beak. But the interesting thing about the beak was that it had several different colors, kind of like an artist’s palette450. It was red and green and yellow...” “Wow!” Doug exclaimed, dropping his cereal spoon into his bowl with a splash. “I bet you saw the keel-billed toucan! It’s a really obscure451 species—you are so lucky to have seen one.” “Actually, I saw two. They were flying together up near the treetops.” “A very fortuitous452 sighting,” Nicholas commented. “I’ve never had the opportunity to see one myself.”

447

Requisition: a formal written request for something needed Curt: rudely abrupt of brief 449 Discomfit: to put into a state of unease, perplexity, and embarrassment 450 Palette: a board, which an artist can hold while painting, that is used to mix paint 451 Obscure: not readily seen or noticed; hidden 452 Fortuitous: happening by fortunate accident or chance
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“You must have good luck,” Doug said, looking at her admiringly. “You have to come with me to look for the resplendent quetzal—you can be my good-luck charm!” Alexa smiled, feeling a warm glow inside from Doug’s compliment. But she said nothing. Out of deference453 to José, she didn’t say that she would go birding with Doug. She had never promised José that she wouldn’t spend time alone with Doug, but knowing José as she did, she felt that this understanding was implicit454. Alexa was just finishing the last of her cereal when Nadine walked up. “Are you all ready to start working?” she asked. “Alexa and Doug, why don’t you two come with me and I can show you what you’ll be doing.” “This area we’re excavating is one of the regions where the common folks lived,” Nadine explained as they walked to the site. “The nobility and the upper echelons455 of society tended to live closer to the center of town, where the big temples are. But here we are studying the common folks. What did they do every day? What was the quotidian456 life of the ancient Maya? What did they eat, how did they obtain that food, and what sorts of agricultural457 techniques did they use to farm the land? The list of questions is endless. But on this particular expedition, we’re most interested in any sort of artifact that we can unearth about how these people interacted with one another to form such a successful society.” “But how could we possibly answer such a difficult question when there are no history books?” Alexa asked, as they arrived at the site. “Didn’t you tell us that most of their books were burned during the conquest by the Spanish?”

453

Deference: courteous respect or yielding to the wishes of another Implicit: implied or understood without direct expression: an implicit agreement 455 Echelon: a level of responsibility or authority in a hierarchy; a rank 456 Quotidian: everyday, commonplace: a quotidian routine 457 Agricultural: relating to farming, producing crops, and raising livestock
454

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“Yes, that’s true, but as archeologists, we look for clues,” Nadine said, pointing to a folding table that was covered with broken bits of pottery and other objects. “For example, take a look at this,” she said, picking up a shiny black object. “Is that an arrowhead?” Doug asked excitedly. “No, but it is sharp. Feel this edge,” Nadine urged. “This was used as a knife. But what’s interesting about this particular tool is that it’s made of obsidian—a volcanic rock. Obsidian makes excellent cutting knives and spear tips.” “Why is that so interesting?” Doug asked. “Well, do you see any volcanoes around here?” Nadine asked, an amused look on her face. Doug shook his head. “You’re right—there aren’t any volcanoes in the vicinity. In fact, we’ve been able to do some analysis on the obsidian that we’ve found here, and we’ve figured out that it actually came from an area around Mexico City! You see, these clues help us to elucidate458 the types of interactions that the people of Tikal had with other areas...interactions that happened over a thousand years ago.” “But how do you know it was really a thousand years ago?” Alexa asked skeptically. If you just find a piece of obsidian buried in the ground here, how do you know when it was left there?” “Excellent question!” Nadine exclaimed. “Rest assured we don’t just make a random guess—there is a way of obtaining some empirical459 evidence. One common technique is carbon dating. When we’re excavating a

458 459

Elucidate: to make lucid (clear, understandable), especially by explanation or analysis Empirical: derived from observation or experiment: empirical results that negated the hypothesis

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site and we come across a fireplace with pieces of charcoal in it, we can get a pretty accurate date on that charcoal by doing an analysis in the laboratory called carbon dating. Theoretically460, the artifacts that are found at the same depth and in the same vicinity as the charcoal are from around the same time period.” “Cool,” Doug commented. “And of course, there are other clues buried in the ground as well,” Nadine continued. “Certain styles of pottery and ceramics are characteristic of particular time periods. So when you find pottery or even just tiny fragments of pottery, sometimes it can help you to assign a time frame to the area that you’re excavating.” “Sounds interesting,” Alexa said, “kind of like solving a mystery by collecting clues.” “Exactly!” Nadine exclaimed. “I’m glad you like the idea of searching for clues, because that’s what you’ll be doing right here.” Nadine picked up a large, rectangular-shaped frame with a screen attached to one side. “This is a sieve and it’s used for sifting through the soil to recover small artifacts such as pottery shards.” Nadine looked up at Alexa and Doug. “I thought it might be fun for the two of you to work together, so I have a plan.” “What’s that?” Alexa asked. “Alexa, you’ll be in charge of this screen and Doug will bring you the soil that we need to sift through. Doug, you’ll be using this wheelbarrow to ferry the soil from the excavation over there to Alexa and her sieve over here,” Nadine pointed. “The workers at the excavation site will tell you what soil they want sifted,” she said to Doug. “Alexa, I’ll be showing you how to sift through the dirt for artifacts and how to catalogue461 everything you
460 461

Theoretically: based on theory Catalogue: to make an itemized list of

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find. We keep careful records of all the artifacts and where they came from. You see, we have this whole site mapped on a grid, and each shovelful of dirt comes from a specific place with very precise coordinates.” “So I’ll be sifting through dirt the whole time I’m here?” Alexa asked. As soon as the words came out of her mouth, she realized how spoiled she sounded. But she was disappointed. When she thought about working on a dig, she imagined actually digging in the ground with a shovel and unearthing something big and exciting. Sifting through dirt for tiny artifacts seemed like the antithesis462 of a thrilling assignment. It looked like an insipid463 task destined to inspire nothing but boredom. “Yes,” Nadine replied. “Don’t be so disappointed,” she said, looking at Alexa’s downcast eyes. “You just might find something interesting.” Nadine gave Alexa an encouraging smile and then walked away to confer with one of her colleagues. As soon as Nadine was out of sight, Doug imitated her in a highpitched, squeaky voice, “Now Alexa, don’t be so disappointed—you just might find something interesting.” Alexa burst out laughing. “You sound like a parrot.” “Hey, speaking of parrots, did you know that there actually are parrots in this jungle? I’d rather be out there looking for them than here shoveling this dirt!” “Me too,” Alexa laughed. “But I think we’re stuck here. We have to accede464 to the wishes of our boss.” “Queen Nadine,” Doug said mockingly. “The wicked witch of the West!”

462 463

Antithesis: the exact opposite Insipid: lacking in interest or stimulation; dull 464 Accede: to give consent, often at the insistence of another; concede

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“Hey, that rhymes,” Alexa laughed. He lampooned465 Nadine so humorously that she just had to laugh along. She felt a little guilty vilifying466 Nadine this way, but it was kind of fun to joke around with Doug. They had developed an easy rapport467. Doug had picked up on the uneasy feeling Alexa had about Nadine. It was hard to forget that Nadine was actually her dad’s new girlfriend, usurping468 her mother’s place against Alexa’s wishes. As likeable as Nadine was, sometimes Alexa wished that she didn’t exist.

465

Lampoon: a harsh satire of an individual or institution; ridicule Vilify: to make vicious and slanderous statements about; malign, defame 467 Rapport: relationship, especially one of harmony, accord, and emotional affinity 468 Usurp: to wrongfully seize someone else’s place, authority, or possession
466

8
An Odious Operation

“A

re you sure you want to stay here for the next couple of weeks?” Professor McCurry gave Alexa a searching look. “Because you’re welcome to come back to Belize City with me if you don’t feel comfortable here without me.” “I definitely want to stay,” Alexa pleaded. The first few days at the dig had passed quickly, but uneventfully. Alexa had not seen José since the very first morning at the Gran Plaza and she desperately wanted to stay in Tikal. “Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll be fine,” she assured him. Besides, Nadine is right here and so is Doug’s father.” “Yes, and Nadine is going to watch out for you—she volunteered to be your surrogate469 parent. So I want you to promise me that you will abide by her guidelines, OK? She’s the boss when I’m not here. If you have any problems, I want you to go to her. Also, everyone here is expecting you to work hard and be conscientious and I don’t want you to let them down.”
469

Surrogate: one who takes the place of another; a substitute

101

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The Mayan Mission “OK, Dad,” Alexa said, bidding her father goodbye with a heartfelt

hug. “And don’t forget to take lots of pictures so I can enjoy your adventure vicariously470 when I come back,” he said, looking at her proudly. “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown up.” “Don’t get all misty-eyed, Dad,” she said cheerfully. “I’ll be fine.” Alexa waved goodbye, watching her father walk away. She was so excited to be genuinely on her own for the first time in her life. But as soon as he was out of sight, she was surprised to feel her eyes fill with tears. All of a sudden, she felt a little homesick. She looked up at the tall trees above and felt a pang of loneliness. Instinctively, she scurried471 back to the camp, seeking the company of other people. After a delicious lunch of pasta with tomato sauce cooked in a big cauldron over an open fire, most of the crew took refuge from the torrid472 midday sun under a shady tree or back in their tents for an afternoon nap. “It’s siesta time,” Nadine had explained when they had first arrived. “Everyone takes the early afternoon off. It’s the hottest part of the day.” But Alexa never felt like taking a siesta. She simply wasn’t drowsy in the afternoon like the others at the camp. Besides, she felt so lonely and she desperately wanted to find José. She was used to being in constant contact with her friends and she found the lack of e-mail at the camp to be frustrating. The communication problems were confounded473 by the fact that their cell phones didn’t work, either. They were simply too far away from civilization. But she couldn’t stop thinking about José. She was prepossessed474 with memories of the times they had spent together. She couldn’t help
470

Vicarious: feeling the experience of someone else as if it were you: the mother felt her daughter’s pain vicariously 471 Scurry: to go with light running steps; scamper 472 Torrid: scorching hot, burning 473 Confound: to make something bad even worse 474 Prepossess: to preoccupy the mind to the exclusion of other thoughts

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but wonder what he was doing right now. He was only a couple hundred yards away, somewhere in this jungle. On the spur of the moment, Alexa made a rash475 decision. She decided to set off into the jungle and look for José’s camp by herself. Even under the protective canopy of the jungle, the heat of the midday sun made her weary with exhaustion as she trudged476 through the rainforest on a path that was overgrown with vines and branches. The palpable477 humidity made it feel like a steam bath. Alexa stopped to catch her breath. As soon as she stood still, she could hear the sound of her own heavy breathing. But she could also hear something else. A menacing noise from up ahead. It sounded like a large animal. A jaguar? Alexa could feel her heart pounding with fear as a rush of adrenaline coursed478 through her veins. Spotting a low branch on a tree, Alexa pulled herself up. Fueled by fear, she quickly ascended to a higher perch. Can jaguars climb trees? Alexa wondered as she watched and listened. She couldn’t hear any distinct animal noises like grunts or growls. In fact, the noise didn’t really sound like footsteps of an animal at all. It was a hacking noise, as if someone was chopping away at the bushes and vines that precluded479 access to the path. Alexa leaned forward and looked curiously. It was José! Alexa breathed a sigh of relief that it was not a dangerous animal. Then she watched her friend curiously. José was brandishing480 a machete, a long, sword-like knife, which he used aggressively, as if each branch before him was the dreaded enemy. With each deft481 maneuver of his knife, he made more progress, skillfully cleaving482 a path through the dense growth.
475 476

Rash: characterized by reckless haste Trudge: to walk in a laborious, heavy-footed way; plod 477 Palpable: capable of being touched or felt; tangible 478 Coursing: to move swiftly through or over; traverse 479 Preclude: to prevent or make impossible by an action taken in advance 480 Brandish: to wave or flourish (typically a weapon) menacingly 481 Deft: quick and skillful; adroit 482 Cleave: to split or cut

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High above him, Alexa looked down from her aerial483 perch and suppressed a snicker. He didn’t know that she was watching. She leaned forward and pushed the branches aside to get a better view. He never once looked up. He appeared to be completely oblivious484 to her presence. She smiled widely as she thought about the best way to surprise him. Before she had a chance to think of something clever, Alexa suddenly realized that she had leaned too far forward from her precarious perch. Trying to find her balance, her arms flailed desperately in an attempt to stop her fall. But much to her dismay, she couldn’t regain her equilibrium485. She started falling, tumbling through the thin, pliable486 branches that bent like rubber as she fell through them. Halfway down, Alexa managed to grasp a thick vine, which she immediately clung to like a lifeline. Gripping the gnarled brown vine with all of her might, she felt a sudden sense of dread. Although the vine had slowed her fall, it was not strong enough to hold her weight. The vine was attached to a slim branch above it, which bowed portentously487 under the strain of her weight. Alexa looked up at the branch, desperately hoping that it wouldn’t give out. But the sickening sound of cracking wood presaged488 disaster. Still clinging to the vine as she dropped down to the ground, all Alexa could think about was how silly she looked. Why couldn’t the vine work the way it did in the movies? When Tarzan grabbed a vine, it held strong and he swung through the jungle with ease and grace, like a lithe489 trapeze artist. But when Alexa grabbed the vine, she dropped like a rock and landed with a plop, right in front of José.

483

Aerial: high in the air; lofty Oblivious: lacking conscious awareness; unmindful 485 Equilibrium: state of balance 486 Pliable: easily bent 487 Portentous: foreboding; foreshadowing something bad 488 Presage: to warn of or indicate in advance; portend 489 Lithe: characterized by effortless grace: a lithe gymnast
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José dropped his machete and rushed to her side. “Alexa!” he exclaimed, his voice fraught with concern. “Are you all right?” “I’m fine...just a few bruises, I think. I’ll probably be black and blue tomorrow,” she lamented as she gingerly touched the contusion490 on her hip. “But mostly I’m just embarrassed.” “Look,” he said softly, “your arm is all scraped up.” José sat down on the ground beside her and carefully brushed the dirt off of her arm, where a long scratch had blood coagulating491 on the surface. “We need to clean this up. Let’s go back to my camp. I’ve already cut a path.” José gave her a big smile. “I was making a nice path for us so that we could go back and forth between our camps.” “Good idea,” she replied, mesmerized by his big brown eyes gazing into hers. “So what the heck were you doing up there?” he asked curiously. “Well, at first, I was just trying to come find you. But then when I heard a noise up ahead, I got scared and I climbed up that tree. Then, when I saw that it was you, I thought I might try to surprise you somehow,” Alexa admitted sheepishly. “You mean scare me, not surprise me, don’t you?” he chuckled. “That wasn’t nice.” Alexa shrugged. She could tell by his smile that he was just trying to tease her with a bit of good-natured criticism. “But your little ruse492 didn’t work,” he teased. “Oh yes it did!” Alexa laughed. “You should have seen the look of surprise on your face when I came swinging down off that tree.”

490 491

Contusion: an injury that does not break the skin; a bruise Coagulate: to change from a liquid state into a solid or gel; clot 492 Ruse: a deceptive maneuver designed to deceive or surprise an enemy

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“OK, then, I retract493 my words,” he said. “I stand corrected. Your little ruse did work, because you definitely managed to catch me off guard. That’s some way of saying hello.” Alexa giggled, and then all of a sudden she felt shy. It was actually the first time they’d been alone together since they arrived at Tikal, and José was still carefully brushing the dirt off of her scraped arm. Alexa looked into his limpid494 brown eyes and felt her heart beat a little faster. It felt very intimate to be alone with him in the middle of the jungle like this, as if they were in their own little world, surrounded by the lush green leaves of the verdant495 rainforest. “I brought you something,” José said shyly, reaching deep into the pocket of his jeans. “Really?” Alexa asked. “Here,” he said, opening his hand to reveal a delicate bracelet made of small white seashells that had a pearly iridescence496. “I found the seashells myself. I thought they were really unusual. Do you like it?” he asked shyly. “I love it,” Alexa assured him genuinely. Curiously, she studied the unusual seashells. In her mind, this bracelet that she held in the palm of her hand was the perfect gift that somehow encapsulated497 José’s personality. He was unpretentious498 and genuine, just like the seashells. But at the same time, the unusual luster of the shells reminded her of the fact that he was never dull. Whenever she was around him, it seemed that everyday events were never vapid499 or prosaic500. Everything seemed exciting and alive. “I have something else for you, too,” he said. “You do?” Alexa asked. “What is it?”
493

Retract: to take back Limpid: transparent clearness: a limpid pool 495 Verdant: green with vegetation 496 Iridescent: producing a display of lustrous, rainbow-like colors 497 Encapsulate: to express in a brief summary; epitomize 498 Unpretentious: lacking pretension or ostentatious affectation; modest 499 Vapid: lacking liveliness, animation, or interest 500 Prosaic: lacking in imagination and spirit; dull
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“Just a little confection501,” he replied, handing her a gold-wrapped candy. “Something sweet for you. It’s a special imported chocolate truffle. I had one yesterday and it was simply amazing—a sensual502 delight! Go ahead, try it,” he urged. After fastening the new bracelet around her wrist, Alexa carefully opened the gold wrapper. Inside the chocolate was partially melted and was sticking to the wrapper. She took a bite of the gooey chocolate. “Mmm,” she hummed. The taste was sublime503. “That’s incredible. I’ve never tasted anything so heavenly before. Where did you get that?” she asked, licking the last traces of chocolate off of the wrapper. “Rothschild has a whole case of them! He’s got tons of goodies stashed away. There’s a plenitude504 of sweets at our camp, that’s for sure. Enough even for a couple of gluttons505 like Grady and Rothschild...and they eat a lot of sweets!” he laughed. “Rothschild leads a prodigal506 life, filled with extravagances.” José’s tone of voice grew serious and his expression clouded with disdain as he talked about Rothschild’s profligate507 habits and lack of temperance508. “He simply doesn’t have a clue what it’s like to be poor,” José said in a disparaging509 tone of voice. Having grown up in an impoverished area, he was well aware of what it was like to be bereft510 of the basic necessities of life. That experience made him detest pointless waste and extravagance. “But the fact that they’re always overindulging...that’s really not the problem...” he said, his voice trailing off. “What are you talking about? What is going on?” Alexa asked. “I heard Grady say something suspicious.” “What did he say?”
501

Confection: a sweet preparation, such as candy Sensual: relating to gratification of the physical and especially the sexual appetites 503 Sublime: inspiring awe; impressive, supreme 504 Plenitude: an abundance 505 Glutton: one who is prone to overindulgence or greediness in food or drink 506 Prodigal: marked by wasteful extravagance 507 Profligate: recklessly wasteful; wildly extravagant 508 Temperance: moderation and restraint in behavior 509 Disparage: to express a negative opinion of 510 Bereft: deprived of something
502

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“It was the other night, when we were staying at the hotel. I heard Grady talking to Miguel, one of the workers at the dig, outside of my door. They must have thought that I was asleep or that I couldn’t hear them. But I did,” he said soberly. “What could they say that was that bad? Was it something pro511 fane —something really vulgar that you don’t want to repeat?” she asked. “No, no, no...it was nothing like that. It was a very polite and proper conversation, but the implications make my stomach turn.” “What was it?” “Grady said to Miguel, ‘Pack this mask up with the utmost care. It’s going to our most valued client.’” José scowled with disapproval, as he was forced to think about something utterly reprehensible512. “What was he talking about?” Alexa asked. “I’m not one hundred percent certain,” José began slowly, a pained look on his face, “but I think they were talking about a jade mask—an artifact—a real artifact from the Mayan temple that they’re excavating. An hour earlier, Rothschild had shown me this incredible mask made out of jade and he told me it was a priceless artifact that they had just found.” “Maybe Grady wanted to send it somewhere for safekeeping and that’s why he wanted Miguel to pack it up,” Alexa said. “Then why would he say that it was being sent to a ‘valued client’ as if it were being sold? These artifacts are not commodities513—they are not supposed to be bought and sold like modern art. That is deplorable514! That mask does not belong on the fireplace mantle of some rich person’s mansion. The artifacts that are found here are part of the Mayan culture and they should be in a museum—a museum here where
511

Profane: coarse or vulgar; characterized by profanity or cursing Reprehensible: deserving of blame, censure, or rebuke; blameworthy 513 Commodity: an article of commerce or trade, especially goods that can be processed and resold 514 Deplorable: worthy of severe condemnation: a deplorable act of aggression
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the descendants of the Maya can see these things that their own ancestors used, things that are part of their own heritage.” “But do you really know that he’s selling the mask? He just used the word ‘client.’ Maybe the ‘client’ is a museum,” Alexa said with a nonchalant shrug of her shoulders. In her mind, Grady’s statement was equivocal515 and its interpretation was uncertain. José shrugged. “I’m not a native speaker of English, but I am very familiar with the colloquial516 usage of the word ‘client.’ I’m pretty certain it usually refers to a customer...someone who is paying for goods or services.” Alexa nodded. “Yes, I’d agree with that. I can see why you might sur517 mise that something sinister is going on. But it’s still just conjecture518. You don’t know for sure if that mask was sold to some rich client. You don’t have any real, conclusive evidence to implicate519 Grady and Rothschild in some sort of smuggling scheme, do you?” José met her questioning gaze squarely, his eyes sparkling with intensity. “Not yet.” Alexa felt a sinking sensation in her stomach. “Uh oh,” she groaned. “José, this could be dangerous. If these people really are criminals...” Alexa took a deep breath and tried to regain her composure. “Do you want me to help you?” she asked. “Well, I didn’t want to be presumptuous520 and assume that you would help me, but of course I was hoping.” “I’ll help you, you know I will,” Alexa assured him. “But what do we do if we find out your suspicions are correct? What if they are selling priceless artifacts and pocketing the cash?” “Then we expose their odious521 operation for what it really is...a crime.”
515 516

Equivocal: open to two or more interpretations; ambiguous Colloquial: characteristic of informal spoken language or conversation 517 Surmise: to infer something without sufficiently conclusive evidence 518 Conjecture: a conclusion based on incomplete evidence or guesswork 519 Implicate: to involve, connect intimately, or incriminate 520 Presumptuous: excessively forward; going beyond what is proper 521 Odious: arousing strong dislike, aversion, or intense displeasure

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“But José,” Alexa began, her voice wavering with emotion, “these are the very people who have awarded you a scholarship! What if they rescind522 it? That scholarship is your one chance...your golden opportunity to go to college and escape...” Alexa stopped in mid-sentence. She didn’t want to insult José by saying that he was poor. “Poverty,” he said, finishing her sentence. “Abject523 poverty,” he repeated, emphasizing his point. “I know. Believe me, I know. If they find out that we’ve tried to undermine524 their operation in any way, they will likely revoke525 my scholarship. But what can I do? If they are selling artifacts to the highest bidder and I don’t report it, it would be like I approve of this type of thing. And I don’t. I condemn526 it! There’s no way I could keep quiet and be complacent527 when they are committing an egregious528 crime right in front of us.” “Well, let’s just slow down for a minute before we jump to conclusions,” Alexa said, her voice shaking. The thought of José jeopardizing his scholarship really unnerved her. But at the same time, the pathos529 evoked by his passionate speech made her want to help him. “This is your future we’re talking about. I think we should defer530 judgment until we really know what’s going on.” Alexa’s voice gained confidence as she continued. “We have to figure out how we are going to get to the bottom of this. Then we’ll decide what to do.” José flashed a triumphant smile. “I’m so happy that you’re going to help me.” Alexa felt her heart surge with warmth at the sight of his captivating smile. “Was there ever any doubt in your mind?” she chuckled. “Of course I’ll help you.”
522 523

Rescind: to take back; cancel Abject: of the most miserable type, wretched 524 Undermine: to weaken at the foundation; to impair or hinder 525 Revoke: to void or annul by recalling, withdrawing, or reversing; rescind 526 Condemn: to express strong disapproval of 527 Complacent: contented to a fault; satisfied and unconcerned 528 Egregious: conspicuously bad or offensive 529 Pathos: a quality that arouses emotions, especially pity or sorrow 530 Defer: to put off; postpone

9
An Audacious Plan

“N

ow all we have to do is to figure out how to get the evidence. But that’s what you’re good at,” José said admiringly. “You’re

so smart.” Alexa could feel her face grow hot as she blushed. She wasn’t used to such praise, especially from a boy she liked so much. “Uh oh,” Alexa groaned, “now the pressure is on!” José laughed at her humorous remark, but then his tone grew serious. “We need to figure out where this stuff is going,” he said soberly. His face brightened as he got an idea. “Miguel is always going back and forth from the dig to the town to get supplies. Maybe we could follow him and figure out if he’s carrying artifacts. We could see where he’s taking them.” “I don’t know...” Alexa hesitated, “I don’t know if that would work so well. It might be hard to follow him without being noticed. I have a different idea. I think we need to get a hold of their notebook, the place

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where they record all of the artifacts they’ve found. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about doing archeology, it’s that you have to keep a really good written record of everything that you find. Nadine has told me so many times that the fidelity531 of the record keeping is of paramount532 importance.” “But how is that going to tell us if something illicit533 is going on?” José asked. “The book would just be a list of artifacts. I highly doubt they would keep a record of an illegal sale—that would just be incriminating evidence. I don’t think they would be naive enough to leave such a trail.” “Exactly!” Alexa exclaimed. “I’d bet that they wouldn’t want any record of it at all. I think if they found an artifact that they wanted to sell, they probably wouldn’t even write it in the book in the first place. Don’t you see? That way, no one would ever know it was missing, because the fact that it was found was never written down.” “I bet you’re right,” José agreed. “Your theory makes so much sense. If it’s true, what we need to do is to get a hold of the book and see if there’s a discrepancy534 between what was found at the dig and what was written down. If this is a legitimate535 operation, there should be no differences between the two—no discrepancies at all.” “Right,” Alexa agreed. “But if there is some type of larceny536 going on here, there will probably be some glaring omissions in the bookkeeping.” “We could use your camera to document the evidence, right?” he suggested, eyeing the digital camera strapped to her belt. “Uh, yeah, I guess so,” Alexa said, suddenly getting the sensation that she may have gotten herself too deep in a sticky, uncertain situation. “C’mon,” he said jumping to his feet. “Let’s go.” José extended his hand out to help pull Alexa up to her feet. “Let’s go get the notebook.”
531

Fidelity: exact correspondence with fact; accuracy Paramount: of highest importance or chief concern 533 Illicit: contrary to accepted morality, law, or convention; unlawful 534 Discrepancy: a divergence, variance, or disagreement between things; difference 535 Legitimate: lawful; in accordance with the law or accepted standards 536 Larceny: theft
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“José, wait,” Alexa pleaded. “Promise me that you’ll take this one step at a time. We need to be careful. We can’t just go grab the notebook in broad daylight. They’ll know something is going on. We need to have a stealthy537 plan to get our hands on that notebook without being noticed.” “Don’t worry,” he said with a wry smile, “I can act surreptitiously538 when I need to. Remember how we snuck into Puerto Marino in the middle of the night and freed the baby dolphin?” Alexa burst out laughing. “How could I ever forget that!” she exclaimed. “But I’d hardly call that surreptitious. It may have started out as a clandestine539 operation, but it ended up on international television.” José shrugged and held his hands up in the air, as if to say, “I couldn’t help it.” Then he burst out laughing along with her. Alexa felt a warm glow inside. It was so much fun to reminisce about the adventures they had shared together. But at the same time, she felt nervous about the new adventure that they were about to embark on now. Somehow it seemed so much more serious than anything they had ever done in the past. Alexa couldn’t help but wish that the morass540 of problems and suspicions would just go away and that José could accept the scholarship. Ever since she had met José and come to know him as the smart, sensitive person he was, she had dreamed a big dream for him. She wanted him to be able to go to college and to realize his potential. And secretly, she harbored another dream...that they could go to the same college—together. As they started walking through the jungle back to José’s camp, Alexa had a sinking feeling that they were about to jeopardize all of these hopes and aspirations. Deep down, she didn’t want to know the answer to the questions they were seeking.
537

Stealthy: acting with quiet, caution, and secrecy intended to avoid notice Surreptitious: marked by stealth; secret, clandestine 539 Clandestine: conducted in secrecy 540 Morass: something that traps, confuses, or impedes
538

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But she knew her friend José very well, despite the fact that they had met just earlier that summer. If something morally questionable was going on, José was not the type of person to be apathetic541 and sit on the sidelines doing nothing. He was a young man of integrity542. He possessed a strong moral compass and the certitude543 to follow his convictions544. José’s rectitude545 was his defining trait—he always wanted to do the right thing. Alexa loved this about him. Even though his righteousness546 had gotten them into trouble in the past, she loved the fact that he had a strong moral character and that he was willing to go to extreme lengths to do what he felt was right. “Our camp is right up here,” José said pointing ahead in the distance. “It’s siesta time, so everyone is resting.” “Our camp also has a siesta time, but I don’t want to take a nap in the middle of the day,” Alexa admitted. “Good,” he said, turning to flash her a big smile. “Me neither. It’s the perfect time for us to meet. I just need to finish hacking a trail between our camps.” “I can’t believe how much you’ve done already,” Alexa said admiringly as she noted all of the truncated547 branches and vines along the path. This was a lot of work.” “Well, I couldn’t let a few twigs and branches deter548 me from seeing you,” he said, smiling flirtatiously. Alexa smiled back at him, but then she looked down at the ground, demurely549 avoiding his gaze. She felt shy all over again.

541

Apathetic: having a lack of interest or concern; indifferent Integrity: steadfast adherence to a moral or ethical code; moral soundness 543 Certitude: the state of being certain; confidence 544 Conviction: a strong belief or position 545 Rectitude: moral uprightness 546 Righteousness: adhering to moral principles 547 Truncate: terminating abruptly, as if cut off 548 Deter: to prevent or discourage from acting, as by means of fear or doubt; dissuade, inhibit 549 Demure: modest and reserved in behavior; shy
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“Well, well, well, what have we here?” Rothschild asked when he saw Alexa and José approaching. “Alexa, we are delighted you’ve come to visit our humble home away from home. How are you doing, my dear?” “I’m fine—well, except for this scrape on my arm,” she admitted. “Oh, my gosh,” he exclaimed, “did you have a run-in with a wild animal in the jungle? A feral550 beast with sharp claws, perhaps?” “No, no, it was nothing like that,” Alexa chuckled. “It’s just a scrape from a branch.” “But nevertheless, you should take care to clean the wound carefully,” Rothschild cautioned. “Even a relatively benign551 scrape can become infected here in the tropics, so I always advocate552 the use of an antibacterial cream. José can show you where we keep our first-aid kit. Once you’ve dressed your wound, perhaps you would enjoy a tour of our site here?” “Oh yes, that sounds great,” Alexa said brightening up. “It looks incredible,” she commented, pointing to the pyramid-shaped temple that dominated the small clearing in the jungle. Although the temple was much smaller than the huge pyramids in the Gran Plaza, to Alexa, it looked more intriguing. The temple itself was covered with grass, moss, and leafy plants that had only been partially cleared. It had a mysterious quality about it, as if it had just been unearthed. “C’mon,” José gently coaxed, “let’s clean your wound.” He took her hand and led her to a big yellow tent in the center of the clearing. “Ouch!” Alexa exclaimed as José dabbed her wound with a wet cloth. “Be careful,” she warned.

550 551

Feral: wild, savage, untamed Benign: of a mild type that does not threaten health or life 552 Advocate: to plead, argue, or speak in favor of

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“I’m sorry! I would never do anything to hurt you,” he said compassionately553. He leaned over her chair and kissed her forehead. “I just need to make sure it’s really clean. I’m almost done.” Alexa felt like she was floating in the air, she was so elated. José busily dabbed antibacterial ointment on her scratch, but she didn’t feel a thing. The kiss that he’d bestowed554 on her forehead counteracted555 the pain. It was the best form of analgesic556 that she could imagine. She didn’t even feel the stinging sensation of the ointment on her wound—all she could think about was that he had just kissed her. “I’m almost done,” he said, getting out a gauze bandage and some white first-aid tape. “I can’t wait to take a tour of this site. That was so nice of Mr. Rothschild to offer to show me around,” Alexa commented. José frowned at the mention of Rothschild’s name. “José,” she whispered, “he doesn’t seem like a callous557 criminal. Mr. Rothschild is so benevolent558 and kind. Maybe he’s not the criminal you suspect he is. Maybe he’s not colluding559 with Grady.” José snorted in response. “I think you’re beguiled560 by his charm. Don’t fall for that! I’ll bet he’s in cahoots561 with Grady. But I still need the evidence to corroborate562 my suspicions. So don’t forget...we need to keep our eye on the ball. We have to figure out where that notebook is kept and find a way to snap some pictures of it.” “When you’re working at the site here, don’t you use a notebook yourself to write down your finds? Over at my excavation site, we’re

553

Compassionate: having a sympathetic concern for others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it Bestow: to present as a gift 555 Counteract: oppose and lessen the effects of by contrary actions 556 Analgesic: a medicine that reduces or eliminates pain 557 Callous: emotionally hardened; unfeeling, insensitive 558 Benevolent: characterized by doing good or showing kindness 559 Collude: to act together secretly for illegal or deceitful purposes; conspire; plot 560 Beguile: to deceive by guile (treacherous cunning and skillful deceit) 561 Cahoots: a secret partnership or questionable collaboration 562 Corroborate: to support with evidence; to make more certain
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always writing stuff down in notebooks. We have a comprehensive563 list of everything that’s been found at the site. Don’t you have that here?” José shook his head, looking uncharacteristically sad. “No, if there is such a list here, I’m not privy564 to it. We’re going to have to figure out where it is and how to get a hold of it.” “But where are you writing down your notes about the things you find?” “I’m not...I mean I’m not finding anything. I’m not doing any real archeology. They have me clearing the brush. That’s why I’m pretty good with the machete, because that’s all I’m doing here,” José admitted. “Grady and Rothschild are the only archeologists at the excavation site who are actually looking for the artifacts. They’ve hired a bunch of local workers to help them with the manual labor—the digging and hauling and clearing the brush. I’m basically one of the worker bees, assigned to the plebeian565 tasks.” José’s expression fell as he described his ignoble566 job. “Oh,” Alexa said, feeling a stab of sympathy for him. José was the smartest boy she had ever met and she wished that he could have a job that was commensurate567 with his considerable intellect. But instead, he was relegated to a servile568 job. It was all so reminiscent of the first time they had met, when José was working in the kitchen of the marine biology station where Alexa was doing an internship in a DNA lab. Ever since that fateful day almost two months ago, Alexa had sensed a spark of intelligence in him that intrigued her. But beyond that, there was something else she couldn’t quite put her finger on. It had something to do with the way that he made every moment of every day exciting and filled

563

Comprehensive: covering completely or broadly; large in scope Privy: informed about something not generally known 565 Plebeian: characteristic of commoners 566 Ignoble: not of the nobility; common 567 Commensurate: corresponding in size or degree; proportionate 568 Servile: relating to or suitable for a slave or servant
564

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with purpose and importance. It was intoxicating just to be around him and his indomitable569 spirit. But it always seemed that there was some external force that was pulling them apart. They came from such different backgrounds. He was from an isolated island off the coast of Nicaragua and she was from Ithaca, New York, where her father was a highly respected professor of molecular biology. They lived in very different worlds. It seemed like there was an enormous chasm570 between them. Alexa wondered how that chasm could ever be bridged if he didn’t find a way to escape the isolated, insular571 fishing village where he grew up. Alexa knew there was no way she could possibly go live on that tiny island in the Caribbean Sea, as beautiful as it was. Going to college was simply expected in her family—it was an inescapable part of her destiny. And she wanted to go. It’s just that she wanted José to go, too. She didn’t want him to throw away this golden opportunity to go to college in the United States. She wanted him to seize this chance to join her in her world where he could have a bright future and they could be together. “José, maybe you could come work at our excavation,” she said, hoping that he would completely forget his agenda. “I could talk to Nadine and see if you could help us with some real archeology.” Alexa brightened up at the prospect of helping her friend. “I’m just sifting through dirt, but even that is better than chopping down branches.” “No, I can’t do that,” José said. “Not until I figure out what is going on here. C’mon, let’s go.” Alexa nodded and followed him back outside. Deep down, she’d known that he wouldn’t accept her offer. If she knew anything about José,
569 570

Indomitable: incapable of being overcome or subdued Chasm: a marked division, separation, or difference 571 Insular: characteristic of an isolated life, especially a narrow or provincial outlook

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it was that he was a young man of great probity572 who always tried to do the right thing, irrespective of the consequences. She just wished that the consequences didn’t involve jeopardizing his future. “Are you all patched up?” Rothschild asked, looking at Alexa’s bandaged arm. “Yes, I’m fine,” she replied. “I’m so eager to see what you’ve found here. Is that a temple that you’re excavating?” “Yes,” he replied, “although we don’t yet know much about it and how it fits into the historical framework that we know about Tikal. First we need to analyze all of the artifacts we’ve found, but that will take years. It will take a lot of hard work to delineate573 a sense of what happened right here over a thousand years ago.” “Where are all of the artifacts that you’ve found?” Alexa asked. She was desperately trying to sound casual, but she felt nervous asking such a direct question. “They’re all over there in the red tent. Grady can show you. He keeps a close tab on all of the artifacts. Why don’t you go take a look? Go see what treasures the ancient Maya have bequeathed574 to us,” Rothschild suggested. “Some of them are quite stunning.” “Well, they didn’t really bequeath them to us,” José corrected him. “The artifacts are not ours to keep; it’s our privilege to study them.” “Ha, ha, ha,” Rothschild pretended to laugh, but his eyes narrowed and his voice had an acerbic575 edge. “What a fine character you are, José, calling it as you see it. You’re a straight shooter—no one is ever going to call you an unctuous576 toady577!”

572 573

Probity: complete and confirmed integrity; uprightness Delineate: to describe or outline 574 Bequeath: to leave or give personal property by will or to hand down from one generation to the next 575 Acerbic: sharp or biting, as in character or expression 576 Unctuous: characterized by affected, exaggerated, or insincere earnestness (can also mean oily or slippery) 577 Toady: a person who flatters or defers to others for self-serving reasons; a sycophant

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“What’s an unctuous toady?” Alexa asked. “It sounds like some sort of reptile.” Rothschild let out a loud guffaw. “No, my dear, an unctuous toady is not a horned toad,” he laughed. “It’s someone who acts in an obsequious578 manner, flattering people, showering them with adulation579 or acting insincerely earnest in order to get what they want. I think we can safely say that José is not a toady, nor is he unctuous!” Alexa joined in the laughter. Rothschild’s characterization of José was startlingly accurate. He would never behave like a sycophant580, flattering his boss for self-serving reasons. “Now José, listen up, young man. I didn’t mean to imply that the artifacts are ours to keep,” Rothschild replied defensively, “because of course, they are not. That would be unethical581. The artifacts from this excavation are all going to be studied at a university here in Guatemala. The aggregate582 wisdom of many scholars is needed to fully analyze the artifacts that we’ve unearthed here. But if you’re curious, why don’t you go take a quick look at some of the artifacts before we have to get back to work, right, José? Siesta time is almost over.” Rothschild beckoned Grady, “Why don’t you show these young folks the cache583? I think they would enjoy seeing some of these artifacts.” Without uttering a word, Grady led them to the red tent and pulled out a key to unlock the padlock securing the zipper. “Wow, that’s a lot of security for way out here in the middle of the jungle,” Alexa commented. “We don’t have any locks on anything back at our camp.”

578

Obsequious: exhibiting fawning attentiveness or servile compliance Adulation: excessive flattery or praise 580 Sycophant: a servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people 581 Unethical: not conforming to approved standards of social or professional behavior; dishonorable 582 Aggregate: a collection of things constituting or amounting to a whole; total, collective 583 Cache: a secure place of storage
579

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“It pays to be vigilant584. You never know if thieves are lurking amongst you,” Grady replied. “We have a lot of workers on this dig and they all appear to be trustworthy...but who knows? That just may be a pretense585 of virtue, rather than the real thing. Sometimes criminals hide behind a mask of piety586, so in my book, you always have to be careful.” Alexa and José exchanged wide-eyed looks while Grady busied himself unlocking the padlock. Was Grady referring to himself ? Grady held open the flap of the tent and Alexa and José stepped over the threshold. The sunshine streaming through the bright red nylon tent cast an otherworldly, rose-colored glow on the objects inside. The entire floor was covered with a mesmerizing array of amulets, pendants, sculptures, pottery jars, and vases. The eerie image of a man’s face carved on a stone mask stared at her from across the room. “Wow!” Alexa exclaimed. “This is unbelievable.” Alexa bent down to get a better look at the details of a painting on a small terra cotta vessel. In rich, earthy shades of burnt orange, sienna, and brown, a picture of an ancient Mayan man wearing an ornate587 feathered headdress was depicted kneeling, as if in prayer. “That was a very special cup,” Grady said. “It was used for drinking the sacred, ceremonial drink of the ancient Maya—chocolate.” “They liked chocolate drinks too?” Alexa asked, amused at this commonality. She looked over at José, trying to catch his eye, but he was staring at the array of artifacts very intensely, as if he was making a mental list of everything in the tent. “Oh yes,” Grady said. “Sometimes it’s surprising what we have in common with ancient civilizations.”
584 585

Vigilant: carefully observant and on the alert Pretense: the act of pretending; a false appearance intended to deceive 586 Piety: the state or quality of being pious (religious devotion and reverence to God) 587 Ornate: elaborately or excessively decorated

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Alexa had a sudden moment of inspiration. A picture of the collection of artifacts in this tent would be invaluable. Quickly, she grabbed the camera that was dangling from her belt loop and ripped the Velcro strap open. “No pictures!” Grady commanded. Immediately, he grabbed her arm, prohibiting her from lifting the camera up to her eyes. “Oh!” Alexa exclaimed, shocked at the forceful way in which he grabbed her arm. “I was just trying to take a picture for my scrapbook,” she said innocently. Grady looked flustered, as if he were searching the depths of his mind for a plausible excuse as to why she shouldn’t take a picture. “The flash could be damaging to the artifacts,” he finally said. “I can turn the flash off,” Alexa offered. “No pictures!” Grady repeated firmly. “Look, these artifacts are going to be professionally photographed and we don’t want a bunch of amateur-quality pictures floating around out there. Shall we go?” he asked pointedly, ushering them out without waiting for an answer. “It’s time to get back to work, don’t you agree, José?” “I’ll be right back to work, as soon as I walk Alexa back to her camp,” José replied. José and Alexa set off on the narrow path, walking single file, with José in the lead. As soon as they were in the thick of the rainforest, far away from prying eyes and ears, José turned to face her. “Now do you believe me?” he asked. “Don’t you think it was a little suspicious that Grady didn’t want you to take a picture of the artifacts? There’s something fishy going on and he’s trying to hide it.”

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“I can see why you would impute588 Grady’s suspicious behavior to a criminal cover-up—it makes sense, it really does. But we still don’t know for a fact that it’s true,” she pointed out. José nodded silently. “Weren’t those artifacts amazing? Did you see that carved jade turtle?” she asked. José turned to face her, a pained expression on his face. “Yes,” he replied soberly, “I saw everything.” He looked down at the ground, his forehead wrinkled with frustration as he kicked a fallen branch off the path. “You need to understand,” he began, his eyes blazing with intensity, “these are not just interesting trinkets! To me they are so much more...I can’t quite explain it. It’s like a link to the past, my past, that is priceless...it’s invaluable. It’s my culture, my tradition...it’s my heritage.” Alexa nodded, but she didn’t try to talk. She was so touched by the strength of his sentiment that she was on the verge of tears. “My mother is from a small village here in Guatemala, up in the highlands. I’ve actually never been there. We never really had the money to travel. So now, when I see these magnificent temples and artifacts from this incredible civilization that was the ancient Maya, I am deeply touched,” he admitted, pointing to his heart. “And I want all of the descendants of the Maya to be able to see these things and feel what I am feeling. Don’t you see?” he said, the pitch of his voice rising higher and his eyes filling with tears. “If these artifacts are sequestered589 away in some rich person’s private collection, than no one will be able to see them.

588 589

Impute: to relate to a particular source; attribute the fault or responsibility to Sequester: to remove or set apart; segregate, isolate

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When they take these artifacts from us, it’s like the rich people are taking away the heart of our culture!” “I know,” Alexa said, swiping a tear off her cheek with the back of her hand. She felt like she could really understood the sentiment José was trying to communicate. When Mayan artifacts were sold and shipped off to far-off destinations, he felt like his culture was being eviscerated590. She couldn’t help but sympathize with him. “I agree. If Grady and Rothschild are embezzling591 from the foundation, then it’s utterly despicable and it has to stop.” “It’s so ironic that their foundation claims to be preserving Mayan heritage when they’re actually doing the opposite. They’re actively destroying our heritage by dispersing592 artifacts to private collections all over the world, rather than keeping them in a museum here so that the Mayan people can see them. It’s pure hypocrisy593. They profess594 to be doing one thing when in fact, they’re doing something else.” “If your suspicions are right, then I agree. These men are really duplic595 itous . But we still don’t know what’s going on,” she reminded him. José’s stormy expression dissipated596 as he broke into a mischievous smile. “I think I have a plan,” he said, his eyes sparkling with excitement. “Are you ready to help me?” “That depends on what the plan is,” Alexa laughed nervously. “We don’t even know where Grady’s notebook is. I didn’t even see him with one.” “It has to be in his tent, don’t you think?” he asked. “Uh...probably. I would guess so. But we can’t just walk into his tent! There are always people watching.” “Not always,” José countered. “Every night Grady and Rothschild and some of the workers convene597 around the campfire. Rothschild
590 591

Eviscerate: to take away a vital or essential part of, disembowel Embezzle: to take property or money (entrusted to one’s care) fraudulently for one’s own use 592 Disperse: to scatter in different directions 593 Hypocrisy: professing beliefs or virtues that one does not hold; falseness 594 Profess: to affirm openly; declare or claim 595 Duplicitous: hiding one’s true intentions with deliberately deceptive speech or behavior 596 Dissipate: to attenuate to or almost to the point of vanishing: the crowd dissipated after the music ended 597 Convene: to come together, usually for an official purpose; assemble formally

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opens the brandy and starts telling stories. And then, after the libations598 have been consumed, the chocolate comes out. Finally, after he’s satisfied his sweet tooth, he launches into song, singing these mournful old Scottish dirges599. It’s sad, sad music he sings, but somehow he seems to enjoy all of that emoting600. I happen to think that it’s pretty painful to listen to,” José laughed. “Especially when he tries to crescendo601 up to the high note that’s a little too high for him.” Alexa laughed as her mind conjured up this amusing image. “Do you join him?” “No way!” he quickly exclaimed. “But Grady sometimes chimes in, or at least he tries to. The result is pure dissonance602 and it’s not pleasant for the ears.” “At least all of that howling keeps the wild animals away.” “Actually, no! After a while, the howler monkeys start howling along with them, joining in for the encore603. It turns into a raucous604 racket of wails and howls.” Alexa laughed uproariously. “That sounds so funny! I’d like to see that. Actually, I think I’d like to see it, but I’m not sure I want to hear it. All of that discordant605 howling sounds like it would be painful to listen to.” “That’s putting it mildly,” José laughed. “But I’m glad you said you want to see this campfire scene, because I think it would be the perfect time to try to get a hold of Grady’s notebook. While they’re carousing606 by the campfire, we can be finding the proof we need.” “Do you mean that we should just brazenly607 walk into Grady’s tent and hope he doesn’t notice?” Alexa asked skeptically. “That plan doesn’t strike me as clever—it’s more aptly described as pure
598 599

Libation: a beverage, especially a drink containing alcohol Dirge: a slow, solemn, and mournful piece of music 600 Emote: to express emotion, especially in an excessive or theatrical manner 601 Crescendo: a steady increase in volume or intensity 602 Dissonance: a harsh disagreeable combination of sounds; lack of harmony or agreement 603 Encore: an additional performance at the end of a concert in response to audience demand 604 Raucous: disagreeably harsh, loud, or rough sounding: a raucous party 605 Discordant: disagreeable in sound; harsh or dissonant 606 Carouse: to engage in boisterous, drunken merrymaking or excessive drinking 607 Brazen: marked by flagrant boldness

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effrontery608. Do you really just want to boldly walk into his tent and search for clues?” “Don’t worry, my plan is more cunning609 than that,” he assured her. “If you’re there to help me, you could stay by the campfire with Grady and Rothschild while I sneak into Grady’s tent. If Grady or Rothschild gets up, you can send me a covert610 signal, like a whistle or something like that. Only you and I will know what the whistle means.” “I understand the plan, but I’m not sure if I have the guile611 to pull it off,” Alexa admitted. “I’m not very good at deceiving people. My mom says that I’m a terrible liar.” Alexa felt a queasy sensation in her stomach. She was grasping at straws, trying to figure out a way to get José to drop this audacious612 plan. She didn’t want to be choreographing613 a dangerous heist with José, she wanted to be talking about their future. “I actually think this will be easier than it sounds,” José replied confidently. Grady and Rothschild will be busy indulging their hedonistic614 cravings—the chocolate, the brandy. They probably won’t even notice what’s going on.” “But the tent has a lock on the door. It’s virtually impregnable615. How can you possibly get inside?” Alexa asked skeptically. “Grady’s tent doesn’t have a lock, only the red tent has a lock. Everything should be fine—if you’re there to help me, that is.” José’s wide brown eyes looked into hers. “Will you help me?” “I will,” she promised, even though her stomach churned nervously at the thought of it. Alexa returned to work, sifting through endless piles of dirt, but her mind was preoccupied. She desperately wanted to talk to someone about
608 609

Effrontery: shameless and brazen boldness Cunning: skillfully deceptive 610 Covert: not openly carried out; secret: covert military operations 611 Guile: treacherous cunning, skillful deceit 612 Audacious: fearlessly daring, recklessly bold 613 Choreograph: to arrange or direct the movement, development, or details of; orchestrate 614 Hedonistic: pursuit of or devotion to pleasure 615 Impregnable: impossible to enter by force or capture: an impregnable military base

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José’s suspicions. Even though she had been eager to be independent, she found herself wishing that her father hadn’t left. She missed his keen interest in anything that she had to say, but even more importantly, she missed his sagacity616. He always had the wisdom to handle difficult situations. Alexa wondered if she should talk to Nadine. After debating it in her mind and vacillating617 between one course of action and another, she finally decided that she wouldn’t. But when Nadine came over to ask her how she was doing, Alexa found herself confiding the problems that vexed618 her. “Um, I’m kind of worried,” she admitted to Nadine. “About what?” she asked. “Uh, you know my friend José, right? Well, he’s got some suspicions about the people he’s working with. He thinks that they may be smuggling artifacts out of the country illegally and selling them for profit. He thinks they are criminals.” Nadine gasped. “That’s absurd!” she exclaimed. “I know Mr. Rothschild and his group and I can say for certain that they are people of integrity. So just drop it.” Nadine’s eyes flashed angrily. “Really, I mean...you can’t just go around saying things of that nature. You can’t just blurt out spurious619 accusations that can harm someone else’s reputation. Alexa, you need to think twice before you say something defamatory620 about someone else. Especially when your allegations are patently621 false. Calumny622 is a very serious thing,” she warned. “I’m sure that it’s just a misconception623 on José’s part.” Alexa looked down at the ground, embarrassed at being on the receiving end of such a lecture. She simply hadn’t anticipated that her
616 617

Sagacity: having good judgment; wisdom Vacillate: to swing indecisively from one opinion to another 618 Vex: to bring distress to; plague, afflict, or annoy 619 Spurious: lacking authenticity or validity; false 620 Defamatory: harmful and often untrue; tending to discredit or harm another person’s reputation 621 Patently: in a unmistakable manner; openly, plainly, or clearly 622 Calumny: the utterance of maliciously false statements that harm another person’s reputation 623 Misconception: a mistaken thought or idea; a misunderstanding

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simple confession would release such a tirade from Nadine. She wanted to explain to Nadine about the comment that José overheard and the tent full of artifacts that were not supposed to be photographed. It was suspicious. But she didn’t want to give Nadine an excuse to pontificate624 some more about the evils of slander. Alexa had had enough of that discourse625. So she decided she would keep quiet and handle the situation on her own.

624 625

Pontificate: to talk or express opinions in a dogmatic or pompous manner Discourse: a formal, lengthy discussion of a subject

10
Effulgent Nuggets of Gold
9, J 23-4,” Doug called out as he unceremoniously dumped the contents of his wheelbarrow into Alexa’s sieve. Alexa scrambled to write down the coordinates in her notebook before sifting through the dirt that Doug had ferried over to her workstation. So far, the only things they had found were some desiccated626 seeds from fruit that had been eaten one thousand years ago. Initially, Alexa just thought that this was just a mildly curious find. But Nadine was thrilled. “This provides yet another piece of tangible evidence to buttress627 my theory about the varied diet of the ancient Maya,” she told Alexa and Doug, after extolling628 their keen observation skills. “This is exactly the type of thing we’re looking for.” Despite her mixed feelings about Nadine, Alexa was buoyed by her praise. Every time Doug brought a new load of dirt, she felt a tingle of

“Q

626 627

Desiccated: thoroughly dried out Buttress: something that serves to support or reinforce 628 Extol: to praise highly

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anticipation and she delved into her sifting with renewed avidity629. It was tantalizing to think that the next handful of dirt might contain something exciting...something that would give them a new insight on how the ancient Maya had lived. “Let me help you with that,” Doug offered as he watched Alexa struggle to lift the heavily laden sieve. “It will be easier if we both take a side.” “Thanks,” she said gratefully. “I was looking for you after lunch,” Doug said as they lifted the sieve together. “I went on a walk in the rainforest trying to see some exotic species of birds. I’m dying to see the resplendent quetzal. I wanted to see if you wanted to join me, but I couldn’t find you.” “Oh, I went over to José’s camp during the siesta time,” Alexa said without looking up. Her eyes were trained on the sieve as she broke apart clumps of dirt with her free hand. “Is he your boyfriend?” Doug asked, an uncharacteristic note of vulnerability in his voice. Alexa just shrugged. She wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question. “Is he the reason why you never showed up at the Big Squeeze for another shot of wheatgrass juice with me?” Alexa shifted uncomfortably. His candor630 caught her off guard. “Uh, no, I just forgot,” she stammered. She could feel her face growing hotter as she hedged631 the truth. While it was true that she had forgotten their date, she didn’t want to admit openly to him that it was because she had been busy at the computer, madly exchanging e-mails with José. “I’m going to get the next load,” Doug said in a low voice. Avoiding her sympathetic gaze, he picked up the handles of the wheelbarrow and took off.
629

Avidity: keen interest or enthusiasm Candor: honest, straightforward, and frank in expression 631 Hedge: to avoid making a clear, direct statement; intentionally ambiguous
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Alexa took a deep breath. It seemed so unbelievable at first, but now she knew in her heart that it was undeniably true. Doug liked her. She had certainly noticed the hints that he had been dropping, but somehow the fact of it was still surprising. In the short span of two weeks, the tables had turned. He was the popular star of the lacrosse team, and had been voted “nicest smile” and junior prom king by their classmates. She was the girl who nobody seemed to notice at school. She was the girl in his carpool with whom he had never bothered to have a conversation. But now, in this remote place so far from home, it seemed that none of the old rules applied. Doug liked her, but she already had a boyfriend. Or did she? Alexa pondered her anticlimactic632 reunion with José. She had expected that they would fall into each other’s arms and plan their future together. But none of that was happening. He was so concerned with what he thought was a Mayan artifact scandal that they hadn’t even talked about anything else. He hadn’t even kissed her—just that little kiss on the forehead, but that didn’t count. That didn’t concretize633 their relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend like a real kiss would. Alexa raked her fingers through the dirt, absentmindedly working the moist soil through the sieve. Her mind was wrapped up in a jumble of thoughts and emotions when her finger touched something hard and sharp. Suddenly, she snapped out of her reverie634 and looked at the dirtencrusted object in her hand. Her hands trembling with excitement, she carefully brushed the soil off of its curved surface. Alexa immediately recognized the object as a shard of pottery, only two inches in diameter. But what made her heart flutter was the image of a man’s face painted on the surface in earthy tones of burnt orange, copper, brown, and black. The
632 633

Anticlimactic: an event that is strikingly less important than what has preceded or led up to it Concretize: to make something concrete, definite, or specific 634 Reverie: lost in thought; daydreaming

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bottom half of the image was missing, but the haunting eyes of this ancient Mayan figure gazed out at her with an intensity that thrilled her. Alexa held the fragment up to the light and studied it. Despite the fact that this artifact had been buried under the earth for over a thousand years, the painting itself looked sharp and clear. The passage of time hadn’t effaced635 the powerful image. Carefully, Alexa set the pottery fragment on the table. Then she began frenetically636 sifting through the rest of the dirt, looking for more fragments. In mere minutes, she had all of the dirt through the sieve and five more shards of pottery on the table. Each piece of pottery had painting on it and she worked feverishly637 to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Her curiosity was fired up. Every time she adjusted the orientation of the fragments, a different nuance of the image became discernable. Even though half of the pot was still missing, the broken bits, assembled on the surface of the table like a mosaic638, allowed her to get a glimpse of something really special. It was like a window into the past. Staring intently at the picture, all she could think about was that no one had seen this image for one thousand years. A talented artisan639 from the distant past had poured his soul into this work of art that had not been seen by human eyes for over a millennium. After literally unearthing this treasure from the ground, she felt so privileged to be the one to first lay eyes on it. It was utterly thrilling. Alexa was so preoccupied with her exciting discovery that she didn’t even notice Doug had just arrived with a new load of dirt. “Q 9, J 23-5,” Doug said mechanically as he dumped a load of mud into Alexa’s sieve.
635

Efface: to rub out or erase Frenetic: wildly active or excited; frantic 637 Feverish: marked by intense activity or agitation 638 Mosaic: a picture made up of small colored pieces (typically stone or tile) set into a surface 639 Artisan: a skilled manual worker who practices a trade or handicraft; a craftsman
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Alexa couldn’t believe her eyes. Mud? What sort of puerile640 prank was he trying to play? How could she possibly sift through mud? The amorphous641 mound of wet black mud would not pass easily through the small pores of the screen. It was going to be a sticky mess. Doug turned and started walking away, avoiding her eyes. Even though his demeanor was stolid642, Alexa could easily see through that façade. His feelings were hurt and now he was acting vindictively643. He wanted to give her a messy problem to deal with, so he dumped mud into her sieve. But Alexa was too excited about her new discovery to play such petty, sophomoric644 games. “Doug!” she called out. “Come check this out!” she beckoned. “What’s going on?” he asked cautiously, still acting aloof. Slowly, he started walking toward her. “Come see this. There were fragments of this really cool pot in the last load. Check it out!” His curiosity piqued, he hurried over to the table. For a moment, he was speechless with wonder. “Totally awesome,” he uttered quietly. “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Look at this,” he said, pointing to a small fragment, “doesn’t that look like the paw of a jaguar? See, over here on this other fragment is the hind leg.” Huddling over the fragments next to him, Alexa studied the tantalizing hints. “I see it!” Alexa agreed triumphantly. “It does look like a jaguar...but it’s missing its head.” Doug turned to her, his eyes blazing with intensity, “We have to find it!”

640 641

Puerile: childish, juvenile, silly Amorphous: lacking definite form; shapeless 642 Stolid: revealing little emotion or sensibility; impassive 643 Vindictive: involving revenge; spiteful 644 Sophomoric: exhibiting great immaturity and lack of judgment

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“I know,” she agreed enthusiastically. “We need to sift through the soil from the quadrant that was right next to the last load—the one that contained these fragments. That’s where we’re most likely to find the rest of the pot.” “That’s what I brought you,” he said sheepishly, pointing to the mound of mud in the sieve. “That’s from the quadrant that’s adjacent to the last one. It’s Q 9, J 23-5.” “Oh...” Alexa groaned. “How are we going to search through that? That heavy mud won’t pass through the sieve.” “We’ll figure something out,” he said confidently. “It’s not an intractable645 problem.” “I guess we could try to squeeze it through the sieve...kind of push it through with our hands.” Alexa shuddered at the thought of it. “What a mess!” “I have an idea.” Doug looked at Alexa, his eyes sparkling with excitement. “What is it?” “Well, it’s probably an unorthodox646 solution to this problem, but I think it will work. It just might be our only viable647 option.” “You don’t want to ask Nadine, do you?” Alexa asked. As much as she wanted to share her discovery with the world, she desperately wanted to have a chance to find the missing pieces herself. She wanted to put the entire thing together without Nadine hovering over her, instructing her every move in that didactic648 tone of voice. “No, no,” he assured her. “Let’s handle this on our own. Once we’ve taken a stab at it, then we’ll show them what we’ve found.”
645

Intractable: not easily relieved or cured Unorthodox: not adhering to what is commonly accepted or traditional; independent in behavior 647 Viable: capable of being done; practicable: a viable plan 648 Didactic: intended to teach or instruct
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Alexa broke into a huge smile. How did he know that was exactly what she wanted to do? Somehow, he seemed to read her mind. “What’s your idea?” “Well, when I was on a walk through the jungle looking for the quetzal, I came across a stream that empties into a pool. You have to see it to believe it. It’s only a couple hundred yards from here. It’s kind of hard to walk through all of the plants and stuff. There’s not a good path. But I was thinking that if we could carry the sieve there, we could set it in the water just part way—we wouldn’t want to sink it, but if we could just let the mud dissolve into the water, all of the artifacts should be left in the sieve.” “Hmm...kind of like panning for gold.” “Yes, but instead of gold, we’ll have artifacts in our sieve,” he concluded. “Let’s try it!” Alexa exclaimed. “I can carry one side of the sieve.” “I’ll carry it,” Doug said firmly. “Just follow me.” Without straining even slightly, Doug swiftly hoisted the mud-laden sieve up to his shoulder and steadied it with one arm. Alexa looked at him in amazement. “Wow, you must be really strong—that sieve is heavy!” “It is heavy,” he admitted. “But don’t worry, I can handle it. I’ve been lifting weights at the gym all summer long. I don’t let my muscles become weak and flaccid649 just because my coach is taking the summer off. Some of the guys on the team pass the whole summer by in indolent650 idleness, but I’ve been working out every day back home.” Doug turned to look her in the eye. “And I’m drinking wheatgrass juice.” He flashed her a flirtatious smile before starting off into the rainforest. “C’mon,” he urged, “follow me.”
649 650

Flaccid: lacking muscle tone or firmness Indolent: lazy, inactive; lethargic

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Alexa laughed. She was relieved that he was making fun of the situation, rather than making it more awkward by acting miffed. “Are you going to keep carping651 about the wheatgrass thing? I promise I’ll try it again with you when we get back, even if it smells noxious652 and tastes even worse.” “Good,” he said. “I won’t forget you said that.” Alexa could feel herself sweating profusely in the humid heat of the jungle. It was arduous653 and time consuming to make their way through the dense growth. “Hey, I thought you said it was only a couple hundred yards?” she called out to Doug in front of her. “It is, if you walk in a straight line. But this route has fewer branches and trees in the way, so I think it’s easier, albeit654 longer. It’s a circuitous655 route, but it will get us there faster. We’re almost there. See that clearing up ahead?” “No, I can’t see anything. But I can hear the gurgling noise of water running. That sounds auspicious656.” “It’s right here,” he declared, setting the heavy sieve down on the ground with a plop. “Man, that was heavy,” he said, rubbing his sore shoulder. “Wait until you see this,” he said, watching her intently. “I think you’re going to be impressed.” Doug held aside the flexible trunk of a slim tree so that Alexa could peer through the branches. Alexa slipped between the trees and stood next to Doug, gasping at the amazing sight before her. A pellucid657 stream trickled over a narrow waterfall, emptying into a small reservoir658. The pool was placid659, its calm waters reflecting the green foliage that surrounded it. The edges of the pool were replete660 with colorful, delicate wildflowers that daintily
651

Carp: to find fault in a disagreeable way; complain fretfully Noxious: harmful or injurious to health: noxious pollution 653 Arduous: strenuous; demanding great effort 654 Albeit: even though, although, notwithstanding 655 Circuitous: a roundabout or indirect lengthy course: they took a circuitous route to avoid the roadblock 656 Auspicious: favorable, indicative of good things 657 Pellucid: clear, allowing light to pass; transparent or translucent 658 Reservoir: a natural or artificial pond or lake used for the storage of water 659 Placid: calm or quiet; undisturbed 660 Replete: abundantly supplied or filled
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decorated the perimeter. “This is breathtakingly beautiful,” Alexa said, “it was worth the long walk. It’s like a perfect place—a utopia661 that you imagine in your mind but that you never actually see or experience.” “That’s exactly what I thought when I saw it. That’s why I wanted you to come here with me,” he added softly. Alexa heard the note of vulnerability in his voice and it tugged at her heart. Knowing Doug as well as she did, she knew he wasn’t one for mawkish662 sentimentality. He would never spout the cloyingly663 sappy lines of a Valentine’s Day card. Admitting that he wanted to come to this beautiful place with her was about as demonstrative664 as he was likely to get. “Almost makes you want to go for a swim, doesn’t it?” he said. “I’ve never seen a more beautiful place to go swimming,” she agreed. “Perfect, except for the gators.” “Gators?” she repeated. “Yes, alligators...I saw one in the water earlier,” he admitted. “So maybe a swim would not be a good idea.” Alexa couldn’t decide if he was kidding or not, but she decided that she was not going to take any chances. “I think that’s right,” she nodded, agreeing with his judicious665 advice. “Let’s stay out of the water.” “Shall we see what’s in that mud?” he asked. “Let’s do it!” she replied eagerly. Alexa picked up one side of the heavily laden sieve while Doug lifted the other side. “Do you think we can do this without getting into the water?” “I think so,” he answered. “Right down here,” he pointed. “We’ll just stand on the bank and lower the sieve into the water.”

661

Utopia: an imaginary and ideally perfect place Mawkish: excessively sentimental 663 Cloying: sickeningly sweet; excessively sweet or sentimental 664 Demonstrative: characterized by open expression of emotion 665 Judicious: having good judgment and common sense
662

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But as soon as they reached the edge of the water, it became obvious that this plan wouldn’t work. Unless one of them got into the water, they wouldn’t have enough leverage to accomplish the task. “I’ll get in,” Doug offered, pulling off his heavy hiking boots and socks. “You can stay on the bank.” “I’ll watch out for gators and warn you if one’s about to take a nibble,” Alexa offered. “Thanks a lot!” he retorted sarcastically, making a dour face. “Just so you know...alligators are not solely aquatic666 animals, they’re terrestrial667 as well. So just because you’re standing on land doesn’t mean you’re safe. But don’t worry, I’ll warn you if one is about to take a nibble.” “OK,” Alexa laughed. Doug waded into the shallow water up to his knees while keeping a firm grip on the heavy sieve. As soon as they lowered the sieve into the water, the mud began to dissolve, slowly diffusing668 into the water. The lucid669 water of the pristine pool became sullied670 with swirls of brown sediment. Doug held his end of the sieve with one hand while he used his free hand to stir up the mud, working it through the small pores of the screen. “I think it’s working,” Alexa said. The mud is dissolving—the water is acting as a solvent671. This was a great idea. You deserve kudos672 for being so clever.” Doug shrugged modestly. “Back when I was three years old, making mud pies in the puddles after it rained, I figured out that mud is soluble673 in water. So it’s not like I invented the wheel here.” Alexa laughed. It was funny to think of Doug, the quintessential674 macho athlete, making mud pies as a toddler.
666 667

Aquatic: living in water; relating to water Terrestrial: living on land; not aquatic 668 Diffuse: to become widely dispersed or scattered; spread out 669 Lucid: transparent or translucent; clear 670 Sully: to mar the cleanliness of; taint, stain, or soil 671 Solvent: a liquid, in which a substance can be dissolved, forming a solution 672 Kudos: praise 673 Soluble: something that can be dissolved to form a solution 674 Quintessential: a perfect or most typical example

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“OK...lift!” he commanded. In perfect harmony, they each lifted their side of the wooden frame, forcing all of the muddy water to run through the sieve. In an instant, they were able to see what they salvaged675 from the mud. Sitting on top of the screen were six fragments of pottery, glistening in the sunshine like effulgent676 nuggets of gold. Gingerly, they set the sieve down on the muddy bank and stared at the artifacts, too stunned to talk. “It worked!” Alexa finally yelled out, holding her hand up in the air to give Doug a high five. “Yahoo!” he whooped, slapping her hand triumphantly with his muddy hand. Droplets of mud went flying in all directions. “Hey! You just spattered mud all over me,” she complained, swiping the mud from her forehead. “That’s OK, it’ll wash off,” he said, playfully splashing her. “Watch it,” she warned, splashing him back. Alexa cringed when she saw the water hit his face. He had just splashed her a little, but she had really doused him good. Instinctively, she knew that this was going to catalyze677 an all-out water fight. She could tell just by the look in his eye that he was going to avenge678 her misdeed679 with a deluge of water. “You’re in for it now!” he warned, splashing her over and over again, assailing680 her with water. “So are you!” Alexa said, splashing him back just as hard. Within seconds, they were both soaked, but the water fight continued unabated681. Water was flying everywhere and Alexa couldn’t stop laughing. She had been so hot and sticky after the strenuous682 hike through the jungle that this impromptu683 shower felt great.
675

Salvage: to extract something as valuable from garbage or wreckage; or to save something from destruction: goods salvaged from the sinking ship 676 Effulgent: brilliantly shining 677 Catalyze: to bring about, initiate, or increase the rate of something 678 Avenge: to inflict a punishment in return for; revenge 679 Misdeed: a wrong or illegal act; wrongdoing 680 Assail: to attack violently; assault. 681 Unabated: sustaining at the original intensity or force with no decrease 682 Strenuous: requiring great exertion or effort 683 Impromptu: not planned or prepared for in advance; carried out with little or no preparation

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“Hey, that’s enough!” she finally cried, when another torrent of water hit her face. “I think you’ve punished me enough for dousing you. Show a little clemency684! I’m already soaked,” she laughed, ducking out of the way as he splashed her again. “Let’s take a look at what we’ve found.” “OK,” he laughed, slicking his wet hair back off his forehead. “I’ll let you off the hook for now, but just so you know, I don’t think you’ve fully atoned685 for your crime. She who instigates686 a water fight must pay the price. So when you least expect it...expect it!” “Expect what?” Alexa asked with a mixture of curiosity and horror. “Oh, just some mild retribution687...maybe a spider in your breakfast cereal or a snake in your sleeping bag,” he replied. “Nothing too scary, Dorothy!” “That’s not funny,” she moaned. “What if I apologize for splashing you? If I say I’m sorry, would that make a difference?” Alexa smiled sweetly in an attempt to convince him that she was indeed repentant688. He sounded like he was just teasing her in a flirtatious way, but she wanted to be absolutely certain that he was just being facetious689. The last thing she wanted was to be tormented with spiders and snakes. “Hmmm,” he said, pretending to look like he was carefully considering her apology. “Maybe I could consider showing a little forbearance690 if you come birding with me later,” he offered, looking at her with questioning eyes. “I want to try to see the quetzal and you can be my good-luck charm.” “Deal,” she said quickly, holding out a wet hand to shake. “Good!” he exclaimed triumphantly. “Now let’s see what we got out of the mud.”

684 685

Clemency: demonstrating mercy in the punishment of an offender; merciful, lenient Atone: to make amends, as for a sin or crime 686 Instigate: to stir up or provoke; incite 687 Retribution: a justly deserved penalty 688 Repentant: having remorse for misdeeds; penitent 689 Facetious: playfully joking or kidding; humorous 690 Forbearance: the act of showing patience, tolerance, or leniency when provoked

11
A Harbinger of Things to Come

M

aking her way through the thick growth of the rainforest and clutching the six fragments of pottery, Alexa felt elated. She couldn’t wait to assemble these new fragments with the pieces that they had already found. The only damper on her mood was the soggy clothes she was wearing. As refreshing as it felt to get completely doused with water at the pond, she couldn’t help but regret it as they trudged through the jungle on the way back to the camp. Her wet clothes stuck to her clammy skin and she felt anything but fresh. Even though it was hot out, the steamy humidity of the jungle prohibited the clothes from drying out thoroughly, as they would in a more arid691 climate. “Shhh!” Doug turned to face her. “I think I hear something up ahead,” he whispered. The two of them froze in their tracks, listening intently.

691

Arid: dry, lacking sufficient moisture, water, or rainfall

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Alexa felt her heart fluttering. Was it a jaguar? Quickly, she realized that it wasn’t. It was the sound of a conversation between a man and a woman. It sounded like they were discussing an artifact. Alexa tried to identify the voices without being able to see their faces. The man’s voice was unmistakable—the imperious692 tone and the pompous693 airs gave away his identity. There was only one person who spoke with such grandiloquence694. It was Rothschild. Alexa strained to hear the woman’s voice. She was saying something about the remarkable quality of the jade turtle carving. Alexa felt a stab of recognition. Nadine. Workers at their dig had uncovered a jade carving of a turtle last week. Nadine had proudly shown her this Mayan artifact when they had first arrived. But there was also a similar jade turtle in Grady’s red tent, Alexa suddenly recalled. Was it the same artifact or merely one that looked similar? Why was Nadine meeting with Rothschild in the middle of the jungle to discuss artifacts? Was this just an innocent meeting or was Nadine involved in something more sinister? Was she warning him of José’s suspicions? Alexa felt a twinge in the pit in her stomach just thinking about it. Nadine couldn’t be a criminal, could she? It didn’t make sense. She didn’t seem to care about material things or money. If she had even a trace of cupidity695 or avarice696, she hid it well. “It’s Nadine!” Doug whispered. “Don’t show her the fragments...not yet. Let’s put it together first.” Alexa nodded absently. Temporarily hiding the artifacts that they found was the least of her worries now. Was Nadine involved in some sort of a devious697 scheme to sell artifacts? It was hard not to suspect
692 693

Imperious: marked by arrogant assurance; domineering Pompous: pretentious; characterized by exaggerated, lofty dignity and excessive self esteem 694 Grandiloquence: a pompous, lofty, or bombastic style, especially in language 695 Cupidity: inordinate desire for wealth; greed 696 Avarice: excessive desire for wealth; greed 697 Devious: departing from the accepted or correct; misleading, erring

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something fishy was going on. But the thought of it made her feel sick to her stomach. Nadine was an eminent698 scholar. And she was also her father’s girlfriend. As they resumed hiking back to the camp, Alexa was mired in thought. She realized that her already mixed feelings about Nadine had now become even more complicated. She didn’t want to think of Nadine doing anything underhanded or illegal. But why had she acted so defensive about Rothschild and his reputation? Alexa started to play through several hypothetical699 scenarios in her mind. What if Nadine was innocent, but Rothschild was guilty and Nadine’s association with him tarnished her career? Would this cause her to fall into disrepute700? Alexa hoped not. But something was going to happen, and soon. José was determined to blow the lid off of what he thought was a smuggling scheme, and he was also determined to get her to help him accomplish this. What would her father think of her investigating Nadine’s actions? Alexa felt like she was being drawn into a very sticky situation. That night, over a communal701 dinner of rice and beans cooked in a big pot over the fire, Alexa and Doug showed everyone their find. The entire camp was abuzz with the new discovery. They had managed to find all of the pieces of the earthenware vessel and everyone marveled at the beauty of the painting. Nadine was the happiest of all. After everyone finished eating, she stood up in front of the group and praised Alexa and Doug for their ingenuity and persistence. She also thanked them for finding a valuable artifact that gave credence702 to her theory about the age of the site that they
698 699

Eminent: outstanding, prominent, or distinguished in character or performance Hypothetical: based on hypothesis, supposed: a hypothetical situation 700 Disrepute: damage to or loss of reputation 701 Communal: shared by the people of a community 702 Credence: acceptance as true or valid

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were excavating. “This artifact is really important—it’s yet another piece of evidence that makes my theory more tenable703,” she said. “This find will help us confirm the timeframe during which this particular dwelling was occupied. But besides its importance from an academic standpoint, I think we can all agree that it’s also quite beautiful to look at.” Everyone applauded and cheered. Alexa felt great as she basked in the warm glow of approbation704 from all of the workers at the dig. She wished she could just forget about José’s suspicions and concentrate on finding more artifacts and enjoying her time in this special place. But the problems that plagued her would not go away on their own. “Nadine, is it OK if I go over to José’s camp to visit for a little while?” Alexa asked politely. “But it’s almost dark out,” she said. “Why don’t you wait until tomorrow? I’m not sure your father would like you going out into the jungle after dark,” she said with solicitous705 concern. “Don’t worry, it’s not dark yet and José will walk me back later. We have flashlights,” Alexa pushed, sensing that Nadine might give in to her. Nadine hesitated. “Uh, well then, I guess that would be all right,” she said reluctantly. “But I want you back here by nine, OK?” “Don’t worry, I’ll be back before nine. Thanks, Nadine!” Alexa took off, setting out on the jungle trail just as the sun was setting. Her thoughts kept retuning to Nadine as she made her way through the thick rainforest. Alexa wished she could tell her father everything...José’s suspicions about Rothschild and Grady, Nadine’s meeting with Rothschild in the jungle...she wished she could just confess it all
703

Tenable: rationally defensible; capable of being defended in argument: a tenable hypothesis Approbation: an expression of warm approval; praise 705 Solicitous: anxious concern or care: a solicitous mother
704

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to him and have him help her find the best solution to the problem. She missed her dad’s keen intellect. He had such a logical way of approaching difficult circumstances. His incisive706 mind always penetrated to the essence of the problem to come up with a solution. But unfortunately, he wasn’t here right now, and even if he was, she didn’t feel right in saying anything to him about Nadine that she didn’t know to be true. She didn’t want to cast aspersions on Nadine’s integrity by alleging708 that she did something unethical without having any proof. No, Alexa concluded, that would not be right. The best thing to do was to find the answers to all of these questions and get to the bottom of it all. They needed to uncover real evidence about where these artifacts were going. Alexa hoped that the evidence they found would exculpate709 Nadine so that she would come out of this situation with her reputation unscathed710. “Alexa?” a tentative voice called out from up ahead on the trail. “José? Is that you?” she asked. “It’s me,” he said, popping into view with a big smile on his face. “I just wanted to warn you that I was coming so you didn’t try to jump down on me from a treetop.” Alexa laughed heartily. They were standing in the exact same spot where she had done just that. “Am I always going to be infamous711 for my crazy attempt to swing on a vine?” “I think so,” he laughed. “It was an inimitable712 act of daring. I’ll never forget it.” “I wouldn’t ascribe713 it to daring—it was more like an accident,” Alexa admitted sheepishly. “I was falling off that branch up there and I made an effort to ameliorate714 the situation by grabbing a vine on the way down. But it didn’t work the way it was supposed to.”
706 707

707

Incisive: clear, sharp, and penetrating; acutely observant and discriminating: incisive comments Aspersions: a disparaging, damaging, or unfavorable remark; slander 708 Allege: to assert to be true without proof 709 Exculpate: to clear of blame or guilt 710 Unscathed: not harmed, damaged, or injured 711 Infamous: having an exceedingly bad reputation; notorious 712 Inimitable: defying imitation; matchless 713 Ascribe: to attribute to a specified cause or source 714 Ameliorate: to make better; improve

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José smiled, but then his expression grew serious. “Alexa, Grady and Rothschild want to have a special ceremony for me—kind of an award ceremony where they officially present me with the scholarship. It’s going to be Friday evening in the Gran Plaza.” “Wow!” Alexa exclaimed. “That sounds spectacular—all of those magnificent temples lit by the light of the moon. I can’t wait! It sounds like it’s going to be so memorable. I can’t imagine a more spectacular place for this. Can I come, too?” she asked hopefully. She knew he would want her there, but the note of hopefulness in her voice was because she desperately wanted him to accept this scholarship. José squirmed uncomfortably. “Both Grady and Rothschild have been so nice to me lately. But I can’t help but be suspicious of their largess715. So much praise—I think they are trying to blandish716 me into silence.” “Maybe they’re just trying to be nice,” Alexa said. “I don’t think so,” he quickly countered. “They have a profitable operation going and I’m just a problem for them. So they try to distract me with flattery and most tempting of all, a grand ceremony to present me with a scholarship.” “I don’t know,” Alexa said skeptically. “Rothschild seems too nice to be an obdurate717 criminal. He kind of reminds me of the wizard in The Wizard of Oz. Remember how the wizard at first appeared to be so haughty and imperious, but later it turned out that he was just an old softie underneath? That’s kind of how I see Rothschild—underneath all of that pretense, I think that he’s a nice guy, don’t you? You can’t imagine a circumstance where he might be acting genuinely here?”
715 716

Largess: liberal or generous in bestowing gifts, especially in a condescending manner Blandish: to coax by flattery or wheedling; cajole 717 Obdurate: hardened in wrongdoing or wickedness

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“Alexa, I’m not a misanthrope718 who distrusts everyone. But I’m not naive either. I’m simply being realistic. I don’t think that Grady and Rothschild are the paragons719 of virtue they pretend to be.” “I know,” she said softly. “But I was just hoping...hoping that we could just abort720 this plan to expose their operation and just get on with our lives. Your future is important, too,” Alexa’s voice wavered with emotion. “It’s very important to me.” José wrapped his arms around her. His warm hug felt so familiar. It evoked memories of the past that they had shared together and yet at the same time, it hinted at the future to come. But it was not a panacea721 for their problems. He looked down at her upturned face and wiped a tear from her cheek. “Alexa, you have to know, there’s nothing in the world I would like more than to be able to go to college in the United States. I’ve been working toward that goal for all of my life. I’ve studied English so hard—I know English better than most Americans!” he exclaimed. José paused to catch his breath before he continued in a soft voice filled with emotion. “I want to have the best education possible, so that someday I can go back home to Nicaragua and help my compatriots722 achieve a better life for themselves. I need to help them.” Alexa nodded silently. She knew that if she tried to talk now, she would end up sobbing. She had seen the poverty that afflicted his country firsthand, just a few weeks earlier. She desperately wanted José to have the opportunity to rise above his circumstances and realize the noble goals he had set for himself.

718 719

Misanthrope: one who hates or mistrusts humankind Paragon: a model of excellence or perfection; a peerless example 720 Abort: to terminate before completion 721 Panacea: a cure-all; a remedy for everything 722 Compatriot: a person from one’s own country

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“I want to go to your country and learn...with you!” José continued. “But I can’t just roll over and acquiesce723 to their plan, as tempting as it is to just say nothing. I can’t just accept their money and forget about what’s going on here,” he said firmly. “If I accept their money without knowing the truth, it’s not a trivial little thing that I could just forget about. It’s not inconsequential724—I don’t think I could live with myself if I did that.” Alexa nodded. She could tell by the determination in his voice that he was adamant725 about finding the answers. “Besides, I don’t know if I would fit in, anyway,” he admitted quietly. “What are you talking about?” Alexa asked. “Fit in where? At college?” “Yes,” he said, looking down at the ground, his voice lacking its usual confidence. “I come from such a different place—a different background. Sometimes I wonder if I could ever really fit in the rarefied726 atmosphere of an elite American college. I’m hardly a scion727 of wealth— my family doesn’t have money.” “So what! That’s what scholarships are all about. I know you would fit in!” she quickly countered. “You’re the smartest person I know.” Alexa rested her head on José’s chest, listening to the sound of his heart beating. Somehow his confession of insecurity just made her want to help him all the more. With one ear pressed to his heart and one ear listening to the multifarious728 sounds of the jungle, she noticed that the omnipresent729 noise of the rainforest was becoming louder and louder. Night was setting

723 724

Acquiesce: to consent or agree without protest Inconsequential: lacking importance; trivial 725 Adamant: stubbornly unyielding 726 Rarefied: belonging to a small, select group 727 Scion: an heir or descendant 728 Multifarious: a great variety; diverse 729 Omnipresent: present everywhere at all times

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in and the diverse birds of the tropical jungle sang together in unrehearsed harmony. The medley730 of songs was captivating. The lilting repetitive cadence731 of a high-pitched songbird floated over the other voices, attracting attention like a diva soprano. Alexa clung to José, thinking that this moment could have been the most romantic moment of her life, if only that pesky mosquito wasn’t buzzing in her ear. She tried to swat it away, but the resilient732 insect somehow managed to escape and then return to torment her again. “It’s getting dark,” Alexa whispered. “Did you bring a flashlight?” “No,” he whispered back, kissing the top of her head. “But I know the way back to camp by heart. Will you come with me? Will you help me?” he pleaded, his voice breaking. Alexa nodded. How could she possibly say no? She felt so emotionally entwined733 with him that she felt compelled to help him. “Here,” he said, holding out his hand for her to grasp, “let’s get going. They’re probably already sitting around the campfire, imbibing734 and telling stories. Let’s go join them—it’s the perfect time for me to sneak into Grady’s tent and take some pictures of the notebook. Just remember, if someone starts getting up and coming my way, you need to try to stop him or to somehow send me a signal to warn me that he’s coming.” “What kind of signal? A whistle? I don’t think that will work very well,” she said doubtfully. “I can’t just stand up and start whistling.” “You’re probably right,” he admitted. “It’ll look too obvious if you suddenly start whistling when you’re all sitting around the campfire talking.”

730 731

Medley: a musical arrangement made from a series of songs or melodies Cadence: the beat, measure, or rhythmic flow, as in music, poetry, or dance 732 Resilient: marked by the ability to recover readily, as from misfortune or change 733 Entwined: twisted together, interlaced, or interwoven 734 Imbibe: to drink, especially alcoholic beverages

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“Well then, how will I warn you if someone’s coming?” she asked, handing him her digital camera. “Just make something up. You’ll think of something,” he said confidently. “I know you can.” Alexa felt her stomach churn nervously. She wasn’t so sure of her ability to just fabricate735 something clever at the last minute. She felt completely out of her milieu736. She knew herself well enough to realize that deception and cunning were not her strong points. But she couldn’t back out now. She only hoped that her ingenuous737 nature didn’t trip them up. As they approached the camp, they heard the sound of laughter. A booming, ostentatious738 voice presided over the laughter with an impeccable739 British accent. Rothschild was holding court around the campfire, just as José had predicted. The glowing embers of the fire cast an orange hue on the people gathered round, who seemed so entranced740 by Rothschild’s story that they didn’t even notice José and Alexa taking a seat in the campfire circle. “There are many unanswered mysteries of the ancient Maya that we have yet to decipher,” Rothschild boomed to his rapt audience. “Chief amongst them is what caused the downfall of their civilization. What caused these great cities, these architectural wonders, to be abandoned? There’s no evidence of a great calamity741—a flood or a famine or a scourge742 of deadly disease. And yet theses cities were abandoned. The political hegemony743 wielded by Tikal came to an end. The written language of the ancient Maya became defunct744 as the population spread

735

Fabricate: to make or create, often with the intent to deceive: a fabricated excuse Milieu: an environment or setting 737 Ingenuous: straightforward, lacking in cunning or guile 738 Ostentatious: characterized by pretentious display that is meant to impress others; showy 739 Impeccable: without fault, flaw, or error; perfect 740 Entrance: to fill with delight, wonder, or enchantment 741 Calamity: an event resulting in terrible loss and misfortune; catastrophe 742 Scourge: a source of widespread suffering and devastation; ravage 743 Hegemony: the domination of one state or group over others 744 Defunct: having ceased to exist or be in use
736

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out into the countryside. Then, their spoken language evolved into a great variety of regional dialects745.” The group around the campfire was quiet as they pondered Rothschild’s lecture. Grady broke the silence with his hearty laughter. “Rothschild, I think you miss the lecture podium when you’re out here in the wilderness. You have an inveterate746 habit of stealing the limelight. And it looks like you’ve found an attentive audience for your dynamic747 speaking skills right here around the campfire. I’m going to delegate748 the task of entertaining the troops to you while I go do some paperwork in my tent.” “But I was just about to break out the Belgian chocolate truffles,” Rothschild countered. “Do you really have the willpower to abstain749 from indulging in these divine delicacies? There’s no need to practice selfabnegation750 out here in the jungle. You’ve been working hard and you deserve a little treat now and then.” Grady chuckled. “You know willpower is not my forte. It would take Herculean effort to curb my inimical751 eating habits. But don’t worry, you won’t miss me. If I’m not here, you’ll have center stage and I won’t be here to call your bluff when you start telling mendacious752 tales. When you tell a story that aggrandizes753 your role in some feat of derring-do, I won’t be here to say that it didn’t quite happen like that.” “Mendacious tales? Self-aggrandizement?” Rothschild repeated in mock horror. “How dare you cast doubt on the veracity754 of my stories! Every word that I say is the truth.”

745

Dialect: a regional variety of a language distinguished by features of pronunciation and grammar Inveterate: firmly established; ingrained, deep-rooted 747 Dynamic: marked by intensity and vigor; forceful 748 Delegate: to entrust to another 749 Abstain: to deliberately refrain from something 750 Abnegation: self-denial 751 Inimical: injurious or harmful in effect; adverse 752 Mendacious: lying; untruthful, or deceptive 753 Aggrandize: to make appear greater; exaggerate 754 Veracity: adherence or devotion to the truth; truthfulness
746

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Everyone at the campfire burst out laughing, because they could tell by Rothschild’s tone of voice that perhaps he wasn’t being entirely truthful. Like an old-fashioned storyteller, Rothschild was a man who liked to spin yarns and tell tall tales that enthralled his audience, even if they hedged the truth just a bit. “Well, I highly recommend you return promptly if you would like to partake755 of these fine chocolates,” Rothschild warned him. “I believe that the box we are about to open is the penultimate756 box in our stash— there’s only one left after this, so hurry back. Supplies are limited.” “Well, then, you had better save me at least one,” Grady said. “And I don’t want to miss any juicy or funny stories, either. When I come back, you can fill me in with an abridged757 version of the story that garners the most laughter.” Alexa leaned over to José to whisper in his ear. “This isn’t going to work. You can’t barge into his tent if he’s already in there. Let’s just skip it!” “No—he’s coming right back. Let’s just wait until he comes back,” José whispered firmly. “OK,” she whispered reluctantly. “José and Alexa,” Rothschild boomed, “did I neglect to tell you the most important rule of the camp? No secrets at the campfire! It’s most impertinent758 of you to flout759 the rules like that.” Rothschild evinced760 his disdain by scowling and clucking his tongue three times. “I must insist that you two reveal what you were whispering,” he said with an amused twinkle in his eye. “We all want to hear the juicy secrets.” Alexa felt her face turn red. What could she possibly say? She wished she could come up with a clever witticism761 that would make people laugh.
755

Partake: to take or be given a part of; to participate or share Penultimate: next to last 757 Abridge: to shorten in size, scope, or extent 758 Impertinent: exceeding the limits of propriety or good manners 759 Flout: to show contempt or disregard for; scorn: flout a law 760 Evince: to show or demonstrate clearly 761 Witticism: a witty remark; often clever, ironic, or funny
756

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José didn’t hesitate. Without missing a beat, he launched into a hilarious imitation of Rothschild. “We were merely commenting on the paucity762 of chocolate truffles,” José said with an affected British accent. “And Alexa came up with a rather brilliant strategy to allocate763 the remaining chocolates in a fair and equitable fashion.” Everyone burst out laughing. José’s imitation of Rothschild’s bombastic764 style of speaking was spot on. Alexa laughed too, feeling relieved that José had managed to divert attention away from their real secret. “Ha, ha, a very clever parody765, José,” Rothschild laughed along with the group. “Miss Alexa, since you have appointed yourself as the arbiter766 of justice here, why don’t you go ahead and distribute the chocolates,” he said, handing Alexa the box. “And don’t try to perform any feats of legerdemain767—we’re all watching you carefully to make sure the goods don’t mysteriously disappear,” he warned playfully. “OK,” she agreed, opening the top of the box. The alluring768 aroma of chocolate wafted up toward her nose. Alexa lifted the white paper and looked at the shiny brown candies underneath. They looked absolutely irresistible. “I think the best solution is the simple one. We each take one and pass it on,” she declared, taking a chocolate and popping it into her mouth. The taste was heavenly. It was a delicious amalgamation769 of dark chocolate, cream, and cherries. The tartness of the cherry complemented770 the sweetness of the chocolate. “Mmm, cherry,” Alexa said dreamily, passing the box on to José. “You made an excellent choice,” Rothschild complimented her. José looked at the fragrant contents of the box and then quickly passed it on without taking one.
762 763

Paucity: smallness of number; an insufficiency or dearth Allocate: to set apart for a special purpose or distribute according to plan: a portion of the school budget was allocated for music 764 Bombastic: pompous or ostentatiously lofty in speech or writing; grandiloquent 765 Parody: an imitation done for comedy or ridicule 766 Arbiter: a person who has the power to decide or judge at will 767 Legerdemain: sleight of hand; an illusionary or magic trick 768 Alluring: to attract or entice with something desirable 769 Amalgamation: an entity resulting from the combining or uniting of elements into a unified whole 770 Complement: something that completes the whole or brings to perfection

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“It’s just chocolate,” she whispered to him. José shook his head. As tempting as the chocolates were, he looked at the box as if it were tainted771 with poison. He didn’t want to take anything from Rothschild. Not even a single chocolate. Alexa studied the look of determination on José’s face and had a sinking feeling that his seemingly simple act of declining a chocolate was merely a harbinger772 of things to come.

771 772

Taint: to affect with a tinge of something reprehensible, such as a disease or decay; contaminate Harbinger: an indication or foreshadowing of something to come

12
Incontrovertible Proof ust as José had predicted, after the chocolates, out came the brandy. Soon after, Rothschild’s decorous773 behavior and polite manners started to deteriorate. He began singing loudly and urging everyone to join him. The propriety774 that he upheld in a state of sobriety775 completely evaporated after several rounds of drink. The haughty776 superiority that normally colored Rothschild’s language was replaced by a ribald777 sense of humor that kept the group laughing hysterically. But Alexa was uncomfortable with the bawdy778, off-color jokes and the scurrilous779 language. She really wanted to leave. Discreetly, she glanced at her watch, squinting in the darkness. 9:15 P.M. Nadine had imposed a curfew of 9:00. Alexa squirmed uncomfortably. She was already late and Grady had still not returned to the campfire. “José,” she whispered tersely, “I have to get back.”

J

773 774

Decorous: proper; characterized by decorum (appropriate behavior) Propriety: the quality of being correct, appropriate, or proper 775 Sobriety: the state of being sober, refraining from alcohol and drugs 776 Haughty: arrogant superiority, scornfully proud 777 Ribald: vulgar, lewd humor 778 Bawdy: humorously coarse, vulgar, or lewd 779 Scurrilous: vulgar or coarse language

155

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“Just a few more minutes,” he pleaded. “Grady’s coming back any minute now.” Alexa nodded reluctantly. She didn’t want to recant780 her commitment to help him. Her allegiance781 was still firm. But she desperately wanted to go back to her own camp now. She knew that if she didn’t make it back on time Nadine would be sure to tell her father, and Alexa didn’t relish the thought of his disapproval. Alexa thought back to the last time she had missed her curfew several months ago. Her dad didn’t ground her or take away her allowance or other privileges—he wasn’t much for punitive782 measures such as those. Instead he gave her a long and stern lecture about how he was concerned for her safety. Alexa desperately wanted to avoid having Nadine censure783 her like that, especially at the camp. There was no privacy there, and everyone would hear Nadine berating784 her. The thought of it was mortifying. “José, I really have to go,” Alexa whispered again. Before José even had a chance to respond, Grady walked up to the campfire circle and took his seat, with his back toward the cluster of tents. José shot her a wide-eyed look. Alexa looked at his big, dark eyes that reflected the burning embers of the fire and she knew exactly what he was thinking. Now’s the time, his expression communicated with the utmost urgency. Looking into those eyes, Alexa didn’t have the heart to say no. She gave him the tiniest nod of her head, an almost imperceptible785 signal of affirmation786. José had no trouble deciphering her subtle signal. He gave her a quick smile and quietly slipped away. Alexa felt a stab of fear watching
780 781

Recant: to formally retract or renounce a or previously held belief or statement Allegiance: loyalty 782 Punitive: inflicting or involving punishment: punitive damages 783 Censure: a strong expression of disapproval 784 Berate: to scold vehemently and at length; rebuke 785 Imperceptible: difficult or impossible to perceive (to become aware of via the senses) 786 Affirmation: the act of supporting, confirming, or upholding the validity of

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him disappear into the darkness. Now there was no turning back—she was inextricably787 involved in this scheme. José was depending on her and she didn’t want to let him down. Alexa shifted uneasily. Behind Grady, she could see his turquoisecolored tent light up from within. A flashlight beam flitted about on the nylon surface, darting from one wall to the other. Alexa chided788 herself for not thinking this plan through more carefully. How could they have overlooked the fact that the tent was going to light up like a firefly when José turned on his flashlight? He was in there, and his transgression789 was in plain view to anyone who happened to look in that direction. Just like the bright lights of a railroad semaphore790, José’s flashlight sent an unmistakable signal. He had crossed the line. “Grady, how nice of you to join us,” Rothschild said, holding up the bottle of brandy. “Although some might call this warm golden liquid an indulgence, and others would consider it an elixir791, I think that it is simply sublime—perhaps you might be persuaded to partake?” Alexa had to snicker at Rothschild’s circumlocutions792. His verbose793 speech was filled with an excess of words, most of which were extraneous794. She only hoped his offer of brandy would distract Grady long enough for José to finish his business unnoticed. “Actually, I think I hear the call of nature,” Grady said, grabbing his flashlight and standing up. “Go ahead and pour me a drink. I’ll be right back.” Alexa felt her heart leap with fear. The second Grady turned around, he would see that someone was in his tent. There was no time to stop and think. It was an exigent795 situation and Alexa knew she had to act immediately. She regretted that she and José hadn’t thought of a good
787

Inextricable: so entangled that it is impossible to escape Chide: to reprimand mildly so as to correct or improve 789 Transgression: the act of overstepping a boundary or violating a law 790 Semaphore: a device used for visual signaling with lights, flags, or mechanically moving arms, such as is used on the railroad 791 Elixir: a medicine believed to have the power to cure all ills 792 Circumlocution: the use of unnecessarily wordy, roundabout, and indirect language 793 Verbose: using an excessive number of words; wordy 794 Extraneous: inessential or unrelated to the topic; not a vital element; irrelevant 795 Exigent: requiring immediate aid, action, or remedy; urgent
788

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signal in advance. They hadn’t thoroughly planned for all of the contingencies796, and now she was stuck trying to improvise something. Leaping to her feet, Alexa shrieked, “Wait!” Everyone immediately reacted to her piercing voice. Heads snapped around and all eyes were upon her. Alexa felt her heart pounding. She had no idea what to say. She felt like each second was an eternity. She knew that she needed to say something now. “Uh...I have to go to the bathroom! I hear nature calling too...can I go first?” she asked sheepishly. The group around the campfire immediately broke out in a fit of raucous laughter. “There’s no need to take turns,” Rothschild chortled. “It’s a big, big jungle out there and there’s plenty of room for everyone to take care of business.” More peals of laughter erupted from the group. Alexa felt her face turn crimson. She knew that her improvised excuse sounded fatuous797 and it made her a target for ridicule, but it was the only thing she could think of on the spur of the moment. “Uh...um, I’d feel more comfortable if we did take turns. Mr. Grady, can I borrow your flashlight? I forgot mine. I’ll be quick, I promise.” “Sure,” he chuckled. “But don’t forget your promise to make it fast.” Grady sat back down and Rothschild handed him a drink. Under the guise798 of needing a bathroom break, Alexa slipped away into the darkness with Grady’s flashlight. She desperately wanted to march right over to José and urge him to abandon the plan immediately. But she was reluctant to head off in the direction of the tents, lest the people at the campfire turn around to watch her go and then notice José’s
796 797

Contingency: an event or possibility that must be prepared for; a future emergency Fatuous: inanely foolish or silly 798 Guise: outward appearance, semblance; sometimes indicating a false appearance or pretense

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flashlight in the tent. So instead, she headed in the opposite direction, toward the trail between their two camps. Just a few feet into the forest, Alexa turned the flashlight off and took a deep breath. She wanted to cry with frustration. In the distance, she could see the turquoise tent still lit up from within. She felt like she was being confronted with an impossibly difficult predicament in which none of the options looked good. She couldn’t go warn José or else someone might see her. She couldn’t go back to the campfire, because then it would be Grady’s turn to go to the bathroom. She couldn’t stay here too long because Grady was waiting for his flashlight. To top it off, she was late for her curfew and the minutes kept ticking by. Alexa felt the tears well up in her eyes. She was worried about José, but at the same time, she was starting to feel mad at him. She felt aggrieved799 by the fact that his actions had put her in this quandary800. Alexa stared at the turquoise tent, silently willing him to get out of that tent now. She was so absorbed in thought that she didn’t hear the footsteps behind her. “Alexa?” a female voice asked. Alexa spun around, only to be accosted by the bright light of a flashlight beam right in her face. Quickly, she flicked on her own flashlight. “Nadine? Is that you?” “Yes, it is. What are you doing out here all alone? It’s nine-thirty! You were supposed to be back already,” Nadine said in an annoyed tone of voice. “I was just going to the bathroom,” she said self-consciously, realizing how silly she sounded.
799 800

Aggrieve: to distress; afflict Quandary: an unpleasant or trying situation from which extrication is difficult

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“Alexa, I didn’t think it was a good idea for you to come over here, but I allowed it because you said that you would be back by nine. I really don’t appreciate you being so irresponsible and making me come all of the way over here to get you. You need to remember that it is a privilege to be here in Tikal and to have the opportunity to work on an archeological dig. We are a team here, and we have a lot of serious and important work to do. We don’t have time to be chasing you around in the middle of the night or dealing with any such derelict801 behavior. You need to be more considerate and realize that your actions affect everyone.” “I’m sorry,” Alexa said meekly. She hoped Nadine had finished upbraiding802 her. She wasn’t sure how much more she could withstand. It had already been such a stressful evening. The last thing she needed right now was more criticism. If Nadine vituperated803 her any more, she knew she was going to burst into tears. “I’m sorry for being so hard on you,” Nadine said, quickly making a conciliatory804 gesture when she saw Alexa’s distress. “Let’s just go back. C’mon,” she beckoned, putting her arm around Alexa’s shoulders. “I can’t go back yet,” Alexa said nervously, wondering how she was going to explain this situation to Nadine. “Why not?” Nadine countered with mounting impatience. She was starting to get angry again. “Uh, well...this is Mr. Grady’s flashlight and I have to return it first,” she said. “Well, then, let’s go give it back to him right now so that we can go. It’s really getting late,” Nadine said firmly.

801

Derelict: neglectful of duties; remiss, negligent Upbraid: to scold severely or sharply; reproach 803 Vituperate: to scold or criticize harshly or with abusive language; berate 804 Conciliatory: to try to gain friendship or overcome animosity
802

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Alexa nodded, wondering what else she could possibly do at this point. If she tried to stand up to Nadine now, a big altercation805 was sure to develop. Nadine had just given her a glimpse of the irascible806 side of her nature and Alexa didn’t want to provoke her any further. It felt like the situation had slipped out of her control and in a way, it was a relief. It was a relief to just let go of the charade. As they made their way back to Rothschild’s campfire, all Alexa could do was hope José wouldn’t get caught. But the turquoise tent was still glowing brightly like a beacon. What would Grady and Rothschild do if they caught José in the act of rifling through Grady’s tent? Minimally, they would see it as a violation of trust—a perfidious807 act. But if they truly were criminals, would the consequences be considerably worse than a slap on the wrist? Alexa shuddered to think of what might happen. “Nadine!” Rothschild exclaimed when they walked up to the campfire circle. “What a pleasant surprise! Would you care to join our convivial808 gathering? How about a drink? Or perhaps you would prefer some tea? You simply must stay and have something to drink with us,” he insisted, ever the officious809 host. “No, thank you,” she replied with a staid810 expression. “I just came over to retrieve Alexa and bring her back. We really have to be going.” Nadine looked at Alexa sternly, as if to prod her to hand over the flashlight to Grady immediately. Dutifully, Alexa handed Grady his flashlight. “Alexa, you were gone so long, we thought you had gotten lost in the forest,” Rothschild teased. “I trust you found the lavatory?”

805 806

Altercation: a noisy, vehement quarrel Irascible: hot tempered; easily angered 807 Perfidious: tending to betray; treacherous 808 Convivial: merry, festive, and social: a convivial atmosphere at the birthday party 809 Officious: excessive eagerness in offering unwanted services to others 810 Staid: characterized by sedate dignity and often a prim sense of propriety

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Everyone broke out in laughter except for Nadine, who eyed the near-empty brandy bottle with disdain. “We have to go now,” Nadine said curtly. “C’mon, Alexa, it’s late.” “But Alexa, where is that young man of yours so that you can bid him a proper farewell?” Rothschild asked. Alexa felt her stomach tighten with dread. Nadine’s eyes were darting around the campsite, scanning for José. “Uh...” Alexa stammered, desperately raking her mind for an excuse. “I’m right here!” José exclaimed, bounding up to the campfire. His eyes were glistening with excitement. “I’ll walk you back,” he said, joining Alexa and Nadine. “That won’t be necessary,” Nadine said curtly, grasping Alexa’s arm firmly as she started marching toward the trail. “Then just let me say goodnight to her quickly,” he requested in a respectful tone of voice. “I know you’re anxious to get back to camp.” Nadine hesitated for a moment. “OK,” she relented, letting go of Alexa’s arm. Nadine walked a few yards away to give Alexa and José a moment of privacy. “Alexa,” he whispered intensely, “I found two notebooks and you wouldn’t believe what I figured out when I delved811 into them. There is incontrovertible812 proof that they are selling artifacts illegally. One of the notebooks was filled with all of the details about artifacts that are consigned813 for sale. All of our suspicions are validated814!” Alexa was silent. She looked behind her to make sure Nadine didn’t hear José. But she was standing at the foot of the trail, safely out of earshot, eyeing Alexa and José with a suspicious glare.
811

Delve: to make a deep and careful search for information: delved into the files Incontrovertible: impossible to deny or disprove; unquestionable 813 Consign: to deliver merchandise to a dealer for sale or to be cared for 814 Validate: to establish the soundness or validity of; confirm
812

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Alexa turned back to face José. He looked exhilarated to have found what he was looking for. But all she could feel was sadness in her heart mixed with fear for the future. She had been desperately hoping that his suspicions were unfounded815 and that they could just move on from this little episode in their lives and go to college...together. Now that dream was shattered. But equally disturbing was the fact that Nadine’s world might soon be shattered, too, if she was somehow involved with these criminals. Finally Alexa spoke. “What are you going to do now?” she whispered softly. “Alexa!” Nadine called out. “I have to go now,” Alexa whispered urgently. She could tell by Nadine’s weary tone of voice that she was at the end of her rope. “Wait a second. I saw an appointment in Grady’s date book,” José whispered. “There’s going to be a meeting tomorrow afternoon. It’s marked with a big dollar sign on his calendar—I think that this is going to be the illegal sale. Why else would there be a dollar sign after the word ‘meeting’? Let’s follow him and get some pictures. If he’s making a sale, we could get some evidence of it. If we can document this, there’s no way that anyone can deny what’s going on here.” “Alexa,” Nadine repeated, with mounting impatience. “José...I don’t know,” Alexa wailed, her eyes filling with tears. The stress of the situation was catching up with her. “It’s OK,” José whispered to Alexa, “I don’t want to coerce816 you. If you want to help me, just meet me at my camp tomorrow at siesta time. But if you don’t want to, I understand.” José looked down at the ground, his brow furrowed. “When I was in Grady’s tent, I saw the pictures that
815 816

Unfounded: not based on solid evidence or fact Coerce: to force or compel someone into doing something

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were on your camera,” he said softly. “I didn’t mean to pry, but I did see the pictures that were already on there.” Alexa looked at him questioningly. “What are you talking about?” she asked. She was utterly confused, until a memory came rushing into her mind. There was the picture that Doug had taken of the two of them on top of the temple—the picture that made it look like they were girlfriend and boyfriend. Alexa groaned out loud, wondering how such a misunderstanding could have happened again. “José, it’s not what you think it is,” Alexa said earnestly. José was silent for a moment before he spoke, as if he was carefully choosing his words. “Alexa,” he began softly, his voice gentle and sincere, “I just want you to be happy—you’re free to choose exactly what path you want to follow in life. If it doesn’t include me, I understand. We’re so different, you and I. We come from such different places and backgrounds, I can see why...” Alexa felt like her heart had just been gripped in a vise. It was impossible to talk. Silently she wondered if this was what breaking up felt like. It was utterly miserable. It seemed like everything and everyone in their lives were conspiring to keep them apart. They lived in different worlds and now, with the scholarship in jeopardy, there was little hope for a future together. Alexa felt a deep sense of sadness inside. The situation seemed so hopeless and the difficulties insurmountable. Nadine strode up to the twosome and grabbed Alexa’s arm. “We are leaving now,” she said adamantly, pulling Alexa away. “You two will have to finish this conversation some other time.”

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Alexa felt the tears spill out of her eyes. The situation seemed tragically mired in adversity and confusion. She was thankful for the darkness, so that Nadine didn’t see the stream of tears running down her cheeks as they walked back to their camp. The last thing in the world she wanted to do right now was to explain everything to Nadine. As soon as they arrived, Nadine turned to her and started to apologize. “Alexa, I’m sorry I was so hard on you back there, but you need to understand that I’m just trying to look out for your safety and well-being. And I felt so responsible, because I promised your father that I would watch out for you. I didn’t want to let you go there in the first place, and then, when you didn’t come back by nine, I was so worried. I can’t even describe to you how worried I was.” “I’m sorry I was late,” Alexa said contritely. She was surprised at how nurturing817 Nadine was acting now, given how livid818 she had been just a few minutes earlier. Alexa had never really thought of Nadine as mercurial819 before, but now she did. She had just witnessed Nadine oscillate820 between anger and kindness in quick succession. “And I’m sorry for getting so angry,” Nadine said. “I think I’m going to call it a day. Are you turning in, too?” “After I brush my teeth,” Alexa said. Nadine nodded and headed into the tent, while Alexa wandered over to the campfire. There was no way she could possibly fall asleep right now, especially in the crowded confines of the girls’ tent. She felt too emotional about what had just happened. She really missed the privacy of her bedroom back home—a reclusive821 place where she could be uninhibited822,

817

Nurturing: to help grow and develop Livid: extremely angry; furious 819 Mercurial: rapid and unpredictable mood changes; volatile 820 Oscillate: to swing back and forth or to waver, as if between two conflicting courses of action; vacillate 821 Reclusive: providing seclusion or isolation 822 Uninhibited: free, open, and unrestrained
818

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free from the prying eyes of everyone else. But right now, solitude was not an option. Someone else was spending a late night by the glowing embers of the fire. It was Doug. Alexa sat down next to him. “Someone’s in trouble, someone’s in trouble,” he chanted in a singsong voice. “Nadine threw a histrionic823 fit when you didn’t come back at nine. What happened? Why were you so late?” Alexa was quiet as she stared blankly at the glowing embers of the fire. Her eyes began filling with tears again when she recalled what just happened. She certainly didn’t feel like recapitulating824 the whole story now, especially to Doug. How could she possibly talk to him about José? But it was hard to keep it all inside, too. A tear escaped her eye and ran down her cheek. “Hey,” Doug said softly. “I’m sorry—you don’t have to talk. It’ll be OK,” he said, putting his arm around her shoulders. “Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. But that doesn’t mean you can’t catch it.” Alexa laughed at this remark, despite the fact that there were tears in her eyes. It just struck her as funny that Doug would give advice in the form of a sports analogy. But his pithy825 comment was surprisingly insightful. Somehow, without even hearing the story, he could sense that something had gone awry with José. It was true—life had thrown her a curve ball. She had been expecting a romantic reunion with José, followed by plans for the future. Plans that involved José receiving a scholarship and coming to the United States. But none of that had happened, and now, the future looked bleak. “Even though I don’t know exactly what just happened, I do know what the remedy is,” Doug said.
823 824

Histrionic: excessively dramatic; characteristic of acting or actors Recapitulate: to summarize or repeat in concise form 825 Pithy: concise and full of meaning

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“What’s that?” Alexa asked curiously. “I prescribe826 a cup of hot chocolate...it’s good for people who are in hot water,” he said. “I have a secret recipe,” he admitted, standing up to get a carton of milk and a small pot that had been blackened by the fire. He set the pot on the hot coals and opened up a fresh carton of milk. The liquid made a sizzling sound when it hit the hot surface of the pan. Then, he rummaged around in his backpack and pulled out two chocolate kisses, wrapped in shiny red foil. “One for you and one for me,” he said, unwrapping the kisses and plopping them into the pan of milk. “That’s an interesting way to make chocolate milk,” Alexa laughed. “Well, when you’re out in the middle of the jungle, sometimes you have to improvise,” he chuckled. “You also have to stir it a lot, or else it’s a disaster,” he said, grabbing a spoon. Alexa smiled as she watched him stir the warm liquid. Doug had a way of making every situation fun, she noticed. Carefully, he poured the steaming concoction827 into two heavy mugs and handed one to her before sitting down beside her. “Hey, it still looks white,” Alexa commented. “Isn’t chocolate milk supposed to be brown?” “Taste it,” he urged. “Let’s hope it’s better than that noisome828 wheatgrass juice you made me try,” she said. “Don’t crush my ego now, just try it,” he pleaded. “OK,” Alexa said, lifting the cup to her lips. Gingerly, she took a sip. Immediately, she liked it. She liked it a lot. The first time she had tried the sterilized milk from the carton, she thought that it tasted weird. But
826 827

Prescribe: to order the use of a medicine or remedy Concoction: a food or drink made by mixing different ingredients 828 Noisome: offensive, disgusting, or foul: a noisome smell

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after a few days at camp, she had grown accustomed to its unusual flavor, and in fact, had started to enjoy it. The “hot chocolate” Doug made basically tasted like warm, sterilized milk with a tiny hint of chocolate. But somehow, despite these shortcomings, it tasted delicious and comforting and just about perfect. “Well,” she said, “I think it’s a misnomer829 to call this hot chocolate, but whatever it is, it’s great.” Doug broke into a big smile that lit up his face. “I’m glad you like it. Hot chocolate is good for people who are in hot water,” he joked. “And I think that might include you. You should have seen how mad Nadine was.” “Don’t remind me,” Alexa groaned. “Don’t sweat it,” he advised. “Everybody gets in trouble. Even me.” “What’s the most trouble that you’ve ever been in?” Alexa asked, her curiosity piqued. “Oh...” Doug groaned, shaking his head. “It was bad, let’s put it that way.” “What happened? What did you do?” she asked curiously. “I’m not sure I can tell you,” he said. “Yes you can!” she exclaimed. “You have to tell me.” “Well...a long time ago, when I was eleven, I found some of my father’s magazines underneath a cushion of a chair that was in our living room.” “Why did your dad keep magazines under a cushion?” Alexa asked with a puzzled expression. Doug didn’t say anything, but he gave her a look that spoke volumes. “Ohhh,” Alexa said, immediately grasping that the magazines he was talking about were prurient830 periodicals. “Did he catch you looking

829 830

Misnomer: a name unsuitably applied Prurient: an inordinate interest in sex; lustful: prurient thoughts

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at them?” Alexa asked, chuckling at the thought of Doug stealing a look at his father’s salacious831 magazines. “Not right away,” Doug said smugly. “He had a subscription, so every month there was a new magazine. I was able to keep abreast of the latest developments, so to speak, for two years! He didn’t catch me until I was thirteen.” “What happened?” Alexa giggled, amused by his entertaining anec832 dote . “Did he chastise833 you? Was he mad?” Doug rolled his eyes dramatically. “I think that’s putting it mildly. Let’s just say that I was subjected to quite a bit of vitriolic834 criticism. I can laugh about now, but at the time, I was pretty embarrassed by the whole episode.” Alexa burst into laughter. “What did he say? What did he do?” Doug just shrugged. “I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I think you can summarize it by saying that he expressed his concern about my ‘licentious835 behavior.’” “Well, he couldn’t be too critical if they were his magazines,” she said. “That would be hypocritical836. Why is it OK for him and not for you?” “I don’t know,” he said. “But believe me, he delivered an invective837filled speech that railed against those magazines and my behavior. He was convinced that I was sinking into the depths of depravity838 and moral turpitude839. I think that as a parent, he felt he had to lay down the law and proscribe840 pornography. But later, he must have realized he was being hypocritical, because the magazines disappeared. If he was going to

831

Salacious: appealing to sexual desire; lascivious Anecdote: a short account of an incident 833 Chastise: to criticize severely; rebuke 834 Vitriolic: bitter, harsh, or scathing 835 Licentious: lacking moral discipline, especially in sexual conduct 836 Hypocritical: professing one thing while doing another; false 837 Invective: abusive language; vituperation 838 Depravity: moral corruption 839 Turpitude: lacking moral standards; depravity, baseness 840 Proscribe: to condemn as forbidden; prohibit
832

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label me a reprobate841 for looking at his magazines, he knew he needed to take another look at himself.” “Or maybe he just found a new hiding place,” Alexa said, taking another sip of hot chocolate. “Maybe,” Doug laughed. “So what’s the worst trouble you’ve ever been in?” “Oh...” Alexa groaned. “It was much worse than this little episode with Nadine, that’s for sure.” “What did you do?” he asked eagerly. “Tell me now, so that we can commiserate842 together.” “I got a tattoo,” she admitted quietly. “It’s a dolphin tattoo, right here,” she said, pointing to the back of her left hip. “I just got it a couple weeks ago—the day after I got back from Central America.” “You?” he exclaimed in shock. “You got a tattoo? I can’t believe it!” “Neither could my mother,” Alexa admitted. “She was so angry. Somehow, in her mind, tattoos are immoral. She was convinced that I would someday regret my wanton843 behavior. She kept telling me what poor judgment I showed by acting on such a capricious844 whim. But I don’t regret it. I love my dolphin tattoo. The whole reason that I got the tattoo was because I love dolphins. By the time I got back from Central America, I had come to the decision that I want to be a marine biologist. The dolphin tattoo was just a physical manifestation845 of my decision. I had solemnly decided to consecrate846 my life to the study of dolphins and so...I got a dolphin tattoo. My mom is also a marine biologist, so I thought that decision would make her very happy. Somehow, in my

841

Reprobate: one who is morally unprincipled Commiserate: to feel sorrow, compassion, or pity for; sympathize with 843 Wanton: being without check or limitation; undisciplined, unrestrained 844 Capricious: impulsive and unpredictable 845 Manifestation: a perceptible indication of the existence of something: the first manifestation of disease occurred three days after exposure to the virus 846 Consecrate: to dedicate solemnly to a goal; devote
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convoluted847 mind, I thought she would be happy with the tattoo also, because it expressed my dedication to dolphins.” “You really thought your mother would be happy about your tattoo? What planet are you on?” Doug hooted with laughter. “The hot water planet,” Alexa laughed. “I don’t think she’ll ever get over it.” “That almost tops my story,” he said admiringly before draining the last few drops of his hot chocolate. “Hey, so do you want to go birding with me tomorrow afternoon during siesta? Alexa hesitated, feeling like the moment of truth had arrived. Siesta time tomorrow was precisely the time that José had proposed to go on a reconnaissance848 mission. Now she had to decide between José and Doug. José wanted to spy on pernicious849 criminals and gather evidence to bring down a nefarious850 smuggling ring, while Doug wanted to go for a walk in the rainforest to look at exotic birds. One choice was safe and easy while the other was mired in danger and uncertainty. Everything about a future with José looked challenging. “Don’t forget that you promised,” Doug reminded her. “OK,” Alexa relented, feeling like she had just made a fateful decision.

847

Convoluted: complicated or intricate, as if rolled or coiled together in overlapping whorls Reconnaissance: an exploration or survey to gain information, especially military information about an enemy 849 Pernicious: highly injurious or destructive; deadly 850 Nefarious: extremely wicked
848

13
An Incendiary Spark eady to go?” Doug asked. “You don’t need to bring anything—just water to drink. I’ve got the book,” he said holding up a tattered guide to tropical birds. “I’m coming,” Alexa said hesitantly, grabbing her water bottle from her backpack. For the first time since arriving at the camp, she actually felt like taking a siesta in the afternoon. Alexa felt her forehead, wondering if she was coming down with a virulent851 tropical disease. But her face didn’t feel inordinately hot, like it would if she had a fever. Attributing her state of lassitude852 to the fact that she had stayed up late talking with Doug around the campfire, Alexa decided to go birding with him after all. But after 10 minutes of hiking through the dense growth on the overgrown trail, she was exhausted. “Can we stop for a minute?” she asked. “I just need to catch my breath.”
851 852

“R

Virulent: extremely infectious or poisonous; capable of causing disease Lassitude: a feeling of fatigue or weariness

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“Sure,” he responded quickly. “No matter how many times I walk through the jungle, I still can’t get over the abundance of plants and how thick it is with growth. Everywhere you look there’s green.” “I know,” he agreed. It’s hard to believe it’s not a primeval853 forest. It’s so dense and thick and filled with diversity that it’s easy to assume it’s always been here.” “What do you mean?” she asked. “Well, all of this rainforest land that we’re walking through now used to be used for agriculture back in the days when the Maya lived in Tikal. They practiced a form of agriculture known as slash and burn. When they needed arable854 land to grow crops, they slashed down the forest and then burned the cuttings. The ashes from the burned vegetation helped to fertilize the soil. Then, when the soil was depleted of nutrients, instead of letting the field lie fallow855 for a while and returning to the same land, they simply abandoned it and moved on to the next plot, where they burned down more rainforest and cultivated856 more land.” “And then the forest grew back in the abandoned areas?” Alexa asked. “Yes, but only after a long, long time. And then it’s never quite the same. There are so many species of plants and animals, insects, fungi...the rainforest is just filled to the brim with a profusion of different species that are busy reproducing. It’s a prime example of the fecundity857 of life. Everything looks so alive and vibrant, but this environment is also surprisingly delicate. The forest can come back after it’s been burned down, but in a different way. Some of the species are lost forever.”
853

Primeval: having existed since the beginning or earliest stage; original Arable: land fit to be cultivated 855 Fallow: land left plowed but unseeded during a growing season 856 Cultivate: to prepare land for raising crops 857 Fecundity: the capacity for generating offspring, especially abundant offspring
854

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“That’s sad,” Alexa said, disturbed by the knowledge that humans had such a deleterious858 effect on the environment. She was sobered with the thought that extinction was so permanent and irreversible. “I know,” he agreed vehemently859. “Because once a species is extinct, you can’t bring it back, no matter how hard you try. Back in the days of the ancient Maya, this slash-and-burn agriculture was done on such a small scale that it didn’t really have a bad effect on the environment. But right now, it’s still taking place and on a much larger scale, one that is in proportion with the burgeoning860 population of the world. It’s happening in the Amazon and some other places where there are amazing rainforests that can never be replaced. Some of the trees and other things may grow back at some point, but the majority of the biological diversity will be lost forever. Human beings are defacing861 the planet without regard for the environment. We need to save these rainforests!” he exclaimed passionately. “I agree, but how? That’s such a daunting problem. If people are clearing the rainforests to grow crops, it’s probably because they need the food,” Alexa said. “If people need food and they’re hungry, wouldn’t you agree that it’s hard for them to stop and think about environmental issues? I agree that the environment is really, really important, but I also can empathize with people who are struggling for food. Conservation must seem like an esoteric862 topic for them. I think that if people have urgent needs, they are going to want to do something that is expedient863 rather than something that is for the long-term benefit of the planet as a whole. It’s important to save the rainforest, but how do you resolve that dilemma?”

858 859

Deleterious: harmful or injurious Vehement: forcefulness of expression or extreme intensity of emotions or convictions 860 Burgeoning: to grow and flourish 861 Deface: to spoil or mar the appearance; disfigure 862 Esoteric: confined to and understandable by a restricted number of people 863 Expedient: marked by concern for self-interest rather than principle

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“Of course, it’s hard to reconcile864 the needs of the people versus the environment, but I think it simply needs to be done,” Doug replied. “Someone’s got to do it! We need to find a new paradigm865 that strikes a balance between environmental preservation and the needs of the people. Some radical866 changes are necessary in the way we live if we want to save the environment. For example, some countries make a huge surplus of food. There’s plenty of food to go around, it just needs to be distributed. I don’t mean to belittle the problem because all of these issues are complex and difficult, but that’s exactly why I want to do a dual major in environmental issues and economics in college and then go to law school. I want to be involved in environmental law and policy when I’m older. That’s what I want to do.” “That sounds like a great career and a really worthy cause,” Alexa said admiringly, suddenly realizing that Doug was a lot more serious about his goals in life than she initially gave him credit for. Admittedly, her opinion of him had been biased867 by the fact that he was popular and an athlete at school. But clearly he was not the vacuous868 jock she had thought he was. “Look!” Doug whispered, pointing to a flowering tree. Alexa stared at the tree blankly for a few moments before she finally saw what he was pointing to. A tiny hummingbird flitted about, poking its long beak into the pink flowers. Its wings fluttered frenetically at lightning speed, making a soft, deep buzzing noise. “Do they ever slow down?” Alexa asked. “It seems like they’re always moving so fast.” “Only at night,” Doug answered. “They actually go into a state called torpor869. It’s kind of like a dormant870, inactive state similar to
864 865

Reconcile: to settle or resolve Paradigm: a philosophical or theoretical framework 866 Radical: departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme 867 Bias: a preference or inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment 868 Vacuous: lacking serious purpose, intelligence, or substance 869 Torpor: the dormant, inactive state of a hibernating animal 870 Dormant: a condition of suspended activity; asleep or inactive

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hibernation. Their metabolic rate slows down and their body temperature lowers. They use torpor to conserve energy. They need to try to save energy, because it takes a lot to fly around like that. Plus, if they have any baby birds, the mother needs to regurgitate871 some of the food she eats to feed her young.” “Speaking of conserving energy, could we sit down for a while?” Alexa asked. “I’m really tired.” “Sure,” he replied. “Actually, this is a great location to just hang out in a comfortable place and wait for the birds to come to us. See where these two trails cross right here? I’ve seen a lot of good stuff right here in this little clearing. I saw a really cool parrot when I was just sitting here yesterday. Sometimes it’s hard to notice the birds when you’re so focused on hiking. So it’s good to stop every once in a while and observe quietly. Actually, if you’re up for it, we can climb up this tree here and watch from up there. Sometimes, when you want to see the arboreal872 species, the ones that live in trees, it’s better to be up in a tree. Are you game? We won’t go up that high. Follow me.” “OK,” Alexa said, deciding not to admit that she had just fallen out of a tree a few days ago. Climbing up the tree after Doug, she focused on the task without looking down. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of scarlet wings. “Hey! Did you see that?” she asked him. “It was a scarlet-colored bird.” “Scarlet?” he repeated in an excited tone. “I wonder if it was the scarlet macaw. I wish I’d seen it, but I didn’t see a thing.” “A macaw!” she exclaimed. “That’s cool. I can’t wait to tell everyone back home that I saw a macaw,” she said enthusiastically.
871 872

Regurgitate: to rush or pour back Arboreal: relating to trees

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“Hold on a second there,” he said authoritatively, turning to look down at her from his perch. “Just because you saw a flash of red doesn’t mean that you saw the scarlet macaw. Color alone is not a sufficient criterion873 to determine the species. There are several criteria that need to be met before you can positively identify which type of bird you’ve seen. How big was it? What did its beak look like?” “I don’t know,” Alexa admitted. “It went by so fast.” “Let’s stay right here and sit really quietly. Maybe it’ll come back,” he suggested. Alexa nodded silently as she tried to find a comfortable way of sitting on the narrow branch. As soon as she stopped fidgeting, she succumbed874 to the spell of the rainforest. Initially, it seemed quiet. But when they stopped moving around and talking, the subtle noises of the jungle came alive to her ears. In that tranquil moment of quiet reflection, she realized just how much she had come to love this rainforest. It was like her own personal asylum875, a place far away from the rest of civilization where she felt at home with nature and attuned to the subtleties of her surroundings. The beautiful sight of a nascent876 bud beginning to open, an army of ants marching single-file down the trunk of a tree, the sweet ballad877 of a bird on a distant treetop...all of the nuances878 and details of nature were coming alive before her eyes. Alexa looked up at Doug and they exchanged a knowing smile. She could tell he was enjoying this quiet time as much as she was. They didn’t need words to communicate how much they both enjoyed this special opportunity to commune879 with nature. It seemed all the more special because they could share it together. Alexa felt a newfound sense of
873 874

Criterion: a standard or reference point on which a judgment can be based; plural: criteria Succumbed: to yield or submit to an overpowering desire or force 875 Asylum: a place of refuge or protection; a sanctuary 876 Nascent: coming into existence; emerging 877 Ballad: a simple song 878 Nuance: a subtle distinction or variation 879 Commune: to be in a state of heightened sensitivity, as with one’s surroundings

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respect for Doug and the fact that he wanted to save the rainforest. In her eyes, saving the rainforest was a noble goal and Doug’s dedication to this worthy cause was meritorious880. The sound of a deep, vaguely familiar voice on the trial below shattered the tranquility. Alexa peered through the leaves and gasped out loud when she realized who was down below. It was Grady. He was standing at the intersection of the trails, talking quietly with a short man whose features were obscured. Alexa felt a chill run down her spine when she realized just what they were witnessing. It was the meeting. This was the illicit sale that José wanted to witness. But now, by some strange twist of fate, she and Doug were watching instead of José, unless he was also lurking somewhere in the shadows. Alexa looked up at Doug and put her finger to her lips, silently urging him to stay quiet. “I need to take a look at the merchandise before I hand over the green,” the short man said, waving a fistful of cash in Grady’s face. Despite his diminutive881 stature, his voice conveyed authority and power. “I don’t have a problem with that,” Grady said confidently. “It’s all right there,” he said gesturing to the box at his feet. “I think you’ll be impressed with the quality. Go ahead and appraise882 it.” “I am impressed,” the short man said, picking up a small jade carving to assess883 its worth. He turned the object over and over again in his hands, examining all of its facets884. “This is great stuff. There’s a dearth885 of these authentic jade carvings on the market, and that makes for a good price. You know how the saying goes—it all boils down to supply and demand.”
880 881

Meritorious: deserving reward or praise; having merit Diminutive: very small; tiny 882 Appraise: to evaluate, to estimate the quality and features of; judge 883 Assess: to estimate the value of 884 Facet: one of the definable aspects of an object or subject 885 Dearth: a scarce supply; a lack

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“And I have the supply,” Grady said smugly. “That old coot Rothschild doesn’t have a clue.” Alexa gasped, her hand covering her mouth to muffle the sound. Rothschild was innocent! He was not conniving886 with Grady in the illegal trade of artifacts. He was just an eccentric old man who was unaware of the rampant887 corruption within his own organization. It was Grady who was stealing, seemingly without compunction888. Rather than looking ashamed of the dark deal he was striking, he looked quite proud of himself. He was eagerly making a deal with the short man, who was evidently serving as conduit889 for the transport and sale of the artifacts. “No you don’t!” a strong voice yelled authoritatively. Alexa immediately recognized the voice. The fury and acrimony890 in that voice made her tremble fearfully at the sound of it. It was José. But where was he? Alexa tried to peer through the branches. Down below, Grady and his cohort frantically looked in all directions, searching for the source. They didn’t have to look for long, because José was coming down toward them at lightning speed. From high on a treetop he descended, swinging precariously from a vine. Like a heavy pendulum carrying an abundance of momentum, his body was destined to impact its target with prodigious891 force. Alexa felt a stab of fear watching this dangerous drama unfold. José’s trajectory892 was impeccable. His outstretched legs went straight into the small of Grady’s back, knocking him over as if he were a bowling pin. Grady fell into his cohort and the two men tumbled to the ground.
886 887

Conniving: to cooperate secretly in an illegal or wrongful action Rampant: occurring unchecked and frequently or widely 888 Compunction: a strong uneasiness or anxiety caused by a sense of guilt 889 Conduit: a means by which something is transmitted or distributed 890 Acrimony: biting sharpness and animosity in speech or disposition 891 Prodigious: impressively great in size; enormous 892 Trajectory: the path of a moving body through space

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Like an incendiary893 spark igniting an inferno, José’s action triggered an explosive series of consequences. “These artifacts are not yours to sell!” José yelled, his angry tone revealing the full extent of his antipathy894 and loathing for the two men. José glared at the men lying on the ground, stunned by the turn of events. They evidently had never expected to be apprehended895 out in the middle of a remote jungle. Alexa felt her heart lurch. Didn’t José realize that when he affronted896 these two men, he had put himself in extreme danger? With his characteristic temerity897, he had just charged into a treacherous situation with little regard for his own safety. Alexa desperately wanted to help him, to save him from the conflagration898 that was sure to erupt when the two men regained their senses. She felt a compelling stab of allegiance to José and his quixotic899 pursuits. Ever since she’d met him, he was always championing a noble cause that he pursued with vigor and firm resolve, irrespective of the practical challenges involved. He was an intransigent900 idealist, never wavering from his righteous cause. He was simply inspiring. But now, here he was fighting an ambitious battle all on his own. He was here by himself because she had deserted him. Alexa felt a rush of guilt and remorse. She chided herself for playing it safe and abandoning him like this. José was the one person in the world she cared about the most, but somehow, everything had gotten so screwed up. She had chosen to enjoy a simple afternoon with Doug rather than helping José in his perilous quest for justice. Now, she felt a strong and desperate desire to make up for it. She didn’t care about safety, security, or simple fun anymore. She wanted to grasp life by the horns and live on the edge, just like José.
893

Incendiary: causing fire Antipathy: a strong feeling of aversion or intense dislike 895 Apprehend: to arrest or take into custody 896 Affront: to face defiantly; confront 897 Temerity: foolhardy disregard for danger; recklessness, rashness 898 Conflagration: a conflict, war; can also mean a large disastrous fire 899 Quixotic: foolishly impractical in the pursuit of noble deeds and idealistic goals 900 Intransigent: refusing to compromise or moderate an extreme position
894

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Alexa knew she needed to act immediately, even though she wasn’t sure exactly what to do. She just had a vague, inchoate901 idea that perhaps she could distract everyone by creating some sort of diversion902 or somehow try to lighten the gravity of the situation. “José!” Alexa yelled, waving wildly from her perch. She leaned forward, trying to catch everyone’s attention. “José!” she yelled again, as she tried to climb down. In her haste, her foot slipped and she started descending a lot faster than she intended. She plummeted through the leaves and the palm fronds, desperately trying to grasp something firm on the way down. “Alexa!” Doug bellowed. He nimbly ambled down the tree, trying to catch her before she landed. But he was too late. Alexa hit the ground with a thud, landing on her back. “Alexa! Are you OK?” Doug asked frantically. Slowly, she opened her eyes. Both José and Doug were hovering over her with concern in their eyes. For a second, she couldn’t remember where she was. But it all came flooding back to her when she glanced behind José and saw Grady getting up off the ground. “I think I just got the wind knocked out of me. I’ll be OK,” she said in shaky voice. “I’m all right, really.” “The two of you should go—quick!” José whispered urgently. “Pretend you know nothing.” “I’m not leaving you here alone,” Alexa whispered firmly. “You need to get her out of here safely,” José appealed to Doug. “I will,” Doug said firmly, putting his arm around Alexa protectively and helping her to her feet. “Not so fast!” Grady yelled, charging forward. He was fuming, filled with malevolent903 rage and fury.
901

Inchoate: imperfectly developed or formulated; vague, formless Diversion: something that distracts or diverts attention 903 Malevolent: ill will, wishing harm to others; malicious
902

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Alexa’s mind was churning, trying to figure out a way she might be able to mollify904 Grady’s anger. She had the perspicacity905 to realize they were in an extremely precarious position. The situation was about to turn dangerous. The truculent906 look in Grady’s eyes revealed the anger that festered within. When Alexa looked into those eyes, bubbling with rage, she knew it did not augur907 well for a peaceful outcome to this confrontation. Then she spied the camera. José had her digital camera strapped to his belt. Without a doubt, he had been busy chronicling908 this illicit deal on the camera. The camera also had all of the incriminating pictures from Grady’s tent. They didn’t need to have this dangerous confrontation with these criminals when they already had all the evidence they needed to report the crime. All they needed to do was to find a way to get out of this contentious909 situation unharmed and bring the camera to the authorities. Instinctively Alexa sensed she had a much better chance of walking away from this situation with the camera in her hand than José did. Especially if she pretended that she hadn’t seen anything underhanded. Without hesitating another second, Alexa yanked the camera from José’s belt before Grady reached them. The Velcro strap made a loud ripping noise as it came undone and she winced at the sound, hoping that Grady and his cohort didn’t hear it and realize what she had just done. Now, it was time for the hard part. She knew that she was going to have to summon up the best acting job of her life to pull off this feat. Alexa felt like she could do most things pretty well, but she also knew that her protean910 talents did not include acting. Her one and only appearance on stage had been an unmitigated disaster. She thought back to the sage911 advice of Mr. Comstock, her high school drama teacher, who
904 905

Mollify: to lessen in intensity Perspicacity: acute mental vision, perception, or discernment; keen 906 Truculent: disposed to violence; fierce 907 Augur: indicate by signs; bode, foreshadow 908 Chronicling: to record in the form of a historical record 909 Contentious: likely to cause a dispute 910 Protean: exhibiting a great variety or diversity 911 Sage: marked by wisdom and good judgment

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had always urged his students to breathe deeply before going on stage. Alexa took a big gulp of air. “Hey, did you guys see that scarlet macaw? It was so cool,” she enthused. “It was right over there,” she pointed. “I was leaning out of the tree to see it when I fell. Did you see it?” she asked Grady sweetly, acting as if nothing had happened. “What are you talking about?” Grady demanded brusquely912, towering over them menacingly. His pugnacious913 nature was underscored by his combative stance and a tone of voice that indicated he was ready to pick a fight. Alexa felt her stomach tighten with anxiety. It was not at all clear if this plan was going to work, but at this point, she felt as if she had no choice but to play it out to the end. “I just saw a scarlet macaw! I can’t believe you guys missed it. It was so beautiful,” she gushed. “The only problem is that I fell out of the tree when I was trying to get a better glimpse of it and I think I hurt my ankle. I can’t really stand on it.” She winced, standing on one foot while she held onto Doug’s arm on one side and José’s on the other. “Maybe if you two both help me, I can make it back to camp,” she said to Doug and José. Alexa held her breath while she waited to see what would happen next. She knew José was aware of what she was attempting to do, but she wasn’t so certain he would follow her lead and just walk away from this confrontation. She knew José very well—well enough to realize that he was a maverick914 at heart, always thinking for himself and following his own plan. Would he follow her lead this time? “We’ll help you back,” Doug said, sounding genuinely concerned with her faux injury. “I can carry you.”
912 913

Brusque: short or abrupt in manner or speech; discourteously blunt Pugnacious: combative and quarrelsome in nature; truculent 914 Maverick: an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party; a dissenter

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Alexa groaned inwardly, realizing that her acting job had been so convincing that Doug thought that she really had hurt her ankle. He had no clue about anything that was going on right now and unwittingly915, he was about to foil916 her plan. The goal was to get José out of this dangerous situation, which wouldn’t happen if Doug carried her alone. “My left foot is still fine, so I think I can manage if you let me hold onto your arm and José’s arm on the other side. C’mon, let’s go,” she urged them. “I need to get back to the camp and let it rest.” Alexa tugged on José’s arm, silently pleading him to follow her lead. “I’ll help you,” José said, grasping her arm firmly. “We need to get you back to camp quickly,” he added. Alexa felt a tingling sensation as they turned to leave. José was following her lead! But were Grady and his cohort actually going to let them just walk away like this after José caught them both in an illegal act? The incriminating evidence was sitting right there in a box on the ground and Grady was clearly culpable917. The guilty look on his face said it all. “Wait a minute, young man, I need to talk to you!” Grady yelled at José. “We have nothing to talk about,” José said defiantly without turning around or slowing his gait. “Oh yes we do! Now you come over here right now,” Grady demanded, like an angry parent yelling at a fractious918 child. “No! I’m not talking to you!” José yelled even louder, as if he was an obstreperous919 child defying his father’s orders. “Get back here right now!” Grady yelled, his voice filled with fury and wrath920.
915 916

Unwitting: not knowing; unaware Foil: to prevent something from happening or being successful; thwart 917 Culpable: deserving of blame or condemnation as being wrong or harmful; blameworthy 918 Fractious: tending to cause trouble; unruly, irritable 919 Obstreperous: stubbornly defiant and noisy 920 Wrath: intense anger

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José finally stopped and turned around. He looked Grady in the eyes and said in a quiet, measured tone, “There is nothing to talk about. I know I was really mad a minute ago, but you know that I wouldn’t do or say anything that might jeopardize my scholarship.” Alexa winced involuntarily. To her ears, José’s statement sounded highly implausible921. He simply had to be lying. She knew with certainty that he would not participate in a Faustian922 bargain. He would never compromise his integrity for personal gain. If Grady thought that José was just a docile923 person who was easily controlled, he was wrong. José was anything but malleable924. Instead of taking directions, he followed his own compass with strength of purpose. Ever since he had arrived at Tikal, he had taken on the role of the inquisitor925, staunchly926 seeking the answers to the questions that haunted his conscience. José and Grady stared each other in the eye, as if they were silently consummating927 a business transaction. Without spelling out the deal in precise terms, José had intimated928 that he would keep quiet about the smuggling if they would still give him his scholarship. But would Grady accept the deal? Alexa looked down at the ground. She didn’t want to look at Grady. She was afraid her expression would reveal the panic she was feeling at this terrifying moment. Would Grady and his business partner just let them walk away? Would they actually believe that José would keep his silence in exchange for scholarship money, or would they realize that José

921

Implausible: appearing invalid, unlikely, or unacceptable; unbelievable Faustian: resembling Faust, from a German legend about a man who sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge 923 Docile: willing to be led, supervised, or taught 924 Malleable: easily controlled or influenced 925 Inquisitor: one who inquires or makes an inquisition, especially a questioner who is excessively rigorous or hostile 926 Staunch: firm and steadfast in loyalty or principle 927 Consummate: to bring to completion or fruition; conclude or finish 928 Intimate: to communicate delicately, subtly, and indirectly; hint
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would inevitably repudiate929 this promise? Would they fall for José’s dissembled930 greed or would they realize that he was faking it? Without waiting for any sort of reply from Grady, José turned to leave, pulling Alexa and Doug with him. With one arm around José and the other around Doug, Alexa kept up the pretense of having a sprained ankle. Slowly, they made it to the edge of the clearing where the trail began. Alexa felt an exhilarating thrill as she realized they were pulling it off. They were simply walking away. “The camera!” an irate voice shouted from behind them. Alexa glanced behind her. Grady’s partner in crime was still sitting on the ground, but his finger was pointed right at her and his face was flushed an angry shade of crimson. “The camera! Get the camera from them, you idiot,” he yelled at Grady. “I can’t get up. My knee is wrecked. Get them! Get the camera from the girl!” “Run!” José yelled to Alexa and Doug, giving them a push toward the trail. Alexa glanced at the camera that dangled from the strap around her right wrist and instinctively she grasped it tightly. Dropping the sprainedankle routine, she burst into an all-out sprint, galloping away as fast as she could.

929 930

Repudiate: to reject an obligation or to refuse to acknowledge or pay Dissemble: to put on a false show or appearance; feign

14
A Tortuous Trail

“W

hat the heck is going on?” Doug yelled to Alexa as they started running down the trail. “I’ll explain later,” Alexa said breathlessly. Without breaking her stride, she glanced back over her shoulder. José was not following them. Instead, he was charging straight toward Grady. Alexa immediately came to a screeching halt. “José!” she shrieked at the top of her lungs, terrified for his safety. Her strident931 scream was so piercing that it made her own eardrums ring. Although both men were around six feet tall, Grady looked to be twice as wide as José. Juxtaposed932 next to each other as they were, they looked terribly mismatched. Did José really think he could take on Grady? Alexa watched in horror. José ran at top speed right toward Grady and then leapt high in the air, flying head first toward his target with his arms outstretched like Superman. At first glance, Alexa thought that he was just simply out of control, randomly flinging himself on top of Grady. But as she watched what happened next, she realized that his actions were part of a carefully

931 932

Strident: sounds that are loud, grating, or shrill; discordant Juxtaposed: placed side by side

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calibrated933 maneuver to tackle Grady to the ground. With amazing accuracy, his full body weight hit Grady on the legs, sending him sprawling flat on his back. Alexa gasped with surprise when she saw Grady hit the ground. She had no idea that José’s manifold934 talents included the ability to tackle like a linebacker. She was riveted to the spot, unable to run away. José immediately scrambled to his feet, but Grady lay motionless, as if he had been anesthetized935. José took one look at Grady and then ran to Alexa and Doug. “Run!” he commanded them. “He’s just stunned—he’s going to get up in a minute!” Alexa started running as fast as she could on the overgrown trail through the forest, with Doug and José right behind her. The protruding branches that peppered the edges of the trail scraped her bare arms as she barreled through the entanglement. Alexa tried to stay calm, but she found it hard to catch her breath. It already felt like they had been running forever. “That was some tackle!” Doug said to José. “Are you a football player?” “No,” José said, breathless from exertion. “I’ve never played in my entire life.” “Well then, you’ve got some innate936 ability,” Doug said. “And we may need to put it to the test again—I hear someone coming. Someone’s chasing us!” “But I don’t even know where we’re going. I think we ran down the wrong trail,” Alexa wailed. “Is this the way back to camp? This trail is tortuous937—there’s been so many twists and turns that I don’t know what direction we’re heading in.” Alexa stopped running and looked
933

Calibrate: to adjust precisely for a particular function Manifold: many and varied 935 Anesthetize: to make unconscious by use of anesthetic drugs 936 Innate: inborn, possessed at birth 937 Tortuous: having repeated bends, twists, or turns; winding
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around her, trying to get her bearings. “I think we’re lost!” Everywhere she looked there were trees and more trees. It all looked the same. There were no salient938 features to distinguish one area of the rainforest from the next. “I’m not exactly sure where we are either, but we have to keep going,” José said. His indefatigable939 drive was showing no signs of lagging. “I think there’s a stream up there—I can hear it. If we can just get to the other side, I know a shortcut back to the camp. Let me go first,” he said, skirting around them to assume the lead. “I know the way, I’ll go first,” Doug declared, glaring at José. “No way,” José retorted, obstinately940 refusing to budge from his position on the path. “We don’t have time to argue, guys,” Alexa interjected941, attempting to diffuse the fight that seemed destined to break out between the two boys. She had an inkling that the tension between José and Doug had something to do with her. But this was not the time to sort out complicated feelings. “I can hear someone coming,” she said urgently. “Let’s just get out of here.” Alexa breathed a sigh of relief when both José and Doug heeded her wishes and started heading toward the stream, rather than squabbling over who was going to go first. “Uh oh,” José groaned, coming to a dead stop. Alexa and Doug rushed to see what was up ahead. José was standing on a precipice looking down over a bubbling stream. “This is not going to be easy to cross,” Alexa said, eyeing the swift-moving water. The accretion942 of sediment from the stream had left a muddy bank along the edge of the water several feet high, making it difficult to enter the water
938 939

Salient: very conspicuous; prominent, noticeable Indefatigable: incapable of being exhausted or fatigued; untiring 940 Obstinate: stubbornly adhering to an opinion or course of action; obdurate 941 Interject: to insert in between or among other things; interpolate 942 Accretion: growth by gradual addition

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slowly and carefully. Alexa looked at the swirling dark water and felt a sense of dread. Although the edges of the stream looked shallow, the middle looked deep and foreboding. “We can walk over that log,” José said pointing to a fallen tree that spanned the stream. “What a boon943 for us!” The tree trunk stretched from one bank to the other, at least five feet above the water. “Let’s just get over to the other side and then we’ll pull the log away so that Grady can’t get over. That’s how we’ll bilk944 him.” But to Alexa’s eyes, the dark, smooth bark of the slim trunk looked perilously slick. “That looks so precarious,” Alexa said nervously. “It’s not very wide and it looks really slippery.” “I’ll help you,” José said. “No, I’ll help you!” Doug exclaimed. “No, I’ll go by myself,” Alexa declared firmly, hoping that she could restore concord945 between the two boys by refusing them both. Taking the lead, she inched along the edge of the precipice, carefully making her way down to the fallen log that spanned the water. But once she stood next to the makeshift bridge, she lost her confidence. “You guys go first, then I’ll follow you,” she urged them. Doug, who was eager to take the lead, quickly whipped off his sneakers and socks and scampered over the log bridge to the other side. “Take your shoes off,” he urged Alexa. “It’s easy in bare feet.” José looked at Alexa, his eyes conveying his concern. “I can help you across.” “No, I’ll go by myself. Just go!” she pressed.

943

Boon: a timely blessing or benefit Bilk: to elude, thwart, or frustrate; can also mean to swindle 945 Concord: a state of agreement or harmony
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As soon as José reached the other side, Alexa knew she couldn’t avoid the challenge any longer, there were no excuses left. She had simply run out of dilatory946 tactics. Now she knew that she just had to tackle it. Alexa slipped off her sneakers and eyed the slippery log with apprehension. “I’ll come get you,” Doug yelled, watching nervously from the other side. “No, I’ll do it myself,” she said, mustering all of the fortitude she could. With one hand holding her sneakers and the other hand clutching her camera, Alexa climbed up onto the log and slowly started making her way across. Like a tightrope walker carefully considering each step, she kept her eyes focused on her feet, rather than looking at the mesmerizing water rushing beneath the makeshift bridge. “You can do it! You’re almost there,” Doug coaxed. Alexa glanced up to give José and Doug an encouraging smile, just a little signal to let them know that she was doing OK. But when she looked up at them, she realized that something was terribly wrong. Neither one of them was focused on her. Instead they were looking over at the other side of the stream with an alarmed expression. It could only mean one thing. Grady had caught up with them. Alexa’s head snapped around to look behind her. Sure enough, there he was, standing on the bank, a mere 10 feet away. Alexa felt a stab of fear when she saw his ominous947 glare directed right at her. His penetrating focus was like a laser that cut right through her. The look in his eyes was so frightening that she inadvertently screamed. Alexa quickly looked away and whipped her head around to face forward. Instantly, she was fighting to regain her balance. The simple act
946 947

Dilatory: causing delay Ominous: menacing, threatening, or alarming; foreshadowing evil or disaster

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of turning her head had set her off kilter. In hindsight, she wished she could have just stayed focused on her goal of reaching the other side, but regrettably, she had succumbed to the temptation of looking behind her and now she couldn’t take back that foolish mistake. Her hips gyrated forward and then backward as her arms flailed wildly. In that moment of desperation, Alexa completely lost her grip on the items she was holding in both of her hands. The frantic thrashing of her arms sent her sneakers flying into the air, while the camera, which she had been clutching diligently, dangled precariously from the slim Velcro strap around her right wrist. Alexa heard the horrifying sound of her two sneakers splashing down into the rushing brook and hoped she was not about to suffer a similar fate. But she still had not regained her balance. Her arms were pumping the air in big backward circles, desperately trying to offset her unstable stance. As her right arm flailed around and around, the camera, still dangling from the loop around her wrist, was concomitantly948 making its own revolutions around her arm, gaining speed and momentum like a slingshot. Alexa felt the horrifying sensation of the strap slipping right off her wrist. The camera, propelled by the rapid rotations, shot off her arm like a ballistic missile and flew high into the air. After making one last desperate lunge for the camera, Alexa knew that her fate was sealed. There was no way she could regain her balance now. Feeling a sense of inexorable949 doom, she knew she was going down. Instinctively, she tried to grab the log as she fell so that she wouldn’t end up careening all of the way down into the water. Her hands grasped the slippery log, but the rest of her body kept falling. She ended up dangling from the log, clinging to it with all of her
948 949

Concomitant: occurring, existing, or happening at the same time Inexorable: not to be persuaded or appeased by entreaty (requests or pleas); relentless

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might, while her bare feet splashed down into the surface of the water below. Before she had a chance to collect her wits, the camera came hurling down from sky and landed in the water right next to her, making a sickening plop as it splashed down and descended into the dark depths. When Alexa saw the camera land in the water, she felt like it was an ominous sign that portended950 her own fate. Her hands slipped right off the smooth tree trunk and she slid right into the water. Her vertical body sliced through the water and her bare feet painfully hit the rocky bottom of the stream before her head went under. “Ahh!” Alexa shrieked. “Alexa! Are you OK?” José yelled out. “Alexa!” Doug exclaimed. Both boys jumped into the water at the same moment to perform the chivalrous951 rescue. But Doug got there first. Sweeping her up into his arms, he whisked her to the bank of the river and set her down. José lingered in the water and dove down under, resurfacing with the waterlogged camera in hand. Standing in the shallow water at the edge of the stream, he gingerly opened up the camera to access the memory card. They all watched, transfixed by the sight of water pouring out from inside the camera. It was ruined. Alexa felt a deep sense of guilt and remorse. The camera itself had been retrieved, but the evidence might just as well have vaporized952 into thin air. It was simply gone. “Ha, ha, ha!” Grady laughed fiendishly953, while witnessing the demise954 of the camera. “Serves you meddling kids right,” he said smugly,
950 951

Portend: to serve as an omen or a warning of; presage, forecast Chivalrous: characterized by consideration, gallantry, and courtesy, especially toward women 952 Vaporize: to convert into a vapor (gaseous state); to vanish as if vaporized 953 Fiendish: extremely wicked 954 Demise: the end of existence or activity; death; termination

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the corners of his mouth curled upward in a diabolical955 smile. He looked as if he was savoring the moment. “As for you,” Grady glared at José, “I’ve never seen such insolent956 and ungrateful behavior in my life.” “Save the rhetoric957,” José said. “We both know exactly what’s going on here.” “All I know is that an incorrigible958 young man assaulted me and my friend, resulting in multiple injuries. If we decide to press charges, I think you’ll be looking at a pretty stiff penalty,” Grady warned. “If you so much as say a single word, I will litigate959, and believe me, I will prevail960. You’ll be ordered by the courts to pay restitution961 to your assault victims, and I’m willing to bet there would be jail time as well.” Grady smiled superciliously962 and folded his arms across his chest, assuming a cocky, self-satisfied stance. He knew he had just made a trenchant963 argument for José to comply with his demands. He was confident that he had just defeated his opponent. Alexa cringed with horror at the thought of José ending up in a jail cell. But the thought of him entering into a covenant of silence with Grady was equally horrifying. José seethed with anger, his lips pressed tightly together. Finally, he spoke. “I’m not saying anything,” he said quietly. “I suggest you go help your friend—it looked like he was going to need some help walking out of here.” José calmly turned his back on Grady and began making his way downstream to retrieve Alexa’s sneakers. Grady paused, staring straight at Alexa and Doug, as if he was wondering what to do about them. Then, without uttering a word, he turned and walked away.
955

Diabolical: characteristic of the devil; devilish Insolent: audaciously rude, disrespectful, or insulting; impertinent 957 Rhetoric: language that is pretentious, insincere, or intellectually vacuous 958 Incorrigible: difficult to control, manage, or reform 959 Litigate: to engage in legal proceedings 960 Prevail: to prove superior; to triumph 961 Restitution: the act of compensating for loss, damage, or injury 962 Supercilious: arrogant superiority, haughty disdain 963 Trenchant: forceful, penetrating, and effective
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“Whoa!” Doug exclaimed when Grady was out of earshot. “What was that all about?” “Smuggling,” Alexa replied. “José figured out that Grady was illegally selling some of the artifacts that they unearthed at the dig and he wanted to stop them.” “Why doesn’t he just tell someone instead of acting like a vigi964 lante ?” Doug asked. “It’s dangerous to take the law into your own hands. If they’re criminals, they could be violent—what’s the point of reeling them in on your own when that’s the job of the police?” “It’s more complicated than that,” Alexa countered. “He wanted to have some evidence before he accused these people of a crime.” “But I still don’t see what the big deal is. Why is it worth all of the danger?” Doug asked. José, who had just heard the tail end of their conversation, walked up to Doug and threw Alexa’s soaked sneakers at his feet. “I’ll tell you why,” José said defensively. “These artifacts are not just pretty trinkets for some rich person’s collection. They are priceless artifacts from a lost civilization. To sell them like they are trinkets is to desecrate965 their sacred value for the Mayan people. These artifacts are part of our heritage and we deserve to have this link to our own past. Nobody has the right to take them away from us!” José’s eyes flashed with emotion and his face was flushed with anger. Doug had a skeptical look on his face as he listened to José’s emotional explanation. Doug simply didn’t understand José’s maudlin966 concern for the fate of a box full of artifacts.

964 965

Vigilante: one who takes law enforcement into his or her own hands Desecrate: to violate the sacredness of; profane 966 Maudlin: effusively sentimental; mushy

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But Alexa understood very well. She knew José well enough to realize that this was not sanctimonious967 preaching. It was genuine, heartfelt emotion for this tangible link to the history of his people. “I’m going to put an end to it,” José declared decisively. “But you heard what Grady said—he’s going to sue you for assaulting him if you say anything,” Alexa pointed out. “No, he won’t,” José replied confidently. “He’s operating on the prem968 ise that the evidence was destroyed.” José said, holding up the waterlogged camera. “But it was, wasn’t it?” Alexa asked skeptically. “No,” he replied, his eyes sparkling with a hint of mischief.

967 968

Sanctimonious: feigning piety or righteousness Premise: something assumed to be true and upon which an argument is based or conclusion drawn

15
The Day of Reckoning

“B

ut the pictures were ruined,” Alexa countered. “That was not meant to be an underwater camera. That memory card was 969 decimated by the water—I’m sure of it.” “But I have a copy,” José replied. “You do?” she asked incredulously. “Yes, of some of them, at least. Remember when I borrowed your camera and went into Grady’s tent to look for evidence?” “Yeah, I remember that very well,” Alexa said. “How could I forget,” she added with a trace of sarcasm, remembering the agonizing wait for José to emerge. “When I was in his tent, I took pictures of his notebook and records, and then I downloaded the memory card from the camera onto Grady’s hard drive. That’s why it took me so long.”

969

Decimate: to destroy a large part of

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“Wait a minute,” Doug interjected. “You snuck into his tent, took pictures of the evidence, and then downloaded the pictures onto his computer?” “Yes, I did,” José admitted. “I just made a new folder with a funky name and hid it on his hard drive. If he did a search for it, he would find it—it’s right there. But if he’s not looking for it, he’ll never find it.” “That takes guts, man!” Doug said, with a note of admiration in his voice. “What did you name the file?” Alexa asked curiously. “Y-T-I-R-G-E-T-N-I,” he said, spelling out each letter. “That’s ‘integrity’ spelled backwards. It just looks like one of those nonsensical files on your computer and you have no idea what they’re doing there or how they got there.” José chuckled at his own ingenuity. “But wait a minute,” Alexa interjected, “you can’t have pictures of what just happened here in the jungle—you just took the pictures and then the camera landed in the water.” “I know,” he admitted. “But we have three eyewitnesses of that. The only pictures that are downloaded on his computer are the ones that I took that night in his tent. Oh, and there were a few other pictures already on the memory card that you took.” Alexa quickly looked down at the ground. She knew exactly what pictures he was talking about. There was the picture of Alexa and Doug in front of the airport terminal, the picture of Doug in the ramshackle van that brought them to Tikal, and the picture of herself and Doug together on top of Temple IV, among others. Alexa looked into José’s eyes and she knew that he had been acting reserved with her for a reason. He had seen the pictures that she had taken of Doug and he had seen the pictures of

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them together. He had drawn the conclusion that Doug was her boyfriend. Somehow, their signals had gotten crossed yet again and Alexa had a sinking feeling that this time, it was irrevocable. She wondered if those pictures were a self-fulfilling prophecy970. Maybe Doug was destined to be her boyfriend. For a fleeting moment, Alexa felt as if she got a glimpse of the future and she wasn’t sure if she was ready to go there. She wanted to linger in the past, dawdling on a serene beach in the Caribbean with José. “Anyway,” José continued, “I think I have enough evidence, but I need to copy those files from his computer. I need to copy those pictures onto a memory stick or a disk or a CD or something like that so I don’t have to take his computer with me when I go.” “Go where?” Alexa asked. “To the authorities,” he said succinctly. “I’m going to hike back to the center of Tikal. I need to make it to the hotel so that I can make a phone call. But first, I need to get those files off of Grady’s computer.” “You can’t possibly do that now—not after what just happened with Grady,” Alexa pointed out. “I doubt they’ll let you set foot on that campsite ever again.” “I’m sure you’re right about that,” José agreed. “As soon as Grady makes it back to camp, he’s going to tell everyone to keep me away. But the way I see it, we have a window of opportunity here. If we can get to the camp before Grady does, I will go into his tent, copy the files, and then high-tail it out of there and head straight for the authorities.” “Let’s go!” Doug said, “We’ll help you.”

970

Prophecy: a prediction of something to come in the future

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“No, I don’t want the two of you to get involved any more than you already are. I feel like I’ve already put you in a dangerous situation and I don’t want to do it again.” “I’m going with you,” Alexa said decisively. “And I’m doing it of my own volition971. I don’t want you to go there alone.” Alexa hurriedly put on her soggy sneakers. “And I’m coming too,” Doug added. “Well then, let’s go,” he said solemnly. “This way,” he beckoned. “We don’t have much time.” José led the way through the dense underbrush, while Alexa, following in his footsteps, dwelled on the uncertain future. If José was able to get a hold of the files on Grady’s computer and give them to the authorities, the whole situation was destined to blow up. Would Nadine be caught in the fray? Was she as guilty as Grady or was she innocent like Rothschild? Whenever Alexa thought about Nadine, her mind kept returning to her father. Would he view her actions as an attack on Nadine and his relationship with her? Alexa felt as if everything in her life, everything she held dear to her heart, was resting in the balance. As they approached the camp, José turned to Alexa and Doug and raised his finger to his lips, urging them to be as quiet as possible. “It’s still siesta time,” he said. “It looks quiet. I think I’m just going to walk right into Grady’s tent and get what I need. You guys should stay here.” Alexa surveyed the quiet camp. It was an opportune moment to sneak around unnoticed, but she worried, nevertheless. “You’re just going to walk right into his tent and pray that no one sees you?”

971

Volition: the act of choosing or determining

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“Yes and no,” he replied. “Yes, I’m just going to walk in there. What do I have to lose at this point? The ‘no’ part is for the praying. I’m not going to do that. I’m agnostic972.” “You don’t believe in God?” Doug asked him incredulously. “I didn’t say that I’m an atheist, I said that I’m an agnostic, meaning that I don’t know if there is a God or not,” José explained. “I don’t think that it’s knowable.” “How can you say that?” Doug asked, looking at José with a worried expression. “I’m not trying to demean973 anyone else’s beliefs—I’m a very tolerant person. I think that people should be allowed to believe or not believe anything they want to. But for myself as an individual, I simply don’t espouse974 religion.” Doug looked shocked at José’s bold statement, but Alexa wasn’t surprised at all. Earlier in the summer, during long, lazy afternoons on the beach, they had had many deep discussions. At this point, she knew José well enough that his nonconformist975 opinions didn’t surprise her. He abhorred following the crowd and he disliked authority, especially when it reigned over him. Like an anarchist976 who deems government as oppressive and undesirable, José wanted to forge through life rebelling against the establishment in all of its forms. There was something about José’s fierce independence that inspired Alexa. It made her feel so alive and empowered977 with the ability to change the world. It made her think that she didn’t have to meekly follow the path that was laid out before her. She felt emboldened978 to branch out

972 973

Agnostic: one who believes that it is impossible to know if God exists Demean: reduce in dignity, worth, or character 974 Espouse: to give one’s loyalty or support to 975 Nonconformist: one who refuses to be bound by accepted beliefs, customs, or practices 976 Anarchist: one who rebels against any authority, established order, or coercive control 977 Empower: to give an ability or quality to; enable 978 Embolden: to instill boldness or courage in

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and do the unexpected. It was liberating and exciting to be around him. But at the same time, José’s reckless abandon scared her. It made her worry about the danger that was around the corner, just as she was worrying right now. “Here I go,” he said deliberately, giving Alexa a final, probing look. “Be careful,” Alexa admonished, her voice breaking. Something about the raw emotion in his dark eyes made her wince. He looked at her with sadness and resolve. It was as if their special friendship was collapsing right at that very moment. It was the nadir979 of their relationship. Alexa had never felt so conflicted in her life. Part of her wanted to jump off the edge with him and live life precariously. The other part was terrified at the thought of it and wanted to cower in safety here in the bushes with Doug, who was always so predictable, reliable, and secure. José walked away, boldly marching through the stillness of the sleeping campsite. With a forceful flick of his wrist, he yanked at the zipper on Grady’s tent. The harsh, grating noise of the zipper reverberated throughout the clearing. Alexa felt as if her heart stopped beating while she waited to see if anyone heard the noise. But all was quiet, and José ducked under the open flap. “Man, he’s got guts,” Doug said, in awe of José’s bold actions. Alexa nodded absently, her unswerving980 gaze trained on Grady’s tent. “What’s taking him so long?” Alexa asked anxiously after a couple minutes passed. “He’s probably trying to copy the files,” Doug reminded her. “But he’d better hurry, because Grady’s going to be back any second now. Even

979 980

Nadir: the lowest point Unswerving: constant; steady and unfaltering

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if Grady’s carrying his friend all of the way back here, it’s not going to take him much longer!” Alexa sighed and slumped to the ground, feeling enervated981 after the tumultuous events of the afternoon. “I can’t watch, he’s going to get caught,” she moaned. “No, here he comes!” Doug exclaimed. “Oh my gosh, is he taking the whole computer with him? I thought he was just going to copy some files!” Alexa jumped to her feet and peered through the bushes. José was running toward them with Grady’s laptop tucked under his arm. “Let’s go!” José said breathlessly. “I’ve got to get out of here and fast. If I can just make it back to the hotel before they catch me, I can make a phone call to the authorities. This way,” he beckoned, walking hurriedly toward the trail to Alexa’s camp. “I’m going to take the trail that starts at your camp— that’s the fastest way to the hotel.” After a few paces, he broke into a run. “That’s at least an hour away by foot,” Alexa said, as she and Doug started running behind him. “But there’s no other way to get there,” he countered, glancing back at her over his shoulder. “And I have to take this computer because I couldn’t find a disk to transfer the files to.” “You’ve got a head start and you’re a lot faster than Grady,” Doug said. “The trail to the hotel is just on the other side of our camp. You’re going to make it,” he said firmly. “They can’t catch up. Nothing’s going to stop you now.” As soon as Doug uttered those fateful words, José stopped dead in his tracks.

981

Enervate: lacking strength or vigor; debilitated

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“What’s going on?” Alexa asked, peering over his shoulder on the narrow trail. Alexa gasped with shock when she saw who stood before them. Doug was wrong. Someone could stop José. It was Nadine. Standing like a sentinel982 in the middle of the trail, Nadine had her arms folded across her chest as she glared at José reproachfully983. “Whose computer is that and what are you doing with it?” she demanded. Alexa felt a stab of alarm penetrate her body. The day of reckoning984 had arrived and questions raced through her mind. Was Nadine complicit985 in the smuggling scheme? Whose side was she on? For a moment Alexa considered saying that the computer was broken and José was bringing it to town to be fixed. But then she reconsidered. Nadine was sure to see through such a tenuous986 excuse. Finally, Alexa blurted out the truth. “Mr. Grady is selling artifacts illegally and José has the evidence on this computer. He’s taking it to the authorities.” Alexa took a deep breath to steady her nerves as she watched Nadine carefully, wondering if she was going to stop them. Nadine’s eyebrows furrowed as she looked at José questioningly. “Are you sure about this? These are very serious allegations.” “I’m sure,” José said. “We all saw him doing it,” Alexa said defensively. “There’s a preponderance987 of evidence. But we have to go quickly,” she said urgently. “Before he catches up to us.” Alexa knew that Nadine was shrewd enough to see exactly what was going on. If she let José go, the smuggling ring was destined to go down in flames. But if she stalled them there until Grady caught up to them, he would surely seize the evidence. If she was guilty,
982

Sentinel: a guard Reproach: to express disapproval or criticism of; admonish 984 Reckoning: a settling of accounts 985 Complicit: association with or participation in a wrongful act 986 Tenuous: lacking strength or substance; flimsy 987 Preponderance: a superiority in weight, importance, or strength
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she would try to stop them, Alexa reasoned. Did Nadine expect to be implicated in a crime or completely absolved988 of any wrongdoing? Alexa fervently hoped it was the latter. Nadine hesitated for a moment, her stoic989 expression revealing nothing about her inner thoughts. Finally, she spoke. “Well then, you had better hurry,” she said to José. Alexa let out a big sigh of relief. Nadine certainly wasn’t acting guilty. She was letting José walk away with the evidence. “Thanks,” José said quietly, walking right past Nadine. “Wait a minute!” Nadine put her hand up to stop Alexa and Doug from following him. “I don’t want the two of you going anywhere. I’m responsible for your safety and I’m not letting you out of my sight. We’re heading right back to camp, and Alexa, I’m going to call your father so that he’s apprised990 of the situation here.” “Can’t we just go with José to the trailhead to say goodbye?” Alexa begged. Nadine sighed, “OK, but I’m coming with you. I meant what I said about not letting you out of my sight.” By the time they reached the trailhead, Alexa felt her eyes welling with tears. “José, why don’t you take my backpack?” Doug offered. “You can put the laptop in there. It will be easier to carry and it won’t look so conspicuous.” “Really?” he said, surprised by Doug’s gesture. “Yes,” Doug said, slipping the straps off his shoulders.

988 989

Absolve: to pronounce clear of guilt or liability Stoic: seemingly indifferent to pleasure, pain, or grief 990 Apprise: to give notice to; inform

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José slipped the computer into the backpack. It was a perfect fit. But before he put it on, he looked at Doug. “I don’t know when I can return it,” he said somberly. Alexa choked on a sob welling up in her throat. The grim reality was imminent. José was leaving and she knew he wouldn’t be coming back to Tikal. But even sadder yet was the thought that she might not ever see him again. “That’s OK. You can keep it. Good luck,” Doug said, walking a few paces away to stand with Nadine and give Alexa some privacy to say goodbye. “I’ve got to go,” José said quietly. “I know,” she whispered. Alexa looked into his eyes, hoping for some sign or signal that their special friendship was still intact. “Don’t forget me,” he said quietly. “I won’t,” she promised. “I can’t.” José turned and walked away, silently disappearing into the depths of the jungle. Alexa stood motionless, as if rooted to the spot. Too stunned to talk and still reeling from life’s vicissitudes991, she didn’t want to process what had just happened. She didn’t want to move on and return home to her mundane existence, without the hope of having José in her life in a meaningful way. “Look!” Doug whispered urgently. Alexa spun around to see Doug pointing to the treetops above them. There, in mid-flight, was the most spectacular bird Alexa had ever
991

Vicissitude: one of the sudden or unexpected changes or hardships encountered in one’s life, activities, or surroundings

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seen. Its long serpentine tail feathers were a brilliant shade of emerald green and its breast a vibrant shade of crimson. It was the resplendent quetzal, the most prized and sacred of all birds for the ancient Maya. Alexa gasped at the sight of this magnificent bird, mesmerized by the luster of the long green feathers. She could easily see why the ancient Maya revered this exceptional bird. But what she couldn’t fathom is why this rare creature had revealed itself to her at this poignant992 moment in her life. It felt like a message bubbling up from the distant past or a signal pointing to her future, but she couldn’t quite decipher it. The elusive, majestic bird quickly disappeared into the rainforest canopy, but the questions it evoked993 lingered in her mind. Alexa slowly lifted her eyes from the treetops and looked at Doug standing next to her, a euphoric glow lighting up his face. “You’re my good-luck charm,” he said softly, staring into her eyes.

992 993

Poignant: profoundly moving; touching Evoke: to call forth or summon

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lexa walked into the Big Squeeze and immediately her eyes locked with Laurie’s. The two friends ran to hug each other. “I’m so glad you’re back!” Laurie exclaimed. “I can’t wait to hear everything,” she said, looking searchingly into Alexa’s eyes. “I can’t believe you went to a place that doesn’t have e-mail—I’ve been dying to hear what’s going on. How is that boyfriend of yours? Did you see José there?” Alexa looked down at the ground. Just hearing his name spoken out loud gave her a stabbing pain in her heart. She felt so acutely disconnected from him. When she and José had said their quick goodbyes and he had walked down that jungle path with Grady’s laptop, Alexa had the sensation he was literally walking right out of her life. Where was he now? Did he even realize that his brave actions successfully brought down a large smuggling ring, or did he return to the insular world of his small Caribbean island without hearing about any of the drama that unfolded

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after the authorities examined Grady’s laptop? Did he know that Rothschild and Nadine had been shown to be completely innocent and had both sung his praises for uncovering the insidious smuggling ring at great personal expense? Alexa had spent a lot of time pondering these questions, but mostly, she filled the lonely hours of her existence wondering if José missed her the same way she missed him. “Yeah, he was there,” she finally answered, her eyes downcast. Fittingly, the radio was playing a melancholy song about the demise of a romance. For the first time in her life, Alexa felt like she really understood it—the mournful melody and lamenting lyrics all made sense. She felt it resonating in the core of her being. “What happened?” Laurie asked sympathetically. “I can tell something went wrong. Did you break up?” Alexa hesitated to answer. Her heart was feeling heavier than ever. She felt like she was going to burst into tears if she tried to talk about it. “I don’t know,” she said still staring at the floor. “I don’t even know what happened or why. It’s just that everything got screwed up somehow.” “What happened?” Laurie asked again, her voice brimming with concern and curiosity. When Alexa finally looked up from the floor to face her friend, she saw someone approaching them. It was Doug. “Hey Alexa, ready for some wheatgrass juice?” Doug asked, his face lighting up with a mischievous grin. Alexa managed a weak smile and a nod in return. “Good, I’ll go get us one. You’ll like it better this time, I promise. Do you want one too, Laurie?”

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“No, thanks,” Laurie replied, turning to look at Alexa with wideeyed surprise. As soon as Doug walked away, Laurie peppered her with questions. “What’s going on? Are you guys an item?” she asked in a hushed tone that couldn’t mask her excitement. Alexa shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said nonchalantly. “I think that you are,” she said, “I can just tell.” Laurie grinned and spontaneously gave her friend another hug. “Alexa, this is going to catapult your popularity into the stratosphere! We all know that Doug’s going to be homecoming king...and that means you’ll be queen. Your coronation994 is just around the corner—I can feel it!” Alexa snickered at Laurie’s prediction, but she didn’t really believe it, given the fickle995 nature of popularity contests. “Half the people don’t even bother to vote in those stupid contests, so the winner is just arbitrary996. Besides, you know I don’t care about stuff like that,” she said. “Yeah, right! Whether you care or not, I think it’s going to happen,” Laurie said in a singsong, teasing voice. “And,” she added pointedly, “it’s not true that people don’t bother voting for homecoming king and queen. The voting takes place right during fifth period when everyone is at school. The entire student body is enfranchised997—everyone has a vote and a voice. So when you’re sitting on that throne, don’t forget all of the little people who helped you get there,” she teased. “Or better yet, can you have Doug introduce me to some of his friends on the lacrosse team?” she asked hopefully. “I’ll see what I can do,” Alexa laughed, watching Doug walk up to them carrying two small paper cups. “Here you go,” he said, flashing his famous smile.
994

Coronation: the act of crowning a new sovereign Fickle: erratic changeableness in affections or attachments 996 Arbitrary: determined by chance rather than necessity or reason 997 Enfranchised: to endow with the privileges of citizenship, especially the right to vote
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Alexa felt the slimy green liquid on her tongue. It was true...it did taste better than the first time. It tasted bittersweet, a mixed blessing, part good and part bad, just the way she was feeling about her life at that very moment. Yes, it was true that the most popular boy at Ithaca High School had fallen for her, but she couldn’t help but wonder about what might have been. Her mind kept returning to Tikal, searching for the reasons why things turned out so differently than she had hoped. She wondered what would have happened if she had been brave during the moments when she’d acted so cautiously. What would have happened if she had told José that she stood behind him 100 percent and supported his decision to refuse the tainted scholarship? What if she had offered to help him find a new scholarship instead of resigning herself to the fact that he was not going to come to the United States? In retrospect, things began to look crystal clear. Alexa knew that she had given up on José and the whole hope of being together when it became evident that he was going to lose his scholarship. Even though the two of them hadn’t expressly discussed breaking up, he had sensed her lack of commitment to him and they had ended up going their separate ways. Finally, she felt like she was beginning to understand what had happened. Alexa had the distinct sensation that she was letting life happen to her rather than grasping it by the horns, the way that José did. He always thought about his goal and then he committed himself to it. Alexa wondered if perhaps the reason why she liked José so much was because she wanted to be more like him. It was intoxicating to be around him because he had so much strength of purpose. When they were together, his allconsuming goals effectively masked the fact that she hadn’t set her own.

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Alexa fingered the delicate white seashell bracelet on her wrist and decided that it was time to stop thinking wistfully998 about the past. Senior year was starting imminently and it was time to think about the future. She downed the last sip of wheatgrass juice in one decisive swig and gave Doug a smile. He was a good friend, but that was all. Because deep down, when she thought about what she really wanted from life, it wasn’t the safe and easy path. Her true goal in life didn’t consist of winning a popularity contest or being someone else’s good-luck charm. In fact, her real dream wasn’t anywhere to be found in Ithaca, New York. The persistent dream that was growing within her involved becoming a marine biologist and seeing the world, especially the oceans. She wanted to know more about the mysterious sea creatures that lived below the surface. She wanted to go scuba diving in exotic locations and study dolphins in their natural habitat. She wanted to learn more about the ecology of the ocean and find a way to make a positive contribution to the preservation of the marine environment. Alexa heard her mother’s voice echoing in her mind, telling her to study for the SATs and prepare for her future. Alexa had gotten so tired of hearing this hackneyed999 advice that she had completely discounted its merit. But now, she was beginning to change her mind. Studying wasn’t about dutifully obeying her parents’ wishes, she realized. It was all about making your own goals a reality. Alexa crushed the little paper cup in her hand and threw it into the garbage can several feet away. The wadded wet cup landed squarely in the middle of the open receptacle. “Hey, great shot!” Doug said admiringly, wadding up his own empty cup and aiming to toss it into the trash with hers. But his shot fell
998 999

Wistful: full of wishful yearning or desire, often tinged with melancholy Hackneyed: excessively familiar through overuse; trite, banal

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short and the cup bounced off the rim of the receptacle. “Oh...” he groaned loudly, his face turning red. He looked at Alexa sheepishly. “A couple of us guys are going to the lake today for a swim,” he said. “Do you two want to come?” “No thanks,” Alexa said. “I have to go—I’m spending the day studying for the SATs. I’ll see you guys later,” she said turning to leave. Laurie came running after her. “Are you crazy?” she asked irately as soon as they were out the door. “You must be crazy, because you just snubbed him, not to mention the fact that you just ruined a perfect opportunity to introduce me to his friends.” Laurie let out an exasperated sigh. “He’s not going to ask you out again after that little scene. I can’t believe that you gave him such a lame excuse! Who studies during summer break?” “I do,” Alexa said confidently, striding purposefully down the sidewalk. “I’m going to study all morning, and then in the afternoon I’m going to write an e-mail to José and spend some time scouring the Internet for scholarships that he can apply for. He lost his scholarship and I want to help him find a new one.” “But what about Doug?” she asked incredulously. “He likes you!” Alexa shrugged. “I know, but that doesn’t mean I’m automatically going to feel the same way about him, despite the fact that he is popular and all that. The truth is that I still like José, and I’m not ready to let go of the dream that someday we could be together at the same college. But if I’m going to make that happen, I’m going to have to help find him a new scholarship, and I have to study for the SATs. I’m never going to get into a marine biology program if I don’t improve my score, so it’s really important that I study and give it my best shot.”

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“Well, I hope your lofty ambitions come true, because the reality of the situation now is that you’ve just abdicated1000 the throne—the throne reserved for the homecoming queen,” Laurie joked. Alexa laughed at her friend’s wisecrack and then quickened her pace on the sidewalk, heading for home. With every determined step, she felt her dreams coming closer to fruition.

1000

Abdicate: to formally give up a high office or responsibility, especially that of a monarch

Exercises he exercises presented here are designed to reinforce the vocabulary presented in The Mayan Mission and allow you to test your retention. The first section, Tricky Twosomes, presents troublesome pairs such as inimical and inimitable—vocabulary words that look similar at first glance but have vastly different meanings. The Tricky Twosome section will walk you through these challenging vocabulary words by providing the definition as well as an example of how they are used in context. Test your retention with the fill-in-the-blank questions that follow each pair of words. The Hot Topics for SAT Vocabulary reviews some of the more challenging vocabulary words by topic. Rather than looking at mind-numbing lists and endless definitions, Hot Topics provides a more meaningful way for you to review these words and improve your retention. Each subject review is followed by questions to test your burgeoning vocabulary. The Chapter Review section has 100 questions that are organized by chapter and correspond to the vocabulary presented in The Mayan Mission. If you like to test your vocabulary retention while you are reading the novel, this section will allow you to take a short test at the end of each chapter. Alternatively, this section may be tackled after reading the entire novel. If you have trouble with the questions in a particular chapter, you may want to think about rereading a given chapter or consulting the Vocabulary List to review the definitions.
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hese pairs of challenging SAT words look deceptively similar, but their meanings are distinct. Each Tricky Twosome that follows is incorporated into a sentence. When reading the sentences (in italics), practice gleaning the meaning of the vocabulary words from the context. Then, check yourself with the definitions provided, and finally, test your retention by filling in the blank with one of the Tricky Twosomes. To see how you did, turn to the Answers section.

Ascetic

Aesthetic

The ascetic monks were devoted to spiritual enlightenment. They were not concerned with the aesthetics of the monastery and spent little effort on its beautification. An ascetic is one who renounces material comforts and practices self-denial, usually in the context of enhancing his or her spiritualism. The word aesthetic concerns beauty and the appreciation of beauty and good taste. Question 1: When the architect accepted the job of designing a new art museum, he knew that the ___________ qualities of the building would be of paramount importance.

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Adverse

Avarice

After performing in her first starring role on stage, Clarissa was crushed by the adverse reviews in the paper the next day. She didn’t care about the fat paycheck in her pocket—she didn’t have a trace of avarice—she just wanted people to like her. Adverse is something that is unfavorable, difficult, or contrary to one’s interests. Avarice is an excessive desire for wealth; greediness. Question 2: Although it was challenging to preach about the evils of _________ to a congregation comprised primarily of wealthy businessmen, Father McDougal managed to capture their attention with a poignant story about a greedy merchant.

Blandish

Brandish

The weary samurai was initially quite reluctant to go into battle again, but the emperor blandished him so relentlessly that he ceded the emperor’s wishes. He charged into battle and the enemy cowered in fear when the samurai brandished his sword. To blandish is to cajole or coax someone by flattery or wheedling. To brandish is to wave or flourish something menacingly, usually a weapon of some sort. Question 3: __________ by Seth’s charms, Gwen agreed to go to the movies with him.

Commensurate

Commiserate

In the sentencing phase of the trial, the judge felt compelled to dole out a punishment that was commensurate with the crime. But the tragic circumstances of the perpetrator’s upbringing made the judge want to commiserate with him. Commensurate is a way of describing things that are the same size as each other or are proportionate in extent or degree. When you commiserate, you express sorrow or pity for someone; you sympathize with that person. Question 4: On the day that Sarah lost her dog to a tragic car accident, a group of her friends stopped by to _____________ with her.

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Compliment

Complement

Jason showered the chef with compliments about the creative feast she had prepared. He particularly liked the way that the tartness of the lemon vinaigrette complemented the asparagus salad. A compliment is an expression of praise or admiration. When something complements another, it completes it, makes it whole, or brings it to perfection. Question 5: Judy sold copious quantities of anti-virus software packages by telling her clients that the product would ____________ their existing software.

Compliant

Complicit

The students at the boarding school were generally compliant with the behavioral guidelines set by the principal. But a glaring exception was discovered when several students were found to be complicit in a drug ring that operated on campus. Compliant means disposed or willing to comply—to act in accordance with someone else’s rules or direction. When somebody participates in or is associated with a crime or questionable act, they are complicit. Question 6: The prisoner-abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib Prison led many to question if the administration was ___________ with torture in Iraq.

Congenial

Congenital

The congenial doctor immediately set her young patient at ease with her warm smile and gentle mannerisms. After chatting with her patient for a few minutes, she finally listened to his errant heartbeat, a congenital abnormality that had plagued him since the day he was born. Congenial describes a disposition that is friendly and sociable. Congenital refers to a condition that is present at birth. Question 7: The ____________ host of the party set all of her guests at ease with her friendly banter.

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Consummate

Consecrate

After completing a pilgrimage that consummated a lifelong spiritual quest, the weary but euphoric man consecrated his life to the service of the Lord. To consummate is to complete, conclude, or bring to fruition. To consecrate is to set something apart as sacred (consecrate a church) or to solemnly dedicate oneself to a goal. Question 8: The two businessmen shook hands, silently ____________the transaction that had taken months to negotiate.

Indigent

Indigenous

Fresh produce was an unheard-of luxury for the destitute and indigent inhabitants of the refugee camps. Given the prevalence of tomato sauce in Italian cuisine, many people are surprised to find out that the tomato plant is actually indigenous to South America and wasn’t brought to Italy until the sixteenth century. An indigent person is someone who is needy, poor, or destitute. An indigenous person is one who originates from and lives in a particular area. An indigenous plant occurs naturally in a particular area. Question 9: The ___________ inhabitants of the Americas succumbed to many diseases when the European settlers arrived.

Ingenious

Ingenuous

After being accused of embezzling from the firm, the stockbroker was unable to invent an ingenious explanation for the missing funds. Instead, he ingenuously admitted succumbing to greed. An ingenious person or idea is inventive, clever, or cunning. An ingenuous person has difficulty hiding his or her feelings; he or she has a lack of guile, deviousness, or deceptiveness. Question 10: The _________ money-laundering scheme was the most complex and effective deception that the officers had ever seen.

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Inimical

Inimitable

The workers at the chemical factory always put on a protective suit before entering the inimical environment of the production facility. Griffin’s inimitable sense of humor was truly unique. Inimical describes something that is injurious or harmful in effect. Inimitable describes something that defies imitation or copying; it’s matchless. Question 11: During her six-week stay at the drug rehabilitation center, Jenna was taught the tools to curb her _________ habits.

Obstreperous

Obsequious

The obstreperous child kicked and screamed, stubbornly defying his mother’s attempts to strap him into his car seat. When the famous movie star stepped into the humble restaurant, the obsequious waiter fawned over him incessantly, never leaving him alone for a minute. Obstreperous describes behavior that is noisily and stubbornly defiant. Obsequious behavior is characterized by fawning attentiveness or servile compliance. Question 12: Throughout the shooting of the film, the director was always flanked by his ____________ assistant, who was ready to fetch a cup of coffee at a moment’s notice.

Palette

Palate

The artist set down his paintbrush and palette to take a lunch break, but when he took a look at the buffet, nothing appealed to his palate. A palette refers to the flat board that artists sometimes hold while painting and use to mix paint colors. The palate is the sense of taste. When something is appealing to eat, it is palatable. Question 13: It was George’s insatiable appetite and discriminating __________that attracted him to the position of restaurant critic for the Chicago newspaper.

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Perfidious

Penurious

After signing the treaty to great fanfare, the rogue government deliberately violated its tenets, committing a perfidious act that alienated the people. After fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, the penniless man embraced the penurious lifestyle of the struggling artist when he finally arrived in California. A perfidious act or person deliberately violates trust and is characterized by betrayal and treachery. Penurious is poverty-stricken or destitute. It can also describe someone who is stingy and reluctant to spend money. Question 14: Oftentimes teenage runaways end up on the streets, living in appalling, __________ circumstances that they didn’t foresee.

Perspicacity

Pernicious

Even though Ebola outbreaks are exceedingly rare, the young doctor had the perspicacity to diagnose the early symptoms of this pernicious viral infection. Perspicacity is keen perception, acute discernment, and the capacity to assess situations shrewdly. Something that is exceedingly harmful, injurious, or deadly is pernicious. Question 15: The shrewd businessman knew that negotiating a deal with his biggest competitor was going to require both ____________ and perseverance.

Proscribe

Prescribe

Although the use of drugs in school was specifically proscribed, exceptions were made for students who had a particular medication prescribed by their doctor. Proscribe is to denounce, condemn, or prohibit. Prescribe is to order the use of a particular medication or treatment. Question 16: In order to foster a nurturing environment in their home, Dan’s parents __________ all movies and television shows that contained violence.

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Prodigious

Prodigal

The prodigious mansion was so grand in scale that it awed even the most jaded real estate agents. Its twenty-three bedrooms, three swimming pools, and lavish décor throughout were perfectly suited to a wealthy buyer who wanted to live a prodigal lifestyle. Prodigious is something that is impressively great in size or extent. Prodigal is excessively or wastefully extravagant. Question 17: The movie star’s __________ lifestyle ultimately led him to accumulate a massive debt that he could never repay.

Prurient

Puritan

Henry’s prurient thoughts gave him great cause for guilt and shame. The puritan values of his small-town upbringing were deeply ingrained within him. Prurient is characterized by lust or an inordinate interest in sex. The Puritans were a group of English Protestants living in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who advocated strict religious discipline. As an adjective, puritan means morally strict and opposed to sensual pleasures. Question 18: The concerned parents installed a parental lock software package on their computer in order to prohibit their young children from accessing the __________ websites on the Internet.

Sophomoric

Soporific

After discovering the pine cone on his chair, the professor scowled at his students for pulling such a sophomoric prank. Even though Jenny was having trouble sleeping at night, she was reluctant to take any type of soporific agent. Sophomoric means to show great immaturity or lack of judgment. Soporific describes something that induces sleep. Question 19: When the group of young mothers assembled to discuss the best way to encourage their infants to go to sleep at night, the ____________ effect of warm milk was touted by several of them.

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Tenuous

Tenable

Trenchant

Sara was reluctant to face her parents after she missed her curfew, because she knew that her tenuous excuse—she forgot to look at her watch—wouldn’t get her off the hook. She wished that she had a tenable excuse—something that was reasonable and defensible, like a flat tire. After carefully considering what she was going to say, Sara presented a trenchant argument that convinced her parents to forgive her transgression and relax the stringent curfew they had imposed last year. Tenuous describes something that is flimsy or thin. Tenable describes something that is rationally defensible and capable of being maintained in an argument. Trenchant describes something that is forceful, vigorous, and effective. Question 20: The prosecuting attorney was eager to cross-examine the witness. He knew that the witness’ explanation of the events was not ___________ and would fall apart when challenged.

Tortuous

Torturous

The bus driver went as fast as he dared on the tortuous highway that wound its way up the mountainside. Fred, who always succumbed to motion sickness, found the constant turning to be torturous on his delicate stomach. Tortuous describes something that is winding, twisting, or has repeated turns. Torturous describes something that is extremely painful or related to torture. Question 21: The _________ trail through the forest caused many of the hikers to become confused about their orientation.

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Vindicate

Vindictive

When the “not guilty” verdict was announced, Bart was thankful that he was finally vindicated. He felt like lashing out at his accusers in order to seek revenge, but he managed to suppress his vindictive urges. To vindicate is to clear of all suspicion, blame, or doubt with supporting proof. A vindictive person or act is concerned with seeking revenge. Question 22: When he was fired from his job as a computer programmer, David couldn’t resist his ____________ desires and he unleashed a computer virus in the company’s network.

Hot Topics for SAT Vocabulary

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here are certain topics that are chock-full of challenging SAT vocabulary words. Below, these words are grouped by subject matter and cursory definitions are provided in the Hot Topic summaries (for complete definitions, see the Vocabulary List section). You’ve seen these vocabulary words in the text of The Mayan Mission, but they’re reviewed again here in a different context as an additional learning aid. Read the “Hot Topics” to refresh your memory of these vocabulary words and then test your retention with the sentence completion questions below. To see how you did, turn to the Answers section.

Law
Litigation is a legal proceeding in a court of law. A litigant is a party who is engaged in a lawsuit. When a lawsuit is filed, one party alleges that the other party has done something unlawful—they make an allegation, which is an assertion that is not proven. During the course of the trial, the prosecution will try to prove that the allegations are true by providing supporting evidence. They will try to prove that the defendant (the person defending himself from the allegations) is culpable, meaning that he is deserving of blame.
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The defendant’s attorney will try to refute the allegations and provide exculpatory evidence—evidence that will clear the defendant from blame. The defense attorney will try to rebut the prosecution’s argument by providing an opposing argument. If the defendant is ultimately cleared of blame, you could say that he has been absolved of guilt or that he has been vindicated, exonerated, or exculpated. Each side tries to amass a preponderance of evidence that proves their stance, so that they will prevail (to be greater in strength or effectiveness). They will try to present convincing, conclusive evidence, as opposed to conjecture or speculation, both of which describe a conclusion or opinion based on guesswork or inconclusive evidence. If the defendant is proven guilty, the law may stipulate punitive measures—something that punishes. The law defines the appropriate retribution for particular crimes. For example, the offender may be sent to jail or required to pay restitution to his victims. But if the judge shows clemency, this means that the judge is merciful or lenient in doling out the punishment and he may shorten the jail sentence. If the offender feels remorse for his misdeeds, he may try to atone for his crime in some way. For example, he might make a heartfelt speech saying that he is sorry for his actions. To atone is to make amends for. 1. Jerry adamantly proclaimed his innocence when his mother accused him of taking the whole pan of brownies. But it wasn’t until the family dog appeared, his furry face smeared with chocolate, that Jerry was finally _____________. A. atoned B. culpable C. litigated D. negated E. vindicated

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2. When the suspect revealed that he had an airtight alibi for the night of the robbery, the police officer knew that this man couldn’t possibly be ___________. A. vindicated B. absolved C. exculpated D. exonerated E. culpable 3. The solid DNA evidence presented at the trial was ____________ and consequently, the accused was exonerated of the crime. A. exculpatory B. punitive C. culpable D. conjecture E. restitution 4. The _________ murderer watched the jury file into the courtroom and nervously waited to hear if they would pronounce him guilty or innocent of the heinous crime. A. vindicated B. exonerated C. alleged D. culpable E. prevailing

Fighting Words
What do you do when you are really mad at someone and you want to express it? If you’re just a little bit angry and you want to scold the person mildly, you might chide him, admonish him, or give him a reproving glance. If harsh criticism is in order, you might censure him. Censure is also an appropriate way of expressing strong disapproval in an official capacity or formal setting, such as in government.

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If you feel like scolding someone severely, you could vituperate, berate, or upbraid the person. These are all ways of rebuking someone when you feel that he or she has done you wrong. If your anger is extreme—you’re really livid and you feel like using some harsh language to express your anger—you might give the person some vitriolic criticism. You might feel like delivering an invective that rails against his behavior and castigates him for his misdeeds. If you feel like you want to start a fight, you might describe it as feeling antagonistic or truculent. If you always feel like you want to fight and you’re belligerent and combative in nature, you might describe yourself as pugnacious. If you’re easily angered and prone to outbursts of temper, you are irascible. If you’re quarrelsome in nature, you are contentious. But be careful—you might start an altercation (a noisy quarrel) that escalates into a full-fledged conflagration. A conflagration is a disastrous fire or other event, such as a conflict or war. 5. Kathy didn’t want to be too critical of her son’s first attempt to write a story, but she did want to gently _________ him for revealing several embarrassing family secrets. A. vituperate B. admonish C. antagonize D. congratulate E. praise 6. In the history of the United States, several presidents, including Polk, Jackson, and Clinton, have been __________ by Congress for their various misdeeds. A. censured B. extolled C. lauded D. lavished E. venerated

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7. What started out as a small forest fire quickly grew into a large and destructive ___________. A. altercation B. aesthetic C. complement D. conflagration E. invective

Demeanor and Styles of Speaking
There are many ways of describing how someone speaks. An inarticulate person has trouble speaking clearly or even speaking at all. Laconic speech is terse, concise, and uses very few words. Conversely, verbose speech is wordy and uses an excessive number of words. A loquacious person is very talkative. A roundabout expression that is unnecessarily wordy is described as a circumlocution. A cordial person is friendly. A convivial person likes to party and socialize. A nonchalant person acts indifferent or coolly unconcerned. An aloof person acts reserved or remote. A long, angry, or violent speech is a tirade. An eloquent speaker expresses himself clearly and effectively. But a grandiloquent speaker is pompous or bombastic, which means ostentatiously lofty or pretentious in style. Haughty describes arrogant superiority, looking down on other people or views with disdain. Imperious is arrogant assurance, a domineering, dictatorial style. Someone who jokes a lot is jocular. A trite or hackneyed saying has become too familiar through overuse and has lost the power to evoke interest. A person who is insincerely earnest is unctuous. An obsequious person is attentive or fawning in an ingratiating manner. A person who flatters influential people in order to get what he wants from them can be described as a sycophant or a toady.

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10. The glamorous movie star knew that her dress was terribly unflattering, despite the fact that everyone in her entourage kept telling her it looked marvelous. She realized that she was surrounded by _________ who would take every opportunity to flatter her. A. sycophants B. circumlocutions C. pompous people D. laconic people E. nonchalant people 11. The egotistical rock star swaggered into the club and headed straight to the V.I.P. section on the upper level, where he looked down at the regular folks with an air of ________disdain. A. toady B. loquacious C. haughty D. eloquent E. trite

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Money
There are several ways of describing someone who is poor and needy. An impecunious person is penniless and doesn’t have the money for necessities. If a person is experiencing extreme poverty and destitution, he is living in penury, privation, or indigence. Penurious can mean impoverished, or it can also be used to describe someone who is stingy and unwilling to spend money. A frugal person is very thrifty and careful to avoid waste. A parsimonious person is frugal to the point of stinginess. Someone who likes to plan and save for the future is provident. Someone who is recklessly extravagant is prodigal. People who are greedy and have an inordinate desire for wealth have cupidity or avarice. 12. Jeff’s insatiable __________ was not lessened in the slightest by the fortune he had already amassed. A. penury B. privation C. indigence D. provident E. cupidity 13. Living in __________ for much of her childhood gave Alisha a profound appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, such as a warm meal and a clean bed. A. privation B. cupidity C. avarice D. wealth E. luxury

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14. The __________ habits of the Indian tribe were evidenced by the ample supply of food that was stored away for winter. A. impecunious B. penurious C. prodigal D. provident E. complicit

The Future
Sometimes people describe the future as nebulous, meaning that it’s vague or unformed. But quite a few SAT vocabulary words describe predicting the future in some fashion. For example, a prescient prediction or a prescient person has knowledge of events before they occur. A clairvoyant has the ability to see objects and events that can’t be perceived by the senses. When there is a sign that indicates or warns about the future, it presages or portends something that is going to occur. For example, a harbinger is something that foreshadows what is to come. Sometimes, these signs about the future are auspicious or propitious, both of which indicate favorable circumstances or good luck. A favorable sign augurs well for the future. Conversely, an inauspicious sign is unfavorable, like a bad omen. Prophecy is a prediction of the future that is viewed as a revelation of divine will. It is generally used in the context of an inspired vision of the future, such as when the prophets of biblical times were reportedly inspired by God to predict the future. The book of Revelation, last book of the Bible, is full of colorful and dreamlike prophesies concerning the end of the world. If someone in modern times utters a prediction of the future in a manner that suggests divine inspiration, you could say that the person’s words are prophetic.

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15. When John predicted that a devastating tornado was going to touch down in their small community, no one believed him. When his prediction came true, the townspeople were sorry they hadn’t listened to his ___________ words. A. nebulous B. prophetic C. auspicious D. propitious E. inconclusive 16. When Jason found a penny on the sidewalk, he interpreted it as a(n) ____________ of good things to come. A. harbinger B. clairvoyant C. nebulous D. inauspicious sign E. ominous sign 17. The wildly inflated stock prices _________ a disastrous market crash. A. portended B. nonplused C. oscillated D. pontificated E. proselytized

Friendly and Unfriendly
There are subtle shades of meaning among these adjectives (see the Vocabulary List for more complete definitions), but basically all of the following words describe someone who is acting friendly and warm: amicable, amiable, affable, congenial, genial, and cordial.

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Someone who is convivial enjoys a good party—the person is sociable and fond of feasting, drinking, and merrymaking. But it is hard to be friendly when you are feeling animosity, acrimony, or enmity—all expressions of bitter hatred. Aversion and antipathy describe a feeling of repugnance—a strong feeling of dislike and/or desire to avoid something unpleasant. 18. The deep-seated _________ between the two tribes was destined to culminate in a ferocious battle. A. geniality B. congeniality C. cupidity D. avarice E. enmity 19. After experiencing food poisoning from eating linguine with clam sauce, Lisa developed a strong __________ shellfish, and she hasn’t eaten any since. A. affinity for B. aversion to C. reverence for D. ardor for E. partiality for 20. The leaders of the two warring tribes were able to set aside their mutual _________ long enough to sit down at the negotiation table and strike a deal for peace. A. respect B. affinity C. antipathy D. rapport E. repose

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Religion
The belief in a divine power, a God or Gods, is called theism. Conversely, the lack of a belief in God(s) is called atheism. An agnostic thinks that it is impossible to know whether there is a God or not. Someone who has a religious devotion and reverence to God is pious. A person who tries to induce others to join his religious faith is proselytizing his religion. A missionary proselytizes his faith typically by traveling to a foreign country to convert others to his faith and/or to do charitable work. The clergy are people who have been ordained for religious service. For example, a priest or a minister is a member of the clergy. To consecrate is to set apart as sacred, or to solemnly dedicate oneself to a particular goal. To desecrate is to violate the sacredness of something: The townspeople gathered to consecrate the new church. The prison guards desecrated the inmate’s Bible when they threw it in the toilet. Something that is set apart as holy or sacred is hallowed: the hallowed ground of the ancient burial site. The act of setting something apart as sacred is to sanctify. When a person feels remorse for his sins or misdeeds, he is repentant. A related word is penitence, which also describes the condition of being penitent—feeling regret for wrongdoing. Another synonym is contrition, which again describes a feeling of regret for one’s sins or misdeeds. Compunction is a strong feeling of uneasiness caused by a sense of guilt. 21. The Native American tribe was horrified to see their sacred burial ground ___________by the building of a new mall right on top of it. A. consecrated B. hallowed C. sanctified D. desecrated E. divined

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22. The famous movie star was so excited about her controversial religion that she seized every public forum as an opportunity to _____________. A. desecrate B. consecrate C. proselytize D. sanctify E. repent 23. The convicted burglar showed such __________ for his misdeeds that he managed to engender the sympathy of everyone in the courtroom. A. desecration B. contrition C. agnosticism D. theism E. plaudits

Medicine
When a person falls down and gets cuts and bruises, you could describe the injuries as lacerations (cuts) and contusions (bruises). Lacerations break the surface of the skin and typically involve bleeding. When the blood clots, it coagulates, meaning that it transforms from a liquid into a solid. A congenital condition is present at birth, as opposed to something that develops later in life. A virulent disease is extremely infectious. A doctor might prescribe a medication to combat the disease. If pain is involved, a doctor might recommend an analgesic to counteract the pain. If poison is involved, the doctor might prescribe an antidote to counteract it. An elixir is a substance with the power to cure all ills. An elixir can also describe the sweet syrup that is used as a vehicle for medicine, hiding its unpleasant flavor. Lassitude is a condition of weariness or listlessness.

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24. When her sister came down with a ___________ strain of the flu, Alyssa rushed her to the doctor’s office. A. congenital B. virulent C. analgesic D. coagulating E. benevolent 25. When Fred fell out of the tree and suffered multiple lacerations and contusions, his doctor recommended an over-the-counter ______________ to counteract the pain. A. antidote B. analgesic C. elixir D. coagulation E. congenital 26. On her 30th birthday, Velma felt lonely, sick, depressed, and miserable. She wished that there existed a(n) __________ that she could take to cure all of her ills. A. elixir B. analgesic C. coagulation D. laceration E. contusion

Politics and Government
A monarchy is a government that is ruled by a monarch, such as a king or queen, who typically inherits the position and keeps it for life. The act or ceremony of crowning a new monarch is called a coronation. Nobility refers to a privileged class in some societies that hold hereditary titles, such as dukes, duchesses, etc. Ignoble describes something that is characteristic of commoners, not of the nobility.

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A despot is a ruler who has absolute power and wields that power oppressively. A demagogue is a leader who gains power or stirs up the people by appealing to the passions and prejudices of his audience. Hegemony is the influence or domination of one state over another. A lobby is a group of people who have organized to try to influence legislators in favor of a particular cause: The agricultural lobby has been very powerful in convincing Congress to maintain price supports for dairy products. A pacifist believes that disputes should be resolved peacefully, without resorting to violence or war. A utopia is an ideally perfect place (often imaginary), particularly with respect to its social and political aspects. Utopia often refers to an idealistic, impractical ideal for society. To enfranchise is to endow with the rights of citizenship. It is most commonly used in the context of the right to vote. To be enfranchised is to have the right to vote, while conversely, to be disenfranchised is to be deprived of the right to vote: The suffragettes worked tirelessly to enfranchise American women. 27. A consummate _____________, the leader of the rogue government rapidly rose to power following a series of speeches that appealed to the people’s deep-seated desire for a religious state and played on their fear of foreign influences on their society. A. pacifist B. demagogue C. monarch D. lobbyist E. elixir 28. The widespread influence of Hellenistic culture in the Mediterranean came to an end with the rise of Roman ____________. A. pacifists B. utopia C. hegemony D. lobbyists E. coagulates

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29. After suffering through two years of unemployment, Harriet was ready to take any job, even jobs she had in the past considered to be ___________. A. enfranchised B. disenfranchised C. despot D. ignoble E. noble

Indulgence
Both prodigal and profligate describes someone who is recklessly extravagant. The person spends money or uses resources in a wild, wasteful manner. A glutton is prone to overindulgence or greediness in the consumption of food or drink. By contrast, an abstemious person eats and drinks in moderation. Temperance is moderation in behavior and avoidance of excess. Temperance can also be used to describe restraint or abstinence from alcoholic beverages. When someone abstains from something, the person is refraining from it by choice. Abnegation is self-denial—limiting or restraining one’s own desires. An ascetic is someone who renounces material comforts and practices self-denial, usually in the context of enhancing his or her spiritualism. 30. When Mrs. Lee opened the credit card bill, she immediately called her ____________ daughter at her dorm room and threatened to cancel her card if the extravagant expenditures didn’t stop immediately. A. profligate B. abstemious C. ascetic D. abnegating E. frugal

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31. Upon opening the refrigerator and finding that an entire birthday cake and a six-pack of beer had disappeared in the middle of the night, Jack concluded that his new roommate lacked _____________. A. gluttony B. indulgence C. profligate tendencies D. prodigal habits E. temperance 32. Jim’s _________ eating habits kept his weight down to a healthy level. A. profligate B. prodigal C. abstemious D. extravagant E. capricious

Walking
There are a handful of SAT vocabulary words that describe different ways of walking. To scurry and to scamper both mean to go with light running steps. To traipse is to walk or tramp about. To trudge or to plod both mean to walk in a laborious, heavy-footed way. To swagger is to walk or conduct oneself with a proud, arrogant air. 33. When he was announced as most valuable player, Seth ___________ up to the stage like a proud peacock to accept his prize. A. trudged B. plodded C. swaggered D. dissolved E. diffused

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34. The frightened squirrel __________ up the tree trunk when it saw us coming. A. swaggered B. strutted C. plodded D. trudged E. scurried

Chemistry
Sugar is soluble in water. This means that it can be dissolved to form a solution. When you add a teaspoon of sugar to a glass of water and stir it until it dissolves, it will form a solution of sweet water. In this example, the water is acting as the solvent, the liquid in which a substance is dissolved, and the sugar is the solute. When you first add the sugar to the water, it begins to diffuse throughout the water. To diffuse means to become widely dispersed. If you add a lot of sugar to the glass of water and heat it up to help it dissolve, you may find that the sugar precipitates out of solution when you allow the water to cool down again. To precipitate is to cause a solid substance to be separated from a solution. In a more general sense, the word precipitate means to cause something to happen: The mass hysteria on Wall Street precipitated an enormous stock market crash. To catalyze is to speed the rate of a chemical reaction by catalysis. But in a more general sense, the word catalyze means to bring about or initiate: The highly publicized student protest catalyzed a substantive change in the university’s policies. To desiccate is to dry out thoroughly.

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35. Belinda knew that the paint stain on the rug wouldn’t come out with water, so she hunted through the cabinet looking for a chemical _________ that could dissolve the paint. A. diffuser B. desiccator C. solvent D. precipitate E. coagulate 36. The newspaper article hinting at corruption within the administration _________ an investigation by the authorities. A. desiccated B. precipitated C. solubilized D. coagulated E. commiserated

Chapter Reviews

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elected vocabulary words from each chapter of The Mayan Mission are reviewed in the following sentence completion questions. For the questions below, read the entire sentence and pick the vocabulary word that best fits the sentence as a whole. To see how you did, turn to the Answers section.

Chapter 1
1. After Hank lost the family savings in a scam, his wife encouraged him to be more __________ about investing. A. savory B. flabbergasted C. circumspect D. apocryphal E. congenial

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6. Harry’s __________ for the high life has left him with a massive debt. A. ambivalence B. indifference C. predilection D. nonchalance E. repugnance 7. A(n) _________ scholar of entomology, Belinda had read every book about bugs that was published in the last decade. A. erudite B. philanthropist C. waning D. pungent E. amicable 8. In order to _________her guilty feelings, Jenny wrote a long letter of apology. A. stupefy B. procure C. relish D. assuage E. enthrall

Chapter 2
9. The spacious master bedroom has a(n) ___________ bathroom with three sinks, an oversize hot tub, and plenty of floor space to move about. A. rational B. commodious C. epistolary D. fastidious E. utilitarian

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10. The documentary focuses on Darren, a(n) ___________ orphan who struggles to escape the suffocating veil of poverty. A. euphoric B. wealthy C. elated D. exorbitant E. impecunious 11. When Jerry was in jail, he maintained a(n) ___________relationship with his girlfriend and wrote her a long letter every single day. A. epistolary B. cosmopolitan C. commodious D. archaic E. vindicated 12. Patrick showed a profound disrespect for authority by ___________ the direct orders of his supervisor and consequently, he was expelled from the military school. A. accommodating B. coveting C. contravening D. aspiring E. satiating 13. Howard was __________ about personal hygiene; he scrupulously washed his hands at least 20 times a day. A. commodious B. frugal C. provident D. impecunious E. fastidious

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Chapter 3
14. The ___________ story kept Jane engrossed in the novel. A. scintillating B. interminable C. punctilious D. implacable E. abstruse 15. After being convicted of a(n) _________ crime, the man hid his head in shame and tried to avoid the prying eyes of the assembled crowd. A. literal B. serendipitous C. cordial D. lethargic E. ignominious 16. Harold kept his car scrupulously clean; he vacuumed it ___________after every family outing. A. irrevocably B. supinely C. enigmatically D. meticulously E. adversely 17. Overcoming _________ odds, Frieda managed to win the state lottery twice. A. eloquent B. tacit C. insuperable D. scathing E. parsimonious

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18. Jared was so ___________ that he refused to spend a mere 50 cents on parking and instead, he would walk the three miles to the theater. A. ubiquitous B. grandiose C. nostalgic D. parsimonious E. animated 19. The ___________talents of the dance company were on full display during the sold-out show. They superbly performed every style from classical ballet to hip-hop. A. myriad B. dubious C. impudent D. elusive E. imperative 20. _____________, Sam bought the videos for his kids, but his wife suspected otherwise when she saw how much Sam enjoyed watching the videos himself. A. Grievously B. Lethargically C. Ostensibly D. Eloquently E. Impudently 21. Brenda tried everything from acupuncture to hypnotism in her tireless search for a way to ___________her chronic pain. A. palliate B. speculate C. proselytize D. simulate E. capitulate

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22. Bill’s _________ remarks about his ex-wife’s new husband caused a violent brawl to break out between the two men. A. cordial B. impassive C. enlightened D. caustic E. genial 23. After fighting with her parents for hours, Hailey finally gave up and _________ their demands. A. goaded B. capitulated to C. effervesced D. permeated E. proselytized 24. Gwen and her best friend were complete opposites; Gwen was animated and excited about everything, while her best friend always appeared ___________. A. impassive B. zealous C. gregarious D. effervescent E. convivial

Chapter 4
25. The warm __________among the students at the boarding school kept Sarah from feeling lonely. A. quagmire B. privation C. conundrum D. camaraderie E. hierarchy

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26. When walking home alone at night, Brian was always cautious and _____ of danger. A. hapless B. wary C. nebulous D. propitious E. dissuaded 27. Taking a ________from the intense stress of her job, Susan relaxed at the beach for a week. A. duress B. pittance C. interlocutor D. conundrum E. reprieve 28. The politician’s speech was so trite and full of meaningless __________ that the audience quickly lost interest. A. platitudes B. prowess C. plaudits D. conundrums E. innovations 29. When Carrie’s father reprimanded her, he made it clear that he didn’t ________ her irresponsible behavior. A. discern B. abhor C. elegate D. condone E. dispatch

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Chapter 5
30. When a huge traffic jam materialized at rush hour, the impatient commuters expressed their frustrations in a(n) ____________ of blaring car horns. A. atrophy B. cacophony C. laceration D. commendation E. inequity 31. Even in the face of great hardship, Ashley was __________; she always looked at the bright side of any situation. A. antiseptic B. quiescent C. unnerved D. sanguine E. bashful 32. After playing on the professional tennis circuit for 10 years, George still loved to work out daily; he couldn’t stand the thought of slowing down and living a ________lifestyle. A. amorous B. swarthy C. cognizant D. luminous E. sedentary 33. The cartoon show depicted endless variations on the theme of a menacing cat chasing a ________ little mouse who cowered in fear. A. colossal B. timorous C. diaphanous D. evanescent E. enamored

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34. Jared’s mother tried to counsel him to respond to situations rationally and after careful thought, rather than emotionally and ____________, as he was known to do. A. atrophied B. wizened C. impetuously D. scrupulously E. incessantly 35. Harry’s gregarious behavior at the party was a big departure from his typically _________ demeanor. A. convivial B. congenial C. vociferous D. taciturn E. evanescent 36. Wendy felt much better after Harold apologized profusely; his sincere apology was like a ___________ for her wounds. A. antecedent B. despot C. salve D. consortium E. cacophony 37. Trying not to say anything contentious, the talk-show host restricted her commentary to ____________ generalities. A. innocuous B. forlorn C. indignant D. deprecating E. acute

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38. When Kathy became a pacifist, she declared that she was going to adamantly ________ violence in favor of negotiation as a strategy to resolve disputes. A. flourish B. divine C. elicit D. eschew E. dither

Chapter 6
39. The beautiful supermodel achieved spectacular international success; she was widely regarded as a woman of great __________. A. innuendo B. pulchritude C. aberrations D. macabre E. penury 40. The school principal warned the student body that the dedication ceremony was to be a solemn, respectful event and that ________ and laughter would be inappropriate. A. corpulence B. aesthetics C. mitigation D. reconciliation E. levity 41. Although the politician didn’t expressly state anything derogatory about his opponent, the _________ was clear. A. swagger B. innuendo C. fodder D. corpulence E. pulchritude

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42. The jury was not likely to be lenient after hearing the _________ crime described in horrifying detail. A. aesthetic B. ascetic C. pacifist D. execrable E. jocular

Chapter 7
43. The show was so boring and repetitious that the audience was lulled into a(n) __________ state. A. somnolent B. sophomoric C. petulant D. obscure E. empirical 44. John shifted uneasily in his chair, ____________ by the embarrassing revelation. A. integrated B. catalogued C. discomfited D. delighted E. foraged 45. __________ the rain, Joshua played happily in the midst of a downpour. A. Nocturnal in B. Impervious to C. Implicit in D. Insipid in E. Petulant in

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46. After practicing basketball all day long, Harry was _________ the fact that he still was unable to make a single basket. A. obscured by B. exuberant about C. integrated with D. exasperated by E. clamoring for 47. Mike was so sick of the __________ chicken that was served on every flight that he decided to bring his own meal on the airplane. A. petulant B. covenant C. insipid D. theoretical E. vilified

Chapter 8
48. The teacher explained things in such a dull and unimaginative fashion that he managed to make even the most interesting topics seem _________. A. sensual B. sublime C. palpable D. iridescent E. prosaic 49. The politician’s remarks were ___________ and no one in the room could figure out what side of the issue he stood on. A. presumptuous B. equivocal C. sublime D. condemning E. palpable

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50. The conditions in the nursing home were so __________ that the health inspector shut down the home. A. iridescent B. unpretentious C. deplorable D. complacent E. sublime 51. The short magazine article successfully managed to ________ the complexities of the difficult issue. A. bereft B. brandish C. coagulate D. encapsulate E. trudge 52. The _____________ dark clouds in the sky presaged an ominous storm. A. portentous B. pliable C. profligate D. presumptuous E. lithe 53. Regretting the contentious things that she said, but unable to __________ her words, Katrina apologized profusely. A. encapsulate B. retract C. coagulate D. presage E. prepossess

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Chapter 9
54. The ________ party was so loud and unruly that one of the neighbors called the police. A. analgesic B. apathetic C. compassionate D. raucous E. servile 55. The investigators __________ the cause of the fire to a faulty wire. A. bequeathed B. truncated C. deterred D. emoted E. imputed 56. The __________ article about the movie star was filled with derogatory statements and lies. A. benevolent B. defamatory C. demure D. compassionate E. ignoble 57. Thomas knew that the accusations were ________ false, so he stood up to tell everyone in the room the real truth. A. benevolently B. covertly C. hedonistically D. patently E. vigilantly

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58. The young man led a double life; he managed to ingratiate himself into high society while hiding his __________roots. A. plebeian B. benign C. ornate D. sagacious E. benevolent 59. Greg climbed the corporate ladder by constantly flattering his boss and acting like a __________. A. morass B. analgesic C. toady D. libation E. dirge 60. Jake’s mother tried everything to get her son interested in his schoolwork and excited about learning. But despite her efforts, Jake continued to be ___________ about his studies. A. cunning B. compassionate C. vigilant D. beguiled E. apathetic 61. Amanda was _________; she told her boss that she was content with her job, but in reality, she was busy searching for a new job. A. comprehensive B. duplicitous C. ignoble D. indomitable E. legitimate

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62. Garry kept up a _________ of virtue, but soon everyone began to realize that this was a façade. A. chasm B. dissonance C. dirge D. pretense E. privy 63. When a person makes a statement that is maliciously intended to damage the reputation of another person, it is called ___________. A. discourse B. probity C. calumny D. effrontery E. sagacity

Chapter 10
64. Without rehearsing or even using a script, the kids staged a(n) _________ show. A. impromptu B. desiccated C. artisan D. catalyzed E. hedged 65. Grace preferred learning on the job rather than a(n) _________ approach to learning, consisting of endless textbooks and lectures. A. desiccated B. didactic C. salvaged D. facetious E. effaced

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66. Brenda didn’t want to eat another bite of the birthday cake. She found the thick, sweet icing to be ___________. A. aquatic B. lucid C. pellucid D. cloying E. demonstrative 67. Rather than wearing the same type of outfits that everyone else wore to school, Gwen decided to break with convention and wear something __________. A. intractable B. indolent C. circuitous D. unabated E. unorthodox 68. After winning a fierce battle, the victors showed _________ in sparing the enemy commanders and allowing the defeated army to retreat. A. avidity B. reverie C. clemency D. kudos E. candor 69. The _________ commercial was so excessively sentimental that everyone in the room groaned when it came on. A. mawkish B. flaccid C. quintessential D. avenged E. concretized

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Chapter 11
70. A(n) ________ of fashion, the magazine editor personally picked out the clothes for every cover shoot. A. misanthrope B. scourge C. abnegation D. paucity E. arbiter 71. The reporter thought that his newspaper article was ___________, so he was quite surprised when the article sparked such an important series of events. A. multifarious B. unscathed C. inconsequential D. resilient E. communal 72. When a scathing article was published about the mayor, he immediately made a statement railing against the newspaper for printing a(n) _________ article filled with lies. A. mendacious B. alluring C. solicitous D. panacea E. omnipresent 73. The _________ of grizzly bears in the region prompted the local legislators to propose a bill that would put the grizzly bear on the endangered species list. A. panacea B. paucity C. credence D. parody E. abnegation

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74. The __________ of the defendant’s story was challenged by the prosecuting attorney, an astute and experienced lawyer who deftly pointed out the inconsistencies in the defendant’s version of events. A. approbation B. largess C. harbinger D. veracity E. allocation 75. Kara did not believe a word of Jerry’s excuse. After many years and many fabricated excuses, she knew that Jerry was a(n) __________ liar. A. defunct B. inveterate C. compatriot D. penultimate E. communal 76. George decided to _________ convention and do something completely unorthodox. A. ascribe B. aggrandize C. allure D. entwine E. flout 77. The _________ of the poem was really catchy and the students enjoyed reciting the rhythmic rhymes. A. avarice B. credence C. cadence D. scion E. largess

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Chapter 12
78. The legislator proposed setting aside some of the budget to be reserved for __________circumstances, so that when an urgent matter arises that requires immediate action, the money would already be allocated. A. exigent B. C. D. E. fatuous irascible recapitulated hypocritical

79. Larry was in a _________; none of his options looked good. A. misnomer B. circumlocution C. elixir D. semaphore E. quandary 80. Justin knew that he was destined to go to jail. The evidence against him was ___________. A. convoluted B. wanton C. conciliatory D. incontrovertible E. fatuous 81. A base or depraved act is a(n) _____________. A. invective B. quandary C. turpitude D. misnomer E. affirmation

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82. When the story of the politician’s affair with the intern broke, it sparked a deluge of ____________ news articles that focused on the details of the affair. A. convivial B. salacious C. imperceptible D. staid E. nurturing 83. Greg was given to _________ decisions and whims of fancy; he was simply unpredictable and impulsive. A. meticulous B. staid C. validated D. logical E. capricious 84. Henry was a(n) __________ man; he loved a good party. A. censured B. staid C. convivial D. unfounded E. perfidious 85. When Ruth discovered that the company’s treasury had been raided, she knew that it had to be one of the employees who committed the __________ act. A. perfidious B. reclusive C. decorous D. haughty E. officious

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Chapter 13
86. Greta decided to quit smoking because she knew that it was _________to her health. A. vacuous B. dormant C. arable D. deleterious E. intransigent 87. The ____________ spark that ignited the conflagration was ultimately attributed to a frayed electrical wire. A. Faustian B. rampant C. incendiary D. esoteric E. docile 88. George’s _________ talents were on full display in the one-man show, during which he did amazing impersonations of a wide variety of people, from political figures to famous actors. A. diminutive B. protean C. truculent D. culpable E. vacuous 89. Jared cheated without ___________; he didn’t feel a trace of uneasiness or guilt when he looked on his neighbor’s answer sheet during the exam. A. compunction B. bias C. torpor D. fecundity E. expediency

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90. The causes championed by the lobby group were ______________; they were not of interest to the majority of the population. A. appraised B. protean C. esoteric D. meritorious E. primeval 91. Rob’s plan for the future was _________ and unformed. He knew that he needed more time to formulate something more concrete. A. arboreal B. dissembled C. culpable D. sage E. inchoate 92. The veterinarian had a great deal of difficulty with the ________ animal; it refused to stay on the examination table and was stubbornly resistant to any form of control. A. fractious B. vacuous C. arable D. fallow E. compliant 93. The __________ beast was always growling and looking for a fight. A. expedient B. torpid C. intimate D. pugnacious E. mollified

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Chapter 14
94. The ________ toddler never obeyed his mother or responded to her reprimands. A. congenial B. salient C. incorrigible D. chivalrous E. maudlin 95. Jim took the time to carefully _________ his thermometer before he did the experiment so that it would accurately read the temperature of the solution. A. anesthetize B. juxtapose C. calibrate D. bilk E. desecrate 96. After seeing the gruesome crime scene, the policeman said that only a _______ criminal could commit such a heinous crime. A. maudlin B. diabolical C. dilatory D. chivalrous E. genial 97. The haughty professor had such a __________ air about him that he made his students feel inferior and unworthy. A. fiendish B. chivalrous C. strident D. supercilious E. vigilante

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Chapter 15
98. Grace did not get fired. She left the job of her own ________. A. prophecy B. nadir C. volition D. decimation E. sentinel 99. The _________ walked the perimeter of the compound all night long, vigilantly guarding against any intruders. A. agnostics B. anarchists C. sentinels D. nonconformists E. merrymakers

Chapter 16
100. Many people in the kingdom wondered if the young royal would ________ the throne, because he seemed more interested in fishing than in ruling. A. enfranchise B. coronate C. reckon D. privy E. abdicate

Answers
Tricky Twosomes
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. aesthetic avarice blandished commiserate complement complicit congenial consummating indigenous ingenious inimical 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. obsequious palate penurious perspicacity proscribed prodigal prurient soporific tenable tortuous vindictive

Hot Topics for SAT Vocabulary
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. E E A C B A D 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. A C E A D B A
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8. D 9. B

17. A 18. E

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The Mayan Mission B C D C B B B A B 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. C D A E C C E C B

19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27.

Chapter Reviews
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. C E A D B C A D B E A C E A E D C D A C A D 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. B A D B E A D B D E B C D C A D B E B D A C

The Mayan Mission 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. B D C E B C D A B D E B D A C E B D C A B D E C A E C A 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89. 90. 91. 92. 93. 94. 95. 96. 97. 98. 99. 100. B D B E C A E D C B E C A D C B A C E A D C C B D C C E

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Vocabulary List
The Vocabulary List and the footnotes in The Mayan Mission provide simplified definitions that explain the meaning of the vocabulary words as they are used in the context of the story. Some vocabulary words may have multiple definitions that are not included here. For complete definitions, consult a dictionary.

Abate

to reduce; lessen

Abdicate to formally give up a high office or responsibility, especially that of a monarch Aberration Abhor Abide Abject Abjure a departure from the normal or typical

to regard with loathing or horror; detest to conform to; comply with of the most miserable type, wretched to give up or abstain from self-denial

Abnegation Abort Abridge Absolve Abstain

to terminate before completion to shorten in size, scope, or extent to pronounce clear of guilt or liability to deliberately refrain from something

Abstemious marked by restraint and moderation, especially as applied to eating and drinking Abstruse hard to understand; incomprehensible
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The Mayan Mission to give consent, often at the insistence of another; concede to praise enthusiastically and often publicly; applaud an expression of approval; praise to adapt oneself, become adjusted

Accede Acclaim Accolade

Accommodate

Accost to approach and speak to boldly or aggressively, as with a demand or request Accretion Acerbic Acquiesce Acrid growth by gradual addition sharp or biting, as in character or expression to consent or agree without protest

unpleasantly sharp or bitter to the taste or smell biting sharpness and animosity in speech or disposition

Acrimony

Acute reacting readily to stimuli or impressions; keenly perceptive; sensitive Adamant Adept Adhere stubbornly unyielding

very skilled to carry out without deviation to gently express warning or disapproval

Admonish Adorn Adroit

to lend beauty to, enhance or decorate quick, skillful, or adept in action or thought; dexterous excessive flattery or praise to give a sketchy outline of

Adulation Adumbrate

Adverse contrary or against one’s interests; difficult or unfavorable: adverse criticism Advocate Aerial to plead, argue, or speak in favor of

high in the air; lofty

The Mayan Mission Aesthetic taste Affable

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relating to beauty and the appreciation of beauty and good pleasant and easy to talk to the act of supporting, confirming, or upholding the valid-

Affirmation ity of Affront

to face defiantly; confront to make appear greater; exaggerate

Aggrandize

Aggregate a collection of things constituting or amounting to a whole; total, collective Aggrieve to distress; afflict

Agile characterized by quickness, lightness, and ease of movement; nimble Agnostic one who believes that it is impossible to know if God exists relating to farming, producing crops, and raising livestock

Agricultural Alacrity Albeit Allay Allege

promptness in response; cheerful readiness even though, although, notwithstanding

reduce in intensity or severity; alleviate, relieve to assert to be true without proof loyalty to relieve or make more bearable: aspirin alleviated the pain

Allegiance Alleviate

Allocate to set apart for a special purpose or distribute according to plan: a portion of the school budget was allocated for music Alluring Aloof to attract or entice with something desirable

emotionally distant, reserved, or remote a noisy, vehement quarrel

Altercation

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Amalgamation an entity resulting from the combining or uniting of elements into a unified whole Ambivalent Ameliorate Amenable Amenities Amiable Amicable Amorous having a mixture of opposite feelings to make better; improve readily brought to yield or cooperate; willing something that confers material or physical comfort friendly, sociable friendly indicative of love or sexual desire lacking definite form; shapeless a medicine that reduces or eliminates pain

Amorphous Analgesic

Analogy a comparison based on similarities between things that are otherwise dissimilar Anarchist one who rebels against any authority, established order, or coercive control Anathema Anecdote Anesthetize Animated Anomaly someone or something intensely loathed or shunned a short account of an incident to make unconscious by use of anesthetic drugs lively, spirited, or zestful deviation from the common rule; irregularity name unknown one’s ancestors or something that goes before or precedes extremely old and antiquated

Anonymous Antecedents Antediluvian

Anticlimactic an event that is strikingly less important than what has preceded or led up to it

The Mayan Mission Antipathy Antiquated a strong feeling of aversion or intense dislike too old to be useful or fashionable; outdated

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Antiseptic a substance that inhibits the growth and reproduction of disease-causing microorganisms Antithesis Apathetic Apocryphal Appalling Appease Appraise Apprehend Apprise the exact opposite having a lack of interest or concern; indifferent of doubtful authenticity inspiring horror, dismay, or disgust to bring peace or quiet to; soothe to evaluate, to estimate the quality and features of; judge to arrest or take into custody

to give notice to; inform an expression of warm approval; praise

Approbation Aquatic Arable Arbiter Arbitrary Arboreal Arcane Archaic

living in water; relating to water land fit to be cultivated a person who has the power to decide or judge at will determined by chance rather than necessity or reason relating to trees known or understood by only a few: arcane economic theories characteristic of an earlier or more primitive time; antiquated an ideal example of a type

Archetypal Ardent Arduous Arid

characterized by strong enthusiasm or devotion; fervent strenuous; demanding great effort

dry, lacking sufficient moisture, water, or rainfall

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Artisan a skilled manual worker who practices a trade or handicraft; a craftsman Ascertain to find out or learn with certainty; discover

Ascetic one who renounces material comforts and practices self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline. Ascribe to attribute to a specified cause or source a disparaging, damaging, or unfavorable remark; slander a strong desire or ambition to achieve

Aspersions Aspiration Assail Assert Assess Assuage Astute Asylum Atone Atrophy Attune Atypical Audacious Audible Augur

to attack violently; assault. to state positively; affirm to estimate the value of to put an end to by satisfying; quench, appease having shrewdness and discernment a place of refuge or protection; a sanctuary to make amends, as for a sin or crime decrease in size or wasting away of a body part or tissue to make aware or responsive not conforming to type; unusual or irregular fearlessly daring, recklessly bold

that is heard or is able to be heard indicate by signs; bode, foreshadow favorable, indicative of good things

Auspicious Austere Avarice

severely simple or stark excessive desire for wealth; greed

The Mayan Mission Avenge Avidity Balk Ballad Banal Bashful Bawdy Beguile to inflict a punishment in return for; revenge keen interest or enthusiasm

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to stop short and refuse to proceed a simple song lacking originality, freshness, or novelty shy, self-conscious, and awkward humorously coarse, vulgar, or lewd to deceive by guile (treacherous cunning and skillful deceit) something of enormous size or power one who gives aid, especially financial aid characterized by doing good or showing kindness

Behemoth Benefactor Benevolent Benign

of a mild type that does not threaten health or life

Bequeath to leave or give personal property by will or to hand down from one generation to the next Berate Bereft Beseech Bestow to scold vehemently and at length; rebuke deprived of something to beg for urgently; implore to present as a gift

Bias a preference or inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment Bilk to elude, thwart, or frustrate; can also mean to swindle to coax by flattery or wheedling; cajole loud and lacking in restraint; rowdy

Blandish Boisterous

Bombastic pompous or ostentatiously lofty in speech or writing; grandiloquent

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The Mayan Mission a timely blessing or benefit to wave or flourish (typically a weapon) menacingly marked by flagrant boldness short or abrupt in manner or speech; discourteously blunt

Boon

Brandish Brazen Brusque

Buffet a meal at which guests serve themselves from a variety of dishes that are all set out Buffoonery Burgeoning Buttress Cache ridiculous, joking, or clowning behavior to grow and flourish

something that serves to support or reinforce a secure place of storage jarring, discordant sound; dissonance

Cacophony Cadence dance Cahoots Cajole

the beat, measure, or rhythmic flow, as in music, poetry, or a secret partnership or questionable collaboration to repeatedly urge with gentle appeals, teasing, or flattery; wheedle an event resulting in terrible loss and misfortune; catastrophe to adjust precisely for a particular function emotionally hardened; unfeeling, insensitive

Calamity Calibrate Callous

Calumny the utterance of maliciously false statements that harm another person’s reputation Camaraderie Candor Canvas lighthearted rapport and goodwill between friends

honest, straightforward, and frank in expression a piece of such fabric on which a painting is executed capable of containing a large quantity; spacious, roomy to cease resisting; acquiesce

Capacious Capitulate

The Mayan Mission Capricious Captivate impulsive and unpredictable to attract and hold by beauty, charm or excellence

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Carouse to engage in boisterous, drunken merrymaking or excessive drinking Carp to find fault in a disagreeable way; complain fretfully to make an itemized list of to bring about, initiate, or increase the rate of something marked by incisive sarcasm; cutting

Catalogue Catalyze Caustic

Cavort to bound or prance about in a playful, boisterous, or sprightly manner Censure Certitude Chaos Chasm Chastise Chide a strong expression of disapproval the state of being certain; confidence

a condition of great disorder or confusion a marked division, separation, or difference to criticize severely; rebuke

to reprimand mildly so as to correct or improve

Chivalrous characterized by consideration, gallantry, and courtesy, especially toward women Choreograph to arrange or direct the movement, development, or details of; orchestrate Chronicling Chronological to record in the form of a historical record arranged in order of time of occurrence

Circuitous a roundabout or indirect lengthy course: they took a circuitous route to avoid the roadblock Circumlocution the use of unnecessarily wordy, roundabout, and indirect language

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The Mayan Mission to draw a line around or surround by a boundary careful to consider all possible consequences; prudent, to manage to avoid or get around; bypass

Circumscribe Circumspect cautious Circumvent Clamor

to make loud, insistent demands or complaints conducted in secrecy

Clandestine Cleave

to split or cut

Clemency demonstrating mercy in the punishment of an offender; merciful, lenient Cloying Coagulate Coerce sickeningly sweet; excessively sweet or sentimental to change from a liquid state into a solid or gel; clot

to force or compel someone into doing something

Cogent appealing to the intellect or powers of reasoning; valid and persuasive: a cogent analysis Cognizant fully informed; conscious, aware

Coherent marked by an orderly and logical relation of parts: a coherent argument Colloquial characteristic of informal spoken language or conversation

Collude to act together secretly for illegal or deceitful purposes; conspire; plot Colossal Colossus of a size, extent, or bulk that elicits astonishment; immense a huge statue (for example, the Statue of Liberty)

Commendation something, especially an official award, that commends (expresses approval or praise) Commensurate Commiserate corresponding in size or degree; proportionate to feel sorrow, compassion, or pity for; sympathize with

The Mayan Mission Commodious roomy, spacious

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Commodity an article of commerce or trade, especially goods that can be processed and resold Communal shared by the people of a community

Commune to be in a state of heightened sensitivity, as with one’s surroundings Compassionate having a sympathetic concern for others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it Compatriot Compensate Complacent Complement Compliant Complicit a person from one’s own country to make satisfactory payment or reparation to contented to a fault; satisfied and unconcerned something that completes the whole or brings to perfection willing to carry out the orders or wishes of another association with or participation in an wrongful act covering completely or broadly; large in scope a strong uneasiness or anxiety caused by a sense of guilt

Comprehensive Compunction Concede

to make a concession; yield to try to gain friendship or overcome animosity a food or drink made by mixing different ingredients occurring, existing, or happening at the same time

Conciliatory Concoction Concomitant Concord Concretize Condemn Condone Conduit

a state of agreement or harmony to make something concrete, definite, or specific to express strong disapproval of to forgive, excuse, or overlook a means by which something is transmitted or distributed

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The Mayan Mission a sweet preparation, such as candy a conflict, war; can also mean a large disastrous fire

Confection

Conflagration Confluence Confound Congenial Congregate Conjecture Conniving Consecrate Consensus Consign

the coming or flowing together at one place to make something bad even worse friendly and sociable; having a pleasant disposition to come together in a group or crowd a conclusion based on incomplete evidence or guesswork to cooperate secretly in an illegal or wrongful action to dedicate solemnly to a goal; devote an opinion reached by a group as a whole

to deliver merchandise to a dealer for sale or to be cared for a cooperative arrangement among groups or institutions to secure, confine, or keep within close bounds to explain the meaning of; interpret to bring to completion or fruition; conclude or finish the act of consuming (eating, drinking, or utilizing) occurring during the same time period

Consortium Constrain Construe

Consummate Consumption

Contemporaneously Contempt Contentious

the act of despising, hating likely to cause a dispute

Contingency an event or possibility that must be prepared for; a future emergency Contravene Contrite Contusion to act or be counter to; violate

feeling regret and sorrow for one’s sins or offenses; penitent an injury that does not break the skin; a bruise

The Mayan Mission Conundrum a difficult or insoluble problem; a dilemma

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Convene to come together, usually for an official purpose; assemble formally Conviction a strong belief or position

Convivial merry, festive, and social: a convivial atmosphere at the birthday party Convoluted complicated or intricate, as if rolled or coiled together in overlapping whorls Copious Cordial large in quantity; abundant warm and sincere; friendly the act of crowning a new sovereign the condition of being excessively fat; obesity to support with evidence; to make more certain having wide international sophistication

Coronation Corpulence Corroborate

Cosmopolitan Counteract

oppose and lessen the effects of by contrary actions

Coup a brilliant, sudden, and usually highly successful stroke or act; a triumph Coursing Covenant Covert Covet Cower to move swiftly through or over; traverse a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement

not openly carried out; secret: covert military operations to wish for longingly to cringe in fear acceptance as true or valid willingness to believe, especially on slight or uncertain evidence a steady increase in volume or intensity

Credence Credulity Crescendo

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Criterion a standard or reference point on which a judgment can be based; plural: criteria Culpable deserving of blame or condemnation as being wrong or harmful; blameworthy Cultivate Cunning Cupidity Cursory Curt Curtail to prepare land for raising crops skillfully deceptive inordinate desire for wealth; greed performed hastily and without attention to detail

rudely abrupt of brief to cut short; reduce

Daunting having the effect of lessening courage or discouraging through fear Dearth Decimate Decorous Deface a scarce supply; a lack to destroy a large part of proper; characterized by decorum (appropriate behavior)

to spoil or mar the appearance; disfigure

Defamatory harmful and often untrue; tending to discredit or harm another person’s reputation Defer to put off; postpone courteous respect or yielding to the wishes of another

Deference

Defile to corrupt the purity or perfection of; sully, dishonor: defiling the flag Deft quick and skillful; adroit having ceased to exist or be in use to entrust to another harmful or injurious

Defunct Delegate

Deleterious

The Mayan Mission Delineate to describe or outline

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Delve to make a deep and careful search for information: delved into the files Demarcation Demean Demise a boundary, separation, or distinction

reduce in dignity, worth, or character the end of existence or activity; death; termination characterized by open expression of emotion

Demonstrative Demure Denigrate Denounce Deplorable Depravity Deprecate Derelict Desecrate Desiccated Desolate

modest and reserved in behavior; shy to belittle, disparage, or minimize to condemn openly as evil or reprehensible worthy of severe condemnation: a deplorable act of aggression moral corruption to belittle, depreciate neglectful of duties; remiss, negligent to violate the sacredness of; profane thoroughly dried out devoid of inhabitants; deserted extreme discouragement, dejection, or depression

Despondent Despot

a person who wields power oppressively; a tyrant

Deter to prevent or discourage from acting, as by means of fear or doubt; dissuade, inhibit Devious Diabolical departing from the accepted or correct; misleading, erring characteristic of the devil; devilish

Dialect a regional variety of a language distinguished by features of pronunciation and grammar

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The Mayan Mission of such fine texture as to be transparent or translucent

Diaphanous Didactic Diffuse Dilatory Diligent

intended to teach or instruct to become widely dispersed or scattered; spread out causing delay characterized by steady and earnest effort very small; tiny

Diminutive Dirge

a slow, solemn, and mournful piece of music resentful and rebellious, especially against authority

Disaffected Discern Disclose Discomfit Discordant Discourse Discrepancy difference Disdain

to perceive with the eyes or intellect; detect to make known something that was previously secret; divulge to put into a state of unease, perplexity, and embarrassment disagreeable in sound; harsh or dissonant a formal, lengthy discussion of a subject a divergence, variance, or disagreement between things;

a feeling or show of contempt and aloofness; scorn to make ill-humored or discontented to cause to lose spirit or morale

Disgruntle

Disheartened Disparage Disparate Dispatch Disperse Disrepute Dissemble

to express a negative opinion of fundamentally different or dissimilar the act of sending off, as to a specific destination to scatter in different directions damage to or loss of reputation to put on a false show or appearance; feign

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Dissipate to attenuate to or almost to the point of vanishing: the crowd dissipated after the music ended Dissonance a harsh disagreeable combination of sounds; lack of harmony or agreement Dissuade Dither to deter someone from a course of action by persuasion

to act nervously indecisive something that distracts or diverts attention

Diversion Divine

God-like, having the nature of a deity; superhuman

Divulge to make known or public something that was previously secret; reveal Docile willing to be led, supervised, or taught

Dogmatic characterized by an authoritative, arrogant assertion of unproved principles Dormant Dour a condition of suspended activity; asleep or inactive

silently ill-humored or gloomy unsettled in opinion; doubtful

Dubious

Duplicitous hiding one’s true intentions with deliberately deceptive speech or behavior Duress Dynamic Ebullient Echelon constraint by threat; coercion: confessed under duress marked by intensity and vigor; forceful zestfully enthusiastic a level of responsibility or authority in a hierarchy; a rank

Eclectic made up of a variety of different elements or sources: eclectic taste in fashion Ecstatic Edict a state of intense joy or delight an order or decree issued by an authority

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The Mayan Mission to instruct, inform, or enlighten to rub out or erase exhibiting liveliness, high spirits, or exhilaration having the power to produce a desired effect shameless and brazen boldness brilliantly shining conspicuously bad or offensive to express at greater length or in greater detail

Edify Efface

Effervesce Efficacious Effrontery Effulgent Egregious Elaborate Elate Elicit Elixir

to fill with joy or pride to bring or draw out a medicine believed to have the power to cure all ills marked by persuasive, fluent speech: an eloquent speaker

Eloquent

Elucidate to make lucid (clear, understandable), especially by explanation or analysis Elusive Emaciate tending to evade grasp or pursuit to become extremely thin, especially as a result of starvation

Embezzle to take property or money (entrusted to one’s care) fraudulently for one’s own use Embolden to instill boldness or courage in

Eminent outstanding, prominent, or distinguished in character or performance Emote to express emotion, especially in an excessive or theatrical manner

Empathy direct identification with and understanding of another person’s situation or feelings Emphatic expressed with emphasis; forceful and definite

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Empirical derived from observation or experiment: empirical results that negated the hypothesis Empower Enamor to give an ability or quality to; enable to inspire with love; captivate to express in a brief summary; epitomize to constitute or include

Encapsulate Encompass

Encore an additional performance at the end of a concert in response to audience demand Encroach Encumber Endeavor Enervate to advance beyond proper or former limits to put a heavy load on; burden an activity directed toward a specific goal lacking strength or vigor; debilitated

Enfranchised to endow with the privileges of citizenship, especially the right to vote Enigmatic resembling an enigma (something puzzling, ambiguous, or inexplicable); mysterious Enlighten instruct Enmity to give information or knowledge to; illuminate, inform, or

mutual hatred or ill will

Entail to have, impose, or require as a necessary accompaniment or consequence Enthrall Entrance Entwined Ephemeral Epistolary to hold spellbound; captivate to fill with delight, wonder, or enchantment twisted together, interlaced, or interwoven lasting a very short time carried on by or composed of letters

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The Mayan Mission a standard, typical, or representative example of a class or evenness of mind especially under stress; composure state of balance open to two or more interpretations; ambiguous having or displaying deep, extensive knowledge avoid, shun confined to and understandable by a restricted number of people to give one’s loyalty or support to to regard with respect not of this world; heavenly exaggerated feeling of great happiness, elation, or well-being tending to vanish like vapor; fleeting

Epitome type

Equanimity Equilibrium Equivocal Erudite Eschew Esoteric Espouse Esteem Ethereal Euphoric Evanescent Evince

to show or demonstrate clearly to take away a vital or essential part of, disembowel

Eviscerate Evoke

to call forth or summon to increase the severity of; aggravate

Exacerbate Exalt

to raise in rank, power; elevate to irritate, annoy, or make angry the act of exposing or uncovering by digging

Exasperate Excavation

Exclusive tending to exclude most from entry, membership, or participation: an exclusive nightclub Exculpate Excursion to clear of blame or guilt a journey made for pleasure; an outing

The Mayan Mission Execrable Exemplary Exhort Exigent Exonerate detestable, very bad: execrable crimes deserving imitation because of excellence

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to urge strongly by argument, advice, or appeal requiring immediate aid, action, or remedy; urgent to free from blame

Exorbitant exceeding all bounds of what is customary or fair: exorbitant prices Expedient Expunge Extant marked by concern for self-interest rather than principle to strike out, obliterate, erase, or destroy still in existence; not destroyed, lost, or extinct partially excusing or justifying

Extenuating Extol

to praise highly inessential or unrelated to the topic; not a vital element;

Extraneous irrelevant Extricate Fabricate excuse

to release from entanglement or difficulty to make or create, often with the intent to deceive: a fabricated

Façade a showy misrepresentation intended to conceal something unpleasant Facet one of the definable aspects of an object or subject playfully joking or kidding; humorous

Facetious Fallow

land left plowed but unseeded during a growing season displaying careful, meticulous attention to detail

Fastidious Fathom Fatuous

to understand the meaning or nature of; comprehend inanely foolish or silly

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Faustian resembling Faust, from a German legend about a man who sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge Fecundity the capacity for generating offspring, especially abundant offspring Felicitous Feral marked by good fortune or happiness

wild, savage, untamed having great emotion or zeal having a heavy, offensive smell marked by intense activity or agitation erratic changeableness in affections or attachments exact correspondence with fact; accuracy extremely wicked to overwhelm with shock or astonishment; dumbfound

Fervent Fetid

Feverish Fickle Fidelity Fiendish

Flabbergast Flaccid Flourish Flout

lacking muscle tone or firmness to grow well, thrive

to show contempt or disregard for; scorn: flout a law

Fodder a consumable, such as feed for livestock, that is used to supply a heavy demand Foil to prevent something from happening or being successful; thwart to wander in search of food or provisions

Forage

Foray a venture or an initial attempt, especially outside one’s usual area: a model’s foray into acting Forbearance provoked the act of showing patience, tolerance, or leniency when

Forestall to delay or prevent by taking precautionary measures beforehand

The Mayan Mission Forlorn appearing sad or lonely difficult to undertake or surmount

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Formidable Forsake

to give up

Fortitude strength of mind that allows one to endure adversity with courage Fortuitous Foster happening by fortunate accident or chance

to promote the growth and development of; nurture, cultivate tending to cause trouble; unruly, irritable

Fractious

Fraught filled with a specified element; charged: a situation fraught with danger Frenetic Frugal Furtive Garish Genial Glutton drink Goad wildly active or excited; frantic marked by economy in spending; thrifty, sparing characterized by stealth or secrecy; surreptitious excessively vivid or flashy; gaudy: garish eye makeup having a pleasant or friendly disposition or manner one who is prone to overindulgence or greediness in food or to urge or prod, as if with a pointed stick a pompous, lofty, or bombastic style, especially in

Grandiloquence language Grandiose Gregarious sociable Grievous Guile

uncommonly large and impressive in scope or intent; grand marked by seeking and enjoying the company of others; characterized by severe pain, suffering, or sorrow: a grievous loss

treacherous cunning, skillful deceit

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Guise outward appearance, semblance; sometimes indicating a false appearance or pretense Hackneyed Hallowed Hapless Harbinger excessively familiar through overuse; trite, banal holy or sacred: a hallowed cemetery having no luck; unfortunate an indication or foreshadowing of something to come

Hardy capable of withstanding unfavorable conditions; sturdy, robust, and healthy Harrowing Haughty Hedge extremely distressing; agonizing arrogant superiority, scornfully proud

to avoid making a clear, direct statement; intentionally ambiguous pursuit of or devotion to pleasure the domination of one state or group over others

Hedonistic Hegemony Hiatus

a gap or interruption; a break a group of people categorized according to rank, ability, or excessively dramatic; characteristic of acting or actors extravagant exaggeration; as in I ate a ton of food professing beliefs or virtues that one does not hold; falseness professing one thing while doing another; false based on hypothesis, supposed: a hypothetical situation given to blind or excessive devotion to something

Hierarchy status Histrionic Hyperbole Hypocrisy Hypocritical

Hypothetical Idolatrous Ignoble

not of the nobility; common deserving of shame or infamy; despicable

Ignominious Illicit

contrary to accepted morality, law, or convention; unlawful

The Mayan Mission Imbibe to drink, especially alcoholic beverages a very embarrassing misunderstanding devoid of emotion; expressionless without fault, flaw, or error; perfect lacking money; penniless

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Imbroglio Impassive Impeccable

Impecunious Imperative

not to be avoided or evaded; necessary: an imperative duty

Imperceptible difficult or impossible to perceive (to become aware of via the senses) Imperious Impertinent Impervious marked by arrogant assurance; domineering exceeding the limits of propriety or good manners not capable of being affected or disturbed

Impetuous characterized by haste and lack of thought; impulsive and passionate Implacable Implausible Implicate impossible to placate or appease appearing invalid, unlikely, or unacceptable; unbelievable to involve, connect intimately, or incriminate

Implicit implied or understood without direct expression: an implicit agreement Impregnable impossible to enter by force or capture: an impregnable military base Impromptu not planned or prepared for in advance; carried out with little or no preparation Impudent marked by offensive or cocky boldness; impertinent

Impute to relate to a particular source; attribute the fault or responsibility to Inane lacking significance, meaning, or point

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The Mayan Mission unable to speak clearly causing fire continuing without interruption; unceasing imperfectly developed or formulated; vague, formless

Inarticulate Incendiary Incessant Inchoate

Incisive clear, sharp, and penetrating; acutely observant and discriminating: incisive comments Inclined to be disposed to a certain preference or course of action lacking importance; trivial impossible to deny or disprove; unquestionable

Inconsequential Incontrovertible Incorrigible Increment Incumbent Indefatigable Indifferent Indigenous native Indigent

difficult to control, manage, or reform the process of increasing in number, size, or value imposed as an obligation or duty; obligatory incapable of being exhausted or fatigued; untiring having no marked feeling, interest, or concern having originated in a particular area or environment;

experiencing want or need; poor, impoverished

Indignation a feeling of righteous anger aroused from something mean or unjust Indolent lazy, inactive; lethargic incapable of being overcome or subdued

Indomitable Ineffable Inequity

incapable of being expressed; indescribable injustice; unfairness

Inexorable not to be persuaded or appeased by entreaty (requests or pleas); relentless

The Mayan Mission Inextricable Infamous Infuse so entangled that it is impossible to escape having an exceedingly bad reputation; notorious

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to fill or cause to be filled with something marked by inventive skill, imagination, or cunning; clever straightforward, lacking in cunning or guile injurious or harmful in effect; adverse defying imitation; matchless a wicked act or thing; a sin or gross injustice inborn, possessed at birth having no adverse effect; harmless

Ingenious Ingenuous Inimical Inimitable Iniquity Innate

Innocuous

Innovative marked by the act of introducing something new, such as a creation or invention Innuendo an indirect or subtle implication (usually derogatory) in expression; an insinuation Inquisitor one who inquires or makes an inquisition, especially a questioner who is excessively rigorous or hostile Insatiable Insipid Insolent Instigate incapable of being satisfied

lacking in interest or stimulation; dull audaciously rude, disrespectful, or insulting; impertinent to stir up or provoke; incite

Insular characteristic of an isolated life, especially a narrow or provincial outlook Insuperable Integrate whole impossible to overcome; insurmountable

to join with something else; the process of unifying into a

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The Mayan Mission steadfast adherence to a moral or ethical code; moral soundness to insert in between or among other things; interpolate

Integrity Interject

Interlocutor one who takes part in dialogue or conversation, often in an official capacity Interminable Intimate Intractable Intransigent seeming to never end; endless

to communicate delicately, subtly, and indirectly; hint not easily relieved or cured refusing to compromise or moderate an extreme position

Intrepid characterized by resolute fearlessness, courage, and endurance: an intrepid explorer Inundate to overwhelm, as if with a flood of water: the museum was inundated with visitors Inure to habituate to something undesirable, especially by prolonged exposure; accustom Invective Inveterate Irascible Iridescent abusive language; vituperation firmly established; ingrained, deep-rooted hot tempered; easily angered producing a display of lustrous, rainbow-like colors

Irreverent critical of what is generally accepted or respected; satirical: irreverent humor Irrevocable Jocular Judicious Juxtaposed Kudos impossible to retract or revoke

characterized by joking behavior and good humor having good judgment and common sense placed side by side

praise

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Labyrinth a complex system of paths or tunnels in which it is easy to get lost; maze Laceration Laconic Laggard Lampoon Languid Larceny a jagged cut or wound

using few words; terse or concise one who lags or lingers a harsh satire of an individual or institution; ridicule sluggish; lacking energy theft

Largess liberal or generous in bestowing gifts, especially in a condescending manner Lassitude Laud Lavish a feeling of fatigue or weariness

to praise, extol to give in abundance; very generous sleight of hand; an illusionary or magic trick lawful; in accordance with the law or accepted standards lacking alertness or activity; sluggish

Legerdemain Legitimate Lethargic

Levity lightness of manner or speech, especially when inappropriate; excessive frivolity Liability something that holds one back or acts as a disadvantage; drawback Libation Licentious Limpid Literally Lithe a beverage, especially a drink containing alcohol lacking moral discipline, especially in sexual conduct

transparent clearness: a limpid pool in a literal or strict sense

characterized by effortless grace: a lithe gymnast

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The Mayan Mission to engage in legal proceedings extremely angry; furious

Litigate Livid

Lobby a group of persons engaged in trying to influence legislators in favor of a specific cause Lucid transparent or translucent; clear emitting or reflecting light suggesting the horror of death; gruesome courageously noble and generous in spirit

Luminous Macabre

Magnanimous Malevolent Malleable Mandate

ill will, wishing harm to others; malicious easily controlled or influenced an authoritative command or instruction

Manifestation a perceptible indication of the existence of something: the first manifestation of disease occurred three days after exposure to the virus Manifold Mar many and varied

to impair or spoil effusively sentimental; mushy

Maudlin

Maverick an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party; a dissenter Mawkish Meager excessively sentimental deficient in quantity or amount; scanty

Medley a musical arrangement made from a series of songs or melodies Mendacious lying; untruthful, or deceptive

Mercenary one who serves merely for wages, especially a soldier hired into a foreign service

The Mayan Mission Mercurial Meritorious rapid and unpredictable mood changes; volatile deserving reward or praise; having merit

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Metamorphose transform Meticulous Milieu Mirth

to change into a wholly different form or appearance;

extremely concerned with details

an environment or setting gladness and great merriment, especially as expressed by laughter one who hates or mistrusts humankind a mistaken thought or idea; a misunderstanding

Misanthrope Misconception Misdeed Misnomer

a wrong or illegal act; wrongdoing a name unsuitably applied

Missionary one who is sent on a mission, particularly to do religious work in a foreign country Missive Mitigate a written message; a letter to make less severe; alleviate being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme

Moderation Mollify

to lessen in intensity

Monarch one who reigns over a state or territory, usually for life and by hereditary right Morass Mores Morose something that traps, confuses, or impedes moral attitudes sullenly melancholy; gloomy

Mosaic a picture made up of small colored pieces (typically stone or tile) set into a surface Multifarious a great variety; diverse

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The Mayan Mission showing great generosity

Munificence Myriad Nadir Nascent Nebulous Nefarious Neophyte

a large, indefinite number; innumerable: myriad fish in the sea the lowest point coming into existence; emerging indistinct, vague extremely wicked a novice or beginner

Nobility a privileged class holding hereditary titles such as dukes, duchesses, earls, countesses, etc. Nocturnal Noisome Nominal most active at night offensive, disgusting, or foul: a noisome smell insignificantly small; trifling seeming to be coolly indifferent or unconcerned

Nonchalant

Nonconformist one who refuses to be bound by accepted beliefs, customs, or practices Nonplus Nostalgic to put at a loss as to what to say or do; bewilder a bittersweet longing for things of the past

Notoriety the state of being generally known and talked of, especially in an unfavorable way; ill fame Noxious Nuance harmful or injurious to health: noxious pollution a subtle distinction or variation to help grow and develop hardened in wrongdoing or wickedness

Nurturing Obdurate

Obfuscate to render indistinct, obscure, or difficult to see; to hide by covering

The Mayan Mission Oblivious Obscure lacking conscious awareness; unmindful not readily seen or noticed; hidden

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Obsequious Obstinate

exhibiting fawning attentiveness or servile compliance

stubbornly adhering to an opinion or course of action; obdurate stubbornly defiant and noisy

Obstreperous Odious Officious

arousing strong dislike, aversion, or intense displeasure excessive eagerness in offering unwanted services to others

Ominous menacing, threatening, or alarming; foreshadowing evil or disaster Omnipresent Onerous Ornate present everywhere at all times

oppressive or troublesome; burdensome elaborately or excessively decorated

Oscillate to swing back and forth or to waver, as if between two conflicting courses of action; vacillate Ostensibly to all outward appearances; plausible rather than demonstrably true: the ostensible purpose of the war Ostentatious characterized by pretentious display that is meant to impress others; showy Pacifism the belief that disputes (such as between countries) can and should be settled peacefully, without war or violence Palatable acceptable or agreeable to eat

Palette a board, which an artist can hold while painting, that is used to mix paint Palliate Palpable Panacea to make less intense or severe; mitigate capable of being touched or felt; tangible a cure-all; a remedy for everything

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The Mayan Mission a philosophical or theoretical framework a model of excellence or perfection; a peerless example of highest importance or chief concern

Paradigm Paragon

Paramount Parched Parody

dry; thirsty an imitation done for comedy or ridicule excessively frugal or sparing

Parsimonious Partake Patently Pathos Paucity Pejorative Pellucid Penchant

to take or be given a part of; to participate or share in a unmistakable manner; openly, plainly, or clearly a quality that arouses emotions, especially pity or sorrow smallness of number; an insufficiency or dearth disparaging; belittling clear, allowing light to pass; transparent or translucent a strong liking or inclination

Penitence the quality or state of being penitent; having sorrow or regret for wrongdoing Pensive deeply and often wistfully or dreamily thoughtful; often suggestive of melancholy thoughtfulness Penultimate Penury next to last

an oppressive lack of resources; severe poverty or destitution tending to betray; treacherous to spread or diffuse throughout; pervade highly injurious or destructive; deadly

Perfidious Permeate Pernicious Perplex

to confuse or trouble with uncertainty or doubt acute mental vision, perception, or discernment; keen

Perspicacity

The Mayan Mission Peruse to examine with attention and in detail

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Pervasive having the quality of being diffused or permeated throughout: a pervasive odor Petulant unreasonably rude or irritable

Philanthropist a person who makes charitable donations with the intent of increasing the well-being of humankind Piety the state or quality of being pious (religious devotion and reverence to God) Pillage Pinnacle Pithy to rob of goods by force or take as spoils; plunder the highest point; the culmination; summit

concise and full of meaning a meager wage or monetary payment; a small amount calm or quiet; undisturbed a banal or trite statement; cliché enthusiastic approval or praise characteristic of commoners an abundance an overabundance or excess easily bent profoundly moving; touching

Pittance Placid

Platitude Plaudits Plebeian Plenitude Plethora Pliable Poignant

Polemic a controversial argument, especially one attacking a specific opinion Pompous pretentious; characterized by exaggerated, lofty dignity and excessive self esteem Pontificate to talk or express opinions in a dogmatic or pompous manner

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The Mayan Mission to serve as an omen or a warning of; presage, forecast foreboding; foreshadowing something bad

Portend

Portentous Potable

suitable for drinking practical, matter-of-fact a very steep or overhanging place to prevent or make impossible by an action taken in advance characterized by early development or maturity a partiality or disposition in favor of something; a preference

Pragmatic Precipice Preclude Precocious Predilection

Premise something assumed to be true and upon which an argument is based or conclusion drawn Preponderance Prepossess Presage Prescient Prescribe a superiority in weight, importance, or strength

to preoccupy the mind to the exclusion of other thoughts

to warn of or indicate in advance; portend foreknowledge of events to order the use of a medicine or remedy excessively forward; going beyond what is proper

Presumptuous Pretense Prevail Primeval Privation Privy Probity

the act of pretending; a false appearance intended to deceive to prove superior; to triumph having existed since the beginning or earliest stage; original a state of extreme poverty

informed about something not generally known complete and confirmed integrity; uprightness

Proclivity a natural propensity or inclination, especially a strong inherent inclination toward something objectionable

The Mayan Mission Procure Prodigal Prodigious Profane Profess Profligate Profuse to get by special effort; obtain marked by wasteful extravagance impressively great in size; enormous

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coarse or vulgar; characterized by profanity or cursing to affirm openly; declare or claim recklessly wasteful; wildly extravagant produced or growing in great abundance an innate inclination or tendency; predilection a prediction of something to come in the future presenting favorable circumstances; auspicious the quality of being correct, appropriate, or proper lacking in imagination and spirit; dull to condemn as forbidden; prohibit to induce someone to join one’s religion, cause, or party

Propensity Prophecy Propitious Propriety Prosaic Proscribe Proselytize Protean Provident Prowess

exhibiting a great variety or diversity providing carefully for the future extraordinary ability, superior skill

Prudent marked by wisdom in handling practical affairs; exercising good judgment or common sense Prurient Puerile an inordinate interest in sex; lustful: prurient thoughts childish, juvenile, silly combative and quarrelsome in nature; truculent great physical beauty and appeal

Pugnacious Pulchritude

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Punctilious strictly attentive to minute details of form in action or conduct; meticulous Pungent affecting the organs of taste or smell with a sharp, acrid, or irritating sensation Punitive Putrid inflicting or involving punishment: punitive damages being in a state of putrefaction; rotten a difficult or precarious position; a predicament

Quagmire Quaint

charmingly odd or unusual, especially in an old-fashioned way an unpleasant or trying situation from which extrication is

Quandary difficult Quell

to pacify, quiet being quiet or at rest; inactive a perfect or most typical example

Quiescent

Quintessential

Quixotic foolishly impractical in the pursuit of noble deeds and idealistic goals Quotidian Radical Rail everyday, commonplace: a quotidian routine

departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme

to express objections or scold in bitter, harsh, or abusive language occurring unchecked and frequently or widely having a foul smell or taste to speak or write in a angry or violent manner

Rampant Rancid Rant

Rapport relationship, especially one of harmony, accord, and emotional affinity Rarefied Rash belonging to a small, select group

characterized by reckless haste

The Mayan Mission Rational Raucous Ravenous Raze based on reason; logical

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disagreeably harsh, loud, or rough sounding: a raucous party extremely hungry

to demolish or tear down to the ground to scold or criticize sharply; reprimand the act of refuting by offering a contrary argument

Rebuke Rebuttal

Recant to formally retract or renounce a or previously held belief or statement Recapitulate Reciprocate Reckoning Reclusive Reconcile to summarize or repeat in concise form to give in response or return a settling of accounts providing seclusion or isolation to settle or resolve the act of reestablishing a close relationship

Reconciliation

Reconnaissance an exploration or survey to gain information, especially military information about an enemy Rectitude moral uprightness worthy of respect or honor; illustrious, eminent

Redoubtable Refute

to deny the accuracy or truth of: he refuted the allegations to rush or pour back

Regurgitate Relegate Relish

to assign to an obscure place, position, or condition to take keen pleasure in tending to recall or suggest something in the past

Reminiscent Renown

a state of being widely acclaimed and highly honored; famous

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The Mayan Mission having remorse for misdeeds; penitent

Repentant Replete Repose

abundantly supplied or filled the act of resting deserving of blame, censure, or rebuke; blameworthy

Reprehensible Reprieve Reproach Reprobate Reprove Repudiate Repugnant Repulsive Reputable Requisition Rescind Reservoir water

temporary relief, as from danger or pain to express disapproval or criticism of; admonish one who is morally unprincipled to convey disapproval of to reject an obligation or to refuse to acknowledge or pay causing disgust or aversion; offensive causing aversion or repugnance; disgusting having a good reputation; honorable a formal written request for something needed

to take back; cancel a natural or artificial pond or lake used for the storage of

Resilient marked by the ability to recover readily, as from misfortune or change Resolve Respite to make a firm decision about a short interval of rest or relief splendid or dazzling in appearance; brilliant the act of compensating for loss, damage, or injury

Resplendent Restitution

Restive a feeling of impatience or uneasiness, usually as a result of external restriction or coercion

The Mayan Mission Retract to take back a justly deserved penalty

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Retribution Revel

to take intense pleasure, delight, or satisfaction a feeling of profound respect and awe; veneration

Reverence Reverie Revoke Rhetoric Ribald Rife

lost in thought; daydreaming to void or annul by recalling, withdrawing, or reversing; rescind language that is pretentious, insincere, or intellectually vacuous vulgar, lewd humor

abundant or numerous adhering to moral principles

Righteousness Ruminate Ruse

to reflect on over and over again

a deceptive maneuver designed to deceive or surprise an enemy having good judgment; wisdom

Sagacity Sage

marked by wisdom and good judgment appealing to sexual desire; lascivious very conspicuous; prominent, noticeable a polite expression or gesture of greeting

Salacious Salient

Salutation

Salvage to extract something as valuable from garbage or wreckage; or to save something from destruction: goods salvaged from the sinking ship Salve something that soothes or heals; a balm feigning piety or righteousness

Sanctimonious Sanguine Satiate Savory

cheerfully confident, optimistic to satisfy a need or desire fully or to excess appetizing to the taste or smell

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The Mayan Mission harshly critical or injurious: a scathing review animated and brilliant: scintillating conversation

Scathing

Scintillating Scion Scourge

an heir or descendant a source of widespread suffering and devastation; ravage conscientious and exact; painstaking, meticulous

Scrupulously Scrutinize Scurrilous Scurry

to examine closely and minutely vulgar or coarse language

to go with light running steps; scamper characterized by a lack of physical activity and a lot of sitting

Sedentary

Semaphore a device used for visual signaling with lights, flags, or mechanically moving arms, such as is used on the railroad Sensual relating to gratification of the physical and especially the sexual appetites Sentiment a thought or attitude, especially one based primarily on emotion rather than reason Sentinel Sequester a guard to remove or set apart; segregate, isolate

Serendipitous finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for: serendipitous discoveries Serene Servile Simulate Sobriety Solicitous Soluble without disturbance; calm relating to or suitable for a slave or servant to take on the appearance of; imitate the state of being sober, refraining from alcohol and drugs anxious concern or care: a solicitous mother something that can be dissolved to form a solution

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Solvent a liquid, in which a substance can be dissolved, forming a solution Somnolent Sophomoric Soporific drowsy, sleepy exhibiting great immaturity and lack of judgment

tending to induce sleep a conclusion based on insufficient evidence; conjecture

Speculation Spurious Staid

lacking authenticity or validity; false

characterized by sedate dignity and often a prim sense of propriety firm and steadfast in loyalty or principle acting with quiet, caution, and secrecy intended to avoid

Staunch Stealthy notice Stoic Stolid

seemingly indifferent to pleasure, pain, or grief revealing little emotion or sensibility; impassive requiring great exertion or effort sounds that are loud, grating, or shrill; discordant to amaze; astonish inspiring awe; impressive, supreme

Strenuous Strident Stupefy Sublime

Succinct characterized by clear, precise expression in few words; concise and terse Succumbed Sully to yield or submit to an overpowering desire or force

to mar the cleanliness of; taint, stain, or soil arrogant superiority, haughty disdain beyond what is required or sufficient

Supercilious Superfluous Supine

lying on the back or having the face upward

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The Mayan Mission to infer something without sufficiently conclusive evidence marked by stealth; secret, clandestine

Surmise

Surreptitious Surrogate Swagger Swarthy

one who takes the place of another; a substitute to walk or conduct oneself with a proud, arrogant air; strut having a dark complexion or color

Sycophant a servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people Tacit expressed without words or speech temperamentally disinclined to talk; uncommunicative

Taciturn

Taint to affect with a tinge of something reprehensible, such as a disease or decay; contaminate Tantamount equivalent in value, significance, or effect; being essentially equal to something Tedious Temerity tiresome by reason of dullness, length, or slowness; boring foolhardy disregard for danger; recklessness, rashness moderation and restraint in behavior

Temperance

Tenable rationally defensible; capable of being defended in argument: a tenable hypothesis Tenuous Terrestrial lacking strength or substance; flimsy living on land; not aquatic based on theory frayed, worn, or shabby full of apprehensiveness; timid, fearful

Theoretically Threadbare Timorous Tirade

a long angry or violent speech

Toady a person who flatters or defers to others for self-serving reasons; a sycophant

The Mayan Mission Tome Torpor Torrid a book, especially a large or scholarly one the dormant, inactive state of a hibernating animal scorching hot, burning having repeated bends, twists, or turns; winding to walk or tramp about the path of a moving body through space

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Tortuous Traipse

Trajectory

Tranquility the quality or state of being tranquil (free from disturbance, agitation, or turmoil) Transgression the act of overstepping a boundary or violating a law

Travesty a debased, distorted, or grotesque imitation; parody: a travesty of justice Trenchant Trepidation Trite forceful, penetrating, and effective a state of alarm, fear, apprehension, or dread

boring from overuse; not fresh or original; hackneyed to make appear trivial or insignificant disposed to violence; fierce

Trivialize Truculent Trudge Truncate Turpitude

to walk in a laborious, heavy-footed way; plod terminating abruptly, as if cut off lacking moral standards; depravity, baseness

Ubiquitous being or seeming to be everywhere at the same time; omnipresent Umbrage Shadow or shade (can also be used to indicate resentment or offense: she took umbrage at his insult) Unabated sustaining at the original intensity or force with no decrease

Unctuous characterized by affected, exaggerated, or insincere earnestness (can also mean oily or slippery)

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The Mayan Mission to weaken at the foundation; to impair or hinder to rise and fall in volume or pitch as if in waves

Undermine Undulate

Unethical not conforming to approved standards of social or professional behavior; dishonorable Unfettered Unfounded Ungainly free of shackles, chains, or other restrictions not based on solid evidence or fact lacking grace or ease of movement; clumsy free, open, and unrestrained

Uninhibited Unkempt Unnerve

deficient in order or neatness to deprive of strength or vigor and the capacity to act

Unorthodox not adhering to what is commonly accepted or traditional; independent in behavior Unpretentious Unscathed Unswerving Unwieldy Unwitting Upbraid Usurp lacking pretension or ostentatious affectation; modest

not harmed, damaged, or injured constant; steady and unfaltering difficult to manage or carry because of size or shape not knowing; unaware to scold severely or sharply; reproach

to wrongfully seize someone else’s place, authority, or possession having utility, often to the exclusion of other values; practical

Utilitarian Utopia Vacillate Vacuous Validate

an imaginary and ideally perfect place to swing indecisively from one opinion to another lacking serious purpose, intelligence, or substance to establish the soundness or validity of; confirm

The Mayan Mission Vapid lacking liveliness, animation, or interest

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Vaporize

to convert into a vapor (gaseous state); to vanish as if vaporized

Vehement forcefulness of expression or extreme intensity of emotions or convictions Veracity Verbose Verdant Vex adherence or devotion to the truth; truthfulness using an excessive number of words; wordy green with vegetation

to bring distress to; plague, afflict, or annoy capable of being done; practicable: a viable plan

Viable

Vicarious feeling the experience of someone else as if it were you: the mother felt her daughter’s pain vicariously Vicissitude one of the sudden or unexpected changes or hardships encountered in one’s life, activities, or surroundings Vigilant Vigilante carefully observant and on the alert one who takes law enforcement into his or her own hands

Vilify to make vicious and slanderous statements about; malign, defame Vindicate proof Vindictive to clear of blame or suspicion with supporting arguments or involving revenge; spiteful

Virtuoso exhibiting the fine skill, masterful technique, and ability similar to that of a master musician Virulent Viscous Vitriolic extremely infectious or poisonous; capable of causing disease having a high resistance to flow; thick and sticky, syrupy bitter, harsh, or scathing

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The Mayan Mission to scold or criticize harshly or with abusive language;

Vituperate berate

Vocation a regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified Vociferous Volition marked by noisy and vehement outcry the act of choosing or determining

Wallow indolent or clumsy rolling around, as if in water, snow, or mud: pigs wallowing in the mud Wane Wanton Wary to gradually decrease being without check or limitation; undisciplined, unrestrained

cautious, on guard, watchful charming, often in a childlike or naive way full of wishful yearning or desire, often tinged with melancholy a witty remark; often clever, ironic, or funny shriveled, withered, dried up intense anger enthusiastic devotion to a goal and tireless diligence in its pursuit

Winsome Wistful Witticism Wizened Wrath Zeal

Zenith the highest point above the observer’s horizon attained by a celestial body

Frenetic. Agitated. Frenzied. Harried.
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