MR. LEMONCELLO'S VERY FIRST GAME takes us back to the late '60s in small-town Ohio. Tommy James and the Shondells are on the radio. Concentration is a hugely popular TV game show -- and 13-year-old Luigi Lemoncello, the game-loving despair of his studious siblings, is very good at it. Which comes in handy as a summer carnival comes to town, featuring a balloon-popping version of the game. Luigi's skill draws the attention of the game's owner/master of ceremonies, Professor Marvelmous, who soon makes the kid his apprentice, imparting wisdom, showmanship, and a taste for over-the-top hats and footwear. Which is just as well, because currently Luigi's the only one in their large family with a job.
Here, young Luigi's brother complains to their father that Luigi's doings (which have gotten Mr. Lemoncello fired from his jobs) have ruined the family's lives.
"Mr. Lemoncello looked surprised.
"'Our lives aren't "ruined," Tomasso. I just don't work for Mr. Willoughby anymore. And do you know why?'
"'Because Luigi was costing him business and threatening to steal his
radio station's treasure-hunt idea. He was also rude to Mr. Willoughby's son
at the carnival.'
"Mr. Lemoncello laughed. 'I'm talking about the real reason, Tomasso.'
"'I think Mr. Willoughby is afraid.'
"Now Tomasso had to laugh. 'Mr. Willoughby, the richest man in town, is afraid of a thirteen-year-old kid?'
"'Oh, yes. Your little brother stole the audience away from the movie theater. He drew the shoppers away from the department store. That's not easy to do, Tomasso. It takes skill. Smarts. And remember -- thirteen-year old kids grow up. When they do, watch out.'"