Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment (4 page)

BOOK: Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment
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Morgan grabbed her dad's wrist. “It's a sign, Dad—that I met Brendan before school started. I told you everything would work out!”

If this was a sign, it wasn't a good one. I imagined Khalfani's round lightbulb head. My best friend was already laughing at me.

The next morning, Grandpa Ed made pancakes on his griddle and served them with warm strawberry sauce. I stayed in our tent as long as I could, packing up all my stuff; then I ate fast and slipped away with P.J. for a final walk through the woods. I almost avoided having to talk to Morgan, but she caught me as we were climbing into the truck. “See you at school Tuesday,” she said.

“Yeah. See ya.”

Grandpa Ed started up the truck. It roared before settling into a low rumble. Morgan looked as if she was waiting for me to say something else, but my mind was as blank as the pages of my new sixth-grade science notebook.

“In case you were wondering why I've never been to public school, I've always been homeschooled.”

I hadn't been, but that explained some things. Like
why she talked to adults as if she were one of them. And why she knew so much. And why, honestly, she was so nerdy. The one homeschool kid I'd met at Tae Kwon Do was the same way.

I waited for Grandpa Ed to say it was time to go, but he just sat there humming and tapping the steering wheel with his thumbs, as if he weren't listening.

“I'm glad you liked the hematite I gave you,” Morgan said.

I glanced at Grandpa Ed. I hadn't been planning to tell him about that. Didn't want to give him any more fuel for girlfriend jokes. His lips curled into a smile.

“Oh, yeah. Thanks again.” The sample was in my backpack. I'd made a note in my
Book of Big Questions
to look up that word Morgan had used to describe it.

She peered around me. “Thanks for leading the expedition, Mr. DeBose. I can't wait to go again!”

“Any time, darlin'. See you around.”

“You certainly will.” Morgan looked at me. Her eyes sparkled a little too much.

As we drove away, I watched her in the side mirror. She was still waving as we took the first bend headed back down the hill.

We got home around noon. Gladys met us at the door. “My milk chocolate is back!” Gladys has been calling me her milk chocolate as long as I can remember. Mom's the
color of milk, Dad's the color of chocolate, and I'm the color of them together. “Give me some sugar.” Gladys's curly popcorn hair looked newly dyed—orange in the front, black everywhere else.

I pecked her on the cheek. I didn't have to stretch my neck to reach her face anymore. Seemed like I'd grown a couple of inches in just the last few weeks. There had been some other changes, too. Thinking about them made my ears get warm.

“What's a man got to do to get inside?” Grandpa Ed was still on the front steps, holding P.J. by the collar. P.J. barked and strained toward the door.

“Pass inspection,” Gladys said, “of my grandson. Now let me see that pretty face.” She grabbed my chin and turned my head side to side, peering from behind her pointy glasses. “Better not be any scratches.” She eyed Grandpa Ed. “Did Mr. Rock Hudson here take good care of my grandbaby out in that wilderness?” She had given Grandpa Ed the nickname Rock Hudson (some hotshot actor from a long time ago) since he's the president of a rock club.

It was hard to tell whether Grandpa Ed's response would be acidic or neutral. I jumped in. “I'm not a baby anymore, Gladys. I'm starting middle school next week, remember?”

Gladys narrowed her eyes. “I see what you're doing, young man. Let the man speak for himself. He's certainly
old
enough.”

“He's my grandson, too, you know. Of course I took good care of him.”

“Mama!” Dad spoke from the living room at the top of the stairs. “Let them in already.” Football game sounds came from the TV.

“Well, I suppose …” Gladys's eyes twinkled. Her face lit up with a smile. “It's good to see you, too, Rock. Come on in.” She started up the steps and Grandpa Ed, P.J., and I followed. “Find anything good out there?” she asked.

“A few things,” I said, hoisting my backpack higher on my shoulder.

“Well, let's see 'em!” Gladys went and sat next to Dad on the couch.

“Hey, Bren,” Dad said, glancing away from the game.

“Hi,” I replied, wondering what it would take to get Dad's full attention. A commercial, most likely.

Grandpa Ed took P.J. to the backyard through the sliding glass door in the dining area.

Mom appeared from down the hall. “Hi, sweetie. Did you have fun?” She wrapped her arm around me and kissed the side of my face.

“Forget fun!” Gladys said. “I want to see the booty.” She picked up the metal stein she'd recently bought for drinking her Mountain Dew and sipped through the straw.

“Yeah, I had fun,” I said to Mom. “Did everything go okay with Einstein?”

Mom nodded. As soon as Gladys was satisfied, I'd go give my anole some top-notch personal attention.

I sat on the love seat and zipped open my backpack's front pocket. I dug around for the largest quartz specimen. I held it up, hoping it would gleam impressively in the sunshine coming through the front window. It looked better than it had back at the campsite.

“That's the biggest diamond I've ever seen in my life!” Gladys exclaimed.

“It's not a diamond. It's a quartz crystal,” I said. My family needed some serious education in the field of petrology.

“Oh. Well, it's the largest one of those I've ever seen in my life.”

Mom reached for the crystal, and I handed it to her. She turned it in her hands, looking at its surfaces. “This is beautiful, Bren. Sam, did you see?”

Dad looked away from the TV and squinted at my find. He nodded. “Hmm.” It was a short sound. The sound Gladys sometimes made when she fell asleep sitting up. “Is there more?”

The ground collapsed inside me. All the work I'd done—first to find the crystal, and then to convince myself it was a good one—vanished into the sinkhole.

I reached into my pack. “I've got a few more in—”

Dad jumped up and hollered at the screen. “Run it! Run it! Run it! Yesssss!”

But nothing worth getting too excited about
, I thought, leaving the fragments where they were.

Mom handed me the crystal. “It's beautiful, honey.” I dropped the mineral back into the pouch and zipped it shut.

Grandpa Ed came back inside without P.J. “When's lunch? I'm starving!” He slapped his hands and rubbed them together. “Fresh mountain air makes a man hungry, eh, Brendan?”

Lately, it seemed I'd been famished every moment of the day, but suddenly I had no appetite. My heart felt like a big dirt clod. And it had just been smashed to smithereens.

The first day of school, I was up and ready to go an hour early, which gave me time to do some online research. I wanted to make sure I knew what botryoidal meant before I saw Morgan again. I quickly discovered that a habit, when referring to minerals, just means the shape a mineral takes as a result of its crystalline structure. A botryoidal habit is one that looks like bunches of grapes, which
does
accurately describe my piece of kidney ore.

I'd put my newest acquisition on the shelf with my Ellensburg Blue, where I kept my entire collection of fourteen specimens. Morgan might have been a little too excited, but still, it had been cool of her to give me the hematite. I'd tossed all the quartz pieces into my garbage can the night we'd returned from the dig. They
were like the fish Grampa Clem and I would throw back into the bay. Too puny to keep.

I checked and recorded Einstein's tank temperatures and misted the tank. “See you after school, boy.” I grabbed my backpack, turned out my bedroom light, and went to find my parents. They were in the kitchen. Dad was gathering up the garbage to take it to the curb, and Mom was on the phone.

“You sure you don't want me to take you on my way to work?” Dad had suggested that he walk me into school wearing his uniform. “Be a sure way to keep the older kids from pushing you around.”

Be a sure way to get a whole lot of the wrong kind of attention
, I thought. “Nah. I'll be all right. Thanks, though.”

Mom hung up the phone. “Ready to see how much you've grown, Boo?”

I nodded. It was our first-day-of-school tradition. I'd stand against the inside of the kitchen doorjamb and Mom would mark my height.

“I'm not sure
I'm
ready,” Mom said, smiling.

I backed up against the wall and looked straight ahead. Mom's eyes were no longer level with mine. They were a little lower. The pencil scraped back and forth across my head. I stepped away and Dad measured. “Five-five and a half,” he announced.

Mom gasped. “You've passed me by half an inch!” Her green eyes watered. Mom wasn't going to cry, was she? She isn't usually a crier.

Dad pounded me on the back. “Way to go, buddy! Three inches since last year.”

I looked at the marks. It was crazy to see how much I'd grown in the past few years. Even crazier to think I might one day be as tall as Dad.

Mom had turned away to get something from the counter. When she turned back, her eyes looked normal again. She handed me a stiff notebook with a black and white marbled cover and a black binding. It said
COMPOSITION
on the front and had lines for the user's name, school, and grade.

“I know you were keeping a question notebook this summer,” Mom said. “I thought you might like to have a new notebook for starting middle school. A place to write down things you're thinking about.”

“You mean, like a
journal
?” I felt my face scrunch up. Weren't journals for girls?

Dad spoke up. “You could think of it as a log, like officers keep when they're on duty.”

“Or like scientists keep when they're doing research,” Mom said. “It could be your own private lab book—a place to record your observations about being in the sixth grade.”

A scientific log. Now, that was more like it. I could already see the title page:
Inquiries and Investigations of a Sixth-Grade Scientist: A Log by Brendan S. Buckley
.

“Thanks, Mom.” I put the logbook in my backpack and we all went down to the garage.

“Remember to show respect to your new teachers,” Dad said, giving me a sideways hug. He gripped my head with his large palm.

“Yes, sir.”

He kissed Mom. “See you tonight—after my first class. Wish me luck.”

“Should we measure you, too?” Mom smiled and kissed him again. “And you don't need any luck. You'll do great.”

Mom and I got in her car and she drove me to school. It was just a couple of minutes' ride. After today, I'd be walking—at least until I could save up enough allowance money to buy a new bike. My old one had been stolen one day this summer when I'd left it in the bushes at a bus stop. I'd been secretly going to see Grandpa Ed. It had been a stupid thing to do. Not visiting Grandpa Ed—just the way I went about it. I had learned the hard way that keeping secrets like that from my parents didn't pay.

BOOK: Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment
13.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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