Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment (7 page)

BOOK: Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment
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When the water was gone, we dropped our guns to our sides and looked at each other. “I think we're all dead,” Oscar said. We laughed then.

“What I am is
hungry
,” Khal said. “You got something we can eat?”

“Cheese crunchies,” Oscar said with a shrug.

“Sounds good to me,” Khal said. We followed Oscar inside, took off our shoes, and headed to his bedroom, which was a total disaster zone. Oscar got us each a towel.

I was glad Mom had made me bring along some extra clothes when she saw me leaving the house with my water gun. I stripped off my wet pants, then pushed aside an empty Doritos bag, a bunch of game discs, and an army of Pokémon figures so I could sit on the bed to pull on my dry ones. Khal borrowed some of Oscar's clothes. They were kind of baggy, but they worked.

We went to the kitchen and sat at the table while Oscar got the bag of cheese puffs and some Cokes from the fridge. “Thanks,” I said.

Khal already had his pop can open and was chugging it down. “Yeah, thanks,” he said, coming up for air. He swiped at his lips with the back of his hand. “I needed that.”

“Do either of you have any ideas for the science competition yet?” I asked.

Khal let out a big belch. “Maybe we could research the connection between carbonation and burping.”

“What is there to research?” I asked. “You drink a carbonated beverage and then you burp.”

“Yeah, but how soon after you start drinking and at what rate? And do some sodas make you burp more than others?” Khal raised his eyebrows, like,
Huh? What about that?
He tipped back his can and drank some more.

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” Oscar said. “You'd get to drink lots of pop for your research.”

“Exactly.” Khal grinned. “I could get Cordé Wilkins to be my partner.”

“Or your subject,” I said. We all laughed. “Hey, I thought
we
were going to be partners.”

“Just joking.” Khal popped a cheese crunchy in his mouth. “So, what do you propose we do, Mr. Science?”

“I don't know yet,” I said.

“Brendan ‘Ask a Million Questions' Buckley doesn't have a research idea? I thought you'd be halfway done with our experiment by now.”

Oscar's mom came in then, carrying Oscar's baby brother, William. I don't care what people say. Babies are not really that cute. The kid reminded me of a cooked raisin—plump and wrinkled at the same time. His black hair went in all directions, including a patch on top that stood straight up. I wasn't sure yet what I thought about us getting a baby at our house. Sometime around my birthday, Mom and Dad had started discussing the idea of adopting one. I'd found out this past summer that Mom can't have any more babies, and that she'd almost died having me.

“Hello, boys,” Mrs. Hernandez said.
“Oscar, no te olvides de nuestro acuerdo. ¿Tu cuarto?”

“I know. I'll clean it up as soon as my friends leave.” He looked at us. “My room.” I could never keep my room the way Oscar did—not in Detective Buckley's house. Not that I wanted to, anyway. I liked being able to find things.

William started to squirm in Mrs. Hernandez's arms. The corners of his lips turned down and his face turned red. I braced myself for some loud crying, but the squishy, juicy sound that came out didn't erupt from his mouth.

“Ewww!” Khal and I said at once.

“You stinker!” Oscar's mom said.

Stinker was right. I could smell the results of William's efforts from where I sat at the table.

“Acabo de cambiar tu pañal.”

“She just changed his diaper,” Oscar whispered.

Mrs. Hernandez shook her head. “If only your poops were made of gold!”

“My brother is like a poop machine,” Oscar said when his mom had left the kitchen. “I don't know how a little baby can make so much of the stuff.”

That was when it hit me. An idea for the science competition! A
big
idea! Possibly even a national science competition award–winning idea!

I had read about how scientists are looking into more and more efficient ways to use cow manure as fuel. It's a completely renewable resource, and burning the methane it produces puts a whole lot less junk into the atmosphere than coal.

But what about human waste? Wasn't that a renewable resource, as well? And as William could demonstrate, a superabundant one at that!

I turned to Oscar. “Can I get on the Internet?”

“Sure.” We went back to his room. Oscar pushed the pile of magic-trick paraphernalia from his chair and plucked off the dirty underwear hanging over the back. “Here you go.”

I removed the soccer shirt covering the computer screen, opened his web browser, and typed in “poop and energy.”

“Poop and
energy
?” Khal said. I didn't have to turn around to know he was making a disgusted face.

One million two hundred thirty thousand results came back. I was definitely on to something.

“I think I've got an idea for the science contest,” I said.

Khal crossed his arms. “You think I'm going to be your partner if you're messing around with poop? Forget that!”

“What kind of an experiment would you do on poop?” Oscar asked.

“More importantly,
why
would you do an experiment on poop?” Khal asked.

I scanned the list for science fair ideas, ignoring Khal. “I don't know exactly, but I know burning cow dung creates energy. What about other forms of waste? What about
human
waste? There's got to be some kind of experiment in that.”

“Uh-uh,” Khal said. “No one's going to catch
me
making energy logs out of doo-doo.”

I read some of the article titles out loud. “Listen to this: ‘Poop Power: Sewage Turned into Electricity.' … ‘Pet Poop: The Energy of Tomorrow?' ” I pointed to the screen. “Look, this one's on a website called Poop Report.com!”

We all laughed at that. Even Khal.

There was one article called “The Biogas Machine: Turning Poop (Yes, Poop) into Energy.” I clicked on it.

I read about a “biodigester”—a way to trap methane from manure and use it as fuel. There was even a YouTube video showing a guy cooking hash browns over a flame created with the methane from his digester. “Check that out!” I said. “Come on, Khal. We could make one of those digester things. It'd be so cool.”

“It'd be so
nasty
, is what it'd be. My stepmom made me empty Dori's diaper pail once. I thought I was going to puke! My nostrils were
traumatized
, man.”

“How old is Dori now? Four?” I said. “Get over it already!”

“Baby poop
is
pretty gross,” Oscar said.

“I thought we agreed,” I said. “Partners, no matter what.”

“I didn't know you were going to be grilling food over poop.”

“You don't grill it over the poop. The poop just provides the gas to make the flame over which you
could
grill food if you wanted to.”

“Whatever. Maybe if I was playing a joke on my sister, but not for homework. No way. Do you realize the kinds of names we'd get called?” Khal picked up Oscar's football and spun it in the air. “Now I know where they get the
mad
in
mad scientist
.”

I could tell the conversation was closed as far as Khal was concerned, but I was no less determined to pursue my idea.

“How about you, Oscar?” I looked at my other friend.

“You want to join me in some serious scientific research that could help save the planet?”

“Uh …” Oscar glanced at Khal. “I was kind of thinking about doing something with Pop Rocks.”

“Your choice. But this is going to be
good
. I can feel it.” I stuffed my wet clothes into my backpack. “I'll see you guys later. I've got a proposal to write.”

Log Entry—Thursday, September 13

Went to my first official rock club meeting as a member tonight. Morgan showed off her amethyst-tinged crystal cluster. She asked what I'm proposing for the science competition. No way was I going to share that top-secret information! Told her I wasn't sure, even though I knew I wasn't practicing complete
yom chi
, integrity. But she shouldn't be so nosy.

As far as sixth grade goes, so far, so good. Science, of course, is my favorite class. The other day, we popped balloons with just magnifying glasses and the sun's rays! I know Mr. H is really going to like my proposal, since it deals with a totally underused energy source: biomass. In class, we've been talking about energy from heat, light, and motion.

Speaking of motion, that kid Dwight David never stops moving. He's like a toy with no Off switch. He's
really distracting. He dropped a rubber band onto Morgan's desk in World Civilizations and yelled, “Dead worm!” Morgan giggled and handed it back to him. Mrs. Simmons didn't think it was so funny. Neither did I.

A week and a half after I got my idea at Oscar's house, we sat in science class waiting to hear who our partners would be for the competition. Khal had proposed something related to projectiles, so it was unlikely we'd get put together, even though I'd dropped lots of hints to Mr. Hammond that Khal and I would make a super team. I was 99.9 percent sure I'd get paired with Aadesh. Clearly, Mr. H wanted to win the money. He knew Aadesh was a brain. Together, we'd be unstoppable!

“Khalfani Jones and Dwight David Del Santos,” Mr. Hammond announced.

“Dang,” Khal said under his breath. “That kid's a complete knucklehead.”

“Too bad,” I whispered, “but you had your chance to work with a serious scientist.”

Khal crossed his arms and sank lower in his chair.

“Brendan Buckley …”

My ears perked up.

“And Morgan Belcher.”

Khal sputtered like a waterlogged engine.

Morgan scowled in our direction.

I shook my head quickly and hitched my thumb toward Khal to let her know it wasn't me who'd made the sound.

Mr. Hammond continued. “You both had great ideas for alternative energy projects and I know together you'll come up with something stellar.”

Morgan grinned at Mr. H.

I slumped back in my seat. How could my favorite teacher
do
this to me?

After class, Morgan accosted Khal and me like a cop going after a couple of criminals. Was I still a criminal in Morgan's eyes? After the first day of school, she hadn't seemed to want to talk to me as much, just hi and bye if we ran into each other at our lockers. I'd avoided her at the rock club meeting by sitting between Grandpa Ed and one of his buddies.

My conscience poked me every once in a while, trying to get me to do something about it, but really, what was there to do? Anyway, I'd seen her talking to some girls here and there—Shyla-Ann Thompson and Lauren Dweck, among others.

“Hey, Liver,” Khal said.

Morgan's nose wrinkled and her eyebrows scrunched together.

“As in
organ
?” Khal said. “Get it? Morgan. Organ.” Khal laughed. I rolled my eyes.

“Oh.” Morgan let out a little laugh.

“Have fun playing with your cow doo-doo,” he said.

Morgan's nose wrinkled again.

“You coming?” Khal asked, starting toward the cafeteria.

I glanced back and forth between him and Morgan, who hadn't moved and seemed intent on talking to me. “Uh … I'll be there in a few minutes.”

Dwight David zoomed by and held up his hand to slap Khal a high five. Khal didn't leave him hanging, but I could tell he wasn't exactly fired up.

“Okay, so you acted like a protozoa toward me on the first day of school,” Morgan said.

I stood there feeling dumb. I could try to apologize, but I'd probably just make things worse. Let her believe what she wanted. I knew I wasn't as awful as she seemed to think I was. I cleared my throat.

BOOK: Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment
13.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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