Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment (8 page)

BOOK: Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment
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“And you haven't treated me much better since then, not even at the club meeting, even though you
said
you wanted to be my friend when we were on the dig.”

My ears got warm. I looked at my shoelaces. Morgan seemed like an okay girl. But that was the problem. She was a
girl
. None of my buddies hung out with girls. And
her mouth just never stopped moving! Yes, Morgan and I had some common interests. But did that mean I had to like her?

No. But you said you would be her friend
.

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

Morgan shrugged. “It's all right.”

I stood there silently, but my brain was screaming
Run!
and my muscles twitched like they might actually do it.

“We could have a do-over,” Morgan suggested. “That's what we call it in my family. You know, a fresh start. Whatever you did to mess up, it can't be held against you.” She held out her hand. “So, what do you say? Do-over?”

I
wanted
to say I hadn't messed up. Didn't she know it wasn't cool for a guy to hang around with a smart, nerdy girl? I glanced around. Only a few other kids were in the hall, and they weren't paying attention to us. I shook her hand quickly and let go.

Morgan grabbed the crook of my arm. “Isn't it fantastic that we get to be partners for this incredible competition?”

I pulled away and started toward my locker. She caught up with me.

“We're going to
win
, Brendan! We'll be the Dynamic Duo!”

I wasn't so sure. Maybe I could still go to Mr. Hammond and ask him to switch me and Lauren Dweck,
Aadesh's partner. Aadesh had proposed a cool-sounding project on artificial intelligence. And Morgan and Lauren seemed to like each other all right. Mr. H could just say he'd rethought the assignments.

“Do you want to come to my house after school to talk about our experiment? What's your interest in alternative fuels? And what was Khalfani talking about back there, anyway? Cow doo-doo? Oh! I know. You want to do something with biomass.” Morgan “Mile a Minute” Belcher opened her locker.

I flubbed the combination and had to try again. I couldn't focus with Miss Energy Ball asking so many questions. How would I ever be able to complete the detailed measurements and observations required for my experiment with her talking in my ear?

I dropped my books into my locker and grabbed my red gym bag. As soon as I shut the door, she grabbed my arm again and started walking. “We have so much to discuss. This is going to be great. Great!”

She didn't even know what my idea
was
. “What about what you proposed?” I stopped abruptly in the middle of the hall.

Her hand—thankfully no longer on my arm—waved away my question. “Watching algae grow? Bo-ring! It was my mom's idea, anyway.”

I'd come across several articles on algae farmers and harvesters while doing my research on alternative fuels. “Algae has a lot of potential as a future energy source.”

“Believe me, I know. My mom's a marine biologist, remember?”

I started walking. Of course I remembered. How could I forget that
both
of her parents were scientists?

Morgan caught up with me again. She was as sticky as a housefly. “Personally, I think cow poop sounds like much more fun.” Her eyes sparkled with excitement.

I stopped. Apparently, she was like a fly in more ways than one. “You
do
?”

She nodded like one of the bobbleheads in Oscar's bedroom window. I pulled my chin into my neck. What kind of girl thought cow poop sounded like fun? “You're not grossed out by the idea?”

“Are you kidding? I'm a scientist! Nothing grosses out scientists. Not good ones, anyway.” She smiled.

Morgan thought of herself as a scientist, too. We started to walk again, but now my scalp felt tingly, as if I'd been plugged in.

“What are all those patches on your duffel bag?”

I was bringing my gym clothes home for Mom to wash. There might have been some algae growing in the sweaty pair of socks I'd left in my bag all week. “They're from Tae Kwon Do tournaments. Khal and I are purple belts.”

“You do Tae Kwon Do? Wow!” Morgan looked at me as if I were wearing a red cape and had a big BB on my chest.

Maybe Morgan Belcher would make an okay partner. I could at least give her a chance.

Log Entry—Tuesday, September 25

Mom and Dad are moving forward with adopting. Today Mom was working on a scrapbook to give to the adoption agency—pictures of our family and descriptions of what we're all like. I asked her to put in a picture of Grampa Clem. He might not be here anymore, but whatever child we get needs to know about him. He's still a part of our family. She agreed.

Mom and Dad say we have to make some decisions about what kind of child we want. They said their only request is that he or she be African American or some mixture that includes African American. That sounds good to me. Mom really wants a girl and she'd like to have a baby, but Dad wants to stay open to a boy and to getting an older child—any age up to seven or eight. Hearing that made me get the Jitters. Why would he want to get an older boy when he's already got me? And what if the kid has all sorts of problems? What if he thinks it's okay to get into my stuff and he breaks my microscope or messes with Einstein? Maybe getting a baby wouldn't be so bad after all.

The big state fair in Puyallup happens at the end of September, and we go every year. This year, Master Rickman had selected Khal and me, along with some others, to represent our
dojang
on one of the stages.

Dad pulled our car into the dusty parking lot. Gladys kept pointing and shouting, “There's a space!” which I could see in the rearview mirror was really getting under Dad's skin.

“I can see the spaces, Mama. The parking lot's practically empty.” The gates hadn't been open that long.

“Then why have you passed up a dozen perfectly fine ones?” Gladys patted the large, multicolored straw purse she always brought to the fair. For now, the bag was empty. “I want to get inside and get me some freebies.”

Dad parked. My stiff white
do bok
crinkled as I
climbed out. The uniform was brand-new—from my parents for my birthday. I walked around to the other side to help Gladys out, even though she always shoos me away when I do that.

“Just take his arm, Mama.”

“I'm a senior, not a corpse. The only time I plan to need help getting in or out of someplace is the day you put me in the ground.”

“So you'll climb into your own coffin?” Dad smirked.

Mom spoke smoothly from outside the passenger door. “Miss Gladys, I know you want your grandson to be a gentleman.”

“Yeah, Gladys. Give me a chance to show you Tae Kwon Do's first tenet.” Gladys knows the five tenets as well as I do. She likes to remind me of them now and then. Tenet number one is courtesy.

Gladys scowled. “Oh, all right.” She gripped my forearm and stepped out onto the packed dirt ground. “I suppose it's good for you to get some practice, since any day now you'll be bringing home the girls.”

“What? No, I won't!” Jeez. First Grandpa Ed and now Gladys. Why was everyone obsessed with girlfriends all of a sudden?

Gladys patted my cheek. “My milk chocolate's so handsome. And getting so tall!” She raised one eyebrow. “But don't forget, it's your mom you passed up. I've still got a half inch on you.”

I had a feeling I'd be hearing that a lot, at least until I outgrew her, too. “Not for long, you won't.” I gave her a smile and we walked toward the entrance.

Only ten feet inside the fairgrounds, Gladys stopped at a booth selling spa tubs with whirlpool jets. “Mama, what are you doing?” Dad asked. “You're not going to buy one of those things.”

“You know that and I know that.” Gladys held up her straw bag. “But I smell a freebie.”

We kept walking while Gladys pretended to be interested in Jacuzzis.

A few minutes later, Gladys strode toward us with a new plastic visor on her head. “How's this for a first score?” She tipped her head so we could read the print on the visor:
BENNY'S SPAS AND JETS
. “No sun in my eyes today, thank you very much!”

“Great, Mama. Let's go.” Dad turned and kept walking.

“You're not impressed now, but just wait. In a few hours, when you've got yourself a tension headache from squinting, you'll be wishing you had one.”

Dad pulled out his cop sunglasses and put them on. “I'm good.”

We continued down the wide paved road lined with vendor booths on either side and a row of food stands down the center. “Breakfast time!” Gladys shouted. She made a beeline for the little house on wheels that sold Cow Chip Cookies—“a fair favorite since 1935”—and
Alienade, a radioactive-yellow drink that looked like Gladys's favorite pop, Mountain Dew.

I didn't even bother asking if I could have what Gladys was having since Mom believes eating a healthy breakfast is the key to world peace. She'd given me Raisin Bran, peanut butter toast, and a giant fruit-and-yogurt smoothie before we'd left. I would wait until after our Tae Kwon Do demo, and then I'd pig out.

After Gladys got her cookie and drink, we went to find Grandpa Ed. The rock club always has a display in the hobbies area, although I hadn't known that until recently. Even though we go to the fair every year, I'd never gone into Hobby Hall. I'd figured it was all quilts and dolls and that needlepoint stuff. And of course Mom had never mentioned Grandpa Ed being there, since, until this past summer, she hadn't talked to him for ten years.

“Here it is,” I said, pointing to the sign hanging from the building.

Glass showcases full of people's crafts filled the rooms. What I noticed most of all were the ribbons. I imagined one of the big blue ones hanging in my room.
NATIONAL SCIENCE COMPETITION—FIRST PLACE
, it would say.

We walked through a room full of collections. I couldn't believe some of the stuff people collected: cookie jars, lunch boxes, Pez dispensers, Holstein-patterned everything.

Finally, we came to the room where a large
PUYALLUP ROCK CLUB
banner hung on the wall behind a table. Morgan and her dad were there, talking to what looked like a mom and dad and their two kids. One of the kids had just spun a roulette wheel and Morgan was giving him a mineral sample for a prize.

Grandpa Ed stood to the side, speaking with another lady. Behind him, a large display case protected the model of the Space Needle he'd shown me at the September rock club meeting. He and a buddy had made it themselves, all out of petrified wood! It was impressive—almost as tall as I was. Grandpa Ed had said he'd help me make something, if I wanted. He'd suggested a car, but I was thinking a petrified-wood microscope would look ultracool in my room.

When Morgan saw us, her smile grew to half the size of her face. She bounced over. “Hi, Brendan!” I barely had time to say hi before she was introducing herself to my family. “Hi! Are you Brendan's mom and dad? I'm Morgan. Brendan and I go to school together. We're science partners. Brendan probably told you.”

I hadn't.

“It's nice to meet you, Morgan,” Mom said, shaking her hand.

Morgan reached for Dad's hand, as well. “Hello,” Dad said.

“Ah-hmm.” Gladys cleared her throat. She eyed me.
The expression on her face looked a little too much like gloating. “What was that I was saying in the parking lot?”

Gladys's question was like a poke in my rear. I jumped in before she could open her big mouth again. “This is my grandma. You probably won't see her around much.”

Morgan gave me a funny look, but just as quick her smile was back. “It's an honor to meet you, Mrs. Buckley.”

“Oh, no, child. Just Gladys will do.”

Finally, Grandpa Ed walked up.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked.

“Yessirree! To the cow barn! Morgan, you coming?”

She looked excited. “I'd—”

“We don't really need help,” I jumped in again.

“Help with what?” Mom asked.

I glanced at Grandpa Ed. “Uh … just something we need for our science project.”

Dad's forehead wrinkled. “In the cow barn?”

“Yeah. Remember that competition I told you about?”

Dad nodded, but he still looked skeptical.

“For our experiment, we need some … manure.”

“Manure?”
Dad said loudly. The family that had been at the rock club table and now stood around the petrified Space Needle glanced our way.

“How exactly will you be getting that manure home?” Gladys asked, looking me up and down. “Surely not in the same car with me.”

Morgan jumped in then. “We don't need that much, Mrs.—I mean, Gladys.”

“Yeah,” I said, glad that I wasn't fighting this one on my own. “Just a medium-sized Tupperware container.”

BOOK: Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment
4.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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