Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment (9 page)

BOOK: Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment
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“Tupperware container?” Mom's eyes got wide. “Brendan, you could have at least asked.”

“Sorry. Can I use one of your Tupperware containers?” Of course, I already had it in my duffel bag.

“What exactly are you planning to do with this cow manure?” Dad asked.

“Well,” Morgan said. I'd let her take this one. “We're going to mix it with other forms of biomass with the hypothesized result of increasing its overall energy output.”

When Morgan and I had gotten together to decide on our project, we'd concluded—with Mr. H's encouragement—that my original idea of experimenting on human poop might be too unhygienic for a school-related competition, not to mention it would be a hard sell with our parents.

Dad stared at me, his eyebrows as flat as a corpse's EKG. “Couldn't you build a rocket or something?”

Cow poop obviously wasn't going over much better.

Grandpa Ed spoke. “It may not be glamorous, but these kids' subject matter is on the cutting edge of fuel technology.”

Dad's eyebrow EKG showed signs of life. “You're telling me cow dung is on the cutting edge of something?” He turned to me. “Brendan, does your subject matter really have to be
fecal
matter?”

“I was planning to tell you my idea, but you've been so busy.…”

“You should be proud of the boy. He's got a sharp mind and he wants to use it for good.” My shoulder tingled where Grandpa Ed's hand rested.

Dad's jaw clenched. “You don't need to tell me about my own son.” He looked at me. “You're wearing your new
do bok
. I think it can wait until after your demonstration.”

I tugged at my clean uniform. “I'll be careful.”

“I checked with a buddy of mine over there,” Grandpa Ed said. “They're taking the cows out this morning to sanitize the place. We wait too long and there won't be a speck of the stuff anywhere.”

“If that's the case, I'm sure there'll be a Dumpster full of it
somewhere
,” Dad said.

“We need it to be as fresh as possible,” I said.

“What? Straight from the cow's patootie?” Gladys's lips stretched in disgust.

Mom spoke finally. “Let's just go get it. The kids need it for their project.”

Yes
! I could always count on Mom to support my scientific pursuits. I said goodbye to Morgan, who frowned a little but got excited again when she saw a girl standing
at the rock club table. “Bye! I'll see you at the Tae Kwon Do demonstration if I can get away.”

You don't have to
, I thought, but I just waved, then hurried after Mom. Dad followed last. Outside the building, I turned right. “I think the cows are this way.”

“Yes, they are,” Gladys said. “Next to Lulu's Dairy Barn. From cow to cone. Can't get any fresher than that!” She hoisted her straw purse over her shoulder. Already, the freebies bag was bulging with stuff.

I led the way to the red buildings in the distance. The cattle pens have never been my favorite place to visit at the fair. First of all, they stink. Second of all, they stink. No offense to anyone who raises cows or sees them as sacred or collects cows and cow-related paraphernalia, but they
stink
.

So I wasn't exactly looking forward to the task ahead, but then, after reading up on cow dung's hidden potential, I had to admit I had a new respect for the animal.

We approached the Pig Palace, a small covered area adjacent to the cow barns. A person in a big pink pig costume stood in front, waving. “There he is!” Gladys hollered. “My hunka hunka piece of pork!” The rest of us looked at each other like,
Do you know this lady?

“Kate, come take my picture.” Gladys always makes sure to get a picture with the Puyallup Pig. “After that, we can watch Big Mama feed all her little pig babies. Unlike Brendan, I won't be needing any freebies from the cattle pens.”

Gladys handed Mom her camera and hurried to stand next to Porky. Dad followed Grandpa Ed and me into the thick stench. I coughed a couple of times. Maybe I
was
crazy to want to do an experiment with this stuff. No, it was only a small amount. I could handle it.

The barn was crammed full of cows—brown, black, white with black splotches, babies, mamas, and bulls. They stood in their gated pens on either side of a hard-packed dirt aisle. Hanging overhead were those red, white, and blue semicircular banners like you might see on a big old house in the South.

A bull with pointy horns eyed me suspiciously. He stamped his hooves and blew nasty breath from his nose. His tail twitched back and forth. I wouldn't be getting anywhere near
that
rear end. People were leading cows out of their stalls already. We'd have to work quickly.

I looked into the nearest pen.
Dang
. All the manure was coated in sawdust. That would affect the results of our experiment for sure. Although wood
was
biomass … maybe we could factor that in somehow. Or maybe I really
should
try to get the droppings straight from the source, as Gladys had suggested.

The air filled with the sound of tiny squeals. Cows mooed and moved about nervously. Something squawked. I looked around. Where was all that noise coming from?

A stampede! At least a dozen small pigs rushed toward us down the center aisle. Behind the piglets ran
a teenager, clutching a bag. A bulging, multicolored straw bag.

Gladys appeared in the barn, huffing and puffing. “Stop that hoodlum!” She shook her fist in the air. “Thief! Thief!”

I stepped into the boy's path with my arms extended. He shoved me out of the way, turned at the end of the row of stalls, and headed into the next barn.

I regained my balance, dropped my bag, and ran.

The boy exited the barn, headed toward the Slush Factory (“Twenty-eight flavors to mix!”) and Dumbo's Jumbos Elephant Ears.

I turned on my turbojets and sprinted even faster. I glanced over my shoulder at the sound of someone running behind me. Dad.

Suddenly, both my feet were up in the air. I hung suspended for what seemed like forever, waiting for my body to hit the packed dirt. Instead, the ground squished. A funky smell filled my nostrils. I laid my head on the ground and moaned. The fresh cow pie under my hip was still warm from the oven.

Dad sprinted past.

“You all right, there?” Grandpa Ed pulled me to my feet.

I nodded. My butt hurt, and I was hot from embarrassment, but other than that I was fine. My
do bok
, on the other hand … I twisted my head, trying to get a look at the damage.

“That's quite a tire tread you got there.”

I groaned. “Dad's going to kill me.”

“Excuse me.” A woman with a shovel moved in. “We need to get this up before anyone else steps in it. Or what's left of it, anyways.” She glanced at my behind. “There's a men's restroom right over there.” She pointed past a Dumpster labeled
DOO-DOO ONLY
.

“Can you wait just a second?” I asked the lady. “I can help you with that.” Grandpa Ed had picked up my duffel bag. I zipped it open and pulled out Mom's Tupperware container and gardening spade.

“It's certainly fresh,” Grandpa Ed said. “I think I see some steam coming off it.”

I scooped up a shovelful, plopped it into the container, and snapped on the lid. The woman looked at me like I was nuts. “I'm not even going to ask,” she said. “All done?”

“Yes, ma'am. Thank you.” I wrapped the little shovel in the old towel I'd brought and dropped everything back into the bag.

“We'd better get you cleaned up,” Grandpa Ed said. We walked toward the bathroom. When we passed the area behind Dumbo's Jumbos, two uniformed security officers held the boy by his arms. Dad was there, too, holding Gladys's straw bag. He glanced our way. I hurried into the bathroom.

After I'd used up almost a whole roll of wet paper towels on my
do bok
, and then taken care of some of my
own business, we came out. On my backside was a large light brown stain shaped like Australia. The rest of my family waited near the restroom exit. Gladys had her bag securely over her arm. She munched on a Krusty Pup corn dog.

“Are you all right?” Mom asked. “Gladys said you fell pretty hard.”

“Not before he diverted the juvenile delinquent right into the hands of the authorities. Opening the pigpen for kicks, then running off with my bag.” Gladys scowled. “What's wrong with people?”

“Well, all's well that ends well, I guess,” Mom said. “Did you get what you came for?”

“Mission accomplished.” I grinned, then got serious when I saw Dad's face. He eyed the stain. His mouth pulled to one side.

Gladys linked her free arm with mine. “You're my hero, Milk Chocolate!” She got a glimmer in her eye. “Speaking of chocolate, let's go get some of that delicious ice cream from Lulu's.”

“You're going to be sorry, Mama,” Dad said. “The way you're eating.”

Gladys patted her bag. “Thanks to my grandson, I've still got my Rolaids. Pop a few of those pep pills, and I'll be good to go.” Gladys's nose wrinkled as she unlinked her arm. “I love you, kid, but for now, I think I'll keep my distance.”

“We need to go,” Dad said. “Master Rickman was expecting Brendan five minutes ago.”

When we arrived at the stage, Morgan came up behind me. “Hi, Brendan!”

I turned quickly, feeling suddenly very warm in my poop-stained uniform.

“Did you get the manure?”

“Yeah, no problem.” I tugged on my damp, smelly
do bok
and glanced around. Did she have to talk so loud?

“I wish my mom were here to see you perform,” Morgan said. “She's out on the research vessel this weekend.”

“That's all right,” I said, relieved that she
wasn't
there. “It's not that big of a deal.”

Dad called my name.

“I've got to go. See you later.” I walked backward until Morgan finally turned away. When I looked again, she was sitting next to Mom.
Great
.

I found Khal behind the platform and started to warm up with the other students, though I was still plenty warm from the encounter with Morgan.

“What's on your uniform?” Khal asked. “Someone spill their coffee?”

“You don't want to know.” Truth was,
I
didn't want him to know. I'd never hear the end of it.

“Wait a minute. That's not …”

“I said you don't want to know.”

“Aw, man! You're not standing next to
me
out there! I don't want to smell that mess. And no way am I sitting next to you on Extreme Scream.” Extreme Scream is a ride that lifts you a few hundred feet up a tower, then drops you in about two seconds. Khal and I
always
ride Extreme Scream together.

“You can't even smell it,” I said. “I washed it off.”

Khal's eyes slid in the direction of the audience. “I bet the Belcher will ride it with you.” He grabbed me around the shoulders and pretended to be scared. “Oooh,” he made his voice go high, “Brendan! Save me! Save me! Ew, what's that horrible
smell
? Oh, it's probably just me. Oooh! Brendan, Brendan! You're so
beautiful
!”

I shoved him away. “Knock it off.”

Dad eyed us from the front row.

“Fine,” I said. “Don't stand next to me. I don't care.” Actually, I did, but I was mad at Khal for making fun of me. And mad at myself for doing a back flop onto a cow pie. Now I had to perform in front of a big crowd—a crowd that included Morgan, which didn't really matter, but still, she
was
a girl from school—with a huge poop stain on my butt!

I punched, kicked, jumped, and blocked, trying to keep my body to the front as much as possible. If I had to spin, I did it as fast as I could. I saw a lady whisper and point. She was probably saying to the person next to her,
What's that big blotch on that boy's jacket? It looks like Australia!

Finally, we were bowing to Master Rickman and everyone was applauding. The crowd started to disperse.

Morgan ran up as soon as I got off the stage and gushed like a geyser about what a great job I'd done. Khal fluttered his eyelids behind her back. I ignored him.

“Go change your clothes,” Dad said. “I hope you know how to work with bleach.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. I found the nearest bathroom and took my time changing.

Fortunately, when I came out, Morgan had taken off with her dad to check out the rest of the fair. Khal and I headed for Extreme Scream. We rode it five times in a row—until my head felt like it was still stuck somewhere up in the clouds and my stomach couldn't take one more drop. Then we headed to the nearest snack booth and loaded up on Cow Chip Cookies.

“She's such an expressive, articulate girl,” Mom said as we sat at the table finishing our lunch the next day. Dad was at the library studying. This wasn't the first time Mom had said something about Morgan since meeting her at the fair.

BOOK: Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment
12.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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