Authors: Jeff Strand
Tags: #+READ, #+UNCHECKED
© 2005 Jeff Strand
eBook ISBN: 0-7599-4336-2
Published September 2006
Hard Shell Word Factory
PO Box 161
Amherst Jct. WI 54407
Cover art © 2006 Mary Z. Wolf
All rights reserved
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author, and have no relation whatever to anyone bearing the same name or names. These characters are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.
JUST ABOUT ALL the Greenwater Junior High students have said that they'll never forget last year, and it's my fault. People seem to blame me for a lot of stuff...though in the interest of honest reporting I should mention that they're usually right. But I don't
to cause turmoil and wreak havoc and produce mayhem and blow things up. It just happens.
By the way, my name is Elrod McBugle, and I'm the reason wind-up chattery teeth were banned from Greenwater Elementary. I'm also the reason the gymnasium floor is a bright orange color that burns your eyes if you look at it for more than a couple seconds. And I'm the reason Greenwater Junior High has this appalling smell in the...but I'll get to that a little bit later.
I just want you to know that I'm really not a bad kid. I don't kick three-legged dogs or throw rotten eggs into the mailboxes of elderly people so that when they reach inside their hands become covered with stinky goo and their mail gets all slimy and the ink on their postcards gets all blurry and unreadable and they curse the way kids these days have no respect for private property and in their day any kids pulling stunts like this would have their hides tanned but good and whatever happened to common decency anyway?
I've always tried to do the right thing.
It's just that sometimes things get...weird.
Anyway, this book is about my first year at Greenwater Junior High and how I managed to survive. It's also about chocolate-covered gummi bears, because there aren't nearly enough books being written about chocolate-covered gummi bears, especially the yellow ones. And it's about why you should be nice to everyone you meet, if I remember to write that part. In case I forget, just be nice to everyone you meet, okay?
Oh, and there's going to be a quiz after each chapter. I figure if I had to be tested on this stuff as I lived it, you might as well be tested on it as you read it. It's only fair.
1. What is the name of Elrod's school?
2. What color of chocolate-covered gummi bears are especially lacking books being written about them? (For bonus points, write the book, making it between 257 and 258 pages, double-spaced, with footnotes and a bibliography. We
check your sources.)
3. Fill in the blanks: This is the greatest book ever written because ________________________ and also because ________________________ and Elrod should be paid $_ _ _, _ _ _, _ _ _. _ _ for having written it.
"I DON'T WANNA GO to school."
"Come on, get up. You have to go."
"No, I don't wanna!"
"Listen," I said, plopping down on the chair next to my friend Scoopy's bed. "Your mom is going to be up here any minute. You might as well get up now."
He rolled over, facing the wall, and pulled the covers over his head. "Go away."
Scoopy, my best friend, is not a morning person. He's not much of an afternoon person, either. He's more of a 5:00pm to 5:45pm person...on good days.
His real name is Hugh Casson, but in third grade he went through a phase where he wanted to try out various nicknames. First he asked us to call him "Truck," which we did. Then a few days later he asked us to call him "Scoopy," which we did. A couple minutes after that he wanted us to refer to him as "Wrench," but we were having too much fun calling him "Scoopy," and the nickname stuck. It's a combination of Scooby-Doo and Snoopy, and it really impresses the girls, even if they don't realize it.
I've known Scoopy since kindergarten, and he's always been the tallest boy in class. But it seems like every inch he grows takes away ten percent of his coordination, leaving him a very tall, very skinny, hopeless klutz. You wouldn't think the tallest kid in school would be picked last for basketball, but you haven't seen Scoopy try to dribble. It's scary.
His great height is accented by his hair, which tends to stick straight up in a gravity-defying spell that is only broken when Scoopy trips and falls. This happens often, since Scoopy usually manages to trip over things like ants, sand, his toes, and air. Because of this, his clothes (which were never all that fashionable in the first place) are usually dirty, torn, and ragged.
I, on the other hand, am built much like that fine politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, minus all that excess flab. I sort of look like a combination of Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson, if they'd had plastic surgery to improve their appearance. My voice is so manly that I've prevented eight or nine robberies just by saying "I wouldn't do that if I were you...
No, I'm not lying, except for maybe the parts about Arnold, Tom, Mel, and the robberies. Actually, I'm average in appearance, if you exclude a few extra Twinkies I carry under my skin near the stomach area. I've got short black hair, wear wire-framed glasses, and have a face that contains two eyes, one nose, and a mouth, as well as some other features, including but not limited to eyebrows, a chin, some adorable dimples, and one of those little dents everyone has under their nose.
Now back to our story...
I glanced at my watch. "If you get up right now, you'll have a full six minutes to get ready before we have to leave. We can't be late our first day. They'll think we're slackers, which doesn't go with the fact that we're supposed to be nerds."
"I'm sick," said Scoopy, keeping his head beneath the covers. "I think it might be glomerulonephritis. Leave me alone."
Scoopy has been obsessed with glomerulonephritis ever since he read about it two or three years ago. It's some sort of kidney infection that Scoopy managed to convince himself was lurking behind every corner, ready to leap out and get him. I once made ten dollars by selling him some anti-glomerulonephritis medicine, which was actually some hamster pellets I colored with a magic marker. I am not proud of this.
Then I heard footsteps coming up the stairs. These were a special kind of footsteps heard only in the Casson residence. They were slow, forceful, and each echo sent out a very explicit message:
This is your mother coming up to check on you, and if I don't like what I see things are going to be UGLY!
"Now you've done it," I said, wishing Scoopy had some extra pillows I could press over my ears to block out The Voice of Mom.
The door opened with a hideous creak, and Mrs. Casson entered. She's not a very large woman, but I swear that three-fourths of her body mass is pure lung. This was going to be bad. This was going to be very bad.
"HUGH CASSON WHY ON EARTH ARE YOU STILL IN BED?!?!?"
One of my eardrums passed out from sheer fright.
"I'm sick," said Scoopy.
"YOU MOST CERTAINLY ARE NOT SICK YOUNG MAN DO YOU WANT ME TO DRAG YOU OUT OF THAT BED BY YOUR HAIR?!?!?"
"THEN I WOULD ADVISE YOU TO GET UP RIGHT THIS VERY INSTANT AND I MEAN
I would've been out of that bed before you could say the entire word "pain," but Scoopy barely moved. Oh yes, this was going to be bad indeed.
"I'm going to wait out in the hall," I said, hurrying out the door. I walked halfway down the stairs, until I could see Mr. Casson sitting at the dining room table, reading a newspaper.
"Good morning, Elrod," he said. "Looking forward to your first day of junior high?"
"Yes, sir," I said.
Upstairs, there was a very loud discussion regarding somebody being too far old for this kind of nonsense and somebody else being old beyond her years because of that specific nonsense.
"Are you nervous?" Mr. Casson asked.
I shrugged. "A little. Not too much."
There was a loud
of a body falling to the floor and a sharp cry, followed by a discussion regarding the degree to which somebody was sick and tired of a certain behavior.
"You'll do fine," said Mr. Casson. "Do your homework and study for all the tests---that's the secret to a successful school career."
"I'll remember that."
The upstairs discussion continued, now centering around the upcoming change of certain disagreeable attitudes from the way they'd been in the past. A couple minutes later, Scoopy came down the stairs, fully dressed, wearing his backpack and a nasty, sleep-deprived scowl.
"Have fun, boys," said Mr. Casson. "Don't forget to write down your locker combination."
"We won't," I said, opening the front door. "Come on, Scoopy, we really need to get moving."
We left the house and walked down the sidewalk toward school. I maintained a rapid pace which Scoopy only met when he realized that I wasn't going to wait for him despite comments like "Slow down," and "C'mon, slow down," and "Will you slow down, please?"
Our new school was only three blocks away, which was a wonderful thing because it meant we no longer had to ride the bus. I hated riding the bus. People always threw stuff at me on the bus. If one more slice of bologna had hit me in the back of the head, I would have gone crazy and started poking my fellow riders with a really sharp Pez dispenser.
Three blocks later we hurried through the main entrance of Greenwater Junior High just as the first bell rang. The first bell was the "move your butt" bell, which would be followed in two minutes by the "your butt is late" bell. We knew where our home rooms were from the orientation we'd attended last week, so I veered to the right while Scoopy veered to the left, though it was not the most graceful veering to the left I'd ever witnessed. In fact, it was a pretty pathetic veering to the left. If it's ever necessary for you to do any veering to the left, I hope your veering to the left is better than Scoopy's veering to the left was that day.
I walked into Room 153 and sat down at an unoccupied desk in the front row. The top of the desk contained the most elaborate drawing of somebody picking their nose I'd ever seen. The artist hadn't signed his masterpiece, but
would have bought a couple prints.
I knew a few of the other kids in the room, but most of them were strangers. Greenwater has three different elementary schools but everyone gets thrown together into the one junior high, so there were a lot of new people to meet (and then forget about when we moved on to the three high schools).
The second bell rang, followed immediately by six or seven students stampeding into the room while the teacher shook her head disapprovingly. Her name---Ms. Webster---was written on the blackboard in handwriting so perfect I swear she used a ruler and carpenter's level. I'd say she was about a hundred and thirty-eight years old, give or take a couple months, and her grey hair was pulled back so tightly it looked like she was preparing to be scalped.
She held her disapproving gaze for about twenty more seconds, then picked up a long wooden rod suitable for use as a pointer or a brain-stabber, and said "Good morning." Personally, I'm not so sure she thought it was all that great of a morning, but I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt since she had the rod.
She pointed to the board. "My name is Ms. Webster."
"Hello, Ms. Webster," said one student in a sing-songy voice that he thought was going to earn him a big laugh. Instead it earned him a glare from Ms. Webster, and I just knew he was going to get a rod through the forehead and spend the rest of his life not being able to pronounce the letters a, b, d, f, h, k, or y.
But instead she paced around the room. "I would like to welcome you to Greenwater Junior High. In about twenty minutes you'll be attending an assembly where the principal will welcome you, but for now it's just me, and my welcome isn't going to be nearly as comforting. You're not in elementary school anymore. This is where the real education begins. The baby treatment is over. Do you all understand?"
The kid next to me nodded. Ms. Webster lashed out with her rod, smacking him on the side of the head and knocking him out of his chair. "You will
nod without raising your hand first!" she snarled. "You will sit motionless in your seats, eyes forward, unless I signal that your participation is required by activating the electroshock system within your seats!"
She walked back to her desk and pressed a button. There was a huge
of thunder, and a girl in the back row cried out as sparks flew from her seat. Smoke billowed up from her clothing. She ran around the room, hair on fire, screaming.
"Is that understood?" Ms. Webster demanded, ceasing the girl's ruckus with a solid rod strike to the head.
"Good. And these men will be here to ensure that you follow my rules!"
The door burst open and a single-file formation of fifteen soldiers marched in, wearing black uniforms and holding futuristic laser death rays. They moved until they had formed a line around the perimeter of the room, then simultaneously raised their death rays and pointed them at us menacingly.
A guy raised his hand. "I have a question..."
"No questions!" shrieked Ms. Webster, as the soldiers zapped him with their greenish-yellow beams, disintegrating him. "School is not a place for questions!"
She pushed a second button on her desk and the walls rotated, revealing too many implements of torture to count. There was a rack upon which a screaming student was being stretched out to eight feet in length by shirtless men in black executioner hoods. Another student was having hot coals applied to her feet, seriously wrecking the fine job she'd done polishing her toenails. A whole bunch of other students were being poked with stuff.
I could take it no longer.
"Cease this villainy!" I shouted, standing up. "Unhand my fellow pupils and begone with thee, wretched creature!"
Ms. Webster gave me a disapproving look, one that was made even more disapproving by the way her eyes were glowing bright red. She snarled at me, revealing razor-sharp fangs.
"What did you say?"
"I said, cease this villainy. Unhand my fellow students and...no, wait, I think I said pupils. That's right, unhand my fellow pupils and...go somewhere... ummm...I made it up on the spot, so I don't remember exactly what it was, but I'm pretty sure the word 'wretched' was in there. Does that help?"
Ms. Webster let out a roar that blew everyone's hair back as if there were a tornado in the room.
The soldiers zapped away, but I had already picked up my desk and was using it as a shield. I spun around, deflecting their lasers, which bounced back and struck the soldiers, vaporizing them one by one. A couple kids were also disintegrated in the crossfire, but at least I didn't know them.
"Curse you!" screamed Ms. Webster after all her soldiers were gone. "Now I'm going to lose my deposit on them! Oh, you will pay for this, I promise you that!" And with that, she tore away the false skin of her human face, revealing the most horrific, gruesome, appalling---
"What do you think you're doing?" asked Ms. Webster, snatching up the comic I'd been drawing before I could complete the horrific, gruesome, and appalling part.
"Uhhh...uhhh...uhhh..." I said.
She quickly looked the comic over. "So, are we in third grade again?"
"Do you know where the principal's office is?"
Instead of saying "Uhhh" again, I shook my head.
"Do you know where the main entrance is?"
Instead of shaking my head again, I nodded.
"It's right there. Go now. I'll join you shortly."
I nodded again and stood up as some of my classmates snickered. They would perish in the next comic. As I walked out into the hallway, I wondered if this was some kind of record.