Elvis and the Underdogs

BOOK: Elvis and the Underdogs
6.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


For every kid who loves to laugh,
especially Benjamin, Addison, Olivia,
Dustin, Annabel, & Georgia.




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17


About the Author



About the Publisher


This story starts in a hospital
, but don't freak out. No one died. No one almost died, and there was no blood. (Okay, there was a little blood. It was just because I got a nosebleed, but I get those all the time and that's not why I woke up in the hospital on this particular afternoon.) So why I woke up in the hospital was because there was an “episode” at school. And by “episode” I mean I passed out and hit the floor. Hard.

Obviously, since I was the one who passed out, I didn't see what happened. But if you believe the rumors, any of the following may or may not have happened in the hallway: My eyes rolled back in my head. I drooled. I spit. I foamed at the mouth. I hit the ground and released a perfect spit bubble that floated up and popped on the ceiling. I convulsed on the floor. I bit my tongue off. I flopped around like a fish. I flopped around like a seal. I waved my arms like a beetle on its back. I peed in my pants. I didn't pee in my pants, but it looked like I peed in my pants because Janice Hickenlooper was standing next to me when it happened and she was holding an apple juice box (because she's always holding one) and she freaked when she saw me hit the ground, squeezed her juice box, and squirted it all over my pants, making it look like I peed in my pants.

But again, I wasn't exactly conscious, so I don't know what the real story is. The way my life goes, I'm pretty sure a video of it will appear on YouTube any moment. The very last thing I remember is leaving the library, taking the scenic route to my classroom. I took the long way because I don't like walking by the gym. I remember seeing Billy Thompson coming in the opposite direction with his band of thugs. I stopped suddenly when I saw them.

Billy Thompson is my archnemesis. The Lord Voldemort to my Harry Potter, the Tom to my Jerry, the Lex Luthor to my Superman, the Captain Hook to my Peter Pan, the walnuts to my brownies. (I'm allergic to all nuts, but walnuts especially, and seriously, it makes no sense to add them to brownies anyway. They're perfect just the way they are.) Billy is the biggest bully in fourth grade. When I say biggest, I mean literally the biggest, because he is already five feet seven inches tall, which means he's almost a foot and a half taller than the shortest boy in our class, who is, you guessed it, me.

Billy's greatest hits are as follows: Put a frog in Ms. Parriot's purse. Set loose a few crabs in the girls' locker room. Pulled the fire alarm to get out of taking a test. Filled Pickles McGrew's locker with oyster crackers (bet you thought I was going to say pickles, didn't ya? It's the obvious choice, I know, but trust me, Billy Thompson is not the brightest flame in the chandelier). Stuck a slice of cafeteria pepperoni pizza on the ceiling of the teachers' lounge. But best of all, he stole the chalk machine we use to line the soccer field and wrote
across the parking lot. Only he used the other word for butt that, if I use, I'll get grounded for. Now Grady, the school janitor, is always the first one to school, so when he parked in his spot, he covered up the word that rhymes with “glass.” It just read
Don't even get me started on how dumb it is that he signed his own name, but that's Billy for you. As for all the things he did to make my life miserable, I don't even want to go there, because it makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it. But if you think he's above putting a can of baked beans down the back of my pants, you'd be wrong. The “Benji, Benji Bean Butt” song became so popular, the girls made up a jump-rope routine to it.

So I break all the records for missing the most school every year because I'm sick, and Billy Thompson breaks all the records for missing the most school every year because he gets suspended a lot. To be fair, he pretty much spends his school days being a troublemaker in general, and whoever happens to be nearby is collateral damage. But he has told me on several occasions I'm his favorite. Once I tried to explain to him that it's not very sporting of him to go after the weakest kid in the class, and I gave him that whole shooting fish in a barrel metaphor, but he didn't understand what I was talking about. So then I had to draw a diagram of what I was talking about—you know, how it's just too easy to shoot the fish because they're all bunched up at the bottom of the barrel.

He just stared at me with his mouth hanging open. Clearly he didn't get it, and then I had to spend the rest of the day worrying that I'd just sentenced a lot of innocent fish to a not-so-nice ending. Some people use words, and I guess others use baked beans. Now, don't break out the miniature harps and the world's smallest violins to feel sorry for me. It's not like I'm the one everyone picks on at school. I keep to myself and try to stay out of people's way. I'd say half the kids in my grade know who I am. If they heard my name, they wouldn't make a face like they just ate something sour. I'm first known because I'm absent a lot, second for my winning sense of humor, and third as someone who always has his homework done. I'm friendly, but I don't have any close friends. I guess I'm what you would call a loner, which makes me easy prey for kids like Billy.

Billy moved to town two weeks after the start of third grade, and we officially met when he sat behind me in Ms. Parriot's third-grade class. He took an instant liking to me. Or rather, I should say he took an instant
liking to me. The problem with kids like Billy who aren't into school is they get bored easily. And when a kid like Billy gets bored, that's when the trouble begins. Billy's favorite thing to do when he was bored was move my chair when I tried to sit down. Sometimes he'd kick it forward, sometimes he'd pull it backward, and other times he jerked it to the right side. I usually ended up on the floor. Everyone in class would laugh, and my face would flush bright red.

Finally, I got so tired of Billy, I racewalked through the hall before school to make sure I got to class and sat down in my chair before he arrived. This was when Billy started drawing on the back of my neck with black Magic Marker. I mostly scrubbed it off with a toothbrush when I got home from school, but one time my mom saw it. She immediately called the school, and by the next day Billy had been moved to another seat.

But even though my prayers were answered and we weren't in the same fourth-grade classroom, the torture had not ended. Now Billy looks for me before school, before and after lunch, and during enrichment classes, like art or band, where the teachers weren't as strict about bathroom breaks. I know Billy hates me, but he obviously isn't on the top of my these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things list either. But then again, he isn't well liked by most of the teachers or Principal Kriesky. There are plenty of days when I pass the principal's office and see Billy being led in there by a teacher, or walking out with a scowl on his face.

Luckily, even though Billy is stronger than me, I'm smarter. I have two class schedules memorized: mine and his. And even though we had the same teacher last year, this year we don't. I even dropped band because Billy was taking it too. I had a nightmare over the summer where he locked me in a tuba case. But the real danger, of course, is not in the classroom, where there are teachers around. The real danger is in the hallways and bathrooms. It took me a week of serious recon work to figure out when it would be safe for me to use the bathroom. Billy tends to go to the bathroom a lot—before class starts, after lunch, and sometimes after school. I spent an entire night mapping out the best ways to avoid him in the hallways based on where his locker is and his favorite bathroom. All that work paid off. I mostly get through my days without a Billy Thompson sighting.

Anyway, that's why it was so weird to see Billy on that particular day, because he wasn't where he was supposed to be, which was not near me. I do remember debating whether to turn around and make a run for it. Then I noticed he wasn't scanning the hallway looking to see who he could pick on next; he had already found his victim of the day. I didn't recognize the kid because he had his back to me. But he was about my size, and instead of a carrying a backpack, he had a laptop case on wheels. Oh, that was definitely not a good choice for him, or anyone who wasn't an accountant, a computer programmer, or any businessman who travels a lot for work. I wondered if he was the new kid in school I had overheard Penny Bakerson talking about that morning. Penny Bakerson has this very grating high-pitched voice that pierces your eardrum. Even when you want to shut out what her big mouth is saying, it's hard.

I hoped that since Billy and his band of thugs already had a victim, it was safe to continue on my way. I turned my head, pretending to read the banner hanging on the wall about the school bake sale. I also put my hand in my pocket and took out my lucky titanium lug nut. It's an actual lug nut from an actual rocket that actually once went to the moon. My dad brought it home from work for me when I was five years old, and he told me that there is only one of these particular-sized lug nuts in the entire rocket ship, and it was specially made for a particular vent near the engine. It was my mom who later translated my dad's techno-nerd-speak. She said the lug nut was an example of how small things can sometimes play a big part in huge endeavors.

BOOK: Elvis and the Underdogs
6.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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