Authors: Dan Gutman
At lunch I was sitting in the vomitorium with Ryan and Michael and Neil the nude kid. The school lunch was spaghetti and meatballs, which was disgusting and probably poisoned. Ms. LaGrange, the lunch lady, was selling homemade French cupcakes, but I couldn't buy one
because I didn't have any extra money. Bummer in the summer!
No way was I going to tell the guys what Ms. Coco said about my poems. They would probably make me sit with Andrea and her annoying nerd friends.
Speaking of which, Andrea must have been burning through her encyclopedia, because at the table next to us, she was showing off all the new things she'd learned.
“Did you know that hummingbirds are the smallest birds?” Andrea told her friends. “And they're the only birds that can fly backward. Did you know that a parrot will die if it eats chocolate?”
Ugh. It was horrible. The girls were hanging on to Andrea's every word like she was queen of the world. Me and the guys stuffed napkins in our ears to block out the sound.
“How many poems are we up to?” asked Ryan.
“Six hundred and something,” said Michael.
“Man, National Poetry Month stinks,” Ryan said.
“There's only one thing worse than
National Poetry Month,” said Michael.
“TV Turn-off Week,” we all agreed.
“I hate writing poems,” said Neil the nude kid. “I just can't do it.”
I kept my mouth shut. Writing poems came easily to me. In fact, I wrote a poem right there in my brain, but I didn't tell the guys. It went like this:
Dirt bikes are fun.
Dirt bikes are cool.
I'd rather ride dirt bikes
Than go to school.
“If we reach a thousand poems,” said Neil, “Mr. Klutz is gonna bring in a famous poet.”
“He should bring in a famous skateboarder instead,” I said. “That would be way cooler.”
“Maybe Mr. Klutz will bring in Dr. Seuss,” said Michael. “He's a poet.”
“He's also dead, dumbhead,” said Ryan.
“Dead people are lucky,” I said. “They don't have to celebrate National Poetry Month.”
“Instead of sending criminals to jail, they should force them to write poems,” said Neil the nude kid. “Writing poems stinks.”
“Yeah,” we all agreed.
Then we made a list of things we would rather do than write poetry:
Ugh! It was getting too disgusting. I could barely eat my lunch.
Ryan, Michael, and Neil kept complaining
about how hard it was to write poems and how unfair it was that Miss Daisy made us write a poem every day.
That's when I got the greatest idea in the history of the world.
That night I used my secret flash-card system to write ten poems. I brought them with me to school the next morning.
“Did everybody write a poem last night?” asked Miss Daisy as she went around the room collecting our homework.
“My dog ate my poem,” said Neil the nude kid.
That was a total lie. Neil doesn't even have a dog.
Miss Daisy looked mad. It was the second day in a row that Neil didn't turn
in a poem. He looked like he might cry or something, so Miss Daisy said he could go get a drink of water. I waited a minute. Then I asked Miss Daisy if I could go to the bathroom. She said okay.
Neil wasn't at the water fountain in the hall. I went in the boys' bathroom and saw legs in one of the stalls. It sounded like the kid was crying. I went and sat in the stall next door.
Hey, Neilâ¦is that you?”
“You need a poem?” I asked.
“You got an extra one?”
Quiet!” I whispered. “Sure I have an extra one. You wanna buy it?”
“How much?” Neil asked.
“Your lunch money will cover it,” I said.
“Is it a good poem?”
“Only the best for you, Neil.”
“Lemme see it,” Neil whispered.
I opened the door a crack and looked out to make sure nobody else was in the bathroom. Then I took a poem out of my pocket and slipped it under the stall to Neil.
“Hey,” he said after reading it. “This poem doesn't rhyme.”
“Poems don't have to rhyme, dumbhead,” I whispered. “Do you want it or not? I don't have all day.”
“I'll take it,” he said, handing me a
bunch of coins. “But now I won't be able to buy any lunch.”
“Lunch is way overrated,” I said.
“Thanks, A.J.,” Neil whispered. “You saved my life.”
“Don't mention it,” I told him. “There's plenty more where this came from. Just don't tell any girls where you got the poem.”
“I won't,” Neil said. “You won't tell Miss Daisy you sold it to me, will you?”
“My lips are sealed,” I told him.
But not with glue or anything. That would be weird.
Every day, the tote board in front of the school had a new number on it: 650â¦700â¦750. We were getting close to a thousand poems.
Word must have been getting out about me. In the next week, I sold poems to Ryan and Michael and some of the other boys in my class. During recess, some boys from
the other classes came over to buy poems from me too.
I was raking in the dough! Writing poems was a great way to make money. I almost didn't want National Poetry Month to end.
Meanwhile, Andrea was speed-reading her way through her encyclopedia. Every day she would annoy me with some dumb new fact she learned about tigers and unicorns and walruses.
“Soon I'll be finished with my encyclopedia,” she told me on the way to Ms.
Coco's room, “and then I'll be the smartest person in the world.”
I hate her.
After we got to the G and T room, Ms. Coco came running in.
“Sorry I'm late,” she said. “I had to put on my face.”
“Where was it before you put it on?” I asked.
Ms. Coco laughed and told us that today's assignment was to write a rhyming poem about animals.
“I love animals!” Andrea said. “This will be easy.”
I thought for a while, tapping my pencil on my desk. I peeked at Andrea's paper. She was writing some lame poem
about a cat. It was a total rip-off of
The Cat in the Hat
Suddenly I got an idea. I started writing a poem called “Animals Are Weird.” The words just flowed out of my brain:
Bats will sleep upside down in trees,
and elephants are the only creatures
that have four knees.
Clams start out as boys
and become girls later,
but crocodiles don't become alligators!
For dinner an aardvark
will eat a termite,
and cats can see better
than humans at night.
A hummingbird is the smallest bird
and the only one that can fly backward.
Did you know a camel has three eyelids,
and mosquitoes don't prefer to bite kids?
A beaver can hold its breath for five minutes,
and mackerels lay eggs
almost without limits.
You can hear a lion roar five miles away.
Most ants are dead by their sixtieth day.
A poor little owl can't move its eye,
and if it eats chocolate, a parrot will die.
Did you know a walrus can get sunburned?
These are a few of the things that I learned.
You won't see a dog or a cat
with a beard,
but animals, if you ask me,
Ms. Coco read my poem, and she started laughing and crying at the same time and saying what a genius I was. Then she said she had to go show my poem to Mr. Klutz right away and ran out of the room.
Well, Andrea's face went all red like a fire engine.
“That's not fair!” she yelled. “You stole all the facts I worked so hard to learn from my encyclopedia! I could have written that poem!”
“So why didn't you?” I asked. “You snooze, you lose. Hey, that rhymes!”
more gifted and talented than you, Arlo,” Andrea complained. “I read the whole encyclopedia! You hate to read! You
hate poetry! You hate everything to do with learning! But Ms. Coco still likes you better than me. It's not fair!”
Ha-ha-ha! It was the greatest day of my life.