Authors: Robert T. Jeschonek
Tommy Puke and the Boy with the Golden Barf
Robert T. Jeschonek
"Look!" Tommy Puke, the most disgusting kid in
--and my only friend--points
a filthy finger at
shadowy niche in the
wall. "There it is!"
As I lean
forward to look over his shoulder, my eyes c
from the stench of his body odor
. I want
to lean back to get away fr
om the smell...but then I catch sight of what he'
s pointing at
, gleaming in the flare of his flashlight
like a golden blob, as if a bar of pure gold had melted into a puddle, then hardened again. The puddle
s lumpy, as if the molten gold had oozed over a cluster of
. Either that...
...or it's exactly what he
said it was
. The object of the crazy
and stomach-churning quest he's
on. The legendary prize that'
s supposed to change my life forever.
Solid gold vomit.
"You know what this means, don't you
?" Tommy scratches
ad, and dandruff flakes shower
from his unwashed
nest of hair
now! This is his
around nervously. "Do you really think so?"
"We're about to
him!" Tommy turns and grins
. A bell clapper of
glistening green goo ha
his left nostril. "We're going to meet the s
on of the god of vomit! We're
about to throw down with the
Boy Who Barfs Gold!"
Suddenly, a strange voice
from the darkness ahead
. "Don't you mean throw
How did a nice, neat kid like me get mixed up with a boy like Tommy Puke? He saved me with his loogies, that's how.
The first time I met Tommy, three eighth-grade goons were kicking my butt. They'd gotten off the bus at my stop, then chased me up the block and caught me at the corner. They said it was "Sixth-Grader Idol" day, and if I passed the audition, they were going to
beat me up
"Lucky you!" The biggest goon, Brendan, let me have it in the gut while his buddy Crick held my arms. "You're a star!"
The other goon, wiry Red, shot video with his cell phone and laughed like a donkey. "Smile for the camera, Jiggles!"
When I heard that nickname, it went through me like a lightning bolt.
A kid in my class, Zach, had come up with it, and the name had stuck. All because I'd gotten nervous giving a speech.
Could I help it if I got the shakes sometimes?
My belly still ached from the first punch when Brendan hauled back his fist for the second. "Don't
keep it all inside
, Baby Jiggles. Feel free to cry for your fans!"
Punch number two felt like a wrecking ball plowing into my stomach. The pain made me want to double over, but Crick wouldn't let me. Laughing, he jerked me straighter, setting me up for the next attack.
Brendan grinned at the camera. "How was that?" He flexed his arm and gave his bicep a big kiss.
Quit holding back!" Red hustled closer, sticking the camera in my face. "Check it out! Jigs is
Brendan shoved Red out of the way and pinched my chin between his thumb and forefinger. "Jiggles, Jiggles, Jiggles. You think this is
I shook my head. It wasn't the slightest bit funny to me.
" Brendan pinched my chin harder, twisting my head around. "
What did we do to that funny kid the other day?"
"It was hilarious!" Crick's breath hit the back of my head as he laughed. "Step one, strip him
Red was also laughing. "Step two,
make him dance for the camera!"
Brendan let go of my chin and slapped me hard across the face. "Step three, post it online. And step four..."
He never got to step four.
Before Brendan could make another move, Red screamed at the top of his lungs. We all looked in his direction at once.
Red had dropped the cell phone and was wiping some kind of yellow goop from his eyes. Wailing and scowling, he hopped from foot to foot as he swabbed at the slimy substance.
"What the hey?" Brendan
stared, then broke into a laugh. "Did a bird
on you or something, Red?"
"Get it off me! Get it off!" Red turned in circles, scrubbing harder at his goop-covered eyes. "It
Oh please, it
so bad!" He coughed so hard, he gagged.
Brendan laughed harder. "Hold that pose!" Jogging over, he bent down and grabbed Red's phone from the ground. "Let me get a shot of that, dude!"
Just as Brendan raised the phone and started shooting video, Crick
let go of m
Stumbling away, I
ed and looked back. What I saw was this: Crick, bug-eyed, flailing his arms, as someone held a hand over his mouth.
It was a
hand, covered in smudges of dirt, smears of grime, and streaks of blood. The nails on the fingers were chipped and cracked, with
pushed up under them.
A buzzing fly circled twice and landed on the thumb.
When the hand lifted, I could see
Crick's mouth and chin were coated with the same yellow ooze that
covered Red's eyes. The second the hand moved away, Crick started spitting and hacking, fighting to clear the stuff.
It was then that Brendan stopped shooting video of Red and turned in Crick's direction. "Huh?" This time, he didn't start laughing or shooting video. "What the heck
that stuff? Egg yolk or something?"
As he said it, a strange figure stepped out from behind Crick. It was then that
I saw Tommy
for the first time.
He was about my height,
five feet tall,
if you didn't count the forked plume of hair sticking up eight inches from the top of his head. His brown eyes were wide and bloodshot, as if he hadn't slept in a month. He had a huge hooked nose like a warty pickle hanging down over his duck bill lips.
And every inch of him was as filthy as the hand that had covered Crick's mouth.
His plume of hair glistened with grease;
powdery white dandruff was sprinkled through the unkempt tangles. S
plotches of grit on his cheeks and chin made him look like he had a five o'clock shadow, a beard in the making. Patches of unidentifiable scum caked hi
s neck and arms and bare feet.
Stains of many shapes and colors
painted his hole-covered bluejeans and his t-shirt, which might have been white once but now looked gray-green-br
Flies did loop-de-loops around his scrawny, knobby body; he didn't s
hoo them off when they landed.
The words on the chest of his shirt read, "Neatness Counts."
When he turned to me and smiled, his teeth were yellow as bananas. "Hi, I'm Tommy. What's your name?"
"Jiggles," snapped Brandon before I could answer. "Just Jigs for short."
me a wink. "'Scuse me a minute
, will you?"
It was then I found out where that yellow goop on Red and Crick's faces had come from.
mmy looked at Brendan and opened his mouth. A gurgling sound started deep in his throat and steadily grew louder, as if he were dredging up something from the bottom of his lungs.
When the gurgling reached his mouth and stopped, he clamped his lips shut. Cheeks puffed out, he
his head back, then flung it forward, launching the contents of his mouth straight at Brendan.
So that was what he'd dredged up from his lungs--a yellow glob of ooze. A massive loogie shooting through the air toward Brendan's face.
If only Bre
dan hadn't dodged to one side, letting the loogie sail harmlessly past. "Nice try, Doctor Hork-and-Spew!" Laughing, he pounded his fist in his palm and stomped toward Tommy. "Now it's time to meet Doctor
My heart pounded. I thought of running over to lend a hand...but Tommy had the situation under control.
Grinning, he held out his hands, palms up, and wiggled his fingers. "Come and get it, tough guy!"
Just as Brendan was about to pounce, Tommy turned sideways and flung up his arm. He aimed his
underarm point-blank at Brendan, and
a little cloud of green gas wafted out.
The gas swirled up around Brendan's face, and he started coughing. He flapped his hands, but he couldn't make the gas dissipate. "What the heck?" He coughed harder and squinted his eyes shut. "This stuff's...some kind of
Frowning, Tommy sniffed his underarm and shrugged. "Smells like
, if you ask me."
it!" Brendan wobbled and sank to his knees. "Like...rotten
!" He choked so hard, he fell forward on his elbows.
y shook his head. "Such a drama queen
." With that, he gurgled deep in his lungs again and hawked up another loogie. This time, Brendan didn't dodge; it landed square on the back of his head
like a blob of melted
vanilla ice cream.
As Brendan gagged and groaned, Tommy turned my way. "Mission accomplished." He strolled over, brushing his hands as if to dust
...though they were so dirty, I couldn't imagine them ever coming clean. "Now what did you say your name was?"
"Josh." I smiled. "And thank you."
Tommy cocked his head and gave me a funny look. "You know how you can really thank me, Josh?"
"Help me find something." Tommy let loose a resounding belch. "I guarantee it'll change your life forever."
The smell of Tommy's breath in my face made my eyes water...but I made sure not to flinch. Because the truth was, as bad as his hygiene was, I didn't hate what he was saying. If anyone could use a changed life, it was me.
I was sick of getting picked on and laughed at and beat
up. I was fed up with not having any friends.
Sometimes I thought if just
more person called me "Jiggles," I was going to jump off a cliff.
So why not give him a chance? "Okay
." Why not see about this life-
changing of his? "What're we looking for?"
Tommy placed a dirt-caked hand on my shoulder and steered me away from the three bullies. We left them there on the corner, gagging and wailing and dripping with
loogie juice, spirits utterly crushed. We left them there and moved on to the next adventure.
"I'm on a quest." Tommy gave my shoulder a squeeze. "Have you ever heard of the Golden Barf?"