BATTLE OF THE DUM DIDDYS
Was I in major trouble? Does a moose have diarrhea in the woods? There I was, Bernie Bridges, fourth-grade superstar. Hey, I’m not bragging. Ask anyone. There I was, sitting with my shoulders hunched and my head down, in Headmaster Upchuck’s office. And I knew the Headmaster didn’t call me in to tell me a funny joke he heard. And he didn’t call me in to compliment me on the cool triple knot I tied in my blue, green, and puke-yellow Rotten School uniform necktie. (And by the way, no way I can untie it. I’m going to need help later—and maybe scissors—to get out of the thing!) No, dudes and dudettes. When The Upchuck calls you to his office, it means you’re in bi-i-i-i-i-g trouble. Here at Rotten School, we call him The Big Man. That’s because he’s only about three feet tall. He’s so short, he has to stand on a ladder to blow his nose! Ha-ha. Don’t you love jokes like that? Well, this was no joke. I sat in front of his little toy desk. I think it came from a Barbie playhouse. It was the only desk he could find that was the right size! He was talking on the phone. Every once in a while he’d look up at me and scowl. I thought hard. What did I do wrong? I could only think of twenty or thirty things. Finally he set down the phone. He rubbed his ear.
His bald head glowed under the light from his computer screen. He turned to me. “Bernie . . .” he said. I didn’t like the way he said it. I shuddered. Here comes trouble. . . .
“I’ll Bite Your
“Bernie . . .” he said again. I still didn’t like the way he said it. “You’re looking great, sir,” I said. “Are you growing taller? You look very tall today. Oh.
You’re sitting on a phone book, aren’t you? Very clever, sir.” “Bernie—” he said. “Mr. Upchuck, I can explain about that Go Fish game,” I said. “We weren’t really playing for money. I know there was a lot of money there. But we were just using it to steady the table. You see, the card table was very wobbly. And we used the money to—” “Bernie—” he interrupted. His face turned as red as a ruby grapefruit. He actually looks a lot like a grapefruit. With eyes. “Sir, I swear I didn’t cheat on the eye exam,” I said. “Someone gave me the sheet of paper with the letters on it. But I never read it. Really. I—” He sighed. “Bernie—” he said. “You are looking awesome today,” I said. “Is that a shadow on your forehead? No. I think you’re starting to grow eyebrows!” “Bernie,” he said through gritted teeth. “Shut your piehole.” “Yes, sir,” I said, giving him a sharp, two-fingered salute. “Anything you say, sir. That’s the Bernie Bridges motto. Anything the Headmaster says is gold. Gold!” The Headmaster let out a sharp growl. “Say one more word, Bernie, and I’ll bite your throat.” I laughed. “Funny, sir,” I said. “I love your sense of humor. We all do. It’s what makes you so special to us. You inspire us, sir. You really do. We think a new library should be built in your honor, sir. The Upchuck Library. It has a nice ring to it—doesn’t it?” “Grrrrrrrrr!” I’d never heard a sound like that from the Headmaster before. He roared. Reached out his pudgy hands, ready to strangle me. And leaped over his desk. I don’t know why he wanted to attack. I was being so nice to him. But I really think The Big Man wanted to bite my throat. Luckily, the phone rang. A very exciting and frightening phone call. But I can’t tell you everything in one chapter—can I? Keep reading. . . .
The End of Rotten
Headmaster Upchuck slid back into his chair and raised the phone to his ear. “Upchuck here,” he said. His little hamster eyes narrowed to slits. “Uh-huh,” he muttered as he listened. “Uh-huh.” He waved me away. “Bernie, go sit out in the hall,” he said. “I’ll get to you in a minute.
This is an important call.” I saluted again and walked out of the office. But I didn’t go sit in the hall. I hunched behind the office door. How else could I listen in on the important phone call? I wasn’t snooping. I was doing my job. The other guys count on me to know everything that’s going on. So I held my breath and pressed my ear to the door. “I see. I see,” The Upchuck kept repeating. Peeking through the door opening, I could see a worried expression on his face. If he had eyebrows, they’d be all scrunched up. “The Board of Inspectors is coming?” Upchuck said into the phone. “When? In one week?” He nodded his head. “Yes, I understand. Everything must be running smoothly.
Yes. If Rotten School isn’t up to their standards, the school will be shut down.” I gasped. Shut down Rotten School? Impossible! “Do you think we might have more than one week to prepare?” Upchuck asked. “Maybe a year or two?” He sighed. “I see. Yes, I understand. One week. If the inspectors file a bad report, the school will be closed forever.” I gasped again. This was kinda serious. I mean, you probably go home after school every day. But our school is a boarding school. That means we live here. We can do whatever we want. No parents! If Rotten School closed, we’d have to move back HOME! “Buh-buh-Bernie—get in here!” Headmaster Upchuck called. I was thinking so hard, I didn’t even see him hang up the phone. I stepped back into his office. He stood beside his desk. His little body trembled and shook. His lips were moving up and down, but no sound came out. I guess he was a little stressed. “What did you want to see me about, sir?” I asked. “Buh-buh-buh-buh.” His lips kept moving up and down. “Yes, sir?” “Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh.” “Okay, sir,” I said. “I understand.” I pretended he was speaking words. I mean, the phone call had him totally shook. Why upset the poor guy even more? He pointed a finger at me. “Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh,” he said. Then his tongue flopped out of his mouth and just hung there. “Very good, sir,” I said. “Thank you for those words of wisdom. I’ll never forget them.” “Lamf-lamf-lamf-lamf,” he said. His tongue flopped over his chin. “Thank you, sir,” I said. I nodded solemnly. “You’re totally right.” I turned and hurried out of his office. I ran across the campus, all the way back to Rotten House. That’s the dorm where my buddies and I live. It’s actually a rickety, old house. I ran up the stairs to the third floor. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends the big news. Feenman and Crench were in the room they share with Belzer, across the hall from mine.
Feenman was down on his knees on the floor, painting his dresser mirror red. That’s Feenman’s hobby—painting things red. Crench was stretched out on the bottom bunk. He had a book over his face, but he wasn’t reading it. He was sound asleep. I shook him hard and woke him up. “Dudes, you won’t believe this!” I cried. I told them what I’d heard in Upchuck’s office. Crench shook his head. “Is it for real? The inspectors might shut this school down in one week?” I nodded. “They can’t do that!” Feenman cried. “I just painted my dresser mirror red!” Did that make sense? Not to me. But what do you expect from a dude who paints things red? “Let’s get serious. You know what this means—don’t you?” I asked. They stared at me. I saw tears start to run down Feenman’s cheeks. “It . . . it means an AWESOME school will be closed,” he sobbed. “No!” I said. “That’s not what it means. It means we have one week to make as much money as we can!” I pushed them toward the door. “Come on. Let’s get moving. This could be our last week to cash in!”
Battle of the Dum Diddys, Copyright © 2007 by Parachute Publishing, LLC. All Rights Reserved. HarperCollins Publishers