"Hollyweird" comes to Middletown! Wally's a superstar! A movie company has chosen our hero to be eaten by their mechanical "Mutant from Mars"! It's a close race as to which will consume Wally first-the disaster-plagued special effects "monster" or his own out-of-control pride ... until he learns the cost of true friendship and of God's command for humility.
(see preview below)
Science class was created for sleep.
That's pretty obvious..
The way I figure it, God knew kids would like to stay up late. He also knew they'd hate English, geography, math, and all the other brain bruisers grownups would dream up. So He created something like science class (which we can't possibly understand anyway) so we can catch some zzz's and keep staying up late.
Not to Reptile Man. That's what we call Mr. Reptenson, our science teacher. He seems to think the life stages of a moth are more important than what late-night talk shows have to say.
Talk about a weird set of values.
At the moment Reptile Man was droning on about carbon dioxide, oxygen, and photo-something-or-other. You know, the usual non-stop, action/adventure, science stuff. I slipped my leg under my seat and sat on it. Then I threw a look over to Opera. He was my best friend for as long as I can remember. Well ever since last summer at Camp Whacko. That’s because he's a fellow Dork-oid. You know, "Dorkoids". . .
-the ones wearing the same hair cuts everyone else wore five years ago.
-the ones wearing their brother or sister's hand-me-downs that are still just a little too big.
-the ones always picked last when choosing sides for any sports of any kind.
Or as the dictionary reads:
Dork-oids (dor-koidš) n. I. Bottom of the human food chain. 2. Triple A losers.
Anyway, we Dork-oids always stick together. Through thick or thin, we're always there for each. In fact, we even have our own hand signal-a clinched fist with the little finger raised. It means, "I know it's not easy being the All-School Fool, but hang in there 'cause you've got company."
Opera was already nodding off. I tell you, the guy could sleep through anything-except classical music. And, of` course, breakfast ... or lunch ... or dinner ... or the sound of any potato chip bag being opened within a mile.
Reptile Man stood behind the counter at the front of the room. I was way in the back. No way could he see me. So I closed my eyes for just a second, or two, or twenty, or-
I jerked and blinked awake.
'Would you be so kind as to come up and demonstrate?"
I swallowed nervously. I had no idea what the guy was talking about, so I tried to stall. "I uh ...I don't think I'm qualified."
"Mr. McDoogle, if you're a human being who inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide, believe me, you qualify."
One other thing I forgot to mention about Reptile Man-he hated me. The guy always picked on me. The best I figure, he knew I was the only one in the school who couldn't beat him up. And since he had to take out his frustrations on somebody, and since I was the only one available ... well, there I was ... ready, willing, and not so able.
'Mr. McDoogle ... we're waiting... "
"Oh ... right," I stuttered. "'No problem." I stood up, took one step forward, then fell flat on my face. Seems my eyes weren't the only things that had fallen asleep. My leg had also taken a little nap. of course everyone laughed. And of course I jumped up, giving my usual McDoogle-the-idiot grin. Its like one of my trademarks. McDonald's has its golden arches; have got my idiot grin.
I half limped, half staggered to the front of the class.(My foot was a slow riser.)
A glass beaker sat on the counter. There was some liquid inside it and a glass tube, like a straw.
Reptile Man was wet with perspiration. He was always wet with perspiration. You could put him in the middle of Antarctica and there 'd still be sweat on his forehead. Of course, it would be in the form of giant icicles, but you probably get the picture.
He picked up the beaker of liquid. "Go ahead," he grinned as he handed it to me.
It was a setup, I could tell.
The class waited in eager anticipation.
I looked to Opera, hoping for a clue. But he was still off in la-la-land. By the smile on his lips, he was either dreaming about Mozart, or falling into a giant vat of Hostess Twinkie filling.
I took the beaker.
The class chuckled.
"Go ahead," Reptile Man said, motioning to the straw.
I put my mouth to it.
They giggled louder.
Now I figured I had two choices ... suck in or blow out. If I sucked in, the liquid would probably poison me, and Reptile Man would have accomplished his lifelong goal.
On the other hand, if it were a liquid explosive and I blew out, I'd probably level the entire room which would probably mean after-school detention for at least thirty to forty years.
Decisions, decisions ...
I took one last look at my classmates. Most of them were bullies or wiseacres. I know God wants us to love everybody, but I figured the world would probably be a safer and better place without them. So ... I took a deep breath and was about to blow us all to kingdom come when suddenly I saw her ... Melissa Sue Avarice-the most beautiful girl in Olympic Heights Middle School.
All of my life, I'd tried to get her to notice me. And all of my life, she rated me right up there with your basic slug slime. But now ... now she was actually smiling at me. Me! Wally McDoogle! Wally McDoogle, All-American Oddball! Well, maybe she wasn't exactly smiling at me.... Maybe it was more like laughing. But the point is we made contact. Melissa Sue and me. And it was ...
Well, I knew what had to be done. I had to save Missy (that's what we, her closest friends, call her). No doubt about it, I had to save Missy's life. Regardless of the dangers to my own person, I had to do what I had to do. I wrapped my mouth around the straw and began to draw the deadly liquid toward my mouth when suddenly-
"Attention, please ... attention . . .
It was the PA speaker. There was a loud squeal of feedback. That meant it was Vice Principal Watkins. The guy never could get the hang of using the intercom.
"Attention please ... SQUEAL ... A motion-picture company has come to town. Sludge Productions will hold auditions for their next movie, 'Mutant from Mars,'... SQUEAL ... this afternoon, on the stage in the auditorium. All those interested in trying ... SQUEAL ... Ahem ... all those interested in trying out for a part, please meet at the hallway stage door at 3:30 this afternoon. Thank you."
That was it. My entire life had changed in that short announcement. Forget this dorky beaker in my hand, forget sacrificing my life, forget Missy ... (Well, let's not be hasty. We'll remember Missy awhile longer if you don’t mind.) My point is I was going to be a star. I knew it.
The only problem was that every other kid in the school knew he or she was going to be a star, too. Suddenly our classroom was buzzing. Every classroom was buzzing. Everyone was going to audition.
The bell rang, and we all headed for the door.
Reptile Man was wiping his forehead and shouting something about, "Remember the Science Fair, everyone must participate." But no one heard. Everyone was too excited about the audition, about being in the movies.
Everyone but Reptile Man. He was still shouting. He probably figured he wouldn't have a chance to be a movie star. Then again, maybe they needed someone to play the Martian Mutant....
"So what do you think?" Opera shouted.
"About the auditions?" I yelled.
We were playing Dodge Ball in the gym. You know, the game where you hit the guys on the other team with the ball and put 'em out.
"I not talking about the auditions," Opera hollered. "I'm talking about the Science Fair-the one Reptile Man says we have to enter. You wanna be partners?"
WHOOSH! A ball sailed past, missing my head by an inch. Rats! If I had been paying attention, I could have gotten it to hit me. That's what those of us in the lack-of-muscles department try to do. We try to get out of the game as soon as possible, so there's less time to make fools of ourselves.
"Since when did he say anything about the Science Fair?" I shouted.
WHOOSH! Rats! Missed me again.
"Must of been when you were sleeping."
"Me sleeping!" I shouted. "What about you?"
WHOOSH! WHOOSH! Amazing. Two balls at a time and they still can't hit me. The jocks must be having an off day.
"You were the one snoozing away," I shouted, "how could you hear him?"
"I just rest half my brain at a time."
WHOOSH! Still no luck.
"So do you or don't you want to be partners?" he shouted.
"Sure," I yelled, doing my best to jump in front of a ball but missing it by a mile. "What's our subject?"
"Fleas," Opera shouted back.
"FLEAS?" I yelled. "What half of your brain's awake, now?"
"The reproductive cycle of fleas!" he hollered.
"Why would you want to do a science project-
-on fleas?" I shouted.
"Why not?" he yelled.
He had me there. How could anyone argue with that type of logic?
"Hey, look!" he shouted. "We're the only ones left."
I glanced around. It was true. Everyone else on our team had been hit. They were all cheering us on from the sidelines. They were all shouting for us to catch a ball so they could come back in. They were all expecting us to be heroes.
"I hate it when this happens," I sighed.
"Me, too," Opera agreed. "Look out, here they come!"
I turned around just in time to see the other team fire all five balls at us at once.
WHOOSH! WHOOSH! WHOOSH! WHOOSH! K-THWACK!!
The K-THWACK was the ball nailing my noggin. Suddenly I heard bells. Suddenly I had a hard time finding my legs. "Fleas,' I mumbled just be-fore hitting the floor. "Sure, why not . .
* * * * * * * *
The line for the audition stretched from the stage door, around the hall, down the stairs, and into the cafeteria. (Like I said, everyone wanted to be a star.) Luckily, it moved pretty fast. Unfortunately, I was about to find out why.
At last I rounded the final corner. The door was just ahead. Only a handful of kids separated me from my destiny.
I spotted Wall Street. She was my other best friend from camp. Another Dorkoid. She had just come back from the grocery store where she had bought a bunch of pop. Now she moved down the line selling it at a buck a can. (Hey, we don't call her Wall Street for nothing.) Of course, everybody complained, but lots of kids were buying, too.
"Wally," she called. "I thought you were going to write for the movies, not star in them."
"I know,' I shrugged, "but sometimes you gotta start at the bottom."
"Yeah, I suppose. Hey, you want some pop?"
"Sure, how much?"
"Well since you're a friend, let’s make it a buck fifty and call it even."
Good ol' Wall Street. She planned to make her first million before she turned fifteen.
Suddenly there was a loud scream. It came from behind the stage door.
"What’s that?" I stiffened.
"They do that every once in a while," Wall Street shrugged. "No biggie-"
But a couple kids behind me thought it was a "biggie." They quickly packed up and headed home. So did three or four in front of me. Hmmm. Maybe they knew something I didn’t.
The door creaked open. It was dark inside-very dark. The kid in the front of the line hesitated.
"Next!" a voice cried from somewhere deep in the blackness.
The kid took a deep breath.
"Next!" the voice commanded.
Finally the kid stepped through the door. The darkness seemed to swallow him up as the door slammed with a foreboding boom.
A couple more folks packed up and left.
"Well, good luck!" Wall Street called as she headed down the line,
"Yeah," I said, trying to find my voice, "thanks a lot."
After a moment the door opened again. The next kid stepped inside to meet his fate. A minute later there was another terrifying scream, scarier than the last.
Four more kids suddenly thought it was a good idea to split.
My heart started pounding faster. It's not that I was scared. It's just- Well, all right, I was scared. A lot scared. What was going on in there, anyway?
Now, there was just one girl between me and the door. The door which once again slowly creaked open.
"Next," the voice called from inside the darkness.
The girl turned to me, "You want to go?" she offered.
"Thanks," I said, "but I don't believe in cuts. It's not fair to the others. You go ahead."
"Oh." She sounded a little disappointed.
"Next," the voice demanded from inside the darkness.
"Well, here goes." She tried to look happy. But there was something about her pale face, her dripping forehead, and shaking hands that said she wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea. Finally, with a deep breath, she stepped into the blackness.
Too bad, I thought as the door slammed shut. She seemed like such a nice kid.
I waited. There was no scream. No nothing. Suddenly I wondered, Why do kids only go in this door and never come out? Other questions started like, What photo would my folks choose to put on the milk cartons?
Before I had any answers, the door creaked open. "Next," the voice called.
I tried to swallow, but there wasn’t anything to swallow. My mouth was as dry as cotton. Make that freeze-dried cotton. Make that freeze-dried cotton in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
"Next!" the voice ordered.
I took a deep breath and said a little prayer. "Please God, I'm sorry about wanting to blow up the science class." It may seem weird, but I figured if I'm going to die and meet God, the fewer things I had to apologize for, the better ...
I stepped inside the black room. The door closed behind me with a loud boom ...
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