Aliens Ate My Homework
Billy Becker, Boy Beast
“Watch out, Pudge-Boy! Here comes number 23!”
That was Billy Becker.
That was Arnie Markle, providing sound effects for the final moments of the bug Billy was smushing against the back of my head.
That was me, Rod Allbright, trying to say, “Let me go!”—which wasn’t easy with Arnie sitting on my back and pressing my face into the grass.
Why was Billy Becker squashing a bug against the back of my head?
It was his hobby.
You know how it is: some people collect stamps, or comic books, or beer bottle caps. Billy was collecting a list of how many kinds of bugs he could mash in my hair.
Why was Arnie helping him? Well, until Billy moved to town, Arnie had been our official class bully and kid most likely to spend time in prison. He was big—about a foot and a half taller than Billy. That wasn’t quite as big as it might sound, since everyone in our sixth grade class was taller than Billy, usually by at least six inches.
(My mother, who sort of drips sympathy, said that Billy’s size could explain why he had made it a point to beat up every boy in the sixth grade within a month of moving to our school.)
Most of the guys just stayed away from Billy after that. But Arnie was so awed by Billy’s fighting skills that he had become devoted to him. Now he was Billy’s official hench-thug, which meant it was his job to hold me down while Billy smeared bugs in my hair.
“Okay, Arnie,” said Billy, “You can let him up now.”
I scrambled to my feet, but didn’t say anything; I had already learned what a mistake that could be. Arnie, unfortunately, was perfectly willing to talk. “I don’t think that one should count,” he said.
“Why not?” demanded Billy.
“It was a spider. Spiders aren’t bugs.”
Billy slapped his hand against his forehead. “How could I have been so stupid! I’m sorry, Pudge-Boy. Really. I’ll tell you what. Just scratch that one off the list. And don’t worry about it—I’ll find something nice and juicy to replace it.”
Snickering at their wit, Billy and Arnie wandered off.
My best friend, Mickey, helped me to my feet. Mickey had been the shortest kid in the sixth grade until Billy showed up. He was still one of the nicest—which shows you what my mother’s theory was worth. “I’m amazed,” he said now.
“Why?” I asked, as I dug for my comb. (I never used to carry a comb, but after Billy started his new hobby I found it very useful for getting the bug guts out of my hair.)
Mickey shrugged. “That was the most intelligent thing Arnie’s said all year.”
You might wonder why I didn’t just pound Billy’s face in when he did these things—especially since he was so much smaller than me. The answer is simple: While Billy had already beat up every boy—and half the girls—in the class, I, personally, had never managed to beat up anyone. The sad truth is, I’m not much good at anything physical. That’s why the other kids call me Rod the Clod. (Except Billy, of course; he calls me Pudge-Boy, which I don’t think is really fair, since the doctor says I only need to lose ten or fifteen pounds to be the right weight.)
The few times I lost my temper and actually struck back at Billy he either put on his innocent face—which teachers and other adults seem to find totally angelic—or else he beat the daylights out of me.
I know I am not a good fighter. Even so, it is very embarassing to get beat up by someone a foot shorter than me.
I was still trying to think of a way to get revenge on Billy when the afternoon bus dropped Mickey and me in front of our houses. We live about four miles out of town, and there are not a lot of other kids around, except for our stupid “siblings” (as our teacher, Miss Maloney, calls them). Mickey has one sibling and I have two. Mickey’s is a little sister named Markie. She is pretty much a normal kid.
Mine are a matched set, three year old twins known as Little Thing One and Little Thing Two. They are not normal by any stretch of the imagination.
Their real names are Eric and Linda. They decided they wanted to be Little Thing One and Little Thing Two after I read The Cat in the Hat to them. (They had a fight about who got to be Thing One, but since Linda was born first, Eric was doomed to lose that battle. He loses a lot of fights that way.)
My mother is totally unamused by these names, but she can’t do much about them because (a) they were the Things’ idea and (b) the Things are only three years old. (In case you don’t happen to have any around, let me explain that three year olds are very good at insisting on this kind of thing.)
My dog, Bonehead, started barking as I came up the driveway.
“Hello Rod, pick up your feet,” said Mom, as I stumbled over the doorstep. “I’m glad you’re here. Mrs. Nesbitt needs help, and I don’t want to take Eric and Linda up there if I don’t have to.”
“My name isn’t Eric,” said Eric, without looking up from the blue fingerpaint he was smearing across a big piece of paper. “It’s Little Thing Two. And I like Mrs. Nesbitt. She gives me cookies.”
Mrs. Nesbitt is this old lady who goes to our church. Mom sort of watches out for her, which takes a lot of time.
Once I asked Mom why she did it. She just looked at me funny and said, “It needs to be done.”
I wouldn’t have cared all that much, except watching out for Mrs. Nesbitt didn’t just mean extra work for Mom. (I mean, who do you think got stuck with Thing One and Thing Two while Mom was off playing Good Samaritan?)
“Can’t you take them with you?” I asked. “I have to work on my volcano.”
“The twins make Mrs. Nesbitt nervous.”
“They make me nervous, too,” I said. I started breathing fast and wheezing to prove it.
Mom gave me one of her looks. You know the kind I mean.
“All right,” I muttered. “I’ll do it.”
Like I had a choice.
I decided to let the Things help me with the volcano—or at least, with making the papier mache I needed for the next step. The volcano was my major science project for the big end-of-the-year Science Fair, which was scheduled for that Friday. I had been working on it for over a week now, and it was going to be big time—a great looking volcano that would really erupt when it was finished. I needed to add one more layer of papier mache before I could start painting it.
“Hey kids!” I yelled, as Mom headed out of the driveway. “Wanna make pooper mucky?”
(“Pooper mucky” is what the Things called papier mache.)
“Yay for Roddie!” cried Little Thing One, who loved gooping around with the stuff.
Little Thing Two started to clap.
“Okay, you two get the tub. I’ll meet you in my room.”
It was one of those hot days that sometimes surprises you in early May, so I opened my windows and put on a pair of shorts. After spreading some papers on the floor to protect it from the goop we were about to make, I went to look at the volcano, which stood on a card table in the corner of the room. It was nearly two and a half feet high, built it on a four foot by four foot square of plywood I had found in the basement. I was really proud of it.
The Things lugged in the tub we used for making papier mache and we dumped in some torn-up paper left from the last time we had done this. Then I poured in water and paste, and we started squeezing it with our hands to get that nice oozy goop that is so much fun to work with. When it was pretty much ready, I went back to the volcano to see where I wanted to start working. Suddenly I heard a tearing sound. Before I could turn to see what had caused it, a dollop of papier mache smacked against the back of my bare leg.
“Wow!” cried Little Thing One.
“Holy Macaroni!” cried Little Thing Two.
I spun around.
The first thing I saw was a big hole in the screen.
The next thing I saw was globs of papier mache spattered all over the room, including a big splotch on Thing One’s face.
The third thing I saw was a foot-long spaceship that had landed nose first in my vat of papier mache. I thought it must be a toy—until a blue glow began to crackle and sizzle around it. You could smell the electricity.
I revised my opinion. This thing was real!
The crackle continued. Just as I was wondering if the ship was going to explode, it started to grow.
Within seconds it was three feet long. I wondered if it was going to get so big it would blow our house to smithereens. But suddenly the crackling electric glow began to sputter. The ship shrank back to two feet, grew a bit, then shrank again. A moment later the crackling stopped.
The electric glow disappeared.
The spaceship held steady at about two feet long.
Thing One and Thing Two had been edging closer to me while all this was going on. Now I had one of them clinging to each hand.
We waited, holding our breath.
Everything was silent.
We stepped forward, then stopped as a door opened in the side of the ship.
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