Attack of the Mutant Underwearby Tom Birdseye
Meet Cody Lee Carson. Birthday: April 1. Past history: Doofus, bozo-brain. But now that Cody's in a new school in a new town, he has a chance to reinvent himself. Through his "New Me" journal, readers follow him through fifth grade--including everything from student council elections, science fairs, crushes, and one disastrous "talent" show. Will he make it… See more details below
Meet Cody Lee Carson. Birthday: April 1. Past history: Doofus, bozo-brain. But now that Cody's in a new school in a new town, he has a chance to reinvent himself. Through his "New Me" journal, readers follow him through fifth grade--including everything from student council elections, science fairs, crushes, and one disastrous "talent" show. Will he make it through in one piece-- without showing his Tweety Bird underwear again?
About the Author: Tom Birdseye lives in Corvallis, Oregon.
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Attack of the Mutant Underwear
By Tom Birdseye
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2003 Tom Birdseye
All rights reserved.
Monday, September 4
Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Listen Up, Everybody!
I, Cody Lee Carson, have an announcement to make. As of this exact moment (drumroll, please), I have resolved to become (louder drumroll) a changed man!
That's right. No more embarrassing mistakes, like when I got my head stuck in the school bus window.
No more bozo-brained mess-ups, like the time I dived out of the maple tree with a bungee cord hooked to my belt.
No more trips to the principal's office, or bad grades, or missed recesses, or being grounded for stuff I really didn't mean to do.
That was the old Cody Lee Carson. Today another Cody Lee Carson has magically appeared—tah-dah!—the very cool New Me!
And this is my New Me Journal, page one, numero uno. In which I will write the story of my New Life here in my New, Nobody-Knows-About-the-Old-Cody town of Benton, Oregon. That way, after I take full advantage of this second chance, and everybody is wondering how I turned into such an incredible, amazing superstar and ace-brilliant-type-author-guy, they can just read this and they'll know the whole story.
So remember, whoever you are who found this ordinary-looking journal (probably in a trunk in some dusty attic), you're holding a priceless piece of history in your hands. DON'T DROP IT!
But on with my New Life. Where was I? Oh yeah, I was about to explain how moving to a place where nobody knows you can actually be the best, especially when—oops, gotta go. Mom is calling. But don't worry, I'm not in trouble. I didn't do anything stupid or wrong. That was the Old Me, remember? Mom is just ready to go shopping, that's all. Got to get my New Clothes so I can start fifth grade at my New School looking like—you guessed it—the New Me.
Don't change that channel while I'm gone, though, Cody Lee Carson fans. Stay right here, okay? Good! Now I've REALLY got to hightail it. Mom is beeping the horn.
Still Monday, September 4
What do you get if you spell Mom backward?
You get the same thing you started with, that's what. M-O-M turned around is still M-O-M. Just like my M-O-M can still be a pain when she wants to be.
You'd think that after I told her about the New Me, she'd treat her one and only son with all the honor and respect I clearly deserve.
It all started in the boys' section at Mattingly's Department Store. We were almost finished shopping for school. Things had gone pretty well, until Mom decided she did not want to buy me a pair of Imadude jeans.
"Too expensive," she said. "All that money for a fancy label." She had that look on her face. (You know, like she's totally made up her mind and there is nothing I can do about it, no way, no how.) It seemed hopeless.
Until my little five-year-old sister, Molly (I call her Molly the Creature, or MC, for short), started complaining that she wanted to exchange her new white socks for black ones because they'd never get dirty. "Black socks!" she sang loud enough for everyone in Mattingly's to hear. "They never get dirty, the longer you wear them, the stiffer they get. Sometimes I think of the laundry, but something inside me says, 'Not yet, not yet!'"
Normally, Mom just ignores Molly when she acts like a creature. But today, for some reason, she couldn't. And the next thing I knew, MC was picking out a bunch of black socks.
Which gave me—aha!—an opening. I pointed out to Mom that in order to be fair, I should now be able to pick whatever kind of pants I wanted. Mom rolled her eyes but said, "Okay." I grinned and went straight for the Imadudes to try them on.
But Mom wasn't done with me yet. I was admiring my new jeans in front of the dressing room mirror when she piped up from outside the door, "Do they fit all right?"
I looked myself over. "They fit great." They made me look like a New Me man, a manly New Me man who knows what he wants out of life—fame and fortune, for starters—and how to get it. I struck a manly New Me man pose and flexed my manly New Me man muscles.
"But do they have room for you to grow?" Mom asked.
"Yep," I said. "They're cool."
"Around the waist?"
I let out a big sigh, and wondered, Just what is it with moms? Are they born this way, or do their brains fall apart when they hit middle age? "The jeans are fine," I mumbled, "just fine. Let's get them." And I started to take my new Imadudes off so we could buy them.
"How about length?"
"Yes, Mom. I already told you."
"Let me see."
Jeans down to my knees, I jumped. "No, Mom, I'm not—"
But she had already opened the dressing room door. Past which, at that exact moment, a girl was leading a little boy toward another dressing room.
Yes, a girl, as in female-type person.
"Mom!" I screeched. But it was too late.
The girl had seen me.
Seen me in my underwear.
And—poof!—it was like I was the Old Me again, back in Portland during our fourth-grade Oregon history play, Westward Ho! Halfway through my entrance, my pioneer suspenders decided they'd had enough of holding up my pioneer pants. Which dropped south and got tangled around my legs. The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air like Superman. I skidded to a stop right there in front of everybody—kids, teachers, parents—my Tweety Bird underwear shining in the spotlights.
I got teased for weeks. "Hey, here comes Tweety Bird Butt!" kids would say. "Haw! Haw!" Or "Look! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Super-Tweety! Haw! Haw!"
I threw every pair of Looney Tunes underwear I owned in the garbage the day we moved from Portland. And I was sure I'd gotten rid of my Old Me bad-luck past along with them.
Until this afternoon, that is. The girl at Mattingly's didn't laugh at me, or say a word. In fact, she turned her head and acted like she hadn't seen a thing. Still, I've got an Old Me yucky feeling way down deep in the pit of my stomach that just won't go away.
Tuesday, September 5
Last spring I read a bumper sticker on a car that said, "Some days you eat the bear. Some days the bear eats you." Which I figure means that you never know what life is going to dish up from one day to the next, or how it will all turn out in the end.
Like today, for example. I woke up at dawn in a cold sweat. I'd dreamed that I was at my new school in my new class, all set to start my New Life as the New Me. But then I turned around and there was the girl from Mattingly's—same brown hair and glasses. Instead of acting like she hadn't spotted me with my pants down, though, she started yelling, "See, I told you! He's in his underwear!"
It was true. There I sat on the first day of fifth grade wearing nothing but a pair of my old Tweety Birds. They'd come back from the garbage grave to haunt me. "No!" I screamed. But there was no hiding. The kids pointed and laughed. "Look, he's in his underwear! Haw! Haw!"
No way could I get back to sleep after a dream like that. I pulled my blanket over my head and squeezed my eyes shut, but it was no use. Bear breath was hot on the back of my neck.
Still, what was I going to do, stay home under the covers? Not if Mom and Dad had anything to do with it. "Get up, Cody," they said. "It's the first day of school!" So I did, and put on some very plain white underwear and my New Me Imadude jeans, and a T-shirt that says "Just Do It!," and went downstairs.
As soon as I walked into the kitchen, MC peered over the top of a Cheerios box and said, "It's your turn to clean out the kitty litter."
In as calm and controlled a voice as I could manage, I said, "No, it's your turn. You're just trying to get out of it because you're afraid of Emma."
"I am not!" MC said, scowling.
"Yes, you are," I said. "That's why you stand up on the toilet seat to brush your teeth. You're afraid Emma is going to attack you."
"I like standing on the toilet seat!" MC insisted. "I do it all the time. It's fun! It's your turn to clean out the litter box!"
For a minute I gave some serious thought to beaning my little sister with a grapefruit. But then I remembered my dream, and that bad feeling in my gut, and those bumper sticker bears, and I thought, Don't push your luck, Cody. So I said, "Okay, I'll do it."
MC grinned from ear to ear and said, "When I grow up, I'm going to be allergic to kitty litter!"
I couldn't help it: I laughed. And for a minute that weird feeling in the pit of my stomach eased off and I thought that maybe, just maybe, it would turn out to be a good day after all.
By the time Mom and Dad had driven us to Garfield Elementary School, though, I was worrying again. MC kept singing, "I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves. I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves, and this is how it goes." Over and over she sang it, and it worked. It really got on my nerves.
Then Mom insisted that we all walk MC to class. "It's her first day of kindergarten, ever!"
So much for starting my New Life by entering my new school like a real fifth grader. In I walked with my parents. I did my best to act like I didn't know them, and stay cool. Until we'd dropped MC off and Mom said, "Now we can escort Cody to his room!"
"No!" I said. "I can get there on my own!"
Mom started to argue, but Dad stopped her. "How about we just walk him as far as the big kids' hall? Then he can go the rest of the way by himself."
Which is exactly what we did, and the next thing I knew I was standing by my New Me self outside of my classroom. On the door was a little plaque with the name of my teacher— Ms. Bitnerinski.
Aw, man. I had no idea how to pronounce a name like that. Then I saw the piece of paper taped below it: "Better known as Ms. B."
Ah! That I could handle.
Another piece of paper was taped farther down.
Please try to remember:
—More learning takes place when you are awake.
—It's not helpful to yell "He's dead!" when roll is being taken.
—Hamsters, particularly Ralph, cannot fly.
—Being a fifth grader does not put you in charge of the school.
—It's best not to dissect things unless instructed.
—Ralph will not morph if you squeeze him hard enough.
—Funny noises are not funny, unless made by Ms. B.
—Ms. B does not accept bribes
At the bottom, in print so small I had to squint to read it, was written:
except in the form of chocolate.
"Ha!" A big laugh popped out of my mouth just as the classroom door swung open. There stood Ms. B, glaring down at me.
"You think that's funny, huh?"
But before I could panic, she smiled. "Welcome! You must be Cody. Come on in! You can take that seat in the back on the left."
I looked to where she was pointing, and my stomach dropped. Sitting right behind the empty chair was the girl from Mattingly's. I turned to run, like you would from a hungry bear. But then a wide-bodied kid whose name turned out to be Emerson raised his hand and said to Ms. B, "He could sit here instead. I could move back there." And in a blink I was in the front row, far from the girl from Mattingly's. Whew!
Which is pretty much how the whole day went. Every time something seemed like it was going to go Old Cody wrong, and I was sure the New Me would soon be nothing but bear bait, I'd scoot out of the trap like it had no teeth at all.
Even in reading group, when I was sitting right across from the girl from Mattingly's (her name is Amy), and I looked up from my book to see her staring at me. I thought, She's going to blab to everybody! But she didn't say a word.
Whew-double-whew! My nightmare didn't come true. The bear didn't eat me. I survived my first day at my new school. No, I did better than survive. I aced it!
But, man, am I tired. Being the New Me wears a guy out. My hand aches, too, from all this writing. I'm outta here.
Wednesday, September 6
My hand is still tired, so this will be short. I'll just keep to the important facts I discovered today:
—Important fact #1: The most popular kid in my class is Tyler. Not only is he popular (even with the girls), but he's also really good at spelling, and math, and football, and soccer, and just about everything. His best friend is Zach, who keeps staring at me when he thinks I'm not looking.
—Important fact #2: Amy's best friend is named Libby. They are having a contest to see how long they can make their new pencils last.
—Important fact #3: Emerson, the guy who gave up his front-row seat for me, eats even more junk food than I do. Today in PE he told me he wants to be an actor when he grows up. I tried to imagine him up on stage or in a movie, but my brain kept saying, "This does not compute!"
—Important fact #4: Ms. B loves Ralph the hamster. She talks to him and calls him Ralphster. She's got his cage inside an old TV cabinet so we can watch "hamster-vision." It only gets one channel, though—the Hamster Channel.
—REALLY Important fact #5: I, Cody Lee Carson—as in the one and only New Me—am in the top reading group! First time ever in my entire life.
Who's da man?
I'M da man!
Friday, September 8
Spelling test today—did New Me great.
Multiplication tables pop quiz—oops, Old Me not so great.
But after that I read aloud—did I mention that I'm in the top reading group?—and Ms. B said I read with "expression."
Then she gave the class a writing assignment: "Write about what you did during the summer."
We groaned. At the start of the school year, every kid in the entire universe has to write about what they did during the summer.
Ms. B added, "On a porch."
Yep, a porch. Could be our porch, a friend's porch, Grandma's porch, whatever porch we want. But we have to write a paragraph about what we did, or saw, or heard, or smelled, or thought during the summer, on a porch. It's due in one week.
You want it, Ms. B, you got it. I'm Cody Lee Carson, ace-brilliant-type-author-guy.
Who always did want to write about a porch.
Sunday, September 10
Emma is one smart cat. She doesn't like stale water in her bowl, so she's figured out how to turn on the faucet in the downstairs bathroom. Dad says he'd have no problem with that if she'd just turn the water off when she's done.
Instead of writing about Emma, what I should be doing right now is writing about a porch. Only problem is that it's different when you're writing for a teacher, and a grade. It seems I don't know, just harder, that's all.
Maybe I'll go for a bike ride instead.
Wednesday, September 13
Ms. B brought a fancy electric pencil sharpener to school for us. It's not as noisy as our regular one and lots faster. I stuck my brand-new #2 in there and it almost got eaten alive. (Amy and Libby are still having their short pencil contest. They'd better watch out!)
I told Ms. B we should name her sharpener Godzilla since it has such a big appetite. "Very clever, Cody," Ms. B said, then announced to the class: "From now on the sharpener will be known as Godzilla."
She called me clever, very clever. Teachers have called me lots of things, but never that. Very clever is the same as brainy, in case you didn't know. Cody-Lee-New-Me-Very-Clever-Brainy Carson!
Thursday, September 14
Yikes! I just remembered: the porch paragraph is due tomorrow, and I haven't even started!
Later, Thursday, September 14
Whew! Done! And pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. Although bad porch ideas kept popping into my mind, I thought about those state tests we take—you know, where you have to write a descriptive paragraph—and I described watching the sunset from my front porch. This is it:
Oh, the sublimity porch, where I sit prismatic and watch the cadaverous birds roost in the punctilious tree! The crepuscular sun shines through the excrutiation leaves, and casts shadows of conniption at my feet! I redolent, and smile! Oh, the sublimity porch!
Beautiful, huh? That's how Shakespeare and those other dead guys wrote. I used the thesaurus to find the big fancy descriptive words. Then I checked all the spelling, and punctuation, too. I copied the whole thing over onto Mom's stationery and put it in one of those binders with the clear plastic on the front. It looks really halcyon. Ms. B will love it. It's called "A Porch to Remember." I'm bound to get a New Me ace-brilliant-type-authorguy A.
Excerpted from Attack of the Mutant Underwear by Tom Birdseye. Copyright © 2003 Tom Birdseye. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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