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Goop Soup Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie #3
By Lubar, David
Starscape Copyright © 2010 Lubar, David
All right reserved.
1 Stool Pigeon
When the pigeon shot into our classroom, most of the boys shouted, â€œWhoa!â€? About half the girls shouted, â€œEewwww!â€?
Our teacher, Ms. Delambre, shouted, â€œMy goodness!â€?
Thatâ€™s the sort of thing adults say when theyâ€™re trying not to use bad words. My friend Mookie and I grinned at each other. His mom says my goodness a lot.
I didnâ€™t shout anything until the pigeon swooped down from the ceiling and landed on my left shoulder.
â€œHey! Get off!â€?
I reached up to push it away, but I was afraid I might hurt it. I read somewhere that birds have hollow bones. I knew how that felt. My own bones break pretty easily.
They werenâ€™t always like that. I was a normal kid until I got splashed with Hurt-Be-Gone and turned into a half-dead zombie by my friend Abigailâ€™s crazy uncle Zardo. Now I donâ€™t have a heartbeat. But much to my surprise, that hasnâ€™t been too big a problem.
The pigeon turned its head and stared at me.
I stared back.
The pigeon blinked.
Thatâ€™s another thing I donâ€™t need to do. Though I try to remember to make myself blink once in a while so I donâ€™t creep people out.
The pigeonâ€™s tail twitched. Something wet and white plopped on my shirt, right across my pocket.
â€œGreat. Thanks a lot,â€? I told the pigeon.
Iâ€™d just been turned into a living statue. What next? Maybe the pigeon would build a nest in my hair and lay eggs.
As kids all around me collapsed in laughter, pointed at my shirt, and made bad jokes about pigeon poop, the bird fluttered off my shoulder and swooped back out the window.
Mookie, who was sitting next to me, laughed so hard, he fell off his stool. And he fell so hard, he bounced. I guess he didnâ€™t get hurt, because he kept laughing.
Only Abigail wasnâ€™t laughing. She turned toward the window, watched the pigeon, and tugged at the ends of her frizzy dark brown hair. Sheâ€™s so smart, itâ€™s almost scary. But she never shows off in school.
â€œAll right, class!â€? Ms. Delambre said. â€œThatâ€™s quite enough. Settle down. This is science classâ€”not party time.â€? She walked over to me and pointed at the blotch on my shirt. â€œNathan, go wash that off immediately. Pigeon droppings carry all sorts of diseases.â€?
I hopped down from my stool and headed for the sink in the back of the room. I could feel two dozen pairs of eyes following me. I wasnâ€™t worried about germs. I was pretty sure I couldnâ€™t get any kind of disease. And even if I did, it couldnâ€™t hurt me. But I still didnâ€™t want that stuff on my shirt. Mom is always telling me to be careful about getting food on my clothes. If she ever sat through a lunch period in the school cafeteria, sheâ€™d know how impossible that is.
I grabbed a paper towel and wiped at the stain. I expected the blob to smear. But it stuck to the paper towel and slid right off my pocket.
What in the world? . . .
I realized it was a piece of plastic. There was something printed on the back side in tiny letters. I looked closer.URGENT MISSION COMING. MAJOR OPERATION. BE READY TO SPRING INTO ACTION. P.M.
P.M. That had to be Peter Murphyâ€”the spy whoâ€™d recruited me to work for the Bureau of Useful Misadventures. BUM looks for kids who mess up in some kind of way that makes them good spies. They also fight to make the world a better place. Thatâ€™s their mission, though Iâ€™m still not sure exactly what it means.
I looked over toward Ms. Delambre. She was trying to close the window, but it was stuck. She usually kept it open, because the room always got too hot, even when it was cold outside.
I crumpled up the paper towel and tossed it in the trash. Urgent mission? Cool. That was exciting, and also a little scary. I was going to get my first real spy assignment from BUM. Nathan Abercrombie, Super Spy. This is the job I was born for. Or died for, I guess.
I hoped this new mission was important. Iâ€™d already done one job for BUM, but that was just a quick little thing. Iâ€™d climbed a fence and put a package in a building. At the time, I didnâ€™t have a clue what was going on. Even so, Iâ€™d ended up saving a lot of people. That felt so good, it made me want to do more spy stuff. Being a spy was sort of like being dropped in the middle of an action video game.
I returned to our lab table. Mookie had gotten back onto his stool, but he was still choking down snorts and spitting out chuckles. He sounded like a steam engine that was in danger of explodingâ€”a short, round steam engine with large square glasses and shaggy light brown hair.
â€œItâ€™s not that funny,â€? I said.
He shook his head. â€œItâ€™s more than funny. Itâ€™s like mega-funny. No, giga-funny. Waitâ€”what comes after giga?â€?
â€œTera,â€? Abigail said.
â€œTera-funny?â€? Mookie frowned, then said it a couple more times, like he was trying to taste the words. â€œNope. Sounds too serious. Iâ€™ll stick with giga-funny, â€™cause that sounds like giggles. And seeing Nate get splattered really makes me giggle.â€? He started laughing again.
Abigail tapped my arm. â€œI assume the pigeon was delivering a message from BUM.â€? She and Mookie were the only people who knew about my secret life as a soon-to-be spy. The other kids in school didnâ€™t even know I was a zombie. To them I was just plain old Nathan Abercrombie, the second-skinniest kid in class.
â€œYeah. They have a mission for me. Something big. Howâ€™d you know it wasnâ€™t a real bird?â€?
â€œWing speed and movement,â€? Abigail said. â€œReal pigeons donâ€™t fly that way. They donâ€™t crash and burn, either. That one flew smack into the phone pole.â€? She pointed out the window.
I leaned toward the window and spotted the smoldering remains of the mechanical bird on the street.
â€œWhy canâ€™t they just call me on the phone or send an e-mail?â€? I asked. BUM loved using all sorts of robots and high-tech equipment. It didnâ€™t seem to bother them that most of it blew up or caught on fire.
Abigail sighed. â€œBoys and their toys. Even when they grow up, they have to play.â€?
â€œWell, yeah,â€? I said. â€œToys are cool.â€?
Mookie stopped laughing and poked my shoulder. He opened his mouth to say something, then lost control again.
â€œJust say it,â€? I told him. I was getting tera-tired of this.
â€œAre you exhausted?â€? he asked.
â€œYou know I donâ€™t need to sleep.â€? That was actually the best part about being half-deadâ€”I could stay up all night and play computer games. Or do other thingsâ€”if I ever figured out something better to do.
â€œBut you must be really really really exhausted,â€? he said.
I didnâ€™t want to ask, but he was my best friend, and I could tell he was dying to do this. â€œOkay, why do you think Iâ€™m exhausted?â€?
â€œBecause you look pooped!â€?
He fell off his stool again. Ms. Delambre, whoâ€™d given up trying to close the window and returned to her desk, made him sit in the hallway for the rest of science class. She let him in for math, but he didnâ€™t last long before he got sent back into the hall.
â€œAre you finished?â€? I asked as we headed outside for recess.
â€œIâ€™m not sure. I mean, you have to admit itâ€™s pretty funny.â€?
â€œHilarious,â€? I said. â€œBut maybe itâ€™s time to drop it.â€?
â€œDrop!â€? He pointed at my shirt, then started laughing again. â€œThe pigeon already dropped it!â€?
He was like that for the rest of the day. All through recess, he kept grabbing the ends of his jacket and stretching his arms out, making wings. â€œIâ€™m MookieHawk!â€? he shouted. â€œDonâ€™t mess with me, or Iâ€™ll mess your shirt.â€? Heâ€™d flap his arms a couple times, race over to me, scream, â€œPLOP!â€? and then fall down laughing.
â€œHe looks more like MookieCanary,â€? Abigail said.
She was right. Mookie was wearing a bright yellow jacket that was about two or three sizes too large for him. His mom had won it last month on a radio call-in contest. There was a big ad on the back for Colonel Esterolâ€™s Deep-Fried Pizza Parlor. It showed a smiling slice of pizzaâ€”complete with skinny arms and legsâ€”happily swimming the backstroke in a vat of boiling oil. Kids made fun of it, but Mookie didnâ€™t seem to care.
By the end of recess, he must have fallen about twenty times. But that was okay. Even though he kept kidding me, I was happy the rest of the day, thinking about my first spy mission.
At least, I was happy until that evening, when Mom hit me with the worst possible news a half-dead zombie kid could hear.
Excerpted from Goop Soup by .
Copyright Â© 2010 by David Lubar.
Published in May 2010 by Tom Doherty Associates.
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Excerpted from Goop Soup by Lubar, David Copyright © 2010 by Lubar, David. Excerpted by permission.
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