Read an Excerpt
THE G FOR L
I slid down the banister, raced through the hall and around the dining room table, and hit the swinging kitchen door with both arms out. I go for maximum bounce-back.
“Whoops, sorry, Dad! I didn’t know you were there,” I said.
My mom was bent over with her head in the fridge. So all I could see was her bottom half. All she could see of me was nothing.
“Go back upstairs and brush your teeth,” she said.
“I’m on vacation,” I said.
“Personal grooming does not get summers off,” she said.
She is psychic about hygiene.
“Once I eat breakfast they’ll be dirty all over again. The next thing you know, it’s lunch.”
“And the next thing you know, you’ll have so many cavities your teeth will look like Swiss cheese,” she said. “Go brush.”
“Sam and I are going to the FBI,” I explained.
My mom popped up. She forgot the freezer door was open. That’s hard on a head. Believe me. I know.
“Adam,” she said. “Come here.”
She’s practically the only one who calls me that. It beats her other name for me, which is Darling Boy. I’m trying to get her to stop saying DB in front of people. It’s not going well. Getting her to call me by my usual name of Melonhead is hopeless.
She used the refrigerator sponge to wipe the dried-up crud off my navy blue Federal Bureau of Investigation T‑shirt. It came from a street vendor.
“Don’t wash my Junior Special Agent badge,” I said.
My badge came from the FBI. It is one hundred percent real.
“Teeth,” she said.
“How about I brush twice tonight?” I asked her.
My dad was at the table, doodling with one hand and rubbing his head with the other. “Get going, Sport.”
“Dad, you’re the one who said I should be a Man of My Word. My word to Sam was ‘See you at eight-thirty a.m.’ ”
“Mom,” I said. “It’s rude to keep my best friend waiting. And you’re the anti-rudest person in Washington, D.C.”
Her eyebrows jumped up. Bouncing eyebrows mean that she is fed up.
“I’m going,” I said.
“Brush until you’ve counted to one hundred in your head,” my mom said.
To save time I counted by twos.
When I came back down my dad was burning his fingers getting my bagel, egg, and double ketchup sandwich out of the microwave.
“I’ll eat it while I walk to the Alswangs’,” I said.
“We need to have a family conversation before I leave for the airport,” my dad said.
We have a talk every time he goes to Florida. We used to live there before we moved to Washington, D.C., for my dad’s job that keeps sending him on trips to Florida.
He likes to discuss Things That Should Not Happen while he’s away. My mom’s topic is usually Things That Have Gone Wrong in the Past. Then my dad says I’ve learned from my mistakes. My mom says she hopes so.
“Sometimes it’s impossible to know if a thing is a mistake until I’m in a situation,” I explained. “Sometimes I don’t know I’m in a situation until somebody tells Mom and she tells me. Sam has the same problem.”
“The neighbors say that too,” my mom said.
“Pop says Sam and I are proof of great minds thinking alike,” I said.
Pop is our good old friend. I mean old like between sixty and seventy and also old like a long time. We met when I moved here, two and a half years ago, which is one quarter of my life.
“Just check the Remind‑O‑Rama before you do anything,” my mom said.
She invented the Remind‑O to improve my judgment.
“It doesn’t work,” I told her.
“Which is why I’m introducing the New and Improved, Easy-to-Master, Fun-to-Follow Melon Family Guidelines for Life,” my dad said. “Instead of telling you what not to do.” He handed me his doodled-on napkin.
“Read out loud so I can hear,” my mom said.
1. Think About Cause and Effect. 2. Plan Ahead. 3. Consider Consequences. 4. When in Doubt, Ask an Adult. 5. If You Do Something Wrong, Make It Right. 6. Take Personal Responsibility. 7. Honesty Is the Only Policy. 8. Remember the Ways of Ladies. 9. Think of Others.
My mom was so excited she swallowed a hunk of peach whole.
“I will create a Guidelines for Life poster for the kitchen,” she said.
Making posters about behavior is her hobby.
“Sport?” my dad asked.
“Don’t you worry,” I said. “These G for Ls are so simple a worm could do them.”
He smiled and stirred up my hair with his fingers.
“You can break a Guideline if it’s an emergency, right?” I asked.
“An emergency?” he said.
“Like if Sam and I have to rescue a baby,” I said.
“It is rare that a baby needs rescuing,” he said.
“But if a baby is dangling from a windowsill, I should reel it in, right, Dad?”
“Right,” he said. “All rules are suspended for dangling babies.”
“Or if a two-year-old is crawling on the Southwest Freeway, I should save it,” I said.
“Absolutely,” he said.
“Letting a baby crawl on a freeway is what I call careless parenting,” my mom said.
“What if somebody is getting pecked in the head by wild pigeons?” I asked. “Do I ask an adult before I chase the birds away? What if it’s an adult getting pecked? Can that adult give permission?”
“Sport,” my dad said. “Have you ever seen a flock of attack pigeons on Capitol Hill?”
“I’ve seen bats,” I said.
“Attack bats?” he asked.
“They could have been,” I said.
“Wild pigeons pecking would be a case of act first, ask later,” my dad said. “The same goes for bat attacks.”
There was banging on the back-door window.
“Melonhead! You were supposed to come get me,” Sam yelled.
“Leave your skateboard on the porch and come in,” my mom said.
“Sam, my Junior G‑man,” my dad said. “I’m off to Pensacola for a few days. I’m counting on you to help your pal follow the new Melon Family Guidelines for Life while I’m gone.”
“Count away,” Sam said. “We won’t bring anything that’s disgusting, muddy, or alive into the house.”
“You are reading Mrs. Melon’s mind,” my dad said.
“Part of my mind,” she said. “The other part is thinking about last month’s Superior Sound Machine experiment.”
“Remember what Dad said,” I told her. “The guy who invented omelets had to break lots of eggs.”
“I hope you don’t have to break any more dryers,” she said.
“I don’t think we will,” Sam told her.
“You have to admit spinning rocks sound like dinosaurs destroying New York,” I said.
“To be safe, let’s say no using appliances while I’m gone,” my dad said.
“Even my electric toothbrush?” I asked.
“You can use that,” he said. “But only on teeth.”
“Deal,” Sam said.
“His teeth,” my mom said.
“Mom,” I said. “You can relax like an old dog. Everything we are doing today is not troublesome.”
“Terrific,” my dad said. “I hope your next tour of the FBI is as interesting as the first one.”
“It will be,” I said. “It’s the same tour every time.”
“You’re loyal visitors,” my mom said. “They should promote you from Junior Specials to Honorary Agents.”
“That would be like getting fired,” I said. “Honoraries don’t get to do actual agent stuff, like ride in speeding cars and chase crooks.”
My mom sucked in her breath. “They let Junior Agents go on crook-chasing car chases?” she said. “Because that is one permission slip I will never sign!”
Panic makes her voice squeak.
My dad smiled and squeezed my mom’s shoulder. “Junior Agents don’t get to go on car chases, Betty.”
“That’s true,” Sam said. “We asked.”
I could tell my dad was holding back a laugh.
“Don’t tease me for believing,” my mom said. “People let kids do dangerous things these days. Remember when your brother asked Adam if he wanted to go parasailing? What if I hadn’t been there to say Not in This Lifetime?”
I would have gotten to parasail, that’s what.
My dad’s phone buzzed.
“My cab’s out front,” he said. “Betty, let’s have a smooch.”
They kissed. Sam says that’s embarrassing. I agree.
“I’ll miss you,” my dad said.
“We’ll miss you more,” my mom told him.
They say the same mush every time he leaves.
“I call rolling your suitcase down the steps!” I yelled.
“Go fast for maximum wheel bumps,” Sam said.
“Of course, Horse,” I said.
The next thing that happened was a shock.
“Who knew a suitcase wheel could split in half?” Sam said.
“Don’t worry, Dad,” I said. “It still rolls. Only now it’s like smooth-bump-twist, smooth-bump-twist.”
“Great,” my dad said. “I’ll enjoy bump-twisting my way through the airports.”
“You’re a fun-loving kind of adult, Mr. Melon,” Sam said.
My dad carried his suitcase by the handle.
“You know, it’s heavier that way,” I said.
“I do know,” my dad said.
Then he jumped in the Diamond Taxi. Then he yelled through the window. “Back in a flash.”
That’s another thing he always says.