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Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet
When Pigs Fly
By Kirk Scroggs
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2013 Kirk Scroggs
All rights reserved.
Prepping for a journey into the unknown was gonna have to wait. I had scarier things to face—like my first day at Eagle Talon Academy!
My morning started like any other.
First, I lumbered out of my bedroom at 7:04 AM like a zombie with lead weights in his shoes.
I accidentally cranked the cold knob in the shower.
My pet rat, Curtis, helped comb my feathery 'do while I brushed my teeth.
It was in mid-comb on this particular morning that Curtis suddenly started to squeak wildly, pointing at my face. I hadn't seen him get this bent out of shape since I swapped his Sassy Rat Rodent Food for Farmer GreenSpleen's Gluten-Free Soy Pellets.
"What is it, boy?" I asked the little squeaking furball. Curtis continued to flail, Kermit-style, pointing at my face.
I leaned in over the bathroom sink and looked at my reflection in the mirror. "I think I look pretty good," I bragged, stroking my chin. "Even got a little manly fuzz growing on the ol' upper lip, right under my—"
The center of my face was as barren as the Mojave Desert. "It's gotta be around here somewhere!" I cried, frantically searching the bathroom floor and then my bedroom: under the covers, beneath the pillow, even in the toy box (my nose has come in handy in several game-play situations).
My nose was nowhere to be found. I turned a suspicious eye to my beloved rat. "Curtis? Did you eat my nose?"
Curtis has been known to enjoy the stuffing in my mom's couch, and I've caught him nibbling on my felty toes a few times. I think he mistook them for sour orange gummy strips. Curtis gave me a huffy squeak! and turned away from me, deeply offended. Maybe I had gone a little too far, but suddenly finding that your nose has gone AWOL can make you say crazy things.
Then something occurred to me. I hadn't checked the most likely source of my predicament—the Queen of the Vile, Little Miss Evil, that devil in a pink polka-dot dress: my little sister, Chloe.
Her bed was empty, though, and neatly made, with one of her frightening Fluffleberry dolls sitting on it, watching me with its grinning bug eyes.
I wrapped my head in a long bandage to hide my missing sniffer and headed to breakfast. As usual, when I arrived at the dining room table, I had to turn down a generous breakfast offer from Mom.
"What's up with the bandage, kiddo?" asked my dad, who was flipping through the newspaper.
"Oh, you know," I said. "I ... uh, got a pimple on my nose the size of an Antarctic weather balloon. I'm too embarrassed to even show my face. I'm thinking maybe I should just stay home today and call off this whole enrolling-in-a-new-school business."
"I'm thinking maybe you're talking crazy," said my dad, calmly. "After all, your pop is starting his new second job today so you can go to Eagle Claw Academy."
"It's Eagle Talon Academy," I corrected him. I did really have an uneasy feeling, and it wasn't just the Sugar Bombs dissolving the top layer of felt off my tongue. Part of me wanted to change my mind, cancel enrolling in Eagle Talon, and run to the safety and mind-numbing boredom of Coldrain Middle School. But I fought those negative, cowardly feelings just as I fought the urge to heave up tingling blue-raspberry cereal milk.
My first order of business was still to figure out the mystery of my missing honker. I looked over at Chloe's seat only to find a single ray of sunshine hitting the empty chair where she usually sat.
"Where's the Angel of Darkness—I mean, uh, where's Chloe?" I asked.
"The movie people picked her up at the crack of dawn," said my mom, sipping her coffee. "Said something about going to shoot at pickups."
"Oh, you mean going to shoot pickups?" I corrected her. "That's where they film extra scenes to help the movie make more sense."
Aha! A breakfast without Chloe. No wonder my mom seemed a little perkier than usual.
My little sister, Chloe, was starring in the megabudget and mega-gag-reflex-testing new movie Fluffleberries Are Free. She even missed a few days of school to shoot the movie. Her big Hollywood success irritated me to no end, but it felt almost worth it this morning, since I got to eat breakfast in peace. Chloe is usually full of delightful morning conversation.
I had no clue as to the fate of my squishy nose and, worse yet, I needed to leave for Eagle Talon in five minutes. I rushed to my room and found a glue stick in Chloe's craft corner.
I tried out an assortment of replacement noses, but nothing seemed quite right.
Nothing really worked, so I stuck with my bandage. Maybe I could start a new trend—the debonair mummy look.
It was time to go. Curtis gave me a farewell nuzzle and a good luck squeak! and I grabbed my backpack and headed out the door.
I felt a little lonely waiting on the sidewalk. It was really weird watching my old school bus zoom by on its way to Coldrain Middle School. I could see my best friend, Pasquale, looking at me out the back window when it passed. He waved at me, and it made me even sadder.
Suddenly, a loud honk made me jump. It was my dad in our old, decrepit station wagon. He pulled up beside me, rolled down the window, and announced, "Blickensderfer limo service! All aboard!"
"Dad," I said, getting into the sputtering car, "maybe you should just drop me off a few blocks from the academy—someplace where no one can see this Jurassic clunker."
As we pulled into the Eagle Talon Academy parking lot, I guess my dad could see my jittery nerves on display.
"Hey, kiddo," he said. "Don't get spooked. You're gonna do great. And just think, I start my new job at Fried's Circuit Boards today. Imagine—your old man selling computers. I'm the one who should be nervous!"
I couldn't help but chuckle. He had a point. My dad once tried to fix our ancient, outdated, janky family computer with some electrical tape and an oilcan.CHAPTER 2
Principal Sam Eagle's office was colder than a walk-in freezer and full of American flags, statues of buffalo, and portraits of our founding fathers. I stood nervously in the doorway while Sam dabbed paint on a big canvas he had propped up on an easel.
Sam put away his brush, and we sat down at his huge mahogany desk. He suddenly noticed my bandage. "Good heavens! What happened to your face, young man?"
"I ... uh ... was attacked by angry hornets. Stung me twenty times right on my snout." I should have probably just stuck to my pimple story, but this was getting fun.
"Hmmm," said Sam. "Perhaps you should have Nurse Big Mean Carl take a look."
"You know," I gulped, "I think I'm good."
Sam shrugged and plopped a big stack of paperwork on the desk. "So, today is your first day at Eagle Talon Academy. How are your nerves holding up?"
"I'm a little nervous," I admitted. "Change is kinda scary."
"Ah, yes," Sam reminisced, looking at an old picture of himself as a hatchling in a big bird's nest. "I remember leaving the nest for the first time. It was terrifying, yet incredibly exciting. Of course, I must admit I don't miss having to eat a steady diet of regurgitated earthworms."
"Chef!" Sam slammed his fist down on the desk. "Must you make your lunch menus in my office? It's very distracting."
While Sam and Chef argued cuisine, I pulled out my notebook and a pen and scribbled, "Note to self: Bring lunch from home."
Sam composed himself and pulled out a file labeled DANVERS BLICKENSDERFER, TRANSCRIPT. "Now let's take a look at your grades from Coldrain Middle School." Suddenly he let out a gasp like a fish deprived of oxygen. "This can't be! I didn't think this was mathematically possible."
This wasn't sounding too good.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"Young man, I had no idea your grades were so inadequate. This is what I get for letting Crazy Harry be head of admissions."
"My grades aren't that bad ... are they?" I squeaked.
Sam slapped one wing up against his forehead and said, "Let's just say that if you were a restaurant and got these grades, you'd be shut down for having subversive cockroaches doing synchronized swimming in the creamed-corn goulash!"
"Chef, please!" Sam huffed, then turned to me. "Mr. Blickensderfer, I cannot allow you to enroll with these scores. It is not something I can do in good conscience."
"What if you did it in bad conscience?" I asked.
"I'm sorry. It would not be fair to the other students."
I couldn't go back to Coldrain as a total failure, especially after only one day. I had to convince him to give me a shot. "Please, Mr. Eagle! I'll do anything! It's my dream to get the best training available, taught by my Muppet idols. There has to be a way!"
Sam thought about it long and hard, then opened a big red book. "Well, I suppose we could allow a probationary period. Let's see what it says in the rules and regulations."
Sam found a different book and read from it. "Aha! 'If said student can raise his or her average to a B after three weeks, then expulsion will not be necessary.' Well, there you have it. We shall give it three weeks. In that time, you will vigorously study the areas of math and science, your weakest subjects. That's not to say you have any strong subjects."
"Math and science?" I groaned. "I might as well pack my bags for Coldrain right now."
This was just great! I transferred to Eagle Talon to achieve Muppet glory and master the entertainment arts, and now I was facing a three-week mathematical boot camp!CHAPTER 3
Fortunately for me, my first class of the day had nothing to do with math or science—it was something much more fun:music appreciation. Sam personally escorted me toclass and when he opened the door for me, the placewas a madhouse. Kids were laughing, climbing over their desks, tossing paper airplanes across the room—it was a lot like Mr. Piffle's class at Coldrain, only with more bagpipe-playing penguins.
The class froze in terror when they saw Sam.
"Great James Abram Garfield's ghost!" cried Sam. "Children! I demand that you return to your seats and behave this instant!" The kids in the room bolted back to their desks and quieted down. "Now, where is today'sguest instructor?" Sam continued.
That's when Rowlf the Dog burst into the room with a loud, "Hiya, folks!"
"Rowlf!" Sam huffed. "I hardly think it's appro-priate for a teacher to be late for his own class!"
"Sorry, I'm tardy," apologized Rowlf. "I seem to have overslept."
"Well, now that you're here, I'd like you to extend a warm welcome to Danvers, our newest student," continued Sam. "Rowlf, I trust you will instill the impeccable values and standards Eagle Talon is known for and teach only the classics. None of those wild, uncouth, tasteless sideshow acts that the Muppets have inflicted upon us over the years. No boomerang trout. No samurai birthday cakes. No exploding Koozebanians. I want you to immerse these children in fine art, mold their impressionable minds, and soon they will be bitten by the learning bug."
"Right." Rowlf nodded. "Immerse the children, mold their brains, and they'll be bitten by bugs. This is starting to sound like a bad horror movie."
"This is no joking matter. I expect discipline and results." And with that, Sam left the classroom, slamming the door shut behind him.
"Sheesh, Rowlf!" I said. "I didn't realize you were a strict classical music instructor in your spare time."
"Don't worry." Rowlf smirked and sat down at his piano. "My Bach is worse than my bite."
I found an empty seat right in between two familiar faces: my old nemesis, the jokester Phips Terlington, and my fellow Muppet Theater intern Hockney.
Hockney looked flustered and uptight, as usual. "I just want to apologize on behalf of my fellow students," he said. "Normally, this isn't how this class conducts itself."
"Yeah," snarked Phips. "Normally, it's way crazier!" Suddenly, he bolted out of his chair and ran to the classroom door.
Marvin's song was amazing, and the whole class helped out by playing the cymbals, triangle, and xylophone—and some kids just banged their desks with their textbooks. It was awesome. When it was over, the class erupted in cheers as Marvin took a dramatic bow. "Zank you! Zank you! You have been ze best audience since we played ze Lake Oweeyoweee Annual Sledgehammer Convention!"
"I hated that gig," added one of the Muppaphones.
Suddenly, from the doorway, Phips Terlington shouted, "Heads up! Sam is coming back!"
Everyone plopped back in their seats, Marvin pushed his Muppaphones behind the curtain, and Rowlf started playing a slow, sad Beethoven tune on his piano.
Rowlf kept a straight face as he played his keyboard. "Not in here, my fine, feathered educator. Check Madame Zelda Rose's accounting class next door. They get a little crazy in there sometimes."
Sam gave us all one last look with a raised eyebrow. "Very well, then. Carry on." And he shut the door.
The class let out a sigh of relief.
I was relieved, too. I was no longer quite as worried about my grades at Eagle Talon. This truly was the place to learn to be all the Muppet you can be.CHAPTER 4
The rest of my day at Eagle Talon was a breeze, and when the final bell rang, it was time to head over to my after-school internship at the Muppet Theater! I couldn't wait to get there and see Pasquale. Even though it had only been one day, it felt like a million years since I had seen my best bud.
Inside the theater, there was a strange vibe in the air. Everyone was hustling and bustling about, practicing acts, prepping props, painting sets—the usual. But the theater also seemed a little off-kilter. It was like the whole building was slightly swaying and rumbling. Something was different, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
I spotted Pasquale over in the corner near the loading dock and ran over just to say "Hey."
"Hey, what happened to your nose?" asked Pasquale.
"A, um, a rabid chipmunk thought it was an acorn and buried it on the playground until next spring."
"You lost it, didn't you," Pasquale said.
Excerpted from Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet by Kirk Scroggs. Copyright © 2013 Kirk Scroggs. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
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