In Todd We Trust

In Todd We Trust

by Louise Galveston

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Overview

Out of the dirt on Todd’s smelly sock came a race of miniature people who worship Todd as a god.
Now, the tiny Toddlians need everyone's prayers!

The Toddlians have always believed in the omnipotence of their god, twelve-year-old Todd Butroche. After all, Todd is their creator and they would not exist if it were not for him and his benevolent grossness. But when the Toddlians are confronted with a vile “red thing” (a moldy apple) and its mysterious and horrifying inhabitant (a worm!), they begin to believe Todd has forgotten all about them. There’s only one solution to the Toddlians’ problems: to find a new god! And so they decide to build a raft à la Noah’s ark in order to search for a more thoughtful deity. But who can the Toddlians turn to in their time of despair? And does Todd really not remember the miniature race generated by the dirt on his smelly sock? It will take more than divine intervention to save the Toddlians and mend their relationship with their neglectful creator.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595146793
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/17/2015
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 3.90(d)
Lexile: 760L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Louise Galveston is a writer, playwright, and director of children’s theater. She lives with her husband in the Midwest and, like Todd, she presides over a small civilization of her own: a parrot, cockatiel, horse, African dwarf frog, and eleven tiny people who happen to be her children!

Come visit Louse (and the Toddlians!) at www.bythegraceoftodd.com or on Twitter @LouiseGalveston.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

LEWIS

Our scouting party cautiously crossed the border of Toddlandia, exiting Todd’s closet to wade through the Fiber Forest to the huge shriveled mass that once was round, smooth, and red. I was eager to understand the message Great Todd had left us, which was now turning wrinkled and spongy, its two green leaves withering on its stem. Not all of my friends agreed that the offensive object was meant to tell us something. But I believed the all-wise Todd did nothing by chance.

Persephone had sighted the Red Thing near the Refuse Dome shortly after we were returned to Toddlandia following the reign of terror by the Great Todd’s evil classmate, Max Loving. My friend Herman, who had recently been elected mayor of Toddlandia, had taken an exploring party of some of the younger Toddlians to see if His Greatness had perhaps left some dirty clothes behind. For some reason, which I hoped studying the Red Thing might help us to understand, Todd had not been leaving us food in his closet lately.

At first we assumed the Red Thing was a gift from Todd, meant for us to play upon and explore. We swung from its thick brown stem, slid down its slick scarlet sides, and played hide-and-seek in its shadows. We even harvested some of its lovely, shiny skin to use as wallpaper for our dwellings, exposing a bright white interior, which amazingly, after a few minutes, turned to brown. What a magical thing Todd had bestowed upon us! Being something of an artist, I also spent several pleasant hours painting it from various angles.

But over time the Red Thing had ceased to be an object of fun and beauty. In fact, recently it had begun giving off an offensive odor. A white, fuzzy substance had started growing around the stem, and where the skin had been removed, the brown surface turned black and squished between one’s toes. All this had led Mayor Herman to proclaim with “scientific certainty” that the Red Thing was indeed rotten.

This very morning, while the Great Todd was getting ready for school, I thanked him for his gift, telling him how much pleasure it had given us. I then suggested very gently that he might want to remove the Red Thing, since it now stank. His response was a curt “You ever think I might have meant to leave it there? Huh?” (In his defense I must say that he was in an unusual hurry and somewhat cross from having broken a shoelace and spilled Dr Pepper on his English homework. He seems to always be in a terrible hurry these days.)

Lesson to Lewis: leave His Greatness alone before he sets out on his journey to the fearsome place called Middle School. But when else could I speak on behalf of our people? Even I, loyal Toddlian that I am, see that our ruler has little time for us anymore. We are often left alone until late at night when Great Todd returns from the Mall. Whatever a Mall is, it must be an enchanted kingdom, for he is constantly asking his mother to transport him and Duddy there. Rarely upon return does he even remember to fling us his sweaty socks or grunge-encrusted gym clothes. I would be grateful if he would only fling me a friendly “Good night, Lew,” the way he used to.

“Halfway there, friends,” Herman panted as he pushed the fibers in front of him aside. “The stench grows stronger!”

Persephone pulled off her cowboy hat and wiped her brow. “If this ain’t the most goldurned ridiculous waste of energy! I ask ya, Lew, has Todd ever left us some kind of secret code to cipher? If he wants to get somethin’ off his chest, he says it right out.”

Some of the others grunted in agreement.

But Herman shook his head. “Not necessarily. We must remember that the Powerful One’s ways are not our ways. He is most awesome and perhaps, like a dutiful parent (insofar as I understand parenting), he desires to teach us by a system of rewards and punishments.”

“Ooooo,” chorused the other Toddlians.

Persephone crossed her arms and muttered, “Rewards and punishments? What are we, a bunch of unbroke broncos?”

“Perhaps,” Herman said, “we need to consider our ways and not presume to know more than our Supreme Ruler. In the words of Albert Einstein, ‘A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.’ ”

More “ooo”s and some applause.

Persephone sighed and shimmied up a carpet fiber to “get a look-see.”

“Well, we’re nearly there, amigos,” she said. “Though we’da been there and back if we’da rode the crickets I wrangled.”

“You know how I feel about crickets, Persephone,” I reminded her quietly.

“I have an idea,” Herman huffed as we approached the rotten Red Thing. “What if we offer a tribute to Todd to show him we appreciate his care and leadership? Like the ancient Romans did to pacify their gods?”

Persephone stopped walking and turned to Herman. “Are you sayin’ we should sacrifice fleas and such? ’Cause fer one thing, it sounds purty messy, and fer the other, I don’t think he’d appreciate it much.”

I shuddered. “Certainly you don’t mean that kind of tribute, Herman?”

Herman rolled his eyes. “Of course not! I meant we could perform deeds of kindness.”

We were close to the Refuse Dome now, which was an enormous white cylinder with a rounded top where Todd kept things he no longer wanted. The objects within were somewhat fascinating to us Toddlians, but unfortunately the slick white sides were very difficult to climb. The sickly-sweet stench of the Red Thing was so overpowering we held our noses.

“Deeds of kindness!” Persephone exclaimed. “We did Todd’s computer homework jest last week. I had a dadgum charley horse fer three days from jumpin’ all over the keyboard.”

“Very noble of you, indeed,” Herman said. Todd’s Erector set was next to the Refuse Dome, and Herman slowly scaled a crane. “But let us pause to discuss this. I was thinking of something a little more formal.” He stopped climbing, cupped his hands around his mouth, and addressed the Toddlian crowd below. “My fellow citizens, no doubt you have noticed that our beloved home, Toddlandia, is in a state of rapid decline.”

I heard a groan behind me. “Do we have to do this now?” shouted Jasper, an adolescent Toddlian who often seemed to be in poor humor. “I thought we were checking out the Red Thing!”

Herman fixed him with a glare. “The message of the Red Thing is meaningless, unless we know how we will respond,” he said.

Near the front of the crowd, Gerald, the eldest among us, nodded. “Mayor Herman is correct,” he said in a grave voice. “Our leader has not been caring for us as he promised to, after the incident at the fair.”

Jasper scoffed. “Sheesh, I’m just happy I haven’t broken any limbs since we stopped training for that stupid carnival ‘circus’!”

Mayor Herman shook his head. “It may be true that we haven’t suffered the degradation of being forced to perform in some kind of sideshow attraction,” he said, “but the Great Todd has not been as attentive as he might be.”

My fellow Toddlians murmured, nodding their heads. “And it’s a cryin’ shame!” Persephone shouted above the rest.

“For example,” Herman went on, “the drought we suffered this week when Lake Parkay dried up.” He motioned toward the swimming hole at the bottom of the closet. We’d named it after the brand of margarine advertised on the container. “We nearly perished of thirst before Todd remembered to replenish our water supply.”

The Toddlians grunted their agreement, growing more agitated.

“And what about the break-dancing lessons we were promised?” young Chester yelled. “Todd told us more than once he’d teach us how to do the Robot and the Worm!”

“We want the Worm!” screamed a particularly passionate Toddlian.

“We want the Worm!” chanted the rest of the crowd.

I signaled to Herman to calm the rabble-rousers. He made a slashing motion, and the Toddlians settled themselves. Herman climbed down from the crane, and we carefully approached the Red Thing.

I hadn’t seen our former playground up close in its rotten state. How could anything once so shiny and round become so dull and slumped? I bent my head back, searching the Thing’s wrinkled skin for clues as to why Todd had cursed it.

It looked as though he had taken one bite of the Thing before leaving it for us. The rust-colored skin was curled around angry-looking teeth marks exposing brown, slimy flesh. Was this a sign that Todd had tired of us, too? Were we being tossed aside for a more exciting civilization, perhaps one that lived in the glorious kingdom of the Mall?

What a horrible thought! “Maybe someone should climb on top for a better view,” I suggested, wiping my burning eyes.

Persephone, being the bravest among us, volunteered to make the climb. She lassoed the white fuzzy stem and hoisted herself into the crevice of the first wrinkle. “This Thing’s squishier ’n a slug’s belly!” she called, pulling her bandana up over her nose. “Smells worse than skunk sweat, too. Shoowee!”

We watched breathlessly as Persephone scaled the bumpy surface. Several times she lost her grip and slid, stopping herself from falling with the spurs on her heels.

“What do you see?” Herman called.

“A whole buncha nothin’,” Persephone called back. “I’m heading back down; we’ve seen all there is to see here, which is naught. This smell’s enough to make me blow my beans.” She put her hand in a hole and started to scale back down. “Fool’s errand if ever there was one,” she muttered, looking for a foothold below her.

“What’s that?” someone shrieked. Persephone saw it at the same time as the rest of us. A wriggling, slimy white creature popped out of the very hole where she had her hand. I felt my heart seize as I realized how horribly the younglings’ demand for “the worm” had been answered—indeed, this terrible beast appeared to be exactly that.

Persephone let out a shriek and yanked her hand out of the wormhole, losing her grip. I rushed to catch her as she fell, but was blocked by the crowd, which was quickly becoming a boiling mess of mayhem. “I’m all right!” I heard her yell above the noise.

I glanced up at the worm again. Its eyeless, ghostly white body was weaving back and forth, as if to defy anyone else to come near the Red Thing.

Chester let out a bloodcurdling scream. “Great Todd, we didn’t mean it!” he cried. “We didn’t want this kind of worm!”

“Have mercy on us, Great Todd!” was the cry on everyone’s lips as they stampeded back toward the safety of Toddlandia. But of course, Todd was nowhere to be found—like usual lately.

I joined Persephone in the panicked throng, and together we looked about for Herman. Finally I recognized his faint cries above the din of confusion.

We sprinted back to the Red Thing. We must save Herman!

“Help!” he whimpered pitifully. “Is anyone out there?”

“Take courage!” I answered. “Where are you?”

“Near the Refuse Dome,” he moaned. “Please . . . hurry!”

I followed his voice and found him crumpled in a heap at the base of the Refuse Dome’s curved wall. “Trampled in the stampede,” he said through clenched teeth. “I fear . . . for my tibia bone.”

His left ankle was swollen and already turning a gruesome green. “Let’s hope it’s merely sprained,” I said. “Can you put your arm around my shoulder?”

He nodded, and together we hobbled in the direction of Toddlandia. I wished I had given in and ridden a cricket, for Herman’s sake. “There can be no argument now,” he said solemnly. “Todd left the Red Thing and its revolting resident as a form of punishment. We have angered him yet again and have incurred his wrath.”

“Sssshh!” I commanded. “Your pain is making you downhearted. Remember how many times Todd has protected our people from danger! Why would he turn on us now?”

Herman grew fatigued. We stopped to let him rest, and he raised his eyes to mine. “You forget that his reasoning is far different from ours.”

“Todd is my friend,” I protested. “Why would he be so cruel?”

He grimaced and took a deep breath. “Todd is not your friend, Lewis. He’s your god. And an angry one at that.”

My heart sank within me. “But can’t he be both?”

CHAPTER 2

A big hunk of blueberry bagel fell onto my shirt, and I swatted it off, only to notice something weird. Holy frijoles! Where was my collar? I looked over my shoulder, and sure enough, I had my shirt on backward! I had to get it turned around before she—before anyone—came into class.

Mr. Katcher’s office door was open, so I snuck inside and clicked it closed. I almost set the bagel on a stack of funky-smelling plastic bags, until I looked closer and saw they were full of dead frogs. Gagadocious. I held the bagel with my teeth and spun the shirt around so Koi Boy was facing forward. Now if I could only get my head on straight. I still felt like I had when I left the house this morning: half asleep.

That’s what I got for getting up thirty minutes early so I could stop by Dale’s Deli and stand outside for ages, watching for her. I’d actually showered and everything. Which kind of backfired, because my hair was wet, and it was freezing out.

I’d waited, teeth chattering and hair still dripping, as long as I could without being late for first period. Finally I arrived at the sad conclusion that Charity Driscoll wasn’t actually coming to the deli that morning, so I dashed inside and bought a bagel, since I’d skipped breakfast to get there so early. I was too jittered up to think about asking for cream cheese.

I muscled down another bite. Like the bagel, my brilliant scheme had a hole in it.

I strolled out of Katcher’s office and headed to the sink on the back wall for a drink of water. I gulped down a big mouthful, feeling guilty as I remembered that in my rush to leave the house this morning I’d forgotten to refill Lake Parkay for the Toddlians. Hopefully they weren’t super thirsty. I’d make it up to them this afternoon by giving them a sip of my Dr Pepper.

Did my shirt smell like formaldehyde? I sniffed it just in case. Nope. Nothing but Dad’s Old Spice.

“Yeah, Buttrock, you really stink!” an all-too-familiar voice blared in my ear. “I’ll take that off your hands.” Max Loving helped himself to what was left of my bagel.

“Good morning to you too, Max,” I said dryly.

Totally invading my personal space, Max backed me into the corner where Mr. Bone Jangles, the life-size skeleton, hung. “Oh, it’s not a good morning. Not for me, not for you, and especially not for your little buggy buddies.”

My gut clenched around the half-eaten bagel. Max hadn’t even mentioned the Toddlians to me for a couple of weeks—ever since we humiliated him by scaring him snotless when he came to my house to try to take my skateboard. I’d once thought Max was the coolest kid at Wakefield Middle School, but I quickly learned he was just the biggest bully. Even his henchmen, eighth graders Spud and Dick, seemed to have dumped him after the whole skateboard debacle. What was he after now?

Max was breathing heavy and starting to foam around the lips like a mad dog. He shoved me right into the skeleton. The plastic bones rattled, and Mr. Jangles’s leg fell off. Max picked up the femur and thumped my chest with it.

“You and those little buggers cost me my Xbox.” Thump, thump. “And I had to borrow the hundred bucks the fair fined me from my parents, who are making me pay back every penny.” He shoved a meaty finger into my chest. “If you and your dorkwad friends hadn’t ruined my Flea Circus Redux by switching your bug people with those ants, I’d have made enough for an Xbox and then some.”

Was he expecting me to feel sorry for him after he put the Toddlians through weeks of cruel circus-stunt training, nearly killing them? It had taken me too long to figure out that Max was using our joint science project, a Toddlian circus, as an excuse to hurt the Toddlians, but as soon as I did, I hatched a scheme to stop him and save the little guys. Clearly, Max still hadn’t forgiven me for the fallout. But what could I say? I wasn’t afraid of him anymore. “Sorry, Max.”

His beady eyes disappeared under his unibrow. “Oh, you will be, Buttrock.” Thump, thump. He tossed poor Mr. Bone Jangles’s femur down on the counter. “You will be.”

I glanced toward the door. Kids were starting to trickle in. “I don’t know why you’re still so mad at me. You ended up getting a good grade on the science test anyway, so your parents aren’t sending you to military school.”

Max snorted. “Yeah, but now we have to do that stupid makeup science project for Katcher.”

I frowned at him. “Now?” I asked. Mr. Katcher had given us both Fs on the failed Toddlian circus. But he’d also offered us the opportunity to do makeup projects. The only thing was . . . “They’re due by Friday, Max.” I’d spent the last two weeks researching scientific urban legends and had finally handed in my paper the day before. “Shouldn’t you be nearly done by now?”

Max growled at me. Actually growled. “Yeah, well, it seems I have to pull together a project real quick,” he muttered, grabbing the femur off the counter and jabbing it into my ribs again. “I was trying to teach my sister’s hamster to squeak when I rang a bell, but there was an . . . accident.”

Don’t ask. Don’t ask. “That’s too bad, Max.”

He shoved a sausagey finger into my nose. Ugh. His fingernails were filthy. “So I figured you could give me your project,” he said. “Or else.”

If this had happened a few weeks ago, I would have peed my pants in terror. Now, all I felt was annoyed . . . and kind of relieved that I had an easy answer for him. “Oh, too bad, Max. I turned my project in yesterday.”

Max’s dark eyes turned black for a second as fury flashed across his face. But he quickly recovered, giving me a slow grin. “Oh, that’s too bad, Buttrock. I guess that means I need something I can pull into a project really fast. Maybe a new scientific discovery, something nobody’s ever seen before? Hmmm . . .”

I didn’t like where this was going. “If you’re talking about the Toddlians, Max, you already tried to use them as your science project, and it was a disaster, remember?”

Max glared at me. “It was a disaster because your nerdy friend stole them before we could show them to Mr. Katcher,” he hissed. He meant Lucy, my homeschooled neighbor and sort-of assistant in caring for the Toddlians. Man, his breath was terrible. “If he actually saw them, I know I’d get an A. Plus . . .” He grinned that smarmy grin again. “I’d get the pleasure of playing with your little bug people some more. Hey—do you think they’d squeal when I rang a bell? I bet I could make ’em. HA!”

Gulp. I hadn’t been scared of Max five minutes ago, but now my heart was pounding in my chest. He might be a stupid bully—but I totally believed he was capable of hurting the Toddlians. Heck, I’d seen him do it.

“You can’t have them,” I said pointedly, then feinted left and tried to make a break for my desk.

But Max blocked my escape with the plastic bone. “Not so fast, bug boy. If you won’t give ’em to me, I’m comin’ to collect.”

Don’t be afraid of him. Don’t be afraid. He’s not going to just come to my house and take them, right? He’s just a bully with bad breath. “Collect?” I asked, and it came out in a squeaky tone that probably sounded a lot like Max’s sister’s poor hamster.

He pressed his forehead into mine and spat, “Sleep with one eye open, Buttrock. I know where you live, and I’m gonna tear your tiny friends limb from little limb.”

Max gave me one last thump and hooked the femur back to the rest of the leg just as Mr. Katcher and the rest of the kids came through the door.

I beat it to the back of the lab, taking my seat next to Duddy, who was chatting with Ernie Buchenwald. It was still weird to think that my best bud and Ernie were friends. Back in elementary school, Ernie had been our nemesis. But then he and Duddy had done their science project together and bonded over a shared passion for ants.

“’Thup, Todd?” Ernie greeted me, nodding his orange-Brillo-topped head at me. Ernie wore the Mother of All Retainers, and as he nodded a bit of drool dripped down onto Duddy’s desk.

Duddy signaled toward Max with a nod. “You okay?” he whispered. “What did that meathead want?”

“Nothing,” I muttered. I didn’t want to get into it, and besides, I refused to believe that Max could actually sneak into my house and steal the Toddlians.

Duddy mimicked Max’s glare, then crossed his eyes and said, “Durrrr.”

“HAW HAW HAW,” Ernie laughed. Just then the bell rang, and Mr. Katcher hopped up onto his cluttered desk, shooting Ernie a warning look that sent him scuttling back to his desk at the end of our row. Mr. Katcher picked up a big beaker full of a light brown foamy liquid and drank it down. Was that his coffee?

“Today, my future Nobel Prize winners,” he said, setting down the near-empty beaker, “we’re going to talk about volume. Not volume as in how many decibels can I turn up my heavy metal before my eardrums rupture”—he jumped off the desk and played an air guitar while banging his head—“but volume as in how much salted caramel latte did Mr. Katcher just drink?” He wriggled his eyebrows and twisted one end of his brown mustache like a cartoon villain.

I had no idea what kind of high-powered caffeine was in that stuff, but I hoped the Toddlians never got hold of any.

Mr. Katcher pulled out a two-liter container of Mountain Dew from under his desk, shook it hard, and asked, “Which of you young geniuses cares to tell me how many milliliters are in this? Correct answer gets the prize.”

Hands shot up all over the room. Mr. Katcher’s mustache danced as he consulted his clipboard. At last he said, “Miss Driscoll, would you honor us with your answer?”

We all turned to look at Charity Driscoll, and my heart felt like it squeezed into my throat. As she nodded her head, causing her long, golden-brown hair to ripple like a shiny waterfall, I totally forgave her for not stopping by the deli this morning, robbing me of the chance to try and chat her up. Charity had moved with her family from Florida a week before, and she was by far the prettiest girl I’d ever seen.

Charity slid gracefully out of her seat in the front row and turned to face the class. “One liter equals one thousand milliliters, therefore that two-liter contains two thousand milliliters.” Even her voice was sweet as honey. I could have listened to it all day . . .

Mr. Katcher handed the bottle to her and bowed. “Well done, Miss Driscoll.” He coughed. “Er, be careful opening that up, okay?”

Charity gave him a big smile and handed the two-liter back. “That’s okay, Mr. Katcher. I prefer Dr Pepper.”

My mouth dropped open, but I quickly slammed it shut before anyone saw me catching flies. What were the chances? I preferred Dr Pepper too! Maybe we could have talked about that if she’d stopped by Dale’s that morning. Not that I ever seemed to know what to say to her. I’d probably just have stood there like a goggle-eyed mouth breather, as usual.

I watched her now, my heart pounding. If only I could get her to look at me with those aqua eyes. They were the same blue as the Fernsopian pool that Varusa the Lizard Queen rose out of in Dragon Sensei.

But I wasn’t alone in my crush on Charity. While Mr. Katcher stepped into his office to get a bunch more beakers, two other admirers leaned over to try their lines on her.

Max, flexing a bicep: “Hey, Char-Char, how many milliwhatevers are in this baby?”

Rudy Reyes, a freckled kid who usually kept to himself, suddenly dropped to one knee. “Liters of Dew—you have two—one for me, one for you. Come now, baby, why be shy? In my bag is an extra MoonPie! Eat lunch with me?”

The whole class groaned at that, but even these lame-o lines made my heart sink. These guys might have tanked, but at least they were brave enough to talk to Charity. What kind of chance did I have? I couldn’t string two words together when she was around.

Jordan Pelinski, who was famous for eating and then puking up an entire one-pound bag of Skittles at Cub Scout camp, had just finished serenading Charity with “My Girl” when Mr. Katcher came back into the room, his arms overflowing with tubes and beakers. “Let’s get to the business at hand, shall we, ladies and gents? Speaking of hands, lend me some.”

A couple of kids helped him set the containers on a table and fill them with water. Charity offered to drip drops of food coloring into the beakers. Her hair gleamed in the morning sunlight like liquid gold. Oooh, that’s nice. That would be a good line to use on her, if I ever muster the guts.

Charity finished her job and walked slowly toward her desk. Was she looking at me? Before I could do anything stupid, like wink at her, I heard Paul Mosely chuckle behind me. Oh, of course. She’d been aiming that smile at him. After all, he was only the best basketball player in sixth grade, and had straight white teeth with no braces, like something out of a toothpaste commercial.

I felt myself crumple a little bit and had to look away. Who am I kidding? Charity could get any guy at Wakefield Middle School. She would never give me a second glance. I’d have to do a lot more than bump into Charity at a bagel shop or the mall to get her attention.

I glanced across the aisle to my best friend, wondering if Duddy might hold the answer to my romantic woes. After all, he thought I was pretty cool. (And before the Toddlians, he might have been the only one to think that besides my immediate family.) He was wiggling a triangle-folded note at me, his blond bowl-cut bangs quivering as he gave me a mini Saki Salute. I couldn’t help smiling. Duddy might not know what I wanted, but he always knew what I needed. Distraction. The signal meant that he thought we should do a little Dragon Sensei duel on paper.

Mr. Katcher’s back was still turned to us, so Duddy slid the note to me with his shoe. He’d drawn Mongee-Poo, Koi Boy’s green monkey sidekick, hurling a flaming poo grenade. The bubble coming out of his mouth said, “hoo hoo hi-yah! hahaha, oora, i’m gonna poo ya!” That was straight out of the latest episode of Dragon Sensei, “The Poo’s on You!,” in which Koi Boy and Mongee-Poo take revenge on pretty much every villain in the entire series.

I shot Duddy a thumbs-up then scribbled Emperor Oora, Giant Salamander of All Evilness, saying, “Face it, Koi Boy, Fernsopi shall be mine! You and your foul, furry friend here should return to that clown who calls himself the Dragon Sensei and—” That’s as far as I got before a hairy hand snatched the paper out from under my pen.

Mr. Katcher cleared his throat. “Hmm. A green primate and some sort of robed reptile. Gentlemen, what is this?” He read the note in a deadpan voice. Even I have to admit, it did sound stupid.

Max sure thought so. He nearly busted a gut guffawing. When he finally caught his breath he said, “I know what it is, Mr. Katcher! It’s from Dragon Sensor, that baby anime junk Buttrock and Scanlon are always playing! HOO HOO HI-YAH HAHAHA!”

The rest of the class cracked up. Whether they really thought it was funny or were just afraid of Max, I didn’t know. I did know that Charity whirled around in her seat, staring at me with wide eyes.

Great. I’d finally gotten her to realize that I exist, only to horrify her with my dorkdom.

My face felt like lava, and I seriously considered faking sick so I could spend the rest of the day holed up at home, wallowing in my stupidity. But that was the way of wusses, and if I’d learned anything lately, it was to face my humiliation head on.

Mr. Katcher let us off with a lecture but said the next note would land us in KP. KP was short for Katcher Patrol and was a million times worse than detention. You had to clean all the tools and trays from dissection, scrub out moldy petri dishes, clean up Camo the chameleon’s lizard poop, and do whatever other disgusting jobs Mr. Katcher felt like making you do.

We measured the colored water in the beakers for the rest of the hour. When the bell rang, I tried to slink out of the room without running into Charity, but being the talented klutz that I am, I dropped my Dragon Sensei notebook right beside her desk. As I grabbed it I couldn’t help glancing at her.

She was looking right at me, her head tilted and eyebrows raised. There was a hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth. I stood there, frozen, until she gave me a little nod. That broke the spell. I stumbled into the hallway half-embarrassed, half-enraptured.

She’d nodded. At me!

Did that mean I might actually have a chance?

CHAPTER 3

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for By the Grace of Todd:

“Galveston[’s]…portrayal of the brutalities of middle school feels as real as the things Todd learns about friends, popularity, and being true to oneself.” –Publishers Weekly

“Hilarious premise and . . . excellent cast of supporting characters.” –Booklist

“Fans of both the smart and the gross . . . will take to this one.” –Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
 

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