Middle School's a Drag, You Better Werk!

Middle School's a Drag, You Better Werk!

by Greg Howard


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In this heartfelt and hilarious new novel from Greg Howard, an enterprising boy starts his own junior talent agency and signs a thirteen-year-old aspiring drag queen as his first client.

Twelve-year-old Mikey Pruitt—president, founder, and CEO of Anything, Inc.—has always been an entrepreneur at heart. Inspired by his grandfather Pap Pruitt, who successfully ran all sorts of businesses from a car wash to a roadside peanut stand, Mikey is still looking for his million-dollar idea. Unfortunately, most of his ideas so far have failed. A baby tornado ran off with his general store, and the kids in his neighborhood never did come back for their second croquet lesson. But Mikey is determined to keep at it.

It isn't until kid drag queen Coco Caliente, Mistress of Madness and Mayhem (aka eighth grader Julian Vasquez) walks into his office (aka his family's storage/laundry room) looking for an agent that Mikey thinks he's finally found his million-dollar idea, and the Anything Talent and Pizzazz Agency is born!

Soon, Mikey has a whole roster of kid clients looking to hit it big or at least win the middle school talent show's hundred-dollar prize. As newly out Mikey prepares Julian for the gig of a lifetime, he realizes there's no rulebook for being gay—and if Julian can be openly gay at school, maybe Mikey can, too, and tell his crush, dreamy Colton Sanford, how he feels.

Full of laughs, sass, and hijinks, this hilarious, heartfelt story shows that with a little effort and a lot of love, anything is possible.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525517528
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 02/11/2020
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 324,951
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 10 - 12 Years

About the Author

Born and raised in the South Carolina Lowcountry, Greg Howard's love of words and story blossomed at a young age. Originally set on becoming a famous songwriter and following that dream to the bright lights of Nashville, Tennessee, Greg spent years producing the music of others before eventually returning to his childhood passion of writing stories. Greg writes young adult and middle grade novels focusing on LGBTQ characters and issues. He has an unhealthy obsession with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and currently resides in Nashville with his three rescued fur babies—Molly, Toby, and Riley.

Connect with Greg at www.greghowardbooks.com or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: @greghowardbooks

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Office 

I sit behind the huge oak desk in my office at the world headquarters of Anything, Incorporated, organizing my homework like I do every Sunday afternoon. I spend a lot of weekends in the office. If I didn’t, I’d never get anything done. I think CEOs of big-time companies like mine shouldn’t be required to attend middle school. It seriously gets in the way of doing important business stuff.

I’ve created an Excel spreadsheet on my laptop and sorted my assignments into three columns:

Teacher Will Check

Teacher Won’t Check

Teacher Will Collect but Won’t Check

Normally I’d have my assistant handle this kind of thing, but she quit last week. It’s okay, though, because she was a climber. More interested in having a fancy title than doing a good job for the company. She started as an intern about a month ago, recommended by one of our board members. She was terrible even back then. I could never find a stapler when I needed one, and my printer was always out of paper. I thought if I gave her a real title and some responsibility by promoting her to assistant to the president, she’d step up her game. But she didn’t. All she wanted to do was criticize me. Her boss! That’s not how it works in the corporate world.

I open my “Brilliant Business Tips” Excel spreadsheet, scroll down to the next empty cell, and type:

Michael Pruitt Business Tip #347: There’s only one way to the top. Keep your head down, apply yourself, and do your time.

It sure would be nice to have someone handle all this busywork now that my assistant bailed on me. I’d much rather be spending my time doing real boss stuff, like planning my next exciting business venture. Retail wasn’t the right fit for me. Neither was professional sports instruction. But I have a million other ideas. Those are just two recent ones that didn’t work out.

Pap Pruitt always says, If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

I’ve had my share of failures, but I never give up. I know I’ll have a successful business empire one day just like my hero, Pap Pruitt. Technically Pap is my grandfather. He taught me everything I know about business.

My desk first belonged to Pap when he started his real estate business at seventeen years old. When Pap moved into the nursing home, Dad didn’t need it for his landscaping business, so he lets me use it. It’s a real boss-looking desk and I always feel real important sitting at it. I also feel close to Pap when I’m at my desk. He’s been in the nursing home for a while now, and I don’t get to see him as much. Plus he’s sick a lot, so Dad doesn’t always let me go with him to visit Pap. He didn’t let me go today, which I guess is why Pap’s been on my mind.

Pap was a super-crazy-successful entrepreneur when he was younger. He started his own general store, a dry cleaning business, two fast-food franchises, a hotel called the Old Pruitt Place, a pet-grooming business, a landscaping business, three automatic car washes, a boiled-peanut roadside stand, and a whole lot more. I asked him once how he became so successful. I remember the sparkle in his eye when he grinned a little and said, All it takes is a dream and a prayer.

I’ve got lots of dreams. And even though I’m not the best at prayers, the Almighty is pretty used to hearing from me when it comes to a new business idea. Pap started his business empire in his garage with only a hundred dollars, a dream, and a prayer. Pap’s blind now because of the diabetes, but he’s still a wicked-cool guy. I really want to make him proud, but he didn’t have to build his business empire and go to middle school at the same time. I guess Pap was a late bloomer.

It’s a little embarrassing, having to do homework at your real job. I’ll bet Malcolm Forbes never had to do that and he was, like, one of the most successful business guys ever. Luckily my office is pretty private, but that doesn’t always keep the riffraff out. Sometimes it can get so noisy in here, especially when the dryer’s on its last cycle like it is now. It sounds like a space shuttle getting ready to launch. And there must be a shoe in there, because something bangs against the side every few seconds, distracting me from my work. I lean back in my executive, fake-leather desk chair and stare at Dad’s tools hanging on the wall, waiting for the banging to stop.

The annoyingly long honk of the buzzer sounds and the pounding inside the machine finally fades away. I hit the Talk button on the intercom on my desk.

“Mom,” I say, pretty loud so she can hear me from anywhere inside the house. And because I’m annoyed that there’s a washer and dryer in my office.

No response.

I hit the button again. “Mom!”

A few seconds later, her voice crackles through the intercom speaker. “Yes, Mikey, what is it?”

I sigh and press the Talk button. “Mom, I asked you not to call me that when I’m at work.”

“Oh, sorry, honey. Michael, what is it? Is the dryer done?”

We’ve talked about honey, too, but I’m too busy to get into that right now.

“Yes, ma’am,” I say.

“Okay,” she says. “I’ll be right there.”

Dad found the old-timey intercom system at a garage sale and hooked it up for me. It’s lime green and nearly the size of a shoe box, but at least it works. Dad thought it’d be a perfect addition to my office and an easy way for Mom to call me in for dinner. Dad gets it.

Mom comes through the carport door—without knocking—carrying a laundry basket.

“Mom, the sign’s out,” I say. “You’re supposed to knock when the sign’s out.”

“It’s getting late, honey. I thought you’d be closing up shop by now.”

She’s wearing light blue mom shorts and one of Dad’s old white button-down shirts.

“I’m rebranding,” I say. “It takes a lot of thinking time.”

Wait a minute. That would be a cool business idea. I could be an expert at helping businesses rebrand. Like I could go down to the Burger King on Palmetto Street and pitch them the idea of updating their brand to make it more modern and hip. The first thing they need to do is change their name to something more welcoming of all people instead of just men. Something like Burger Person or Burger Human Being would be a good choice. I open up my spiral-bound Amazing Business Ideas notebook and write that million-dollar idea down before I forget.

Anything Modern and Hip Rebranding

A division of Anything, Inc.

Michael Pruitt—President, Founder, CEO, and Brand Expert

“So how come the putt-putt lessons didn’t work out?”

Croquet lessons, Mom,” I say. “Not putt-putt.”

“Oh, right,” she says. “We used to play croquet all the time when I was a kid.”

“I know,” I say.

Grandma Sharon gave me their old set of clubs and balls and taught me how to play last summer. None of the kids in the neighborhood had ever heard of croquet, which was perfect because it made me the local expert. I might have added a few new rules to the game to make it more interesting, but my students never knew the difference.

Mom rests the basket of towels on her hip. A shoe sits on top. I wonder why she only washed one. It’s a perplexing mystery.

I write down another incredible idea in my Amazing Business Ideas notebook:

Anything Perplexing Mystery-Solving Detective Agency

A division of Anything, Inc.

Michael Pruitt—President, Founder, CEO, and Head Snoop

I put a star beside that one because that’s a super- crazy-good idea.

“Well, how many kids signed up for croquet lessons?” Mom asks.

Before I can answer, my little sister, Lyla, appears in the doorway cradling her fat gray cat in her arms. The cat’s name is Pooty. Lyla named him that because he farts a lot. I hate that cat.

“He had four students show up for the first lesson,” she says with all the innocence of a demon-possessed doll in a horror movie. “They each paid him a dollar, if you can believe that. But no one showed up for the second lesson. He made four dollars, but he gave them each a whole bottle of water, so he probably lost money.”

“I haven’t run the final numbers yet,” I say, looking back at my spreadsheet, trying to ignore Lyla and her gassy cat.

“And kids around here don’t know what croquet is anyway,” she adds like she’s some kind of marketing expert. She’s nine.

“That was the beauty of it,” I snap back. “Nobody knew if I was teaching it wrong or not.”

“It was a dumb idea, if you ask me,” she says.

“You were a dumb idea,” I mumble under my breath.

“Mikey! That’s enough,” Mom says.

“She started it,” I say in a pouty voice that makes me sound like a little kid.

Mom shifts the laundry basket to her other hip. “She’s only nine. Be a better example.”

That’s Mom’s excuse for everything Lyla does. She’s only seven. She’s only eight. She’s only nine. You see where this is heading, right? It’s never going to end.

“Sorry,” I say, even though secretly I’m not.

Lyla smiles at me like she won or something.

There are no trophies for being possessed by the devil, Lyla!

“I’ll give a full report on the Sports Instruction division of the company at the next board meeting,” I say to Mom.

She kisses me on top of the head. “Sounds good, honey.”

I sigh. I don’t think she’s ever going to get thehoney thing. And don’t even get me started on the kiss.

Mom leaves, but Lyla still stands in the doorway. Both she and Pooty glare at me. The cat hates me as much as I hate him. He always stares at me like he’s planning to murder me. That’s why I lock my bedroom door every night before I go to bed. You just never know with cats.

“So what’s your next big idea, Mikey?” Lyla says, stroking Pooty’s head like an old movie villain who’s trying to take over the world. I wouldn’t put it past her, even thoughshe’s only nine.

“It’s Michael when I’m in the office,” I say. “You know that.”

She looks around the cramped, unfinished space with tools hanging on the walls like they’re standing guard. “You mean our carport-storage-and-laundry room?”

I turn my back to her, attacking the keys of my laptop like I’m typing a really important email. “You didn’t mind it when you worked here.”

I hear the door close behind me.

Thank God. She left.

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