Authors: Dave Barry
Tags: #Children's Books, #Action & Adventure, #Growing Up & Facts of Life, #Friendship; Social Skills & School Life, #School, #Humor, #Children's eBooks, #Humorous, #Literature & Fiction
ALSO BY DAVE BARRY
With Ridley Pearson
Peter and the Starcatchers
Peter and the Shadow Thieves
Peter and the Secret of Rundoon
Peter and the Sword of Mercy
Bridge to Never Land
Text copyright © 2015 by Dave Barry
Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Jon Cannell
Cover design by Marci Senders
Cover art © 2015 Jon Cannell
All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney •
Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.
For Dylan Maxwell Barry, a whole new generation
one of this stuff would have happened if I hadn’t been sitting next to Matthew Diaz.
Don’t get me wrong: Matt is my best friend. But he can be an idiot. But when we were in kindergarten, pretty much
the boys were idiots, so he didn’t stand out so much, and
we became best friends. So now, even though we’re in eighth grade, and he’s sometimes unbelievably annoying, I’m kind of stuck with him.
That’s why I ended up sitting next to him on the plane on the class trip. I think about that sometimes. If I’d been sitting anywhere else, I would have had a normal class trip, and
none of this insane mess would have happened.
On the other hand, when I think about what could have happened if I
been sitting next to Matt on that flight…
Okay, I guess this is starting to sound pretty mysterious. Let me start at the beginning:
My name is Wyatt Palmer. I’m an eighth grader at Culver Middle School in Miami. I know a lot of people think Miami is a weird place, but it’s my home, so I’m used to the kind
of things that happen there that don’t happen in normal places.
Like there was this incident that happened about six months ago when my dad went outside to get the
off our lawn. My dad likes to read the sports section while he has his
coffee so he can complain about how much the Dolphins suck. So first thing every morning, he goes outside and gets the paper off the lawn.
For years he did this wearing only his boxers. My mom hated this. She was always telling my dad to at least put on a bathrobe, because what if somebody saw him. My dad said nobody’s going
to be out there at six thirty a.m., and besides wearing boxer shorts is the same as wearing a bathing suit. This is not really true, especially if you saw my dad’s bedtime boxers, which have
like zero elastic and a lot of holes and according to my mom are held together mainly by stains. A couple of times, she threw them away, but my dad went and got them out of the trash. He’s
very loyal to his boxers.
So anyway, this particular morning my dad went outside as usual to get the paper, and as usual our dog, Csonka, stood in the doorway to watch him. Csonka likes to keep an eye on things, but he
knows he’s not allowed to go outside without a leash. Anyway, my dad was out there, bending over to pick up the newspaper—trust me, you do
want to see that—and all of a
sudden Csonka started barking like crazy. My dad jumped up and turned around, and he was about to yell at Csonka to shut up, when all of a sudden he saw what Csonka was barking at.
We live near a canal. There are canals all over Miami, and they connect to the Everglades, which means if you live here, you basically live in a swamp. I mean, we have houses and roads and
shopping centers and stuff, but it’s all built on top of a swamp, and as far as the swamp animals are concerned, it’s still a swamp, and it’s still theirs. It’s normal for
us to see snakes in our yards, and lizards, and all kinds of frogs, and big tall wading birds, and even crabs in some neighborhoods. And every now and then an alligator shows up.
This particular alligator, which was not a small alligator, was on our lawn maybe ten feet from our front walkway, which means my dad went right past without seeing it on his way to the
newspaper. But he definitely saw it when Csonka started barking. And no way was he going to try to walk past it again.
He started yelling “Rosa! Rosa!” calling my mom. She and my sister, Taylor, and I all went running to the door to see what was going on. My dad was out on the sidewalk, holding up
his boxers with one hand and using the other one to point the
at the alligator, like it was a weapon or something. My mom screamed, and so did Taylor, and maybe I also made an
unmanly noise, because it really was a pretty major alligator.
“CALL 911!” shouted my dad. “HURRY!”
“Okay!” said my mom, running to the kitchen.
By now Csonka was really going crazy barking. He was also out of the house, which was a violation of the leash rule, but I guess he figured he was protecting my dad. What he was really doing was
upsetting the alligator, which started to move forward in that slow way alligators walk. I think it was going for Csonka, but it was moving kind of in the direction of Taylor and me, so my father
came running down the walk, waving the
toward the alligator and going, “Shoo! Get away!”
That was definitely the bravest thing I ever saw my dad do, but it did not impress the alligator. What it did was make the alligator turn more in the direction of my dad, who turned right around
and went sprinting back toward the sidewalk.
“RUN IN A ZIGZAG PATTERN!” shouted Taylor.
The reason she shouted that was, in Florida, some people believe alligators can only run in a straight line, so they tell kids that if a gator is chasing them, they should run in a zigzag
pattern. But it’s a myth. In fifth grade my science teacher, Mrs. Buntz, showed us a video of an alligator chasing a dead chicken being dragged by a guy in a zigzag pattern, and the gator had
no trouble following it. Mrs. Buntz said you should run in a straight line.
“THAT’S A MYTH!” I shouted to my dad. “RUN IN A STRAIGHT LINE!”
“Are you trying to
him?” yelled Taylor, punching my arm. She’s in sixth grade and very dramatic.
The truth was, my dad couldn’t hear either of us, because of Csonka’s barking, which was getting even louder. The alligator was now standing right on the walkway, and Csonka was
getting pretty close to it, which was not good because alligators, besides being able to zigzag, can also move really fast when they want to. The one in Mrs. Buntz’s video caught the chicken
and almost caught the guy dragging it.
The police came pretty fast, three cars in like two minutes. They stopped in the street in front of our house with their lights flashing. All the neighbors came out of their houses to see what
was going on. Also people on their way to work were stopping their cars to watch.
The police got out of their cars but didn’t get too close to the alligator, which was still watching Csonka, who was still barking. So everybody just stood around for a few minutes, while
more commuters stopped their cars, so by now there was a pretty big crowd out there with my dad.
Finally some animal-control officers showed up. They’re used to alligators on people’s lawns, and they handled this one in like five minutes. They snagged it with a noose, duct-taped
its mouth shut, and took it away in a van. The neighbors went back inside, and the commuters drove away, and Csonka finally shut up, and it was all over except for my mom reminding my dad that she
him not to wear his boxers outside but did he listen? No! he did not listen, etc. etc. etc. like six hundred and fifty times.
That night, when we were eating dinner, I got a text from a kid in my class saying
chan 4 now lol
. So we turned on the kitchen TV and there was our house, in a cell phone video one of the
commuters took. You could see the gator, and there was a nice close-up of my dad, holding up his holey boxers, with his belly sagging down and his hair sticking out every direction the way it does
in the morning.
I said, “Real good look, Dad.”
My dad said, “They can’t show that without my permission, can they?”
Taylor said, “I’m gonna skip school for the rest of my life.”
My mom didn’t say anything, which is not like her. She’s Cuban. She just stared at the TV until the alligator story was over. Then she got up and walked out of the kitchen. About a
minute later we heard the patio door open and close. We went to look, and there was my mom on the patio next to the pool, standing over my dad’s boxers.
Which were on fire.
When they were totally burned up, she splashed some pool water on the ashes and walked back into the house, right past my dad, not saying a word. I don’t know if they talked about it
later. I do know that the next morning, when he went out to get the paper, he wore a bathrobe.
But my point (I bet you forgot I had a point) is that stuff like that—an alligator on the lawn—happens all the time in Miami. You get used to it, the way you get used to palm trees
and hurricanes and hardly ever needing a sweater. Also you get used to hearing Spanish. Like my mom; she grew up in the U.S. and speaks English without an accent, but when her family’s
around—all the aunts and uncles and cousins, like seventeen thousand of them—she switches to Spanish. I grew up understanding it, and at Culver Middle School some of my classes are
totally in Spanish. Other kids take classes in French and German. Culver is a language magnet school. What it’s mainly a magnet for, if you want to know the truth, is nerds. But I’m
basically a nerd myself—I admit it—so I like it.