Authors: Nate Ball
y legs are spaghetti.
Or socks filled with pancake batter.
Or octopus tentacles.
Or wait: soggy wet beach towels.
That's it: my legs are soggy octopus tentacles in dress socks filled with spaghetti and pancake batter.
At least that's what it felt like as I rode my bike to school. I was exhausted.
And Amp was to blame for it all, of course.
He made me miss my busÂ .Â .Â . again! Third time in one week. That was a new record.
My dad drove me to school the first two times, but this time he had a big presentation at work.
So there I was, riding my bike as fast as I could to get to a spelling test that I hadn't studied for.
My life was a mess. Before my pesky blue alien crash-landed his crummy spaceship into my bedroom, I had a fairly regular life. I played baseball. I got decent grades. I slept eight to ten hours a night. Now I had Amp to worry about. It's like he travelled a bajillion miles through space and time just to get on my nerves. And oh, yeah, to scout Earth to see if it was worth invading.
My best friend, Olivia, is the only other person who knows about Amp, but she gets to go home at the end of the day.
Here's some friendly advice: never adopt an alien.
I leaned into the corner of Jacob Drive at full speed and my overly stuffed backpack almost sent me spilling to the pavement.
That's when I saw them up ahead in the middle of the street: a pack of hulking black crows standing around like a gang of misfits waiting to steal my lunch money.
Crows give me the creeps. I don't know why, but they make me uneasy. They are bad newsÂ .Â .Â . with wings.
I leaned over my handlebars, tapped into whatever strength remained in my watery legs, and rode right at them. They squawked and screeched and flew out of my way at the last possible second. “HA!” I shouted. “Out of the street, you turkeys!”
Seconds later, I roared toward the bike racks outside of Reed Elementary School. I felt like a knight returning from a successful battle, ready to give the king good news.
But my smile disappeared almost instantly.
My bike wasn't slowing down. I squeezed the brake levers on my handlebars. Nothing. I had no brakes! I was going full speed at the first bike rack!
One last thought shot through my brain before impact: THIS IS YOUR FAULT, AMP!
t least I had gotten out of the spelling test.
I was now lying in my bed trying like crazy to find a silver lining.
I wasn't dead.
And the arm that now hung in a sling wasn't my throwing arm. (I'm a lefty, but I throw right-handed. Go figure.) If you're going to dislocate your shoulder, it's best not to destroy your baseball career at the same time.
The phone rang. I could hear my mom say hello to Coach Lopez. “Apparently, somebody stole his bike brakes,” she explained to him. “I knowâweird. But Zack wanted me to mention that it's his left arm. His throwing arm sustained no damage. He even wrote that down for me. How cute is that?”
“Mom!” I yelled down, and she stopped her conversation and said, “Yes, Zacky?” But I couldn't think of how to tell her that she wasn't supposed to tell him that she was reading my instructions without making matters worse! “Nothing.” I sighed, and she went back to talking to Coach Lopez while I propped myself up in my bed.
My head was loopy from the pain pills. I felt mentally jumbled. My brain kept wandering off. My skull felt like it was filled with lemonade and goldfish.
But at least my shoulder didn't hurt too badly.
I wondered if my little bike rack incident would make the yearbook. That'd be so embarrassing, but also kind of cool if they gave my accident a whole page.
Luckily, classes were about to start when the ambulance finally arrived, but a decent-sized crowd had still hung around. I remember hearing the mix of different voices as I lay wedged between two bikes.
“Is he dead?” someone wondered.
“Who taught that idiot how to ride a bike?”
“Don't be meanâmaybe he's blind.”
“That's ridiculous, why would a blind kid ride a bike to school?”
“Who is it?”
“I think it's Shane Kerr.”
“No, that's Debbie Finster,” another kid corrected her. He sounded so sure. “Her dad is my dentist.”
“Oh, yeah, that was Debbie for sure,” a girl said sadly. I took particular interest in her use of the past tense.
Principal Luntz was the first adult on the scene. “I should have known it would be you, Zack McGee,” was all he said. He shook his head at me with a frown, as if I had meant to pop my arm bone from its socket just to avoid a spelling quiz.
The ride in the back of an ambulance was pretty much what you'd expect: it smelled like medicine, you couldn't see where you were going, and they didn't play music. Apparently, a dislocated shoulder doesn't merit using the siren, which was a little disappointing.
Now here I was, in my bed, my baseball season ruinedâand I had a combination lemonade stand and aquarium open for business in my head.
I hadn't seen the hamster-sized alien who'd made me late in the first place since I got home. He was probably hiding. Amp knew he'd get an earful when he came out. I didn't remember dozing off, but I must have.
I dreamed of crows chewing the brakes off my bike as I served them cups of cold lemonade poured directly from my nose.
Maybe we should start breaking those big white pain pills in half.