I Got a D in Salami #2, page 1
Table of Contents
About the Authors
GROSSET & DUNLAP
Published by the Penguin Group
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2003004905
eISBN : 978-1-101-09856-1
This book is dedicated to Hank’s godfather,
Alan Berger, who had the bright idea to
introduce us—H.W. and L.O.
“HANK, WILL YOU please stop bouncing around like a jumping bean and concentrate?” my mom asked.
“This is what I do when I concentrate,” I answered.
I was hopping over to a sock that was lying on the floor of my room. When I reached the sock, I picked it up with my toes. That’s a trick I learned from one of my best friends, Ashley Wong. Ashley can pick up almost anything with her toes, including marbles. She can also tie a cherry stem into a knot using only her tongue. Those are qualities you want in a best friend.
I curled my toes around the sock until I had it in my grasp. Then I swung my leg around to the side so it was sticking straight out from my body. That’s a trick I learned from my other best friend, Frankie Townsend. His mom is a yoga teacher, and she taught him how to twist his legs around like a pretzel. Frankie has gotten so good at it that he can bring his big toe all the way up to his nose, which is also an excellent way to see if your feet smell. I never thought about this before, but my friends and I all have very talented toes. Maybe that’s why we’re friends.
When my leg was in the right position, I released the sock from my toe grasp and flicked it into the air toward my dirty laundry hamper. It was an excellent flick, if I do say so myself. The sock sailed into the hamper and landed dead center on my boxers.
“He shoots, he scores!” I yelled, doing my wiggly victory dance.
My mom shook her head. “I came in here to help you study your spelling words,” she said with a sigh. “But frankly, Hank, I have better things to do with my time than watch you play toe basketball.”
We had been studying for a while, and my Mom sounded like she was getting a little crabby. I sat down at my desk chair and got serious.
“Hit me with the next word,” I said to her. “I’m ready for it.”
“Receive,” said my mom. “Think before you answer, Hank. It’s a tricky one.”
I looked across the room, trying to see the word in my head. But instead, all I saw was my other sock, lying on the floor next to the hamper. I tried not to go for it, but I couldn’t resist. I scooted across the room on my chair, doing a three-sixty spin at the halfway point. I don’t know who invented chairs with wheels, but whoever the guy was, he was a genius.
“I thought you were going to focus, Hank,” my mom said, grabbing onto the back of my chair and bringing me to a screeching stop.
“Believe it or not, I’m trying to.”
She didn’t like that answer. She shot me one of those Mom looks that says Don’t try to fool me, young man; I see what you’re up to. I’ll bet you’ve probably gotten that look before.
“I’m serious,” I tried to explain to her. “I have this theory that if I keep moving, then my brain won’t stop and I won’t forget my spelling words. I’ll bet it works. Receive is the word, right?”
“Okay,” I said. “Receive. R, right?”
She started to answer, but I put my hand up to stop her. “Don’t tell me. Don’t tell me. Okay. Receive. R-E-C-I-E-V-E. See? Didn’t I tell you it works?”
“Hank, I hate to tell you this, but you reversed two letters.”
“Okay, okay. Don’t tell me what they are,” I said. “Receive. Okay.” I took my time and thought really hard as I spelled out the letters. “R-E-C-E-I-V-E.”
“That’s great,” my mom said. “You got it!”
I gave her a high five. It felt good to be right.
“You have just seen my new Hank Zipzer guaranteed method for getting one hundred percent,” I said. “I’m going to win the spelling contest tomorrow, Mom. I am Spelling Man, Ruler of the Alphabet.”
“Not so fast, Spelling Man,” my mom laughed. “There’s one more word left on your list.”
One word? Piece of cake. I had already learned fourteen. Fourteen words neatly packed away in my brain for tomorrow’s contest. It had taken most of the night, but it would be worth it just to see the look on Ms. Adolf’s face when I won.
Ms. Adolf, my fourth grade-teacher, was going to be amazed. Hey, I was amazed. Never before in my whole life had I ever known how to spell all—I mean all—my words correctly. Spelling is one of the hardest things on the face of the earth for me. I study. I go over and over and over my spelling words. At the time, they seem to stick to my memory. They seem to be happy in my brain. But then later, like the next morning when I really need them, they seem to have orbited off into space somewhere. Or if not space, then wherever lost spelling words go. It’s like they slip off the edge of my brain.
But this time I felt different. Tonight I was the master. I was the king of the country of Spelling.
I flung myself onto the bottom bunk of my bed and bounced around. “What’s the last word?” I asked my Mom.
“Rhythm,” she said.
That was a tough one. I knew it had a lot of letters you couldn’t hear, but exactly what they were was a total mystery to me. I flipped myself over and hung off the edge of the bed. All the blood flowed into my head, and I wondered if a person’s face could explode from doing that.
“Hank?” I could hear my Mom asking. She sounded like she was far away. It was rea
Suddenly the dust ball moved, and from behind it, two beady eyes stared out at me. The eyes moved! Then a long, snakelike tongue shot out at me with the speed of a bullet. I flew off the bed like a rocket.
“Emily!” I screamed. “Get your creepy reptile out of here!”
My sister Emily is so weird that she has an iguana for a pet. How many eight-year-old girls do you know who sleep with a large, scaly lizard in their bed at night? Why can’t she have a teddy bear like everyone else’s little sister?
Emily came racing in. She was wearing my Mets sweatshirt, which she can do because we’re about the same size. Even though she’s fifteen months younger than I am, she’s a little tall for her age and I’m a little short for mine.
“Emily, that’s my sweatshirt,” I said. “Give it back.”
“Why should I?”
“You don’t even like baseball,” I said. “You’re just trying to make me mad.”
“Will you stop yelling, Hank,” she said. “You’re scaring Katherine.”
“You got it backwards, backwad,” I said. “Katherine scared me.”
Emily bent down and coaxed Katherine out from under the bed. “Come on, girl,” she said, in her iguana-talking voice. “Come to your mommy lizard.” Could she be any weirder?
The dust ball had attached itself to Katherine’s face and was hanging off where her lips would be if iguanas had lips. She looked like a scaly Santa Claus with a mutant beard.
“How is a guy supposed to study his spelling words with that lizard hanging out under his bed?” I asked.
“Since when are you studying spelling?” Emily answered, putting Katherine on her shoulder.
“Since tonight,” I said. “We’re having a spelling contest tomorrow, and Ms. Adolf has promised that the winner gets an A in spelling on his report card. That’s going to be me.”
“I only see one problem,” said Emily. “You can’t spell. Remember?”
“Watch and learn,” I said with my most confident voice. I turned to my mom. “Rhythm. That’s the word, right?”
“That’s the one,” my mom said.
I opened my mouth to spell the word. I noticed that nothing was coming out. Suddenly, I felt a little nauseous. I knew that the word was there in my mind, but I was worried that if I tried to get it, it would loosen up and float away.
Six eyes stared at me, waiting. My mom’s blue ones, encouraging me to give it a try. Emily’s green ones, expecting me to get it wrong. Katherine’s beady ones, giving up no clue as to what goes on inside an iguana’s head. Here goes nothing, I thought.
“R-H-Y-T-” I stopped. Come on, Hank. I started again.
“R-H-Y-T-H-U-M,” I said.
“Wrong,” said Emily, as happy as a clam. “It’s r-h-y-t-h-m. There’s no U—as in U can’t spell.”
“Maybe I can’t spell, ” I said, “but at least I don’t have iguana poop on my shoulder.”
Emily looked on her shoulder, and sure enough, Katherine had left a little pool of poop there for Emily to enjoy. I laughed.
“I wouldn’t laugh if I were you,” she said. “Remember whose sweatshirt this is.”
“I’m warning you! You better wash it at least a hundred times.” I started for her, lizard and all, but Mom stopped me.
“That’s enough, you two,” she said. “Emily, take your iguana back to your room. Hank, why don’t you and Dad go over the words one more time. I’m taking my bath.”
Trust me, if there’s one person you don’t want to study your spelling words with, it’s my Dad. He’s a crossword-puzzle nut, and he knows how to spell every word in every language and their abbreviations. And on top of that, he can’t even begin to understand why spelling is hard for me.
“Just sit your butt down in your chair and study,” he says all the time. “If you study, spelling is a can’t-lose situation.”
So I walked out of my room and sat my butt down on a chair in the living room. My dad was in his favorite chair, watching a TV talk show where a bunch of grown-ups talk all at once. And they say kids have bad manners. His glasses were up on top of his head, which is where he puts them when he’s not reading or doing a crossword puzzle. He always forgets they’re up there. Lots of times, he walks around, looking for his glasses, and we have to tell him they’re on top of his head. He needs glasses to find his glasses.
“Do you want me to quiz you?” my dad asked.
Should I impress him? Should I try one word? No. I decided to just let the words rest up in my head so they would come flying out of my mouth when I needed them in class.
“Thanks, Dad,” I answered, “but I’ve studied enough. I think I’ll just get a good night’s sleep.”
I kissed him goodnight. I always kiss him on the left cheek. It’s dangerous to kiss him on the right one—you could get poked with a pencil. My dad keeps a pencil tucked behind his right ear. He keeps it there in case he suddenly remembers a word he’s been trying to think of. If you’re as much of a crossword-puzzle maniac as my dad is, you don’t want to let something as important as a four-letter word for nostril get away from you.
I went in the bathroom to get ready for bed. As I brushed my teeth, I let myself imagine what it would feel like to win the spelling contest. Ms. Adolf would smile at me for the first time ever. I closed my eyes and I saw her handing me an A. Not a paper one either, but a solid gold one, like the statues movie stars get at the Oscars. My gold A would be so heavy that I’d have trouble carrying it back to my seat. I’d put it up on my desk so that everyone in my class or passing by our door could see it. Every kid in the class would congratulate me, even the class bully, Nick “The Tick” McKelty. Oh yeah, he’d smile at me with his big snaggly teeth and say, “I wish that was mine.” That would be sweet.
I opened my eyes, looked into the mirror, and imagined my classmates slapping me on the back. I smiled. My teeth were blue from my gel toothpaste.
“Thank you very much. Yes, I am very proud of myself. Very, very proud.”
As I said the word “proud,” a big wad of toothpaste flew out of my mouth and splattered all over the bathroom mirror. I started to wipe it off with my Mets washcloth. I looked around to see if anyone was watching and then scooped a little of the gel onto my finger. I used it to write on the mirror.
“R-h-y-t-h-m,” I wrote in sparkly blue letters. I stepped back and stared at the word. For once, it was spelled correctly. I did my wiggly victory dance.
I could hardly wait for the next day. I was going to get my first A.
I MUST HAVE slept through my alarm, because the next morning I woke up ten minutes later than usual. The last thing I wanted was to be late for school—or “tardy,” as Ms. Adolf says. Ms. Adolf told us that tardy pupils don’t get to participate in spelling contests. If you’re even thirty seconds late to class, she writes a big, red T next to your name in her roll book. She once sent Ryan Shimozato to Principal Love’s office for having two T’s in a row, even though he had a sprained ankle from soccer and had to walk with crutches. I don’t know if Ms. Adolf is the meanest fourth grade teacher that ever lived, but she’s in the top three for sure.
I threw on some clothes, grabbed a waffle from the toaster, and flew out the door and into the elevator. I wished I had the time to soak the waffle in syrup, but I knew Ashley and Frankie were already waiting for me in front of our building. Frankie lives on the sixth floor and Ashley lives on the fourth. It’s so great to have your best friends live in the same building. We don’t have to schedule play dates like lots of other kids in our class. Whenever we want to get together, we just pick up the phone and say, “Meet me in the basement.” That’s where we have our clubhouse, which is also the World Hea
Frankie is an amazing magician. Ashley and I are his assistants. Magik 3 has performed in public two times. The first time, at my grandpa’s bowling league party, we were a smash hit. The second time was at Tyler King’s fourth birthday party. His family lives across the hall from me. His mom had heard how good we were at the bowling party and she offered us fifteen dollars to do a magic show at Tyler’s party. For our opening, Frankie said his special magic word, which is “Zengawii,” and made a quarter appear out of Tyler’s ear. The problem was Tyler said he wanted a million more quarters. When Frankie tried to explain that he didn’t have a million quarters, Tyler went bonkers and said he hated the zengawii man and wanted him to go back to his magic castle and never come back. He’s still saying that to everyone he sees, so we’re waiting until he calms down before we hand out our business cards in the building.
Frankie and Ashley were outside, hopping up and down to keep their feet warm. I shivered when I hit the cold air. It was the first week in November, and I could feel the New York winter just around the corner.
Unlike myself, Frankie and Ashley were dressed for the weather. Ashley was wearing a purple parka with a matching purple hat that she had decorated with rhinestones. She glues rhinestones onto all her clothes—even her tennis shoes and the frames of her glasses. That’s Ashley for you. Frankie had on a Yankees jacket.
“Did you have to wear that?” I asked him, like the loyal Mets fan that I am.
“Yes, I did, Zip,” he said, “because I dress like a winner.”
“Fine, then I’ll let you borrow my Mets sweatshirt.”
“The Mets? Those losers?”
“Our day will come,” I shot back. “Mets fans are patient.”
“You two have to stop this right now or we’ll never get to school,” said Ashley, who isn’t a baseball fan at all. Believe it or not, she watches professional Ping-Pong.
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