Chapter One: Barf and Bugs

Robby, Craig and Mel

Chapter One: Barf, Bugs and Baseball

On the morning of the day he made the kindergarteners throw up, Robby and a bunch of other kids were gathered around in a big circle on the blacktop before school. Alex Rosten was going to eat a bug. Alex was one of Robby’s best friends and Robby had seen Alex eat boogers, scabs, and even a glob of something that Alex said was a peanut fossil, but today Alex was going to eat a black, shiny beetle. It had icky black legs and some antlers or something coming off its head.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning and kids were laughing and joking around. But when Alex lifted the beetle towards his mouth nobody said one single word. It was quiet. Outer space quiet. The beetle must have known it was in trouble, because it started pumping its legs really fast like it was trying to run away. Dirt was flying off.

“Better chew him good,” Robby said, “or he’s going to crawl out.”

“I know how to eat a bug,” Alex said.

With that, he clamped his eyes shut, opened his mouth and tossed the bug in. One of its legs popped out between his lips and somebody screamed. But “thwerp!” he sucked it back in and gave the bug a big chew. “Crunch.”

The crunching sound made Robby’s stomach gurgle. Robby had seen Alex eat tons of stuff, and never thrown up, but the big glob of green bug juice that dripped down Alex’s chin made his legs…feel… wobbly.

“Dude, you look awful,” said Robby’s best friend, Melvin Hawkins. “You gonna yak?”

Like always, Melvin’s glasses were fogged up and he was wearing his green golf hat. It said “Ping” on the front, which Melvin said was the sound a golf ball made when you hit it with your club. Melvin’s dad was the golf pro at the country club, and Melvin had been taking golf lessons since he was like six months old. He could hit a golf ball like 10 miles.

“I’m not gonna yak,” Robby said.

Alex burped and wiped bug juice off his chin with his arm. “You know the rules. You barf, you owe me a buck.”

“I’m not gonna…barf,” said Robby.

“The dork’s gonna barf!” said Jeff Hicks. He and the other Sports Guys started laughing really loud.

Robby didn’t like Jeff too much. He and the Sports Guys spent all recess running around on the basketball courts or hogging the tether ball poles. Jeff called himself “The King of Sports” and he was the toughest kid in third grade. You didn’t mess with him. In second grade, Robby had beat Jeff in a spelling bee and Jeff had made him eat a handful of crayons.

“I’m not gonna barf,” Robby said for the third time.

“Dorks, dorks, they can’t play sports,” Jeff laughed. He walked over to Robby, put him in a headlock and gave him a noogie, rubbing his fist over the top of Robby’s head.”

Robby tried to get out of the headlock. He pushed his hands against Jeff’s arm and tried to pull his head out from under Jeff’s arm pit, but Jeff was too strong. Robby couldn’t breathe too well. He could feel his face turning red.

“Golf’s a sport,” said Melvin.

Jeff laughed. “No it’s not. My dad says golf is a hobby, like coin collecting.”   Then he smiled at his friends. “The dork, the booger eater and the coin collector.”

He started to give Robbie another noogie, but stopped when Alex said:

“Dume’s coming! Better go line up!”

All the kids watched as Principal Dume walked out of his office and across the black top. He was wearing his “Monday clothes,” jeans and a big fluffy blue sweater that made him look like cotton candy in a blue paper cone. He was holding a clipboard with a bunch of papers clamped onto it.

Most of the kids scattered. Jeff let Robby go just as Principal Dume walked up.

“Who wants to lead flag salute today?” Principal Dume asked. Nobody said anything. Leading the flag salute was for dorks.

Principal Dume looked around. He looked at Alex. He looked at Jeff. Then he looked at Robby.

“You,” he said. “Why is your face red?”

“I…” Robby looked at Jeff. Jeff made a mean face at Robby. Robby knew if he told Principal Dume that his face was red because Jeff had put him in a headlock, Jeff would pound him during recess. You never told on Jeff Hicks. Not if you wanted to live.

“I…I was holding my breath,” said Robby.”

“Good for you. You can lead flag salute. Come with me.” He walked off toward where the rest of the kids were lined up on the black top. Robby put his hands on his knees and tried to suck some air into his lungs.

“You okay, dude?” Alex asked.

“I’m okay,” said Robby. “Let’s go.”

Robby and his friends walked off to where Principal Dume was waiting for him to lead the flag salute. Each class had a yellow line painted on the blacktop where the kids had to stand each morning for the flag salute. Alex and Melvin walked over to their lines. Robby stood next to Principal Dume. He handed Robby an American flag.

“Alright, people,” Principal Dume yelled. “Today, third grader Robert Dobler will lead us in the flag salute. But before he does, I have something to tell you.”

Principal Dume looked down at his clipboard and started reading.

“Oak Park Jr. Baseball League is coming toOak Park!” read Principal Dume. “Anyone can try out. Anyone can play.”

“Alright!” shouted Jeff Hicks. “Baseball!”

“Tryouts will be on March first,” read Principal Dume. “Hm. That’s six weeks from now. There will be two leagues for each grade level: an A league for those of you who know your way around a baseball field, and a B league for beginners. B is, after all, for beginner, right?”

He held up his clipboard with the papers clamped to it. “I have flyers here that will tell you how to sign up. So anyone who wants to play baseball, please see me after flag salute and I’ll give you a flyer.”

Principal Dume looked down at Robby.

“Now then” he said. “It is time for flag salute. Anyone wearing a hat or a helmet, please take it off.” Principal Dume pointed to Robby. “Begin.”

“Um. I pledge allegiance,” Robby said. But as he did a white ball came flying out of nowhere and—WHAM!—slammed right into his stomach. It felt like Robby’s guts were exploding. Like somebody had shot off fireworks under his shirt. Robby dropped the flag and flopped onto the ground like a fish.

“Who threw that baseball?” Principal Dume yelled.

Robby felt gravel digging into his face, so he rolled onto his back. The sky was filled with puffy, white clouds. Everybody was upside down. He sucked air, but couldn’t breathe.

Somebody yelled: “Dorks, dorks, they can’t play sports!”

Looking at all the upside down kids made Robby dizzy. His stomach flip flopped like it had when Alex ate the bug. Ugh. Robby closed his eyes and saw the big glob of bug juice dripping down Alex’s face. He clamped his mouth shut. Oh no.

Principal Dume grabbed him by the shoulders and lifted him back onto his feet. His legs were wobbly. He opened his eyes and still saw bug slime. A big, black beetle was crawling up his throat. Its legs were pumping, scratching his throat.

“Better stand back guys,” Alex said. “Robby looks like he’s finally going to…”

“Baseballs may only be thrown at lunch!” yelled Principal Dume. “And they may not be thrown during flag salute!”

“BLURP!”

Principal Dume jumped back as Robby spewed green goo onto the first row of kindergartners. Three-foot-high kids screamed for their mommies. One of them slipped and fell down. Principal Dume flailed his arms and his clipboard sailed up into the air. The baseball flyers came loose and floated all over the place like snow.

“BLURP!” Six of the kindergartners threw up too! It sounded like somebody was throwing buckets of water onto the blacktop.

Robby tried to cover his mouth, but he was too late and more vomit splashed onto the kindergartners. A kid in the front row was so green he looked like Kermit the Frog.

A second grader dropped her books and “BLURP” Then another.

Pretty soon kids were spewing goo all over the place. BLURP! BLURP! BLURP!

Melvin and Alex grabbed Robby by the shirt.

“Awesome!” screamed Melvin. “You are the Pied Piper of barf!”

“Teachers, please take your children to their….classes!” Principal Dume screamed.

Robby clenched his eyes together and wrapped his hands around his mouth. His legs were wobbly. He didn’t know where his backpack was. There was a piece of paper stuck to his shirt.

Principal Dume put his face right in front of Robby’s. His glasses were fogged and his breath smelled awful.

“Did you see who threw the ball?” he said. “Did you see who did it?”

Robby’s head hurt, he wasn’t thinking straight. He felt like he was gonna blow chunks again. He said two words.

“Jeff Hicks.”

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