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Mr gedrick and me, p.3
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       Mr. Gedrick and Me, p.3

           Patrick Carman
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  Mr. Gedrick’s eyebrow went up again and he looked toward our kitchen. He seemed happy about this turn of events, like the kitchen was where he had wanted to go from the moment he’d arrived.

  Dirty dishes were piled in the sink. The table was filled with half-eaten food. A second table, in the corner, was covered with Mom’s work stuff. The floors were dirty, the counters were cluttered, and the garbage can was overflowing. Mr. Gedrick frowned when his eyes landed on a teetering stack of pizza boxes on the floor.

  “Oh my,” Mr. Gedrick said. He lowered his head and surveyed the situation. It looked like he was forming a battle plan.

  “It’s his turn to clean the kitchen,” I said, pointing at Fergus.

  Fergus lowered his gaze on me. “Zip it, nerd.”

  Mr. Gedrick had his pointer out again and as he moved around the kitchen he started picking things up. First it was a dishrag flipped up and over his head. It landed in Amelia’s hand. Then the little pantry door with the cleaning supplies opened and the mop flew out. Did Mr. Gedrick pick it up and throw it or did it take flight by itself? I had no idea as the mop landed in Fergus’s hands. The water turned on at the sink and Mr. Gedrick kicked a little bench over where I could stand and help with the dishes. Mr. Gedrick glanced at me and nodded.

  “Everyone get busy,” he said. “This shouldn’t take more than a pinch and a twist.”

  “A pinch and a twist?” I asked as Fergus wet the mop in the sink.

  “Or maybe a twist and a pinch,” Mr. Gedrick answered offhandedly. “We shall see.”

  Mr. Gedrick looked toward the front door and nodded once, then he returned to his work.

  Mom had finally succeeded in sending the neighbor away. I could see her coming toward the kitchen when the doorbell rang again.

  “This can’t be happening,” she said. “I’ll get it!”

  In the kitchen, the dishes were flying by as Mr. Gedrick washed them and I dried them and the floor was getting mopped and the counters were being scrubbed. It all happened so fast that none of us had time to complain. Mr. Gedrick pulled out two fresh trash bags as I fell behind on the drying, and in no time flat, all the garbage on the counters was packed up and the bags were tied shut and set on the back porch.

  Fergus finished mopping, or the mopping finished Fergus, I couldn’t say which. It was like he only hung on to the mop and it was twirling him around the kitchen. The floors had never sparkled so brightly. The mop was put away and everyone dashed to the sink to finish the dishes.

  Something weird was going on here. I kept glancing at Fergus and Amelia and I could tell they felt the same way. They couldn’t believe the kitchen was suddenly as clean as it had ever been, but they also couldn’t help but smile at the result. Was it magic, or was it a pinch and a twist, like Mr. Gedrick had said? One thing was for sure: I was starting to like whatever shenanigans Mr. Gedrick had brought to my house.

  The kitchen was spotless, but Mr. Gedrick went around one more time as we stood together and watched—he nudged the toaster a little straighter, wiped a small smudge on the refrigerator door, and turned to us. He put his finger to his lips and made the shhhhhhhh sound, like we were all in on some big secret. And then he winked with one of those bright green eyes of his and for the first time I saw him smile. It wasn’t a big smile; it was a small crafty one, just at the corner of his mouth. He was pleased with himself. And, I thought, pleased with his helpers.

  That’s when Mom arrived in the kitchen.

  “We helped!” I yelled, because it seemed like the right thing to say.

  Mom had walked into the kitchen ready to drag Mr. Gedrick outside by his red tie if she had to, but then she became more confused than ever. Mom loved tidy things, like her beautiful office in downtown Chicago. She’d missed this kind of order and precision, I could tell. But how in the world did it happen? She pinched herself, maybe wondering if she had been asleep and dreaming at her table. She twisted all around, looking in every direction.

  “You see there,” Mr. Gedrick said. “A pinch. And a twist.”

  I thought this was amazing and I smiled like when I figure out a tough math problem all on my own.

  Mom didn’t seem to know what to say. Her life had recently been turned upside down, and here it was being tumbled in a dryer all over again.

  “Children,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Might I have a moment alone with your mother?”

  Fergus got a stern look on his face, like he was the man of the house.

  “You two go ahead,” Fergus said to me and Amelia. “I’ll keep an eye on things here.”

  Amelia glared at Fergus. She wasn’t going to be pushed around, not by a baseball-loving nincompoop like Fergus.

  “Come on, Amelia,” I said, pulling her toward the hall. “Let’s go move all my stuff into Fergus’s room!”

  This was the cruelest thing she could do to her older brother, so she followed me out of the kitchen.

  I stopped short in the living room as Fergus asked Mr. Gedrick a question.

  “If I turn the TV back on, will it work?”

  “I don’t see why not,” Mr. Gedrick answered with a twinkle in his eye. “Is there something wrong with it?”

  Fergus backed slowly into the living room until he was standing right next to me. “I’m going to be sitting right here, Mom. And I’ll have my baseball bat.”

  “I don’t think a baseball bat will help with the television set,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  Fergus eyed Mr. Gedrick warily and kept backing up, and then he was sitting on the couch. He decided not to go to his room and get the baseball bat after all.

  The TV came back on and all three of us inched our way back toward the kitchen door. There was no way we were going to miss this. We hid there so we could hear what they were saying.

  “Look, Mr. Gedrick, I don’t know what to tell you,” Mom started. She didn’t seem to know what to say. “This is all very confusing. How did you even find us?”

  “You found me,” Mr. Gedrick said like Mom was being totally dense. “Obviously.”

  Mom didn’t understand this, but I did.

  “You can’t expect to live here with us. We haven’t even talked about how much that would cost.”

  Mr. Gedrick slowly reached out his green-sleeved arm and handed Mom some papers.

  “All the appropriate background checks and references,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  She looked through the material and seemed satisfied.

  “I know how hard things have been for you,” Mr. Gedrick said, lowering his arm and placing both hands in the pockets of his felt jacket. “For the time you need me, I can shoulder some of the burden. I can help if only you’ll let me, and my price is surprisingly reasonable. We can work all that out later.”

  Mom seemed to think and think and think. She didn’t say a word. After about ten seconds she nodded ever so slightly.

  “Your things are on the front porch,” she said. “Someone left them there, though I told them not to.”

  “Ah yes, my things,” Mr. Gedrick said excitedly. “I’ll have that all cleaned up before I make your evening tea. Not a problem.”

  “My evening tea?” Mom asked.

  “Well, of course,” Mr. Gedrick said. “But first I need to get Fergus to practice and then I will put my things in order. It won’t take more than a splish and a splash.”

  “A splish and a splash?” Mom said.

  Mr. Gedrick went toward the living room and found us all standing next to the door. “Fergus, you’ll be late. Better get your glove and meet me out front.”

  “I already have a ride,” Fergus said. “And you don’t have a car.”

  “Nonsense,” Mr. Gedrick replied. “I’ve canceled your ride and my car will be arriving momentarily.”

  I didn’t see how Mr. Gedrick could have canceled my brother’s ride, but then again, he’d just helped us clean the kitchen in four minutes flat. Fergus looked at Mom.

  “You okay with this?”

  Mom seemed to ha
ve changed her mind about Mr. Gedrick, as she shrugged.

  “I suppose so,” she said.

  Mr. Gedrick followed Fergus down the hall, where Fergus threw a fit as I jumped up and down on his bed. He grabbed his glove and baseball shoes and yelled at me. “Don’t touch any of my stuff, wimp!”

  Mr. Gedrick looked at me. I think maybe he knew he could trust me. “How about you come with us? You can tidy all this up when we return.”

  “No problem!” I said.

  And that’s how it all began with Mr. Gedrick.

  It would get a lot weirder before the summer was over.


  Apparently while Fergus was putting on his baseball shoes, Mr. Gedrick’s car showed up in our driveway. I wished I could have seen it drive up, but I was too busy following Mr. Gedrick around the house, wondering what he would do next. Would there have been a driver? I had no idea! All I knew was what Mr. Gedrick said.

  “Fred has arrived. We best not keep him waiting.”

  “Who’s Fred, your driver?” I asked as I tried to pull Fergus up off the floor. My brother was a heavy guy, so I wasn’t making any progress.

  “You have your own driver?” Fergus asked as he swatted me away and kept tying his baseball shoes.

  “Come along, boys,” Mr. Gedrick said. “As I’ve already said. Fred is waiting.”

  I ran to the front door and pulled it open. Before I could say anything Fergus was next to me on the porch and we were both staring at the driveway.

  “That’s the dumbest car I’ve ever seen,” Fergus said. “I’m not getting in that thing.”

  “Oh, but you are,” Mr. Gedrick said, glancing at his watch, which had hands that looked like lightning bolts. “In fact, we need to hurry. You’re nearly late.”

  “Where’s Fred?” I asked. I looked around the front of the house for a man dressed like a driver.

  “Why, he’s right there,” Mr. Gedrick said as he pointed at the car.

  Fred was the smallest automobile I’d ever seen. There were only two seats tightly packed up close to the dashboard, which was made of shiny wood. Fred looked like it was built for a seven-year-old to race around a go-kart track. It was painted bright red and there was no roof.

  “I don’t think we’re all going to fit,” I said. “It’s too small. But I do like Fred. He’s definitely my kind of transportation.”

  Mr. Gedrick walked over to Fred and popped the tiny trunk. He dug his hands around in there for a while and there were noises like metal bumping against other pieces of metal.

  “What are you doing, Mr. Gedrick?” I asked.

  He didn’t answer me, but a few seconds later he pulled out a little round contraption with two wheels. It didn’t seem like it could have fit inside of the trunk, but there it was. Mr. Gedrick carried the round thingamabob to the passenger’s side of the car and set it on the pavement. He pulled some tools out of his green felt jacket and started doing some work where I couldn’t see. When he stood back up, there was a sidecar attached to Fred’s door.

  “Whoa! I call dibs on the sidecar!” I yelled. I ran as fast as I could so Fergus couldn’t get there first and jumped inside. It was tight, but I totally fit.

  Mr. Gedrick went to the driver’s side and got in. He started Fred and it sounded like a wimpy lawn mower. Fergus climbed over me and got in on his side. His knees were in his chest. Mr. Gedrick didn’t fit much better, and the steering wheel rested on the tops of his knees. Fergus and I watched as Mr. Gedrick strapped on a pair of driving goggles, which made him look even nuttier.

  “Are you sure this thing is safe?” Fergus asked, but hearing the sputtering sound of the engine as it warmed up, he laughed. “With an engine like that, it can’t possibly do over twenty.”

  Mr. Gedrick smiled that slight smile in the corner of his mouth and grabbed the stick shift with his long, elegant fingers. “Buckle up and hold on. I believe Fred is in one of his moods.”

  As soon as Fergus and I snapped our seat belts closed, Mr. Gedrick slammed the gearshift into reverse and Fred bolted from the driveway like a rocket leaving for orbit. A split second later, Fergus and I were thrown back in our seats as Mr. Gedrick switched to first gear and Fred peeled out toward the ballpark.

  “This is the best car in the history of cars!” I said.

  Fred drove close to the ground, just an inch or two over the pavement, so it felt like going a hundred miles an hour when we made a hard left out of the neighborhood. Fred went up on two wheels and I ended up four feet off the ground as we reached the widest part of the turn, then we crashed back down on all six wheels and wobbled like crazy. We were on the sidewalk for a short distance and Fergus yelled as he saw a woman walking her dog up ahead. The dog and the woman jumped into someone’s front yard, but Mr. Gedrick was already back on the road by then, slamming the gear into second, third, and fourth. Fred went up on his back wheels and screeched through an intersection.

  “Okay, okay!” Fergus shouted. “I get it! Fred is fast. He’s also dangerous!”

  “This is awesome!” I yelled.

  “You should try sitting here when he’s angry,” Mr. Gedrick yelled into the driving wind. He shivered like it was a ride we wouldn’t want to take. “Be there in a jiffy.”

  Fergus closed his eyes as we raced through another intersection and swerved around two cars, and when he opened them again, we had arrived at the ballpark.

  “There you have it,” Mr. Gedrick said as he pushed the goggles up on his forehead. “Tip-top, head to toe.”

  We’d driven how far? Seven miles? How had we arrived so quickly? Time seemed to bend to the will of Mr. Gedrick.

  “I like Fred,” I said. “He’s my new best friend.”

  “I’ll return at eight p.m. sharp,” Mr. Gedrick said, staring up into the sky. He seemed to be marking the location of the sun. “Throw hard, run fast.”

  These were words I’d heard my dad say to Fergus: Throw hard, run fast. I could see Fergus remembering, too, but he shook his head and got out of the car without saying anything about it.

  “Ta-ta,” Mr. Gedrick said, and the car raced away.

  As we made our way back to the house, I wondered how Mr. Gedrick could know those words. It wasn’t possible. Dad had said them before every practice and every game.

  Mr. Gedrick slowed down, patting the dashboard like he was trying to soothe a savage beast. Something about seeing the ballpark made his shoulders slump. He took a deep breath and sat taller in the seat.

  “You can do this,” he said.

  “Do what?” I asked from the sidecar. He seemed to have forgotten I was a stowaway on the trip.

  “Oh, just encouraging Fred,” Mr. Gedrick said, but I didn’t think that was true. It sounded to me like he was talking to himself. “Let’s get you home so you can set up your new room and I can set up mine.”

  Mr. Gedrick pressed harder on the gas pedal and we sped toward my house.


  By the time Fergus returned home from practice with Mr. Gedrick, his room had been taken over by a nine-year-old boy. And that boy was me!

  “How do you like it?” I asked with a big, toothy grin on my face. I was standing on my bed, which I’d shoved right next to Fergus’s bed. It was like one giant bed taking up half the room. Getting my bed in there had been almost impossible. It’s like ten times bigger than I am. The dang thing had me pinned against the wall twice and I nearly suffocated both times.

  “My life is over,” Fergus said as he stood in the doorway. He tossed his glove into the closet and leaned heavily against the wall next to the door.

  “No way!” I said as I jumped up and down between the two beds. “Look, I brought all my best toys and games and organized them in boxes so they’re easy to find. You want Monopoly? I got Monopoly!”

  I leapt from the bed and pulled out the game, then placed it carefully back in its spot next to Risk and Sorry!

  “And check out these posters!” I said, pointing to the ceiling above
the beds. Fergus looked up and saw Star Wars, Wimpy Kid, and Harry Potter posters covering what had once been a sheet of white nothingness.

  “I have to admit,” Fergus said, “they do liven up the place.”

  “This is going to be amazing!” I yelled. I was practically jumping out of my underwear I was so excited.

  Fergus shook his head. He looked tired from practice and a little freaked out from driving at breakneck speed in a car named Fred.

  “Keep your stuff in those boxes and don’t touch any of my things,” Fergus said. “And stay off my bed.”

  “No problem, roomie!” I shouted. I couldn’t believe my big brother was going to let me stay in his room. I was sure Fergus would pitch a monster fit and throw my stuff out in the hallway.

  Fergus sat down on the one chair in our room, the one that goes with the desk piled high with laundry. “You’re going to have to pay rent, you know.”

  I stopped jumping on my bed. “What kind of rent? I can barely keep up with the baseball cards and candy I need to survive.”

  Fergus looked around the room and pondered. “Make my bed every morning and do all my laundry. And when I don’t feel like it, you do my other chores.”

  I weighed my options: sleep in the hallway, sleep in my sister’s room, or break out the tent and sleep in the backyard. The backyard could be fun, but rooming with Fergus? Way better. I kind of liked chores anyway; they gave me something to do while everyone ignored me. Plus think of all the cool stuff I could do with Fergus now that we were rooming together. How bad could a few chores be?

  “You got a deal,” I said. “But I’m not folding your underwear.”

  We shook on it, and then Fergus made me go to the kitchen and get him a soda.

  “Why don’t you have a glass of water instead?” Mom said when I got to the kitchen and pulled an orange soda out of the fridge.

  “It’s not for me. It’s for Fergus.”

  Mom’s eyes narrowed. “You don’t have to get things for him. He’s older, but he’s not your boss.”

  That was when the racket started. Mom took the can of soda from me and we rushed for the hallway. Fergus and Amelia were already standing outside their rooms.

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