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Mr gedrick and me, p.4
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       Mr. Gedrick and Me, p.4

           Patrick Carman
 
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  “This day is never going to end,” Fergus said.

  “Are you hearing this?” Amelia asked.

  Fergus walked farther down the hallway, listening carefully. “It’s coming from Stanley’s old room.”

  Mom held the can of soda out to Fergus. “Next time get your own drink. Stanley’s not your servant.”

  “Kid needs a work ethic,” Fergus said as he popped the top on the can. “Just doing my big brother duty.”

  Mom rolled her eyes as I crept closer to my old door. We were all standing there, and it struck me that we hadn’t been all together in one place very often lately. Strange that it was the hallway we were meeting in, but at least we were together.

  “Someone needs to tell him to keep it down in there,” Amelia said.

  It sounded like Mr. Gedrick was using a bunch of power tools and hammers to build a fort in my old room. I was dying to get a look in there.

  We leaned in close.

  “Excuse me, Mr. Gedrick?” Mom said in a soft voice. She knocked gently on the door. “I wonder if you might finish, um, whatever it is you’re doing in there after everyone is up tomorrow morning. How would that be?”

  The noise stopped at the sound of Mom’s voice and there was a pause, then Mr. Gedrick opened the door a pinch and looked out. The bright green of his eyeball darted back and forth between all of us, and the door shut again.

  “Mr. Gedrick is so weird,” I said. “Isn’t it great?”

  Mom seemed to feel a small surge of motherly competence and it showed on her face as she nodded at all of us. “Let that be a lesson to you. All it takes is good solid communication and things go just as they’re supposed to.”

  No sooner had she said these words than the racket started up again, louder than before.

  “This is impossible!” Amelia said. She returned to her room and slammed the door shut.

  “Don’t anyone else panic,” Mom said, but I could tell she was starting to lose her nerve.

  “I wonder what he’s building in there,” I asked. “I bet it’s a jungle gym. Or a pool table. Or a water bed!”

  “Stanley, you’re a dork,” Fergus said. He went back to our room, and right before he could shut the door, I somersaulted inside.

  “Someone get me a flyswatter. There’s a huge, stupid bug crawling around my room!” Fergus screamed.

  “Fergus, you are hilarious!” I shouted.

  “Shut up, you idiots!” Amelia yelled from down the hall.

  Three hours later, the noise from my old room hadn’t quieted one bit. About once every hour, one of us went to the door and pounded on it, yelling for Mr. Gedrick to keep it down in there. What followed was a moment of complete silence that lasted about ten seconds. It was like we’d found a wild animal and he had gone totally still, hoping for the intruder to go away. And then, thinking we had gone, the animal would move again. Mr. Gedrick would go right back to sawing and banging.

  This went on all night and well into the morning, until finally, at about three a.m., it got very quiet. Everyone was so tired we didn’t bother going down the hall to see what the result of all the noise was, and besides, we were afraid if we did Mr. Gedrick would start up again.

  It wasn’t until seven a.m. sharp the next morning that everyone woke up, not of our own willpower. No, we woke up because we smelled the bacon and the waffles and the coffee.

  BACON AND BASEBALL STATS

  We all arrived in the kitchen yawning and rubbing the sleep out of our eyes. We never woke up this early in the morning, especially Amelia and Fergus, who slept past ten a.m. in the summer. Even Mom, who had her work, wouldn’t have crawled out of bed for at least another hour, especially with Mr. Gedrick keeping her awake all night. But the smell of bacon sizzling and waffles steaming was so powerful, there was nothing we could do but get up and follow our noses like zombies.

  “You snore,” I said to Fergus as we arrived in the kitchen.

  “Do not,” Fergus said.

  I shrugged, but I’m pretty sure it was true.

  “Must have been Amelia,” Fergus added. “She snores like a chain saw.”

  “Why don’t you go back under the rock where you came from,” Amelia said.

  “Whoa,” I said as the arguing was about to go into full swing. “Check it out!”

  Mr. Gedrick was wearing an apron that said Mr. Gedrick’s Waffle House. Tips Optional. The table was covered in a gold-colored cloth and there were bright red place mats and white plates. And in the middle sat a two-foot-tall pile of steaming waffles that looked like it might fall over. There was a plate of crispy bacon, a pot of hot coffee, a jug of milk, and a big bowl of blue and red berries.

  “Okay, now I’m awake,” Fergus said. He pulled three waffles off the top of the stack and it wobbled back and forth. By the time everyone sat down the stack was cut in half and syrup was being poured and bacon was being crunched.

  Mr. Gedrick smiled at the result of his cooking.

  “Come join us, Mr. Gedrick,” I said, then I bit into the bacon and my mouth exploded with flavor. It was just-right crunchy, with a sweet and salty mix that made my toes tingle.

  “No, no, the chef has already eaten,” Mr. Gedrick said. “I was up early. Couldn’t sleep a wink last night. Someone was snoring.”

  Everyone laughed. We ate and ate and talked and talked and Mom beamed—it all felt so normal.

  “Can I see what my old room looks like?” I asked after I’d polished off my fourth waffle.

  Mr. Gedrick turned from some work at the sink with one eyebrow raised. He picked up a spatula and tapped it against the palm of his hand.

  “I think not,” Mr. Gedrick finally said.

  “I could just go around the side of the house and look in the window,” I said.

  “Not advisable,” Mr. Gedrick replied as he returned to the dishes. “There might be booby traps out there. Who can say?”

  “Booby traps? You mean like in a spy novel? What kind of booby traps?”

  Mr. Gedrick’s eyes narrowed and he turned toward me. “Not the fun kind.”

  I shivered, but I also laughed. Besides my dad, I thought Mr. Gedrick was the most mysterious, most unusual, most amazing person ever.

  “The Cubs are playing the Nationals at eleven,” Fergus said. “Okay if I head over to Ernie’s house to watch it?”

  Ernie lived seven houses down on the other side of the street. He was a baseball nut like Fergus. They were on the same team.

  Mom nodded and grabbed the last piece of bacon before anyone else could get it.

  “The Chicago Cubs,” Mr. Gedrick said wistfully. “I think Anthony Rizzo will break a hundred RBIs again this year.”

  Fergus lit up like a Christmas tree. “You know about baseball?”

  Mr. Gedrick didn’t answer, but Amelia perked right up. She was a whiz with baseball stats and it drove my brother crazy.

  “Bryce Harper will give him a run for his money,” Amelia said. “He’s the next Hank Aaron.”

  Mr. Gedrick turned to Amelia and peppered her with statistical questions about baseball.

  “How many RBIs did the great Hank Aaron have?” Mr. Gedrick asked.

  “More than a thousand,” I said through a mouthful of waffle. Some syrup dripped down my chin. “I think anyway.”

  “Two thousand two hundred and ninety-seven,” Amelia said offhandedly, like she really didn’t care one way or the other.

  “That’s correct,” Mr. Gedrick said. “How about home runs? Who has the most of those?”

  “Barry Bonds, seven hundred sixty-two,” Amelia said without hesitating. “But that’s in the new era, you know, with all the performance-enhancing quackery. I like Willie Mays the best. Six hundred sixty homers.”

  Fergus’s good mood was rapidly being swallowed up by Amelia showing off, so he decided to do some showing off of his own. “So far I’ve got eleven homers this season, and we’ve got a bunch of games to go. And I’ve thrown thirty-eight strikeouts. Double threat.”


  Amelia rolled her eyes and turned to Mom. “This is why I don’t bother coming out of my room.”

  She took a bowl of berries and stood up, and everyone else got up to leave, too.

  Mr. Gedrick stared at Fergus for a long time, and Amelia decided to stay and see where this was going.

  “Could you stop eyeballing me?” Fergus said. “It’s freaking me out.”

  “Have you really thrown thirty-eight strikeouts already this year?” Mr. Gedrick asked. He wouldn’t stop looking at Fergus, so Fergus lowered his gaze.

  “Something like that. Maybe it’s more like twenty-eight, I can’t really remember.”

  Mr. Gedrick waited until Fergus looked at him again, and he held his gaze.

  “There is nothing more insufferable than a liar. Don’t exaggerate the facts, Fergus. It will only lead to trouble.”

  “Okay, okay,” Fergus said. “You don’t have to make such a big deal about it.”

  “Oh, but I do,” Mr. Gedrick said. “You will find, if you haven’t already, that a liar is very easy to spot and very much mistrusted. Don’t go down that road, not ever.”

  I could tell Fergus’s pride was hurt. I felt sorry for him, but he asked for it. Fergus hates getting caught in a lie, especially in front of me and Amelia.

  Amelia smiled sarcastically and shook her head.

  “Time to do the dishes,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Eight hands are faster than two by one hundred times.”

  “Is that really true?” I asked. I sensed the possibility of magic showing up in the kitchen again.

  “Of course it’s not true,” Fergus said. “Just ask Amelia. She’s the numbers nut.”

  Amelia glared at Fergus.

  “Stanley, you shuttle the dishes over here,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Fergus, you’re on drying. Amelia, store the extra food. I’ll fill in the gaps.”

  Mom stood up and started to help, but I stopped her. “We got this, Mom. Go on and get ready for work and by the time you get back the kitchen will be sparkling. All we need is a pinch and a twist, right, Mr. Gedrick?”

  Mr. Gedrick nodded, but he was in work mode, so his expression didn’t change.

  “Come on, runt,” Fergus said with a sigh. “Let’s get this over with.”

  Mom looked relieved at the simple idea that her kids had been fed a good breakfast and she would have a little time alone to shower and get dressed. She looked lighter than she had in months. But then the phone rang. I was standing right next to where she’d left her phone sitting, and since I was in a very helping mood, I answered the call for Mom on speakerphone.

  “Howdy,” I said. “Darrow residence at your service.”

  “Hello? Elsa?” the person on the other end said. “It’s me, Huxley.”

  “Oh, good morning, Mr. Harvold. It’s early for you to call.”

  “Early? It’s eight a.m. I’ve already jogged five miles and put in seven phone calls. Wait—eight phone calls, including this one.”

  “Well, that is a lot,” Mom said. “What can I do for you, Mr. Harvold?”

  “The deadline for the community arts center plans has been moved up a week. I hope that’s not going to be a problem.”

  Mom snatched the phone from the table but fumbled with the speakerphone button. “Uh . . . I don’t know, Mr. Harvold. I was hoping for six more weeks. It’s a very ambitious—”

  “Wonderful, five more weeks it is then,” Mr. Harvold butted in. “And I’d like to come by and see how it’s going. Say tomorrow afternoon?”

  “Oh, you don’t want to drive all the way out here to the suburbs. It’s coming along splendidly. Just need a pinch and a twist is all.”

  “A what and a what?”

  “Never mind,” she said. “Really, there’s no need to come visit.”

  “I’ll see you tomorrow then, say noon. Looking forward to it.”

  And then Huxley hung up on Mom.

  “Mr. Harvold? Hello? Hello?” Mom said, but it was no use.

  “Your boss sounds . . . demanding,” Mr. Gedrick said as he toweled off a plate.

  “You don’t know the half of it. He’s a real climber. I think he has plans to take over the company. Unfortunately, this community arts center is a big part of his big plan. Ugh.”

  “I know the type,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Be careful, Ms. Darrow. Mr. Harvold may have plans that benefit him, not you.”

  “He’s not the easiest boss in the world,” Mom said. “But it’s me that’s the problem. I just can’t seem to get inspired lately.”

  Mr. Gedrick didn’t say anything else. He went back to the dishes instead.

  “You can do it, Mom!” I said. “We’ll be done in here in a zip and a zap—then the whole day is yours to work work work.”

  Mom decided to skip the shower and just change her clothes. When she walked back to the kitchen a few minutes later, we were all standing in a line. The kitchen was cleaned to perfection, and the coffeepot had been moved to her table with a fresh cup.

  “Everything all right?” Mr. Gedrick asked as he took off his apron and folded it many times. He folded and folded, and the apron got smaller and smaller. Then he placed it in the inside pocket of his green felt jacket.

  “You gotta show me how you do that trick,” Fergus said.

  “It’s not a trick,” I said. “It’s magic.”

  Fergus rolled his eyes.

  Mom shook her head, confused by what she was seeing and wondering if she was still half-asleep. “You guys are getting really good at cleaning this kitchen.”

  “Eight hands are one hundred times faster than two, remember?” I said.

  She took a deep breath and looked at her table full of empty paper. “Everybody out, I’ve got some serious work to do.”

  Fergus said he was going to Ernie’s house early for the game so he could wake him up and make him play catch in his backyard. Amelia had locked herself in her room. So that left just me and Mr. Gedrick in the kitchen, staring at Mom.

  “I’d like to see the garage,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Who’s joining me?”

  “I will!” I shouted. Maybe now I could finally get some weight lifting in.

  With the kitchen cleared and the leftovers put away, Mom sat down at her table and opened up her laptop. Mr. Gedrick was already in the garage, but I stayed in the opening of the door and quietly watched Mom. She stared and stared at the blank screen, but nothing happened. She tapped her pencil—tap tap tap—and placed it behind her ear. She got up and went to the refrigerator and opened the door.

  “Maybe just one more waffle.”

  I quietly pulled the door to the garage shut and stood behind it. Come on, Mom, you can do it. I know you can!

  THE PERFECT PLACE FOR A PROJECT

  Once I was in the garage, I went straight to the bench press and got into position. My hands barely reached the bar, and there were no weights on it.

  “Hey, Mr. Gedrick, would you mind giving me a little help on this?” I asked.

  But Mr. Gedrick was very busy looking around the garage, taking in its contents. We have a wall of power tools—drills and saws and sanders—and he seemed to like that.

  “Those are my dad’s tools,” I said from the bench press. “He liked to build stuff.”

  Mr. Gedrick walked over and adjusted a saw that hung on the wall, tipping it slightly to the left. He took out his field guide and jotted down a few notes, then turned toward the largest thing in the space. I was disappointed that Mr. Gedrick didn’t appear to have any interest in helping me lift the bar.

  “It’s an old Airstream,” I said as I sat up on the bench. Our garage was big, three bays. The Airstream trailer took up most of one bay, the middle of the garage was empty, and the third bay was filled with the workbench, the wall of power tools, and the bench press, plus some other junk.

  Mr. Gedrick took a long look at the Airstream. “I know what it is. A 1956 model, if I’m not mistaken.”

  “My dad was going to fix it up like a fort inside, but he never got around to
it,” I said. “So about this bench-press situation, I could really use a hand.”

  Mr. Gedrick walked right up to the trailer and touched the metal. It was round on top, not very big, all silver and shiny with a small door to go inside. The wheels seemed to be spinning in his head as he wrote down more notes in his field guide.

  Then Mr. Gedrick turned to the giant globe and his dark eyebrows lowered. He scowled at the globe, like it didn’t belong in the garage with the rest of the things.

  “What do we have here?” he asked as he walked toward it.

  “That’s my dad’s old globe. He used to show me all kinds of stuff on there. It was like exploring without leaving the house.”

  “Interesting,” Mr. Gedrick said. He spun the globe and watched it go, like he wished he could visit some of the places he saw.

  “I found Swoghollow on there,” I said. I wasn’t sure if I should mention it, because it seemed like a secret sort of thing.

  “Did you now?” Mr. Gedrick said, glancing at me. “That really is something.”

  “I know, right?” I ran to the globe and spent the next few minutes trying to locate Swoghollow, but I couldn’t find it.

  “I really did see it,” I said. But had I? Maybe I had just wanted to see it.

  “Swoghollow is hard to find,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Even if you’ve found it once before.”

  “But I really did find it,” I said. I got a feeling in the back of my throat and thought I might cry, which I really did not want to do.

  “Are you feeling angry, Stanley?” Mr. Gedrick asked.

  I spun the globe again and kept searching for Swoghollow. Something about the globe and the garage was really bothering me.

  “You spent a lot of time here with Mr. Darrow, did you not?”

  “We did like exploring this globe. It was one of my favorite things to do with him.”

  Mr. Gedrick knelt down next to me and put a hand on my shoulder. “It’s okay to be angry sometimes. How about we try to channel that feeling into something useful.”

  “Like what?” I asked.

 
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