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Mr gedrick and me, p.8
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       Mr. Gedrick and Me, p.8

           Patrick Carman
 
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  “Oh yes, sir, I can do it. You don’t need to worry about me.”

  “I’ll let myself out,” Huxley said as the sound of a saw got into full swing again. He smiled uncomfortably at Mom. I crawled to the door in record time, slipped out, and hightailed it for the garage.

  BOB’S NEW HABITAT

  “Mom, come see what we built!” I yelled as I opened the door that connected the garage to the kitchen. A few hours had passed since Huxley’s visit, and I’d told Mr. Gedrick everything I’d seen. He’d said “I see” and “fascinating” a lot, but then he seemed to lose interest.

  “What’s for dinner?” Fergus asked as he breezed into the kitchen wearing his baseball clothes.

  Mom put her pencil behind her ear but didn’t get up. “Hello to you, too.”

  “Is this going to be another one of those make-my-own-dinner days?” Fergus asked impatiently. “I thought having a butler was going to include grub.”

  “Mr. Gedrick’s not a butler,” I said. “He’s our nanny. And besides, he’s been helping me work on something in the garage all day. It’s cool, want to see?”

  “What I want to see is a sandwich, some chips, and a Coke,” Fergus complained.

  I gave up on Fergus and ran down the hall. When I opened Amelia’s door without even asking her, she chased me back into the living room.

  “Come on, guys, you’ve got to see this,” I said.

  “Who gave Stanley sugar?” Amelia asked.

  “Wasn’t me, I was out kicking butt on the baseball field,” Fergus said. He guzzled down half a can of soda.

  “If baseball didn’t exist, you’d be a formless blob of cells with no purpose in life,” Amelia said.

  Fergus burped then returned fire from the couch. “Sounds like you’re speaking from experience, blob face.”

  Amelia stared daggers at Fergus’s face and clenched her pencil like she wanted to stab it into his arm.

  “Everyone stop talking,” Mom said, and she looked at me. “I’d love to see what you’ve been building out there. We all would. Wouldn’t we?”

  She glared at Fergus and Amelia, and everyone followed me into the garage. Mr. Gedrick had his green felt jacket back on and he was wiping sawdust off his shiny shoes. When he stood up, everyone was together next to the workbench.

  “You guys built that?” Amelia asked.

  “I know, right?” I said. “It’s Bob’s new habitat!”

  “Great,” Fergus mumbled. He gets extra cranky when he’s tired. “That’s all we need. A cage for a lizard we can’t even find.”

  “Not true,” I said. “I found Bob under the house. And also this cool Indiana Jones whip thing!”

  I grabbed the rope from the corner of the garage and unwound it, then I whipped it back and forth and it got wrapped around my legs. “Amazing, right?”

  “You went under the house?” Mom asked. “All by yourself?”

  “I sure did,” I said. “Bob was under the house and he needed saving, so I went down there and found him. And this cool rope!”

  “Yeah, we get that you found a rope,” Amelia said. She took a closer look at the thing we’d built. It was made of long sheets of clear acrylic enclosing the outside and had all kinds of weirdly shaped wooden things inside. The cage wasn’t exactly a work of art, but it was definitely interesting. “It’s . . . well, it’s . . . bigger.”

  “It sure is,” I said. “We could easily fit ten more Bobs in there. He’ll never want to leave his cage again. Right, Mr. Gedrick?”

  I didn’t even wait for Mr. Gedrick to answer. I was so excited I went right into explaining all the power tools we’d used. I explained each one in gory detail—the band saw, the staple gun, the nail gun, and the power drill.

  “Stanley used the power tools?” Mom asked. “I’m not sure he’s old enough to do that.”

  “It was all very safe,” Mr. Gedrick answered. “We took every precaution.”

  “And look,” I said, holding out my hands. “I still have all my fingers.”

  “It’s a nice habitat, honey,” Mom said. “And I’m glad you found Bob. I bet he was lonely down there all by himself.”

  Fergus was less positive about the whole thing. “Dad wouldn’t let me use the power tools until I was twelve. Stanley is like five. It’s not fair.”

  “I’m nine,” I said. I looked at Amelia. “Do I look like I’m five?”

  “Leave him alone,” Amelia said. “You’re just mad you didn’t find Bob or build him a new place to live. Because you’re too busy being a selfish jerk.”

  “That’s enough, Amelia,” Mom said. She looked at Mr. Gedrick for some help, but Mr. Gedrick just looked at the whole family with a thoughtful expression. Fergus stormed off, but Amelia patted me on the shoulder. “It’s a neat cage. And you look like a nine-year-old to me. How about we do the next project together?”

  I felt a warm, fuzzy feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time. “Do you think we could get Fergus to help us, too?”

  Amelia looked in the direction Fergus had gone, then over at Mr. Gedrick. “Don’t get your hopes up, but I’ll see what I can do.”

  “Sweet! Wanna try my new whip?” I asked, holding it out to her.

  Amelia put her hands up and shook her head. “No thanks. But I’ll tell you this—you guys have given me more inspiration, just the thing I needed.”

  Mr. Gedrick was noticeably happy about the way Amelia was helping me out. He smiled at her and she nodded as I whirled the whip around my head like a cowboy until it tangled over my shoulders.

  Mom went back to her own work and left me, Mr. Gedrick, and Amelia in the garage. Fergus was probably locked away in his room, still wishing for a sandwich, and we all knew better than to go in there.

  “Maybe it’s time we looked at your plans,” Mr. Gedrick said. “The cage was just a warm-up. And it’s really quite basic. We need real plans for the big project.”

  “And we need a real architect,” I said. “Like you, Amelia.”

  Amelia couldn’t help but smile. She liked being called an architect.

  “Should we have a look?” Mr. Gedrick asked.

  Amelia went back to her room and returned with the tube of paper. She looked at Mr. Gedrick like she was afraid she might let him down. “I still need to make some adjustments, but I think it’s getting close.”

  “I’m sure it’s amazing,” I said. “I wish we could get Fergus in on this. He’s really good with the power tools.”

  “Don’t worry about him,” Amelia said. “He’s such a jerk anyways. We don’t need Fergus.”

  “I’m not so sure about that,” Mr. Gedrick said. He put his hands in the pockets of his green felt jacket. “Wouldn’t it be better if you all did this together, as a family?”

  I could tell Amelia wanted to disagree. Fergus made her crazy. But it obviously meant a lot to Mr. Gedrick.

  “We can’t make him help us, but it’s fine with me if he joins in,” Amelia said, and then she turned to the rolled-up tube of paper. “Let’s see what you guys think of the plan and we can figure out what to do about Fergus later.”

  Mr. Gedrick thought about this idea for a second then nodded once.

  “I’ll need something to hold the corners down,” Amelia said as she removed the rubber band from the tube.

  “No problem,” I said. I left the garage through the side door and went into the backyard. A few seconds later I was back, holding four smooth stones. “Will these work?”

  Amelia nodded and went to the workbench, where she unrolled the plans and set one rock on each of the four corners.

  “Look at all these lines and all that shading and the measurements!” I said. “This is totally awesome!”

  Mr. Gedrick took a long look at the plans. He leaned down close and moved his head from side to side, taking in all the details. When he stood back up straight there was a long pause. Mr. Gedrick took out his field guide and wrote something in there.

  “It’s ambitious,” he said. Another pause and
then he looked at Amelia. “But if we can do it, it will be brilliant.”

  Amelia smiled from ear to ear. She looked like a little light had come on inside her.

  “What are we waiting for?” I said. “Let’s do this!”

  And so we did.

  WEEDWACKING AND YARD GNOMES

  Fergus had a baseball game the next day and he was looking for a warm-up partner. What I really wanted to do was work on the project in the garage, but Mr. Gedrick said the yard had to be “dealt with” first. Whatever that meant. I could tell my brother was mad because Mr. Gedrick was planning to let me use the power tools, but he ended up letting me play catch with him anyway. I was pretty sure it was because there was no one else to ask, but that was okay. I was kind of surprised he asked me at all, because the truth is I wasn’t that great at catching or throwing.

  “Fire it in here,” I said from one side of the backyard. “I can handle it.”

  My brother shook his head like he really wished I wasn’t his only option. He threw the ball and, man, it was a heater. It nearly took my head off.

  “I got a glove on that one!” I yelled as I ran back toward the fence to find the ball. I’d basically jumped out of the way and thrown my glove at Fergus’s fastball.

  “You can do this, Stanley,” Fergus said. “Just toss it right back at me. It’s not that hard.”

  Easy for you to say, I thought. I ran forward two or three steps and launched the ball in Fergus’s general direction. The ball sailed up on the roof, rolled to the top of the eave, and disappeared.

  “This is hopeless,” my brother said.

  “Man, did you see how far that went?” I said. “That was awesome.”

  We walked around to the front of the house and found Mr. Gedrick mowing the lawn.

  “Hey, have you ever played catch?” Fergus yelled into the yard. But Mr. Gedrick didn’t hear him, so he walked out onto the grass and stood in Mr. Gedrick’s way.

  “Found it,” I yelled over the hum of the mower. The ball had landed in a flowerpot, and I dug it out. I was only a few feet away from Fergus, so I underhanded it to him. It bounced off the lawn mower and landed at his feet.

  “Want to play some catch?” Fergus asked, picking up the ball in case Mr. Gedrick still couldn’t hear him. Mr. Gedrick turned off the lawn mower and the two of them stared at each other.

  “Hello?” Fergus said, like maybe Mr. Gedrick was in some kind of yard-work trance or something. “Anybody in there?”

  Mr. Gedrick walked over to the garage and returned with a Weedwacker. “If you’ll help me whip this yard into shape, I’ll practice with you. I can catch, you can pitch.”

  “Hey, I’ll run the Weedwacker for free,” I said. “Let me at that thing.”

  I could tell Fergus wanted to say no to Mr. Gedrick’s offer. Our yard was in bad shape: dandelions galore, overgrown grass, and flower beds full of weeds. I happened to know for a fact that Fergus hated yard work more than Brussels sprouts, and Brussels sprouts made him want to barf. But showing Mr. Gedrick how fast he could pitch? That would be priceless.

  “You got a deal,” Fergus said, grabbing the Weedwacker from Mr. Gedrick.

  “Foiled again,” I said. “What’s my job?”

  Mr. Gedrick looked around and his eyes landed on the weedy flower beds.

  “This is totally lame,” I complained, but I went to work anyway.

  Unfortunately for us, the yard turned out to be a much bigger deal than we’d imagined. Right after Mr. Gedrick finished mowing the lawn he went over to Fred and started taking flowers out of the trunk. As Fergus trimmed and I weed pulled, the flowers kept coming. It didn’t seem possible that the tiny car could hold so many flowers, but more and more kept showing up.

  Fergus finished edging the lawn with the Weedwacker and the lawn seemed greener than ever. It was like there’d been some yard magic going on here. The whole front of the house looked better than it had in months.

  “So, we done here or what?” Fergus asked. He started heading for his glove and ball.

  “Not even close,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  Fergus rolled his eyes. “What kind of deal is this anyway?”

  “It’s the deal you signed up for,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  “Come on, Mr. Gedrick. Let’s just play some catch already.”

  But there was no way Mr. Gedrick was catching even a single ball until the yard was finished. He had a little shovel in his hand and started digging a hole in one of the flower beds.

  “I’ll dig, you two plant,” Mr. Gedrick said, and he moved on, digging another hole. “We’ll be done in a flick and a sniff, you’ll see.”

  “A flick and a sniff?” Fergus asked.

  “Sure,” I agreed as I plopped the first yellow flower into my newly weeded area. “A flick and a sniff. Obviously.”

  Mr. Gedrick was superfast at digging holes and we fell behind. I could feel the sun heating up overhead as I picked a purple flower and stuffed it in one of the holes. No matter how fast we went, there was no keeping up with Mr. Gedrick. It was like he had ten hands, digging holes all around the beds.

  We pushed ourselves as fast as we could go. We weren’t going to let Mr. Gedrick get too far ahead. Pretty soon we were covered in dirt with sweat pouring from our brows. We were so busy planting we didn’t even look up until we heard the sound of water behind us. Mr. Gedrick had dug all the holes and he was following us with a watering can.

  “Don’t worry,” Mr. Gedrick said. “I won’t lap you. There wouldn’t be anything for me to water if I did.”

  How was Mr. Gedrick so fast? He put his head down and kept working, and we wound our way around the yard as we felt the pressure of Mr. Gedrick at our heels. Mr. Gedrick swept and tidied and put away all the tools. By the time he returned and finished the watering, we were finally on the last few flowers. When we were done, we stood in the driveway next to him.

  I stared into the yard, and Fergus flicked some sweat from his brow. Then he sniffed.

  “You see there?” Mr. Gedrick said. “A flick and a sniff and we’re all done.”

  “I knew there would be a flick and a sniff!” I yelled.

  “Well now,” Mr. Gedrick said, looking at the new yard. “That does look nice.”

  Fergus and I couldn’t believe our eyes. The front yard looked amazing, better than any other yard on the street. Mr. Gedrick had a bag in one hand, and he handed it to Fergus. When Fergus dug inside, he found something that made us laugh out loud.

  “Yard gnomes? You gotta be kidding me.”

  “Sweet,” I said. “I love yard gnomes.”

  Mr. Gedrick set the bag on the sidewalk and took out the two gnomes. One had a yellow hat and a goofy smile on its face. The other one looked a lot like a mini Mr. Gedrick, with a green jacket and a red tie.

  “The finishing touch,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Like icing on a cake.”

  Fergus shook his head and went out into the flower beds, where he set them down staring at each other.

  “Perfect,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  One of the neighborhood dads drove by slowly and rolled down his window. “Looking good, guys! Come by my place next!”

  I watched as Fergus smiled like he was proud of the work we’d done. I bet he hadn’t felt this good since pitching a no-hitter in a playoff game two seasons ago.

  “There is one more thing I’d like to add,” Mr. Gedrick said. “It would be a little bit of work, but I think it would be worth it.”

  Fergus grabbed me by the shoulder and we walked off into the middle of the yard together. We bent over with our hands on our knees, like we were a team setting up a play.

  “This could go on all day,” Fergus whispered. “I think we should bail.”

  “Yeah, but what about showing Mr. G. how fast you can pitch?” I asked. “I’d love to see his face when one of those burners hits his glove.”

  Fergus seemed to be daydreaming about one of those pitches, too.

  “Don’t say I didn’t warn you whe
n we end up out here until dark,” Fergus said.

  “Let’s see what he wants to do,” I suggested. “If it’s a ton of work, we can always huddle up again.”

  I stood and clapped my hands and said, “Break!” Then we walked back over to where Mr. Gedrick was waiting.

  “Okay, we’ll bite,” Fergus said. “What have you got up that green sleeve of yours?”

  Mr. Gedrick walked toward the front door without a word. When he arrived on the porch he turned back. “Are you coming or not?”

  Mr. Gedrick didn’t wait for an answer as he opened the front door and stepped through.

  “This guy is so confusing,” Fergus said, but we followed anyway.

  When we got into the house, Mr. Gedrick was missing. We checked the kitchen, but we only found Mom hunched over her table. So we went down the hall toward the bedrooms. There we saw something we hadn’t seen before: Mr. Gedrick’s door was open.

  “Whoa,” I said.

  “Hey, Mr. G., you in there?” Fergus asked. We walked a few more steps down the hallway, and Mr. Gedrick’s head popped out.

  “That’s close enough, I’ll bring the parts to you,” he said.

  “The parts for what?” Fergus asked.

  Mr. Gedrick appeared, and he was carrying a big slab of painted plywood with all sorts of shapes cut into it. It was mostly blue and green with a little yellow here and there. He carried it to where we were standing and set it on the shag carpet.

  “It’s too heavy for one of you,” Mr. Gedrick said. “You’ll both need to carry it out.”

  We looked at the piece of wood. It was about four feet tall and five feet long. Stars and moons and comets had been carefully cut out, so it looked like a bunch of cookie cutters set on a countertop.

  “What the heck is this crazy thing?” I asked. “And where did it come from?”

  Mr. Gedrick looked like he wanted to go back and get more parts, but he also looked worried his helpers might quit on him, and he couldn’t have that.

  “Do you remember that night when I made all that noise?” Mr. Gedrick asked. We nodded, so Mr. Gedrick went on. “I built some parts. This is one of them.”

  “Parts for what?” Fergus asked.

 
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