Excerpt for The Funny Story by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Funny Story

S. A. Narciso

Published by S. A. Narciso

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2017 S. A. Narciso

License Notes

Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please return to your favorite ebook retailer to discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.

About this story

"The Funny Story" is a yearlong experience with class 212, Mrs. Picklebee, the fearsome new teacher in town and Mr. Ferguson, a vibrant old man who loves entertaining kids with wacky stories.

Will the protagonists defeat the class bully, Alex Gardener, or will he get away with it as always?

And what do you get when a teacher grows up reading Miss Trunchbull's guide on discipline?

What exactly is "the Source" Mr. Ferguson mentions every once in a while?

Find out!

To my grandparents, wherever they are.

Chapter 1

Andrew was admiring the beautiful color of the horizon. To Charlie, it seemed as if he was meditating on something important. Then, without warning, Andrew's mouth opened wide, radiating a long, loud burp, subsequently triggering Charlie and his friend Rich to laugh their hearts out.

The last school trip of the year started out in the right way. Charlie had fun, at least until all those mosquitoes bit him. His skinny body was full of them and to make it worse, he spent half of the afternoon scratching himself like a dirty dog.

Rich got a terrible sunburn and every time something or someone touched him, he would automatically “ouch” or “hey” in response.

Andrew, a little chubby for his age, (to say the truth “a little” should be erased) was complaining about being hungry. His stomach was loudly grumbling in protest; and it was all because of Alex: an overgrown bully almost every kid in the world has to deal with at least once in their existence. Alex had simply thrown his lunchbox in the lake. Alexander Gardener, the criminal, wanted to see if it would sink or not.

He almost started to panic if it wasn’t for Mrs. Wright’s help. She bought him something to eat. Andrew’s chubby round face was plain ridiculous; he was crying, eating and thanking Mrs. Wright at the same time.

Of course nobody would ever tell the truth because Alex wasn’t only mean, he was also vindictive. Alex was that kind of child that didn’t like having friends. His hobbies were basically torturing insects, picking his nose in search of treasures and teasing his classmates around.

A satisfied smile would spread on his square face whenever he had success in the art of bullying. The classic bully smile. The one that make them all look like idiots.

His black hair was always messed up, except on Sundays when his mother, Mrs. Gardener, forced him to go to church. It was a silly event because the whole thing went against nature. You can’t take a wild gorilla from its habitat, wash him, dress him up, comb him and expect to transform him in a polite little boy.

This is Alex, essentially.

His school pals were considered lucky if they didn’t meet him after “the religious imprisonment of the animal”. He was quite irritated on those days. His face, altered from the anger, would turn as red as a ripe tomato and he would start growling to whoever dared come close to him.

Now he had that satisfied smile on his face as if he had just received a student of the week’s certificate.

To make it short, the last school trip of third grade ended up a complete disaster. It was one of those days when even the weather gives you a good motivation for being nervous. First it started raining, then the sun came out, and finally it started to rain again.

Even the teachers seemed to be frustrated; Mrs. Wright’s wavy red hair didn’t want to cooperate with her hands, which kept on slapping them to place.

Sometimes Charlie would start talking animatedly. His tongue flapped here and there imitating the sound of a helicopter until Alex grabbed him by the ear.

“Shut up!” he screamed at the top of his lungs sticking the rest of the banana he was eating in Charlie's mouth.

The funny thing about the Bullies of the United Nations is that in some way, at least most of the times, they manage to get away with it. Consequently, the victim's despair is immense.

You basically can't do anything about it in many circumstances, especially when the teachers don't notice what is really happening and who the villain is.

“I’m full of him,” Andrew said watching helplessly nearby while caressing his belly.

Chapter 2

Fortunately, Alex lived in the outskirts of the town with his parents but he could be seen walking around like a homeless.

Unfortunately, his parents were busy. Mrs. Gardener had a part-time job and Mr. Gardener worked all day in a factory.

For these reasons, Alex was a free predator searching for prey. He basically ate Richards, Andrews and Charlies for lunch and if he was still dissatisfied, he would have a snack with long nose Martin, nicknamed Pinocchio by Alex.

Good old Mr. Ferguson was in the front yard, sitting on a chair like he always did during the hot summer months. He chuckled when he saw Alex pass by, for he knew what he was up to. Not that he liked what he did to those poor guys; he was just entertained by it all.

Martin was a future third grader with the luck of living next to Alex. That’s why he got up early in the morning. He would ride around on a small bike before stopping in front of one of his friend’s house.

“Hi Mr. Ferguson,” he said, raising a hand.

“The early bird catches the worm, Martin,” Mr. Ferguson replied, revealing a smile with not many teeth left.

Mr. Ferguson was a lonely man since his wife died some years ago. But he was a joyous fellow, especially when kids accompanied him.

He simply loved them. To his eyes, boys and girls were beautiful and spontaneous, the exact opposite of some grownups.

In the meantime, Martin had caught the worm; actually two.

The first in a garage sale: a small rubber bat. The second worm was Alex, who was waiting for him.

It was a huge worm.

Ironically, it was the big worm that was going to catch Martin.

“Hey Pinocchio, what a surprise,” Alex recited. He often pretended to be the bad guy in a movie. Martin was the perfect victim to his eyes.

Martin was looking for his bike but found out that Alex had it.

“You looking for this? I guess it’s mine now,” he said, giving suddenly birth to an evil laugh.

“Give it to me! It’s mine,” Martin pleaded.

Alex speeded away, completely ignoring him.

Martin knew he wouldn’t keep it forever; but taking it away like that without his permission? Simply unforgivable.

He walked for two blocks before meeting Andrew. He was chewing a gigantic size bubble gum. His mouth moved up and down in a funny way, squeezing the bubble gum to the limit.

“Hello Martin,” Andrew greeted.

“Hi,” Martin responded, frustrated by Alexander's immature behavior.

“Where’s your bike?” asked Andrew.

In that moment, at what seemed the speed of light, a hand slapped the back of Andrew’s neck.

“Here!” an unpleasant voice replied.

It was Alex on Martin’s bike. He was everywhere; a fly’s brain in an ape's body.

Andrew turned red, freezing in place like a statue. A strange expression spread on his round face as if in great difficulty. He had just swallowed the gigantic bubble gum and almost choked.

"Are you feeling well?" Martin asked worriedly.

“One of these days that jerk is gonna pay,” he finally managed to say after coughing several times.

Chapter 3

“And that’s how I caught the bass,” Mr. Ferguson concluded with the enthusiasm of a little boy.

He was 72 years old but sometimes the seven in front of the two turned into a one. His blue eyes were twinkling with delight when he noticed that Rich and Charlie were still listening to him.

Richard’s mother always told him to visit the old man every now or then. The fact is that Rich and his other friends almost visited him everyday.

He was a great storyteller. Consequently, most of the stories were fantastic. It was all about enthusiasm and passion. The way this peculiar being spoke, enabled the most insignificant things to come to life like magic.

“Gosh,” Rich said while pushing his eyeglasses back to place, making them slide over his nose. He did this automatically at least ten-fifteen times a day.

Charlie wiped the sweat from his forehead without taking his eyes off him. He was hypnotized by the story he had just heard.

Mr. Ferguson’s face wrinkled up when he started laughing. The chair he was sitting on was an old piece of furniture and it seemed to be in the right place and time. It was part of Mr. Ferguson’s figure.

A carved walking stick was standing next to the chair, near the front door of the wooden house and for a second or two, the high temperature of that sunny July morning didn’t really bother them much, as if that place was sacred.

Three women were walking by the sidewalk, going shopping probably. They were frantically talking to each other making more noise than a circus. They were dressing bright clothes and little black shoes that tip-tapped on the cement.

“Like I’ve always said, three women and a goose make the same noise of a market!”

This time it was Charlie’s and Rich’s turn to laugh while the three women, smiled at the old man’s humor, hurrying down the sidewalk, shadowed by the ancient oak tree in front of the street.

“Gotta go, sir. It’s lunch-time,” Rich said.

“Yeah, mom’s probably waiting for me,” Charlie joined in.

“Go lads. Whenever you want, you guys are always welcome here!” he stated sincerely.

He really enjoyed their company.

“Bye!” they both shouted, jumping on their bikes.

“Let’s see what there is for lunch,” Mr. Ferguson said to himself, getting up with the help of the walking stick and heading slowly towards the kitchen.

Meanwhile, that good for nothing of Alex Gardener was hunting and like a good predator, he was attentively spying while hiding behind a bush with Martin’s bike under his buttocks.

As soon as he saw Rich and Charlie in the distance, he rubbed his hands and pedaled slowly towards them with a smile on his face that meant trouble.

Rich and Charlie looked at each other and split into different directions as fast as they could.

Hesitating a bit, Alex decided to go after Rich who was slower than Charlie.

“I’ll catch you later!” Alex tranquillized him, catching up with Rich who quickly began to pedal as fast as he could when he realized he had been targeted.

It turned out that Charlie arrived home safe and sound while poor little Rich arrived home, all right, but with his eyeglasses broken.

Where are your eyeglasses?” was the first thing Mrs. Hunt (Richard’s mother) asked him.

Without saying a word, Rich took them out of his pocket and stared at his mother.

It wasn’t a pretty sight; they were all bent and curled up in a funny way.

“Mrs. Gardener’s son did this, didn’t he?” she spat out in an irritated tone.

“I-” Richard tried to explain.

“This time he went too far! I’m going to have a nice talk with his parents this afternoon,” Mrs. Hunt continued, ignoring Richard.

“But-” Richard tried once more.

“But nothing!” she sentenced.

The funny thing is that Alex didn’t really want to break his eyeglasses, even though he was devilishly pleased in hearing the crunching sound of glass break under the tire's weight.

It was all a coincidence: Rich was trying to gain speed and his eyeglasses were sliding down his nose. When he rapidly turned his head around to see where Alex was, they flew directly to the floor, exactly in front of Martin’s bike.

At that point even Alexander’s little brain knew that he had exaggerated, even not wanting to; other adults were walking across the sidewalk so he decided to vanish before anybody could give testimony to what had just happened.

Chapter 4

Mr. Gardener had a huge flowerpot collection in the backyard. They were all decorated and periodically cleaned by careful hands. He had a lot of old vases of all shapes and sizes near the garage, exactly where most of them could be seen from the street.

Among these, there was the mother of them all; an Italian hand-made pot, big enough to put a small tree inside.

It had cost him a great deal of money to buy it at the annual fair so most of his attention and care was dedicated on its maintenance.

What kind of maintenance could a pot possibly need? In Mr. Gardener's world, it needed attention.

Mr. Gardener was obsessed with his hobbies. Everything in the house, especially in the garage, had to be in perfect order. Whenever he found something out of place, he would go nuts. Add to that an authoritative attitude and dead serious looks and you get a despotic human being. Alex was a weasel compared to his self-centered father.

Mrs. Hunt wasn’t surprised to find him cleaning a collection of gadgets in his garage.

While the two started talking, Alex was hanging out with Tom, his only friend and front door neighbor.

One may ask why he respected Tom. Two reasons: Tom was two years older than him. But the real reason was because Alex considered him a cool guy, a lot different from those worms he was obliged to run after.

“I bet you can’t jump over that bush,” Alex said.

Tom snorted. He spat on his right hand and rubbed it on his left. He pretended to concentrate like an athlete and then ran at full speed towards the bush, leaping in the right moment and place to jump over it successfully.

Tom started howling like an idiot and when he had calmed down he said: “Now it’s my turn. I’ll bet anything that you can’t jump Mr. Pot over there,” he said pointing at the Italian hand-made colossal size pot.

Alex hesitated for a moment.

“No, I dare you to do it,” Tom said smiling.

That was different. Whenever they used the word “dare” it had to be done. It was like pronouncing the word “God” or something like that. Most of all, it was part of the game.

“What’s wrong, you coward?” Tom said in a voice dripping with sarcasm.

It was too much to take. Alex Gardener a coward?

Never in history!

Alex immediately dashed towards the pot like an angry bull.

Let’s say that Alex wasn’t exactly an athlete and anyway, he wasn’t as tall as Tom. Another thing Alex didn’t consider was that the pot was empty, exactly like his head.

It all happened so fast that he barely had the time to think. Actually, Alex never liked using his brain.

Before he knew it, he was jumping over the pot. Unfortunately, his landing wasn’t perfect. His shoes touched the rim of the pot, sending it down with him.

It’s strange how certain things unfold in life but at this point it was as if someone from somewhere decided to push the slow motion button, like we often see in movies; just to enjoy the details surrounding the characters.

Tom’s upper part of the body was totally blocked from the tension while his legs moved here and there impatiently until he saw the back door open. He dashed to his house like cartoons do on TV while Alex, who actually thought to have succeeded in the stupid game, covered his face protectively when he heard the clash of clay breaking on the ground.

It seemed to last forever; the decorations on the pot exploded like fireworks do on the Fourth of July.

It's funny how the circle of life works. You can't go on doing whatever you want to without paying inevitably the consequences sooner or later. Alex learned this lesson that day.

The explosion of clay went on for what seemed endless minutes. It was really a matter of seconds; the mind is a powerful emphasizing tool in many occasions.

This was one of them.

All of this happened in front of Mr. Gardeners’ eyes. He was calmly coming out of the back door with Mrs. Hunt.

Alex froze into place like his dad, who was watching the last pieces break in a symphony that was the exact opposite of music to his ears.

Mr. Gardener had turned the same color of the pot. The only difference was that this one was boiling. It took him a while to get furious, not because he didn’t want to; because he was making up his mind whether he should be angrier for Mrs. Hunt’s complaining or for the broken pot.

Definitely the second reason!

The longer it took to get angry, the greater would be the rage.

He exploded like a volcano.

To Alexander’s preoccupied eyes, his father did a good imitation of the incredible Hulk when he got mad. He started throwing table and chairs in every direction while Alex tried to give him an innocent face.

It didn’t work.

“You did it big this time, you little fool!” Mr. Gardener bellowed, grabbing him by the ear.

The last thing to be seen by Mrs. Hunt was Mr. Gardener opening the door and kicking his son’s fanny inside.

Heaven knows what happened there!

Chapter 5

It's funny how Life automatically settles things out. Everybody wants revenge; everybody tries to solve problems. Then we find out that all we have to do sometimes is just wait.

Alex wasn’t seen around for about a week. The punishment consisted in cleaning all of his fathers’ tools and instruments and in washing the car.

Alex seriously considered changing directions. Bullying was turning out to be counter-productive. It was fun for a while but it always ended up the same way, even if he would get away with it most of the times at school.

You basically get what you do to others in life. The same treatment.

It's called karma.

Mr. Gardener’s spare time was spent trying to glue together the pieces of what remained of the pot. It was harder than a puzzle and the result was not encouraging.

Every once in a while you could here him say in an irritated way: “Alex, I …”

Alex would lower his head and clean the car faster.

The amusing part of this story is that Mr. Gardener was exactly like Alex at his age. He ruined his father's car once. He was 10 years old when it happened. When his father got distracted, he positioned himself on the driving seat and drove the car straight through the garage, hitting everything in its way. What an exciting moment it was for the young boy!

To bad every joy, turns out to be a short joy. His father's outrage will forever remain imprinted in Mr. Gardener's DNA.

It's a family ritual, passed on from father to son, generation to generation.

A couple of days later it started raining. It was as if the Creator had decided to turn a little bit of air conditioning on. At least that’s what Mr. Ferguson said.

It rained every afternoon for an entire week. Everyone was pretty much happy except Mrs. Moran, who found it difficult to jog on the mud. She would always run in the late evenings, wobbling her bottom around in a funny circular way. Now she was forced to wear a raining coat on but nothing really stopped her from jogging.

On days like these Charlie would read more than usual.

On days like these Andrew would eat more than usual.

Andrew’s mother had to lock up the fridge to stop him from crunching and munching and jamming and stuffing things into his mouth.

“You brainless stuffed turkey! Don’t you know that if you keep eating like this, sooner or later you’ll explode like a bomb? You want to erupt like a volcano? From now on, you will eat three times a day. At breakfast, at lunch and at supper!” his plump father yelled.

With the fridge locked up like a bank, he was forced to save his pocket money to buy food from the supermarket.

The only problem was reaching the supermarket.

Andrew was lazy, especially in the summer. If there’s one thing he hated, it was doing exercise. His mother even tried to make him practice a sport. She signed him up for soccer and nearly dragged him there every Monday and Thursday.

At the end he was given the role of goalkeeper. He’d stand there during practice, hardly trying to get the ball when the shots came.

Rich got a new pair of eyeglasses. He thought they were better than the first ones.

Martin obviously got his bike back from Alex. He would put a raining coat on and ride to the lake to fish. He loved fishing at the lake when it was cloudy or rainy.

Chapter 6

Like we’ve mentioned before, Mr. Ferguson was something special. He wasn’t just an ordinary old man. Nothing really seemed to bother him, like those few individuals on earth that have experienced Nirvana.

Even when someone died he emanated good vibes to the people nearby; it was essentially because he accepted death. He would always say that it was part of life.

He was a positive thinking man.

“When I die,” he once said, “I don’t want you to cry. I want all of you to be happy. Life and death are part of this world. There is no reason to be sad.”

“What happens when someone dies?” asked Martin.

“Passing away is like going asleep. Nobody really dies. When you were born I doubt you noticed at all. Well, you certainly don’t remember. For example, when you go on holiday, you leave your home, your friends and your things. When someone dies, he or she leaves his or her body. They are simply leaving a form of being and passing to another. Remember that no one really dies.”

Everyone was silent, except Andrew who had brought along some illegal sandwiches.

Listening to Mr. Ferguson stimulated a great appetite.

“But let’s not talk about certain things,” he paused, “I was wondering. Where is Alex? I haven't seen him in a while.”

“It looks as though Mr. Gardener hasn’t overcome his anger yet,” Charlie said.

“Serves him right!” Rich said.

“I saw him cleaning the yard this morning,” Martin informed.

And just as they were chattering away, Mr. Ferguson saw Alex staring at them from the front yard.

The hair was perfectly combed for the first time in years and he had a depressed look on his face: a sad expression. It was an unexpected metamorphosis they were all witnessing.

“Alex, my boy,” Mr. Ferguson said smiling, “please come and join us. I was just about to tell an interesting story to these stinkers.”

Everyone was now watching the kid who had for so many years persecuted them just for the fun of it.

His head was lowered to the floor. When he raised it, he smiled and started heading towards them. They were all surprised (including Mr. Ferguson) when they saw him sit on the floor near Rich.

“I’m sorry about your glasses,” Alex mumbled, “and I’m sorry for being so mean to all of you.”

There was silence.

Some begun to wonder if his father had forced him to say all of this but Alexander's face was for the first time sincere; pure like water.

Mr. Ferguson broke the ice by commencing a story: “Once upon a time, not far away from where we are standing now, there lived a man,” his voice chirped away, assuming his story telling tone, covering, filling and pumping every word with a bit of magic.

“This man was taking a stroll in the open fields during the late hours like he usually did, admiring the stars and the nocturnal creatures. It was a particularly cold summer night and a light wind hollowed through the trees, making them dance in front of an incredible bright moon. He was walking and thinking of how in peace he felt with life.

"Maybe you are too young to know this or to have experienced it, but there are strange moments in life when we feel spiritually in peace and harmony with nature. It does not happen to everybody and it might be a very frightening experience to be in the same wavelength of nature. This happens when you put aside silly thoughts or events that are tormenting your brain; when you completely erase them.”

He took a deep breath and as if charged up by vital power, he continued on even more energetically.

“This man was feeling all of these things and soon he became aware of it. He started feeling dizzy and weary and seeing things blurry as if he were about to faint. He was absolutely alone; nobody was near the area for miles. Suddenly, after wobbling around like someone drunk, he fell to the ground.”

“What happened to him?” Rich asked.

“No one really knows. Let’s say that he fell asleep but at the same time he was having a fantastic journey; like a dream but much more realistic. He was floating and flying in the air without feeling the weight of his body. It was great. He could go anywhere, he could be anything, and he could hear and see anything.

He was growing like a plant and then he was crying like a baby under a mother’s protection and then he was growling like a tiger, swimming like a fish, jumping like a kangaroo, screaming like a monkey, thundering like thunder, falling like a raindrop, shining like a star and all of this in a second or in a century or what seemed an eternity! He was doing all of these things at the same time or at no time at all.

At the end he was crying and smiling and feeling happy and sad at the same time too. When he woke up, he found himself flat on the ground as dirty as garbage. Obviously, he was rolling around when this happened. Then, he slowly got up and went home. He never told anyone about his experience.”

“Is this story true?” Alex asked fascinated by something he never heard before.

“Of course it’s true! Almost all of my stories are true!” Mr. Ferguson snapped.

“Then how do you know it is?” Charlie asked.

“You said he never told anybody about it. Did that man tell this to you?” Andrew said, chewing on a last piece of bread.

“No,” the old man replied, looking at his wrinkled hands, “the truth is that I was talking about myself. The man I was talking about was me,” he revealed.

“Wow!” Martin exclaimed.

“That can’t be true,” Alex said.

“You are free to think what you want to, young man,” Mr. Ferguson replied calmly.

They were waiting for an explanation, for further details.

"Maybe one day I'll tell you all the real reason behind this experience of mine. I'll talk to you about the Source," he finally announced.

"The source?" Charlie repeated, a bit confused.

"Exactly," The old man confirmed.

"Please tell us!" Rich pleaded.

"Not today kids," he informed, grinning at the images of the old days suddenly popping in his mind like popcorn.

"Next time," he concluded, closing his eyes in the attempt of calming down the emotional memories.

Chapter 7

That summer went by like every summer does. First, like you have certainly experienced, you can’t wait until school is over and then, before you even notice, leafs are falling from the trees.

Nothing really interesting happened either and now that we all know the characters a little better, we can start galloping through the story.

I think no one was really happy about the winter season arriving, except Mrs. Moran who preferred to run in cold weather. It made it much easier.

Recently, she could be seen jogging with a small companion: a Scottish terrier. That dog kept bouncing and leaping and running, tiring out Mrs. Moran before she had barely done a block.

School started and that meant third grade for Martin and fourth grade for Rich, Charlie, Andrew and Alex.

For the fourth graders there was a big surprise in store for them: Mrs. Picklebee, a 55 year-old teacher. Not just any ordinary teacher. An old school, strict and grumpy woman. Some say she made so many children cry over the years that you could fill an Olympic pool with those tears.

She was new to the school and the town. The class was a nuclear explosion back in third grade. The girls kept on talking and the boys played sports in the classroom.

She was a respectful person and when she was informed of all of this she nodded and said: “The class will be in order in less than a week, see if it won’t.”

When she entered room 212, the class was literally a mess. The kids were yelling and running, hopping and rolling. She violently slammed the door shut to catch everyone’s attention. She was not by any means big in stature. The middle aged woman standing before them was rather fragile so she had to compensate this weakness with a roaring attitude and voice in order to be listened to.

“You brainless monkeys!” the teacher yelled.

Her first performance with the pupils was dramatically beautiful. A tall, mean looking lady with a bad personality and a sour expression. Not to mention the voice; her voice yelped, scraped and scratched at the same time.

Everyone was now staring at the weird lady dressed in blue, mesmerized by the sudden outburst from such a skinny woman.

“This is not a zoo! This is a school!" her index finger pointing at the floor.

"S-C-H-O-O-L!” she spelled, “Do you little brutes know the difference?”

She paused and continued with a softer voice: “I suppose your mothers and fathers encourage all of you to stand on the tables at home. I suppose they teach you the good manner of screaming like apes. I presume they tell you to throw things around like they do at the Carnival of Rio,” she took a deep breath, choking on her own saliva, causing a spontaneous rumble of laughter throughout the class.

“Silence!” she thundered, “I won’t allow any of these things! From now on, you will learn discipline! I will transform you ignorant little fools to civilized people! Any questions?”

“Mrs. Tall Women, are you a witch?” Alex asked.

Mrs. Picklebee turned pink from what she considered an insult.

She looked at Alex and barked: “Stand up, boy! First of all, Mrs. Tall Women has a name and it is Mrs. Picklebee!”

“Mrs. who?” he asked, some kids laughing at the awkward last name.

“Mrs. Picklebee!” she yelled, spitting like a sprinkler does on grass and wetting a poor girl in front of her named Tamara.

She was using her hands like an umbrella. The girl next to her was covering her ears. It was surprising how loud she could yell.

Andrew was eating a sandwich but managed to say: “Mrs. Picklebee, that’s a funny name!”

“Who said that?” she snapped, “You!” she pointed at Andrew, “What’s so funny? What are you eating anyway?”

“A sandwich,” Andrew replied.

“Eating is not allowed in this school! Now give me that!”

“No, it’s mine! Bring your own snack to school!”

Mrs. Picklebee couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Don’t disobey me, young man,” she said walking quickly towards his desk.

“What’s this candy on your desk? What are these wrappers on the floor? Picklebee is funny, isn’t it? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if your last name’s Excrement! Look at your desk it’s a sewer!”

“I didn’t mean to make fun of your name ma’am, it’s just that I like eating pickles and-”

“When you get out of here, you’ll never want to see a pickle again. You’ll get indigestion, you’ll vomit; you’ll get diarrhea!”

“Doesn’t she ever stop talking?” somebody whispered.

“Shut up!” she bellowed, slapping a desktop. “I am authorized to talk, to yell, to punish! You are authorized to do absolutely nothing without my permission!” she took a deep breath again, looking at Andrew in a disgusted way.

“Stop eating! Haven’t you seen yourself at the mirror?” and with that, she snatched the sandwich from his hands and pitched it to the hamster cage.

“Hey, that’s my food!” Andrew whined.

“Not anymore. It’s hamster food, now. You eat too much anyway!” she wailed. “And as for you,” she was looking at Alex, “You’re a complete disaster! Your hair looks like the Amazon gone wrong; it’s a mess and your brain’s probably a mess too!”

She paused to breath, inhaling as if she had asthma.

“Raise your filthy hand if you want to talk or zip your mouth shut!”

She started tapping her right shoe as if enjoying the rhythm of a beautiful song. Her hands were on her hips and her face altered by the shouting.

Suddenly, a long belch interrupted the silence.

“That’s quite revolting,” the teacher said. “Let me guess, it’s Mr. Swine over here. See what you get from overeating? I guess your stomach hurts too. Aren’t you embarrassed at all?”

“No. My father says that it is a most natural of things.”

“Your father’s a pig!” she yelled. “Stand up and say you’re sorry. You made half of us throw up!”

Andrew got up and said he was sorry.

“The next time go to the bathroom and do it there!”

By the time she was finished, her throat hurt for all the screaming. It was going to be a long, tough year.

Chapter 8

It was finally Halloween and the weather was great for trick or treating.

Andrew had a goblin disguise on; Rich was Dracula; Charlie was a ghost; Martin was Robin Hood and Alex was Batman.

The last 31st of October Alex would trick and treat on other kids. Let me explain. First, he’d do them a trick like punching them in the stomach, then he’d take all of their treats: trick them and take their treats!

It was Alexander's distorted version of Halloween.

Now he was saying the traditional “trick or treat” as if he had just learned how to celebrate correctly.

“Oh, look how sweet Batman is,” some would comment.

“Who are yah, Frankenstein?” Mrs. Moran said to Andrew. She didn’t recognize him.

“No, I’m a goblin,” he responded.

Mrs. Moran dropped some candy in an almost empty bag.

“Is this your second bag?” she asked.

“It’s my first.”

“Poor thing! It’s empty.”

“That’s because I keep eating the candy I get, Mrs. Maureen,” he explained.

“Mrs. Moran,” she corrected.

Some blocks away an old lady was giving out pennies instead of candy and when it was Alex’s turn he said: “Is that all, granny?”

It was getting very dark and Mr. Ferguson’s house was left; purposely saved for last. Like they say: last but not least.

But first, the five of them had to try the house on the corner of Harvard Street, even though the lights were off and there were no Halloween decorations. Martin said that the houses with fewer decorations gave the biggest of surprises.

He was right.

They rang the bell. When nobody opened, Charlie and Rich started yelling “trick or treat” and just before leaving, Alex made sure the house was really empty by keeping an index finger on the doorbell.

Mrs. Picklebee was reading a book entitled "Discipline" by Miss Trunchbull. It was an extended guide in teaching children to grow up faster. The author was Mrs. Picklebee's greatest inspiration and the guide was like a Bible to her. She was taking notes and reciting in front of a mirror when she heard the doorbell ring.

The kids were waiting anxiously outside, expecting someone to come out to give them some treats.

Finally, footsteps were heard from the inside and someone grumbling.

The door opened with a gnarly screeching sound and a head poked out angrily. To their great surprise, it turned out to be Mrs. Picklebee. Her hair was frizzy and badly combed.

“You wretched brutes!” she screamed.

The five of them started running as fast as possible out of Mrs. Picklbee's sight. Andrew comically fell down a couple of times before getting out of her yard, in safety zone.

“Little thieves! How dare you disturb people in their private property? Don’t you see the lights are off? I should call the police and get all of you criminals arrested!” she threatened.

Before she got the time to finish, they ran to Mr. Ferguson’s house, leaving Mrs. Picklebee talking to herself.

Mr. Ferguson was distributing candy to the last kids when he saw them coming.

"We went to the wrong house Mr. Ferguson! Mrs. Picklebee scared us to death!" Charlie informed, still shaking from the horrible discovery.

"I didn't know it was her house guys! I swear!" Martin specified.

Mr. Ferguson knew about the new teacher in town. He found their faces hilarious.

"I think she hates Halloween," Rich said.

"I've always thought she was a witch," Alex joined in.

“A witch? Well that reminds me of something,” Mr. Ferguson croaked, reaching for the last candy left.

But they were there for another reason and he knew it.

“Hurry, come in and let’s start telling the story for it’s getting too late for you guys.”

It was a tradition to hear his stories on Halloween.

“Is it spooky?” Martin asked.

“It’s more than spooky.” he assured.

He sat down on a chair and when he saw everybody waiting for him, he started to clear his voice.

“It was Halloween and I was giving candy to the last monsters on the block. It was precisely two years ago and when the street got empty from parents and kids, I went inside.

I was watching TV and snoring at the same time and honestly, I lost track of time.

Suddenly, somebody at the door knocks. I got up and since I didn’t have any candy left, I took some pennies from the table. When I opened the door, I found an old witch staring at me.

‘Isn’t it a little late to go trick or treating?’ I said waiting for her to say something but she didn’t respond. The porch light was off so I couldn’t see her that well. She was tall for a girl so I said quite rudely: ‘Aren’t you a little old for these things?’.

She started laughing. A strange laugh, as if she had frogs in her throat. ‘I’m only 314 years old,’ she responded.

I laughed at her joke but I started having a funny feeling about the conversation.

‘Well, you did a nice job on the costume and voice,’ I said wishing I had turned the lights on. I was staring at her long nose and fuzzy hair and thinking that a parent of hers must have worked in a Hollywood studio or something like that.”

The kids were fascinated.

“Then?” Charlie asked.

“Then I was getting the pennies from my pockets and I said: ‘It’s not much, but it’s all I have-’ but I stopped talking when I raised my head.

She was gone! Vanished in thin air! One second she’s there, another second she’s disappeared! I looked at one way and the other way of the street but nobody was around so I closed the door and locked it.

I hardly slept that night.”

A dog barked, startling half of the kids; they jumped in the air from the fright.

Mr. Ferguson laughed.

“It was a real witch, wasn’t it?” Rich asked when he realized it was only a dog.

Mr. Ferguson nodded his head seriously this time.

“It’s time you go to your houses,” he said worriedly.

“Tell us another story,” Alex demanded.

“Next time. It's getting late and we don't want the real monsters to come out before being safe and sound in our beds," Mr. Ferguson said.

“Just another. This one was really short,” Andrew requested.

“Don’t tell me you guys are afraid to go home. Maybe it was too scary for you,” the old man teased in a lower tone.

“I ain’t scared,” Alex said.

“Me neither.” Rich, Charlie and Andrew declared in unison.

“Me neither,” Martin was the last to say it, gulping.

“Then go,” Mr. Ferguson replied. “And watch out for the witches!” He was smiling when he went inside.

In less than a second, they were running towards their houses.

When Martin bumped into Ashley, who happened to be dressed like a witch, he started screaming.

Chapter 9

Martin couldn’t complain about Mrs. Wright; she was a very patient teacher.

In fourth grade the class had cooled down, even because Mrs. Picklebee would give extra homework to the ones that caused trouble or disobeyed or just talked when they couldn’t.

Even her old car was causing trouble on the way to school and let’s better not investigate on the things she said. The only thing we can say is that she was as grumpy as ever when she reached the school.

The delay of the teacher caused World War III in class 212.

Some kids were writing on walls, others were singing. Some were wrestling and of course Andrew was eating.

When the door burst open, smashing against Hubert’s head and knocking him flat on the floor, the class scrambled to their desks.

“Ouch, that hurt,” Hubert whined on the floor.

Mrs. Picklebee entered the class and said without pity: “That will teach you to sit still next time you whining weasel!”

She looked at everybody in the class with her meanest look.

“The other night on Halloween,” she snorted, “some burglars disturbed me by ringing the doorbell and by yelling at the top of their lungs.”

She took a deep breath and started to walk around the room. When she breathed it was as if a broken vacuum cleaner was turned on.

“It’s good for these children that they were disguised like monsters or it would have been the end of them.”

“But it was Halloween,” a girl named Andrea said. “It’s normal.”

“To me it is always Halloween! You don’t have to get dressed up to look like monsters. You are monsters!” she snapped.

She turned around and sat on the teacher’s desk. It made a creaking sound as if it were to break.

“To think I have to put up with a bunch of monkeys like you for the next seven months, is not encouraging at all! But I have my ways of reaching results. I’m determined. I’m not afraid of calling your parents one by one to tell them what horrible creatures they’ve grown up!” she said spurting, spattering, splashing and sprinkling Ashley with spit.

“Stop spitting!” she said. Ashley was doing her best to avoid it but it was a spontaneous request.

For a second, Mrs. Picklebee froze like a statue, her face turning pink. Everyone was waiting for her to crack like an egg.

“What do you have instead of a brain girl, Swiss cheese? I never spit!” she wailed. “This interruption will cost you double … no … triple homework for tomorrow! Now where was I?”

Everyone was silent now.

“I even heard you wild apes sing,” she continued. “Singing is not allowed! I will not tolerate this anymore! Any questions?”

Andrew farted immediately after the question in perfect timing. The class rumbled with laughter.

“That’s rather fascinating,” the teacher said. “Do you have anything else to say?”

Andrew farted again.

“We’re improving, aren’t we?” she said softly.

“I didn’t do it on purpose; honestly ma’am, I couldn’t keep it back,” Andrew explained.

“Oh, shut up! You are the most nauseating… thing… that I have ever seen! Wilma!”

“My name’s Wendy Mrs.- ”

“I don’t care what your name is! Just open the window before I die!” she thundered.

“Alison!” Mrs. Picklebee roared.

“You mean Ashley,” Ashley said.

“Whatever! Open the other one before we suffocate! This man’s a terrorist!” She was holding her nose and waving the air with her free hand. “This will cost you the entire English exercise book for tomorrow. Next time think twice before playing the trombone! Are you listening to me?”

“Yes, Mrs. Picklebee,” Andrew muttered.

Mrs. Picklebee started tapping her right foot, hypnotizing the class.

“You!” she was pointing a girl. “Stop combing your hair! And you! Yes, you. Stop picking your nose; you’ll never find anything interesting up there. It’s a bad habit, unless there’s something up there that’s cluttering your brain!”

Rich raised his hand.

“What do you want?”

“May I go to the bathroom?” he said in the most educated tone of voice.

“You may certainly not! It’s only 9:35 am.”

“Ouch,” Hubert complained. He was still on the floor, rubbing his head.

“What are you complaining about?”

“My head hurts.”

“You poor thing,” she said sarcastically. “I guess it’s an excuse to go home?”

“No, really. My head hurts terribly.”

“Nonsense! You are a liar!” she barked.

“I’m not a liar!” Hubert replied.

“You are the biggest liar in the world! I have experienced myself that boys’ heads are so hard that you can’t break them with a sledgehammer! They are like rocks! In my days they used to slap you silly for such a lie!”

Charlie got up and was directed towards the garbage can.

“Who told you to stand up?”

“I was going to throw this paper in the garbage can, Mrs. Picklebee.”

Mrs. Picklebee exploded like a bottle of Champaign. “You stupid baboon! You should throw yourself away! You are the garbage!”

“What did I do?” Charlie said raising his hands up as if Mrs. Picklebee was pointing a gun at him.

“You must ask for permission!” she screamed so loud her voice squealed like a train that has arrived at the station.

Without any warning she said: “Alex Gardener!”

Alex looked at her innocently.

“Stop scratching your head! Don’t you think it’s time you get disinfected? What do you have in your hair, flees?” she took a deep breath. It was as if she never took air when she talked.

“I’ve been watching you Alex and I don’t like you. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was you banging on my door the other day. You’re a gangster!” she pronounced the word emphasizing it.

Alex smiled as if he had received the biggest of compliments. He always dreamed of being a great gangster, like the ones you could see in movies.

Suddenly, the awful teacher started sniffing. Her nose moved here and there trying to collect more detailed information.

“Salami,’ she said to herself. “Someone’s eating salami,” she looked at Andrew and saw him hide a sandwich in his pocket.

“You again!” she bellowed. “Don’t you ever stop eating?”

“Who me?”

Mrs. Picklebee literally leaped in front of Andrew, snatching his sandwich.

“Eating is not allowed!” she screamed, giving the sandwich to the hamster, which had become as plump as a hippopotamus.

“I have finally decided,” she said then calmly. “I’ll start using method two on you. I thought I wouldn’t need to do it but you wild Indians leave me no choice.”

“What’s method two?” asked Tamara.

“That’s none of your business!” she responded and with that she sat on the desk, which cracked under her weight, sending her fanny to the floor.

Chapter 10

Mrs. Moran’s Scottish terrier was learning how to follow her owner.

The dog quickly adapted to her steady pace. They were almost synchronized like clocks.

Just a couple of weeks ago they had trouble in keeping an equal distance. Now their rears dawdled about in unison. It was a hilarious sight to Mr. Ferguson’s eyes.

Some pets become a natural extension of your body; the bondage becomes overwhelming to the point that sometimes people have trouble in distinguishing the animal from the human being.

They become a single unit being. The energy flowing from the bodies is in the same wavelength.

Have you ever noticed?

Positive vibes flow when the pet and the human respect each other. It's something human beings often forget about their pets: fully respect them.

Are they happy? Do they live in a comfortable and spacious habitat?

Mr. Gardener was certainly not happy. He had finished gluing the last pieces of the giant pot but the result was plain terrible.

It was cold outside and it started to snow. Before everybody noticed, it was Christmas.

Alex was forbidden to visit Tom because together they were like Hitler and Mussolini.

Tom was Hitler and Alex was Mussolini in case some of you were wondering the roles.

Mrs. Gardener said that Alex’s attitude was improving without Tom. Naturally, Tom wasn’t really happy about it.

The parents’ meeting at school was a completely different experience from the previous meetings.

And guess why?

Mrs. Picklebee told every mother and father how miserable their sons and daughters were.

“Your son Hubert is a disaster at spelling. He keeps on forgetting the hs and placing them where they aren’t supposed to be. It's a tragedy!”

Some parents were now starting to believe what their children were saying to them. Others went there expecting the usual: “Your son William is improving in every subject.” Or: “Your daughter is a sweet child. She just has a bit of difficulty in math.”

But they were hearing the exact opposite.

Mrs. Picklebee spoke in a severe but educated tone to them. Miss Trunchbull's guide was on the table like an important document. She verbally spanked each parent to the bone, telling them her truth. She wanted to be successful by the end of the year with the "under grown toddlers" and she was doing everything in her power to do so.

"We're not in kindergarten anymore!" she often repeated to the surprised parents. The weird character was hard to talk to. It was either her way, or nobody's way.

When she finished, Mrs. Picklebee was completely exhausted.

Mrs. Picklebee thought that she had done most of the work for the school year.

Things would certainly start to change. She was not going to have anymore nightmares on that filthy class 212. At least she hoped.

She went to bed with the guide under an armpit and fell to sleep right aside her husband who was already snoring like a broken saxophone.

Chapter 11

“Some of you are still not properly disciplined in this class. I strongly recommend you to behave especially when we will visit the planetarium in your future high school. That is if you ever reach high school,” she explained, closing her eyes while shaking her head. The gesture underlined the very low chances they had in reaching such a goal.

“A school trip!” some kids shouted.

“In three days’ time… that is on Tuesday, no on-”

“Monday!” Charlie finished for the teacher.

“If I needed Einstein’s help I would of asked!” Mrs. Picklebee snapped. “On Monday,” she continued. “I guess we’ll need some parents to drive us there. Who are the volunteers?”

Some kids raised their hands.

"You will see the planets of our solar system and the constellations. Exactly where I will send you if you don't start acting like young adults very soon," Mrs. Picklebee said.

Some kids laughed. The skinny lady was ridiculous.

"What's so funny? I'm not a clown you fools! I'm not by any means joking around! I will tie you one by one on a rocket and send you flying right to Pluto!" she screamed.

"We are not adults, Mrs Picklebee," Ashley said.

"Why do you think you go to school for? To grow up fast! That's what a great teacher does to children. We accelerate the process of growing up as fast as we can, transforming you from larva to butterfly!" she raved.

"Most butterflies only live for a day. I don't want to grow up that fast," Alex courageously stated.

"Every child that I have educated has learned to grow up and be useful to society," she calmly went on, dangerously lowering her voice.

She turned around, focusing on the blackboard. Something Alex had said awakened some buried memories. She remembered when she was a small creature. When she was punished for her behavior and how she quickly learned to be a serious, responsible young adult.

"You will grow up one day, whether you like it or not," she sentenced in a dead serious voice.

The school bell rang loudly.

When they rushed out of school, through the big playground, Alex, Rich, Charlie, Andrew and Martin went straight to Mr. Ferguson’s house.

He had just turned 73 years old and they bought him a present for the occasion; a black baseball cap to be precise.

Charlie rang the doorbell and after a couple of seconds, an unusual tired face greeted them; the old face quickly wrinkled up with joy when he saw the kids.

“Happy birthday, Mr. Ferguson!” they all chanted.

“Thanks, you are all very kind. Come inside it’s cold out there,” Mr. Ferguson said, inviting them all in.

They entered the living room and followed him straight towards the chimney, which was roaring. Mr. Ferguson's house was cozy.

“This is for you,” Rich said handing him the small box.

“Wow a present!” the old man said rather pleased by the visit.

“We hope you like it,” Martin said.

Mr. Ferguson started ripping the wrapping paper, opening the box that concealed a black baseball cap.

“It’s wonderful, really. It will surely make me look much younger,” he said trying it on. “How do I look?”

“You look like a baseball player,” Andrew said.

“A retired baseball player,” Mr. Ferguson replied.

“No, you look like a baseball coach,” Alex said.

“Well, it doesn’t matter what I look like. It’s a great hat and I don’t have one like this and anyway hats are useful, especially when you don’t have much hair left on your head like me.”

Two minutes later they were gathered around the fire, admiring the flames.

“You know, my wife always used to bake me something special on my birthday. I guess that this cake I bought today will have to do even though the doctor said I shouldn’t eat these things. But what the heck, it’s my birthday!” And in saying so he sliced six pieces of chocolate cake.

“She was a wonderful woman. None of you were born when she died but I’ll tell you something about her, always if you want to hear it.”

“Of course,” they responded.

“There are a lot of things to say about my wife Laura and it’s difficult to choose one in particular.” He was slightly melancholic while he thought about it.

"Laura was the first to ever talk to me about the Source. I met her the first time near my aunt's house in pure countryside. I was very young back then, but older than you, no doubt," he said, staring at the fire as if he was staring at ghosts. And maybe he was.

"The source?" Andrew said, confused by the word.

Nobody expected him to say something like that. So they settled near him and enjoyed the old man's story.

Mr. Ferguson smiled without giving explanations to Andrew. He knew something they didn't.

"I believe life is funny; sometimes it's a really funny story. Just remembering how I got to my aunt's house, the people I met and the adventures we shared, makes me laugh. The reason years later I had that outer body experience is connected to what Laura showed me next to a river, in the middle of the woods," Mr. Ferguson went on, hypnotized by his own words.

He paused, scratching his head and increasing the expectations from the five kids in the room.

"What I saw is something I will never see again; something impossible to describe with words. The energy coming from this phenomena poured through an aura of unknown origin. I believe it penetrated my being and changed me forever, in a positive way. It gave me awareness and peace. Laura discovered this source by mistake, running away from her parents after a violent discussion. The flow of energy coming from it immediately calmed her."

"What was it exactly?" Rich asked.

"It's indescribable. You can't describe it without sounding ridiculous. I could describe it in being funny. It's like laughing forever for no reason. It's the beginning and ending of everything and at the same time the energy behind this universe."

They were hooked like it often happened. Most of them though knew this was the mother of all stories. It was what transformed Mr. Ferguson in the man he was. The magnetic effect he had on people was due to this event; by this encounter with the source, whatever it was.

"There was a kind of electricity in the air, similar to the substance of dreams. It made me realize that life is a dream in someway, that we all are a creation of ourselves," he said, smiling again.

The five of them were too young to fully understand what he was saying. It had, nonetheless a great effect on them. The meaning behind those words would come around sometime in their lives and they would understand. The ritual had been completed, the message transmitted.

"I don't get it," Alex said.

"It's normal my boy. I still don't understand what really happened after all these years. Some things don't have to be understood; just simply experienced," he calmly explained, moving his hands in a pattern many of them had seen many times before.

“Let’s just stay in silence to meditate about it. It’s what I do when I’m confused.”

And they did. They were all quite confused.

Mr. Ferguson had just opened a door to his soul that revealed a small secret. They stayed in silence until snowflakes started to come down from the white clouds.

Chapter 12

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