Billy Sure Kid Entrepreneur and the Attack of the Mysterious Lunch Meat
YOU KNOW THAT FIRST DAY of school feeling? That one where on the outside you seem calm and relaxed, but on the inside you’re feeling a little nervous? Yeah, that feeling—the feeling that everything is about to change—that’s how I felt last year.
My name is Billy Sure, and last year I became kind of a celebrity. If you haven’t heard my name by now, I’m the CEO and inventor in charge of SURE THINGS, INC. I run the company along with my best friend Manny Reyes, who is our super smart CFO,
businessperson, marketing person, and all-around numbers guy.
My life in the past year has been a pretty crazy ride. I’ve invented all kinds of things, like the CANDY TOOTHBRUSH, SIBLING SILENCER CAT-DOG TRANSLATOR, and the ALL BALL. I also got to work on a secret mission for spies, be part of a few reality TV shows, and make friends with lots of cool celebrities!
So you’d think something as simple as the first day of eighth grade wouldn’t give me the first day of school jitters, right? WRONG. I may be starting eighth grade off right—with my best friends at my side, my invention company doing well, and texting a girl I kind of like—but deep down I’m just a regular kid who thinks the first day of school is plain SCARY!
“Don’t forget,” says Mr. Jennings, my new history teacher as he erases the whiteboard, “chapters one through four are due tomorrow.”
Yikes! Homework? On the first day of school? Sounds like Emily was right—she said eighth
grade would be harder than seventh, and I’ve already got tons of homework to do.
Emily is my older sister, by the way. She’s a sophomore in high school now. I used to think high schoolers were cool . . . but now I don’t even want to think about the amount of homework they get.
The bell rings. As I hurry down the hall to my next class—science—I get an incoming text from Jada Parikh. Remember when I said I’m texting a girl I kind of like? Okay, okay, that’s Jada Parikh. Jada is also part of Sure Things, Inc.’s rival invention company, Definite Devices. I guess that should have made us enemies or something, but we are actually pretty good friends. Jada’s amazing at video games and she’s the number three Sandbox XXL player IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!
I open Jada’s text. It’s a picture of her beating a Sandbox XXL mini game in record time.
NUMBER TWO PLAYER IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!
Jada doesn’t go to my school, Fillmore Middle School. She goes to private school and they don’t start their classes until next week. But we live pretty close to each other and know lots of the same people. She and Petula Brown are on the same foosball travel league, for example.
As I slip into science class, I notice that Ms. Soo has already placed a list of the labs we’re expected to complete this quarter on the board.
No doubt about it. Eighth grade is no joke!
Ms. Soo outlines the way the year will go. Chemistry readings, lectures, labs. Biology experiments, films, field trips. A physics conference with the eighth grade advanced math class, demonstrating the connection between the two subjects.
My head is starting to SPIN. But at least she hasn’t given us any homework on the first day of school.
“And here is your homework assignment for tonight,” Ms. Soo says, as if my thought had jinxed it!
Rats. I add that assignment to my growing list labeled HOW IN THE WORLD WILL BILLY SURE GET ALL OF THIS DONE?!
The bell rings again. As it does, I see Timothy Bu and Clayton Harris looking up at each other and shaking their heads. At least I’m not the only one surprised by all of this homework!
Next up is lunch. Thankfully, I won’t have to worry about lunch—even eighth grade lunch.
Not unless the cafeteria staff assigns me homework, anyway!
In the cafeteria I sit with a bunch of my friends at a long table. We’re a pretty interesting group. Manny sits next to me. Around the rest of the table sits Petula Brown, Peter MacHale, Allison Arnolds, Timothy Bu, Samantha Jenkins, and Clayton Harris.
For a long time Manny and I tried to make it a point not to sit together at lunch. We spend so much time together at Sure Things, Inc. that we thought it would be a good idea to hang out with other friends at lunchtime. But now all of our friends like to hang out together. It’s pretty GREAT, if I do say so myself!
I open the brown bag Dad packed for me. My dad likes to cook, though his food creations are a little . . . um, creative, I should say. In my brown bag I find one of his trademark PEANUT-BUTTER-AND-JELLY-STUFFED PICKLES. They actually taste better than they sound.
Like me, Manny brings his own lunch to
school every day. He takes out a turkey sandwich in the shape of what can only be someone’s foot. There are little pieces of cheese on what should be the foot’s toenails. I guess that makes sense—Manny’s mom, Dr. Reyes, is a podiatrist, and sometimes she takes her job a little too seriously. Or maybe she gets a KICK out of it?
The rest of our friends buy their lunch in the cafeteria. They sit with trays of food in front of them.
“How was everyone’s summer?” I ask, a typical first-day-back-at-school question.
“I made some serious cash mowing lawns,” says Peter. “I’m saving up to get a really awesome mountain bike. It will be the cooooolest!”
If you ask Peter, everything he has or does is the “cooooolest!”
“I had a pretty good time at camp. Then I had to work at my family’s fancy restaurant,” Allison says. “I spent a lot of my summer saying stuff like, ‘Would you like the elite set of silverware or the royal set of silverware, sir?’ ”
We all laugh.
Timothy pokes at whatever is on his tray. “I ran every day,” he says. “This year I’m going to make the school track team. Did you know that it takes five hundred twenty-five steps to go around the track one time? I counted.”
Oh yeah. Timothy’s hobby is counting steps.
Told you I have some interesting friends.
“I worked with my mom this summer at Right Next Door,” Samantha says cheerfully.
Right Next Door is our local online newspaper. Samantha’s mom, Kathy Jenkins, is the main editor and staff writer. She isn’t always factual, though. In fact, Kathy Jenkins has written some pretty nasty (untrue!) stuff about Manny and me.
“I was a lifeguard at the community pool,” Petula says. “That’s how I got this perfect tan!”
She holds out her arm so all of us can inspect what must be Petula’s perfect tan.
“One time, while on the job, I jumped in after a dog leaped off the diving board!” Petula
continues. “On second thought, maybe that was Peter!”
Everyone at the table laughs. Peter was a bit obnoxious at Petula’s pool party this summer. He kept doing these MONSTER CANNONBALLS off the diving board and splashing everyone. The first time it was kinda funny, but by the fourth time it was, well, annoying.
“Ha-ha, very funny,” Peter says. “But if you can’t tell the difference between me and a dog—”
“Oh, I can tell,” Petula says. “A dog spills less food on the floor when he eats!”
Again, everyone laughs.
“How about you, Clayton?” I ask. “What’d you do?
Clayton Harris is president of the Fillmore Middle School Inventors Club, a club I started. I was happy to hand it over to Clayton, though. Being a kid inventor and keeping up with schoolwork is hard—and it looks like it’s going to get a lot harder.
“Well, Billy, I’m glad you asked,” Clayton replies. “I started work on ten new inventions, which I hope to complete with the help of my fellow inventors club members.”
“Ten! Wow!” I say, a little jealous that Clayton had a way more productive summer than I did.
“Yep, including a CHOCOLATE MILK LOCATOR, a HOMEWORK ORGANIZER, and an AUTOMATIC TABLE CLEARER,” Clayton explains.
A Homework Organizer? That invention
sounds like something I could use right now! Clayton is a really smart inventor.
As I eat my peanut-butter-and-jelly-stuffed pickles, I glance around at the food on everyone’s tray. Cafeteria food is notoriously bad no matter what school you go to (one of the reasons I like to bring to my own lunch every day—even if Dad does make it), but the stuff on everyone’s plates today looks downright nasty.
Just as I’m about to ask what the weird-looking food is, Petula blurts out proudly: “You know, my aunt is the new director of Cafeteria Services.”
So she’s the one responsible for serving up a plate full of something that looks like it just crawled out from under a rock. And now that Petula says it, I remember her mentioning it at her pool party. The food there was super . . . um, “creative”—detox health shakes, creamy kale salad, and some seriously mysterious mystery meat!
And now this!
“My aunt went to Fillmore when she was
growing up,” Petula continues. “She is sooooo cool! Look at what she did here. She used food coloring to make the chicken fingers match our school colors! How awesome is that?”
Wait. Hold up. CHICKEN FINGERS? Those gross green hunks of twisted stuff are supposed to be CHICKEN FINGERS?!
I don’t know about your school, but at my school chicken fingers are the best cafeteria food we have. Why would anyone ruin Chicken Fingers Day? Everyone knows Chicken Fingers Day is the best day of the month! And these chicken fingers, they look, well, like . . . fingers.
Everyone has a pile of them on their trays, but as I eat my own lunch I notice that Petula is the only one actually eating them. The rest of my friends are working hard to eat the rest of the stuff on their plates—slowly sipping on cartons of milk, using their plastic spork to eat purple sorbet. I don’t blame them.
But not Petula. Whether she actually likes the way they taste or she’s eating them out of loyalty to her aunt, she devours one chicken
finger after another, until at last lunch is over.
The bell rings and we all get up from the table.
“This was fun!” says Peter. “Wanna meet for ice cream after school?”
I think about all the homework I have on day one of the eighth grade. Then I think about the chocolate mint marshmallow cookie-dough swirl sundae I could be eating instead. Magically, all thoughts about my homework DISAPPEAR.
“Sure,” I say. “I’m in!”
Manny nods, followed by the rest of the gang. Even Petula, who seems to have survived her aunt’s chicken fingers, agrees.
The rest of the day goes by smoothly, though I wonder if all the teachers got together and said, “Let’s pull a practical joke on the kids and all give them a ton of homework on the first day!”
When the last bell of the day rings, I hop on my bike and head toward Jansen’s Ice-Cream
Shop, which is on my way home anyway. My friends and I squeeze in around a not-quite-big-enough table in the middle of the restaurant. I can barely see Manny over my triple scoop sundae of chocolate mint marshmallow cookie-dough swirl.
We all start talking excitedly—this time about the new movie Galaxy Battles: Episode Nine, which is coming out this week. Celebrity actress Gemma Weston is starring in it, but even though we’re kind of friends, she won’t give away any secrets.
“I heard someone is going to lose a hand in the new movie,” Allison says, then cheerfully licks her strawberry shortcake ice cream.
“A hand? No way. I think someone will lose two hands,” says Peter. He dives into his cotton-candy scoop with animal-cracker crumbles.
We all jump right in. Everyone has their own theories.
Me? I don’t really care. I’m just having a good time.
I shove another spoonful of delicious, chocolate-y ice cream into my mouth and notice that although I’m having a lot of fun, something is a LITTLE STRANGE here. I look around the table and realize what’s strange is . . . Petula.
Petula has a scoop of vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles in front of her, but she hasn’t eaten a single bite. In fact, she looks a little green. And not in the “pistachio-ice-cream green” kind of way.
And Petula, who is one of the chattiest people I know (and that’s a fact—I once timed her talking nonstop for a SOLID HOUR), has not said a single word.
“Are you okay, Petula?” I ask, wiping brown-and-white dribble from my chin.
“Hur,” Petula grunts.
“How’s your ice cream, Petula?” I ask.
“Hur.” Another grunt.
The group resumes talking for an hour, until it’s time to head home. As everyone
gathers their stuff, I pull Manny aside.
“Does Petula seem a little, I don’t know, STRANGE?” I whisper to him.
“She was fine at lunch—I’m sure everything is okay,” he says. “She might just be stressed because of all of the homework. I know I am.”
Okay, now I KNOW eighth grade is going to be hard.