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Authors: Jordan Sonnenblick

Dodger for president

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PRAISE FOR

 

Dodger and Me

A Book Sense Selection

 

“A magical tale of affection, family, and a boy's imaginative (‘imaginary' doesn't do it justice) friendship with an inspired, demented blue chimpanzee . . .”

—Kirkus Reviews

 

“The humor will draw kids, including Dodger's off-the-wall dialogue and the outlandish predicaments that result when he decides to ‘help.' ”

—Booklist

 

Visit the author onwww.jordansonnenblick.com.

JORDAN SONNENBLICK

FEIWEL AND FRIENDSNEW YORK

 

 

 

 

 

To my beloved big sister, Lissa.

Thanks for secretly being my fan all along.

 

 

 

 

A FEIWELANDFRIENDS BOOK

An Imprint of Macmillan

 

DODGER FOR PRESIDENT. Copyright © 2009 by Jordan Sonnenblick.

All rights reserved. For information, address Feiwel and Friends, 175 Fifth Avenue,New York, N.Y. 10010.

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Available

 

ISBN: 978-0-312-37794-6

 

Book design by Barbara GrzesloFeiwel and Friends logo designed by Filomena Tuosto

 

First Edition: 2009

 

Printed in May 2009 in the United States of Americaby RR Donnelley, Harrisonburg, Virginia

 

10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

 

www.feiwelandfriends.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look, if I'm going to tell youeverythingthat happened with Lizzie and me and the fifth-grade election, you have to promiseyou won't tell. And you won't laugh—even at the parts that are really, reallyfunny. And you won't mention any of this to my parents or my little sister, Amy.

Not that I carewhat they think.

Anyway, I guess I'll have to trust you on this, right? Plus, I'm busting to tell somebody about it.So here goes. . .

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONEThe Big Surprise

 

 

“DUDE!”DODGER SHOUTEDas he jumped into my arms.

“Oww!” I yelped as we tumbled together to the floor of my room. This happened pretty often, because I was a wimpy, 80-pound fifth grader and Dodger was a really strong, 125-pound chimp. With blue fur. And bright orange-and-white surfer shorts. Plus an eye patch.

Oh, and he's invisible to everyone except me and this girl named Lizzie.

It's a really long story.

But the point is, Dodger knocked me over andlanded right on top of me. It's amazing how pointy a chimpanzee's elbows are. So as I was lying there, gasping for air, Dodger started talking a mile a minute. The conversation went like this:

 

DODGER: Dude, you missed so much while you were in Cleveland with your dad!

 

ME:Gasp . . .

 

DODGER: Lizzie took me to school, just like we planned. And there was just one little problem.

 

ME:Gasp . . .

 

DODGER: Like, there was this science quiz. It was totally hard. There were all these, um, questions and stuff. And you had to fill in these little bubbles with letters next to them, but I really didn't see what the letters had to do with the questions. The question would be allWhat type of rock is made when a volcano erupts and then the lava cools?But the answers would be all likeA.OrB.OrC.Or evenD. Dude, I don't know a whole lot about rocks, but even a chimp knows there's no kind of rock called“A Rock.” 'Cause that would be just completely confusing. Somebody would ask you, “What do you call that cool rock you're holding?” And you'd go, “This? It's called ‘A Rock.' ” And they'd go, “Yeah, I know it's a rock. But what kind of rock is it?” Then you'd be all, “Buddy, thenameof this rock is ‘A Rock.' ” And they'd be all, “Why do you have to be such a wise guy? All I did was ask the name of a rock.” So you'd go, “Exactly!” And then they'd probably hit you or something.

But, you know, I did my best for you.

 

ME: What do you mean, you . . .gasp. . . did your “best” for me?

 

DODGER: Well, I didn't want you to get all behind in your work, right? So I just wrote your name on top of a quiz and tried really hard to fill in all the bubbles.

 

ME: Okay, so you took a test in my name, on a day when I wasn't even in school. I guess that was the problem.

 

DODGER: Uh, no, that wasn't the problem. I mean, I made this really great sentence out of all the letters. Do you want to hear it?

 

ME(puts head in hands):Gasp. . . sure.

 

DODGER: Okay, here it is: “CAB! A CAB! DAD, A CAB! A . . . A . . . BAD CAB!” See, it's like this little story about you and your dad. Get it? You, like, see this taxicab, right? So you yell to your dad, and you try to get the driver to stop. But the cab just keeps going. Genius, huh?

 

ME:Groan. . .

 

DODGER: I still don't get the part about the rocks, though. Well, maybe we'll get a lot of points for creativity.

 

You couldn't leave this chimp alone for a minute. So apparently a whole weekend plus a school day were completely out of the question. I got up off the floor, checked myself for broken ribs, and dusted off. Meanwhile Dodger started to tell me about the rest of his day at school. It was hard to believe there was more, but I hadn't even heard about the problem yet.

“So then in social studies, they're learning about how all these explorer guys discovered North America and discovered South America and, like, discovered Africa. I totally wanted to set the record straight, but I didn't.”

Well, that was a relief. “Uh, Dodger, what did you want to set the record straight about, exactly?”

“I wanted to tell them about how chimpanzees had already totally conquered all those places, thousands and thousands of years ago. Like before you called it South America, we called it Banana World. And before you had Europe, we had No-Monkeys-Land.”

I always get drawn in when he does this. I don't know why, but it happens every stupid time. So I said, “What about Asia?”

He smirked. “Chimptopia, of course.”

“Africa?”

“Land O'Mammals.”

“New Jersey?”

Dodger made a horrified face. “Dude, who would want to conquer New Jersey? Anyway, youwould have been proud of me, Willie. I didn't say a single word. Well, okay, I kind of laughed when the cake fell on James Beeks.”

“Wait a minute, a cake fell on James Beeks? Wasthatthe problem?”

“ ‘Problem'? It was awesome. I mean, there was this huge, brown-and-orange volcano cake on the ledge over the chalkboard. And, you know, Beeks is the coolest kid in the school, right? And he always calls you Wimpy and says you're a total dork, right? So I just thought it was funny when he got . . .”

“What do you mean, a total dork?” I blurted.

Dodger looked sheepish for a moment. “Well, you know, not a dork, exactly. It's not your fault about your little dressing-funny problem, since your mom picks out all your clothes, right? Plus, who can blame you for not having any guy friends since Tim moved away? It's hard to hang out with the guys if you're not good at—oh, never mind.”

I was insulted, but I forced myself to take a deep breath. The madder I got, the more off topic Dodger got, and I had a feeling I would really need to know what the mysterious problem was. “Whatever.So how did the cake fall on James Beeks anyway?”

“Okay, you know how I was trying not to say anything about the whole social studies thing? That was totally hard for me, right? So I was just kind of hopping up and down in my seat next to Lizzie. I guess that made the ledge over the chalkboard vibrate. And the cake just slid off the ledge. Then Mrs. Starsky tried to make a jumping catch. It was pretty awesome, but she fumbled the cake. So it bounced off her hands onto James's head, upside down.”

I could just tell there had to be more to this story, so I waited. Sure enough, Dodger continued, “I don't know why he got so mad. I only laughed a little. And it's not like my laugh really sounds like Lizzie's anyway. But he thought Lizzie was laughing at him—I guess he couldn't hear that well through all the cake around his ears. So he got all mad, and Mrs. Starsky yelled at Lizzie.”

“Oh,” I said. “I guess that's the problem, huh?”

“No,” Dodger replied. “That's not the problem. So then Lizzie started yelling at James, right? And, dude, he was getting completely heated. He kepttrying to wipe all this orange icing off his face and yelling back at her. Then Mrs. Starsky was standing between James and Lizzie, trying to see if James was okay, even though it was only a cake that fell on him in the first place. It was really funny, but I only laughed a little bit more. So the teacher thought it was Craig Flynn, 'cause he usually laughs at everybody, right?”

This was getting better and better.Not!I thought I heard our doorbell ringing downstairs, but I wasn't going to go down and miss the end of this story. My mom could get the door.

“Everybody was going totally bananas. I mean, you know I love bananas, but—I mean, everyone was going nuts—well, I like nuts, too, but you know what I mean. Lizzie and James were yelling at each other; Mrs. Starsky was yelling at Craig; and Craig was just standing there totally confused and wondering who he should blame for the whole thing so he could beat them up at lunch recess. Then somehow it wound up that Craig, Mrs. Starsky, and James were all looking right at Lizzie.”

Wow. “So that was the problem, huh?”

“Nope,” said Dodger. Just then, I heard footstepscharging up the stairs. Dodger looked at my bedroom door and gulped. “The problem—and it's really just a teeny little problem. I mean, fifth grade isn't really a very long part of your life span, when you think about it.” Dodger swallowed again and said, “The problem is—”

Lizzie burst into the room, causing the door to bang off the wall. She was out of breath, but she immediately said, “Dodger, did you tell Willie about the class election?”

I looked at Dodger. Lizzie saw my confused face, then glared at Dodger. I said, “Election?”

Dodger looked like he was going to throw up. “Dude,” he said, “that'sthe problem!”

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWOWho Knew Chimps WereSo into Politics?

 

 

I TURNED TO LIZZIEand asked, “What's Dodger talking about?”

She was all flustered, and I noticed she didn't look me in the eye. “Hi, Willie!” she said brightly as she came over and gave me a hug.

Jeepers. Lizzie was giving me a hug!

As she let go of me, Lizzie kept talking a mile a minute. “How are you? Did you have fun traveling with your dad? Did you have smooth flights? I really hate when I'm on a bumpy flight. I remember this one time, on the way back to England to visit my aunt Mimi, we hit this massive turbulence overthe Atlantic. It was justdreadful! My teacup flew up in the air and flipped over. I got tea all over this horrid bald man who was sitting next to me, and he said—”

“LIZZIE!” I shouted.

“No, he didn't say ‘Lizzie,' actually. In fact, I'm not sure I ever told him my—”

“Lizzie! Stop trying to distract me! What's this whole election thing about?”

Lizzie practically turned green, so I knew that, whatever was going on, hearing about it wasn't going to send me to my happy place. As she gathered herself to speak, I noticed that Dodger was trying to crawl under my bed to hide. I guess he hadn't ever noticed how much stuff I shove down there so my mom will think my room is clean.

Lizzie said, “The election? Right, then. The election. Hmm . . . well, the thing is, there's this election. You know, for the student council president? And James Beeks is running for president, with Craig Flynn as his vice president. See, every year at our school, the fifth graders elect a president and a vice president for the grade, and those officers are also the president and vice presidentof the student council. Really, it's quite a fascinating blend of British and American political—”

“Ahem.” I cleared my throat and tried to ignore the dirt-encrusted sweat sock that Dodger's hand was pushing out from under the bed. “Lizzie, I know all about how our school's elections work, so stop stalling. I want to know what this has to do with us.”

Lizzie's voice was a squeak. “Withus?” she asked. “Well, I've always thought that everyone should get involved in the process of government. Don't you agree?”

I glared at Lizzie as Dodger shoved another disgusting sock into view behind her. “ ‘Involved'? What do you mean,involved?”

A half-eaten slice of pizza, covered in dust bunnies and clumps of hair, slid out from Dodger's hiding place. Then it slid back in, and in the silence while Lizzie tried to figure out what to tell me, I could distinctly hear munching noises.Eww!I was just about to gag when Lizzie finally spoke. If I'd thought she was talking fast before, this took the speed to a whole new level.

“Well, Dodger and I had a little, umm, incidentwith James Beeks and Craig Flynn. You know, because Dodger was you today, and all.”

“What do you mean, Dodger was me?”

I heard a little choking sound coming from under the bed, and Dodger's hands appeared. Now Lizzie looked more puzzled than afraid. “You know,” she said. “With the potion. Just like you planned.”

Dodger pulled himself out from under the bed and sat up, coughing and grabbing at his throat the whole time. “Potion?” I asked. What was Lizzie talking about? Now I was more confused than ever. “Dodger, what in the world is going on?”

Dodger suddenly made a little burping noise, and something flew into his hands. “Nothing, dude. Just a little pepperoni hair ball.”

Aargh!

Lizzie said, “Dodger told me everything this morning on the way to the bus stop: how the Great Lasorda gave him this special potion that would let him look like you for the day, and that way he could start Phase Two of your Life Improvement Plan.”

“Life Improvement Plan?”

“Right, just like Dodger said. He came to schooldisguised as you and started looking for ways to make you popular. The Great Lasorda said that because Dodger is so naturally fun to be around, he should have no problem making your social life more, um, interesting.”

That's weird, because in the past month, my only friend had moved away, a magical chimp had pledged to be my new best friend for life, and I had somehow become good pals with the girl I used to call “dumb old Lizzie from England.” Wasn't my social life interesting enough?

I stared at Lizzie, speechless. I mean, I had plenty to say, but I was having trouble deciding which of my crazy friends to shout at first. Behind her, Dodger wiped his hands on one of the socks, which he proceeded to shove back under my bed. And then my little sister, Amy, came stalking into the room, wearing a bizarre hat with flaps and my dad's checkered raincoat. She was carrying a magnifying glass. “A-ha!” she shouted in a boomingly dramatic voice. “Just as I suspected, Watson!”

Lizzie said, “Hello, Amy. How are you today?”

Amy replied disdainfully, “I am not Amy. If you had any powers of deduction whatsoever, you wouldinfer from my clothing that I am Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of all time. And I know you are keeping a secret!”

Jeepers, this was just getting better and better. As if having an invisible houseguest wasn't hard enough already, now I had a deluded second grader sniffing around the joint, looking for signs of mystery and intrigue.

“What secret?” I asked in my best innocent voice. “Lizzie and I were just having a friendly chat.”

Amy hunched over her magnifying glass and scuttled around the room like a crab, examining the floor as she went. Dodger nearly tripped over himself twice as he tried to stay ahead of her. She was talking to herself under her breath, saying detective-ish things like, “Hmm . . . uh-huh . . . interesting . . . very interesting . . .” Then all of a sudden, she stood bolt upright and shouted, “Eureka! I knew it!”

Lizzie and I both said, “Knew what?”

Amy scooped up the filthy sock, waved it under our noses, and exclaimed, “Knew I'd find this!”

I was baffled, and somewhat irritated. “Wow,Amy, you found one of my socks. In my room. You're a genius! But what does it mean?”

“The name is Sherlock. And the sock is a very important clue. Note the grimy exterior, which indicates that the sock has been worn repeatedly without washing. Take notice, too, of the powerful scent emitted by this discarded garment. Finally, observe this!” She pinched something on the sock and held it up to the light. “A blue hair!”

Oh, boy. I had a sinking feeling that Amy wasn't going to let go of this one. She paused for a moment and then said in her normal voice, “By the way, Willie, can you help me with my math homework?”

“Uh, I'm kind of busy right now, but I guess if you make it quick . . .”

“All right, then. I'm a little confused. What does one plus one make?”

I wondered how a kid with such an amazing imagination could be so bad at math. “Uh, Amy, one plus one equals two.”

“I see . . . and there's one of you in this room, plus one of Lizzie, right?” Amy said. Then she suddenly switched back to her Sherlock voice andasked, “Then why did I hear THREE voices in this room before I came in?”

With a triumphant smirk, Amy flipped the sock in my direction and glided out of the room. I slammed the door behind her.

“Wow.” Lizzie sighed.

“Yeah,” I said, removing the sock from the front of my sweater. “Wow. Now, about that election.”

“We didn't mean it, Willie. It just kind of happened,” Dodger said. “One minute, everything was going great. I drank the potion, pretended to be you for a couple of hours, took that quiz I was telling you about, watched the cake fall on James Beeks—it was all fun and games. Then all of a sudden, everybody was yelling at each other, and I had to stick up for Lizzie. The next thing I knew . . . umm . . . well . . .”

Lizzie took over: “The next thing he knew, Mrs. Starsky was walking out of the room to the water fountain so she could wash the cake off of her shoes. As soon as she left, Beeks said, ‘Shut up, Wimpy. You think you're so great now just because you got one lucky game-tying hit in one stupid baseball game. Well, I think you're ridiculous. Yougot one hit. ONE hit. And all of a sudden, a few people pat you on the back, you have your dorky English girlfriend, and you think you're popular. Is that it, Ryan? Do you think you're all popular now?' ”

Dodger took over the story: “I tried not to say anything, I really did. But, dude, he called Lizzie dorky. And he insulted your big hit. So I just said, ‘Maybe.' Then Beeks poked me in the chest, and said, ‘Maybe WHAT, Wimpy?' So I said, ‘Maybe I'm popular. And maybe you should wipe the cake off your head before you call somebody else ridiculous.' After that, things got a little out of hand.”

I shouted, “After THAT, things got out of hand? How much more out of hand could they possibly BE?”

Dodger and Lizzie hemmed and hawed for a while more, and little Sherlock Holmes knocked on the door two more times, but I eventually got the whole story: how Mrs. Starsky had come back from the hall with her shoes dripping and separated Dodger and Beeks. How they had kept yelling at each other until Mrs. Starsky had written both myname and Beeks's on the board. How Beeks had challenged Dodger to run against him for student council president. How Flynn had muttered, “Yeah, right. Wimpy for president!” How Dodger had stopped for a second to think. And how, in the momentary silence, Lizzie had slammed her palms down on her desk and shouted, “We accept!”

After Lizzie left, and Dodger fled to the inside of his magic lamp for the night, I got ready for bed. While I was lying there in the dark, I kept picturing the whole nightmare classroom scene in my head and wondering what the heck I was going to do about it. Finally, before I drifted off into a night of nervous, tortured half-sleep, I decided what I would have to do. I'd just get up in the morning, march off to school, and tell Mrs. Starsky that I was sorry, but I couldn't run for president after all. I mean, Dodger had gotten all worked up in the spirit of the moment and put me in a bad situation. But I had spent years carefully avoiding the spotlight. If I backed down, Beeks would probably make fun of me for a while, but soon things would be back to normal. I would be happily invisible, Beekswould get elected, just like he had every year since kindergarten, and life would go on.

I figured, how hard could it be? It's not like one day of being absent could change my life forever, right?

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREEMaking My Own Decisions

 

 

THE NEXT MORNING, bright and early, I ran up to my classroom before school started. Mrs. Starsky was just getting there, wearing a brand-new pair of icing-free shoes. “Hello, Willie!” she said. “How's our school's newest political candidate doing today?”

I looked down at the floor—which still had a vivid orange volcano-cake stain—and said, “Uhh, about that candidate thing . . . I've thought it over, and I don't think I want to run for president after all. I didn't really want to run in the first place.”

Mrs. Starsky looked sort of puzzled. “But, Willie,” she said, “you seemed so fired up about it just a day ago. What happened?”

“I don't know,” I mumbled. “I guess I just wasn't myself yesterday. And running wasn't even my idea.”

Mrs. Starsky gave me the dreaded Understanding Teacher Smile. “Oh, William. I have a little story I think you should hear. Why don't you have a seat?”

I sat, and she launched into one of those inspiring pep-talk stories that teachers save up for these special moments. “You're not going to believe this, Willie, but I was once a shy kid.”

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