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Featured Excerpt:

George Brown, Class Clown #1: Super Burp!

by Nancy Krulik | Illustrated by Aaron Blecha
Ages 7-9 | Grades 2-4

Chapter 5

Walking home from school was really, really lonely. "Just me, myself, and I," George said. There was no one else to talk to.

Later, when his mom asked how everything went, George said, "Okay." But his mom probably could tell it hadn't been the greatest day of his life because after dinner his parents took him out for a special first-day-of-school treat. They went to a place called Ernie's Ice Cream Emporium. It was the biggest ice cream parlor George had ever seen. It took up half the block!

Ernie's was a really cool place. Outside, there were small, metal tables set up. Each had a cheery, red and white striped umbrella that was open even though it was nighttime and it wasn't raining. Inside, there were booths with bright red, leather benches.

"Can we sit outside?" George asked. "I want to be able to see the sky."

That wasn't the real reason. The real reason was Louie. When they had gotten out of the car, George had spotted him walking inside with a bunch of older guys.

"So, how'd it go?" his dad asked as they sat down at a table.

The last thing George wanted was a long talk about trying to "adjust." He just wanted to enjoy his ice cream. So he was glad that before he could answer, a girl in a black sweater and a red and white polkadot skirt roller-skated up to the table. George smiled in spite of himself. Rollerskating waitresses? Cool!

"Hi," the waitress greeted George's family. "What can I get for you, folks?"

George knew exactly what he wanted. It was the same thing he always wanted when he was bummed out. "I'll have a root beer float," he said. "With two scoops of chocolate ice cream."

"I'll have vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce," George's mother said.

"A double rocky road sundae for me," his dad added. "With three cherries."

"Okay, I'll get your order for you right away," the waitress promised.

As the waitress skated off, George began to feel a little better. There was nothing a root beer float couldn't cure.

And his parents didn't ask any more questions, either. His mom was talking about her store—ordering glass beads, needlepoint kits, and patterns for knitting afghans. George didn't even know what an afghan was. He didn't want to find out.

As his mom and dad talked, George sneaked another look inside Ernie's. Louie was sitting in a window booth with the three older boys. One of them looked a lot like Louie, only taller. Maybe it was his brother.

George couldn't hear what they were saying, but it was clear that it was funny because they were all laughing really, really hard. Just the way George's friends at his old school used to laugh whenever George said something funny. Which was pretty much all the time.

But that was the old George. The new George didn't joke around like that. Of course, the new George didn't have any friends, either.

"It's not fun not being funny," he whispered to himself.

Just then, the waitress skated over to George's table with the tray of ice cream. "Here you go," she said as she placed a huge mug of root beer and chocolate ice cream on the table. Then she passed his mom and dad their sundaes.

"Thanks," George said. "I really needed this."

He wrapped his lips around the straw and took a huge gulp of the fizzy, sweet root beer. "Yum!"

Just then, George's dad poked him. "Whoa!" he shouted. "Look up, son!"

George did, just in time to see a bright yellow star shoot across the night sky.

"It's a shooting star! Quick! Make a wish," his mom said. "And make it a good one because wishes on shooting stars come true."

George thought for a moment. "I want to make kids laugh but not get into trouble." he whispered. That wasn't such a big wish. It was the kind of wish that could come true, maybe.

George took another big gulp of his root beer float. And then another. He couldn't drink that root beer fast enough.

He was slurping up the last bit of it through a straw when, suddenly, George began to hear strange gurgling noises coming from the bottom of his belly. It felt like there were hundreds of tiny bubbles bouncing around in there.

The bubbles bounced up and down and all around. They ping-ponged their way from his belly to his chest, and bing-bonged their way up into his throat. And then...

George let out a loud burp. He'd burped plenty of times before, but never one like this. The burp was so loud, it made the table shake. It was so loud, his parents clapped their hands over their ears.

The super burp was so loud that everyone sitting outside—and inside— Ernie's stopped talking and stared at George. Then they started to laugh. Hearing people laugh sounded just like the old days.

Then something else really strange happened. Suddenly George's hands reached across the table and grabbed two straws from the container.

It was like his hands had a mind of their own. George had no control over them. He watched as his hands shoved the straws up his nose. Then he jumped up on the table. It was like he was an old-fashioned puppet and someone had yanked him onto the table by his strings.

The next thing he knew, George's hands were clapping together, pretending they were flippers.

"Look, I'm a walrus," George shouted.

A bunch of kids shot up from their seats.

"Hey, check out that kid," one of them said. He was laughing, too.

"George, get down from there!" his mother and father both shouted.

But George couldn't get down. He couldn't stop himself. Goofiness was just bubbling out of him.

George do-si-doed and allemanded. His parents' sundaes went flying off the table.

"George!" his mother shouted. "You just got chocolate sauce all over my new blouse."

George stuck his right foot in. He stuck his right foot out. He did the hokey pokey and he turned himself about. And then...

Whoooosh. It felt like a giant bubble popped inside George's stomach. All the air rushed out of him. And so did the silliness. Suddenly George didn't feel so funny anymore. He stopped dancing and looked around.

"What are you doing up there?" his father asked.

"Um...the hokey pokey?" George answered. He didn't know what else to say. He wasn't sure why he'd jumped up on the table. He certainly hadn't planned it. It had just happened. Right after he'd let out that giant burp.

"I'm swearing off root beer floats for good," he promised himself. "They're too dangerous."



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