There has been a lot of traffic on the blog lately and I can’t help but wonder if folks are wondering about my book, Bumbling Bea. So, here is chapter one:
It was Peter’s fault.
“P!” I yelled to get his attention, “do I look like old Macdonald on the farm to you?”
I was splattered all over with the gross stuff. I swear it was already curdling and the entire cafeteria of students could see it. I smelled putrid–like yucky old, blackened, moldy cheese long forgotten in the back of the refrigerator. It made me wretch a little but I still managed to get in his face.
“Why don’t you drink juice or water? Now I smell like I’ve been working in a cheese factory. You’re such a dweeb, P.”
When I was mad at Peter, I called him “P.” He’d been P. ever since we were in kindergarten when he stuck a couple of peas up his nose and had to go to the hospital to get them out. And like those peas, the name stuck. And he was clumsy, BUT only with me. He defended himself like he always did which irritated me.
“Jeez, sorry Beatrice. I didn’t mean to nearly flip over your backpack and spill two miniscule drops of lactose on your precious jacket. It was blocking the aisle between the tables like always. You are so mean these days.” Peter huffed, stomping away from the lunch room.
It wasn’t me speaking to Peter. It was Bumbling Bea. I’ve discovered I have an alter ego who I call Bumbling Bea. Strange and mean thoughts come flying out of my mouth. They didn’t even sound like something I’d think or say! Bumbling Bea hadn’t been around for long, but when she did rear her scary head, it was at the worst times.
One of the most memorable of times Bumbling Bea showed up was when we gave our choir director a tennis racket as a going away present. He was getting married and leaving our school. He was obsessed with tennis and was a pretty decent player. I thought it was neat, even though he had knobby knees and skinny, hairy, Minnie Mouse legs which looked kinda’ weird in his way too short tennis shorts.
I thought of the present when I saw him hitting tennis balls on the tennis court after school one day. He was mumbling something and from seeing his temper in class, I figured it was about his students.
It was the first time Bumbling Bea arrived. I was class secretary for him (which made me feel super important even though he had a class secretary for every other class, too.) I thought I had power and the other kids listened to me. Bumbling Bea liked that a lot! At lunch one day I was sitting by myself, as usual. I turned to the table with the popular kids sitting behind me. “I think we should buy our music teacher a going away present since he’s getting married and leaving us. How about we give him a tennis racket since he loves the game so much?”
Everyone agreed with me (which was a first) and those who didn’t, gave me a dollar per student donation anyway. If giving money for a teacher’s going away present kept you in or near the popular kids, you gave it. And they did!
I was so excited. I checked out tennis racket prices on the internet, Dave’s Discount and the hardware supply store. Dave’s had the best price. Most everything was less expensive at Dave’s Discount. My Dad told me it was because Dave bought up all the things other businesses couldn’t sell. Dad thought Dave’s had good deals even though sometimes their stuff fell apart after one use. Their price for the tennis racket was awesome and one my class could afford.
Since I found the tennis racket right away, I had a little bit of time left over before Dad picked me up so I looked around at the girls’ clothes. Normally, I didn’t look at your typical girls’ clothes because they were always way too pink and way too fluffy. Not at Dave’s, though! I found a black and white polka dotted bikini swimming suit, matching flip flops and a package of panties—things were so cheap.
“You want me to put them in a Dave’s Discount box, honey?” wondered the clerk lady who smelled like cigarettes and chewing gum.
I heard about the Dave’s Discount boxes before. People used them to store about anything in them after they got them home: extra cat litter, broken toys, a bed for a puppy and so forth. They were sturdy, kind of a brownish tan color with black stripes printed on one side of them and the words “Dave’s Discount” plastered over the stripes.
Being so proud of myself for a. finding the tennis racket and b. buying the bikini, flip flops and panties all by myself, I accepted two boxes instead of one. I mean, they were free, you know? Dad said not to turn away free stuff if anyone at a store ever offered you anything free. I thought Dave’s Discount box was one of those free things he was talking about.
“Mom, we got a deal. The racket only cost thirty-six dollars.” I announced as I arrived home.
“Don’t forget to take off the price tag before you wrap it, Beatrice,” my mom reminded me as she whisked off to teach her art classes.
Mom! Sheesh. Sometimes she thinks I’m a baby…
My brother, Edmund, helped me wrap the box rolling it two or three times in wrapping paper and tying it with gobs of ribbons and a bunch of bows on it. We put the box in another box which went in another box. We thought it was so fun to unwrap when you received one of those sort of presents. Edmund laughed and laughed each time we played the trick on him.
This is so awesome. I said to myself. And when I tell him I chose the present, he will think I’m one of his coolest students for doing this for him.
That was Bumbling Bea talking. You see? Why would it matter whether my teacher thought I was the coolest student he had ever taught during his teaching career? He had thousands of kids he’d taught already and I was a lousy singer.
It was finally time to give the present. On the last day of classes before summer vacation, we usually sang through the year’s music one more time. The whole choir was singing happily, but they kept turning and looking at me. I was singing loud the way I never do because I was so excited about our present. Well, Bumbling Bea was singing exceedingly loud because she thought I was a better singer since I thought up the present.
It was the second time Bumbling Bea appeared.
Finally, the end of the hour came and it was time for the present. I stood lifting my head proudly, “We are sad you are leaving Oak Grove Middle School. We wanted to give you something to remember us when you are off in your new life.” I gave him the big box saying, “So, here is a little something to use to take out your frustrations on your new wife.”
Huh? What was that I said?
I was kinda’ nervous which was unusual for me and it freaked me out. So I tried again. “I meant, here’s a little something to use to take out your frustrations in your new life.”
Oh man. That wasn’t right either.
I tried one more time, “Oh, you know when you have a bad day at your new school and want to strangle your students, you can use this instead.” I cringed.
My teacher stared at me. “I don’t know what you are talking about, Beatrice. I’m never frustrated with my students.” He smiled at the rest of the class and ignored me.
I felt different on the inside of myself. Kinda’ smart aleck-y, but I didn’t know why. Maybe I was way too excited or nervous or awkward? When I am, I do dumb things to cover. It was how I felt that day. I wanted to sound grown up and cool and in charge, but I said three super dumb things to my teacher.
But I did more than say three dumb things.
When Edmund and I were wrapping the tennis racket, Edmund’s pet ferret, Bernie, got loose from Edmund’s clutches and darted around my room. We were so busy screaming at Bernie that while trying to catch him, I guess my big fat foot accidentally pushed the box with the tennis racket under my bed. I picked up the other identical box with my new swimming suit, matching flip flops and the package of new panties and wrapped it instead.
Yes, you read it right: it was the box containing my new bikini swimming suit, matching flip flops and the new panties.
NEW PANTIES! NEW PANTIES!
But see, I didn’t know it was the wrong box because I wasn’t looking at my teacher when he finally opened the last box. I was busy picking up the left over wrapping paper.
Somebody whispered, “Beatrice, you left the price tag on the box.”
“Embarrassing,” another snickered.
THE PRICE TAG WAS SHOWING. THE STUPID PRICE TAG WAS STILL ON THE PRESENT.
I looked up and before I knew it, Bumbling Bea quipped, “There’s the price tag. It shows you how much we like you and I wanted you to know all us chipped in for it.”
Again with the dumb statements!
My teacher opened the box and there was no tennis racket.
BUT, there they were: the panties. Oh, the swimming suit and flip flops were there too, but all I saw were the PANTIES. It was as if they grew from a regular size to the size of a goal post on a football field. HUGE.
I stammered, “What? How did those get in there?”
My confused teacher said something to me, but the whole class was laughing so loudly I couldn’t hear him. I grabbed back the box and ran out of class and hid in the girls’ bathroom.
People called me “Panties” for days afterward until my mother heard them one too many times and threatened to call their parents.
Later I got the right present to my teacher but by then every kind of damage had already been done and I still forgot to take the price tag off the stupid present. I gave up.
Peter said later in the summer he saw my teacher hitting balls with our present tennis racket out on the court. He was back in town visiting his mother or something. I guess he hit one ball a little too hard, because the tennis racket’s webbing unraveled and when it fell to the ground, the handle fell apart, too.
Yup. Bumbling Bea steps into my skin right at the wrong time. Lately, there are more times she appears than I have until a crazy girl who wore cat ears visited from Japan. She made me see what I was doing by taking on my bumble-bea-ness herself. It’s all a little scary when you think about it.