Archive for February, 2007

Special Guest Appearance by Lisa O’Donnell

This is a story that Lisa O’Donnell and I wrote together. We hope you like it.

“Horace Gets a Hole”

Horace was really happy that his Aunt Edna was able to make it back from her trip to South America in time for his birthday party. But he was disappointed with the present she brought him.

It was a hole.

It was true that it wasn’t just any old hole. She had gotten it from a hermit who lived on top of a mountain in Peru. And, unlike holes that just sat there where you dug them, you could carry this hole around with you to use as needed.

You have to have a special bag to carry the hole, of course, because it would make a hole in ordinary bags. She had brought him one of those, too. It was made out of some kind of fabric that reminded him of his grandmother’s couch.

No doubt it was a special hole, and it came in a special bag. But there was no getting around the fact that it was just a hole and that the bag looked like something a girl might carry around. Horace did his best to hide his disappointment.

He was happy to see Aunt Edna. And he did get lots of presents that he did want. And the birthday cake was fabulous. So, after a while, he forgot about the hole.

He didn’t think about it again until the next night when his mother served split-pea soup. As he was sitting there wishing that he didn’t have to eat split-pea soup, it occurred to him that a hole would come in really handy right now. He snuck into his room, pulled the hole out of the bag, carried it behind his back into the kitchen and dropped it into his bowl of soup while his mother wasn’t looking.

Just like that his soup bowl was empty.

“My, you ate that really fast,” said his mother when she saw the empty bowl. “Would you like some more?”

“No, thank you,” said Horace.

He was starting to see that Aunt Edna had given him a better gift than he realized.

Later, when he was getting ready for bed, his mother asked him if he had any idea how all that split-pea soup ended up on the kitchen floor.

“I think there was a hole in the bottom of the bowl,” said Horace, who believed in telling the truth.

“Hmmm,” his mother said.
The next morning, Evan announced that he had a stomachache and was too sick to go to school. The last time that Evan didn’t want to go to school, he ate three bananas to make himself sick. He hid the peels in his socks-and-underwear drawer. For a week, every time he got dressed, he smelled like a banana.

Horace held the hole up to the chest of drawers and moved it around until he found fresh banana peels mushed up against Evan’s rocket ship underpants. Just as he suspected. Horace didn’t tattle tale on Evan, though. He wasn’t that kind of brother. He just liked knowing the truth.

Horace wanted to take the hole to school but he wasn’t about to carry it around in a bag that looked like something a girl would carry. So he put it in one of the pockets of his pants.

Horace was still thinking about what a great present the hole was after all when he got to school and discovered that he had put his lunch money in the pocket with the hole in it. He had to borrow money from his friend Frank who didn’t believe the story about the hole but was such a good friend that he gave Horace the money anyway.

No, really, Horace said. Now that he had decided that he liked his hole (even if it did make him lose his lunch money), he was too nervous about it to pull it out in class. What if their teacher, Mrs. Greenspan, took it away? It’s not as if he could go buy another one at the store. He told Frank that he would show it to him at recess.

At recess, he accidentally dropped it on the ground just as Mandy was running by. If Horace liked girls, which, of course, he doesn’t because he is a self-respecting little boy, he would have liked Mandy because her eyes glittered when she smiled at him.

Mandy tripped in the hole and fell down and skinned her knee and got dirt on her dress, which had been red all over but was now kind of reddish-brown in spots.

The way that Mandy looked at Horace when she stood up made him feel as if the hole was in the bottom of his stomach. He was seeing that having a hole not only had its good sides but also its not-so-good sides.

“I’m sorry,” said Horace.

“Why did you trip me?” said Mandy.

“He didn’t trip you,” said Frank. “He dropped his hole on the ground.”

Horace picked it up to show her.

“Wow,” said Mandy. “I never saw anything like that.”

And, just like that, she stuck her arm into it.

“No!” said Horace.

He didn’t know how that hole worked. What if her hand was gone when she pulled her arm out? When she pulled her arm out it was just fine, though.

“That probably wasn’t such a good idea, was it?” said Mandy now that she had had a moment to think about it.

Horace put the hole back in his pants.

“Say, isn’t that the pocket you put the lunch money I loaned you in?” said Frank.

Frank was right. In all the excitement, Horace had put the hole in his other pocket. Horace reached in. Sure enough, that money was gone, too. They looked on the ground but didn’t find it. Frank didn’t have any more extra money and neither did Mandy. But she offered to let him eat half of her peanut-butter-banana-and-honey sandwich with the crusts cut off at lunch.

That was his favorite kind of sandwich. If he bought lunch as he had planned, he would be eating his mother’s leftover meat medley. He was definitely going to have to get to work on that thank-you letter to his aunt after he got home.

After lunch, the class took a field trip to Crater Lake. Everything was going great until Claire asked Mandy how she had gotten her dress so dirty and Horace made the mistake of telling Claire the long version of the story.

Claire, of course, demanded to see the hole, and, when Horace was showing it to her, the canoe rocked and he dropped it into the bottom of the canoe. Lake water came gurgling up through the bottom. Horace picked up the hole really fast, and everything would have been fine except that, in all of the hubbub, the canoe tipped over.

As Horace bobbed in the water, he thought about how it was a really good idea that Mrs. Greenspan made them all put on life jackets even though they were uncomfortable. After he finished thinking about that, he made a mental note not to be so blabby about the hole in the future.

When Horace was walking home from school, he decided to stop off and buy Evan the latest issue of “The Rainbow Phantom.” The Rainbow Phantom who saves the day using something made out of a different color of the rainbow each adventure. Horace knew that, by now, Evan would need a little excitement. Sometimes, staying home from school seemed like a great idea in the morning. But, by afternoon, you started thinking about how it meant that you couldn’t go outside and play.

When he got to the drugstore, the owner, Mr. Hanson, was at the curb trying to slip a wire coat hanger down inside his car window.

“What’s going on, Mr. Hanson?” Horace asked.

“I locked my keys in the car,” said Mr. Hanson.

“Would you like for me to get them out?” asked Horace.

“Are they teaching youngsters how to pick locks in the second grade now?” Mr. Hanson asked.

“No, but I can do it if you turn your back and count to 10,” said Horace, who had learned his lesson about showing his hole to everyone.

“OK,” said Mr. Hanson, who was crabby by now and ready to try anything.

“Stop peeking,” said Horace when he saw that Mr. Hanson was sneaking a look over his shoulder. “And I’m in the third grade.”

“My apologies,” said Mr. Hanson.

“Not at all,” said Horace, who, by now, had used the hole to reach through the door to unlock it.

As a thank-you present, Mr. Hanson gave him the comic book for free. This month, the Rainbow Phantom used a purple speedboat to save a dolphin that had been kidnapped by a character called The Rogue Barracuda.

When Horace got home, he gave the comic book to Evan, who was really happy to get it, and headed toward his room.

“Don’t you want a snack?” said his mother.

“Maybe later,” said Horace. “I need to go write Aunt Edna a thank-you note.”

His mother was happy that he was going to do that. But she was also a little worried. Horace writing a thank-you note without being told? That wasn’t like him. Maybe he was coming down with whatever Evan had.