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An Offer I Can't Refuse
Here's the thing no one tells you about monkeys: They steal your cereal every chance they get. Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Froot Loops, Trix, Gorilla Munch-even the boring ones like Grape-Nuts-drive my capuchin monkey, Frank, out of his mind. He's like a castaway finally on dry land who can't wait to eat everything in sight. I hate keeping him locked in his cage while I eat in front of him every morning, but on the days I let him out, the kitchen ends up looking like a rainbow war zone with flakes and nuggets all over the floor. My mutt, Bodi, is much more well behaved, waiting patiently for me to measure out his food and place it in his bowl near the bookcase.
"How about some chocolate chip pancakes?" my dad asks.
I say yes, mainly so I can take Frank out of his cage. (Frank is not a fan of pancakes.)
My dad hasn't worked for the last two months, so he's on kitchen patrol. He's been a freelance storyboard artist for decades, but the movie industry's in a slump and it's been hard for him to find new work. Luckily, my mom's a vet, so they've still been able to pay the bills. The good news is my father has started experimenting with some great new recipes. The bad news is he's taken an even greater interest in my homework.
Since I was little, the best way for me to learn my vocabulary words was to draw them. I have notebooks and notebooks and notebooks filled with illustrations of stick figures acting out all my school words. My parents have always inspected my work, but these days Dad puts each drawing under a microscope.
"Are you sure that's the best definition of inquire?" He traces my illustration with his finger.
"Shouldn't we add more chocolate chips to the batter?" I ask, changing the subject.
My dad throws another handful of chips into the bowl. "If you want to continue with your art, you have to get every detail right. Believe me, I know."
Now I wish I'd just had cereal. Sweeping up Cap'n Crunch is ten times better than listening to Dad reflect on his old jobs. I hope he gets a new one soon-I'll miss the pancakes but not the sad stories.
"Hey, I forgot to tell you," Dad says. "I got an email from one of the guys at Global Games, where I did some work last year. He asked if I knew any kids who might be interested in testing some new software." He gently places three pancakes on my plate.
"Are they looking for kids to test video games?" I shout.
My dad pours himself a second cup of coffee. "Does that mean you're interested?"
I don't even bother with the maple syrup, just roll the pancakes into a log, yell good-bye to my dad, and race to school to share the news with my friends.
WE'RE GOING TO TEST VIDEO GAMES!
My Friends Go Nuts
The mention of taking part in a video game study makes Matt ricochet off the walls with expectation. He's talking so loud and fast that Ms. Miller sticks her head out of the classroom to tell him to be quiet. Matt lowers his voice but is still excited.
"They want us to test video games before they're released? We'll probably be locked in a secret room and have to sign a form that says we'll keep everything confidential." He's whisper-shouting so close to my face, I can smell his peppermint toothpaste. "Wait until Umberto hears about this. Carly too."
"Hears about what?"
Matt and I whip around to see Carly standing behind us. She's wearing her T-shirt from surf camp with a hyena riding a giant wave. Matt gestures for me to tell Carly the news, and I do. As soon as I finish, Umberto screeches over in his wheelchair, so I repeat the story one more time.
I don't know about my friends, but I can barely concentrate on schoolwork for the rest of the day. (Not that I'm good at staying on task the rest of the time.) Ms. McCoddle leads a spirited debate about the American Revolution, but I listen to only every other word. What if we get to help name the new video game? Will we be listed in the credits?
"What do you think, Derek?"
When I wake from my daydream, Ms. McCoddle is standing beside my desk.
"Um ... the people in Boston wanted coffee instead of tea?"
I pray my answer ties in somehow to what the class has been talking about, but by the look on Ms. McCoddle's face, it doesn't. She crosses her arms in front of her chest. With her black-and-white-striped shirt, she looks like an unhappy referee.
"No, Derek. Paul Revere was a silversmith. But maybe he liked to hang out at his local Starbucks to get some of that coffee you mentioned." Several of my classmates laugh, so Ms. McCoddle keeps going. "Do you think Paul Revere was an espresso kind of guy, or do you think he preferred Frappuccinos?"
All I want is for my teacher to walk back to her desk, but of course she doesn't.
Matt chimes in to bail me out. "Paul Revere definitely needed caffeine to make that midnight ride."
Umberto shakes his head because I got caught not paying attention yet again. Carly laughs as Matt continues his "the British are coming" spiel.
Ms. McCoddle arches her eyebrow and finally moves on, which is great because I want to get back to thinking about new video games.
Text copyright © 2015 by Janet Tashjian
Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Jake Tashjian