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Lin chewed, swallowed, then opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue. Specks and crumbs from Fruity Stars cereal covered it like glitter.
“Five minutes and eleven seconds. I’m not sure it’s a world record, but I’m impressed,” I said to Lin as I checked my stopwatch.
“I bet it is a world record. How do we find out?” Lin asked as she dusted cereal crumbs off the front of her shirt. “Should we call the Fruity Stars cereal company? I bet they’d know.”
“We’ll write down the time and call them later. Right now, we need to turn that box into a new lab for the Microterium. Remember?” I said. I held out my hand for Lin to pass me the box.
“Of course I remember. I just think that setting a world record for fastest time ever for eating a whole box of cereal, without milk even, is something pretty special,” Lin said. She handed me the box.
“Absolutely. And I promise we’ll look into it. But for now, it’s construction time,” I said as I placed the box on the kitchen table. “Marker.”
Lin dug through my backpack and found a blue marker. She handed it to me. “My lips are all chappy and my cheeks are sore on the insides of my mouth.”
I measured the center of the box and drew a square where I would be cutting a hole for the front door to the new Fruity Stars Lab. “Hazards of the job, I guess,” I said. “Scissors.”
Lin pulled a pair of scissors from the caddy on the table and handed them to me, handles first. Not only is Lin an excellent cereal muncher, she is the best lab assistant I’ve ever met. I used the scissors to cut a perfectly straight door hole, then I bent it open, creasing a hinge in the cardboard so it would open and shut.
“Will you please hand me that masking tape?” I said to Lin.
“Thure…” Lin said. I looked at her to see her tongue was lolling out of her mouth. “My thongue ith sthwollen up. Ith thath mormal?”
I laughed—I couldn’t help it—which made Lin a little angry. “I’m theriouth, Danny. It’th puffing up like a balloon,” Lin said. Lin pinched her tongue and held it out as far as she could, trying to see it over her nose.
I reached for the tape myself. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. Your tongue just did a big workout session. It probably needs a rest. Maybe have a glass of milk or something,” I said.
“Thath’th a good ithea,” Lin said. It made me laugh again and I kind of put the tape on crooked, but it was fine. Hearing Lin talk with her tongue hanging out of her mouth was totally worth a crooked piece of tape.
I could hear Lin digging through the fridge as I added a few more details to the Fruity Stars cereal box. I cut two windows in the top of the box to let in some light. Then I pinched the top of the roof into a triangle, like Professor Penrod had done with the first cereal box. The original held up fine for a while, but after Lin and I introduced a few rowdy Microsaurs to the Microterium, the box was pretty much destroyed.
“The milk helpths, but I think thith thrawberry thoda will be even better,” Lin said. She leaned around the fridge door and showed me a half-empty bottle of red, sugary soda.
“Thure thing. Thelp thourthelf,” I said.
“Ha-ha, very thunny, Danny,” Lin said. She unscrewed the cap and drank right from the bottle.
Just then, my phone started to buzz and beep. Looking around, I dug under papers until I found it buried beneath the plans I’d drawn earlier for the new lab. A notification had popped up, and I swiped the screen to check it out.
“Looks like we have exactly four hours and fifty-three minutes until Professor Penrod returns,” I said.
“That’s tons of time,” Lin said. She put the bottle back in the fridge. “And hey, look. I’m cured! Strawberry soda to the rescue!”
I had a feeling Lin had waited her whole life to shout that. “Tons of time for what?” I asked.
“To go to the zoo,” Lin said.
“The zoo?” I asked. “Don’t you mean the Microterium?”
“Sure, but the zoo, too. Remember? It’s the last day of Junior Zookeeper’s Class. And it’s only the most important day. We’re talking about FOOD, and I want to show my Microbites to Annie and Sam. I bet they will want to buy my recipe to feed to their animals. Hey. Maybe even other humans, too. They are pretty good,” Lin said.
“I have to agree, I’m kind of addicted to them. Especially when you add raisins,” I said.
“I always add raisins,” Lin said. “Everyone knows triceratops love raisins.”
“Well, how about this? We stop by the Microterium first. We remove what’s left of the old Fruity Stars Lab and replace it with this masterpiece,” I said as I showed the completed cereal box lab to Lin.
“Awesome. The Fruity Stars Lab, Part Two: The Reckoning,” Lin said, and I tilted my head.
“The what?” I asked.
“Oh, nothing. It was a scary movie I saw once. I don’t even know what it means, but it sounds good,” Lin said.
“We’ll keep working on it,” I said. “Besides, we need to check on Pizza and Cornelia. Last night was their first night alone in the Microterium.” Since they hatched, they’ve been staying with one of us in the mint case at night. “It was a big night for them, and I wanna make sure they are okay.”
“For sure. I’ll grab them some snacks, too,” Lin said.
I started stuffing things in my backpack as Lin grabbed her Microbites and some pepperoni slices, and chunked up some corn-dog parts for the Microsaurs. Once my pack was all stuffed and Lin’s pockets were crammed with plastic bags full of snacks, I checked Professor Penrod’s progress on my phone one more time.
“Four hours, forty-four minutes, and forty-four seconds,” I said.
“No way! That’s gotta be lucky, right?” Lin said.
“I don’t really think numbers are lucky,” I said.
“Well, they can be. And that many fours all strung together has got to be lucky,” Lin said as she snapped the strap of her skateboard helmet under her chin. “It’s gonna be a good day, Danny.”
“The best,” I said as we tied the box containing the Fruity Stars Lab 2.0 onto Lin’s skateboard using a bungee cord we found in my garage. Then we push-pulled it as fast as we could toward the greatest place on earth—Professor Penrod’s supersecret, hidden-away, tiny-dinosaur-filled Microterium.
Copyright © 2018 by Dustin Hansen