Genre: Middle Grade; Adventure/Mystery
Title: Sixth Grade Secret Service
The air in our crowded classroom was still. Which wasn’t a good thing because the JV jocks had been training extra hard for the weekend’s big game between our North Washington Allies and the South Washington X-Patriots, and I could smell some of them had skipped the showers.
Tibby Roosevelt sat in the desk across from mine. Her eyes were fixated on the row of past class presidents’ pictures above the whiteboard, specifically to the empty space at the end.
Tibby hadn’t blinked in over a minute and I was starting to worry when a loud burp from the jock’s corner of the room startled her out of her trance. “You know Abraham, as my first act as class president, I’m going to make you head of my security.”
My eyes bulged. “You sure that’s a good idea—have you forgotten what my family is known for?”
“No, smart guy, I haven’t.”
I loved listening to the girl talk. The slight South African accent she’d gotten from her mother made Tibby sound more sincere and wise than most girls our age. It was somehow soothing, even when we argued.
“Except—why did Grandpa Jessup leave President Lincoln’s balcony, again?” She asked.
“Oh I don’t know.” I said. “I think he went to concessions for a box of DOTS, or something. The point is Lincoln asked a Truman to be his secret service, just like you are now, and look where it got him.”
Tibby looked at me like I looked at my alarm clock (annoyed and a little disgusted).
“Don’t give me that, you know it’s not a single case of bad luck. Happened again when my great…great…great…” I trailed off, losing count of my greats, “…whatever, grandpa Clyde tripped over his shoelaces and stepped away from Kennedy’s car...”
“What a coincidence,” Tibby said, pointing at my untied shoe.
I leaned over and started tying. “If Grandpa Clyde had just gotten mister bunny ears outta the hole a little faster we could have avoided a national tragedy.” I looked down at my laces and frowned at the knotted mess I’d made.
“Are ya done, yet?” Tibby asked.
“Oh, I could go on,” I said, quickly stuffing the laces under the tongue of my shoe before Tibby could see. “But what’s the point? Either way I’m not doing it. Besides, I don’t think sixth grade Class President gets their own secret service anyway. I mean what’s the worst that could happen? Spitballs?”
“Excuse me?” she said. “You’re not the one whose bike brakes stopped mysteriously working two hours after I announced my campaign against him.” Tibby gazed past me, looking horrified for a moment. “I had no idea until I started down that big hill…”
I located the suspected saboteur. It wasn’t difficult. Chaz Nixon had bright red hair on top of this big ol’ forehead that made you wonder how closely related he might be to the missing link. I glared at him as he kissed one of his biceps. Sure, he was North Washington’s best athlete, but that didn’t give him the right to trip kids who already had enough trouble getting across the cafeteria without spilling their food (namely me). He was also known to force his teammates to scrub down the toilet for him.
With a tooth brush.
Before (and after), he used it.
I shuddered. That was just the way he wielded MVP status. I couldn’t imagine what he would do with executive power over the whole class.
“I just don’t know what Ms. Sunny was thinking—making the candidate not elected president second in command.”
Duh, I almost said. But instead I imitated the history teacher’s high, perky voice and, with a big fake smile, chimed “Because this way, everybody wins! Yaaaay!”
Everybody except Tibby.
She barely smiled as she eyeballed Chaz again. “Abe, there’s no telling what he’ll do if I win. He could already be plotting how to get me outta the way. I need security, and good or bad, you have the most experience.”
I sat back in my chair, arms crossed. “I have a better idea, why don’t you just quit if you’re so worried?” You don’t owe anyone anything.”
Tibby furrowed her brow. Very serious. “Just myself. One day when I’m running the country, I’ll be able to look back on this election as the start of everything. I won’t let Chaz take that from me.”
I blinked—just blinked. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do after school, and here Tibby was—already President of the United Sates. “You know you take middle school waaaay too seriously, right?”
Tibby let the air out of her lungs slowly. “You think I’m over reacting?”
I did. “Of course not! It’s just—you really think I can protect you—from THAT?” I threw my hand in Chaz’s direction as he crushed an empty soda can with nothing but his desk and his giant forehead, leaving behind a bright red mark. Yeah, like he needed to draw more attention to that billboard.
“Abe, there’s something amazing in all of us, you just haven’t gotten to prove it yet. So what if after Kennedy your family got stuck changing the Presidents’ babies’ diapers or walking their mutts? Your dad and brother are like the Batman and Robin of the Secret Service now. Wouldn’t you take after family from this century?”
“You’d think so.” I leaned forward. “But this is definitely Grandpa Jessup’s hairline.”
Of course Tibby didn’t get it. She’d gotten her mom’s long, dark hair. Like usual, she had it held back with the headband she’d gotten when her family took her to meet her grandmother in South Africa for the first time. Together they’d dyed the beads tan, red and purple using wild African flowers. It was Tibby’s favorite and, according to her, made her look good in anything she wore.
I thought she looked good with or without it.
“I’m already the son that’s “accidentally” left behind at the supermarket. If I agree to do this and fail, which I would, my parents probably won’t even claim me on their taxes.”
Tibby shook her head, her curls bobbing. “You’re just a broken pony aren’t you?”
I smirked. “I’m realistic. And this is a pattern. No one else lost the football trying out for the team—then had to buy a new one with their allowance! And last year, after the presidential fitness test, Coach O’ Hern said I owed points!”
Tibby’s eyes lit up. “Oh! We’re doing this? Then don’t forget the time you were on crew for the school play…”
I smacked my desk, the thud turned a few heads. “Right! See, everything I touch either costs something me or goes crashing through the stage wall into the science room. You really want on that list?”
“You think you’re so different. But we all share the same ancestry.”
She always did that—quoted her mother’s Tswana wisdom. “And that means…”
“It means we are all the same—you’re no less than any other sixth grader.”
“Hah!” Chaz bolstered.
Great. He’d overheard. A pit grew in my gut as Chaz puffed out his chest and strode over, his big stupid arms swinging like big stupid sausages. “That’s nice, Tibby, but as Chaz joins us, I’m reminded of some Truman family wisdom: watch out for cow pies.”