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I got a letter from the mailman the other day.
I opened and read it.
It said I failed 5th Grade
I figured it would be like that. I’d only known them for about
fifteen minutes, but I knew it. Maybe my nerves were
tingling. Maybe it was the Sour Boppers candy and Jumperz
energy drink mixed into my pancakes that Grandma Wilbur
cooked for breakfast. Nevertheless, my mind was racing and
I was crazier than two galloping goats on a shopping spree.
Oh, and by the way, my name is Wrinkles Wallace.
This morning was my first day at a new school. I was the
newest student at Old Endings Preparatory in Ypsilanti,
Michigan. If you have ever been to Ypsilanti, you would
know about Old Endings Preparatory. It’s the one and only
blue building with vibrant yellow polka-dots in town. The
rest of the buildings are comprised of painted stripes, plaids,
and argyles. Needless to say, our polka-dots stick out. It’s
also safe to say, once you arrive at Old Endings Preparatory,
doggone it, you know you’ve arrived.
My Grandma Wilbur dropped me off at school on her
motorcycle and I tried to smoothly walk up the pathway. I
only fell one time, which was a record low for me. I thought I
showed my skills. However, my new school mates didn’t
recognize the talent. Some kid about the size of a baby
brontosaurus had the nerve to yell out, “Hey, clumsy!”
“No. That’s my baby sister’s name,” I said.
“Your baby sister’s name is Clumsy?” asked the kid.
“Yeah, and my name is Wrinkles. You must be Tiny. It’s
a pleasure to meet you.” I extended my hand and quickly
retracted it after I realized that his hands were covered in
chocolate syrup. I gave him a friendly peace sign.
“How did you know my name?” asked Tiny, after licking
some chocolate covered sprinkles off his left pinky. I
shrugged my shoulders and headed into the building.
I figured it would be like that. There were six bubble gum
machines all along the wall. The gumballs in each machine
seemed to grow in size. The first one had small marble-sized
gumballs. The sixth one had gumballs that would last my
whole life. I was tempted to get one, but I wasn’t sure how
my teacher would feel about me chewing gum in class. You
know how some teachers think chewing gum in their classroom
is somehow against some sort of law. Either you have
to hide your gum and not enjoy chewing it, or you have to
chew while they’re not looking and risk biting your tongue.
With my luck, I’d probably have to throw out my gum before
the flavor was gone because my new teacher would ask me to
stick out my colored tongue with the chewy gum on top.
In front of the bubble gum machines, located right in the
middle of the hallway, was a raggedy quarter horse that you
might find at a grocery store. Maybe I was guessing it was a
quarter horse because all anyone could ride was the saddle
on where the ribs of the horse might be. The rest of the
horse’s face and tail area were missing. The price for riding
the horse was only twenty-five pennies, but you had to put
each copper coin in one at a time.
For some reason, I could never pass up a chance to ride
one of those horses at the grocery store. To me, it never got
old, so I waited in line behind what looked to be a small group
of kindergarteners. I could tell they were kindergarteners
because everybody knows that kindergarten lines are blobs of
human gigglers, poking and pushing each other.
Even though I couldn’t see the action on the horse,
about every thirty seconds I would hear a loud thud and a
kindergartener would get up off the ground after being
thrown off the rowdy quarter horse. The way those kindergarteners
were being tossed, I ended up at the head of the
blob in no time. The bell rang as I finished putting my shiny
Abe Lincolns in the machine. I had just wasted 25 cents and
it was time to go to class.
Ropes instantly fell from the ceiling. There were teachers
standing above us yelling, “Get to class before the tardy
I figured it would be like that. I climbed the ropes like a
human squirrel. Those who decided they would rather be
tardy were in for a rude awakening. Another bell rang and
the floor started to slowly separate. The ground began
shaking like we were having a rumbling earthquake. A door
below me opened, and the next thing I knew, I heard a lion
roaring. Terrified screams filled the hallway. Instead of
looking down to see what was about to happen, like most
people would have, I kept climbing.
Finally, I made it.
As you probably guessed by now, I figured the classroom
would be like that. Yeah, it was typical. The mailboxes were
along the side of the wall where mailboxes usually are. I
remember calling those same mailboxes “cubbies” when I
was in kindergarten, but around here, they are mailboxes.
The white board was on the wall where white boards usually
are. Everybody knows you don’t put the white boards on the
floor or ceiling. Although, writing on the floor would be
pretty cool. One look up let me know that the ceiling tiles
had probably been the victim of a horrific pencil explosion.
There were holes in all of the tiles, but the pencils were
It didn’t take long for me to figure out where the bathroom
was in the classroom. There was a green sign on the
front of the door that meant it was okay to go in and handle
your business. The only real problem I could see with using
the bathroom was the fact that it was one of those portable
bathrooms that you have to use at the carnival. You know,the type of bathroom that has those plastic walls and rocks from
side to side when you step inside. Yeah, the one that
when you’re inside it, you can hear exactly what the people
waiting in line are talking about. And, if you can hear them,
they probably can hear you. I instantly knew I never wanted
to use the bathroom in the classroom unless I happened to
have an absolute emergency.
By the windows of the classroom was a small fish tank
with four soft-shelled turtles. The lid to the tank had a lock
with a spinning combination that you usually see on the end
of a chain for a bike, or in a locker room. Someone had either
put a lock on the tank to keep the turtles in, or keep people
Even though I probably should have gone straight to my
seat, to sit down, I couldn’t help but stop and look at what
the turtles were doing. Their noses were making tiny sounds
as they bumped them into the glass while they were trying to
eat their food. Life for the four turtles had to be great since
all they needed to do was swim around and eat shrimp. The
only thing they were missing was a bowl of gravy. If they
could somehow dunk those shrimp into some good ole’
gravy, they’d be doin’ it. I think gravy goes perfect with
breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and midnight snacks.
It didn’t take two hands to figure out that I was one of five
folks in the class who wasn’t the teacher. Our teacher looked
like a normal elementary school teacher. The name written
on the board let me know that I needed to call him Mr.
Quiet. A closer look at the name tag on his desk let me know
his mother and father actually named him Sittin’ B. Quiet.
Mr. Quiet was the average age for a teacher. I could tell
because his front two teeth were bigger than the other teeth
and he was missing a few molars. He looked freshly shaven
and had no facial hair, although, his sideburns looked to be
desperately trying to make it past his ears. He walked with a
funky rhythm that told me he was indeed trying too hard to
be cool for his age. His tennis shoes were black, covered with
a layer of kickball field dust, and the laces were tattered on
When I finally settled into my desk, I heard someone in
the class mumbling about Mr. Quiet not being good enough
to be a teacher. I wasn’t buying any of that talk because I’ve
had teachers like Mr. Quiet before and I learned a lot from
them. Teachers like Mr. Quiet are absolutely the smartest
people in the world. They know how smart they are and they
are willing to mumble about it under their breath on special
occasions. If I had to guess how old Mr. Quiet was, I’d say
somewhere between nine and eleven years old.
Now, if you’ve never had a teacher who was younger
than you, then there is one thing you need to understand.
1. Knowledge has no height requirement.
Chapter 5The Me
By now, I guess you might want to know more about me and
why I’m the newest student at Old Endings Preparatory.
Well, I thought I passed fifth grade, but, actually I failed
because I missed too many homework assignments. Yeah, I
failed fifth grade because I didn’t do enough homework.
To be honest with you, it wasn’t that I didn’t do my
homework; it was more that I didn’t turn it in. Dirty dittos
were balled up in my backpack or placed at the bottom of
the recycle bin. They never seemed to make it into the “In
Box” on my teacher’s desk. Plus, I did have a little, tiny,
miniscule problem with lying to my grandma about not
having any homework, so I could go outside and play, watch
television, and play video games.
I’d also had a slight habit of bending the truth around
the corner on my teacher so situations would work in my
favor. Let’s just say I had a gift for story-telling, not to
mention, it did feel good being smarter than the adults in my
life. While I ended up pulling some fast ones on them at the
time, it did come back to bite me on the backside. Maybe my
little fibbing problem was a lot bigger than I thought.
I guess that’s the reason why I’m at Old Endings Preparatory
from now until the end of the year. Hopefully things go
right this time around, because if I have to do fifth grade
three times, I don’t know what I’ll do with myself. I mean,
I’m 28 years old, and well, you know what that means.
Chapter 6The Dragon
If you’ve ever been a student, I’m sure you know about a
teacher’s hearing. Some of them hear much better than dogs
listening for a doorbell. It almost goes without saying that
somebody with the last name “Quiet” would be a good judge
of sound. As you probably guessed, Mr. Quiet was an expert
While I was sitting there waiting for class to start, I heard
a sound that wasn’t coming from the air conditioning unit,
the turtle tank filter, or that annoying hum made by the
lights in the ceiling. The noise actually was the whispers of a
person in the class. Just looking at Mr. Quiet let me know I
wasn’t the only one who heard the talking. The problem was,
Mr. Quiet had no clue as to who it was, but he looked like he
wasn’t the type of teacher who would rest until he had a
confession from one of us.
And, as you can guess, I’m the type of person who seems
to have an antenna of guilt super-glued to my forehead.
Mr. Quiet said, “Well, if it isn’t Wrinkles Wallace.”
“Yes. I am Wrinkles,” I said.
“I’ve read through your files and I can see that you were
probably the one who was running his gum chewers.”
“Nope, that was not me. The only gum in my mouth is —”
Mr. Quiet interrupted me and said, “Cut the cheese,
Wrinkles. I know all about you because my aunt went to
school with you. She told me all about how you and your
friends would crack jokes and treat her badly. You called her
‘Bowling Ball’ because of how round she was. I know all
about your evil ways. With that being said, Wrinkles, by the
time I count to ten you need to be at my desk. One, two,
As I lunged out of my desk, fell, jumped back up, and
moved toward Mr. Quiet, my mind was in reverse and my
past was coming back to haunt me again. Yeah, the girl was
round, but who knew Susie “Bowling Ball” Paul, would
remember my little bowling ball joke for the rest of her life?
Who knew her nephew would be my fifth grade teacher? I
mean, it was a joke and we all laughed at her. Plus, Susie
never complained about it at the time.
I even remember when our teacher took attendance. She
would be calling out names, and when she got to Susie’s,
she’d pause just long enough for us to slip “Bowling Ball” in
between Susie’s first and last name. The teacher would try to
keep a straight face and we’d all get the giggles. I still think
the teacher was in on the joke.
Three seconds later I was at Mr. Quiet’s desk, but he had
skipped a few numbers and was up to nine. He looked me in
the eyes and smiled. I looked back and noticed his pupils
were like fudge brownies with chocolate sauce. Or, maybe I
just had chocolate on the brain. Mr. Quiet reached into the
bottom drawer of his desk, which looked a lot like a junk
food drawer you’d find in a kitchen, and pulled out a bag of
nacho cheese chips. He opened the bag and pulled out a
three-sided polygon of garlic death.
“Wrinkles, you should try one!” said Mr. Quiet.
Normally, I’m all for chips, except, I was still full from
those Sour Boppers pancakes that Grandma Wilbur made
me for breakfast.
“Thanks, but no thanks, Mr. Quiet.”
“Mind if I have one?” asked Mr. Quiet.
I paused and thought for a second. Everybody knows the
smell of nacho cheese chips is almost worse than cigarette
smoke, but what could I say to him? Maybe he was hungry.
I replied, “Whatever tantalizes your taste buds, Mr. Quiet.”
Mr. Quiet opened his mouth and started gnawing on the
chip like a gerbil devours the cardboard on an empty roll of
toilet paper. Small crumbs landed in the lap of his navy blue
pants. He used his left index finger to pick up the leftovers. I
could see right then that not much gets by this guy. Not a
crumb. Not a sound. Nothing.
That’s when Mr. Quiet surprised me. He smiled with the
grin that makes most grandmothers melt and leaves students
wondering if their teacher should be sent to the Crazy
House. There was no reason for his smile. There was no
reason for him to be in a good mood. Not after knowing that
I had made fun of his aunt. Not after some nacho cheese
chips. I mean, no nacho cheese chips in the entire world are
that good. Not even the ones that Grandma Wilbur makes.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the smile Mr.
Quiet gave included a major problem. His smile smelled like
his breath. See, I was standing maybe two feet from Mr.
Quiet because I wanted to give him his personal space. I’m a
big fan of personal space. That’s when he used is left index
finger to motion for me to come closer. I did. He motioned
for me to come even closer. I did. He finally stopped exercising
his left index finger when I was bent over enough to have
my nose less than an inch from his mouth.
All I could smell was nacho cheese chips and my eyes
could only see the decorations in Mr. Quiet’s nostrils.
Message to self:
He reminded me that mine was empty.
Mr. Quiet asked, “Why?”
Instantly, my nose hairs were set on fire. I felt the blast of
breath that had to be one hundred degrees rushing out of
Mr. Quiet’s mouth. I wished he could wrap his mouth
around the air conditioner that was in the kitchen window at
Grandma Wilbur’s house. I’d do anything to be able to
breathe out of my toes. Smelling my own stinking feet had to
be one million times better than smelling Mr. Quiet’s words.
I felt like I was on a seesaw. I was going down and the Sour
Boppers pancakes were coming up. He grabbed my chin
hairs and brought my face closer.
“Did you hear me?” he asked.
Each word felt like the scorching blast you get when trying
to open the oven door while taking out a batch of burnt
cookies. Believe me, he had the temperature set on broil and
I wanted to die.
“Yes!” I replied.
Mr. Quiet blurted, “Weeeeellll, THen next TIme,
I tightened my lip with a flimsy attempt to cover up the lower half of my nostrils. He quickly melted my feeble plan and proceeded to exhale two lungs full of steamy, stinking carbon dioxide. My eyes rolled into the back of my head. I was nearly out on my feet. I felt like the heayweight champion of the world busted me in the nose with a glove full of concrete.
Mr. Quiet said, “WRRRRinKleSSSS, you SSSSaiD you
DiDn’T MinD mEE eaTTinG. NoWW, TOOo TeacHH
you REESPONSiBiLiTY (my heart nearly stopped after that
word, but the gasp of my classmates kept me alive) FoRR
YouRR ACTIONS, I’M GOING TO GIVE YOU A
By this time I was willing to do anything to get away
from his dragon breath. I shook my head from side to side
and said, “No problem, Mr. Quiet. Anything you say.”
He reopened his junk food drawer and fished out a carton
of eggs. Why he’d have a dozen eggs just living in his
junk food drawer is beyond me. I mean, I can understand
keeping the chips in there, but eggs, not so much. Eggs
typically live in refrigerators, boiling water, frying pans, or
even cake batter. Nobody with any sense would keep eggs in
their desk drawer.
“Wrinkles, how many eggs are in a dozen?” asked Mr.
I tried to use my breath to defend myself against his
breath and I answered, “Twelve.”
“Correct! But that doesn’t mean you have twelve chances
to get this right. You only have two chances each day. If both
of your eggs are broken then you fail for the day. Wrinkles,
you must take this egg with you everywhere you go. You must
keep an egg with you for everything you do. If you are in the
shower, shampoo the egg’s head. If you go to the mall, the egg
needs new clothes. You must take an egg with you, no matter
what. There will be no egg babysitters. Your Grandma Wilbur,
which by the way, is an odd name for a woman, cannot babysit
the egg. It is solely your responsibility. If I, or anybody else,
see you without your egg, you will fail this class. Oh, and by
the way, these are not hard-boiled. I have special stickers that I
have put on your eggs. When you do break both eggs in a 24-
hour period, which you will, you will fail. Do we have an
Mr. Quiet placed the first egg in my hand and pointed
for me to go back to my desk. After I sat down, it took about
five minutes before I extinguished the forest fire in my nose
and regained full consciousness. When I finally did come to
my senses I realized I was going to be in for some serious
trouble. Those eggs were going to make me a fifth grader for
life. As often as I fell, the egg would be scrambled and I’d be
This whole situation wasn’t fair at all. Who would talk,
with nacho cheese breath, to a student? Who would make a
student carry eggs to pass fifth grade? Mr. Quiet would, and
if he knew I played dodgeball on Wednesday nights, I’m
guessing he probably wouldn’t have cared. All I could think
was: How was I supposed to avoid making egg salad sandwichesduring a dodgeball game?
Thanks for reading!
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