Zinger is the one Iâm most proud of.â
I looked over at my sister. She was sitting next to Robert. Donât gag or anything, but they were holding hands.
âEmily, none of this would have happened without your lucky monkey socks, so thank you for having them in the first place. And congratulations on winning the Brain Buster. I really do appreciate how smart you are, especially since it takes a lot of pressure off me. At least Mom and Dad got one smart kid.â
Emily reached over to try to give me a hug, but, fortunately, I was quick enough to avoid her arms. Wrapping herself around me was not necessary. Plus, it was completely unacceptable in a crowd.
âAnd, last but not least, I want to thank my mom and dad for showing me that you donât need a lucky charm to launch a Zippity Zinger.â
My mom smiled and blew me a kiss, which Iâd rather she wouldnât do in public, but Iâve learned that thereâs no stopping her. My dad took the pencil out from behind his ear and waved it at me. That was big because unless heâs going to write a word down or across, his pencil lives behind his ear full-time.
Suddenly, I felt a hot wind on my neck. Then I smelled onions burned in a tar pit. I turned around and looked directly into the mouth of Nick McKelty. His teeth headed in every directionânorth, south, east, westâexcept up and down. He was laughing like a hyena.
âThe Zippity Zinger, thatâs a laugh,â he said, spraying small drops of saliva on my chin. âThereâs no such thing. Youâre just one lucky little dude.â
âYouâre right, McKelty,â I said. âI am lucky. And I am little. But guess what, big guy? I won.â
I held up the gold medal. The reflection from the disco ball caught it and a ray of golden light flickered on McKeltyâs face.
âNick, Iâll bet yours looks great in the light, too,â Ashley said.
âOh, Iâm so sorry,â I said. âYou donât have a medal. What a shame.â
âHey, thereâs always next year when you repeat fourth grade,â Frankie added.
I picked up my root-beer float and clinked glasses with Frankie and Ashley. McKelty stomped away to where his father was waiting for him at the shoe counter. The last thing I saw before I turned back to the table was him spraying foot deodorant into a pair of size nine red-and-tan bowling shoes.
He does that so well. Thereâs a future for everybody.
âThis calls for a toast,â I said. I raised my glass high in the air. Unfortunately, I raised it too high. Way too high.
The thing Iâd like to mention here about root beer with ice cream floating in it is that when you fling it in the air, it sails out of the glass, goes straight up, and lands with a big plop on the front of your pantsâin the immediate area of your zipper.
When I looked at the root beer spreading like a wild river across my pants, it looked like one thing and one thing only. I am sorry and embarrassed to have to bring this up, but the truth is, it looked like I had peed in my pants.
If I had thought my mom blowing me a kiss in public was embarrassing, you can imagine how I felt when I saw her hands moving toward me with a napkin.
âMom,â I shouted. âStop right there. Think about what youâre doing!â
She froze. I froze. My zipper froze.
Man, that ice cream was cold.
TEN WAYS TO GET OUT OF A BOWLING ALLEY WITHOUT PEOPLE NOTICING YOU HAVE A ROOT-BEER FLOAT RUNNING DOWN YOUR PANTS
1. Put your hands over your stomach, double over, pretend youâre about to throw up, and run out.
2. Drop to the floor as if youâre looking for a quarter that fell out of your pocket and crawl to the front door.
3. Take your friendsâ drinks and pour them on you, too, and then tell everyone youâre going to a costume party as a root-beer float.
4. Pull your shirt out of your pants, pull it down