Listen to Chapter 4
On Monday, Gooney Bird stood in front of the class when Mrs. Pidgeon told her that it was story time. The children barely noticed Gooney Bird's clothes, even though she was wearing a ruffled pinafore, dark blue knee socks, and high-top basketball sneakers. The second-graders, and Mrs. Pidgeon, too, were all much more interested in Gooney Bird's earrings.
The earrings dangled and glittered and were very large.
"They're beautiful," Keiko said in an awed voice.
"My grandma's house has doorknobs that look like that," Tricia announced. "And she has a sparkly chandelier in the dining room. My grandma is very rich."
"Do you have holes in your ears?" Malcolm asked. "My mom does. My mom went and had holes stabbed right into her ears with a needle!"
"I did, too!" Beanie called out. "I have pierced ears!"
"So do I," Mrs. Pidgeon told the class. She turned her head
from side to side so that they could all see her small gold earrings.
"No," Gooney Bird said. "My earrings screw onto my ears. They have little screws that you turn."
Barry Tuckerman thrust his arm into the air and waved it wildly. Around him, other children had their hands raised, too.
"My mom has pierced ears!" Barry said loudly.
"Ben?" Mrs. Pidgeon said next.
Ben said, "My mom has pierced ears and so does my grandma!"
"All right, class," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "Does anyone else have something to say which is not about pierced ears? Because it is time for Gooney Bird to begin today's story."
All of the hands disappeared except one. Chelsea kept her hand high in the air.
Mrs. Pidgeon sighed. "Chelsea?"
"My mom has a pierced nose," Chelsea told the class.
"Oh, no!" Keiko wailed. "I'm going to be sick!"
"Shhhh," the other children said.
When the class was quiet, Gooney Bird began her Monday story.
The Prince, the Palace, and the Diamond Earrings
Once upon a time, before she moved to Watertower, when she still lived in China, Gooney Bird Greene was on her front porch, playing Monopoly against herself. Gooney Bird #1, the thimble, owned all four railroads and St. Charles Place, which she liked because it was magenta.
Gooney Bird #2, the car, was having a harder time of it. She owned Atlantic Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, and she liked the combination of yellow and green; she also owned both Water Works and the Electric Company, but unfortunately she was in jail.
Suddenly, just as Gooney Bird #2 tried unsuccessfully for the second time to throw doubles and get out of jail, she heard someone calling loudly, "Napoleon is missing!"
It was the prince, who lived next door.
Hands flew up into the air, and Gooney Bird looked impatiently at her classmates.
"Are these really, really important questions?" she asked. "Because I have just barely started the story!"
One by one most of the hands went back down.
Mrs. Pidgeon had picked up the encyclopedia. "Gooney Bird," Mrs. Pidgeon said, "I have a feeling you know this already, but Napoleon Bonaparte—" She turned to the class. "He was the emperor of France," she explained.
"Ooooh," Keiko said. "I love emperors."
Mrs. Pidgeon, still looking at the encyclopedia, went on. "Napoleon was born in 1769. That's more than two hundred years ago."
"Mrs. Pidgeon! Mrs. Pidgeon!" Barry Tuckerman was halfway out of his seat, waving his hand.
"My grandmother once saw an emperor butterfly! But now it's extinct! It was purple," Barry Tuckerman said.
Gooney Bird sighed. "Do you want to hear this story or not?" she asked. "I can't wear these earrings all day. They're very heavy."
"Yes, we do," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "Please go on."
"Ready?" Gooney Bird asked the class.
Everyone was ready, so Gooney Bird continued.
"Gooney Bird," the prince called, sounding very distressed, "Napoleon has disappeared! Can you help us find him?"
Gooney Bird carefully tucked all of the Monopoly money under the edge of the board so that it wouldn't blow away. There was a slight breeze. She had had problems with money blowing away in the past. She kept her own money collection, which she carried with her at all times, safely contained in a Ziploc bag.
Then Gooney Bird set out to look for clues that might reveal the whereabouts of Napoleon.
Napoleon was not the emperor of France. He was a large black poodle.
Every hand in the second grade classroom shot up, even Felicia Ann's.
"I knew that would happen," Gooney Bird said. "I just knew it. Time for an intermission. Mrs. Pidgeon, do you want to deal with this?"
Mrs. Pidgeon nodded. She thought for a moment. Then she announced, "Every child who has a poodle, put your hand down."
Four hands went down.
"Now," Mrs. Pidgeon said, "every child whose grandmother has a poodle? Hands down."
Seven more hands were lowered.
"Every child who knows a poodle who does interesting tricks, or who gets into trouble, or who ran away once? Hands down."
Other hands went down, and now there were just three hands still in the air.
"Beanie? What kind of dog do you have?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked.
"That's lovely. Ben?"
"Good. And finally, Tricia?"
"I don't have a dog," Tricia said sadly. "I'm allergic to dogs. And my mother said I can never, ever have one, or even a cat, not ever, because I might have a terrible asthma attack, and then I would have to go to the hospital, maybe in an ambulance, and—"
"We understand, Tricia. And now let's go back to the story, because we still don't know what happened to Napoleon, or—"
"Or about the palace!" said Keiko. "And the earrings!"
Gooney Bird shook her head a little so that the earrings moved and sparkled in a glamorous way.
"Listen for the word suddenly," Gooney Bird advised. "I put one in the story already, but I like to sprinkle in several. Some other suddenlys will be coming soon."
Gooney Bird examined the prince's back yard. She saw a place where the ground was disturbed by the corner of the fence.
"Look," she said. "See this bit of dog hair caught in the fence? That looks like Napoleon's.
"See?" she said next, pointing to some newly dug earth. "Here is where Napoleon wiggled under the fence."
"What a good detective you are," the prince said to Gooney Bird.
Gooney Bird let herself out of the yard and through the gate. She sniffed. She listened.
"There's a suddenly!" called Malcolm.
"Good listening," Gooney Bird said. Then she continued.
Suddenly, because of the clues that she smelled and heard, Gooney Bird moved forward. There, at the end of the alley, was an overturned garbage can. And there, with his head inside the can, was Napoleon, eating garbage. He had coffee grounds all over his face, and an orange peel was stuck on one of his ears.
"You naughty thing, Napoleon," Gooney Bird said, and she took hold of his collar. Napoleon burped.
"Oh, no!" Keiko cried. "Not garbage! Not burping!"
"Shhhh," the other children said. Many hands were waving in the air.
Mrs. Pidgeon stood up. "No stories about dogs eating garbage," she said firmly. "Not a single one."
All of the hands went down.
"Please, please, please tell about the palace and the prince and the earrings," Chelsea begged.
"I'm about to," Gooney Bird said.
Gooney Bird took Napoleon back to his house. The prince asked Gooney Bird to go to the palace for a reward.
"Did you get all dressed up in a ball gown?" Beanie asked.
"Maybe a tiara?" asked Tricia.
"I hadn't planned to describe clothes," Gooney Bird said, "but since you asked, I'll insert a little descriptive passage here."
When she went to the palace, Gooney Bird was wearing clothes from the L.L.Bean catalogue. She wore Island Hopper shorts with front flap pockets, and a pointelle knit tank top in Sun Yellow.
The prince had on rugged canvas shorts and polyester and nylon pale khaki plaid short-sleeved...
Malcolm disappeared under his desk. Ben picked up his arithmetic book and began to do some problems. Nicholas put his head down on his arms and closed his eyes.
Gooney Bird stared at them. "Am I boring you?" she asked.
"Yes," the class said. All but Felicia Ann, who was silent, and Keiko, who was not bored at all.
"What color were the Island Hopper shorts?" Keiko asked. "I hope blue."
"As a matter of fact, they were Deep Sea Green, with True Blue stripes down the sides. I might wear them to school on Wednesday."
"Oh good," Keiko said.
"I'll continue now," Gooney Bird said.
It doesn't matter what clothes the prince had. The main character in this story is Gooney Bird, and it is important to tell a lot about the main character because the main character is right smack in the middle of everything. All the others are just minor characters and it is boring to tell about their clothes.
"Or you could call them secondary characters," Mrs. Pidgeon pointed out. "Excuse me for interrupting, Gooney Bird. But I'll just write that on the board: secondary characters."
Gooney Bird waited patiently while Mrs. Pidgeon wrote. Then she breathed deeply and was about to continue. But she looked at the class.
She walked down the classroom aisle to Malcolm's desk and peered under it. Malcolm was asleep on the floor.
Ben was doing his arithmetic, and Nicholas was making his thumbs wrestle with each other. His left one was winning.
"This is my fault," Gooney Bird said loudly. "I have failed to hold your attention. Of course it didn't help that Mrs. Pidgeon interrupted. But I blame myself for not inserting enough suspense into the story.
"Stories need suspense," Gooney Bird said. "So I shall try to add some. Shall I continue the story now?"
"Yes," Mrs. Pidgeon said.
"Yes," said the children, all but Malcolm, who was still asleep, and Felicia Ann, who never said anything.
So Gooney Bird continued. "I'll start right off with a suddenly," she said. "That always wakes people up."
Suddenly, when they entered the palace, Gooney Bird needed to go to the bathroom.
Malcolm woke up. He popped up from under his desk. "I have to go to the bathroom," he said.
"Go," Mrs. Pidgeon told him, and pointed to the classroom door. Malcolm hurried from the classroom.
"Did the palace have bathrooms?" Beanie asked. "Oh, I'm sorry," she added. "I forgot to raise my hand."
"Yes," Gooney Bird said. "The palace had two bathrooms. Gentlemen and Ladies."
"And what about the diamond earrings?" Tricia asked.
"I'll finish the story now," Gooney Bird said.
When she came out of the ladies' room, Gooney Bird Greene saw a gumball machine.
"In a palace?" Keiko said.
"Shhhh," the other children said.
Gooney Bird continued.
Gooney Bird had not had a gumball for at least four months. She wanted one. And she had brought her money collection, since she always carried it everywhere in a very heavy Ziploc bag. Her arms had developed big muscles from carrying her money collection.
Gooney Bird stopped the story for a moment and held up her arms to display the muscles. Then she went on.
So Gooney Bird took a penny from her money collection and put it into the gumball machine. But instead of a gumball, out came a diamond earring! It was quite a pleasant surprise, and she screwed it onto her left ear.
After that, she felt lopsided. But she could see that there was another diamond earring inside the gumball machine.
So she put in another penny. She got a blue gumball.
"It probably matched the True Blue stripes in her Sea Green shorts," Keiko pointed out in a loud whisper.
"Shhhh," said the class.
Gooney Bird continued.
Gooney Bird put the blue gumball into her mouth. It made a large lump in her cheek, and it tasted like spearmint.
She felt doubly lopsided now.
So she took another penny from her money collection and put it into the gumball machine. This time she got a yellow gumball. She put the yellow gumball into her mouth, and now she had a large lump on either side of her face, so her face wasn't lopsided, but her head still felt lopsided because she had only one diamond earring.
So she put another penny in, and she got a red gumball. She put it into her pocket to save for later. Now her hips felt lopsided. She took another penny from her money collection.
This time she got an orange gumball and put it into her other pocket, and now her hips weren't lopsided anymore, but she still had only one diamond earring.
Gooney Bird stopped the story and looked at the class. "I am going to jump ahead now," she said. "Mrs. Pidgeon, is there a word for when an author jumps ahead in a story and skips over some things?"
Mrs. Pidgeon thought about it. "When an author jumps backward in a story, it is called a 'flashback.' So maybe jumping ahead would be called a 'flash-forward'?"
"Well," Gooney Bird announced, "I am flashing forward."
After twenty minutes, all of the pennies in Gooney Bird's money collection were gone. And the gumball machine was empty. Now Gooney Bird had sixty-seven gumballs: two in her mouth, two in her pockets, and sixty-three in her Ziploc bag.
Also, she had a pair of very large, glittery, dangly diamond earrings, which she wears to this day.
When they saw her in the diamond earrings, everyone in the palace, including the prince, two motorcycle guys, and a lady in a wheelchair, cheered. Then they hugged and kissed and did a short but quite beautiful ballet.
"What a lovely story!" Mrs. Pidgeon said. "And the flash-forward was very effective, Gooney Bird. I'm so glad you finally got the second earring."
Gooney Bird turned her head from side to side so her
classmates could admire the earrings. All of the children clapped.
"Did the prince ask you to marry him?" Keiko asked.
"What are you talking about?" Gooney Bird said. "The Prinns are already married. Mr. Howard Prinn is married to Mrs. Amanda Prinn. One Prinn plus one Prinn equals Prinns. The Prinns lived next door to me with their dog, Napoleon."
"Oh," the children said. "Prinns."
Barry Tuckerman had jumped up and was waving his arm frantically in the air.
"That wasn't a true story!" Barry called out.
"I tell only absolutely true stories," Gooney Bird said impatiently. "How many times must I tell you that?"
"No, it wasn't, because I've seen lots of pictures of palaces, and they have throne rooms, and red carpets, and people get dressed up in ball gowns, and—"
"Barry, Barry, Barry," Gooney Bird said with a sigh. "What am I going to do with you?"
"What do you mean?" Barry asked.
"You're talking about a small-p palace. But I was talking about a capital-letter ice cream shop called The Palace, where they have—"
"Bathrooms!" Beanie suggested.
"And a gumball machine!" Chelsea said. "With diamond earrings!"
"Exactly right," Gooney Bird said, and she took her seat. Then carefully she unscrewed her dangling earrings. "Ouch," she said. "These really hurt."
Malcolm returned to the classroom. "Did you get out of jail, Gooney Bird?" he asked.
Gooney Bird looked unhappy for a moment. "No," she said. "Napoleon ate my Monopoly game."
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