On the Subject of the Brown Cipher

I hope this cipher isn’t as crappy as it looks.

On the module, you will see 3 screens, a keyboard, 2 arrows, and a submit button that displays the current page you’re on.

Pressing the right arrow takes you to the next page. Pressing the left arrow takes you to the previous page. There is a total of 2 pages.

On page 1, the top screen shows a 6 letter encrypted word, the middle and bottom screen shows an 6 letter string.

On page 2, the top and middle screens shows a 6 digit number, and the bottom screen shows a 6 letter screen.

Follow the mechanics down below to decrypt your word:

Step 1: Book Cipher

Take the text from all the screens except for the top screen of page 1 and layer it like so:

Middle Screen Page 1
Bottom Screen Page 1
Top Screen Page 2
Middle Screen Page 2
Bottom Screen Page 2

You should now have a grid of 6 columns by 5 rows. Each column corresponds to a letter from the Diary in the Appendix. For each column do the following instructions:

• Take the 1st row character and turn the letter into its alphabetic position. This will be called W.
• Take the 2nd row character and turn the letter into its alphabetic position. This will be called X.
• Take the 3rd row character and multiply it by 10. Add the 4th row character to that number. This will be called Y.
• Take the 5th row character and turn the letter into its alphabetic position. This will be called Z.
• The Zth character in the Yth word of the Xth paragraph on the Wth page is the decrypted letter.

This will result in a 6 letter keyword that will be used in steps 2 and 3.

Clarifications

Only count the letters/numbers, ignore everything else.

The dash (-) doesn’t count as a letter but does connect the words together to form one word.

The colon (:) also does the same thing, usually with time like so: 7:30. If it has a space like you see between so and 7:30, they are considered 2 words.

If the resulting character is a number follow these instructions:

• If the number is even, turn the number into the 1st letter of the serial number.
• Otherwise, turn the numbers into the last letter of the serial number.

Example

Encrypted Keyword:
TQNVRQ
JKNGDI
124113
221221

TJ12E -> E
QK22A -> S
NN41D -> C
VG12A -> A
RD12A -> P
QI31C -> E
Decrypted Keyword: ESCAPE

Step 2: Strip Cipher

For this, you’re going to need the encrypted word on the top screen of page 1, and the keyword you got from step 1.

For each letter of the keyword, use it as a row to get a 26 letter strip from the table below:

ANIPTLVZWHACBFQGMSRXYUOJEDKNVLAQDZJXMKFIGHOUWSREBCYTPN
BSFHLNYGCUQWXDEVKOIZMTBPJAROTYGUOXDLPNZWIKESBAFVMRQCJH
CWJCXPNVERYSQBDIFZTMGOUKHLAPFOIDVWYSJZPUXBTAHNERCMLKQG
DGHEJXBFPLUMKNRZCAWOSQYVDITQQZREKPBGSXUNWVCTMYJFLDOAHI
ERUJVMCTAIHXGEPLNDQYOKFZBWSRHGOACUNIKRQZPWJYVLTBSEFXMD
FLDWSYHKBOVGCRMNETPIQAJXFZUSKEFBQDHZWSARTNPLCVGIYXMUOJ
GONMIRKQYDJETCZWGLFBXHASVUPTZRLCJEMHTPVAOUQDNXWKGSIYBF
HMTVYBRXNFDJOASUQPEKLIWHGCZUABZPIGRDVOYSLCHXUKQJNTWMFE
IECTNHOWFBMLVYJSRXGUZDIAPKQVCPUMFQLRGIDJHYAVKBSNXZTOEW
JUAQWGTIKNFHLVXMZEODCJPBRSYWIVSZTFUOYWNDKGBPJCAHEQRLXM
LPWKGSAOQECRMZLXJYUHTFNDIVBYJXDHWIEMCGBFQTYORZPAVKUSNL
MBQXRZMSVATKPJOFIGDLUWHENYCZYMBOALPUXEIHSFKWQJCDRGNZTV

You should now have 6 rows of 26 letters. Shift each row so that the left most column spells out the encrypted word, top to bottom.

Read the (26 - X)th column top to bottom where X is equal to the sum of the serial number digits, modulo 25.

The resulting letters will form your new encrypted word.

Encrypted Word: FGSJYY
Keyword: ESCAPE
Column: 26 - ((7 + 9 + 8) % 25) = 2

FZBWSRUJVMCTAIHXGEPLNDQYOK
GIYXMUOJKEFBQDHZWSARTNPLCV
SQBDIFZTMGOUKHLAWJCXPNVERY
JEDKNIPTLVZWHACBFQGMSRXYUO
YSJZPUXBTAHNERCMLKQGFOIDVW
YOKFZBWSRUJVMCTAIHXGEPLNDQ

F -> Z
G -> I
S -> Q
J -> E
Y -> S
Y -> O
New Encrypted Word: ZIQESO

Step 3: Simplified M-209 Cipher

For this, you will need the encrypted word from step 2, and the keyword from step 1.

Turn each character of the serial number into a 6 digit binary using the table below to form 6 rows and 6 columns. Then turn each letter of the keyword into its alphabetic position, minus 1 (A = 0, B = 1, ... Z = 25), modulo 13, plus 1.

01110009011010I011001R010001
1000010A111001J110000S010000
2101101B001011K101110T010010
3011100C000111L100101U100001
4101110D101100M011111V001010
5100011E100110N111010W001100
6011000F111011O010110X110111
7101010G001101P000101Y111100
8110101H111101Q000011Z000100

Each row of binary represents 1 rotor with 1s being an active pin and 0s being an inactive pin. Each number represents the number of lugs that are placed for that rotor (1st number is placed in 1st row, 2nd number is placed in 2nd row, etc.).

For each letter of the encrypted word, follow the instructions below:

• Turn the Nth letter into its alphabetic position.
• Then take 27 minus the number.
• For each 1 in the Nth column of the 6×6 binary sequence, add to the number the number of lugs that is in the same row as the rotor.
• If the number is higher than 26, subtract 26 until it falls between 1 - 26.
• Turn the number back into the letter.

After following the instructions, you should now have a decrypted word.

Encrypted Word: ZIQESO
Keyword: ESCAPE
Serial Number: J79EG8

E -> 4 % 13 = 4 + 1 = 5
S -> 18 % 13 = 5 + 1 = 6
C -> 2 % 13 = 2 + 1 = 3
A -> 0 % 13 = 0 + 1 = 1
P -> 15 % 13 = 2 + 1 = 3
E -> 4 % 13 = 4 + 1 = 5

5:110000
6:101010
3:011010
1:100110
3:001101
5:110101

Z -> 27 - 26 = 1 + 5 + 6 + 1 + 5 = 18 -> R
I -> 27 - 9 = 18 + 5 + 3 + 5 = 31 - 26 = 5 -> E
Q -> 27 - 17 = 10 + 6 + 3 + 3 = 22 -> V
E -> 27 - 5 = 22 + 1 + 3 + 5 = 31 - 26 = 5 -> E
S -> 27 - 19 = 8 + 6 + 3 + 1 = 18 -> R
O -> 27 - 15 = 12 + 3 + 5 = 20 -> T
Decrypted Word: REVERT

Once you finally have your decrypted word, you can submit it. Once you start typing, all the screens will go black and the bottom screen will show what you are typing.

To clear it, just click one of the arrows. This goes to one of the pages and clears any input you put in. It will not let you go over 6 letters on input.

Once you are satisfied with your input, press the button labeled "SUB" to submit your answer. On a strike, the module will go back to the first page of the module, but it does not regenerate.

Appendix: Diary

First of all, I want to get something straight: this is a JOURNAL, not a diary. I know what it says on the cover but when Mom went out to buy this thing I SPECIFICALLY said to make sure it didn’t say "diary" on it. So don’t expect me to be all "dear diary this" and "dear diary that".

All I need is for some jerk to catch me carrying this thing around and get the wrong idea.

The other thing I want to clear up right away is how this was NOT my idea, it was Mom’s.

The deal is that if I write in this book a little bit each day I get out of one chore on Saturdays, so of course I picked the one I hate the most. But if Rodrick ever finds out he’s scrubbing toilets because of this book, I’m dead.

Oh yeah Rodrick’s my brother. I try to avoid him anyway but now that I struck this deal with Mom, I better be extra careful.

Anyway I think Mom has this idea I’m going to write down my "feelings" and all that, but she’s not actually allowed to read it so I figure I’ll just write what I want.

The real reason I agreed to do this at all is because I figure later on when I’m rich and famous I’ll have better things to do than answer people’s stupid questions all day long.

Like I said, one day I will definitely be famous, but for now I’m stuck in the seventh grade with a bunch of morons.

Today is the first day of school and right now we’re just waiting around for the teacher to hurry up and finish the seating chart.

So I figured I might as well write in this book and just get it over with for the day.

But I’ll tell you something... on the first day of school, you got to be real careful of where you sit. You walk into the classroom and just plunk your stuff down on any old desk and the next thing you know the teacher is saying "I hope you all like where you’re sitting because these are your permanent seats".

So in this class I got stuck with Chris Hosey in front of me and Lionel James in back of me. Otha Harris came in late and almost sat next to me but luckily I did some quick thinking and got myself out of that one.

I’m thinking for next period I should just sit in the middle of a bunch of cute girls as soon as I step in the room.

Then again if I do that it just proves that I didn’t learn a thing from last year.

Plus the other thing I got to think about is that girls don’t let you copy off of them, which could be a real problem in a class like Pre Algebra.

Speaking of seating, something that really stunk today is how in home room I got stuck with some teacher who had Rodrick in his class a few years back.

The only good thing I can think about the first day of school is that some of the teachers are new and so you can slide a little.

Anyway the teacher is almost done with the seating chart and I think I wrote enough in this book to keep Mom off my back for today.

This morning Mom made me lend my brother Rodrick some of my money so he could buy lunch, which really stunk. I’m still mad at Rodrick for the trick he pulled on me at the beginning of the summer so I’m really not looking to do him any favors.

What happened was that on the first day of summer vacation, he woke me up in the middle of the night dressed up in his school clothes. He told me I slept through the whole summer but that luckily I had woken up in time for the first day of school.

You might think I’m pretty dumb for falling for that one, but I was too groggy to know any better and plus Rodrick had set my clock ahead and pulled the blinds shut.

So I just got up and got dressed and went downstairs to fix myself some breakfast. I must’ve made a big racket because the next thing I knew Dad was in my face wondering what the heck I was doing eating Cheerios at 3 a.m.

The thing about Dad when he comes downstairs late at night is that he’s always just wearing a tee shirt and some boxer shorts. I don’t know which is worse, getting yelled out or having to see your father in his underwear.

I keep meaning to ask him to please put on some more clothes the next time he comes downstairs but the right opportunity never comes up.

Anyway it took me a couple of minutes to figure out what all was going on. When I told Dad Rodrick tricked me Dad stomped on down to Rodrick’s room in the basement and I followed along.

I was pretty excited to finally see Rodrick get what was coming to him.

But when we got down there Rodrick had covered up his tracks pretty good and you would never know he had been up to something.

Dad just threw up his hands and went back up to bed. So now Dad thought I was an idiot AND a liar.

Come to think of it ever since Dad has been real suspicious around me, like I’m turning into a bad kid or something.

I’ll put it to you this way... if I’m going to do something bad and take the heat like I did that night you better believe I’m going to come up with something a lot more satisfying than eating a bowl of Cheerios in the middle of the night.

Today in Social Studies I scored pretty big. The teacher made us sit in alphabetical order so the way things fell out I ended up right next to Alex Aruda who is the smartest kid in the class.

He’s super easy to copy off of because he always finishes his tests early and then just puts his paper on the floor next to him while he reads a science fiction novel or something.

Kids whose last names start with the early letters ALWAYS end up being the smartest because they get called on first. Some people think that’s not true but if you want to come over to my school I can prove it.

I can only think of one kid who broke the last name rule, and that’s Peter Uteger. He was the smartest kid until the middle of the fifth grade. That’s when a couple of us started giving him a hard time about what his initials spelled every chance we got.

Now he doesn’t raise his hand at all which makes for other kids to step forward and take the Smartest Kid title.

I feel a little bad about the whole P.U. thing because I’m one of the guys who started it. But it’s hard not to take credit for it whenever it comes up.

I figured out another good thing about writing this journal: when I’m famous, I can cash in on it. I just have to remember to keep it away from Manny, my little brother.

If you have something valuable in the house, believe me, Manny will find a way to destroy it.

Back before Manny came along I remember I was all excited about getting a little brother. After all those years of Rodrick picking on me I figured it was my turn to be a little higher on the totem pole.

But being a big brother didn’t turn out like I expected at all. Mom and Dad protect Manny so I can’t pick on him, even if he does something to tick me off.

Plus, he’s never gotten punished for anything, and believe me, he’s deserved it a bunch of times.

Just the other day he somehow got into my room and used a bunch of magic markers to decorate my door. I thought Mom and Dad would really let him have it but as usual, I was wrong.

So now I’m stuck waking up to this horrible drawing staring at me everyday. Mom won’t let me paint over it or even cover it up with a poster because she says it might hurt Manny’s feelings.

The only good thing about getting a little brother is that now, Rodrick doesn’t make me sell his stupid chocolate bars for school fundraisers any more.

The worst thing about Manny is that when he was real little he couldn’t pronounce "brother" so he started calling me "Bubby". And Mom and Dad didn’t make him call me my real name when he COULD say it.

Luckily none of my friends have found out yet but I have had some really close calls.

Yesterday was the first day of P.E. and we started the football unit. The first thing I did was sneak off to the basketball courts and check to see if the cheese was still where it was at the end of last school year, and sure enough it was.

That thing has been sitting on the court since at least last fall and it has caused a whole lot of trouble. It’s all moldly and nasty, and ever since it showed up, people have been trying to avoid it.

To give you an idea of how people will go out of their way to stay away from the cheese, it’s sitting right under the only hoop with a net in it but nobody’s played on that court for a year.

Darnell Washington tripped and fell and brushed the cheese with his finger last year and started this whole thing called the Cheese Touch. It’s basically like Cooties, where if you get touched with the Cheese Touch then you have it until you pass it on to somebody else.

The only way to protect yourself from the Cheese Touch was to cross your fingers. But it was really hard to remember to keep your fingers crossed all the time, especially when whoever had the Cheese Touch was looking for his next victim.

So I taped my fingers together for the last couple weeks of school. I ended up getting a "D" in handwriting but it was totally worth it.

This one kid named Abe Hall got the Cheese Touch in April and nobody would even sit at the same table with him at lunch for the whole rest of the year.

This summer he moved away to California and he took the Cheese Touch with him. Nobody has touched the cheese ever since then, not even with a stick.

Well the first week of school is finally over so I can sleep late again. Most kids set their alarms and get up early on Saturday morning to watch cartoons or whatever, but not me. The way I know it’s time for me to crawl out of bed is when I can’t stand the taste of my breath anymore.

Unfortunately Dad wakes up at 6:00 in the morning no matter what day it is and he is not real considerate of the fact that I am trying to enjoy my Saturday.

Other than the Saturday morning vacuuming me and Dad get along pretty good. But Rodrick and Dad is another story. It doesn’t help that Rodrick is a teenager, which is Dad’s least favorite type of person.

I think if there was a petition to ship all of the teenagers in the state to Australia or Alcatraz or something, Dad would be the first person to sign it.

And the first teenager he’d put on the boat would be this kid named Lenwood Heath. Lenwood is always toilet papering peoples' houses and generally stirring up trouble in the neighborhood.

Dad has seemed a lot more relaxed ever since August when Lenwood’s dad shipped him off to some military academy in Pennsylvania.

While I’m on the subject of Saturday I should mention some of my other gripes. First of all, there’s nothing on t.v. after 1:00 p.m. except golf and bowling. Second of all the sun comes right through the sliding glass window and you can hardly see what’s on the t.v. anyway. And on top of that you get all sweaty and stick to the couch. It’s practically like a consipracy against kids to make them go outside and do something besides watch t.v.

Today after Dad woke me up I decided to just skip the whole t.v. thing and go over to Rowley’s.

I know I haven’t mentioned Rowley in this journal yet even though he’s technically my best friend, but there’s a pretty good reason for that.

Rowley kind of ticked me off on the first day of school with something he said at the end of the day when we were getting our stuff from our lockers.

I told Rowley at least a billion times this summer that now that we’re in middle school you’re supposed to say "hang out", not "play". But no matter how many times I kick him in the shins when he says "play" he always forgets for the next time.

So I guess you could say I’ve been avoiding Rowley this week. I’ve been trying to be more careful about my image ever since this summer when we got caught playing Vikings and Indians in the woods by a couple of eighth graders.

What really burned me up about that whole incident is how that guy called me a nerd. Now I’ll admit I’m not exactly the most macho guy around in terms of wanting to do push-ups all the time or whatever, so if you want to call me a wimp, then fine. But I know one thing for sure, and it’s that I am NOT a nerd.

The trouble with nerds is that they give wimpy kids like me a bad name, because people end up lumping us all in the same category. When I think of nerds, I think of teachers' pets and tickle fights and hall monitors, and that is not me.

Now Rowley can speak for himself on the whole "nerd" thing, but I will just mention as a side note that he is the only 12-year-old I know who still has a babysitter.

Rowley moved here a couple years ago and I kind of took him under my wing. My former best friend Ben moved to Piscataway and I figured I’d better find myself a new friend to hang out with, so here comes Rowley straight out of Ohio. His mom bought him some book called "How to Make Friends in New Places" and he showed up at my door trying out all these gimmicks.

All that kid would’ve had to have done is to have come right out and told me he had a Playstation with 42 games and it would have sealed the deal.

The best thing about having Rowley around is that I get a chance to use all the tricks Rodrick used on me that I could never get away with pulling on Manny.

Another bonus about Rowley is that he has never squealed on me, not even once. So in some ways I guess you could say he’s the perfect friend.

Today was a really bad day. Dad ended up running into Mr. Swann at church and Mr. Swann was telling Dad how great Bishop Garrigan High School is, where his son Dan goes.

Dad seemed REAL interested, which is a very bad sign for me. Now I’m sure Bishop Garrigan is a fine school and all that except for the fact that it is ALL BOYS. Number one I want to go to Crossland High School where there are boys AND girls and number two I wouldn’t survive the first day at Bishop Garrigan.

Rodrick doesn’t have to worry about getting sent to Bishop Garrigan because he is already a junior at Crossland, but I had definitely better figure a way out of this.

Mr. Swann went on and on about how Bishop Garrigan makes "men" out of boys. And from the way Dad kept looking over at me I knew I was in trouble. It doesn’t help that Mr. Swann has three boys who are the same ages as us Heffley boys, and Dad’s carpool passes by their house every night.

As far as the whole "making men out of boys" idea goes, I think the Swann boys have a pretty good head start.

I’ve still got two years before I go to high school, and hopefully Dad will forget about Bishop Garrigan by then.

But if things look bad down the road I better start working on Mom to change my fate.

Today I woke up and at first I thought it was still summer vacation, which is a really bad way to start a school day.

The new thing is that I have to fix Manny his cereal every morning while Mom gets ready for work. Manny takes his bowl and sits right in front of the t.v. on his plastic potty.

It’s not like he’s not potty trained but he got in the habit of doing this when he was two and he just never quit.

The worst part is that after he’s done he dumps whatever he didn’t eat right into the potty. And it’s always me who has to clean it up.

Mom always gets on me about not finishing my breakfast, but if you had to scrape a bunch of Cheerios out of a potty every morning I bet you wouldn’t have any appetite either.

Today at school we got assigned to Reading groups. I was looking forward to finding out which group I was going to get put into because I wanted to see if a big plan I hatched at the end of last year was going to work.

Now, they don’t come right out and tell you if you’re in the hard group or the easy group, but you can figure it out right away by looking at the covers of the books they give you.

I was pretty mad to find out I got put in the hard group today, which meant my plan failed. I was hoping to get in the easy group because they only have to read about a tenth of the stuff that the kids in the hard group have to read, and there’s a whole lot less homework.

At the end of last year I did my best to muff up my screening test to make sure I didn’t get put in the hard group.

Another thing I did to make sure I didn’t get put in the hard group was to make sure I didn’t try to hard on my end-of-the-year essay.

They make you do this four page paper at the end of the year which is another way they figure out how to place you.

I’m guessing Mom stepped in and made sure I got put in the hard classes, because she knows the principal of the school.

Mom’s always saying how I’m a real smart kid but I just don’t "apply" myself.

You might wonder why I’d want to get put in the easy classes since I probably deserve to be in the hard classes, but I have a pretty good answer for that.

If there’s one thing I learned from Rodrick, it’s to set people’s expectations real low so you end up surprising everyone by doing almost nothing at all.

In fact he did something on Friday that totally proves my point.

Anyway I guess I’m glad my plan didn’t work because I noticed at least two of the kids in the Bink Says Boo group were holding their books upside down, and I don’t think they were joking around.

Today at lunch I got to listen to Albert Sandy brag about how his parents bought him a 36 inch t.v. and a DVD player and a bunch of other stuff for his bedroom.

It really makes me mad because my whole goal this summer was to save up for a t.v. so I didn’t have to hang out with the rest of my family and watch what they want to watch all the time.

So I spent the whole summer taking care of Mr. and Mrs. Rose’s dog while they were on a trip.

The deal was that I had to go over to their house twice a day to take their dog Stevie out, and I was supposed to get three bucks a day for doing it.

The big problem with Stevie is that I guess he is totally shy when it comes to going to the bathroom in front of strangers so I wasted a whole lot of my summer standing there waiting for this stupid dog to hurry up and go.

So I’d wait and wait and nothing would happen, so I’d just go home. But EVERY time I came back to the house later on Stevie had made a mess in the kitchen. I finally figured out Stevie was just holding it until the coast was clear.

In fact one day I tried an experiment where I left and then came back five minutes later, and sure enough stevie had pooped right on the kitchen floor.

And it’s not like I didn’t give the dog a chance to go. The Roses have satellite t.v. and tons of junk food so I basically spent three hours a day on Mr. Roses La-Z-Boy with the air conditioner on full blast.

So this one day I finally figured out it was a big hassle to clean up this dog’s mess every single day, so I decided to just save myself some time and clean it up all at once.

I let things go for about a week. Then, the night before the Roses were supposed to get back I headed up the hill with all my cleaning stuff.

And wouldn’t you know it? The Roses came home a day early.

To make a long story short I didn’t get paid a single cent, not even for the days I did my job like I was supposed to. So hearing Albert Sandy bragging about his t.v. just reminded me how I got stiffed and put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

You know how I said Mom is always taking Manny’s side? Well today was some more proof of that.

I made Manny his cereal like I always do, but this time I accidentally poured the milk in before the cereal. And when I poured the cereal in on top of that, Manny just about lost his mind. He made a huge racket, crying and hollering and all that, and Mom came down to see what was going on. So I told her what happened and I figured she would just tell Manny to pipe down and eat his stupid cereal.

But instead she says "I wouldn’t eat it either." And then she gives Manny a big hug and makes me pour him a new bowl of cereal, this time in the right order.

I guess I should’ve expected it. A couple weeks ago when Manny was at daycare he opened up his lunchbox and when he took out his sandwhich he had a fit because it was cut in two halves, not four squares like he usually gets it. So the daycare people had to call Mom up at work to get her to come over so Manny would calm down.

Today I got totally dissed by Christine Coolidge. I asked her if she would be my lab partner for Science and she told me she already had a partner.

But then later on in the class I saw her walk up to Bryce Anderson and ask him if he would be her lab partner. I’m not surprised she went after Bryce because he is the most popular kid in our grade for something like three years running. But she didn’t have to go and lie about it either.

It used to be a lot more simple with girls. Way back in the third grade, the deal was, if you were the fastest runner in your grade, you were the king. And in my grade, that was Ronnie Jones.

Nowadays its a lot more complicated and I’m sure kids like Ronnie Jones are sitting around scratching their heads wondering what happened.

Not only does Bryce Anderson get all the girls but he also has a big group of cronies that follows him around and basically worships every word that comes out of his mouth.

The thing that really stinks is that I have ALWAYS been into girls, but kids like Bryce have only come around to liking girls in the past couple of years. I remember how Bryce used to be back in fourth and fifth grade.

And of course now I don’t get any credit from the girls for sticking with them for all this time.

Like I said Bryce is the most popular kid in the seventh grade so that leaves all the rest of us scrambling to move up the ladder.

The best way to figure out how popular you are is to get a hold of one of the Slam Books that gets passed around. Basically they’re notebooks where people put rankings down for most popular boy, most popular girl, best hair, cutest butt and all of that.

The problem with these books though is that they’re in regular notebooks which only have 24 lines on each page. So people like me who don’t make the top 24 have to guess where they rank. The best I can figure right now is that I’m somewhere around 32nd or 33rd most popular, but I think I’m about to move up a rank because Charlie Davies (who is a really nice kid) gets his braces on Tuesday.

What someone needs to do is start up a Slam Book with one of those yellow legal pads of paper, because they have something like 32 lines in them so at least kids like me could get a better picture of where they stand but the problem is that it takes a popular kid to start a Slam Book and I’m sure if I started one it would get filled out by all nerds.

Today I got a hold of a Slam Book and I was trying to explain all this to Rowley on the bus ride home, but honestly sometimes with him I feel like it’s just in one ear and out the other.

Tonight, Dad was showing me the newest stuff he added to his Civil War diorama in the basement, and I got to admit, it’s pretty cool.

Dad’s not like the regular kinds of dads you see on t.v., sitting around watching football and drinking beer and all of that.

Any free second he gets you can be sure he’s down in his workroom painting his little soldiers or moving stuff around the battlefield trying to make it as accurate as possible.

Dad would be happy to spend the whole weekend working on his diorama, but Mom usually has other ideas. Mom likes to rent these romantic comedies, and Dad has to watch them with her whether he wants to or not.

A couple weeks ago when Mom rented one of these movies Dad tried to get clever and fake out Mom. When she got up to go to the bathroom, Dad stuffed a bunch of pillows under the blankets to make it seem like he had fallen asleep.

So Mom watched the rest of the movie and didn’t catch on that Dad had made a decoy until the movie was over.

Dad was in the dog house for a long time after that one.

Another thing I should mention about Dad’s workroom is that he is REAL protective of it. He keeps the door bolted shut with one of those combination locks, so I hardly ever even get to step foot in there.

I don’t even think Manny knows the diorama exists. I’ve seen Dad say some things to Manny to make sure Manny keeps clear of that part of the basement.

Rowley came over tonight, and Dad gets real edgy when Rowley’s around. For some reason Dad has it in his head that Rowley is a klutz and that he’s going to break something every time he comes over.

Dad told me about this nightmare he always has about Rowley ruining his battlefield in one klutzy move.

So every time Rowley comes over he gets the same greeting: "The basement is off-limits".

Today I got out of bed early because the vacuuming thing was more than I could handle. I watched cartoons for a while but then I remembered the other reason I don’t get up early on Saturdays. With Dad doing his chores all around you it makes you feel guilty and takes all the joy out of just laying around doing nothing.

Tonight I’m going to spend the night at Rowley’s. It’s a pretty big deal because I haven’t spent the night over there in something like a year and a half.

The main reason I haven’t slept over there in so long is because Rowley’s dad really doesn’t like me.

It all goes back to something that happened last June. We were watching some corny movie Rowley had where there were these kids that taught themselves a secret language that only they could understand.

Me and Rowley thought the whole secret language thing was pretty cool but we couldn’t figure out how to do it like the kids in the movie.

So we decided to make up our own secret language and we tried it out over dinner.

Well, Rowley’s dad must have cracked our code because the next thing I knew, I was going home early.

And that was the last time I was invited for a sleepover.

So I don’t know why Mr. Jefferson is giving me a second chance. Either he’s gotten over the whole secret language thing or he’s forgotten why he doesn’t like me.

The sleepover at Rowley’s last night ended up being a nightmare. The first hint I had that things were going to go wrong was when Rowley’s mom told us "That’s enough t.v. for the night" at 7:00.

I was like, "Well, what are we supposed to do now?" and she said: "You could read a book!"

So of course I thought she was joking. But right when I was telling Rowley how I thought his mom was pretty funny she showed up again with her arms full of books.

I realized right then I was in for a pretty long night. Since the t.v. was off limits, video games were out, too. So I tried to think up ways we could keep ourselves entertained. I broke out some board games, but Rowley had to take a bathroom break something like every five minutes so it made our game of Risk go on forever.

Every time Rowley came back from a bathroom break he would run down stairs and kick this giant sombrero across the room.

It was funny the first ten times or so but after a while it really started getting on my nerves. So this one time when he was upstairs I put one of his dad’s dumbells under the hat to see if he would still kick it.

And sure enough, Rowley comes running down the stairs and gives the hat a big kick.

Rowley’s dad was down the stairs in no time flat. I don’t think Rowley knew I put the dumbell under the hat, but Rowley’s dad seemed pretty suspicious.

Anyway I guess he didn’t have enough hard evidence or he would have sent me home right then. I felt a little bit bad about doing what I did, but if you think about it, if Rowley’s parents hadn’t make us turn off the t.v., this never would have happened.

At 9:00 Rowley’s mom came down to say it was "lights out". If I would’ve known Rowley’s bedtime on weekends was 9:00, believe me, I never would have come over.

And then I found out another ugly surprise: there was no guest bed, so I had to sleep in the same bed with Rowley! I tried to lay as far away from Rowley as possible, but it was impossible to get to sleep with half of my body hanging off the bed.

Rowley fell asleep right away but it must’ve taken me two hours. But right when I finally started to drift off Rowley lets out this scream which scared me so bad I dropped right out of the bed and onto the hardwood floor.

Rowley’s parents came running in and Rowley started babbling all of this incoherent gibberish.

It turns out he had a nightmare that a chicken was hiding underneath him and that’s what made him yell out. But I think Rowley was so out of it he didn’t really realize it was just a dream.

So Rowley’s parents took him into their room and spent the next twenty minutes calming him down and telling him it was just a dream and how there really was no chicken.

Man, if I woke my Dad up with some nonsense about a chicken you better believe he wouldn’t be giving me a big hug and telling me everything was O.K. But that just goes to show how different my parents are from Rowley’s.

And I just wanted to make a note that nobody seemed all that concerned that I took a three-foot fall onto the floor, even though that happened for real and not just in some stupid dream.

I think Rowley spent the night in his parents' bed, which was just fine by me, because without Rowley and his nightmares I was finally able to get some sleep.

But the second I woke up this morning I came home and poured myself a big bowl of junk cereal and did my best to forget about the whole experience.

I couldn’t wait for school to be over with today so I could go home and play Twisted Wizard, a video game I’ve been playing for five days straight.

The only problem with Twisted Wizard is that you can’t save your progress, so you have to just leave it on all the time. So imagine how I felt today when I realized I got home about five seconds too late.

Believe me, from now on I am going to put a piece of black tape over the power light so it never happens again.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I am SUPER good at video games. I don’t know anyone who has beat as many games as me, and I’ve got all my victories on video tape to prove it.

Unfortunately Dad does not exactly appreciate my video game skills. He is always getting on me about going outside and doing something "active".

So today I tried to explain to him that with video games, you can play sports like football and soccer and you don’t even have to get all hot and sweaty.

But as usual, Dad didn’t get my logic. He’s a pretty smart guy in general but when it comes to common sense sometimes I wonder about him.

Anyways that’s how I found myself shut out of the house this afternoon.

I’m sure Dad would dismantle my video game system if he could figure out how to. But luckily the people who make these things make them parent-proof.

So like I said, I was shut out of the house looking for some way to entertain myself.

What I always do when Dad makes me go outside is I just go over to Collin’s house.

I’m not a huge fan of Collin’s but he has two things going for him. One, he doesn’t mind watching me play his video games, and two, his dad has every Spider Man comic book since 1968.

I would go over to Rowley’s house to play video games but he always want to "take turns" which really breaks my concentration.

Plus Rowley doesn’t understand that if he plays using my memory card it will really screw up my stats.

The other thing about Rowley is that he’s not a serious gamer like me. He’s got this one racing game called Formula One Racing. If you ever want to beat him in it, just name your car something stupid and watch what happens.

So today I played Twisted Wizard over at Collin’s until it was time to come home for dinner.

On my way up the hill I made sure to jump through the Thompson’s sprinkler to make it look like I was all hot and sweaty and then I timed my entrance perfectly.

So my trick worked on Dad but it kind of backfired with Mom because when she saw me, she made me take a shower before dinner.

Dad must have been pretty proud of himself for his idea to kick me out of the house yesterday, because he did it again today.

I was actually going to go outside anyway because Rowley had gotten this new model rocket we wanted to try out. So we went down to the school and set it off. But the wind carried it all the way to the woods at the end of the football field.

I don’t know if I ever mentioned it before, but there’s a bully who hangs out in those woods named Herbie Reamer. Kids like me and Rowley stay as far away from those woods as possible.

It’s a real pity, too, because like I said, it was a brand-new rocket

I have no idea how old Herbie Reamer is or where he lives. I guess it’s possible that he lives right there in the woods like a wild animal. All I know is that he’s been around long enough that he terrorized Rodrick and his friends when they were in my grade.

The thing that stinks is that Herbie Reamer’s woods are right between my house and the school. So if we could cut through the woods it would save us something like twenty minutes of walking.

I was telling Dad all about Herbie Reamer the other day. Dad told me about the bully from when he was growing up, Sam Sharman.

Dad said Sam Sharman did this pinch where he grabbed your skin and twisted it around two times.

Dad told me the way all the neighborhood kids dealt with Sam Sharman was that they banded together and told the principal on him. Dad said Sam cried, and that he never did the Sam Sharman pinch again. And now he’s an air conditioner repairman and apparently now he’s a really nice guy.

Well, from the sound of Sam Sharman, he wouldn’t last two seconds against Herbie Reamer. But I didn’t want to hurt Dad’s feelings so I just tried to act impressed by his story.

After we lost the rocket we went up to Rowley’s to play cards. But I lost track of time and I was late for dinner at my house. So on my way down the hill I tried to think of a good excuse to get me out of trouble with Mom.

Mom was pretty hot at me for being late, just like I expected. So I told her that the clock in Rowley’s kitchen must be wrong, and that I thought I was right on time.

And do you know what Mom did? She called Rowley’s mom and caught me red handed.

So Mom was really mad that I lied. But as far as being tricky goes, Mom shouldn’t blame me, because I learned everything I know from her.

I remember this one time when I was in the second grade and Mom couldn’t get me to brush my teeth. So she made this pretend call to the dentist and I totally fell for it.

In fact, that’s when I started brushing my teeth five times a day.

Mom said she was going to think about what my punishment should be for telling a lie, and she’d let me know as soon as she came up with something that fit the "crime".

See, that’s the difference between Mom and Dad. Dad is pretty simple. If you mess up in front of him, he just throws whatever is in his hand at you.

But Mom’s a lot more crafty with her punishments. She thinks about it for a few days, and the waiting ends up being just about as bad as the punishment.

In the meantime you end up doing all these nice things hoping it’ll get you off easier.

But then after a few days, just when YOU forget about the punishment that’s coming, that’s when she gets you.

The only good thing about Mom’s punishments is that she’s pretty soft. So if you just lay low for a while you can pretty much always get out of the punishment early.

Anyway, that’s what I’m counting on while I wait for this punishment to get handed down.

Well, now I’ve gone and done it. Remember how I said yesterday that while you’re waiting for Mom to hand down her punishment you end up doing all this good stuff to make her change her mind? It was that kind of thinking that got me in this extra trouble I’m in now.

Today after school I thought maybe if I washed Mom’s car before she got home, she might go easy on me with the punishment thing. So that’s what I did, but I made the mistake of using Brillo to rub off all the bugs and tar spots. So I was in for the surprise of my life when I rinsed the car off.

I TOTALLY ruined the paint job. I thought about just denying everything when Mom asked me how her car got scratched up, but Manny was there to see everything.

Manny has been telling on me since he could talk. In fact, he has told on me for stuff I did BEFORE he could talk. One time when I was eight, I broke the sliding glass door, but Mom and Dad couldn’t peg it on me. But Manny was there to witness it and he squealed on me three years later.

So after Manny started talking, I had to start worrying about all the bad things he saw me do when he was real small.

I used to be a tattle tale myself until I learned my lesson. This one time I told on Rodrick for saying a bad word. Mom asked me which word he said, so I spelled it out. And it was a long one, too. Not only did Rodrick get away scot free but I got punished for knowing how to spell a bad word.

Like I said, I knew I couldn’t talk Manny out of telling on me for using the Brillo on the car, so I decided to try a trick I’ve been saving up for a situation like this.

I packed up a bag and made it seem like I was going to run away from home rather than face Mom and Dad for what I did.

I got to give Rodrick credit for this one. He used to pull it on me when he did something bad and he knew I was going to tell on him.

He’d basically just walk outside and then come home five minutes later, but by that time I was in pieces and couldn’t even remember the bad thing that he did.

So I left the house and waited five minutes and then came back inside. I was expecting to find Manny in the foyer bawling like a baby but he wasn’t there at all.

I went around the house looking for him, and I started to get really nervous because I’m not supposed to leave Manny alone.

But I found him in the kitchen, and guess what? He was halfway finished with my giant Hershey’s Kiss I’ve been saving since summer.

So things turned from bad to worse.

When Mom got home I actually spilled the beans to her about the car as fast as I could.

I was basically trying to keep Manny quiet about how I left the house, which would have gotten me in a lot more trouble than ruining her car.

Mom just listened with a frown on her face and then told me we’d have to wait until Dad got home to see what he thought about what I did.

I figured she might do that. So I pulled another trick I learned from Rodrick: I invited Gramma over for dinner. I figured nothing too bad could happen if she was around, and I knew I could use any protection I could get.

So at 6:00 on the dot Dad came home, and of course he’s in a great mood for some reason. That always happens to me when I’m in wait-for-Dad-to-get-home kind of trouble. It stinks because you know he’s just gonna be that much madder when he finds out what you did.

Mom kept quiet because Gramma was around, so at least that part of my plan worked out. After dinner I just snuck up to my room as quietly as I could. I think Mom is telling Dad about the car right now because it’s real quiet downstairs.

Rodrick hasn’t made me feel any better about this whole thing. Whenever I’m in trouble he tells me that I’m probably going to get "The Belt".

As far as I know Dad doesn’t believe in that kind of punishment, but Rodrick always seems to think Dad is going to make an exception for me.

I have done my best to make sure Dad reads articles from parenting magazines from time to time to let him know that kind of thing doesn’t fly these days.

I just cut those articles out and slip them into whatever book he’s reading at the time.

I think I hear Dad heading up the stairs now.

If these are the last words I ever write, then I leave all my comic books and action figures to Rowley. And please throw the other half of my Hershey’s Kiss away so Manny doesn’t get it.

Well I lived to see another day. Last night when Dad knocked on my door, I peeked through the crack and saw that he wasn’t wearing the Belt, so I let him in.

Dad wasn’t even all that mad, mostly because it wasn’t his car that got scraped up. So he just told me not to use Brillo to clean a car again and that was that.

Mom was another story. Her punishment for ruining her car was that I have to clean the whole basement.

And she said if she catches me lying again she’ll take away my video games for good. So I better be pretty honest from now on.

So now that all that stuff was behind me, I could switch my focus back to school.

We just got our first big assignment in English, which is to do a book report. I’ve been milking the same book for the past five years: Encyclopedia Brown Does it Again. There are about 12 short stories in there, but I always just treat one short story like it’s the whole book and the teacher never notices.

And to give you an idea of how short each story is, I can finish one in about three and a half minutes without really trying.

These Encyclopedia Brown stories are always the same. It’s always about how somebody commits some lame crime like stealing a fish and then Encyclopedia figures out who did it and makes them look stupid.

I have to say that no matter how hard I try, I have NEVER figured out one of these stories before the end. So I guess I’m not as brainy as Encyclopedia.

I’m kind of an expert at writing these book reports by now so I know how to write exactly what a teacher wants to hear.

So for me, book reports are no sweat.

I forgot to mention that this afternoon I took care of part one of Mom’s punishment.

Now I’ve just got to keep my nose clean for a while and I’ll be off the hook.

So far it’s been about 35 hours and I’ve kept my promise to Mom about the whole "honesty" thing. It really hasn’t been as bad as I thought and in fact it has been kind of liberating.

I’ve been in a couple situations already where I’ve been a lot more truthful than I would have been just a day or two ago. Like today, when Max Smedley started telling me his big plans.

And at Rowley’s grandpa’s birthday party...

But most people don’t seem to really appreciate a person as honest as me. Let’s just say I can’t understand how George Washington ever got elected president.

I’m actually looking forward to tomorrow because there are a couple of teachers who could use a good does of truthfulness.

I think the honesty promise has been cancelled, and not by me, but by Mom. Today I answered the phone and it was Mrs. Gretchen from the PTA, and she wanted to talk to Mom. But Mom signaled to me that I should tell Mrs. Gretchen that she wasn’t home. I didn’t know if it was a trick or what, but I knew that I wasn’t going to go and break my honesty streak over a thing like this. So I made Mom go outside on the front porch before I would say a word to Mrs. Gretchen.

Mom didn’t come right out and say the honesty deal is off, but she didn’t speak to me for the rest of the night, so I figure I can just go back to how I was before.

The only other thing that happened today that’s worth mentioning is that Rodrick broke his own Saturday sleeping record. At 3:30 Dad said enough is enough and made Rodrick get out of his bed in the basement.

But Rodrick just took all his sleeping gear upstairs and plopped himself on the couch until it was time for dinner.

Ever since Mom dangled the idea of taking away my video games, I’ve been trying to be on my best behavior. So you wouldn’t think I could get in trouble in the fifteen minutes it takes to drive to church, but that’s exactly what I did.

I was trying to have some fun with Manny by making funny faces at him in the back seat of the car. But when I finally got a laugh out of him, he spit his juice all over the car seat.

That just made Manny laugh extra hard. But then the next thing you know Mom says: "He could have choked to death!"

Well, I guess that thought was just too much for Manny to take. All I know is that the rest of the ride was pretty miserable for everyone.

So you can see how I can go from being the hero to the goat in no time flat.

At church my old best friend Ben was sitting up front with his family. Mom doesn’t let us sit too close to Ben’s family because me and Ben used to always get into giggle fits when we’d sit near each other.

Our big routine was that at the part in church where you’re supposed to say "Peace be with you" and shake hands, we’d say "Peas be with you" (like the vegetable).

Mom said if we didn’t stop laughing in church, she was going to separate us. So we behaved ourselves for a while.

But this one Sunday during the "Peace be with you" part, Ben actually handed me a couple of dried up peas he had been carrying in his pocket, and we both totally lost it.

Mom kept good on her promise, because we haven’t even sat on the same side of the church as Ben since that day.

On the way home from church we passed by the Smedleys who were out in their front yard. There are about six boys in that family but it’s hard to tell any of them apart.

The Smedleys' big dream in life is to win the grand prize on America’s Funniest Home Videos, so they’re always trying to stage some kind of accident.

I bet for every ten times you see a guy get hit in the groin with a golf ball on that show, nine of them are sent in by families like the Smedleys just trying to make a buck.

Today at school I was looking at the inside cover of my pre-algebra book and I saw that it used to belong to Jimmy Jury, who is the most popular kid in the 8th grade. I figured I might be able to translate this into some pretty big popularity points of my own, but the problem was that Jimmy Jury didn’t write his name anywhere on the outside of the book. So I took care of that detail on my own.

Unfortunately I also got Brian Gleeson’s science book so things sort of evened out.

In Phys Ed today a couple girls caused a stir when they presented a petition to Mr. Underwood, the gym teacher.

The way they got the idea of writing a petition was because in History, we’re studying Martin Luther who is a guy who wrote a list of demands and posted them on a church door.

So the girls got it in their heads that it was unfair that they had to do girl push-ups while the guys get to do boy push-ups, and they all signed their names to a list to protest.

If I was them, I wouldn’t complain. Girl push-ups are about ten times easier than boy push-ups.

With girl push-ups, you get to keep your knees on the ground, so you only have to work half as hard.

So I think Mr. Underwood surprised them when he said sure, you girls can go ahead and do boy push-ups.

I think the girls were expecting a lot bigger fight, and now I know at least half of them wish they could take that petition back.

I kind of got inspired by the whole episode and I started to put together a petition saying we boys wanted to be allowed to do girl push-ups.

But when I saw the group of guys who was interested in signing it I decided to just bag it.

Tonight was a pretty big deal for me because it was the start of the new t.v. season. I have had to watch five months of reruns so you can probably understand that I was fired up to finally see something new.

Dad put Manny to bed and Mom made popcorn and I was all set for some serious television watching. But five minutes into the first show Manny makes an appearance in the family room.

But instead of putting Manny right back to bed Mom let him stay up and watch t.v. with us.

And here’s the kicker: Mom made me change the channel because on the show I was watching the kids had a "disrespectful attitude" towards the adults, and she didn’t want Manny exposed to that sort of thing.

Cop shows were out, too, because of the violence. So guess what? Mom made me turn to the cartoon channel, which is exactly what Manny was watching BEFORE he went to bed.

Man, I was steamed. When I was a kid, there wasn’t any of this getting out of bed and coming back downstairs stuff.

I think I did it once or twice, but Dad put a stop to it real quick.

There was this book Dad used to read to me before I went to sleep called "A Light in the Attic".

It was an awesome book but on the back of it there was a picture of the guy who wrote it, Shel Silverstein.

Have you ever seen that guy? All I can say is that he looks more like a burglar or a pirate than a guy who writes poems for kids.

Well, Dad used to leave that book right on my end table every night with the back of the book facing up, and it really gave me the heebie jeebies.

I think Dad caught on that Shel Silverstein kind of freaked me out. Because the first night after I pulled the kind of thing Manny pulled tonight, Dad read me some poems from "A Light in the Attic" and then said: "If you get up again tonight I wonder if you’ll run into Shel Silverstein in the hallway?"

Well, Dad really had my number with that trick. I never got up again, not even to go to the bathroom, I would rather have wet the bed than to find that guy creeping around upstairs.

Last night Manny finally went to bed and I finally got to watch some of the new shows. But I’ve got to say, it wasn’t worth the wait.

All the new sitcoms are the same. They basically take one lame joke and then drive it into the ground for the next 30 minutes. I wanted to see if I could write a better show than these clowns who are making thousands of dollars, so at lunch today I gave it a shot.

I showed my drawings to Mom and she surprised me by being really interested. She told me that if I really wanted to write a t.v. show I had to come up with a whole plot with a beginning and end. I think she was just happy I was showing an interest in something other than a video game for once.

It seems like every new show that comes out nowadays is about some dad who does or says something really ignorant at the beginning of the show but then by the end of the show he comes around and realizes he was being a nincompoop. So the next show I wrote (called "Wise Up, Mr. Lockerman") is based on that kind of idea.

I showed this script to Mom when I was done. To be honest with you, I don’t think she really approves of my type of humor but she is pretty excited to see me working on this stuff. Usually when Mom gets too enthusiastic about something I’m doing, that’s my signal to back off. But Mom said she’s going to try to get a hold of a video camera from work to let me put some of my ideas on film. So I guess I can deal with it for now.

Last night I was so excited about getting my hands on a video camera, I couldn’t sleep. So today in school I faked about being sick in gym so I could write down my idea for a movie.

Mom was able to get a camera from work. So I finished up the script and brought it up to Rowley’s house to show him. I think it’s my best stuff yet, and that’s saying something.

Well, Rowley’s reaction wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

You’d think Rowley would be grateful that I was going to make him a big star. And of course I got no thanks for writing juicy roles for his parents.

Today after school I walked up to Rowley’s house to show him some rewrites I did for The Boy Whose Family Thought He Was a Dog. But Rowley wouldn’t answer the door.

I started to head home and then all of the sudden Mom pulls up along side me with Mackie Creavy in the back seat of the car.

Oh, man, I COMPLETELY forgot about soccer. Dad makes me do it every year so I’m "well rounded".

So I guess I’ve got to put my film career on hold and go get my shins kicked for a couple of months.

The first night of soccer practice is always the same. They start off by doing this "skills" test to see how good you are. Usually I don’t care how I get ranked but this year the guy who was doing the testing was Mr. Matthews, who is the father of Piper Matthews, the prettiest girl in our church. So I figured I’d better do my best if I wanted to impress my future father-in-law.

Even though I tried my hardest I still got ranked "Pre Alpha Minus" which is adult code words for "You Stink".

The next thing they do is put everyone on a team. They basically try to spread out the really awful kids like me so no one team has too many terrible players.

And wouldn’t you know my luck? I got put on Kenny Keith’s team, so that means my coach is Mr. Keith, same as last year.

Mr. Keith hates me, and I trace it all back to the first day of practice last year. A bunch of us terrible players were slacking off, hanging out by the water jug, when Mr. Keith yelled for us to get back on the playing field.

So as a joke I ran backwards with my rear end pointed at Mr. Keith.

I think it would have been funnier if all the other guys had done the same thing I did, but they kind of hung me out to dry.

Anyway you can probably guess that Mr. Keith did not find my joke so amusing. And from then on he made things pretty miserable for me.

Right before the first game he gave us all our positions and he told me my position was "Shag". I didn’t know a whole lot about soccer but I was pretty proud that I had my very own position. I remember bragging to Rodrick about it.

But Rodrick knew a thing or two about soccer and he told me that the Shag isn’t actually a real position on the field, it’s just a kid who chases all the balls that go out of bounds.

And sure enough, Rodrick was right. Mr. Keith never put me in a game, and I wasn’t even the worst kid on our team. We had Collin and Mackie Creavy and a couple other kids who can barely kick a soccer ball, and there I was chasing balls into the street. And let me just say something in defense of all those Shags out there: Shag might not be the most noble position in soccer but it is definitely the most stressful.

Tonight I was all set to go over to Collin’s house but I found out Dad had rented a movie. So I changed my plans and stayed home. Whenever Dad gets a movie he never checks the rating, so it’s always worth hanging around and seeing what he picked out. And half the time he gets something Mom would never let me watch on my own.

The only down side about watching movies with Dad is that if there is ever a scene with anything the least bit inappropriate, somehow Mom shows up at the worst moment and makes you feel ashamed for watching it.

Luckily I have mastered the kind of response that gets me off the hook every time, especially during the racy scenes.

I just make sure I head back downstairs later on to catch up on anything I missed.

Today after church Mom and I went over to Gramma’s to check up on her. Mom was pretty worried because Gramma hasn’t been answering her phone for a few days so Mom wanted to make sure Gramma was o.k. But when we got there we found Gramma sitting in her kitchen clipping coupons like usual. So when Mom asked Gramma why she hasn’t been answering the telephone Gramma said, "Cordless telephones erase the memory of the elderly."

Well, that kind of set Mom off, because she knew exactly where Gramma was getting her information: from the supermarket tabloids. But somehow Gramma keeps getting a hold of these things, even though she doesn’t drive.

So when Mom confronted Gramma on it and said, "Where did you read that, Mom?" Gramma knew she was cornered.

So Mom found where Gramma was stashing the tabloids and we took it home with us to throw away. What Mom doesn’t know is that I always dig those things out of the trash and read them when no one’s around.

There’s actually a bunch of good stuff in there, like horoscopes and predictions. In fact, the reason I take school with a grain of salt is because this one tabloid says the whole East Coast is going to be underwater within five years.

I don’t know if I ever mentioned this before, but every morning when Dad wakes me up he gives the same exact speech: "It’s ten of seven. Mom’s in the shower and I want you in there the second she’s out so you’re not late for your bus. Let’s move it! Hup Hup Hup!"

I don’t know where Dad gets his morning energy but I definitely did not inherit that gene from him. After he wakes me up I prop myself up on my elbow and try my hardest not to fall back asleep.

This one day I accidentally fell back asleep after Dad woke me up, and believe me, it was the last time I ever made that mistake.

At school this morning there were a bunch of kids from Mrs. Bunn’s homeroom class standing around in the hallway, tripping every other kid that walked by.

It’s really sad to see what passes for comedy these days. Back in the fifth grade, me and Ben were an awesome comedy team and we had some really good routines.

But ever since Ben left town the funniest thing that ever happens in school is when some poor kid drops his lunch tray in the cafeteria.

I tried to pick the comedy thing back up when Rowley came along, but things never really worked out.

I thought of another good reason to keep a journal. When I get rich and famous I can pull out this book to remind myself why I shouldn’t let Rodrick swim in my pool or use my bowling alley or anything else like that.

Tonight Rodrick pulled his get-out-of-doing-the-dishes routine, just like he does every night. Dad has a rule that we’re not allowed to watch t.v. until the dishes are done, but right after dinner Rodrick always goes upstairs to the bathroom and doesn’t come down for something like 45 minutes. By that time I’ve done all the dishes myself.

Well, tonight I said enough is enough, and I went to complain to Mom and Dad. But of course Rodrick had an excuse.

All I can say is that if Rodrick wants to hang out in my mansion when we’re grown up, he better bring a towel and some sponges because he’s going to be doing a whole lot of dishes.

Tonight soccer practice ended a few minutes early so the coach could hand out uniforms and we could come up with a team name.

I suggested "Twisted Wizards" and said maybe we could get the Game Zone to sponsor us, but of course my perfectly good idea got shot down.

A bunch of other ideas got tossed around until some idiot came up with the name "Red Sox". I couldn’t believe it when a bunch of kids thought that was a really good idea. And guess what? That’s what everyone voted on.

Now, number one, the Red Sox is a baseball team, not a soccer team. And number two, our uniforms are blue, including the socks. But of course nobody would listen to me.