Read an Excerpt:

Number 306

     When you’re in the 6th grade, a lot of things can go wrong.  I know all about this.  When something bad happens, it usually happens to me.

 

     My name is Matt.  Actually, it’s Matthew Eugene Tedesco.  Don’t tell anybody about the “Eugene”.  I like to be called Matt, just plain Matt.  What I usually get called is “Mattman,” which is not too bad.  And of course, there’s “Four Eyes,” "Shrimpenstein," or “Fatty Matty,” which I can’t stand.

 

     You’ve probably already guessed that I don’t have a lot going for me in the looks department. You’re right.  And, I’m not exactly the most popular kid at Columbus Avenue Elementary School.  Who am I kidding? On the school’s popularity list, I’m not even in the top 300.  I might be somewhere near number 306 out of 322, just behind 305, Larry “Snot” Kraski, the kid who wipes his nose on his sleeve, and 307, Jason Bidwell, the world-famous bed wetter.   Yes, I have given this a lot of thought.  Number 306 is exactly right.

 

     Being number 306 isn’t really that bad…honest!  You don’t get noticed an awful lot, which can sometimes be a good thing.  And there’s hardly any pressure to succeed like there is on the "brainiacs."  If you ever do really well and win a ribbon or certificate or something, even for third place, you get a lot more pats on the back.  But the best part is that you really know your friends like you for who you are.  I mean, what else have you got going for you?

 

     Of course, there’s a bad side to being number 306, too. You never get called “cool.”  You’ll probably never, ever go out with a girl. (Not that I would want to.)  And you always get shoved to the end of the lunch line and get stuck with those awful, cold, pasty lima beans, my least favorite food in the whole wide world, ‘cause all the “good” vegetables ran out.

 

     I’m used to being number 306.  I’m used to a report card filled with “C’s.”  I never expect any special treatment or fuss.  And, when we choose up sides in gym class, if I ever wasn’t the last one picked, I’d have a heart attack and die right on the spot!

 

     Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to move up on that list -- even crack the top 100.  I’d give anything to find out -- anything except my three-legged beagle, "Speedy," or my Albie Schmutz baseball card.  Albie Schmutz was the smallest guy ever to play major league baseball for real.  And he was pretty good, too.  He played the outfield for nine years way back when everything was in black and white, and even made the all-star team.  He's my hero.

 

     My dad gave me the card right after I got beat up in the second grade.  I carry it with me wherever I go and look at it whenever I feel bad.  I looked at it a lot last Monday.  Last Monday felt like the worst day of my entire life.

 

It started out bad that morning.  I couldn’t wear my “Crusher Crane” T-shirt because it was in the wash.  I tried to take it out of the hamper and put it on, but Mom caught me and made me take it off.  I tried to explain that all my friends -- Danny, Brian and Eddy -- had made a pact to wear wrestling T-shirts to school. 

 

     What did she care?  All I got was, “You can’t wear a dirty shirt to school.  Case closed!”

     Case closed. That means forget about it.  When she says that or “End of discussion,” I know I haven’t got a chance.

     At breakfast, all the kids’ cereal was gone.  I burned my Toaster Tart to a crisp and had to eat bran flakes.  Can you imagine, bran flakes?

     Later, as I was shuffling to school, trying to see how much dirt I could get on my sneakers, I was thinking about Crusher Crane and what he’d say to his mom if she told him what to wear. Crusher Crane would never take orders from anyone!  I wish just once I could be like that. I wish just once I could stand up to someone when it was important.

 

...to be continued

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