Junior Chronicles
And the Green Dude
by Robert Alan Silverstein
Illustrated by Vineet Siddhartha

Chapter 1. Dude

I was almost looking forward to the Fifth Grade. That is, until the new foreign exchange student showed up at my house the day before school started. The minute I laid eyes on him, I knew this year was going to be strange. He was just so different from your typical fifth grader that I knew this kid was going to turn the school upside down. You'll see what I mean.

That day I was waiting for him all morning out on the front lawn. Mom had asked me to "keep an eye out for Dude's bus."

Hello. Now, who names their kid Dude? I had asked my Dad that very question when I first learned that a foreign exchange student would be staying at our house that year.

"Junior, Dude probably means something else in his country," Dad had said. "You know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover!"

Let me tell you, this was one case where the cover fit the book perfectly! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, so the day before school, I was standing out on the front lawn, bored out of my mind as I tossed a baseball up into the air for the thousandth time, when all of a sudden, I saw something bright in the sky. It kept getting closer and closer.

"Wouldn't it be cool if it were a spaceship?" I laughed, absolutely sure that nothing exciting like that could ever happen to me. But sure enough, that's exactly what it was!

The spaceship stopped about a hundred yards above the tops of the trees and then a door slid open. My eyes were glued to it and I couldn't speak a word.

Something stepped out of the spaceship door and began zig-zagging down through the sky right towards my house. I had this crazy thought that it looked like a kid riding a skateboard through the air.

As he got closer I saw that it was! The kid did some awesome loops and turns and spins up above the trees and then screeched right towards me. I jumped back and fell into the bushes.

Looking up through the branches, I saw a kid hovering in the air about three feet above the ground on his skateboard. He looked like a typical kid my age, with shorts and tee-shirt and sneakers, and a cap sitting backwards on his head. The only difference was that he was green. This kid was an alien!

The green alien-kid hopped down onto the grass and pulled the skateboard out of the air. He scrunched it up between his hands until it was no bigger than a dime, and then he stuck it in his pocket. "Like, Sweet! Totally radical air space!" he laughed.

A bug was crawling on my nose and though I tried my best not to, I sneezed.

The alien looked around with a worried expression on his green face. Then he glanced down and saw me in the bushes.

"Uh... Peace, Dude?" I stuttered. I mean, what else do you say to an alien?

The alien-kid looked at me nervously. "Uh...Er...! Uh, hi. Like, uh, Peace, Man." He held up a peace sign and flashed me a quivering smile. "Like, uh, you didn't just, um, catch me on my, you know, board, did you?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah..." I swallowed.

The alien turned a paler-shade of green. "Oh, Man! Bummer, Man! I, um, er, I'm going to like, you know, get in so much trouble now, man. Like I... I can, um, totally explain it... like..."

I didn't say anything. I couldn't, even if I'd been able to understand anything he'd just said.

"You see, I ... Hey, you're like, Johnny, um, Chronicles, right?" he asked. I could see he was trying to change the subject to throw me off. But I was already so thrown off I just lay there with my mouth open. At that moment I wished with all my heart I wasn't Junior Chronicles. Maybe if I denied it, he'd go away.

The alien looked up at the number "23" on the front porch of our house and then down the street to the "Oak Lane" street sign. He nodded his head, letting me know that he knew he was at the right place. Drats!

"Uh..." was about all I was able to say.

"Like, look Johnny, I've, you know, had, um, a like totally sorta, you know, awesomely long trip... Like I'd really like to, um, well, like put my bag down..." the alien said, pointing to the glowing backpack on his back. "Like, man, can you like, you know, like give me a hand? This thing is so like, you know, so like totally heavy!"

"Uh, okay... I stammered and struggled to my feet to help him swing the backpack off his shoulder.

"WHOA!" I gasped as the glowing backpack pulled me off the ground. Before I knew what had happened I was floating three feet in the air. Without thinking very clearly I let go of the bag and crashed to ground. Dirt went flying everywhere as I plunked down on my stomach.

I lifted my face out of the dirt and saw the backpack float down to Dude's outstretched hand. "Hey, like, um, well, thanks Man!" he said.

Just then the door swung open and Mom came out and looked at me lying face down in the dirt behind the bushes. "Junior, what are you doing in there... you're filthy! Oh, you must be Dude," she said, seeing the alien kid standing there. She was beaming a welcome smile. "You're here. I didn't hear the bus go by at all. Come on in, Dude, you must be tired from your long trip."

Mom didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary about this "Dude." Like his green color! Dude looked back at me nervously. "Please don't say anything about my coming in a spaceship," his look seemed to say. It was almost like he was talking. But it made sense, unlike the words that came out when he opened his mouth. This alien was invading my head!

I wanted to tell my Mom. I wanted to tell everyone that an alien had landed in my yard. Probably to take over the planet! But nothing came out of my mouth. I followed them both inside with my jaw still hanging silently open.

Chapter 2. You the Man, Dude!

I'm really not the jealous type. Honest. But when Dude arrived, well, I suddenly found myself feeling like I was the most jealous person in the world. The jealousy monster just kept growing and growing.

It really took a big bite when Muffy, our loving family cat, turned against me. She'd been part of the family practically since I was born. She's always loved me the best. But when Dude walked through the door, she greeted him with a wet welcome lick right on his green face.

He laughed, "Whoa! Awesome, like a canine-kinda critter-type-thingy. You like, um, totally rock!"

Not only couldn't the guy speak, but he couldn't even tell the difference between a dog and a cat! But get this -- he rubbed her head and looked into her eyes, and he must have put some wicked spell on her, because I blinked and although she still looked to me like our darling kitty, Muffy, she started acting exactly like a dog does. And by the way everyone treated her, I knew they all saw her as a dog, and they acted like she'd always been that way! And from that moment on, Muffy followed Dude everywhere. She wouldn't even come to me when I offered her a kitty treat. Instead she just dog-growled at me like I was a complete stranger. Or even worse, an alien!

I was even jealous about my sister, Ellie's, reaction. Ellie is "much too mature" for all my friends, even though she's only a year-and-a-half older than me. But that night at dinner she sat there all google-eyed staring at Dude. She just had to "Ahhh!" and "Oohh..." or laugh as if everything he said was just the most surprising, intelligent or funniest thing she'd ever heard. Hello!!!?

Even Mom and Dad seemed to hang on his every word. They couldn't stop asking him questions. They, too, seemed so impressed with the things he said. They acted like he knew more about everything than they did. I couldn't believe it! I mean the guy couldn't even form a complete sentence.

"This like, you know, food-type stuff is SO totally, um, awesome, Mrs. C..." or "Way to like um, go, Mr. C, that thing you do, at, you know your work-activity-kind-of-thing. It, um, totally, you know, rocks."

The things I heard come out of his mouth must have been totally different from the words everyone else heard, because he had them all completely captivated.

"Pass the corn, please," I grumbled for the tenth time that night at dinner. But no one even heard me. "Like um, please, you know, like pass the totally awesome corn-type-maze-thingy..." I tried. Nothing! I seemed to be invisible now that Dude had arrived.

I couldn't sleep at all that night. It wasn't because I was nervous about starting the Fifth Grade the next morning, either. It was because I kept looking over through the darkness at Dude fast asleep on the other side of MY room. He made this little snoring sound that didn't sound like any snoring I'd ever heard. It was more like the buzzing of a flying saucer, if you ask me. As if he were sending out a signal, calling any spaceships that might happen to be in the area. And the glowing green color coming from his bed didn't help very much, either.

When I finally did drift off to sleep, all I could dream about were aliens coming down to take over the planet, all led by Dude himself, of course.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a start, but Dude was still sleeping peacefully. "That's it," I promised myself. "I'm going to find out what he's up to tomorrow morning - even if he turns me into toast ... space toast!"

I was so tired I must have turned off my alarm clock without realizing it, because the next thing I knew, Mom was calling from downstairs, "Junior, aren't you up yet?"

I had barely enough time to throw some clothes on and wash my face before Mom yelled again, "Junior, you're going to miss the bus!"

Dude apparently had gotten up early and made breakfast for the family. At least that's what Mom insisted as I rubbed the crust out of my eyes and stared at the toast on my plate. It was green and glowing. And it was buttered with something slimy that kept bubbling up and bursting in gassy clouds of grey smoke.

"Junior, you eat that toast!" Mom demanded.

"But, Mom!" I protested. Dude must have heard me thinking last night, I thought as I stared at the toxic toast. This must be some kind of radioactive space toast - and Dude was trying to get rid of me by nukeing me!

"John George Chronicles, you eat that toast now!"

I closed my eyes and whispered, "so long world," before I took a bite. Hmm. It was good. It was great. I gobbled it down, green slime and all.

"Now don't forget, honey," Mom said as I licked that delicious gook off my lips and grabbed my book bag, "introduce Dude to your friends. It'll be hard for him to be in a strange place and not know anyone."

Yeah, right. If she only knew. Dude was going to be just fine. It was going to be me who'd be the outcast alien. That day was definitely the worst day of my life. I hadn't seen a lot of my friends since summer had started, and I was looking forward to hanging out with them again. But for some reason, no one seemed that interested in seeing me. Not even my best friend, Artie Taylor. "Oh, hi, Johnny. Hey, is that Dude? Wow, he is so cool! Introduce me, okay?"

Everyone just had to talk to Dude. And man, did he "like talk and um, talk." Everyone thought he was just the coolest kid ever. It seemed to me that every time he said anything his words seemed even more ridiculous than the last time he opened his mouth. But somehow what everyone else heard must have been something completely different.

Before the day was over, Dude was surely the most popular kid in the school; I was Mr. Invisible. Even the bus driver was so busy talking to Dude when he got on the bus to go home that she closed the door right in my face. Of course, Dude just had to show off by coming to my rescue. "Like, whoa um, female-uh-bus-vehicle, you know, manipulator-driver-type person, your um door-closey-thingy is stuck on that you know, Johnny-kid's um, well, outer-garment-shirty-thing..."

That's what I heard through the closed bus door. But what everyone else must have heard to draw a round of applause from the entire bus, well, I have no idea. All I know is that I felt so embarrassed walking down the aisle when she finally opened the door again. Everyone stared at me, as if the bus driver's blindness had been my fault!

As I climbed up the steps onto the bus, I saw that everyone was fighting over who would sit next to Dude. Get this - Dude had the gall to ask me to sit with him. Like he really meant it. He just wanted everyone to be jealous and mad at me. I wished I could disappear, and I slunk down the aisle to sit alone in the last seat on the bus. The one all the cool kids used to sit in, back in the old days before they all moved up front to sit near Dude.

That's how it was for weeks. Dude just got more and more popular, even though his sentences got more and more incoherent. He was voted Fifth Grade Class President. Everyone dropped out of the race when he announced that he was running. He won 257 votes to 1. (Guess who wrote in the one vote for E.T. - there was no way I was going to vote for Dude, and I guess I was hoping that someone might get the hint and phone Dude home!)

Oh, and get this. Dude nominated ME for Vice President, knowing full well that EVERY popular kid was going to run against me to be Dude's running mate. I quickly withdrew my name to avoid being even more completely humiliated than I already was. But it was too late. Everyone laughed at me when they passed me in the hall. "Little baby dropped out of the race ... you're not Vice President material, you're just Very Pathetic... Junior VP... hah!"

"Oooh, that Dude! I just knew that everything Dude did was all part of some secret alien plot to destroy me, and the rest of the world, too. I was absolutely sure that he had put a spell on everyone and he was going to take over the whole planet, or something like that. I wanted to tell him I knew all about his evil plans, but he was always so busy, we never had a spare second to talk about it. I kept trying every night when the lights were off before we drifted off to sleep, but the second he hit the pillow he was out cold, and that eerie snoring started. Needless to say, I got very little sleep each night. I'm sure that's why he snored that way - to keep me up!

I wanted to tell everyone that he was tricking them all, but they seemed so happy around him, I felt guilty even thinking about bursting their bubbles. Besides, whenever there seemed to be a chance to tell someone that he was an alien, I felt too wiped out and tired to say anything. Maybe he had put a spell on me, too? Probably it was just the lack of sleep, though. There's no way that DUDE could put a spell on me! I was on to his tricks. But then, I was addicted to his space toast -- I couldn't seem to start my day without it. Maybe he was drugging me with that slimy green delicious gooky stuff.

This is how it went, day in and day out, until one night I had this strange dream. After that, everything was completely different.

Chapter 3. Wassup, Dude!

It was the strangest nightmare, let me tell you. But the weirdest thing about it was that it seemed more real than any dream I'd ever dreamed before!

I dreamed I saw these strange little creatures. They were all different colors. Some were red or green or blue or yellow, but there were lots of them and they were slimy with a dingy glow. And they were slithering in through my open bedroom window! I watched in horror as they slopped across the floor. It was so gross! Not only were they disgustingly slimy, but after every few feet of slithering they seemed to make squishy gassy-sounds, which left puffy grey clouds floating in the air. It wasn't long before I had to hold my nose - they smelled even worse than they looked. Fortunately the stinky-slimeys seemed to be heading to the other side of the room. Straight for Dude's bed!

He went on snoring, in the same creepy way he would be doing outside the dream, completely unaware of anything. The smelly-blobs slid up the side of his bed and slipped under his covers. "Oh, Man!" I gasped. "Don't aliens smell anything - how can he sleep with that awful smell all around him!"

The next thing I knew the slimers were slithering back down the side of Dude's bed and across the floor towards the window. That's when I noticed they were carrying his watch. They were so tiny that it took about fifty of them to carry it.

I don't know why (maybe it's because in dreams you can have more courage than you do in real life), but I jumped up, ran across the room and slammed the window closed.

The dingy colored slimy blobs stopped. Then they started bouncing up and down angrily, squeaking at me and making more of those smelly gaseous-sounds. I backed away slightly as they slimed past me and slid under my bedroom door. The cloud of stench remained behind. I dashed across the room and held my nose as tight as I could. I opened the door with my free hand and tiptoed after them into the hallway. I knew every creak on the stairs so I knew I wouldn't wake everyone in the house, but that smell was so bad I was afraid it was going to wake everyone, even outside of the dream.

The dull glow of lights trickled down the stairs, but I was in hot pursuit. It was gross squishing in their slimy trail with my bare feet, but I made myself go as fast as I could. They squirmed across the kitchen and under the back door, but I was right behind them, gasping and gagging for air. I chased them down the porch steps, and just as they wriggled onto the grass, I grabbed Dude's watch and yanked it away from them.

That's when they got really mad. They all turned at once and started to grow bigger and greyer and smellier. Then one, a dingy, gooshy yellow one, leaped up and slimed me.

"Eh-oooh!" It oozed all over me. I could feel it seeping through my skin. Suddenly I felt scared and I knew that yellow slime was making me feel this way. It must have oozed into my blood and was gunking up my emotions with yellow-bellied fear. I ran backwards and hid behind a tree, but they were after me.

The squeaky, gassy, exploding sounds they made got even louder. A festering red slimer leaped at me, and it oozed over my hair and down my back. As it seeped through my skin, the red ooze made me feel angry and mad.

I stomped my feet and gritted my teeth at the blobs that were coming closer. But before I could do anything about my anger, a bloated blue blob leaped at me. Its slime made me feel helpless and hopeless. I backed up against the backyard fence. They got closer and closer.

Then suddenly I saw Dude standing behind them. He looked at me and then he looked at the slimy creatures. "Uh, like, Yo, um, er, chill, Man," he whispered to me. "Like um, well, like um, don't be, you know, like afraid."

I don't know why, but I knew in a flash that Dude was going to save me. I suddenly felt calmer and less afraid. I was suddenly sure that he was a good alien who'd come to protect us Earthlings. At any second he was going to reach into his pocket and pull out some totally lethal space weapons and blast those blobs to smithereens. I just knew he'd do something totally awesome. I could feel it.

Dude took his hands out of his pockets slowly. "Here it comes!" I thought.

But his hands were empty. "Like, um, well, um, Peace," Dude whispered to the slimers. "And um, like you know, uh...Love," he continued, saying the garbled words slowly and quietly.

The slimy creatures slowed down and stopped in their tracks, as if they were being massaged with a relaxing back rub. I stared at them and looked back at Dude. He spoke to the creatures in a calming voice, reminding them how much they missed their families and friends, and urging them to go back home. He spoke to them in that painfully awful way of speaking I just wasn't ever going to get used to. The weird thing was that I could actually see his ridiculous words floating in the air. They weren't the best choice of words, that's for sure, but as they drifted and floated, I could see how gentle they were.

Actually, it didn't seem that strange to see his words floating in the air, at the time. You sort of expect weird things like that to happen in dreams. His words were like sweet little glowing lights. As they floated across the yard, the soft glows wrapped around the slimy blobs, making them softer and more delicate looking. The blobs got lighter and more transparent and they started to float. They got lighter still, until they just drifted up into the night sky. One by one they drifted out of view and disappeared with a tiny, peaceful little "swish" sound.

A stray glowing word wrapped around me as I watched, and I suddenly felt different. I felt warm and fuzzy. I felt light and happy. I felt good. I wanted to dance. (And if you knew me, you'd know that I would never be caught dead dancing. So I must have been feeling really good!)

More and more of the warm lights wrapped around me, and I noticed I was floating up into the tree branches. I looked down at Dude. He was smiling. All the creepy blobs were gone, and I felt like I didn't have a care in the world.

Then all of a sudden the backdoor slammed open. Looking down I saw Ellie in her pajamas, rubbing her eyes as she looked up at me. "Oh my gosh, Junior, you're floating in the air!"

Then she looked over at Dude and her face turned pale as a ghost. "Junior, it's an alien!" she whispered, unable to move.

Dude turned to me. "Um, well, Yikes, like, um, er, that is, uh, Man, quick, you gotta, you know, I mean, like toss me the syncronomoter-watchy-kinda-thingy like, um, you know, fastish like, Man!"

Instinctively (because it sure wasn't in response to what he said - I had no idea what he'd said), I dropped the watch down to him. Meanwhile, I floated back down to the ground. Dude quickly put the watch on and whispered, "It's okay, Ellie. Everything will be alright..."

As Dude said those words, I couldn't help noticing that they made sense. At the same time I also noticed that for some reason I was squinting and holding my head sideways. And for some reason I was holding one of my feet up off the ground, too. I stood there watching the gentle glow of his words as they wrapped around Ellie. She rubbed her eyes and then stared back at Dude and me. She rubbed her eyes again and shook her head.

"Junior, what are you and Dude doing out here?" she finally whispered in between a yawn and a hiccup. "And why are you standing like that, Junior? You look like a blind flamingo!"

Slowly I lowered my foot and let my head return to a more comfortable position. I couldn't wait to hear how Dude would get us out of this.

"Um, well, like, well, we were like, you know, sort of like, um, well, chasing away some well, bogus critters that were out here, like you know, making um, well, you know, like trouble," Dude said.

"Hmm..." my sleeping brain whispered to me. Somehow it had noticed the connection between the flamingo-like position I had been standing in at the time when what Dude said had made sense.

"Well, you better get inside. It's late." She shivered. "And it's chilly." She turned and went in through the door.

It was chilly. I had goosebumps all over! That's when I realized this was no dream. I turned to Dude. "What's going on, Dude?"

Dude sighed. "Like, I, you know, um, er, well, Man, I... well..."

I squinted my eyes and turned my head to test out my theory. "I, well, sorta, well..." It didn't work. Maybe it needed the whole flamingo-package.

I raised my foot. "I guess I'd better tell you everything," Dude said perfectly understandably. I was right. For some reason when I squinted and turned my head just so, and raised one foot off the ground, I could hear Dude the way everyone else must hear him.

"Come on, we'd better get inside," Dude said in perfect English. I hopped after him on one foot, my head bent and squinting, just in case he had anything more to say.

Chapter 4. We Can Work It Out, Dude!

While we sat on our beds in the dark, (me with one foot slightly raised and squinting sideways across the room) Dude told me the whole story. It was a doozy of a story, let me tell you. If I hadn't seen his spaceship, or those glowing-globby creatures, I never would have believed any of it, that's for sure.

First he told me that the spaceship I had seen was really only the Inter-galactic late-bus. It was dropping him off at Earth for his assignment for the after-school Better World Team, which he had never really wanted to join in the first place, but he had to, because he needed the extra credit.

I raised my leg up higher and squinted harder at his green glow in the darkness, completely blown away by everything he was saying. A million questions raced through my head and I began blurting them out, in no particular order.

"Is there really life on other planets?" I whispered. "Is there hope for Earth? Can you read people's minds? Can you control the future? Am I going to pass my Spanish test tomorrow? Why do I have to hold my body in such an uncomfortable position to hear you the way everybody else does? How come no one can see that you're an alien when I can see it so clearly... "

Dude blinked as he tried to keep up with my questions. I finally stopped and he started with the last one, because that's the only one he could remember.

"Like, I'm really not sure why you can see me as I really am, Johnny," he admitted. "No one else can see the way I really look because of the Fit-In-ability Shield produced by my watch. I know you've felt that I've made everyone like me so much more than you, and like I'm really sorry, but I had to turn it up all the way. Or else they'd, like, you know, see like you know, me, like, as if, you know, well..." (My leg had gotten tired, so I had to rest it a second.) "...the way I am. And I'm pretty pathetic. I'm really, like you know, sorry you have to squint and hold your leg in such a like you know, totally like uncomfortable, you know position, to like hear me the way you know, everyone else well, does."

Then he told me the whole sad story. About how he was at the bottom of his class at school. About how he had to sign up for the InterStellar Peace Club for extra credit or he was going to "like totally, um, you know, like flunk out of well, you know, school." I wasn't sure which was worse - the pain of maintaining the flamingo-position or listening to Dude speak if I didn't hold that pose.

"And because I'm like such a total screw-up, they gave me the hardest and most totally impossible location - Earth. But that's okay, because like Man I was doing a whole lot better in English Class than I was in my own, you know, language-thingy. I totally flunked that, Man, but like in English I sort-of well, squeaked by with a you know, C-- last semester!"

It was really hard keeping my leg up. I had to stand at the side of the bed and hold on while I squinted and tried to keep my leg raised high. But it was worth the pain, so I didn't have to strain my brain as much to hear what he was saying.

Dude started to get all teary-eyed. "But like, Man, I'm really sorry I've made you hate me. I've tried to include you all the time, but you like never want to have anything to do with me. I know that's because I've hurt your feelings and you're mad at me..."

I suddenly felt so guilty for all the things I'd thought about Dude. "Oh, no I'm not, Dude," I said quickly, realizing how much I liked my alien friend.

Then I remembered those yucky little critters that had stolen Dude's watch. Dude seemed to read my mind. "Those are the meanie-kabeenies," he sighed. "They're all over the Universe causing trouble."

"Uh I ... er ... uh ... the ... um ... the meanie-kabeenies?" I stammered, sounding an awful lot like Dude.

"Yeah, there's the red-angries, and the yellow-fraidies, and the blue-bluezies and the grey-lazies." Dude sighed. "There's all kinds of meanie-kabeenies."

"But I've never seen them before!" I insisted.

"Well, that's because you're dreaming now."

"Huh?" Now I was completely confused. "I thought we decided I was awake?"

"It's complicated," Dude sighed. "You're sort of awake and dreaming at the same time. Normally you can't see the meanie-kabeenies. No one can really see them. But they're all around, sliming people all the time, just the same. They make kids and adults do all kinds of things they really don't want to do."

"Wow!" It was all so strange, but it seemed to explain why people could be happy and calm one second and then completely irrational the next. "Well, how did you stop those slimy meanie kabeenies?" I asked, because he sure did get rid of the ones that were attacking me.

"Through kindness," Dude said matter-of-factly. "Whenever someone's filled with anger or jealousy or fear or all those other mixed-up meanie-kabeenie emotions, you can steer them back to their senses by helping them to be calm and peaceful. You do that by showing them kindness, and by saying kind words. Peace and Love - they really are powerful forces."

I'd seen how powerful they were with my own eyes.

"Yeah, because you're dreaming you got to see what's happening 'behind the scenes' when you share kindness and kind words. It's like an energy that calms and soothes people."

I guess it was because I was dreaming that this all sort of made sense.

"We'd better get to sleep now, Johnny. Tomorrow's a big day. A big cloud of slimers rained down over the planet this evening, and tomorrow's going to be tricky at school. We've got a lot of work to do to get the world over this latest rash of meanie-kabeenies."

"We...?" I asked.

"Sure!" Dude exclaimed. "Like I, you know, well, like I totally need your, um, well, help, pal."

I felt really honored and proud and needed. I fell asleep with a smile on my face. It was still there when I woke up and saw Dude stretching on his bed.

"Hey, Dude," I called over, remembering to squint, tilt my head, and raise my foot up.

"Good morning, Johnny," Dude yawned.

"Dude, was it real last night?"

Dude nodded. "Yeah, pal. We've got a lot of work to do today!"

Dude was right. Every one at school seemed especially grumpy that morning. There were so many arguments and disagreements that halfway through the day, the Principal called the whole school together for an assembly to find out what was going on.

"Like, uh, man, like, um, well... Here, put these on," Dude whispered next to me in the auditorium. He handed me a pair of rose-colored sunglasses.

I did what he said, and suddenly I saw why there were so many problems at school. The glasses made it so that I could see that practically every kid, and most of the teachers too, had been slimed by the meanie-kabeenies.

The Principal asked if anyone had any ideas about how to get things back to normal at school. There was a lot of noisy grumbling but no one raised their hands. Except, Dude, of course.

I scrunched down in my seat, worrying what everyone was going to say when they heard about the meanie-kabeenies. But he didn't mention them. Instead he just looked at everyone with a big smile for a moment. "Like, um... you know, uh..."

I quickly assumed the flamingo-position and heard the eloquent speech everyone else was hearing. His Fit-In-ability shield must have been completely turned up all the way, because with my glasses on I could see waves of kindness just flowing out from Dude to the whole auditorium. The slime dripping on everyone seemed to get lighter and softer-looking.

Then Dude told us that we could get through this by going out of our way to try to be nice to each other. He asked everyone to take a deep breath, and relax. He said that any time we felt angry we should take a "time out" and count to ten or take a deep breath. When we did this it would help us see the situation more clearly so that we wouldn't react in a way that we'd regret later.

He talked about 'conflict resolution' - how we needed to listen to each other and find ways to work out disagreements so that both sides could be winners. He talked about peer mediation - how we could help others work their problems out calmly, by listening to both sides of an argument and helping them to find win-win solutions.

He asked us if we'd like to set up a Better World Kids Club at our school. All the kids seemed interested in being part of The Better WorldTeam.

Then Dude told everyone that the same thing that had happened in our school was happening in other schools. And it wasn't just kids - adults in their neighborhoods and at their jobs were feeling the same kinds of mixed-up emotions.

"But like, you, know, I mean, um, well, sort-of, well... us kids can help them to work their problems out. We can each help peace to grow by sharing it with one person at a time. If we all shared kindness, it would spread like wildfire." He also suggested we set up a web page, and share these simple tools for getting our "mads out" on the Internet.

"We can work it out, Dude!" someone shouted, and everyone started clapping.

Chapter 5. Way To Go, Dude!

Everyone felt pretty good after the assembly. Later at recess, as we were about to head back inside the school, I patted my pal on the back. "You did it, Dude. You and The Better World Kids saved the day!"

Dude smiled and shook his head. "I, um, you know, like..."

We were definitely going to have to figure out a better way for me to understand him, but for now I pretended I didn't mind the strange looks everyone gave me as I did the flamingo-hop across the playground. "It's not that simple, Johnny," Dude was saying now that I was in the correct position. "Peace takes a lot of work. This is a start, but it's just the beginning! It's going to take a lot of effort by everybody. Peace is a process - it doesn't just happen in the twinkling of an eye."

Dude was definitely right about peace not being that easy. Before we even made it back into school, we saw three arguments just beginning to brew. But he was wrong about the "twinkling of an eye" part. We made a whole lot of peace that day "in the twinkling of an eye!"

"Told you we've got a lot to do," Dude sighed as I could almost feel the slimers squishing across the playground, leaving a trail of angry kids. The closest set of arguers were my friends Artie Taylor and Merle Martin. The argument was heating up fast. I pulled out the rose-colored glasses and saw the slimers were oozing all over both of them at that very moment.

"Like, man, Quick!" Dude said. "Um, like, you know, um, well, grab my watch." Dude adjusted the dial between my fingers and when I looked up I realized that time had frozen still. Everything, that is, except for us. I let go of Dude's watch and we walked towards Artie and Merle.

"Like, um, you know, like you guys, like..." Dude whispered in their ears. Then he looked at me. I knew he wanted me to say something. I felt nervous at first, but what the heck. I gave it a try.

"You guys are best friends. Do you want to ruin your friendship over something that really doesn't matter that much?" I whispered. "Of course you don't, guys," I said reassuringly. "You can find a way to work this out!"

Dude smiled and had me hold on to his watch again. The next thing I knew, time was back to normal. From a few feet away we watched the anger in Artie and Merle's faces fading quickly.

"Hey, what are we fighting for?" Artie exclaimed.

"Beats me!" Merle answered. "Sorry, man." Then they high-fived and headed off to class.

Wow, did I feel proud. I felt a hundred feet tall. I could have stood there basking in the good feeling forever. But Dude pulled me into the school and down the hall. "Great job, Johnny, but we've got, like um, tons to do!"

He wasn't kidding. We zipped up and down the hallway, whispering peaceful thoughts and ideas into kids' ears as they stood there frozen in time. Then Dude adjusted his watch a little more and we REALLY zipped faster, back and forth and upstairs and down.

Then we zipped out the front door and down the street, whispering to frightened passers-by and angry drivers and lazy workers and teary-eyed mothers.

Faster and faster we sped until I was quite certain we'd covered the entire town. Maybe even the whole world - we went so fast and whispered so much I wasn't sure how many people's emotions we'd calmed.

Finally, just when I thought my head would explode, we were standing back in the school hallway and time was back to normal. Except it seemed so different somehow. Everything looked brighter and more hopeful. And it seemed like everybody was smiling.

I stared over at Dude. He had a big green smile on, too. "Um, like, well, you know, like..." Tiredly I raised my foot, tilted my head and squinted. "You did GREAT, Johnny," he beamed, and he high-fived me.

"I did, didn't I," I thought. Even though I knew it would be harder to help people calm down in real-time, it could be done, and anyone can do it. World Peace wasn't going to be easy, but it sure was possible -- one person at a time.

I stood there smiling, but then Dude reminded me that we had to get to class. I was so tired. "Do you think we could speed the day up, just a little, so school would be over and I could go home and take a nap."

"Like, um, you know, well... considering all that we've been through, I suppose we could," Dude agreed.

Squinting and with one foot high in the air, I held on to his watch. He turned the dial and I realized I was really going to like the Fifth Grade after all. Even if I did have to spend it looking like a flamingo.



Illustrated by Vineet Siddhartha

story © 2000-2014 Robert Alan Silverstein