NATE FRIZZLE: BUGS, DOGS AND OTHER THINGS THAT BITE
The Best Not-a-Bug Ever
Today was the day I was going to find something extra big
and creepy. I knew it. First I’d figure out what it was, and then I’d
scare Mom with it.
She’d scream for sure. She always did.
I headed straight for my lucky bug finding spot under the
tall, prickly bushes at the end of the yard. Nothing under the first
one and just a worm under the second. The worm wasn’t big enough to
scare anybody, not even Mom.
My right thumb started twitching, and that’s when I knew there
was going to be something under the third bush. My bug-finding
feelings were never wrong. When I lifted up the lowest branches, I saw
something laying in the dirt. It looked like a balled up muddy sock.
Then it moved.
I scrunched down and slid the top half of my body under
the bush. Prickles scratched and poked my back through my soccer
jersey. I didn’t care.
I inched closer until I could tell it definitely wasn’t a
muddy sock. It was a jumble of brown and tannish splotches. When I
held my breath to listen, whatever it was made a sound like my dad
snoring only a million times quieter. Then it lifted its head, and I
spied a black nose about the size of the nail on my thumb and the
floppiest ears I’d ever seen. A puppy!
A puppy in my backyard. Like it picked me.
I reached out and touched one of its ears. It was so soft,
but then I remembered watching a show last year about baby animals. I
couldn’t remember if you should touch them or shouldn’t touch them. So
I pulled my hand back and just looked at him. He turned his head and
made a different noise, one that sounded like crying. Why was he
crying? Was he hurt or sick or sad?
“I’ll be right back,” I told the puppy. “I promise.” I
scooted back out from under the bush.
I needed help. And after that, I needed something else. A plan.
I’d been asking for a dog for as long as I could remember,
and since I was turning ten in 18 days, that was a long time. Every
time I asked, Mom said no. She never even had a reason – just no.
I took one step toward the fence between my backyard and
my best friend Katy’s, then stopped. Because even though it was
definitely a ‘tell your best friend first’ thing, Katy was visiting
her grandparents and she wouldn’t be home until tomorrow.
My brain finally sent the right answer – the perfect
person to help. I ran around to the front of the house and across the
street. My feet were flying. I took the steps to the front door in one
leap and fell on the doorbell, accidentally ringing it three times. I
hopped from one foot to the other until the door opened kind of hard.
Not the person I needed to see.
“Hi, Mrs. Lucas,” I said, remembering my manners for once.
“Is Dr. Lucas home?”
“Hello, Nate,” she said. Mrs. Lucas stood there and looked
at me – from my black always sticking up hair to my soccer cleats that
still had clumps of grass and dirt in them from the game that morning.
She reached out and pulled a few leaves from my hair.
“He’s not home yet. Is something wrong?” she asked.
Mrs. Lucas called my mom if she saw me riding my bike no
handed with my eyes closed (just for a few seconds). And every
Halloween, she let me know with only a look that I took more candy
from the bowl than I should have. I thought she might secretly hate
kids. I didn’t want to tell her, but since Dr. Lucas wasn’t home, I
“Well, I was looking for bugs in my backyard and, well,
the biggest and grossest ones are usually under the prickly bushes in
Mrs. Lucas just kept looking at me and listening. So I
took a deep breath and kept going.
“I found a puppy. A teeny tiny puppy. And it’s under the
bush. It’s so cute. It’s kind of brown and tan and it has really
floppy ears, and - ”
“A puppy?” Mrs. Lucas leaned around the door and grabbed
something that looked like an old fashioned doctor’s bag. “Was its
I shrugged. “I didn’t see a mom – or any other puppies.
Just that one. And it kind of started crying.”
“Did you show your mom?” asked Mrs. Lucas as she stepped
and I jumped off the porch.
Mrs. Lucas gave me one of those ‘you took too much candy’ looks.
“Every time I ask for a pet she says no. But this one must
want to be mine since he’s in our yard and everything. So I need a
plan to get her to say yes,” I said. “I thought Dr. Lucas could help
since he’s an animal doctor and everything.”
I ran out of breath from talking and sort of trotting to
keep up with Mrs. Lucas.
When I started to swerve toward the gate to the backyard,
Mrs. Lucas put her hand on my shoulder and steered me to the front
door instead. She rang the bell and waited, perfectly still. I stood
next to her, not still at all. I bounced on the balls of my feet and
popped my knuckles.
Mom opened the door and smiled at Mrs. Lucas until she saw
me standing next to her. Then the smile slid right off her face. “Oh
Grace, did Nate do something wrong?”
“Not at all. He did something exactly right,” said Mrs.
Lucas. “Nate found a puppy in your backyard and came looking for Andy.
Andy’s not home, so I came.”
“A puppy? In our backyard?” Mom finally looked at me. She
still wasn’t smiling.
“Yep. Under the prickly bushes in the back. Mom, you have
to see it. It’s tiny and it has a little black nose and floppy ears.
Can I keep it? Can I?”
I felt Mrs. Lucas’s hand on my shoulder again. She said,
“Let’s all go around back and take a look, okay? Then we’ll see what
needs to happen next.”
Mom and Mrs. Lucas followed me to the bush. Even though
she was wearing white pants, Mrs. Lucas got down on her belly and slid
under the bush next to me. I pointed to the spot where one of the
puppy’s floppy ears was spread out on the ground. He yawned and
stretched out his front paw until it was almost touching my hand.
I looked at Mrs. Lucas and she nodded. I reached out the
tiniest bit until my finger was up against his paw. It was so soft and
He was supposed to be mine. I knew it. A hoping feeling
started inside of me and got bigger and bigger until I thought it
might explode out of my belly button.
“He’s just a baby,” said Mrs. Lucas in a softer voice than
her regular one. “If his mom doesn’t come back, he’ll need to be taken
I turned my head and said, “Mom, Mrs. Lucas said if the
puppy’s mom doesn’t come back, I’ll need to take care of him.”
Mom crouched down, looked at me and sighed a sigh like
when I got mud on my church pants. “That’s not what she said. She said
someone will have to take care of him.”
She was going to say no even though this puppy picked me.
I looked down at the ground hard so Mrs. Lucas couldn’t see I was
trying not to cry.
The puppy lifted his paw and put it on top of my pinky,
almost like he was holding my hand. I rested my chin on my other arm
and just watched him and listened. He was making a snuffling noise
that would’ve been funny if I hadn’t felt so rotten.