Joseph L.M. Sturm
Billy Bean and the Snapping Backpack
Good Night Billy
Billy Bean was a lot like a jumping bean. He ran everywhere, and when he couldn’t run, his feet were still jumping. He loved his cat, Whiskers, the galaxy of stars in his room, the pile of dirty clothes he used as a landing zone, and – above all – he loved his backpack. It held anything and everything. Billy Bean had everything in his blue backpack: textbooks, notebooks, pens, pencils, folders, a blue and white lunchbox, and his emergency phone that even had some really cool apps on it. Billy Bean’s backpack was very full when he went to school but never before that.
“Billy!” yelled his mom in frustration while standing in the middle of his room, “I’ve told you all day to get your backpack ready for school tomorrow! Everything is still everywhere.” Billy’s mom looked like she was about to cry, and Billy didn’t like it when his mom looked like that so he promised her that he would get his backpack ready right away. She walked away with a sigh then paused at the door while saying, “Get your backpack ready and clean this room before bed, Mister, or you and I will have one of our talks!” His mom sighed again, and this time Billy joined her.
Billy took a couple of practice jumps on his bed before launching himself toward the pile of dirty clothes in the middle of his floor. He hated to clean, and his mom hated to remind him all of the time. He always told himself that she just didn’t understand that cleaning wasn’t fun. Someday he would have to sit down and have a talk with her like she always did when there was something important to talk about…like cleaning.
He always thought that it made perfect sense to put his clothes in the middle of the floor. When he landed on them, like he always did, they were smelly but soft. Why put them in the white bin in the corner of his room when he would just have to go through all of the pockets again anyway? This way, he could at least land on them. After getting up from the pile of clothes, he fluffed them up again to make sure that they would be ready for his next heroic jump. Sometimes he was a superhero. Sometimes he was a ninja. Sometimes he was a robber with his cap gun. Whatever he was, the pile was always ready.
Billy hopped over to his bed again and looked under his bed. With his belly on the floor and his arms stretching out as far as they could go, he reached under his bed toward what he thought was his backpack and tried to pull it toward him.
Dreams and Things
“Yeeeow!” his cat howled. As it darted past him like a flash, Billy naturally tried to get up and out of the way. Bang! Billy accidentally hit his head on the bottom of the bed, and he definitely saw a couple of shooting stars. Billy shook his head and looked toward where the fleeing cat had run. It had stopped at the doorway to his room. Billy felt sad for the cat. “Sorry, Whiskers.” Whiskers didn’t think Billy was really sorry, so he hissed at him, lifted his chin, and walked out of the room. Cats, Billy thought and rolled his eyes.
Still feeling a little dizzy from hitting his head, Billy went back to his bed, climbed aboard, and rested his head on his pillow of stars. He thought about how cool his room looked when it was completely dark. He had glow-in-the-dark stars everywhere. They were on the ceiling, the curtains, walls, covers, and pillow. At night, his room made it seem like he lived in space and could fly through the galaxy. With thoughts of flying through space as an adventurer and saving alien races from certain destruction, Billy the Jumping Bean fell asleep, dreaming of world he would have to save.
Like every school day, Billy Bean woke to the sound of his alarm clock. Blue numbers showed that the time was 6:00am. Billy looked around his room. It was still dark, so he couldn’t see much, but he could see the stars covering him. His mom had probably come in and tucked him in last night while he was still sleeping. Billy didn’t want to get up, but his mom came in within moments. “Billy,” she said, “it’s time to get up.” Billy didn’t want to get up. He wasn’t tired, actually, but he didn’t like to go to school to face his teacher, Mrs. Hurricane. Billy figured if he pretended to be asleep his mom would let him sleep for a couple of minutes longer.
No luck. “Billy. Come on and get up, you Jumping Bean!” Billy could see her outline in the door since the hallway light was trying to cheerfully shine into his room, along with the outline of the cup of coffee she always had in the morning. He knew which cup she was using too. Ever since he got her a “The Best Mom in The Whole Wide Universe” cup (with stars and planets, of course) for the last Mother’s Day, she used it every single day. The familiar smell of coffee told him that he had to be right. He tried coffee once. Billy made a face. He remembered that the bitter taste tasted like medicine or a long blade of grass that he once tried to chew like some of the farmers on T.V. did.
Billy’s mom laughed and walked into his room. She moved around his pile of clothes and came close to his bed. She laughed again. “Oh, Jumping Bean,” she said, “you know I can tell that you’re awake, right? I can see that your eyes are open.”
Billy moaned. “Mom, that’s not fair!” He moaned again and tried to open his eyes real wide. Sometimes she thought it was cute, so it might work this time. Billy’s moaning continued as he tried to work up to the idea he was just making up. “I don’t want to go to school today, Mom,” he said with a little more moaning than he wanted to use. It could still work he thought. “I feel sick,” he continued and tried not to blink to much while also trying to keep his eyes as wide as possible.
“Oh my!” she said with surprise. “Let me feel your forehead.” His mom paused as she put the back of her hand on his forehead. “Hmmmm,” she said thoughtfully. “Yes, I see.” She moved her hand to different areas of his forehead. It’s going to work! Billy thought with a sense of triumph. “Ah,” she said one more time, “Billy. I’m afraid you’re right.”
Billy was surprised. It worked! He wouldn’t have to go to school. His friend, Jimmy, at school said that this sort of thing always worked for him whenever he really didn’t want to go to school. Jimmy was right. “I am?” Billy asked his mom without really thinking. He caught himself though. “I mean, yeah, Mom. I really feel sick.” Billy was still silently celebrating.
“Yes, honey,” his mom said, “I can tell your sick: sick of school, that is.” Billy’s quiet victory chant of: NO SCHOOL! NO SCHOOL! NO SCHOOL! suddenly stopped as he realized what she was saying.
“What do you mean, Mom?” he asked. Billy had more than an idea of what she meant.
“Well, my Jumping Bean,” she said after taking a sip of coffee, “You’re sick of school, I can tell, but you’re not actually sick.” She continued without sorrow for his feelings, “So, get up and get ready, Billy. Breakfast in five minutes. Well, ten actually since you didn’t get your shower last night, sleepy head.” She made her way back out of the room but paused at his doorway again and looked toward him while flicking the lightswitch to his room on. Billy had just sat up and was about to throw his covers off. “By the way,” she said curiously, “did you actually get your backpack ready? You know, Mrs. Hurricane said that she wouldn’t accept any more excuses about your homework, especially since we don’t actually have a dog.” Billy froze. He knew that she would yell at him if he told her that he fell asleep before he got around to getting the backpack ready. I can get it ready right after breakfast, he thought. Mom won’t even know.
“Yeah, Mom” Billy lied, “It’s ready to go” His mom raised her eyebrows.
“Oh, really?” she said, “We’ll see, I’m sure.” With that, she turned around again and walked out of his room.
Billy could hear her footsteps creaking down the stairs as he jumped out of his bed and rushed to bathroom in the hallway directly beside his room. His mom was always very serious about how much time she gave him to get ready. One time, she simply pulled him out of the bathroom while he was playing on his phone, and she told him to get dressed downstairs and eat his breakfast. She gave him his clothes and he did what she said. Like last night, he had also fallen asleep early and hadn’t showered yet or even brushed his teeth. That whole day at school, his friends Jimmy and Sara told him he stank like his pile of dirty clothes. Billy didn’t like that, so he wasn’t about to let that happen again today. After getting his toothbrush ready, Billy jumped into the shower with toothbrush in hand and started to brush his teeth while his body and hair were getting soaked. A couple brush strokes and soap squirts later, he rinsed himself off and attacked himself with a towel and wrapped it around him as he avoided the puddles of water on the way out of the bathroom and back into his own room.
He heard his mom yell from the kitchen downstairs,“Billy, get down here and eat your pancakes!”
Yum, Billy thought as he threw the towel into the middle of the room and put on a pair of his awesome underwear with stars on it, chocolate chip pancakes are my favorite! He went to his closet, opened the white doors, and pulled blue jeans off the hanger and put them on. Then he ran to his dresser, opened the top drawer, and grabbed a white shirt.
He stuffed his head through one of the holes. Whoops! It was an arm hole! He took the shirt off and stuffed his head through another hole. Yikes! It was the other arm hole! Billy took off the shirt again and put his head through the hole in the middle. Yes! He got it right that time! His mom yelled a little louder this time. “Get down here, Billy. Don’t make me come up there!”
“Coming right now, Mom!” yelled Billy at the top of his lungs while stuffing on a pair of socks.
Finally ready, he rushed downstairs and into the kitchen. He sat in his favorite chair near the middle of the table. The chair was directly in front of a wooden bracket of sorts that allowed him to prop his feet up while still sitting at the table. His mom constantly reminded him to sit properly, but she just didn’t understand. Billy thought that maybe he could add that to his discussion when he would sit down with his mom.
“Where’s that backpack, Billy?” his mom said,“Here are your chocolate chip pancakes and some regular milk.”
“Mom,” Billy whined as she put the pancake and regular white, sugarless milk in front of him, “where’s my chocolate milk?
“Honey, you know can’t have too much sugar and don’t even think about getting some chocolate syrup. I already hid it.” Billy tried to manage a pouty face as he forked large amounts of the deliciously chocolate chip pancakes into his mouth. His mom laughed. “You look like a blowfish, Billy. Try not to eat so much at once. You know that’s not polite.” Billy couldn’t really talk, so he kept chewing instead and nodded his head to show that he understood. His mom ruffled his hair a bit and said, “good boy.” She moved over to the sink and started to load the dishwasher, but Billy continued to shove loads of chocolaty goodness into his mouth while washing it down with pitiful, regular milk. He sighed. At least I have some chocolate, he thought.
His mom had finished loading the dishwasher and started to clean the sink, but she paused and turned to Billy with a thoughtful expression on her face. “Billy,” she said, “you know you didn’t answer me about your backpack. Where is that backpack, jumping bean?” Billy just finished eating his pancakes, but his fork froze on the way toward scraping some more chocolate that seemed to somehow miss the attention of his fork.
“Ummmm,” Billy said, not quite sure what to say but going with it anyway, “I left it upstairs.” Billy had lied again. He didn’t really like to lie to his mom. After all, he did love her, but she couldn’t know the real truth. He would be in double trouble, since he already lied to her. “I’m going up to get that full backpack right now, mom. Don’t worry.” Her eyebrows shot up again.
“A full backpack, huh?” she said. “Why don’t I get it for you? You still have to put your shoes and coat on, and you only have about fifteen minutes left until your bus comes.” Billy’s heart seemed to stop and he felt like the room was getting hotter.
Billy watched as his mom was about to go upstairs to get his empty backpack under the bed. He broke out of his frozen moment and stuttered, “Mmm..Mom, I’ll get the backpack.” Billy started toward the stairs, trying to get ahead of his mom so she didn’t have to go upstairs too.
“No, dear. You stay down here and get ready.” She had already reached the stairs, long before Billy even took a few steps toward them, and started to go to his room. UH OH he thought. I’m in for it now. The silence of the creaking stairs told Billy that his mom had already reached the room since his room was right by the stairs. A few seconds later, Billy heard his mom’s judgment when she yelled, “Billy! Get up here and get your backpack ready!”
With a sigh and a moan, because Billy knew that he was going to be in triple trouble since he lied twice in a row and didn’t get his backpack ready, he ran upstairs as fast as he could. His mom was standing in the middle of the room and looked his him with a very stern expression. “You, mister,” she started, “will most definitely need a talk after school. No video games for a week and no park this weekend.” Billy stood in front of his mom and hung his head. He looked everywhere else but not at her. “Look at me, young man,” she continued and Billy looked up, “Find and fill your backpack. Don’t be late for the bus.” With that said, she walked around Billy and went downstairs again. Billy looked at his clock. His clock now read 6:35am. He only had ten minutes until the bus came. All he needed was his backpack. He could put on his shoes and coat fast. But where was that backpack? He remembered that he couldn’t really find it under his bed yesterday.
Billy checked everywhere in his room. Was it in his closet? He went to see if it was in his closet. No, it was not in the closet. He went to see if it was in the bathroom for some reason. No, it was not in the bathroom. He went to see if it was in behind his bedroom door or in his clothing bin? No, it was not in either place. So, where was his backpack? He had to find his backpack! He thought long and hard about where his backpack could be, but Billy Bean could not remember.
Suddenly, a growling sound came from under his bed. Now, what is that, thought Billy Bean to himself. Oh No, he thought again, It’s probably Whiskers. “Not now, Whiskers,” Billy said aloud. “You go away and try to be nice!” Billy still wasn’t happy with his cat after what had happened yesterday. In fact, he would have to sit down with Whiskers later and talk to him about a few things. Billy felt that Whiskers might understand more than him mom tried to understand Billy. Still thinking about how unfair his mom was sometimes during the talks, Billy started to pout, but the continued growling from under the bed caught his attention again and reminded him that he had to hurry if he didn’t want to miss the bus. “Whiskers,” Billy yelled, “Stop it!” But the growling continued. It wasn’t a constant growling, but it definitely started again almost as soon as it had stopped. Billy started to think that there might be something wrong with Whiskers, so he walked over to the bed and got down on his hand and knees. He looked under the bed and… “RRRRRAAAWWR!”
A Snapping Backpack
His backpack snapped and snarled, and try as much as he could Billy Bean could not even scream for help. The backpack continued to snap and snarl at Billy, and as it did so it started to move toward him. As his blue backpack got closer, Billy started to become afraid and tried to back out from under the bed and get out of his room as fast as possible. But the backpack was coming toward him too fast now, so Billy did was seemed natural without even thinking.
He smacked it right on the nose.
“Yip!” yelled the backpack in pain as it shook itself and moved back from Billy. Billy and his backpack stared at each other, each one waiting for the other to make a move.
Billy’s imagination flared. All of a sudden he was wearing a colorful poncho and a large, wide cowboy hat like they did in the old western shows. He was Billy the Kidd again, and he gripped the handles of his shiny guns while the classic western movie whistle echoed in the background. Billy and the backpack were still at a standoff, but Billy was Billy the Kidd now, so he wasn’t afraid anymore. He remembered a clip he had seen while surfing the internet for some Western quotes he could use in his adventures. Billy the Kidd look at the backpack and softly growled “I’m gonna ask you a question, Backpack.” Billy chewed on an imaginary piece of straw and pretended to spit to the side while keeping his eyes on the backpack. Then he continued, “Are you ready…Well, are ya?”
The backpack growled in answer and Billy the Kidd was ready for…
“Billy,” his mom yelled from downstairs. “Five minutes left. Get moving!”
Billy’s imaginary world crashed around him as he realized that he really didn’t have much time left before the bus came. Billy looked hard at the backpack again before slowly backing out. Fortunately, the backpack growled less and less as Billy moved away, giving Billy the attention he needed to figure out the problem. Now, what could he do to make it come out? The bus was coming soon! Maybe he should growl at it too.
Billy got back down on his hands and knees. “RRRRRAAAWWR,” yelled Billy Bean to his backpack!
“RRRRRAAAWWR,” yelled the backpack to Billy Bean!
Hmmm, thought Billy Bean, that didn’t work.
Maybe it was thirsty. Billy Bean ran to the bathroom to get a cup of water. He always kept a cup ready in case he needed a drink of water. He ran back to his room again and went under his bed. Billy hoped his plan would work this time. He threw the water on his backpack.
“GUUURGLEGUUURGLE” yelled the backpack! The backpack didn’t like to be wet and sputtered and coughed angrily at Billy.
Hmmm, thought Billy Bean, that didn’t work either.
Maybe the backpack needed to dry off. Billy Bean ran to his pile of dirty clothes and picked up the towel he had already used. Billy ran back to try to dry the backpack, but he couldn’t figure out how to do it without his hands getting too close to the snapping backpack.
“RRRRRAAAWWR,” yelled the backpack again!
Billy Bean walked around his room trying to find something that would make the backpack stop growling and snapping. Then he saw where he had put his books, notebooks, pens, pencils, folders, and lunchbox. They were all laying on the floor beside his desk. An idea came to Billy Bean again. Maybe it was hungry! So, he brought all of his school things over to the bed and threw the pens and pencils into the mouth of the growling, snapping backpack. The backpack stopped snapping but kept its mouth WIDE open and continued to growl, so Billy Bean threw the schoolbooks into its mouth too. The wide, hungry mouth was halfway shut, and it wasn’t growling anymore either. Billy Bean threw the notebooks and folders into its mouth. The backpack’s mouth was almost shut. All he needed to do was to put his lunchbox in it.
So, he ran downstairs with the lunchbox, thanked his mom for making his awesome peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and ran back upstairs to his room while his mom yelled after him, telling him that he only had one minute left. He stuffed his blue and white lunch box into his backpack.
It was completely closed now, and the snapping backpack was no longer hungry. It seemed full and happy to have everything in its big belly, and Billy thought to himself: I guess it was ready after all.
Goodbye and Goodluck
Billy Bean zipped up his blue backpack and ran downstairs as fast as he could to shove on his sneakers and throw on his coat. As he walked to the front door with his mom behind him, the bus honked its horn. Billy turned to his mom before he walked out. “Mom,” he said, “I really am sorry that I lied. I just didn’t want you to be mad at me.” Billy really meant it.
His mom raised her eyebrows again then slightly smiled. “I know, jumping bean.” She hugged him then reached for the door. Opening the door, she said “We’ll talk about it when you come home today. Why don’t you come up with a couple of plans to help you out while your on the bus today. I’ll think of some things too.” The bus honked its horn again, signaling that it would leave very soon. Billy’s mom winked at him and said, “Get going, honey. I’ll see you later today. Have a good Monday.”
“You too, Mom.” As Billy walked out of the front door and moved toward the bus, he thought about what his mom has just said. That was their routine every school morning. “Have a good Monday.” “Have a good Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday” Always the same. But this time, he felt his mom meant it, because he didn’t follow the routine completely this morning. He said he was sorry and he had meant it. For some reason, he could tell that his mom knew how much he meant it and how sorry he felt, and this made him feel better. He reached the door to the bus and looked up the huge stairs to the top of the bus. That was always the first challenge; he had to climb those large stairs on the bus every morning and practically jump down them in the afternoon. The bus driver, Mrs. Bee, looked at him and said “How are you doing, Billy dear?” She always called everyone dear. Jimmy dear, Sara dear. He and his friends secretly called her Bee dear, and they laughed every time they brought it up.
Billy titled his head and looked at Mrs. Bee and said, “I’m great! Thanks.” And Billy actually meant it on Monday morning right before school.
“Good, Billy dear” Said Mrs. Bee. “Now do get on the bus. We don’t have all day. Many stops to go!” Billy tried to quickly climb the stairs of the bus and finally reached the top as Mrs. Bee had finished closing the door to the bus. Billy quickly spotted his friends, Jimmy and Sara, near the front row and jumped into the seat with them.
The bus buzzed with anticipation of the new week of school and Billy felt that he was actually ready for another week with the infamous second grade teacher, Mrs. Hurricane. He knew he could get through it.
Jimmy leaned slightly over Sara and whispered to Billy who was on the other end of the seat, “Are you ready?” Billy looked at Jimmy and Sara then smiled.
“Oh yeah,” said Billy, “I’m ready.”
Jimmy started to talk about his weekend. He never could wait to talk, especially since he visited a zoo over the weekend. Billy listened with some suspicion as Jimmy described monkey who were throwing their own poo at each other. Jimmy dubbed the action “poo wars,” which made Sara laugh harder. Billy rolled his eyes since he knew that Sara’s laughing would just make Jimmy make up more things.
Billy started to think about what his mom had said before he left. She believed him, so he would believe her. He started to think about a plan to help him to make sure his backpack was ready every night. As he came up with some ideas, he thought he heard a soft growl from his backpack, almost like a purr. Billy smiled again as he listened to the buzzing on the bus, and he patted his good backpack. He would have a good day and not even Mrs. Hurricane would dampen his spirits.