Bubba Bixby was born big and mean, full of teeth and ready to bite.
That's what my mom thinks anyway.
My dad says a boy isn't born bad—he grows into being bad.
I don't know who's right. What I do know is that Bubba Bixby's got rocky knuckles.
And killer breath.
Teachers are always telling him to use words instead of fists—they have no idea what they're saying! Bubba-breath can knock you out cold.
Ask Ian McCoy. It actually happened to him in the third grade. When Bubba shouted at him, Ian's eyes rolled up in his head.
His knees buckled.
Then he blacked out and bit the dirt.
We had to slap his cheeks like crazy to get him to wake up, and when he did, he sat up, then threw up.
My father thinks I shouldn't call Bubba "Bubba" like everyone else does. He thinks I should call him Alvin, which is his real name. I've told him that calling him Alvin will get me pounded. Mike McDermish got dared to do it once and was nothing but Mike-mush when it was over. Now it's "Sure, Bubba" and "You betcha, Bubba" whenever he talks to him.
My mom and dad used to try to get the school to do something about Bubba. They talked to teachers. They even talked to the principal, Dr. Voss, a bunch of times. Nothing changed.
Dad thinks Dr. Voss isn't assertive enough. Dr. Voss thinks I'm not assertive enough. She says that kids like Bubba help us get ready for life.
Now that I'm a fifth grader, my dad tells me not to worry about Bubba. He says that I've got a lot more on the ball than Bubba does, and that one day Alvin Bixby will be working for me.
But he's wrong on two counts. First, that's forever away. And second, I wouldn't hire Bubba in a million years.
I'd fire him.
Say . . . what if I could fire Bubba from school? Wouldn't that be cool? Just kick him out and tell him to never come back. I could eat lunch without him flipping over my tray. Play four-square without him hogging the ball. Line up for class without him taking cuts and shoving the rest of us back. Oh, yeah. School without Bubba would be a whole new place.
I have to admit that our teacher, Mr. Green, tries to keep Bubba in line, but Mr. Green's already got one full-time job teaching fifth grade, and my mom says it's hard for him to take on another in the middle of it.
Plus, Bubba's sly. So no matter how hard Mr. Green tries, Bubba gets away with stuff.
My magic-rub eraser is in Bubba's desk right now with the initials B.B. gouged into it. So are some of my colored pencils. And probably my favorite The Gecko and Sticky magazine and the Dinosaurs library book I keep getting a reminder on.
It's not just my stuff that gets stolen. Bubba takes things from everybody. Even his friends, Kevin and Max. Actually, I think he steals from them the most.
The only thing Bubba's ever given anyone is names. I used to be Nolan Byrd. Now I'm Byrd-the-Nerd.
Or just plain Nerd.
Jake is Bucktooth. Trey is Butthead. Marvin is Moron. Todd is Toad, Ian is Fizz, Jenni is Worm-lips, Trinity is Pony-girl, Kayla is Freckle, Sarah is Kiss-up . . . everyone's got two names: one from their parents and one from Bubba.
His names stick, too. If Bubba calls you something a few times, you'll hear it over and over again from everyone. Some people like their names. Like Brian Washington. Even the teachers call him Gap because he wants them to. He doesn't have a gap between his front teeth anymore, but Bubba called him that in second grade, and he hasn't been Brian since.
So that's Bubba. He calls you names. He steals your stuff. He breathes putrid fumes in your face.
And even though I've always wanted to do something about it, I could never figure out what. I'm half Bubba's size and don't exactly want to die in elementary school.
So I just eat lunch far away from him, make room when he's cutting in line, and let him call me Nerd.
It's not fair, but at least I'm still alive.
Excerpted from SECRET IDENTITY (Shredderman #1) © Copyright 2003 by Wendelin Van Draanen. Reprinted with permission by Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Secret Identity: Shredderman #1