Fiction by James Patterson
Illustrations by Stephen Gilpin
I didn’t think it was possible to want your arms to fall off.
But if it means I get to stop waving at cheering parade-goers, that’s just fine with me! We’ve been up since 4 a.m., and it’s freezing cold. Not even our “Honored Guests” sashes are keeping us warm. But we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We’re in New York City as special guests at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And we’re having the time of our lives!
If you’d asked us a year ago if we thought we’d be world-famous mega-stars with our own parade floats, we would’ve laughed out loud.
Of course, we already knew we’d hit the popularity jackpot. My best friend, Michael, and I had been turned into a smash-hit TV show called Pottymouth & Stoopid, after our preschool nicknames that stuck and never went away, no matter how hard we tried to be normal middle schoolers.
But that’s the thing about mean names. Sometimes they just stick. And even after they stop being funny, they never stop being hurtful.
Unless you find a way to turn them on their heads. And we sure did find a way!
Anyway, it’s been a year since our TV show began airing. Michael and I always kinda thought that it wouldn’t last. After all, we were just two kids from a small town. We didn’t have any super cool special talents, like juggling or drawing cartoons or telling jokes while balancing on our heads.
But something about our story caught on.
I think people liked that we were average kids. They liked that we weren’t Hollywood types or phonies. They even made a movie about our cartoon selves (Pottymouth & Stoopid: The Flufferknuckle Strikes Back). But we didn’t let our egos get too big. We were happy to just keep going to middle school and being consultants for the show’s writing team.
There was just one problem: People started to forget our real names were Michael and David.
Sure, my mom and Michael’s foster parents and our teachers and classmates remembered. But every time we did an interview or a guest appearance at a show, everyone always introduced us as Pottymouth and Stoopid.
You know when you hear a word too many times, and it starts to sound weird and nonsensical? Like the word “funny.” Fun-ny. Fuuuunny. Fuh-knee. Say it enough times, and you forget what it’s supposed to mean.
Michael and I realized something: People were never going to forget we were Pottymouth and Stoopid. So we decided not to be sad or mad or offended whenever anyone called us those names.
Instead, we sat in my bedroom and shouted our mean nicknames as loud as we could for an hour or so.
At that point, we had said them out loud so many times, they didn’t even sound like real words anymore. That’s the moment we decided to move on. Who cares if we were Pottymouth and Stoopid? We weren’t going to let our bullies hurt us anymore — after all, we were the famous, mega-rich ones!
And more important, even though we were busy with school and the TV show and our movie, we decided to do something for other kids who had to deal with what we had to deal with. We started a foundation for kids who needed help dealing with bullies. Because sometimes adults forget that bullies aren’t just the big, mean older kids who beat you up on the playground and steal your lunch money. Sometimes bullies don’t need to hit you to hurt you.
Sometimes, instead, they call you a mean name that you’ll never forget.
But anyway, enough about where we’ve been. I want to tell you about where we’re going — to be interviewed by my favorite comedian and the host of the parade, Jacky Hart!
“Welcome back from the commercial break, you parade-watchers at home!
“I hope you’re not feeling the effects of all that tryptophan from the Thanksgiving turkey. If you are, why don’t you just snooze for a quick wink? But if you’re not, help me welcome our very special guests of the day, Michael Littlefield and David Scungili!” Jacky pivoted around from looking at the camera and blinked at us, expecting us to say hello to the viewers.
But we just kind of stared at her, dumbfounded. Until Michael shouted, “Sludgepuggle!” to break the tension.
Jacky quirked an eyebrow. “What was that, Michael?”
I jumped in. “Sorry, Jacky! I think Michael and I are just surprised you introduced us by our real names. We usually get called Pottymouth and Stoopid. Not a lot of people know the real us — they just know our cartoon characters.”
She said, “Well, like you said, those characters are cartoons. You guys are real people. And I prefer to use real names when I’m talking to people. Besides, I know what it’s like to have a mean nickname.”
Michael’s eyebrows shot up. “You do?!” he shouted. “But you’re Jacky Hart! You’re like the hicklesnicklepox Meryl Streep of comedy. Why would anyone be mean to you?”
Jacky started laughing. She laughed so hard she had to put her hand over her microphone and lean over to get all the belly chuckles out.
“Michael. David. When I was your age, I wasn’t just amazingly talented and super hilarious. I actually had a really bad stutter that usually prevented me from getting up on stage and making people laugh like I do now.”
Whoa! The world-famous Jacky Hart had a speech impediment?
“Really?” I asked.
Jacky nodded and the little wool ball on her hat jiggled back and forth. “Oh, yeah! My bullies even made up a mean nickname for me — they called me Jacky Ha-Ha, ’cause I used to stutter whenever I said my last name.”
Michael and I looked at each other, then looked at the camera, then looked at Jacky. “Wow!” we shouted together.
Jacky smiled. “I realized after a while, though, that I could take that mean nickname and turn it around, and make it something funny, something I could be proud of,” she said. “So I became Jacky Ha-Ha the comedienne, and now look where I am!”
She threw her arms wide open and waved at all the parade-goers below the host stand. Everybody cheered and waved back to her.
“That’s a really good story,” I said. “That’s like what we’re doing with our new anti-bullying foundation. We’re teaching kids to take those mean nicknames and turn them into something positive. To show the bullies that they can’t really hurt us!”
“Skifferdeejiberdee!” Michael exclaimed and pumped his fist into the air.
“We want kids to know that those mean names and rotten insults are just words. That you don’t have to listen to the bullies, ’cause they don’t define who you are.”
“Just like you two,” said Jacky. “You’re not Pottymouth and Stoopid. You’re Michael and David, and you’re superstars.”
“Nah,” I said. Jacky quirked her head at me, and I shrugged. “We’re not really superstars. We’re just two average kids. But that’s just fine with us!”
Jacky smiled. “And it’s just fine with me, too! Thanks for being the special guests of today’s Thanksgiving parade. And, all of you watching at home, check out Michael and David’s Flufferknuckle Foundation to learn some great tips and tricks for dealing with verbal bullying. This is Jacky Hart, and may the funny be with you!” she signed off.
Michael and I thanked Jacky for interviewing us and talking about our foundation. We started to make our way down the stairs, watching as the Spider-Man and Pillsbury Doughboy balloons sailed past us.
“Hey, Michael?” I said.
“Yeah, David?” he answered, as Mr. Potato Head bounced along.
“I gotta say. I’m real thankful to be spending this Thanksgiving with my best friend.”
Michael looked at me. “Me, too.”
And then I started to smile. And I smiled bigger and bigger when I thought about our foundation and all the kids we could teach to be proud of who they were, despite the bullies and their mean nicknames and words. I smiled when I thought about changing the world for the better, even though we were just kids. I smiled so big I thought my face would break in half.
And then I put my arm around Michael’s shoulders, and we walked down the stairs to spend Thanksgiving together — my best friend and me.
For more about James Patterson, the Guinness World Record holder for the most No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, visit jamespatterson.com.