Book 8 of the much-loved My Life series
Derek Fallon and his friends are back for another hilarious adventure in Book 8 of the My Life seriesthis time featuring epic “meme” adventures!
Christy Ottaviano Books
About the Author
Janet Tashjian is the author of the popular My Life series including My Life as a Book, My Life as a Stuntboy, My Life as a Cartoonist, My Life as a Joke and My Life as a Gamer, as well as the Einstein the Class Hamster series, illustrated by her son, Jake Tashjian. Jake and Janet live in Studio City, California.
Read an Excerpt
Matt and I are skateboarding home from school, when I hit a rock and go flying onto the sidewalk. My knee gets scraped but something more valuable than a body part ends up shattered — the screen on my phone.
"My mom's going to kill me," I tell Matt. "She just had this fixed from when I broke it last time."
It's only been a couple months since I dropped my phone out the car window trying to snap a photo of a dog in a taco costume. Thankfully, I captured one salvageable picture and was able to turn it into a LOL-worthy meme with a little help from a cool sunglasses filter.
"We need to get helmets for our phones," Matt suggests. "They take more abuse on these boards than our heads do."
I run my finger across the screen. "It looks like it's trapped in a giant spiderweb."
"It's not like you can erase the crack with your finger," Matt says. "I think you're going to have to come clean to your mom."
I tuck the phone back into the pocket of my shorts. I might have to encase my phone in something more protective — maybe bubble wrap or foam. For a minute, I think I've come up with a great invention until I realize my phone would be safe but I'd never be able to actually USE it.
Even with insurance on all the family phones, Mom complains about how much money it costs to maintain them. She doesn't need to say that it's mostly me — and sometimes Dad — because she's still using the same phone she got years ago. My favorite phone accident was when we were at the Thompsons' house and Dad took my phone away because I was running around their pool. But then he didn't look where he was going and fell into the water with BOTH our phones. Dad tried to mitigate the tension in the car by joking that our smartphones were smarter than we are, but Mom was still furious the whole way home.
After I leave Matt at the top of his street, I try to come up with a good story for yet another broken phone. Maybe some guy knocked me over and tried to steal it? Or it fell out of my pocket while I was rescuing a kid from getting hit by a car? Whatever I end up saying, Mom will probably realize I'm making it up and I'll have to tell the truth anyway. Knowing when I'm being less than honest — in other words, lying — has always been one of Mom's superpowers.
When I get home, both my parents are cooking in the kitchen. Mom's wearing scrubs from her veterinary practice next door and Dad's in his workout clothes, which means he just got back from the gym. Mom's latest culinary obsession is using her new pasta machine and she's got Dad halfway across the kitchen holding a long string of dough that she'll cut into noodles on the wooden cutting board. Mom's had a lot of cooking fads over the years but her handmade pasta is one of the better ones. If she grounds me for breaking my phone again, at least an awesome dinner can be my consolation prize.
The pasta machine is in the same place on the counter where Frank's crate used to be and every time I see it, I think about him. Frank is the capuchin monkey we used to be a foster family for until he had to go back to the foundation that trained him. Having a monkey as a roommate was one of the best things ever but we all knew sooner or later he'd have to go back. (Thanks to me and my dreams of YouTube stardom, it was sooner rather than later.)
Don't get me wrong — I love the pasta machine — but it's no monkey.
"Guess what?" Dad folds the compressed pasta carefully onto the counter. "Your mom made an awesome score today."
"I wouldn't necessarily call it a 'score,'" Mom says, slicing the dough into fettuccini. "It's more like I agreed to help someone out and the job comes with some nice perks."
I can see why they call them perks because that's exactly what my ears do as soon as the word leaves her mouth.
"One of my patients has a beautiful home in Malibu," she continues. "Darcy is a tech mogul, on a photo safari at a wildlife reserve in Kenya. She asked if we could dogsit at her place for the long weekend."
"She needs a veterinarian to dogsit?" I ask. "Seems a little extreme."
Mom explains that Darcy has several go-to dobgsitters, but all of them are taking advantage of the long weekend and going out of town.
"With her favorite vet in charge," Dad continues, "she won't have to worry about a thing. Malibu, here we come!"
My mind ricochets from surfing to hiking to eating clams to swimming. I've never had a bad time when we've gone to Malibu, and this time it'll include a second dog to keep Bodi company. I don't want my broken phone to change that, so I decide to put off telling my parents for a while.
"It's not going to be all fun and games," Mom says. "Poufy isn't like other dogs."
I ask Mom to explain.
"She's the only dog I know with her own Instagram account," Mom answers.
"No way!" I reach into my pocket for my phone but stop as soon as I feel the broken screen. "Wait, this isn't the person who invented that unicorn game app who comes to your office in a limo, is it?"
Mom nods and drops the fresh noodles into the pot of boiling water. "Darcy definitely spoils Poufy, but she's a longtime patient. In exchange for a free vacation in their giant house, we'll be in charge of Poufy."
"How GIANT are we talking?" I ask.
Mom wipes the flour off her hands and scrolls through photos on her phone. "Is this big enough?"
The house in the picture is modern, constructed of floor-to-ceiling glass, surrounded by trees and mountains and with an ocean view. It's five times the size of our house. So what if I have to help take care of a spoiled dog? It'll definitely be worth it to show off pictures of me living it up in paradise.
"We'll each have our own floor!" I say.
Dad smiles. "We were thinking you might want to invite a few friends — there's plenty of room."
I know my parents want me to bring friends so they can spend time alone without worrying that I'll be bored, but I'm still excited by the offer. I immediately text Matt, Carly, and Umberto to see if they're free next weekend.
We're heading to the beach!
Now all I have to do is figure out how I'm going to fix my phone.CHAPTER 2
WHAT TO BRING
It turns out that the beach house in Malibu is handicap-accessible, so Umberto will be able to come after he reschedules his Saturday computer class. Carly and Matt also have to shuffle around their schedules, but by the next day at school, they're all locked in.
"We should see if Heinz can give us surf lessons again," Carly suggests. Heinz is a surf instructor who basically lives in the water giving lessons. His skin is so rugged from spending all his time outdoors, he looks much older than he is.
"You have to find out if the house has any gaming systems," Matt says. "Or if we should bring one of ours."
"It's MALIBU — you're crazy if you don't want to be outside," Carly says. "I think you can go three days without video games."
Umberto, Matt, and I stare Carly down over her turkey sandwich. "I think not," I finally answer.
When Mrs. Cannelini — one of the lunch crew — walks by, Umberto calls her over. "Is it my imagination or did you change the recipe for the mac and cheese?" he asks.
Mrs. Cannelini looks at him with pride. "How perceptive! We DID — do you like it?"
While Umberto compliments her on the meal, Matt and I just shake our heads. No one has more pleasurable conversations with grown-ups than Umberto. It's actually a great quality — trying to give people a little boost to their day. Not to mention that Umberto usually gets much bigger portions at lunch than the rest of us.
Carly, of course, has ten different apps on her phone for keeping organized, so she helps us remember some of the things we'll need for our Malibu adventure.
"Not just regular stuff like toothbrushes," she begins.
"Toothbrushes are completely optional," Matt interjects. "People got along fine for thousands of years before they were invented."
"Yeah — and they needed dentures before they were twenty." Carly gives him a sarcastic smile that flashes her braces. "We'll need sunscreen, insect repellent, bathing suits, moisturizing lotion —"
"WE DO NOT NEED MOISTURIZING LOTION!" I try to grab Carly's phone but she's too fast and shoves it into her bag.
"It's better to be safe than sorry," Carly says.
"No one's going to be sorry spending three days at the beach," Matt says. "Give it a rest with the planning, okay?"
A Malibu getaway should be ONE thing my friends and I can agree on, right?CHAPTER 3
Even though I'm terrified of losing gaming privileges on our trip, I finally have to reveal my broken phone to my parents. I don't know if it's because she's looking forward to some beach time, but Mom isn't as angry as usual. She does, however, make me clean out the garage and fold three loads of laundry to reimburse her for the sixty dollars it will cost for a new screen.
When we pick up my phone from the repair shop, Mom makes me promise to buy a stronger case with my birthday money — as if I was trying to wreck my phone on purpose.
"If you have to take it with you when you skateboard," she says as she backs out of the parking space, "maybe wrap it in a sock or facecloth inside your pocket."
"As long as you don't text and skate," Dad adds.
Mom's suggestion might be the silliest thing I've ever heard, but I thank her because I'm happy to have my phone back and want the conversation to end.
As soon as we get home, I head upstairs to see what I've missed online. The repair place only had my phone for a few hours but it feels like decades.
I knew I was going to lose my streak on Snapchat, but seeing the ZERO makes me immediately feel like one too. I open a video link from Matt, which shows a guy bending the tines of a pitchfork with his bare hands. I can't tell if it's real or just edited to look real; either way, it seems not only impossible, but dangerous.
Umberto and Carly both send me the same meme — a sly picture of Captain Jack Sparrow — with text above and below that reads WHEN YOU FIND A TREASURE CHEST BEHIND A WALL AND IT'S EMPTY.
It's a funny joke that combines Fortnite with Pirates of the Caribbean; I forward the link to Matt.
I've heard my parents and their friends discuss the perils of kids growing up with so much technology at their fingertips but I can't imagine life without my phone, my games, or my tablet. Mom always talks about this incredible information age we're living in, but for me, it's all about the JOKES.
Something can happen with one of your favorite YouTube stars and two seconds later somebody's done a screen grab and turned the funny bit into a meme or GIF for the rest of the world to enjoy. Dad talks about how he used to watch America's Funniest Home Videos on Sunday nights — imagine rearranging your schedule around a TV show! Now you can watch puppies jumping into washing machines 24/7 — on dozens of different channels — from your phone.
Dad sticks his head into my room and shows me the forecast — a column of bright sunshine and 78 degrees. Bodi must hear me celebrating because he runs into my room wagging his tail.
"Do you think Heinz can teach Bodi how to surf too?" I ask Dad. "Bodi on a surfboard would be the greatest meme of all time!"
Dad tilts his head to the side. "Your mother didn't tell you?"
I stop smiling. No good news has ever started with those words.
"Tell him what?" Mom walks by my door with an armload of towels.
"Bodi isn't coming?" I pout slightly, hoping to squeeze out enough sympathy to make my parents change their minds.
"Sorry," Mom says. "Poufy's owner doesn't allow her to interact with other dogs."
"That doesn't make sense," I argue. "You're a professional!"
"Yes, and when they make appointments, Darcy pays for an extra hour to make sure no other dogs are with Poufy in the waiting room," Mom says. "Bodi will be fine without us for a few days. I asked Cindy from my office to take care of him while we're gone."
"But Bodi's the best!" I argue. "He was great with Frank. You know he'll behave with Poufy — which, by the way, is the worst name for a dog EVER."
Mom tells me the conversation is over and goes back to packing. I reach behind Bodi's ears and give him an extra-long scratch.
Dad looks both ways and puts a hand to the side of his mouth like he's about to tell me a secret. "Did we mention this place has a trampoline?"
It takes me less time to pack than Carly spent TALKING about packingCHAPTER 4
OFF WE GO
Bill, Umberto's van driver, drops him off at our house Saturday morning and shows Dad how to collapse Umberto's wheelchair for the ride. They lift Umberto into the backseat of the SUV, while Mom chats with Carly's mom by the car. I'm not sure but it looks like Carly might have used this getaway as an excuse to go shopping because she's wearing clothes I've never seen before. (Not that I pay attention to what Carly wears. Hel-lo.)
Matt and I make a last-minute run to the kitchen for snacks.
"We've already got fruit and water bottles in the car," Mom calls after us. "We're going to Malibu, not Madagascar!"
"But what if we get lost or stranded?" I argue.
Matt is quick to back me up. "Or if aliens invade before we get there and vaporize the earth's food supply?"
Mom rolls her eyes and tells us to hurry up.
According to Dad's driving app, the beach house is only forty minutes away, but with Los Angeles traffic, forty minutes could mean two hours — which is WAY too long to go without snacks. We throw a few more handfuls of granola bars, clementines, and string cheese into a bag and head to the car.
On the drive, Carly talks to my mom about her veterinary practice while Matt, Umberto, and I try to find the funniest GIFs. Umberto is definitely the winner with his Game of Thrones/Walking Dead mash-up.
But we all put down our phones as soon as the ocean comes into view. The expanse of beach in Santa Monica is so wide and bright, it always takes my breath away. People are rollerblading, power-walking, flying kites, playing volleyball, and swimming with plenty of room for everyone.
"We can go to the arcade at the pier if you kids get bored this weekend," Dad says.
"I'm not leaving the house," Mom says. "Reading magazines by the pool is the only thing on my agenda."
It takes another twenty minutes of driving to reach the turnoff. Even though the house is near the beach, it's tucked into the canyon, among hills and trees. The smell of jasmine — same as in my own backyard — surrounds me as soon as I step out of the car.
"A little help here, please?" Umberto asks.
My parents hurry to retrieve Umberto's chair and help him out of the SUV. When we're all out, we take stock of the house in front of us.
It's the largest house I've ever seen.
"It's a mansion!" Carly says. "A glass castle!"
Mom's already typing the passcode into the electronic lock on the door.
Inside, the ceilings are so high that the first thing I wonder is how the owners change the light bulbs. Do they have to call the fire department to bring in one of those aerial ladders? Or is there a jetpack in the hall closet? (Which would be great!)
"Oh good, you're here." A young woman in pink corduroys and a crop top waves from across the hall. "I'm Poufy's doggy nanny. You must be the veterinarian Darcy's been raving about!"
Mom shakes the woman's hand and introduces herself but all I'm thinking is, what kind of person gets a nanny just for their dog? The owner has only been away since this morning!
"I love your pants," Carly says to the young woman. "Can we meet Poufy now?"
"Poufy is in her wing of the house," the doggy nanny says. "I just gave her a post-brunch massage and tucked her into the warming bed with one of her playlists. She should be done meditating in about thirty minutes."
"She gets massages?" I ask.
"And meditates?" Matt adds. "How does that even work?"
"Yes, siree," the doggy nanny replies. "She is one balanced Pomeranian."
Matt, Umberto, and I make eye contact and I know we're all thinking the same thing — this dog sounds RIDICULOUS.
The nanny reaches into her messenger bag and pulls out a thick binder full of color-coded tabs. "This has everything you need to know about maintaining Poufy's schedule and social media presence."
"She's a dog," Matt blurts. "What kind of schedule could she possibly have?"
The doggy nanny laughs politely and explains that Poufy is "somewhat of an Instagram celebrity." Apparently Poufy is a model for a pet clothing and accessory company and actually gets paid to post pictures wearing their new designs.
She holds up her phone and shows us several thumbnails of a tiny butterscotch fuzzball in various tiaras and tutus.
"CUTE!" Carly nearly knocks me over as she sticks her head between me and the young woman's phone. "What's her username? I'm totally following her."
"Princess_Poufy," the doggy nanny replies. She asks Mom for her phone number. "I'm texting you Poufy's log-in information. For the next few days, you'll be responsible for posting on Poufy's behalf."
Mom's phone chimes in her hand. Seconds later, my own phone sounds off with an incoming message. It's from Mom; she's already forwarded Poufy's Instagram log-in to me.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "My Life as a Meme"
Copyright © 2019 Janet Tashjian.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
What to Bring,
Off We Go,
A Question of Technology,
The First Sign of Trouble,
You Want Us to What?!,
It Gets Worse,
But We're in a Gym!,
We Try to Help,
A Different Kind of Disaster,
Morning has Broken,
Back at School,
Another Unwelcome Guest,
No! No! No!,
A Strange Comeuppance,
Read All the Books in the My Life Series,
Other Books by Janet Tashjian,
About the Author and Illustrator,