The Big Winner
I won Dribble at Jimmy Fargo's birthday party. All the other guys got to
take home goldfish in little plastic bags. I won him because I guessed
there were three hundred and forty-eight jelly beans in Mrs. Fargo's
jar. Really, there were four hundred and twenty-three, she told us
later. Still, my guess was closest. "Peter Warren Hatcher is the big
winner!" Mrs. Fargo announced.
At first I felt bad that I didn't get a goldfish too. Then Jimmy handed
me a glass bowl. Inside there was some water and three rocks. A tiny
green turtle was sleeping on the biggest rock. All the other guys looked
at their goldfish. I knew what they were thinking. They wished they
could have tiny green turtles too.
I named my turtle Dribble while I was walking home from Jimmy's party. I
live at 25 West 68th Street. It's an old apartment building. But it's
got one of the best elevators in New York City. There are mirrors all
around. You can see yourself from every angle. There's a soft, cushioned
bench to sit on if you're too tired to stand. The elevator operator's
name is Henry Bevelheimer. He lets us call him Henry because
Bevelheimer's very hard to say.
Our apartment's on the twelfth floor. But I don't have to tell Henry. He
already knows. He knows everybody in the building. He's that smart! He
even knows I'm nine and in fourth grade.
I showed him Dribble right away. "I won him at a birthday party," I
Henry smiled. "Your mother's going to be surprised."
Henry was right. My mother was really surprised. Her mouth opened when I
said, "Just look at what I won at Jimmy Fargo's birthday party." I held
up my tiny green turtle. "I've already named him ... Dribble! Isn't that
a great name for a turtle?"
My mother made a face. "I don't like the way he smells," she said.
"What do you mean?" I asked. I put my nose right down close to him. I
didn't smell anything but turtle. So Dribble smells like turtle,
I thought. Well, he's supposed to. That's what he is!
"And I'm not going to take care of him either," my mother added.
"Of course you're not," I told her. "He's my turtle. And I'm the one
who's going to take care of him."
"You're going to change his water and clean out his bowl and feed him
and all of that?" she asked.
"Yes," I said. "And even more. I'm going to see to it that he's happy!"
This time my mother made a funny noise. Like a groan.
I went into my bedroom. I put Dribble on top of my dresser. I tried to
pet him and tell him he would be happy living with me. But it isn't easy
to pet a turtle. They aren't soft and furry and they don't lick you or
anything. Still, I had my very own pet at last.
Later, when I sat down at the dinner table, my mother said, "I smell
turtle. Peter, go and scrub your hands!"
Some people might think that my mother is my biggest problem. She
doesn't like turtles and she's always telling me to scrub my hands. That
doesn't mean just run them under the water. Scrub means I'm
supposed to use soap and rub my hands together. Then I've got to rinse
and dry them. I ought to know by now. I've heard it enough!
But my mother isn't my biggest problem. Neither is my father. He spends
a lot of time watching commercials on TV. That's because he's in the
advertising business. These days his favorite commercial is the one
about Juicy-O. He wrote it himself. And the president of the Juicy-O
company liked it so much he sent my father a whole crate of Juicy-O for
our family to drink. It tastes like a combination of oranges,
pineapples, grapefruits, pears, and bananas. (And if you want to know
the truth, I'm getting pretty sick of drinking it.) But Juicy-O isn't my
biggest problem either.
My biggest problem is my brother, Farley Drexel Hatcher. He's
two-and-a-half years old. Everybody calls him Fudge. I feel sorry for
him if he's going to grow up with a name like Fudge, but I don't say a
word. It's none of my business.
Fudge is always in my way. He messes up everything he sees. And when he
gets mad he throws himself flat on the floor and he screams. And
he kicks. And he bangs his fists. The only time I really like him
is when he's sleeping. He sucks four fingers on his left hand and makes
a slurping noise.
When Fudge saw Dribble he said, "Ohhhhh ... see!"
And I said, "That's my turtle, get it? Mine! You don't
Fudge said, "No touch." Then he laughed like crazy.
Mr. and Mrs. Juicy-O
One night my father came home from the office all excited. He told us
Mr. and Mrs. Yarby were coming to New York. He's the president of the
Juicy-O company. He lives in Chicago. I wondered if he'd bring my father
another crate of Juicy-O. If he did I'd probably be drinking it for the
rest of my life. Just thinking about it was enough to make my stomach
My father said he invited Mr. and Mrs. Yarby to stay with us. My mother
wanted to know why they couldn't stay at a hotel like most people who
come to New York. My father said they could. But he didn't want them to.
He thought they'd be more comfortable staying with us. My mother said
that was about the silliest thing she'd ever heard.
But she fixed up Fudge's bedroom for our guests. She put fancy sheets
and a brand-new blanket on the hide-a-bed. That's a sofa that opens up
into a bed at night. It's in Fudge's room because that used to be our
den. Before he was born we watched TV in there. And lots of times
Grandma slept over on the hide-a-bed. Now we watch TV right in the
living room. And Grandma doesn't sleep over very often.
My mother moved Fudge's crib into my room. He's going to get a regular
bed when he's three, my mother says. There are a lot of reasons I don't
like to sleep in the same room as Fudge. I found that out two months ago
when my bedroom was being painted. I had to sleep in Fudge's room for
three nights because the paint smell made me cough. For one thing, he
talks in his sleep. And if a person didn't know better, a person could
get scared. Another thing is that slurping noise he makes. It's true
that I like to hear it when I'm awake, but when I'm trying to fall
asleep I like things very quiet.
When I complained about having to sleep with Fudge my mother said, "It's
just for two nights, Peter."
"I'll sleep in the living room," I suggested. "On the sofa ... or even a
"No," my mother said. "You will sleep in your bedroom. In your own bed!"
There was no point in arguing. Mom wasn't going to change her mind.
She spent the day in the kitchen. She really cooked up a storm. She used
so many pots and pans Fudge didn't have any left to bang together. And
that's one of his favorite pastimes-banging pots and pans together. A
person can get an awful headache listening to that racket.
Right after lunch my mother opened up the dinner table. We don't have a
separate dining room. When we have company for dinner we eat in one end
of the living room. When Mom finished setting the table she put a silver
bowl filled with flowers right in the middle. I said, "Hey, Mom ... it
looks like you're expecting the President or something."
"Very funny, Peter!" my mother answered.
Sometimes my mother laughs like crazy at my jokes. Other times she
pretends not to get them. And then, there are times when I know she gets
them but she doesn't seem to like them. This was one of those times. So
I decided no more jokes until after dinner.
I went to Jimmy Fargo's for the afternoon. I came home at four o'clock.
I found my mother standing over the dinner table mumbling. Fudge was on
the floor playing with my father's socks. I'm not sure why he likes
socks so much, but if you give him a few pairs he'll play quietly for an
I said, "Hi, Mom. I'm home."
"I'm missing two flowers," my mother said.
I don't know how she noticed that two flowers were missing from her
silver bowl. Because there were at least a dozen of them left. But sure
enough, when I checked, I saw two stems with nothing on them.
"Don't look at me, Mom," I said. "What would I do with two measly
So we both looked at Fudge. "Did you take Mommy's pretty flowers?" my
mother asked him.
"No take," Fudge said. He was chewing on something.
"What's in your mouth?" my mother asked.
Fudge didn't answer.
"No show," Fudge said.
"Oh yes!" My mother picked him up and forced his mouth open. She fished
out a rose petal.
"What did you do with Mommy's flowers?" She raised her voice. She was
really getting upset.
"Yum!" Fudge said. "Yummy yummy yummy!"
"Oh no!" my mother cried, rushing to the telephone.
She called Dr. Cone. She told him that Fudge ate two flowers. Dr. Cone
must have asked what kind, because my mother said, "Roses, I think. But
I can't be sure. One might have been a daisy."
There was a long pause while my mother listened to whatever Dr. Cone had
to say. Then Mom said, "Thank you, Dr. Cone." She hung up.
"No more flowers!" she told Fudge. "You understand?"
"No more," Fudge repeated. "No more ... no more ... no more."
My mother gave him a spoonful of peppermint-flavored medicine. The kind
I take when I have stomach pains. Then she carried Fudge off to have his
Leave it to my brother to eat flowers! I wondered how they tasted.
Maybe they're delicious and I don't know it because I've never tasted
one, I thought. I decided to find out. I picked off one petal from a
pink rose. I put it in my mouth and tried to chew it up. But I couldn't
do it. It tasted awful. I spit it out in the garbage. Well, at least now
I knew I wasn't missing anything great!
Fudge ate his supper in the kitchen before our company arrived. While he
was eating I heard my mother remind him, "Fudgie's going to be a good
boy tonight. Very good for Daddy's friends."
"Good," Fudge said. "Good boy."
"That's right!" my mother told him.
I changed and scrubbed up while Fudge finished his supper. I was going
to eat with the company. Being nine has its advantages!
My mother was all dressed up by the time my father got home with the
Yarbys. You'd never have guessed that Mom spent most of the day in the
kitchen. You'd also never have guessed that Fudge ate two flowers. He
was feeling fine. He even smelled nice-like baby powder.
Mrs. Yarby picked him up right away. I knew she would. She looked like a
grandmother. That type always makes a big deal out of Fudge. She walked
into the living room cuddling him. Then she sat down on the sofa and
bounced Fudge around on her lap.
"Isn't he the cutest little boy!" Mrs. Yarby said. "I just love babies."
She gave him a big kiss on the top of his head. I kept waiting for
somebody to tell her Fudge was no baby. But no one did.
My father carried the Yarbys' suitcase into Fudge's room. When he came
back he introduced me to our company.
"This is our older son, Peter," he said to the Yarbys.
"I'm nine and in fourth grade," I told them.
"How do, Peter," Mr. Yarby said.
Mrs. Yarby just gave me a nod. She was still busy with Fudge. "I have a
surprise for this dear little boy!" she said. "It's in my suitcase.
Should I go get it?"
"Yes," Fudge shouted. "Go get ... go get!"
Mrs. Yarby laughed, as if that was the best joke she ever heard. "I'll
be right back," she told Fudge. She put him down and ran off to find her
She came back carrying a present tied up with a red ribbon.
"Ohhhh!" Fudge cried, opening his eyes wide. "Goody!" He clapped his
Mrs. Yarby helped him unwrap his surprise. It was a windup train that
made a lot of noise. Every time it bumped into something it turned
around and went the other way. Fudge liked it a lot. He likes anything
I said, "That's a nice train."
Mrs. Yarby turned to me. "Oh, I have something for you too uh ...
"Peter," I reminded her. "My name is Peter."
"Yes. Well, I'll go get it."
Mrs. Yarby left the room again. This time she came back with a flat
package. It was wrapped up too-red ribbon and all. She handed it to me.
Fudge stopped playing with his train long enough to come over and see
what I got. I took off the paper very carefully in case my mother wanted
to save it. And also to show Mrs. Yarby that I'm a lot more careful
about things than my brother. I'm not sure she noticed. My present
turned out to be a big picture dictionary. The kind I liked when I was
about four years old. My old one is in Fudge's bookcase now.
"I don't know much about big boys," Mrs. Yarby said. "So the lady in the
store said a nice book would be a good idea."
A nice book would have been a good idea, I thought. But a
picture dictionary! That's for babies! I've had my own regular
dictionary since I was eight. But I knew I had to be polite so I said,
"Thank you very much. It's just what I've always wanted."
"I'm so glad!" Mrs. Yarby said. She let out a long sigh and sat back on
My father offered the Yarbys a drink.
"Good idea ... good idea," Mr. Yarby said.
"What'll it be?" my father asked.
"What'll it be?" Mr. Yarby repeated, laughing. "What do you think,
Hatcher? It'll be Juicy-O! That's all we ever drink. Good for your
health!" Mr. Yarby pounded his chest.
"Of course!" my father said, like he knew it all along. "Juicy-O for
everyone!" my father told my mother. She went into the kitchen to get
While my father and Mr. Yarby were discussing Juicy-O, Fudge
disappeared. Just as my mother served everyone a glass of Mr. Yarby's
favorite drink he came back. He was carrying a book-my old, worn-out
picture dictionary. The same as the one the Yarbys just gave me.
"See," Fudge said, climbing up on Mrs. Yarby's lap. "See book."
I wanted to vanish. I think my mother and father did too.
"See book!" Now Fudge held it up over his head.
"I can use another one," I explained. "I really can. That old one is
falling apart." I tried to laugh.
"It's returnable," Mrs. Yarby said. "It's silly to keep it if you
already have one." She sounded insulted. Like it was my fault she
brought me something I already had.
"MINE!" Fudge said. He closed the book and held it tight against his
chest. "MINE ... MINE ... MINE...."
"It's the thought that counts," my mother said. "It was so nice of you
to think of our boys." Then she turned to Fudge. "Put the book away now,
"Isn't it Fudgie's bedtime?" my father hinted.
"Oh yes. I think it is," my mother said, scooping him up. "Say
"Goodnight Fudgie!" my brother said, waving at us.
Fudge was supposed to fall asleep before we sat down to dinner. But just
in case, my mother put a million little toys in his crib to keep him
Excerpted from "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" by Judy Blume. Copyright © 2007 by Judy Blume. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.