One day I was in science class thinking about sitting on my couch
playing my favorite video game Avengers of Centauri. I heard Ms. Turri
talking about an assignment. Actually, I didn’t hear her until she
said, “Isn’t that right, Andrew?”
“Sure, Ms. Turri,” I replied trying to look like I had heard her.
When she asked me to repeat the assignment, I said, “Yeah, we have to
do this assignment and it’s due when you said it is.”
“Fighting space battles again, Andrew?” she said. How did she know
that? I think she’s got some mysterious psychic power. For some
reason, Ms. Turri likes kids to pay attention in her class. The
assignment was to keep a science journal that shows what happened in
class and what we learned in each of the lessons. She called our
writing “reflections.” I think they are more like being zapped by a
So here I am doing something I don’t want to do in a subject I don’t
know much about. Science kind of freaks me out, so I’m not sure what
I’m going to say to fill up the rest of this journal.
About My Family and Me
Ms. Turri says I have to tell you about myself first. I think my life
is kind of boring, but I need a good grade on this journal, so here we
My name is Ajax. Well, not really. My official name is Andrew Jackson
Bigelow, but everybody calls me Ajax. Please don’t call me Andrew like
my mom and Ms. Turri do. Mom calls me that when she’s mad at me and
Ms. Turri calls me Andrew all the time unless she’s calling me Mr.
Bigelow. I know I’m in trouble when she uses my last name.
You can see where Ajax comes from if you look at my first and middle
names—Andrew Jackson. My mom tells me that I was named after the
seventh president of the United States. That’s pretty cool. My
brother Sammy says, “Of course you were named after Andrew Jackson.
If you were named before him, you would have been born before 1767!”
Sammy’s a real pain.
My dad tells me I got the nickname Ajax from a cleaning powder. He says
that I’m “stronger than dirt” like Ajax. Hmm…is that a
compliment? Actually, I think my dad may have the true story of my
official name. He says that he and my mom were at the ATM machine
getting money one day before I was born. They couldn’t agree on my
name, and then out popped five $20 bills with guess whose picture on
them. Yes, Andrew Jackson! My dad said a big light bulb went off in
his head and I got named. So no matter which story is true, I go by a
nickname based on a very famous person…or a sink cleaner.
My brother, Sammy, is three years older than I am, which makes him 16.
He likes to think he’s cool and can boss me around.
My mom’s name is Sarah Jane, and my dad’s name is George―George
Washington Bigelow. Hmm…do you think this might explain my name?
I also have a very lazy dog named Fleaster. You can guess why he got his
name. Chances are he’ll be scratching himself when you see him.
I’m not sure how much of this stuff I’m supposed to put in my
journal, but I’m kind of medium height, five feet and one inch tall.
My dad says I’ll have a growth spurt soon. I can’t wait for Sammy
to stop calling me Shrimp. The last time I asked him not to call me
Shrimp, he said, “Okay, leopard head.” Look who’s talking!
I have brown hair that gets brownish-blond in the summer, and I get
freckles on my face, too. My mother calls the mole on my neck my beauty
mark. Whoever thought moles make you beautiful?
I’m in eighth grade at Avogadro Middle School. Science is really big
in my school. They named the school after a dead Italian dude who made
up a law about how gases that are the same have the same number of
molecules. He also had some huge number named after him, so I guess he
was important. That’s way over my head. I’m not even sure what a
Get this. Gadro, that’s what a lot of kids call this school, has the
world’s weirdest mascot. We could be the lions, the warriors, or even
the Gadro Gators. No, we’re the moles. That’s right, the Avogadro
Moles―not the kind on my neck, but the mousey things that make tunnels
underground. I asked Ms. Turri why they picked an animal that lives
underground and eats worms for a mascot. She told me it was a science
play on words. Huh? She said she would explain it at the right time,
maybe on Mole Day. Mole Day? I can hardly wait!
This brings me to the point of this whole science thing… why should a
Gadro Mole write a science journal? Simple. Ms. Turri gave us a choice.
Do a science journal or else. I asked her what “or else” meant,
just in case I wanted that choice. She didn’t think that was such a
good idea and snarled at me like a Schnauzer. I hate it when teachers
snarl, but for some reason, they snarl at me a lot. I thought about it a
long time before I decided to do the journal. I didn’t want to say
yes too fast and give Ms. Turri the impression that I’m a science
So here I am, doing a science journal about what I call “stuff.” It
would be great if I knew something about stuff, but I don’t. How bad
is that! Oh well. I have to do it “or else,” and I don’t want to
find out what “or else” is.
The good news is that Ms. Turri made a deal with us. She said we could
write the journal any way we like. She said she‘d scan it to make
sure we’re not just copying the Declaration of Independence, but we
only have to show her a few parts so she knows we’re getting the
science stuff right. Ms. Turri is cool about some stuff. Hey, that’s
a play on words!
Ms. Turri wants us to keep a journal on stuff. I think stuff is a cool
word, because you can use it for a bunch of things and nobody is really
sure what you’re talking about. I can say that a pillow is made of
stuff or that I’m going to get my stuff and go to school. Stuff is
always something or anything, but it’s never nothing. Everything is
made of stuff. I learned that from Ms. Turri.
There are other cool words for stuff, like junk. But not all my stuff is
junk. My collection of Hot Wheels that I’ve had since I was a little
kid isn’t junk…just stuff.
If you want to sound fancy, you can call stuff a substance or material.
Personally, I wouldn’t use those words to describe stuff. It sounds
I found out that in science there is a word for all the stuff that
things are made of. Ready for this? It’s called matter. Ms. Turri
says that matter is anything that has mass and takes up space.
When we rescued Fleaster from the dog pound, they didn’t tell us he
was made of matter, but he must be. He’s big, so he must have mass,
and he always takes up the space where you want to sit on the couch.
Everything we see is made of matter. You name it-- trees, cars, cell
phones, moles, rocks, pythons, you and me―everything. Here's the scary
part. Matter takes any shape and size. Even invisible things are made
of matter. The invisible mummy that I saw in that horror movie has mass
and takes up space! Imagine air being made of matter. How can
something have mass and take up space if you can’t see it? Beats me,
but if stuff has mass and takes up space, that’s all that matters!
Get it? I’m catching on to this play on words stuff….whoops, there I
When I got home from school the other day, I yelled from the couch,
“What’s the matter?” she replied.
“Anything with mass that takes up space, like Fleaster!”
Am I becoming a science whiz or what!
Excerpted from "Ajax Bigelow's Science Journal - Stuff" by David Cochran. Copyright © 2015 by David Cochran. 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.