Always Watch Out for the Flying Potato Salad! #9
Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver; Illustrated by Scott Garrett
Hank is back and gets to work in the ninth book in the series—this time, he finds himself in quite the pickle!
When Hank goes with his mom to her deli for Take Your Child to Work Day, he learns that he doesn't have the greatest talent as a deli worker. He messes up all the sandwiches and has to deal with one very unsatisfied customer—his arch-rival, Nick McKelty! So when an important order comes in, Hank only has one chance to get it right, or the eggs won’t be the only things that are fried!
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpt from Always Watch Out for the Flying Potato Salad! #9
“Remember, everyone, tomorrow is Take Your Child to Work Day,” Ms. Flowers said to us after recess. “Who’s happy about that?”
Before I even thought about it, my hand shot up in the air.
“Would you like to tell us why, Hank?” she asked with that nice smile of hers.
“I’m happy because it means that we won’t have a spelling test,” I answered. “Which is great for me because I’m having trouble with the word window. I can only remember the first three letters, which are W-I-N. Win.”
“That’s a word that has nothing to do with you, Zipper Teeth,” Nick McKelty snarled. “Because you are a total loser.”
“Nick!” Ms. Flowers said. “We don’t insult one another in this class. Now, tell me what your plans are for Friday.”
“My dad’s taking me to work at his new bowling alley,” McKelty said proudly.
“Are they going to use your head to knock down the pins?” I asked.
The class laughed. That felt good to me, but not to Ms. Flowers.
“Hank, did you hear what I just said to Nick? We don’t insult people in this class.”
“My brain knows that, but my tongue forgot,” I explained.
The class laughed out loud again.
“Well, next time, have a talk with your tongue before you let it loose,” she said. I have to admit, Ms. Flowers can be pretty funny herself.
“Anyone else want to share what they’re doing for Take Your Child to Work Day?” she asked.
She was kind of looking at me when she asked that.
Please don’t call on me, I thought to myself. Call on anyone else but me. I don’t have an answer to that question.
“Hank,” Ms. Flowers asked, “what are your plans?”
The truth was, I didn’t have any yet. I had tried to make plans. Actually, what I made was half a plan. I had asked my dad if I could go with him to work. He said that would be weird, since he works at the dining-room table, which is only about twenty steps from my bedroom. I wouldn’t even have to get out of my pajamas.
So then I decided that I would ask my mom if I could go work at her deli, the Crunchy Pickle. But then, as always, my brain forgot to ask her the question.
Ms. Flowers was still standing there, waiting for my answer.
“My plans are a surprise,” I said.
What I didn’t say was that they were going to be a surprise even to me!
“Oh, surprises are such fun,” she said. “I can’t wait to hear all about it.”
You and me both, I thought.
As usual, my best friend Frankie Townsend jumped in to save me.
“I’m going uptown with my dad to Columbia University,” he said. “He’s a professor there, and he’s going to let me teach something to his class.”
“How wonderful,” Ms. Flowers said. “What are you going to teach?”
“I’ve decided to show them how to pull a bunny out of a hat, except I don’t have a bunny, so I’m going to use a washcloth.”
Everyone laughed, me being the loudest. Frankie always cracks me up.
“And I’m going to the hospital with my mom,” my other best friend Ashley Wong chimed in. “She’s going to operate on someone.”
“I hope she’s a doctor,” Katie Sperling said. “Otherwise it would be gross.”
“Of course she’s a doctor,” Ashley said.
“If I watched an operation, I would faint all over the place,” Katie said.
“I’m not going to watch,” Ashley explained. “They don’t let kids in the operating room. I’m going to hang out at the nurses’ station and help them deliver lunch trays to the patients.”
As everyone shared their plans, my mind was racing to figure out what I could do. Why didn’t I ask my mom if I could go with her for Take Your Child to Work Day in the first place? It was such an easy question, but it just slipped out of my mind. My mind doesn’t always remember little things. Actually, it has a hard time remembering big things, too. I’m lucky I remember where I live.
“I have a special day planned, too,” Ms. Flowers said, leaning back against her desk with a smile. “Principal Love is giving all the teachers a party. He’s calling it a Teacher Appreciation Dinner. We’re getting delicious food from the Crunchy Pickle deli.”
“Who wants pickles for dinner?” Nick McKelty grumbled.
“That’s just the name,” I called out. “It’s my mom’s deli, and it’s got all kinds of good food.”
“Like pickles on toast,” he snickered. “Or French-fried pickles? Or maybe pickle juice with chocolate sauce?”
“Eeewww,” everyone in the class said at once. Why is it that Nick McKelty is such a jerk, but can still make me feel so bad?
“My grandpa started the deli,” I shot back. “He picked that name because he always has pickles with a sandwich. By the way, they make delicious sandwiches there.”
“And I’m certainly looking forward to one,” Ms. Flowers said. “Tomorrow is going to be a fun day for all of us.”
Maybe not for all of us, I thought. My dad had said no, so that left only my mom. It was her or nothing.
That night at dinner, I waited until dessert to bring up the topic.
“Mom, stay calm,” I said as she plopped down a bowl of purple goop in front of me. Whatever was in that bowl was pretending to be pudding, but it didn’t fool me. I saw the little chunks of eggplant in there. “I have something to ask you. And here it is. Can I go to work with you tomorrow? It’s Take Your Child to Work Day.”
“Hank, why did you wait so long to ask me?”
“That’s a good question, Mom. And I wish I had an answer. But your answer has to be yes.”
“Well, it’s a very busy day tomorrow,” my mom said. “But you haven’t left me much choice. I guess you can come.”
“Mom, how come Hank gets to go to work with you and I don’t?” my little sister, Emily, demanded.
As usual, Emily had her pet iguana, Katherine, draped around her neck. She was feeding her little bits of a disgusting brown banana, which Katherine was snapping up with her long pink tongue.
“Are you in Ms. Flowers’s class?” I asked Emily.
“No,” she answered.
“Are you a second-grader?”
“Is tomorrow Take Your Child to Work Day in your class?”
“Well then, Emily, you’ve answered your own question,” I said. “Oh, by the way, your lizard is spitting up banana. You might want to change your sweater.”
“Come on, Katherine,” Emily said. “Mommy’s going to wipe off your chin.”
Emily stood up and headed toward her bedroom.
“Maybe you haven’t noticed,” I called after her, “but your overgrown toad doesn’t have a chin.”
“Hank,” my mom said. “That’s very hurtful. You know how close Emily and Katherine are.”
“I was just saying the truth,” I said.
“You know, Hank”—my dad cleared his throat like he was going to make a speech— “when you work in the deli tomorrow, you can’t say everything that pops into your mind. You have to be pleasant to the customers. You can’t be rude like you were to Emily and Katherine.”
“No problem,” I assured him. “I’m a people person. I’m never rude to humans. I save that for reptiles.”
“Let’s talk about what some of your responsibilities will be tomorrow,” my mom said. “Would you like to take the customers’ orders?”
That seemed exciting and fun, until I realized that I’d have to write down their orders. And that meant spelling. I’m pretty sure I know how to spell “milk.” And I have a shot at spelling “bread” correctly. But “pastrami” . . . no way, José!
“I was thinking, Mom, that something involving cream cheese might be good. I can fill up all those metal pans with different kinds of cream cheese and make cool swirls on top. I could even make a happy face with olives.”
“This is a business, Hank, not an art project,” my dad grumbled.
“You know what,” my mom said, “we don’t have to talk about this anymore tonight.”
Boy, was I thankful for that. One of my dad’s favorite dinnertime topics is what I did wrong during the day and how I can improve.
“Since tomorrow is so busy,” my mom said, “I’m just going to put Carlos in charge of you, Hank.” She gave me a big smile. “Don’t worry. I know he’ll find lots of interesting work for you to do.”
That sounded great. I went to bed thinking about all the fun I’d have getting to act like a real grown-up. In my mind, I made a list of about a million fun things I could do in the deli. All you have to do is turn the page to see a few of them.