Fifth Grade had been going pretty smoothly, considering
my best friend, the foreign exchange student who
was living with us, had a tendency to do really
odd and strange things. But of course, that's not
his fault. They do things differently where he's
from. He's an alien, after all. You know, the green
kind, from another planet.
You'd think that green color would give him away,
or the really strange way he talked which made absolutely
no sense whatsoever. But for some reason, I was
the only one who knew his not-so-little secret.
Everyone else though he was just the coolest kid
At first, you might say we didn't really hit it
off, all that well. After all, he was an alien,
and he had everyone else fooled, and I had been
pretty darn sure that he was planning on taking
over the world.
Turns out, that wasn't his plan at all. He's just
here on detention, and unfortunately, sort of lost
his hall pass back, and is kind of stuck here. And,
it turns out, he's a pretty nice Dude.
Oh yeah, did I mention, that's his name? Dude, I
But of course, there is the crazy way I have to
stand on one leg and tilt my head sideways, like
a flamingo, in order to figure out what Dude's saying.
It really isn't fair that no one else has that problem,
but then no one else knows he's an alien.
Anyway, Fifth Grade was going pretty well. There
are so many cool things that aliens can do back
where Dude comes from. Like stop time. And skateboard
in the clouds. And study for tests while you're
sleeping. After we became best friends, Dude was
happy to show me them all.
Everything was great, until October when Dude came
down with a mean case of alien-homesickness.
Like me, you've probably been homesick once or twice.
You know how down it can make you feel. How it can
really deflate your ego.
Turns out, with aliens, the ego isn't the only thing
It started 4th Period on a Tuesday in Social Studies.
We were watching a film about 'world hunger' because
World Food Day was coming up. Dude told me later
that the documentary really got him down and made
him realize just how different our worlds were.
He had no idea that 500 million people here on Earth
went to bed hungry every night.
Dude was really shocked to hear that 50,000 people
on our planet die every day from hunger related
causes. No one ever died from hunger back where
he came from. In fact, he insisted, no one ever
went hungry for more than a meal or two on any of
the 1200 planets he'd visited on field trips or
I first noticed something was wrong with Dude when
I glanced over during the film and saw his brilliant
forest green color was a pale pukey-green. But I
figured it was just the dim light.
And the next time when I glanced over, after a whole
slew of really depressing scenes, Dude looked a
lot thinner than I'd remembered. But I figured it
was just that he was slouching in his chair.
All that day there were lots of signs. Like at lunch
he didn't eat, which was really unusual, because
usually he gets three overflowing trays of food,
on account of the super high metabolism aliens apparently
And I didn't have to do the flamingo walk at all
that day like I usually have to do to understand
him, because Dude never talked; he just grunted
once in a while.
And there were a few times while we were walking
to our classes that I looked sidewise too fast and
didn't see Dude walking next to me, until he turned
the corner and it almost clicked that he was looking
But when we got off the bus to walk home, and a
gust of wind came along and Dude starting to float
away like a sheet of paper, it suddenly all came
together, and I finally realized something was definitely
Fortunately Dude seemed to be alright when I climbed
the tree he'd gotten stuck in and untangled him
from the branches and leaves. Paper thin, with a
sad, sad look on his face, but other than that,
he seemed to be okay.
Not sure what else to do so he wouldn't blow away
again, I carefully folded him up. "You'll be alright,"
Dude, I sighed, as his face looked up sadly at me.
Gingerly, I put him in my backpack and ran home
as fast as I could, heading straight for the garage.
After carefully unfolding him and rubbing out the
crease marks, I grabbed my bicycle pump and stuck
the nozzle in his mouth.
122 pumps later, my arms were aching, but Dude was
back to life size. Life-size, yes, but when I turned
to put the pump down he floated up to the ceiling.
I grabbed his sneakers and pulled him back to the
you've got to snap out of this," I gasped as I held
onto his shirt to keep him from floating away out
the garage door. Dude just sighed and looked at
me with teary eyes.
I tried to sneak him into the house and up to my
room without anyone seeing us. But of course my
sister waylaid us as soon as we walked in. "It's
your turn to empty the dishrack, Johnny!" she yelled
from the couch where she was watching TV. "You'd
better do it before Mom gets home."
I nearly had a heart attack when she turned and
stared directly at us, because I'd dropped my books
and forgot to hold Dude down for a second, and he
was now floating on the ceiling.
hi, Dude," she smiled warmly. "Did you have a nice
day at school?"
grunted something from the ceiling.
that's nice," she said sweetly before she turned
back to her TV program.
I had forgotten for a second that for some reason,
the rest of the world never notices anything strange
about Dude. It's on account of this really amazing
watch he wears, which makes him fit in and appear
normal wherever he goes. It doesn't work on me for
some reason, but it sure keeps everyone else fooled.
Apparently even when he's floating like a balloon
on the ceiling.
Dude just floated there up on the kitchen ceiling
staring blankly off into space while I quickly put
the dishes away and grabbed a snack for myself.
He didn't say a word when I tried to get him to
eat something. I even stuck a granola bar under
his nose. Usually they send him out of this world.
Well, not literally, of course. If it were that
easy for him to get back home, all his problems
would have been solved long ago. But when he's crunching
on one, he always has this smile a mile wide, and
for hours afterwards doesn't have a care in the
world. Even a distant whiff when he walks in the
door and smells a new box Mom's brought back from
the supermarket makes his two hearts pound like
But nothing at all happened this time. Yodels are
my preferred treat and they definitely give me a
major endorphin rush. So I selflessly decided to
sacrifice the last one I had hidden away in my secret
stash, hoping it might snap him out of this funk
he was in. He didn't even blink. Naturally I couldn't
let this heavenly snack go to waste, so I wolfed
it down. You know what? I didn't even enjoy it at
all! I could barely swallow it. Weird. That had
never happened to me before. Dude's lightness of
being was really weighing me down!
I bounced Dude up the steps to our room and he just
looked down at me sadly while I tried my hardest
to do my homework. It's not easy to concentrate
with a green alien staring down at you with the
saddest eyes in the universe. I had a major test
the next day, and to be honest, for a second or
two I wondered whether I should just let the air
out and fold him up and slip him into my sock drawer
for a while so I could finish my homework.
Dinner was even worse. No one else noticed a thing,
of course. But I could hardly eat a bite myself,
knowing that Dude grew sadder with every mouthful.
And I couldn't help notice that he was getting thinner
and thinner by the second.
This alien was obviously on a hunger strike and
he was going to disappear unless I did something.
2. Surfing the Net
I excused myself without desert, and raced us both
upstairs as fast as I could. I had to do something
fast. But what?
Muffy, our family cat meowed at me from across the
room. She was sitting on my laptop. I could almost
swear I understood her meowing. I know it's weird,
but this kind of thing happens all the time with
the two of us. We have this amazing, but weird connection.
Sometimes I even think she's actually talking. But
of course, I have to be imagining it.
Anyway, mind-meld or cat-talk, I was pretty sure
Muffy was telling me to check the Internet and show
Dude the things that people are actually doing to
try to end world hunger. That might cheer him up.
Wow. I couldn't believe how many projects and organizations
and the UN and government agencies there were working
on the problem. I started to feel pretty good, actually.
And you know what. It wasn't that long before I
noticed that Dude wasn't floating on the ceiling
anymore. In fact he was standing behind me, peeking
over my shoulder. And he didn't look that bad anymore
either. He even had a hint of a smile creeping across
really are a lot of things that people are doing
to end world hunger," he said softly. And I didn't
even have to stand like a flamingo to understand
Then I found this BetterWorld Clubs website and
there was a whole section about World Food Day and
the things that young people were doing all around
the world to help end hunger. Somehow I ended up
in a chat room with these kids from all around the
world who apparently got together each week as a
virtual BetterWorld Club to talk about building
a better world.
They were really cool kids. Even though they were
from lots of different countries, I couldn't help
notice how much like me they were. And I was so
impressed by their ideas and the things they were
doing in their communities.
would be really cool to meet these kids," I said
outloud while I typed a reply to a question one
of the kids asked.
don't we!" Dude said and he grabbed his backpack
out of the closet and started rummaging around inside.
He pulled out what looked like an ordinary flash
drive and stuck it into the USB port on my computer.
I quickly found out that this was no ordinary flash
Dude leaned over my shoulder, and started typing
tons of stuff onto the keyboard. Whoa! I never saw
anyone type so fast. The screen kept filling up
with pages and pages of well, what looked like gibberish
to me, but obviously wasn't. Cause, in no time at
all Dude entered in the eighty-ninth page of text,
cleared them and then pointed at a single remaining
word on the screen. ENTER?
go ahead, Junior…" he beamed. "Let's enter…"
Hesitantly I pressed the ENTER key.
It's hard to explain exactly what happened next.
Well, actually it's pretty easy. We ENTERED the
computer. Or Cyberspace, to be more precise.
At least that's what Dude said when I asked him
what all the amazing colors were that were suddenly
floating all around us. Because when I looked around
we weren't in my room anymore. We were standing
in the middle of this great, big, wide open empty
space. Except for all the amazing colors, of course,
which I already told you about.
Then I noticed off in the distance what looked like
a huge colored wave rapidly approaching us.
Dude said nonchalantly. "Better grab that hyperlink
there," he said pointing to an underlined web address
floating in the air to my left. "We're going surfing!"
Dude laughed as I watched him pull an identical
URL out of the air and climb aboard.
I have to admit I was pretty confused about what
was going on. But that wave was just about to crash
on us, so I grabbed the hyperlink just before the
wave hit and … WHOA … surfing the net is so cool!