Born Too Short: The Confessions of an Eighth-Grade Basket Case

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9780689862137: Born Too Short: The Confessions of an Eighth-Grade Basket Case
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Due to his height and appearance, eighth-grader Matt Greene doesn't have much luck in sports or dating, thus his jealously toward his good looking, tall, and successful friend Keith takes over his life and makes him perform a spell so that things change dramatically for the both of them. Reprint.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Dan Elish is a composer and the author of three other books for young readers, among them The Worldwide Dessert Contest, which he has made into a musical performed in New York City schools. He and his wife live in Manhattan.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Ever see a picture of your best friend's teeth on the side of a bus?

I have. It was the first day of eighth grade, a breezy September afternoon. One of those days when the New York City air actually smelled fresh. Keith and I were on the corner of 79th and Madison on the way home from school.

"Hey, dude!" he said.

"Hey, what?" I looked up (up because I'm a good five inches shorter than he is. But more on that later).

"See!" Keith went on.

He jabbed a thumb at the 79th Street crosstown.

"Check me out!"

Keith is so studly they used his smile in a toothpaste ad. A pretty impressive sight. I mean, his teeth are pathologically straight. And his gums are pink like the center of a medium steak. I could see why he landed the job -- a dentist would crawl on his stomach across a bed of staples to get a peek inside a mouth like that.

"Not bad," I said. "You've got movie-star gums."

Keith brushed a hand through his hair -- he likes to do that because it's long and blond and makes him look sort of like a British rock star. You might say that Keith is a little bit conceited. But he has the goods to back it up. At the time, he had already made out with more girls than I have toes.

"Hmmm," he said, and scratched his chin. "And when I'm in the movies, Matt, you'll be a famous musician. Selling out Madison Square Garden."

It was a nice thing to say, I have to admit it. But Keith is like that -- for every compliment he gives himself he throws in another for me. Sort of a buy-one, get-one-free kind of deal. Anyway, I was trying not to blush. The one thing I'm really good at is guitar. Classical. Not that I'm terrible at everything else. With the exception of French, I get decent grades -- B's, mostly. I played third base in Little League. Hit .287 (plus I walked a lot on account of my height). I guess you could say that I wasn't a loser. I just didn't feel like a certifiable winner, either.

"The Garden?" I said. "Classical guitarists don't play there."

"Hey, you never know," Keith said. "I guess we've got to ace eighth grade before we conquer the world, right?"

"Right!"

"You know what? I have a strong feeling that this year is gonna be the coolest!"

"Damn straight." Hey, who was I to say this year wouldn't be the coolest?

That's when Keith started this sort of good-bye ritual we had.

"You rule," he said.

"No, you rule," I replied.

"No, you!"

"No, you!"

"You!"

"You!"

You get the idea. It went on like that for a while. Then we traded some high fives and I took a step down 79th Street.

Looking back, I think that if I had only walked a little faster and been out of earshot before Keith called to me, I would've made it home with no notable rise in my Jealousy Quotient. As it was, I heard every last word.

"Hey," he said. "Who do you think I should call for this weekend? Jane or Allison?"

I thought it over. Jane is an out-and-out babe. Allison, too. But then I remembered Allison's snot-nosed, I'm-better-than-everybody attitude.

"Jane," I said.

"You think?" Keith asked.

"Definitely."

"Cool, dude. Thanks."

And with that my buddy took off, leaving me standing alone on the corner -- standing alone eating a walloping portion of his I'm-already-dating-and-you-aren't dust. Well, okay -- I had dated a little. That summer at camp I even had my first kiss. But given that the kisser was a buck-toothed girl with chapped lips named Hannah Shaddock and the kiss itself clocked in at under three seconds...well, it didn't exactly count for much. The point was this: What was a guy to do when his best friend was Keith Livingston, a stud/athlete/Adonis who went through girls faster than most guys riffle through their top drawer for a clean pair of socks?

Sure, I'm good at music. I have what my mom calls "a sensitive side." But what did that get me when my voice was cracking and I had been stalled at five one and a half for a year? I mean, how could I wow girls with my mind-blowing classical guitar technique with Keith Livingston in the room flashing dimples as deep as the potholes in the West Side Highway?

I talked to my dad about it. He's a shrink, so he can be a pretty good listener. He told me that growing up is hard and that my day in the sun would come. He said that life is funny -- that things you want often come when you aren't thinking about them. Well, that seemed confusing. If the only way to get something you want is to not think about it, how is it possible to not think about that thing you want? Don't ask me. All I knew is that the situation sucked. Keith had been my best friend since first grade. I mean, we were six when we met. Six! We had sleepovers, play dates, park dates -- you name it. We dropped water balloons off my apartment terrace (Sixteen stories!!! Yes!!!). We made crank phone calls. One of our favorites was to get the phone book and call guys with the last name "Chas." "Hi, is this Mr. Chas?" one of us'd say (usually Keith). "Uh, yes...," the guy'd reply sort of cautious. Then we'd shout: "Hi, Chas -- how's your ass?" Stupid, yeah -- but it made us laugh. There was more to our friendship than playing dumb pranks, though. Keith was like family. The summer between fifth and sixth grade I stayed at his country house in Vermont for a whole month. When his folks went to Europe a year ago he crashed with us for a week. I loved him almost as much as my own parents. More, sometimes.

But as I walked home that day, I knew that, excepting a major growth spurt that would turn me into some sort of eighth-grade Harrison Ford, hanging out with him that year was going to test the limits of my sanity.

Sure, Keith was my best buddy.

But I was beginning to hate him.

Copyright © 2002 by Dan Elish

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780689843860: Born Too Short : The Confessions of an Eighth-Grade Basket Case

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ISBN 10:  0689843860 ISBN 13:  9780689843860
Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2002
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9780786275366: The Literacy Bridge - Large Print - Born Too Short: The Confessions Of An Eighth-Grade Basket Case

Thornd..., 2005
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