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FOUR

PosterGuy decided. A huge smile filled his face. He straightened up. He walked across JimJim’s desk. He sat himself on the edge of a large dictionary. He started talking.

“It’s too late. You can’t go back to being a regular kid anymore. There is a secret regular kids don’t know. I will tell it to you. You can’t tell anyone else. It has to stay strictly between us. Can you keep the secret? You won’t tell anyone, will you? Can I count on you?”

JimJim said, “You can count on me. I won’t tell anyone, ever. You have to help me. I don’t want to be timeout champion. I won’t do it. Tell me the secret. I really need to know how to get out of this mess.”

PosterGuy leaned close to JimJim’s ear. He whispered, “It does not matter about getting caught. You get timeout points when you get caught. You get them when you don’t get caught too. You got a bunch of timeout points today at school. They got added to your weekly total. You got a bunch the other days too. You thought you were slipping by. You thought no one noticed what you did. You already have seventeen timeout points for this week. It isn’t over yet.”

At that exact minute, SueSue, JimJim’s older sister, opened the door to JimJim’s room. She stompped in. The purple shadow covered her face as she said, “Hey Beetle Brain. Who are you talking to? I was in my room minding my own business and just relaxing. I heard you moaning and talking to yourself. You sound like an elephant. What are you doing in here?”

SueSue walked over to JimJim’s desk. Before he could take a breath, she snatched up the dictionary. She didn’t see PosterGuy slide off of it onto the desk. She said, “This is my dictionary. I’ve been looking for it everywhere. What makes you think you can just take my dictionary without asking? I’m getting tired of you taking my stuff. Stay out of my room and while you’re at it, quit moaning and talking to yourself.”

SueSue turned and stompped out of JimJim’s room. She slammed the door behind her.

JimJim stared at the closed door. He stared back at his desk. PosterGuy was just standing back up. He was sticking his hat back on his head. He said, “I just hate that. It happens all the time. I’m just sitting there having a nice conversation. Someone comes along and whisks me away. People treat me like I’m not even there.”

JimJim felt confused. He stared at PosterGuy. He thought, “This is weird, way too weird.”

JimJim wasn’t sure how long he sat there. Suddenly, It all popped into his head. He glared at PosterGuy. He said, “Wait one blinking minute. There is something very wrong here. You tell me that I get timeout points even if I don’t get caught. You tell me that I got timeout points at school. You were not even there. You act like you know things about me that you can’t know, no way, no how. Just who do you think you are? You are some kind of trick. You are not real. Someone is trying to trick me. It’s probably that sister of mine. She probably thinks this is really funny. It’s just one giant trick.”

PosterGuy straightened his hat just right. He leaned against JimJim’s computer screen again. He wasn’t smiling. He was very serious.

“I’m not surprised that you are so upset. I was even more upset than you are. When they first contacted me, I thought it was some kind of trick too. I figured that it was probably my older brother playing a trick on me. You figure it’s your sister. It’s not either of them.

“I know it all seems pretty strange. I’m here to tell you, I’m the real deal. It’s real, my good bud, very real.”

JimJim started to argue. He stopped. He looked down at his grinning face in the trophy on the stamp. He remembered what PosterGuy said about being the new timeout champion. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to cry or scream or jump up and run out of his room. It was all way too weird.

PosterGuy gave JimJim a couple of minutes to calm down. He said, “Lean back. Relax. I’m going to tell you a story. It’s complicated and really secret stuff. I know you can handle it. You can handle it because you are soooo smart.”

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