“Go away, Pete,” grumbled Danny. “You and your spring-along are too peculiar.”
Pete shrugged his shoulders. Sitting on his spring-along, he pushed his feet against the ground. He bounced across the playground, into the school, and down the hall to his classroom. “Sorry I’m late, Mrs. Gubbity,” he said.
Mrs. Gubbity peered at him. “I know you are clever, Pete. I know you invented your wonderful spring-along. Maybe someday you will win the Nobel Prize in physics. But you must also come to class on time.”
Danny tiptoed through the doorway. “And you are late too, Danny,” she added.
After school, Pete carried his spring-along to the sidewalk. He waved goodbye to his friends. Then he sat down and bounced across the school yard, along Cedar Road to Pumpkin Court, and into his garage.
“Please can I have a ride?” asked Nell.
“Hop on,” answered Pete. Nell sat in front of her brother. Pete shoved his feet against the cement, and the spring-along bounced five circles around the yard.
When Dad arrived with groceries, Pete followed him into the kitchen. Stacking boxes of cereal on the spring-along, Pete pressed the springs just so. The cereal bounced into the cabinet. Pete bounced cheese into the refrigerator, frozen corn into the freezer, and dog food into the pantry.
After supper, Pete returned to the yard. He set a bag of raked leaves on the spring-along. He pushed the springs just so. The bag of leaves bounced to the curb. Ginger joined him, barking. Pete took Ginger for a spring-along ride around the block.
When bedtime came, Pete laid all his experiments and equipment on the spring-along and bounced them onto his closet shelves. Then he bounced himself into bed. Reaching out, he squeezed the spring-along just so. It folded into a tight square. Pete stuffed the spring-along into his backpack.
Before he fell asleep, the phone rang. “Hello, Peculiar Pete,” muttered Danny. “You and your spring-along are too peculiar.”
Pete shrugged his shoulders. Tomorrow we visit the zoo, he reminded himself.
At the zoo, the class saw mammals, fish, reptiles, insects, and birds. Suddenly they heard shouting. A voice on the loudspeaker called, “Ladies and gentlemen! The door to the monkey house was accidentally left open. Our fourteen monkeys have escaped. They are all over the zoo. We want to capture them, but they are running from us. Please do not grab or feed them. Thank you.”
Grownups and children scurried everywhere. Some tried to find the monkeys. Some tried to avoid them. Everyone giggled or yelled.
Pete pulled his spring-along from his backpack. He fiddled with the spring-along just so, and it burst open. Seated on the spring-along, he bounced back and forth throughout the zoo. He bounced past cages, pools, buildings, fences, moats, snack shops, and fields. Monkeys hooted as he passed. Then he stopped. He left the spring-along on a pathway and hid behind a tree.
One minute later, a monkey hopped toward the spring-along. She poked some springs with her paw. Then she climbed onto the spring-along and jostled up and down.
Pete drew near, talking softly. “Hi, little monkey. Want to go for a ride? Let’s ride together. I won’t hurt you.”
The monkey stared at Pete. She let him sit with her on the spring-along. Pete slid his feet gently against the pathway. The spring-along bounced once. The monkey held on and bobbed up and down.
Pete scooted his feet against the ground, and the spring-along took off. Pete and the monkey bounced across the picnic grounds. The monkey hooted. Monkeys in the trees hooted back. The spring-along bounced past giraffes, otters, and pelicans. Pete and the monkey bounced through an open door and into the monkey house.
“Hop off now, little monkey,” said Pete. The monkey clung tightly to the spring-along. “Come on, monkey. Let go,” urged Pete. But the monkey just hooted and rocked.
Pete stood up. He pressed the springs just so. The monkey bounced into the air and landed on her feet beside a large bowl of fruit. She grabbed an apple.
“Quickly now!” instructed the zookeeper, “Leave before she escapes again.”
“Bye, little monkey,” waved Pete. Picking up the spring-along, he hauled it from the monkey house. The zookeeper shut the door.
Outside, monkeys chirped and hooted. Pete toted the spring-along to a patio and set it down. He backed away.
A second monkey skittered to the spring-along. The monkey poked the springs, plopped on, and waited. When Pete joined him on the spring-along, the monkey chirped. Pete and the monkey bounced past elephants and zebras and into the monkey house.
The monkey clung to the spring-along. Pete fingered the springs just so. The monkey bounced into the air and landed on his feet beside the bowl of fruit. He grabbed an orange.
Again and again, Pete set the empty spring-along on a sidewalk and watched a monkey climb aboard. Again and again, Pete and a monkey bounced through the zoo and into the monkey house. Finally, all fourteen monkeys were back inside the monkey house, chirping and eating fruit. The zookeeper gave Pete a lifetime free pass to the zoo.
By the time Pete reached the school bus, everyone in the class was already seated. “Sorry I’m late, Mrs. Gubbity,” he said.
“I’m sure you will win the Nobel Prize,” gushed Mrs. Gubbity.
Pete carried his spring-along through the aisle of the bus. “Yay, Pete!” clapped his classmates.
“Don’t sit by me,” grumbled Danny. “You and your spring-along are too peculiar.”
Pete shrugged his shoulders and found a seat. Carefully he pinched the spring-along just so. It folded into a tight square. Pete stuffed the spring-along into his backpack and closed his eyes. In his mind he invented a new spring-along. It had two seats ‒ a regular one for him and a big one for fourteen monkeys.
© Suzanne Werkema