Life often imitates art, and vice versa. Ramses, the dog we adopted four years ago from a shelter, has been an inspiration for me many times, like in this scene from the Middle School Book: Barf, Bullies and Mulberries: My Middle School Misadventures.

He’s grazing on grass, which he often does, especially in the spring.

Makes you wonder about what breed he is? Cow shepherd?” LOL.

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Barf, Bullies and Mulberries: My Middle School Misadventures

Dog’s Barf Alert (EmBARFassment#1)

“The wheels on the bus turn round and round,” two kids in the front seats start singing, and I can’t believe I’m on a yellow school bus again. I haven’t been on one of those in ages, or—to be precise—in six hundred forty-two days, which is the time I spent living a big city life way all the way across the globe in Warsaw, Poland.

Since they don’t have school buses there, except maybe if you attend an American school, which wasn’t my case, I used public transportation to get around—subway, electric trams, city buses, and roamed the streets on foot, bike, or scooter.

It’s been four weeks since I came back, but everything still feels unreal. I glance around and see many familiar faces. Sure, they’ve changed and seem more mature; I bet I changed too over that time.

“Adam!” A faint voice from a distance interrupts my musings. I look around and see another familiar face. It’s Mom.

What is she doing here? I’m not a preschooler who needs to be seen off to the bus in the morning.

“Nooo!” I whisper-shout as Mom runs towards me with my lunch box in one hand and a leash in the other. At the end of the strap, zigzagging from side to side, is my dog, Ramses.

“Adam!” Mom yells from across the street. “You forgot your lunch!”

I wish she’d do it more discretely.

Now all heads turn to me. Trying to look nonchalant, I get off the bus, walk up to Mom, take the lunch box, and board the school bus again, sliding low in my seat behind a tall boy from the seventh grade.

Unaware of how embarrassed she’s making me, Mom keeps gesturing at me and chatting with other moms of first, second, and third graders, as I anxiously wait for the bus to depart.

By use of mental force, rapid eye movements, eyebrow-raising, and frowning, I’m trying to let her know that she should leave. The last thing I want right now is to attract the attention of Brian Paterson and Ryan Kowalski, the leaders of the so-called Strong and Fit Club (a.k.a., the Big Muscles Little Brains Gang, as I prefer to call them), who also happen to be the biggest bullies in our school.

It does not work.

Or at least not in the way I intended. Instead of leaving, Mom smiles broadly and waves her now free hand at me as if I’m embarking on my first school bus ride. Evidently, I’m not as good at non-verbal communication as I thought. At least Ramses ignores me, sniffing and peeing under the nearby bushes. He then starts munching on grass.

“Hey, look at that dog!” someone exclaims. “He’s eating grass!”

“O.M.G.! He’s like a cow!”

“What kind of breed is that? Cow shepherd?”

Now everybody around me bursts into laughter.

Meanwhile, Ramses is completely unaware of the whole commotion he is causing. Suddenly, he stops eating, and his body goes into a series of brief spasms.

Oh no!I panic and frantically wave at Mom, “Go now! You really should leave!” I lip-shout at her, but she keeps chatting away with a group of parents she just met, like they’re her best friends, not even glancing at Ramses or me.

I look at my dog and wince. The convulsions are becoming stronger now, ripping through his torso like powerful waves.

Then he opens his mouth wide and—

(I watch in horror, knowing what comes next.)

Spasms, convulsions, followed by an explosion of—


A mix of unidentifiable ingredients (is that my yellow gummy eraser in there? No wonder I couldn’t find it!), wrapped in green grass, forming almost a perfect ball falls onto the pavement.


Every time Ramses eats grass, it means one thing, and one thing only—he’s going to throw up soon. And sure enough, this time was no different.

Several spasms later, Ramses opens his mouth even wider. Then he coughs and vomits the remaining contents of his belly right in the middle of all the kids and parents.

I close my eyes and cover my face in shock.

OMG! I wish I’d disappear from the face of the earth, or—at the very least—from the school bus. I silently pray for the sky to fall, ground to shake, thunder to rumble, or some other distraction (the sky is overcast with heavy clouds, and it looks like it might rain), but when nothing happens, cautiously, I peek through my fingers.

“Oops,” my mom says, smiling innocently as she notices what happened. “Must be something he ate.” Her hand disappears deep in her handbag, probably searching for the pooper-scooper thingy to clean up the mess. Meanwhile, the puddle of the yucky green substance stays right in the center of the bus stop for everyone to admire.

“Look, green barf!” A fourth-grader points to his friends, and the group erupts into giggles.

“Cool!” the boy sitting next to him chimes in.

“Ewww! Gross!” a girl in front of the bus squeals, pouting her lips in disgust. She aims her cell phone at Ramses and snaps a picture.


And then another. And another.

Suddenly, everybody is taking photos.

Click! Click! Click! Click!

NOOOO! I want to shout.

But it’s too late.

At least dozens of pictures are sent into the cyberspace with captions:

“Dog grazing on grass. Go figure! Does anybody else’s dog do that too?”

“Dog barfs after munching on grass #GreenBarf.”

“I didn’t know dogs ate grass.” :-O

“Trust me; they don’t!” :-\

“Pop Quiz: What kind of animal is this? A-cow? B-dog? C-cow-shepherd? 🙂 🙂 :-)”

Immediately people start posting replies.

‘My dog does it all the time. LOL. Dogs rule! :-)’

Evidently, the phenomenon isn’t as rare as I thought.

Mom has finally cleaned up the barf with her magic poop collector. I wish the bus started moving already; I wonder what’s taking it so long. At least no one is paying attention to me.

And then someone yells directly into my ear, “Hey, Adam! What breed is your dog? Cow shepherd?”

That’s when Brian and Ryan turn to me. This is precisely the situation I wished to avoid. Brian and Ryan are the two biggest bullies in school, and I’ve been doing my best to stay off their radar.


Until now.

“Adam,” Brian says in a friendly voice that sends a chill down my spine. It’s the first time he addressed me by my first name since I joined the eight grade a couple of weeks ago, and up till this moment, I doubted he even noticed I was back. “How come you don’t like us anymore?” he asks.

We weren’t exactly friends back then. What happened was that when Brian and Ryan started to bully kids in our class, I decided to join the Strong and Fit Club (if you can’t win with them, you may as well join them—was my thinking. Also, they weren’t the bullies they are now, still learning the tricks of the trade, I guess.)

The Strong and Fit Club was just a clever name for what basically was a bunch of bullies who spent hours in the gym, focusing on their biceps and triceps, six-packs and whatever, while neglecting their brain matter completely.

Brian clicks his tongue and slowly shakes his head in disapproval. “You’ve been avoiding us. I thought we were friends.”

I shrug. Brian’s big and muscular, and I’ve heard many stories of what he does to people he doesn’t like. Not happy stories. Stories of torment and ridicule and humiliation. And for whatever reason, by the way he’s looking at me, I can tell he doesn’t like me. Is that because I was avoiding them? They’re acting as if I betrayed them, or something, which is ridiculous.

“What? No,” I say.

“Adam, Adam, Adam,” Ryan joins the conversation, repeating my name softly, almost tenderly, as if singing a lullaby. “Cute dog. Is he yours?”

“Yeah.” I nod. “Why?”

“Seems like barf runs in your family,” he sneers.

I shrug. “What do you mean?”

With a smirk on his face, he turns around and starts talking to his buddies, not dignifying me with an answer. I so wish I could wipe that smirk with a piece of sandpaper. Or—better yet—the pooper-scooper thingy my mom has just used to scrape my dog’s barf off the pavement.

As the bus finally starts rolling, big drops of water begin to fall on the ground. By the time we reach the intersection, it’s raining cats and dogs. Which is an absurd expression, come to think of it.

I wonder where the phrase even came from.

Not that it matters. What matters is that rainwater will wash the barf away and, come tomorrow, there’ll be no sign of it. Maybe even sooner.

And I hope the whole incident will be forgotten just as quickly.

The last thing I want is to become the object of ridicule for Ryan, Brian, and their followers.

I’ll be pretty much dead meat; my life in my new-old school will be ruined, as in finished, kaput, terminated.

I might as well go back to Poland, the North Pole, or Madagascar. Anywhere, really, as long it’s across an ocean and on another continent, where the bullies won’t be able to get me. Although—with the cyberbullying technology available these days—even that might not be enough.

Because, if those bullies get me on their radar, there’ll be no peace and quiet for me after that. And I could really use some peace and quiet now. “


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