Billy Sure, Kid Entrepreneur
Backstage at BETTER THAN SLEEPING!
I’M BILLY SURE. YOU’VE PROBABLY heard of me. Wait, that sounds weird, like “Who is this kid and why does he think I’ve heard of him????” But it’s not like that. I mean, I’m not like that. And you probably weren’t thinking that anyway because . . . well, like I said, you’ve probably heard of me. Because I’m that Billy Sure, the famous kid entrepreneur, inventor, and CEO of SURE THINGS, INC. At the moment I am also the kid who is sitting on a blue couch in a plain little room backstage at the BETTER THAN SLEEPING! show.
Maybe you will see me on the show tonight, if your parents let you stay up that late on a school night. (If not, maybe you can watch it in your room with the sound turned way down. Just don’t get caught—I don’t want to be the kid who gets your TV taken away!)
“You’re bouncing your legs,” Manny tells me. Manny Reyes is my best friend. He is also the chief financial officer of Sure Things, Inc., which is just a fancy way of saying he likes crunching numbers and has a really smart head for business.
I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I look at my legs. Reason #35 why Manny is the greatest CFO: He is always right. My knees are definitely bouncing like Ping-Pong balls on a trampoline.
“Don’t do that when you’re onstage,” Manny continues. “It makes you look nervous. Don’t pick your nose, either. Or burp. Or throw up. Definitely don’t throw up.”
“But I am nervous. I might throw up,” I say.
Manny gets a puzzled look on his face. “Why? You’ve been on TV before.”
“Just the local news. This is national TV. Millions of people will be watching!”
Manny grins. “Exactly. This is a fantastic marketing opportunity. So don’t blow it!”
“Way to make me less nervous,” I reply, grabbing my knees in an attempt to stop my bouncing legs.
My dad leans forward. He’s sitting at the other end of the blue couch. “You’ll do great, Billy. We’re proud of you. I just wish your mother could be here.”
My mom travels a ton, as a scientist doing research for the government. I don’t know much more than that. She’s been on assignment for a while now, but she knows all about what’s been going on with me because we e-mail a lot.
“Why do I have to be here????” my sister, Emily, moans. She hasn’t looked up from her cell phone in three hours. “I’m bored, hungry, and thirsty.”
“I couldn’t just leave you at home while we came to New York, Emily. That’d be illegal,” replies my dad.
“I’m fourteen!” she argues, keeping her eyes on her phone. “And very mature for my age. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself!”
“Sure you are, Ninja Spider,” I taunt her. Lately Emily wears only black. Black shirts, black pants, black shoes, black everything. That’s why I’ve nicknamed her Ninja Spider.
Emily finally looks up from her phone to glare at me. She wipes her blond bangs out of her face. Everyone says we look alike, which is weird because she’s a girl. She notices my legs are bouncing again, despite my best efforts to stop them.
“A kangaroo called. He wants his legs back,” she says.
Before I can think of a comeback, a can of soda appears in front of Emily’s face. “Soda????” someone asks. “I heard you say you were thirsty. In the room across the hall there’s a fridge full of free drinks. Stuff to eat, too. Chips. Candy. Fruit, if you’re feeling healthy.”
Emily, being in a classic Emily mood, takes in a deep breath. I know her well enough to know that when she exhales, she’ll snap that she doesn’t want a soda; she wants to go home. But before she speaks, she looks up and sees who is holding the can in front of her.
I’m sure you know who Dustin Peeler is too. (See? I don’t just say that about myself. Not that I think I’m as famous as Dustin Peeler.) In case you don’t know, Dustin Peeler is the most popular teen musician on the planet at the moment. He can sing. He can dance. He can walk on his hands. He can play guitar, piano, drums, English horn, and didgeridoo—upside down. And according to Emily, he is the most gorgeous human being who ever graced the earth with his presence.
Dustin Peeler smiles his perfect smile, teeth glistening like ocean waves on a sunny day. Emily’s mouth drops open, her jaw practically scraping the floor. “Thank you,” she manages to squeak out as she takes the can of soda. Her knees begin to shake.
“No problem,” he replies.
“Now who’s part kangaroo????” I whisper, pointing discreetly to Emily’s shaking knees.
But Emily ignores me. She still can’t take her eyes off Dustin.
I try again. My sister is seriously making a fool of herself, and I feel like it’s my duty to let her know. “Emily,” I whisper a little louder this time. “You look really dumb with your mouth hanging open like that!”
And then Dustin Peeler notices me for the first time. “Hey, you’re the All Ball dude! That thing is awesome!”
“Thanks,” I say.
An assistant sticks her head in. “Dustin, we’re ready to do your hair.”
“But his hair is already perfect,” Emily says like she’s in a trance.
“Oh, they’re just doing their jobs,” Dustin says, smiling another dazzling smile. “Have fun out there!” He gives us a double thumbs-up and leaves. Emily resumes breathing.
“Who was that????” Dad asks.
“He said the All Ball was awesome,” Manny says. “Maybe we could get him to do an endorsement of some kind. Or even write us a jingle!” Quietly singing, “All Ball, All Ball . . . the only ball you’ll ever need,” Manny pulls out his phone and taps a note to himself.
I told you Manny has a great head for business. He has a ton of brilliant ideas about how to sell Sure Things, Inc.’s products. Without Manny, I wouldn’t have a business, just a bedroom full of inventions. And dirty laundry. And a few hidden candy bars (okay, maybe dozens).
Emily pulls out her phone again and immediately starts texting all her friends that Dustin Peeler just handed her a can of soda. She even texts a picture of the can. “I’m keeping this can forever,” she announces.
“Be sure to rinse it out,” Dad says.
I guess it was cool to meet Dustin Peeler. I’ve never bought any of his songs, but I’ve certainly heard them. But I am much more excited about the other guest on BETTER THAN SLEEPING! tonight. Manny spots him first, standing out in the hallway.
“Hey,” he says. “Isn’t that the baseball player you like? Carl Somebody? The shortstop????”
“Like” is a slight understatement.
Carl Bourette has been my favorite athlete since I was in kindergarten. I have every Carl Bourette baseball card. Carl Bourette bobbleheads. A nearly life-size poster of Carl Bourette, hanging on my door. I know all his stats. His favorite kind of bat. What he puts on his burgers.
My brain is screaming, “CARL BOURETTE!”
But my mouth is saying nothing. My jaw is hanging open, but no words are coming out. Possibly a little drool, but no words.
“Might want to lift your jaw off the floor, genius,” Emily suggests.
Then Carl Bourette notices me staring at him. Instead of getting as far away as possible from the weird kid with the staring problem, he smiles and starts walking over to me.
“Hi,” he says, shaking my hand. “I’m Carl Bourette.”
“Billy Sure,” I manage to murmur.
Carl nods. “That’s what I thought. You invented the All Ball, right????”
Now it’s my turn to nod. “Yes,” I say. “I did.” I seem to be limited to one-syllable words and two-word sentences.
“I agreed to do the show tonight because they told me you were going to be on it,” he says, chuckling.
“Man, that All Ball is great!” Carl continues enthusiastically. “My kids love it! Heck, my teammates love it! We’ve got one in the locker room!”
I can practically see Manny’s eyes turn into dollar signs. He whips out his phone and taps another note to himself.
“Thank you,” I croak, keeping to my one-syllable, two-word rule for talking to Carl Bourette.
Carl reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a pen and notepad. “I’m sorry to do this, but would you mind signing an autograph for my kids? They’ll be so excited I met you!”
Carl Bourette just asked me for my autograph? What kind of bizarre, backward world am I living in? What next? Emily asking for my opinion on her outfit?
“Sure,” I reply. “You got it.” Three words in one sentence! A new record for talking to Carl Bourette!
I sign a shaky autograph on the notepad and hand it back to him. “Thanks!” he says. “I really appreciate it.”
Before my head can explode, the assistant hurries back into the room. “Billy, we’re ready to do your hair.”
Carl laughs. “Bet you thought you knew how to do your own hair. Welcome to being famous!”