Five more bowls of soups appeared in front of the judges. Patrick had liked the first bowl. He was irritated that he had given it a low mark. He looked up. Simon and Spurt were in the middle of the audience. They waved. The bell sounded again. He stuck his head down and started shoveling soup into his mouth. Again, he was amazed. He liked this soup better than the first. When the bell rang, there wasn’t a drop of soup left in Patrick’s bowl.

“Ladies and gents, our newcomer gives the flower soup . . . a ten.”

Contest workers placed soup bowl after soup bowl in front of Patrick and the other judges. The other judges gobbled up spoonful after spoonful without the slightest effect, but Patrick was starting to feel queasy.

“Last round. Soon we will have a winner, Ladyants and Gentleants. But which soup? The flyball soup is in first place, followed closely by rosebud.”

‘Flyball soup,’ thought Patrick grabbing his stomach. ‘Oh no!’

Patrick peered at the black liquid in the new bowl. As he watched the soup slosh round, parts of eyeballs popped to the surface . . . there was a reason why they called it flyball soup!

Patrick started to turn green. He looked around, desperate for a way out of eating flyball soup. He glanced down the stage, then across the tent. No ideas popped in his head, but he did notice something suspicious. At the back of the tent, sneaking behind the crowd was Sotrick carrying a jar.

“Lutz!” hissed Patrick.

Lutz glanced over at Patrick, head bent towards his bowl, soup dripping off his nose, the bib dotted with black, grey and orange soup stains.

“Look! Back there!” He nodded toward the back of the tent. “What’s he carrying?”

The announcer interrupted: “Last bowl, judges. Who will the winner be? On your mark, get set, SOUP!”

While Colonel Futz and the others went straight to business, Sotrick slinked out of the tent. Patrick turned his attention back to the soup. He bent over, grabbed his spoon and slurped down his soup. He took a bite, then another bite. Looking around to see if Sotrick had reappeared, he shoved another spoonful in his mouth. But instead of soup, he felt something round and spongy in his mouth. A flyball! Patrick jumped to his feet. His first thought was to spit, but his sudden movement had caught the notice of the announcer.

“Oh, ho. What is our guest judge up to, Ladyants and Gentleants? Looks like he is not too happy! He’s not thinking about spitting, is he? Must not have read the rules, strictly forbidden!”

Every eye in the entire tent looked at Patrick. He stared back at the crowd. A sinking feeling overcame him. He knew he had no choice. Slowly, he crunched down on the flyball. A warm, delightful sensation filled his mouth. A cinnamony, buttery taste flooded over his tongue. It was delicious. Patrick was astounded. He had never tasted anything like it in his whole life. He couldn’t believe it: he loved flyball soup . . . more to the point, he loved fly eyeballs!

“He likes it, folks!” exclaimed the announcer.

By the time the bell rang, Patrick had licked his bowl clean and gobbled up three more eyeballs. He had given the flyball soup a ’10.’

“Folks, we have our winner,” announced Colonel Futz. “Judge Biddle has put the flyball soup on top. Give a big round of applause to this year’s winner . . . Mrs. McGroon. That’s right, folks, the wife of Ronald McGroon of McGroon’s How Now Green Cow ice cream fame.”

Mrs. McGroon came forward and accepted the award (a blue ribbon, a golden soup bowl, and a year’s supply of flyball soup ingredients, courtesy of Garble’s Grocery Store). As she accepted the award, she smiled at Patrick and winked.

As soon as the contest was over Patrick grabbed Lutz.

“Did you see him?”

“Wasn’t that grand, sir? I haven’t had so much good soup in one day in my whole life. Soup judging is the life for me.” Lutz patted his huge, swollen belly. Then turning to Colonel Futz, Putz and Butz, he said, “Thank you, kind sirs,” and let out the longest belch Patrick had ever heard in his life. As Lutz burped Patrick’s eyes widened. Lutz’s belly began to shrink. By the end of the belch his tummy had returned to normal.

“Excellent, Mr. McCoon. That is exactly how we feel, isn’t it, boys?” asked Colonel Futz. Without a moment’s hesitation, the three judges pushed their heads together and belted out a burp. It was, of course, three times louder, richer and juicier than Lutz’s burp, sounding like a barbershop quartet.

While the three judges were burping, Patrick grabbed Lutz. “Don’t you think we should find out what he is up to?”

“Who?”

“You know,” yelled Patrick over the sound of the Colonels’ belches. “Sotrick.”

“Now that you mention it, he did look a bit sneaky.”

“That guy gives me the creeps,” replied Patrick. “I bet he’s up to something.”

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Mr. Humdinger

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