Trace Middle School didn't have the world's strictest dress code, but Roy was pretty sure that some sort of footwear was required. The boy might be carrying sneakers in his backpack, if only he'd be wearing a backpack. No shoes, no backpack, no books - strange, indeed, on a school day. (1.5)
Roy is quick enough to realize that something is wrong with this picture. Maybe if he saw the running boy on the weekend, he'd think nothing of it. But Roy's intuition is telling him that this kid has no intention of going to school.
Mullet Fingers smiled knowingly. "They couldn't hurt a flea, them snakes. I taped their mouths shut."
"I'm so sure," Roy said.
"Plus I glued sparkles on the tails," the boy added, "so they'd be easy to spot." (10.118-120).
We gotta hand it to Mullet Fingers. Sparkles on their tails? Genius. We don't think they'd teach that in school.
Dana's father took out his wallet. "All right, young man, no more kidding around. How much do I owe you?"
"For my son's homework." Mr. Matherson held up a five-dollar bill. "The usual?" (14.59-61)
Paying tuition for education is one thing, but paying a kid to do your son's homework is a completely separate issue. Mr. Matherson isn't helping Dana by encouraging this type of arrangement.
"They're burrowing owls. I've been reading up on them," Roy said, "which reminds me - they probably aren't too crazy about hamburger meat. They eat mostly bugs and worms, according to the bird books." (14.105)
Believe it or not, it's possible to learn things outside of school. And in this situation, it's actually important information since Roy and Mullet Fingers want to take care of the owls.
"Maybe someday I'll go back to school," the boy went on, "but for now I'm 'bout as smart as I need to be. Maybe I can't do algebra or say "Nice poodle" in French or tell you who discovered Brazil, but I can make a fire with two dry sticks and a rock. I can climb a coconut palm and get me enough fresh milk to last a month-" (14.133).
For the record, "belle caniche" means "nice poodle" in French, Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil and Shmoop has got you covered on algebra. But Mullet Fingers makes a decent argument. He does have specialized knowledge without going through formal schooling. However, Roy will prove how a good education goes a long way.
"So that's a mullet," Roy said.
"Yep." The boy smiled proudly. "That's how come I got the nickname."
"Exactly how'd you do that? What's the trick?"
"Practice," the boy replied. "Trust me, it beats homework." (14.184-187)
But we bet that Mullet Fingers spent more time practicing to catch mullets than Roy did doing his homework. Both activities require a certain amount of discipline and practice.
Roy was careful not to gloat or joke about it, or to draw any special attention to himself. If Dana blabbed about the imaginary cigarette stash, he might try to blame Roy for the bungled theft. The police had no reason to believe anything the kid said, but Roy wasn't taking any chances. (17.45)
Roy's ingenious plan worked, but now he has to keep his cool and make sure he doesn't blow it. And it's hard to not be proud of hi accomplishments. Especially big ones like getting the school bully busted.
He was good at browsing the Internet, so with no difficulty he was able to Google up plenty of information about the burrowing owl. For instance, the type found in Florida went by the Latin name of Athene cuniculariafloridana and had darker feathers than the Western variety.
Systematically, Roy scrolled down the search items one by one until he finally hit the jackpot. He printed out two single-spaced pages, zippered them into his backpack, and hopped on his bicycle. (17.130 -131)
Google. The answer to every question…or at least the way to find the answer. Which is exactly what Roy uses it for. Even outside of school, Roy knows that learning all he can about the burrowing owls is the best way to help them.
Roy walked back to the gate and opened the container of crickets and held it up to the fence. One at a time, the insects hopped out of the box, jumped through the chain-link holes, and landed on the ground. Roy was hopeful that the owls would find them once they came out of their dens for supper. (17.160)
Talk about taking that you've learned and putting it into practice. Roy knows that the owls will enjoy some crickets way more than the hamburger meat.
"They're called "burrowing" owls because they actually live underground," Roy continued, "in old holes made by tortoises and armadillos. Turns out that a couple of owl families hang out on that land at Woodbury and East Oriole. They made their nests in the dens and that's where they raise their babies." (18.166)
Roy knows that the only way to get people to care about the owls is to tell them. That's exactly how he started to care about them.