Benjamin Franklin: You've Got Mail


By Adam Mansbach

By Alan Zweibel

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If the Future has any remedy for this situation, do not hesitate to provide it. That is to say, Ike and Claire Wanzandae, HELP! HELP HELP HELP.

I am (perhaps not for long),
Benjamin Franklin

Ike Saturday has seen better days. For one thing, his pen pal, Benjamin Franklin (yes, that Benjamin Franklin), is the target of an angry mob after Ike’s plan to help the Founding Fathers with some intel from the future seriously backfired. For another, he’s decided to mail himself back in time with the help of his girlfriend, Claire Wanzandae, and it’s not a particularly comfortable way to travel.

Once Ike tracks B-Freezy down in 1776, it becomes clear that his pal is less than impressed with the irritating, modern-day rescuer, partially because Ike has a habit of making things worse for Ben, and partially because Ben is incredibly cranky when not in the presence of numerous meat pies. Which speaks to another issue for the pair: they have no money, no food, and basically no plan for saving the country. But Claire won’t be able to cover for Ike back home in the future forever, and the British are looking pretty impatient, so Ike and B-Freezy will have to come up with something quickly if they want to avoid an epic, history-destroying disaster.

In this hilarious sequel to Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in My . . . , Adam Mansbach and Alan Zweibel take Ike and B-Freezy’s antics to the next level as this ill-paired (and sometimes actually ill) duo hold the future of the world in their not-so-capable hands.


Text copyright © 2017 by Adam Mansbach & Alan Zweibel

Illustrations copyright © 2015, 2017 by Neil Swaab

Cover design by Neil Swaab

Cover art © 2017 Neil Swaab

Additional images © Shutterstock: background pattern: Rodina Olena, postal marks: nikiteev_konstantin, wax seal: inxti

All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.

Designed by Tyler Nevins

ISBN 978-1-4847-1447-8


For Zachary, Lexi, Jordan, Kylie, and Sydney—AZ

For Max and Jed—AM

Traveling backward through two hundred and thirty-nine years of Time in a cardboard box is less comfortable than you might think, if you are bad at thinking. But comfort was not on my mind, because I was too busy being terrified that Claire Wanzandae and I had ruined the future of the Republic by sending a map and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich back to 1776, and hoping that my close personal amigo Benjamin Franklin—Founding Father, statesman, inventor, printer, author, politician, scientist, musician, philosopher, and creator of the Very postal system I was now Abusing—had not been stomped to death by a bunch of colonial Butt Monkeys.

In case this Tale is being read by intelligent machines or disgusting space aliens from the distant future, or even by regular people who do not know how I got myself in this Predicament, let me remind you. A few weeks ago, although it seems like years, I wrote a letter, put an Old Timey Colonial Stamp on it, and sent it to Benjamin Franklin. I stole this stamp from the collection of my stepfather, Dirk the Jerk, but that is not important. What is important is that the letter arrived in BF’s mailbox in the year 1776. And once we both stopped not believing who the other person Was, BF and I became pen pals. It turned out we had a lot in common, because my junior high school is a vipers’ nest of backbiting and clique-building and fart jokes, and Colonial politics is exactly the same.

Anyway, me and Claire—who at the time was just a tall, funny girl with hair that smelled like cherry blossoms and gasoline, but is now my actual girlfriend—started trying to help Benjamin Franklin with the war against the British, which was just about to get Cracking back in 1776. So we sent a map of the country, which my history teacher said they could have desperately used for military planning, and also a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which we renamed a Claireike and figured we could invent before the British, robbing the enemy of its greatest Thing and also securing our own place in history. But unfortunately the jelly stuck the map to the back of the Declaration of Independence thanks to some very sloppy handling on the part of one of the Founding Fathers, so when they sent the Declapendence to the newspaper to share with the world, the printer included the map. This made BF and the other Founding Fathers look insane, what with all the made-up states, and also caused King George of Britain to realize it wasn’t just thirteen insignificant Colonies he was losing, but a whole Vast continent. His next move was probably going to be sending fourteen Bazillion troops over there, which meant good-bye Independence, hello Staying a British Colony Forever.

The last time I heard from B-Freezy, he had just been dropped off on the steps of the Philadelphia post office by a horse ’n’ buggy thief called the Young Scamp, and things were not looking so good, in the sense that his house had been burned down by an angry mob and now his Person was in danger of suffering a similar Fate. That was why I decided to tape myself up inside a giant box: I needed to save my friend, though I was Unsure how I would be received. On one hand, BF had made it abundantly clear that he did not want me to visit, by writing things such as “Do not under any circumstances visit.” On the other hand, the last words of the last letter he had sent me were “HELP HELP HELP,” so my instincts were to try to get back to 1776 so I could HELP HELP HELP him.

Meanwhile, the other question that had me Vexed was: Would mailing myself back in time work, or would I end up Atomized to death for trying to mess with Physics? In theory, if paper and maps and peanut butter and jelly Claireikes could travel through time, then a Person shouldn’t be any different. But there is Theory, and then there is Having No Idea And Possible Death. In which case the country and Ben Franklin were not going to get Saved, since I was pretty much the only chance either of them had, what with my remarkable Knowledge from the future.

Although another concern was: What remarkable knowledge from the future? I mean, I am in Honors History, but I’m only a B student. I know a lot about a few random things—such as Medicine Shows, which I did a research paper on, although that research paper was mainly based on a TV show I saw on the Discovery Channel. I’m pretty smart about the early days of baseball, but that is unlikely to help since the early days of baseball were about a hundred years later.

When it comes to Colonial History, there are probably dogs who know more.

I don’t know how long I spent thinking these thoughts of Fear and Anxiousness, but at some point I must have drifted off to sleep. The box had airholes, but not enough of them, and the air in there was hot and close and stale, and I could feel my eyelids falling to half-mast and then quarter-mast and I remember thinking that it might be smart to sleep through as much of this journey as I could, because that beat worrying.

A giant rattling THUMP woke me, and for a second I forgot where I was and what I was doing, and I freaked out.

Then I remembered, and immediately freaked out again.

The first question was whether the THUMP was a thump of delivery or just a thump of being thrown onto a truck or into a sorting room or whatever. I lined up my eye with the box’s biggest airhole, and when I peered through it I saw blue. Unless the ceiling of the truck or storage room was painted to look like the sky, that meant I was outside, and that was good enough for me. I grabbed the handy steak knife Claire Wanzandae had packed for me, along with a bottle of apple juice and a bologna and cheese Claireike, and cut a giant slit all the way across the top and stepped out into the world beyond the box.

The very first thing I saw was: a horse pooping right in the middle of the street. He didn’t even stop walking, just clop-clopped on his merry way, pulling some guy’s carriage, the big narrow spindly wheels running right over the giant mound of waste a second later like it was no big deal.

Being highly Observant, I quickly deduced that I had done it. It had worked. This was 1776. For a moment, I allowed myself to feel a sense of relief and excitement, at 1) not being dead and 2) being probably the first time traveler in the history of the world. Then I took a longer look around, and the fact that my problems were Just beginning sat down on top of those feelings and crushed them to death.

To start with, there was the fact that there was, indeed, nothing left of Ben Franklin’s house but a singed and smoldering wood frame, and some random deposits of semi-burned clothing and books and other assorted Belongings.

And a mailbox, which I had been Delivered to. Maybe as some kind of joke.

There were a dozen people on BF’s block, mostly men but also a few women and one or two kids. Nobody seemed to have noticed that a giant mauled cardboard box had given birth to a Kid of the Future. For that matter, none of them seemed to be paying much attention to the hideous remains of BF’s giant house, either. Which made me think that maybe his house burning down was Old News, and it had taken a couple of days for me to make my Epic Journey.

Which meant that Ben could be anywhere by now. Including dead, or New Jersey. Though hopefully Fate hadn’t been so cruel.

My little sister, Carolyn, is really into these puzzle books where they show you two almost-identical pictures side by side, and you have to Notice ten things that are different between them—like, the girl’s coat has three buttons on the left and four on the right, or there’s a giant booger on the guy’s face in one picture but not the other, though I’m just kidding about that last one. But that’s what standing on Chestnut Street was like in those first few moments: the picture in my mind was from 2015, and the one in front of me was 1776, and in order to get my Bearings, I had to figure out what had changed.

Some of the differences were obvious, like Cars = Horse-Drawn Buggies, but a lot of them took more time to figure out, such as: Nobody is holding a takeout coffee cup. Nobody is walking a dog. There’s the noise of talking, but underneath it is a kind of deeper quiet, because a million power lines and air conditioners and cable boxes aren’t humming away at a subsonic level.

The biggest thing, though, was the fashion. That, I quickly Ascertained, was a problem that had to be confronted with Speed. Because if I was going to blend in here instead of getting pegged as some kind of freak and thrown into the loony bin, I was going to have to Obtain myself some gear. Thirty seconds of studying the people on the street told me that, and a lot more.

For instance, I had no idea how the women even walked, because most of them looked like they were wearing about eight skirts at once, plus some kind of squeezy corset thing up top, and then these weird broad-rimmed hats to finish it all off, so basically they looked like upside-down wineglasses tottering around.

The dudes, meanwhile, wore those penguin-type jackets, long in back and short in front and goofy all over. Plus these pants that I think are called breeches, which I assume is short for “breach of good taste.” They ended at the knee, and got tucked into long socks of some kind. And craziest of all, practically every man was sporting a white wig, like it was You Can Imagine How Bad My Real Hair Looks If I’m Covering It With This Ridiculous White Wig Day or something. And then over the wigs, they wore those big triangular hats that I’d seen in pictures but in person looked like they were wearing huge throw pillows on their heads.

I, meanwhile, was wearing jeans and a polo shirt, and underneath that an ugly T-shirt Dirk the Jerk had given me last year when he went on a business trip, meaning he’d bought it at the Newark airport on his way back home. And a pair of Chuck Taylors.

I jogged onto BF’s lawn and started poking around in the rubble for something to wear. I found a lightly burned coat that came down to my shins, took off my polo shirt, shrugged it on over my T-shirt, and buttoned it all the way to the neck. Then I pulled my socks up over my jeans and strode off Purposefully. I wasn’t going to be any use to Ben or to America until I found myself a Haberdashery or whatever.

I made my way up the block with my heart hammering against my chest, half expecting all the people and even the horses to stop short at the sight of me and start pointing and whispering. But that type of thing never actually happens in real life, not even in Colonial times. We just think that way because each and every one of us secretly believes we’re the center of the universe, with nobody, including Yours Truly, actually bothering to remember that the Other Guy is just as caught up in his own life and Feelings as you are in yours, and so we just barrel around acting like toolboxes all the time. If I could condense that Wisdom into about six words, I could give BF a run for his money, but I Cannot.

For a city on the brink of war, a city that had just burned down the home of its leading citizen, Philadelphia seemed pretty calm. People looked like they were going about their business, whatever that was. It was hard to imagine the angry mobs Ben had written about, which gave me Hope that I would find him alive and well. Especially if I got down to the business of Looking as soon as possible. And so I turned my attention to finding a Shoppe at which to purchase suitably idiotic Wearables.

After a short Jaunt and a lot of sweating beneath my heavy, too-big coat, I found myself standing across the street from a store whose sign read ALLERTON & SON FINE GARMENTS FOR MEN & BOYS, which might sound like a mouthful but was actually borderline catchy as names went in BF’s neighborhood, for example in comparison to H.M. CROWDER’S PUB AND EATERY FEATURING FRESH DELECTABLES AND CHILLED OR HOT BEVERAGES FOR THE DISCERNING LADY AND GENTLEMAN, which was next door.

I took a deep breath, and walked inside.

I don’t do a whole lot of clothes shopping normally, because I hate going anywhere with my mom, especially if it involves her sitting outside a dressing room while I try on pants and she calls out stuff like “Is it too snug in the crotch, honey?” If anybody from school happened to walk into the store and see that, I’d have to fake my own death and cremation. But at the same time, dudes my age don’t really shop together either, because that is also awkward. So usually, I just wait until Christmas or my birthday rolls around, and hope for the best.

That said, I had Sufficient experience to realize in approximately one millisecond that Allerton & Son was nothing like the Gap. There were no piles of clothes on display on racks or tables, just a counter with an old dude standing behind it in wire-rimmed spectacles and huge white puffy muttonchops that ate up half his face. Behind the counter, it looked like, was a stockroom.

“Good morning, young master,” he greeted me. I figured he was Allerton, because if he was Son, Allerton would’ve been a hundred and twenty. “What might I do for you?”

“I’m in need of some Fine Garments,” I said, and when he just smiled and blinked at me, I figured maybe I was being rude by not addressing him with a Form of Address like he had me, so I added, “Old Master.”

Judging by the fart-sniffing way his face crinkled up, this was definitely the wrong choice. Or else he had just taken Note of my current Garments.

He recovered quickly though, probably because the customer is Always right (if that had been Declared yet, anyway, which it might have been by You Know Who), and said, “I daresay you are, my young friend.”

He peered down over the counter, smiled, and said, “What, if I may inquire, are those contraptions currently afflicting your lower extremities? In all my years of haberdashery, I confess I’ve never seen their like.”

I looked down at my Chucks, too, as if I was as surprised as he was, and said the first thing that popped into my head.

“They’re from France. Everybody’s wearing them over there.”

Old Man Allerton chuckled. “I fear you have been deceived by some unscrupulous merchant, young master. But never fear: we shall outfit you with all due celerity. Remove your outer garment, if you please. Or, at any rate, whomever’s outer garment it is that you currently comport yourself within.”

I just stood there for a second, trying to translate the words into English. Luckily, Old Man Allerton didn’t notice. He was already bustling around in the storeroom.

I figured it out, and slipped out of BF’s coat just as he was turning back toward me, a couple pairs of pants and some kind of shirty-looking thing laid across his arms.

“Now then, my—” Old Man Allerton said, and then he looked up and gasped, eyes going dinner-plate wide behind the glasses.

“By all that is good and wholesome!” he practically shouted, dropping the clothes atop the counter. “What blasphemous and uncouth garment is this that now affronts my visage?”

His whole face was crimson, and he looked like he might keel over.

“Oh,” I said. “Yeah, I guess it’s kind of ugly. I can—”

He drew himself up taller, and interrupted. “Young master, I demand a swift explanation of the provocation against Our Lord painted so garishly across your tunic!”

I looked down, and suddenly understood the Magnitude of my own stupidity.

“Oh,” I said. “It’s okay. The New Jersey Devils are just, like, a sports team. It’s got nothing to do with, you know, religion or Lucifer or Beelzebub or the Prince of Darkness or, well, you get my drift, right?”

His color deepened a shade, from crimson to dark scarlet. “What kind of sporting club would assign itself such an obscenity?”

I thought it was a rhetorical question, but after a couple seconds of his eyebrows bearing down on me, I realized Old Man Allerton was actually waiting for an answer.

“It was just a stupid joke,” I mumbled. “We changed it.”

“For the sake of your eternal soul, I should hope so!” He shook his head at me. “I pray no members of the fairer sex chanced to glimpse your attire as you traversed the thoroughfare!”

“No, sir,” I said, trying to look all beaten down and remorseful. He couldn’t yell at me forever, I figured.

Once again: wrong. “This merely confirms all I’ve long said of New Jersey—that foul, licentious swampland!”

“Look,” I said, and peeled off the T-shirt, which was sweaty and disgusting anyway. “Here you go. You can throw it away for all I care, all right?”

“With enthusiasm,” he said slowly, the color receding from his cheeks. “And I am glad to see that you have wits enough to realize the folly of your ways.”

“Uh-huh,” I said, and grabbed the stack of clothes he’d brought out.

Old Man Allerton was good with sizes. Everything fit me perfectly. Two minutes later, a vested, breeched, stockinged Franklin Isaac Saturday stared back from the mirror, from beneath a tricornered hat. Old Man Allerton looked incredibly satisfied with himself.

“That will be eight and one-half dollars, young master,” Allerton sang out, his life back to normal now.

And like a Grade A moron, I reached into my pocket and handed Old Man Allerton a nice crispy twenty-dollar bill featuring a portrait of a man who was currently nine years old.

“What in tarnation is this?”

“Whoops,” I said, snatching it back before he could look Closer. “Sorry. Let me just, um, locate my billfold.” I picked up BF’s coat and started rifling through the pockets, hoping he’d have some doubloons or whatever stashed in there someplace, though I hadn’t Noticed any before.

Old Man Allerton was watching me closely, and frowning up a storm.

“That garment is familiar to me,” he said slowly. “I daresay I sold it to Mr. Benjamin Franklin, not two months ago.” He reached forward, over the counter, fingered the bottom hem of the coat, and nodded. “This is my stitching, and the ambassador’s coat.”

And bam, he snatched it out of my hands.

“If you are one of the scoundrels who destroyed the ambassador’s house, admit it now!” he roared. “And face my wrath, you foul villain!”

“No!” I said, backing away from the counter. “The ambassador is my friend! I borrowed it from him.”

His eyes bored into me. “He is short on friends these days. How do I know you did not abscond with that great, persecuted man’s garment?”


  • Praise for Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in my...
"Famously funny, this book flies like Ben Franklin's kite, but into a nuclear reactor. Forget the lightning; kids' stuff!"—Ridley Pearson, New York Times best-selling author of The Kingdom Keepers series and Peter and the Starcatchers
  • "This is absolutely the funniest book about time-traveling mail and Benjamin Franklin that I have ever read. And I have read them all."—Dave Barry, New York Times Best-Selling author of The Worst Class Trip Ever
  • On Sale
    Jun 20, 2017
    Page Count
    224 pages

    Adam Mansbach

    About the Author

    An original Saturday Night Live writer, Alan Zweibel has won multiple Emmy and Writers Guild of America Awards for his work in television, which also includes It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Late Show With David Letterman, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. In the theater he collaborated with Billy Crystal on the Tony Award-winning play 700 Sundays, wrote the off-Broadway play Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy which he adapted from his book, and his novel The Other Shulman won the 2006 Thurber Prize for American Humor.

    Adam Mansbach is the author if the instant New York Times bestsellers Go the **** to Sleep and You Have to ******* Eat, as well as the novels Rage is Back, The Dead Run, Angry Black White Boy, and The End of the Jews, winner of the California Book Award. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, Esquire, the Believer, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

    Together, Adam and Alan are also the authors of the first book in this series, Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in My . . .

    Learn more about this author