TINK TINK BLIP©
Written and Illustrated
by Mickey Ray
It was almost nine-o-five o’clock at night, long after Lori’s bedtime, when from a wonderful dream of castles and princesses, she was awakened by a most peculiar noise.
TINK TINK BLIP! TINK TINK BLIP! TINK TINK BLIP!
“This noise does not belong in my house!” thought Lori, even though she was not quite woken up.
TINK TINK BLIP!
Lori sat up in her little bed and looked around her room while rubbing her sleepy eyes.
TINK TINK BLIP!
She could see nothing there that would make that sound!
“This will keep me up all night! Oh, how will I get back to sleep to find out if that terrible dragon ate the beautiful princess?”
Although she was the princess in her dream, secretly she wanted the dragon to eat her because she had always wondered what it would be like to be eaten by a dragon!
Lori pushed at the blankets saying, “Move it, blanket!” She often scolded things that got in her way.
“Slippers! Where are you? You’re supposed to be in front of my bed where I can see you!”
She knew her slippers preferred to be under the shadow of her bed conversing with the dust bunnies and under-the-bed monsters, but no slippers of hers stayed there long when she called.
Of course they were right there where they belonged as her feet touched the floor.
TINK TINK BLIP!
“Enough!” Lori said. “If you don’t stop making that noise, I’ll make you stop!”
Either the Tink Tink Blip was too new to know of Lori’s temper, or it was the bravest Tink Tink Blip that ever was because IT DID NOT STOP!
Lori opened the door to her room and stepped out into the hallway. She listened again and heard the Tink Tink Blip from…the BATHROOM!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Everything in that room, she remembered, was too tall or too big. Everything there was made for GROWNUPS!
Perhaps it was a grownup Tink Tink Blip. How could she stop that? No one could tell a grownup what to do! Not even a true princess!
Perhaps, Lori thought, I should ask mother to stop the noise that did not belong in her house!
Her slippers quickly flopped down the hall to her mother’s room. She opened the door and found her mother with her arm resting over her head as she slept.
“Mother, there’s a Tink Tink Blip in our bathroom!” she told her.
“That’s nice.” Her mother yawned and pulled up the blanket farther up on her shoulders.
Nice? Could it be, wondered Lori? Maybe her home should have a Tink Tink Blip in it. She tried to remember if any of her friends had one and couldn’t think of one.
She had the only one in the world! Oooh, maybe she could charge people money to see her Tink Tink Blip and make as much as eleventy-seven dollars, she thought. She left her mother’s room and stood in front of the bathroom door.
TINK TINK BLIP! She heard. Then, to her amazement, came TINK TINK TINK BLIP BLIP BLIP TINK BLIP TINK BLIP!
“Oh my!” she gasped. “There are more of them and they’re having a CONVERSATION!
Now she was very concerned as to what a Tink Tink Blip looked like, especially when there might be MORE THAN ONE!
Her mother said it was nice to have a Tink Tink Blip, but was it twice as nice to have two? Was it three times as nice to have three? And that’s as far as she dared continue to count so very late at night and not wanting to embarrass herself and get her numbers wrong.
As sure as she was that she was a princess and that made her brave enough to deal with one Tink Tink Blip, more of them would require the assistance of at least a brave knight.
The only thing she had was a very uncooperative little brother, Christopher, and his “verocious” dog, Roy Boy, who would much rather sleep and sleep. He did that very well.
Leaving the Tink Tink Blips to their, she imagined, very important meeting, she stepped across the hall to her brother’s room.
There he lay on the floor, wrapped within his Ninja Turtle blanket, his head resting on the side of Roy Boy’s chest. She noticed Roy Boy did at least open his eyes, if only a little while, to see who came into the room. He did not, however, get up.
“Christopher!” she commanded. “Wake up!” She pulled at his blanket, grasping the Ninja, Michelangelo, by the head and lifting up until Christopher was entirely uncovered.
“You have to get up,” Lori told him. “There are Tink Tink Blips in our bathroom!”
“Go ‘way!” said Christopher. At that moment, Roy Boy got up, causing poor Christopher’s head to fall to the floor.
“Ow!” he cried, which of course made Lori smile.
“Well, now that your pillow has jumped onto your bed,” which is where Roy Boy decided to continue to do what he did best, “you can come with me.”
Sleepily, Christopher got up and nearly tripped over his Winnie the Pooh pajamas, which slipped past his little feet during the night. Pulling them up with one hand and rubbing his eyes with the other he followed his sister out of the room.
“Wait!” said Lori. “You’d better bring Roy Boy. Those Tink Tink Blips could be some sort of monsters!”
Now you might have thought the idea of monsters would have frightened Christopher, but he watched Sesame Street and knew that monsters, although they looked strange and came in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors, all they really ate were cookies and numbers.
Still, he went back to his bed and pulling Roy Boy’s collar he said, “Come on, Roy Boy, let’s go see cookie monster.”
Roy Boy knew what ‘cookie’ meant and quickly jumped off the bed.
The three of them went to the bathroom door and stood there listening. The number of Tink Tink Blips had grown. By the sound of it, there were so many you could hardly tell in which order they were tinking or blipping.
Lori and Christopher looked at each other. Roy Boy sat and scratched.
“I now pronounce you a knight,” Lori told her little brother, “And after I open the door, you have to look inside and tell me what you see.”
Christopher knew what a ‘night’ was, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to be one. He was certain that if his sister didn’t want to go into the bathroom first, which she always did in the morning, he did not want to go in there either.
As Lori opened the bathroom door, Christopher pushed at Roy Boy. “Go on, Boy, go in. Go in Roy Boy!”
Roy Boy hesitated. This was the “No No” room. He remembered being yelled at and chased out from there when all he wanted was a drink of water from the big, shiny white bowl.
“Go in and find cookie monster,” said Christopher.
Ah! Cookie! That was better.
Obediently Roy Boy went into the shadowy room disappearing behind the open door and into the dark of the room.
Lori and Christopher waited and listened. They waited and waited but all they could hear were the Tink Tink Blips and nothing more.
“Roy Boy?” called Christopher. “Are you okay?”
Roy Boy did not answer and Christopher’s lips started quivering. His eyebrows scrunched together and Lori know her little brother would soon cry if she didn’t soon reassure him.
“I bet he went back to sleep,” she said, mostly believing that was true.
This seemed to help for Christopher knew she was probably right, and he did not cry.
Lori pushed the door further open. The hall light cast odd shadows on things once familiar, making them much larger and more frightening. Off to the left in the dark, a pair of eyes glowed back at the children. Above them, they saw what was obviously a horrible monster with many long arms reaching down from the ceiling.
“TINK TINK BLIP,” they heard as the monster’s arms swayed to and fro, its eyes coming toward them.
Lori let out a very un-princess like scream, which naturally caused Christopher to scream a scream of his own.
They turned to run and suddenly fell into the legs of another large monster. Squeezing their eyes shut tightly, they both screamed again.
After what seemed a long time, they could hear their mother’s soothing voice talking to them. “It’s all right. It’s all right now.” They heard their mother saying.
Lori looked up, satisfied it was truly her mother and not some monster pretending to be her. She made a great sob and began to wipe her eyes and nose with her arm.
Christopher, in between his crying breaths and with tear filled eyes, kept trying to warn his mother of the terrible “tinka biff” monsters in the bathroom.
Roy Boy sulked out of the “No No” room, certain he would be yelled at for doing something wrong. Seeing Christopher crying, he went to him and began to lick at his tears.
Happy that Roy Boy had not been destroyed by the monsters, Christopher gave his friend his best hug and accepted the many licks placed on his tear stained face.
The ‘monster’, explained their mother as she turned on the bathroom light, was only her stockings she left drying on the shower rod. The open window created a breeze making them sway in the darkness. The glowing eyes were Roy Boy’s reflecting off the hall light and the Tink Tink Blip noise, was nothing more than the dripping water falling from her stockings to the metal basin in the tub.
“I knew that!” said Lori to her little brother as her mother picked him up and carried him to his room.
Later tucked in her own bed, she laid her head on her pillow looking forward to continuing her dream of castles, princesses and dragons.
And just outside of her window something went…
BEAN BUTTER AND HARROW-SPLIT SOUP©
Written by Mickey Ray
Pug Mutton loved to eat!
“I love foogalooga ice cream!” he said.
“But most of all... I love Bean Butter and Harrow-split soup!”
“I can stuff myself with grackers and kanoodles,” said Pug Mutton.
“But most of all... I love Bean Butter and Harrow-split soup!”
“I like to crunch and munch fretzles and goompahs,” said Pug, with a grin.
“But most of all,... I love Bean Butter and Harrow-split soup!”
“Once, I tried pooka-pie and freamed cheese and liked it very much.
“But most of all... I love Bean Butter and Harrow-split soup!”
One day Pug came home after a hard day of play, and he was very hungry. There, waiting for him on the table, was a big jar of Bean Butter, a large slice of biddle bread, and a bowl of hot, Harrow-split soup.
And a note.
The note read, “Here is your lunch, Pug Mutton. Be a good boy. I love you, your mom!”
Pug Mutton ate every bit and said, “I love my mom and I love biddle bread.
“But most of all... I love Bean Butter and Harrow-split soup!”
THE FABULOUS FABERS OF FABLETON©
Written by Mickey Ray
Everyone who lived in Fableton thought the Fabers were a fabulous family. Fulton Faber, the father of this fabulous family, flew above the forests of Fableton forever just by flapping his arms.
Up, up, up he’d fly. Around and around and around he’d float about the fine, flowery fields of Fableton.
Fulton was fabulous!
Feona Faber, the wife of this fabulous family, flipped fat, fluffy flapjacks every Friday at five-fifteen in the morning.
Fifty-five flaps a flip! Flip, flap, flip, they would fly from the frying pan.
Feona was fabulous!
Phillip, Feona and Fulton’s first son, found his way to fame by filleting fresh flounder faster than any of the other fish filleting folks in Fableton.
Fleck, fleck, fleck, he would flick the fishy fins of the Fableton families’ Friday fare. Four hundred and forty-four floppy fish a day.
Philip was fabulous!
Phoebe’s forte, (she was Philip’s sister), was being fantastically fast at fixing fine furniture for the friendly folks in Fableton.
Faddap! Faddap! Faddap! Floof! Floof! Floof! Phoebe would hammer, brush and finish a fragile, fancy, folding table in fifteen fleeting minutes.
Phoebe was fabulous!
And finally, Franklin Faber, the youngest, filial member of the fabulous Fabers, who was fourteen on February fifth, was the most famous fibber of Fableton. Here is a tall tale he told.
“I fell five hundred and fifty-five feet from a flag pole,” he fibbed, “And only fractured a finger!” What a fantastically phony fib!
Franklin was fabulous!
Yes, it’s a fact. The Fabers are a fabulous family. . . even if this is only a fable!
JONATHAN & THE GLOOP©
Written by Mickey Ray
“Oh, wow,” said Jimmy! “Take a look at this!”
“What is that?” asked Jonathan, once he came over and squatted down to see what his best friend for life had discovered. “Or maybe I should ask what was it?” They both stared down at the misshapen gloop on the side of the road.
“I don’t know…but it’s super gross! It looks all melty ‘n yechy! …Neat, huh?”
Jonathan raised the visor of his cap, lowered himself down to get a closer look and wrinkled his nose. “Whew! It stinks something awful! Maybe it used to be a skunk?” He stood up and looked around to find a stick, or something he could poke at the glutinous puddle which resembled parts that once belonged on the inside of something living.
“Nah! That’s no skunk!” said Jimmy. “We didn’t notice the smell till we got up close! You can smell a dead skunk ten miles away!” He waved his hand about, reeling from the acrid smell.
Having found a small branch nearby, Jonathan ventured over to the foul, greenish gloop and began to cautiously prod its center. When the tree stem touched the mysterious jelly, it lurched away as if to avoid the wooden limb's probing. “Wow! Did you see that?” cried Jonathan, drawing the branch back away.
“Oh, cool stuff, man! That is so awesome! Poke it again, Jonathan!” Jimmy encouraged his friend. Not that he was afraid to touch it, but, ...well, ...Jonathan did have the stick!
“I…I don’t think I’d better! Let’s just leave it alone.” Jonathan stepped back as he tossed the stick away and watched as the greenish mass instantly gathered itself back together. His eyes widened as his hands nervously wiped themselves on his worn jeans. “Come on, let’s play Nintendo at my house,” he suggested, turning quickly away and walking off.
Jimmy took one last look. Satisfied that the stuff just sat there and no longer moved, he shrugged his shoulders and turned to join his best friend. He took a quick swipe at a passing butterfly and missed. “Hey, wait for me!” he yelled to Jonathan and ran to catch up to him.
Having avoided the small human that swiped at it, the butterfly continued on its way fluttering and weaving on invisible currents of air which carried it towards the slime now quivering on side the road. The beautiful insect’s yellow and black wings began to flap wildly as though it were attempting to avoid the an invisible, descending pull or escape a driving wind. The hot, summer day provided no notable breezes, but the creature was inexorably driven down towards the suddenly active, greenish gloop. Its fragile body barely touched the shuddering puddle when, in a flash, the gloop burped a slender tentacle enveloping the insect, drawing it back within itself and completely consuming it.
The living ooze then slid along in minute degrees like blobs of liquid mercury, separating and re-gathering, until it reached other sections of itself which were spattered about in a ziz-zag design,—much like the imprint of a boy’s sneaker. The main body of its form slithered over the odd pattern, absorbed it and began to reshape itself.
Dings, bangs, crashes, screams, and other noises, resounded from the computer as the boy’s fought for dominance over the evil warlord in just one of the latest of Jonathan's collection of computer games. As Jonathan racked up points killing off his attackers with a barrage of weaponry, Jimmy, waiting his turn, asked him, “So, what do you think that stuff was?”
“I told you, I don’t know! Forget it, will you?” A sudden, sad, low sounding bloop, and an evil laugh from the game, stopped his computer activity. “See, what you made me do? You made me lose my concentration!” He jumped up and grabbed the giant, yellow, nerf bat and began hitting Jimmy about the head and body with the soft, plush toy. Jimmy, finding his own nerf weapon, began to retaliate. Their laughing and shouting were halted quickly by the urgent sound of Jonathan's mom upstairs.
“Jonathan, get up here this minute!” she yelled.
From his mom's tone, this could only be trouble.
“Uh-oh, what’d you do?” Jimmy inquired, stifling his laugh.
“I don’t know! …guess I’ll find out though!” Jonathan replied. He climbed up from the basement stairway while gathering an ample supply of ready-made excuses for whatever he would be accused of doing. His ever faithful sidekick followed, a safe distance behind. His mother, Pat, could hear their nervous giggling as they march up the basement stairs.
His head held high in false bravado and confidence, he arrived at the opened door, stepped into the hall and faced his mother with a big, innocent smile.
“All right, you comedians,” his mom started, “I expect your father and Kelly will be back soon, so before he gets home and sees this, I want to know what in the world you dragged into this house? I’ve asked you a dozen times to wipe your feet before you come in. That, or just take off your shoes! What is this stuff?” she asked, pointing to footprints made from some greenish stuff traveling across the carpeting and fading off as they reached the stairway and continued down to the basement. Jonathan and Jimmy looked around at the carpet stains. Wondering how he missed seeing them on his way up, Jonathan looked back to his mom and shrugged. Jimmy's shoulder's repeated the motion.
Imitating the boys' shrugs, his mom asked, “What’s that supposed to mean?” Her voice rose a little, her British diction became more pronounced. “Now, I want to know, where those stains came from?” she added.
“I don’t know, mom!” Jonathan protested, alternately lifting his feet and checking his sneakers. “There’s nothing here, see? It wasn’t me! It was probably Kelly!” he smiled, knowing the size of the footprints would never match his sister's smaller feet.
“Jimmy?” warned Jonathan's mom.
“Not me, Mrs. Phillips!” he squeaked in defense, having checked his sneaker’s carefully.
“Well, it’s mighty strange! I mean, stains do not just appear out of thin air and…” she stopped her complaint suddenly. Returning her gaze to the carpet, she stared in disbelief as the stains began to disappear before her eyes. “What the…? How…?”
“Mom, okay if I go upstairs now? I don’t feel so good,” Jonathan asked, as he too wondered what he'd just witnessed.
“What? Huh?…Oh,…yes, Jon...,” she added, distracted by her thoughts. “I’ll, uh, call you when lunch is ready.”
“I’d better be going,” Jimmy said, not happy at all with the strange goings on at Jonathan's house. “Call me later, Jonathan. Okay?” Jimmy edged his way past Jonathan, and towards the front door. “Bye, Mrs. Phillips!” he called as he left.
“Yes…uh, bye, Jimmy. Say hi to your family for me,” she said quietly, still gazing at the now clean carpet as Jonathan made his way back up the stairs.
“Okay, Mrs. Phillips, thank you! I'll come back later. Dad said he'd come by and get me if I stayed for dinner." Jimmy replied. Getting no response, he continued. “They moved to Cleveland yesterday, so I have a long way to walk home.” he said to her, noticing her distraction.
“Yes, dear, that’s nice...,” said Pat, dismissing him. Jimmy rolled his eyes at Jonathan and gave a hopeless sigh as he waved him goodbye and shut the front door behind him.
Pat knelt down on the carpet, tracing the spotless area where once there had been obvious green stains. Scratching, tapping, and rubbing the surface did nothing to bring back what she was certain was there before. She stood back up shaking her head in confusion, brushing her hands across her sweatshirt. “I need a cup of tea!” she told herself aloud, and walked out of the room. “Bill,” she said, referring to her husband, “is not going to believe this!"
On her way to the kitchen, she was reminded of a friend of theirs who volunteered for her puppet group and liked writing fiction. "That was like something Mickey Ray would write about.” She mumbled aloud. "Well, maybe not. He's much too sensible."
Giving up the mystery, shaking her head and grinning, she never notice the tiniest of green blobs on her sweatshirt as they became animated and wormed their way around, gathering with a larger blob as it steadily crawled up her back toward the base of her neck.
Jonathan slowly walked over to his bunk bed and sat on the lower bed which doubled as his private fort. Something hard rubbed against his back, and he turned to find the portable phone he'd taken upstairs earlier. He picked it up and put it over on his desk along side his school books, wooden ruler, notepaper, pens and pencils.
For awhile, he thought he had made those stains from stepping in that green muck they saw earlier. But the stains on the carpet just disappeared and when he looked, there was nothing on his...
He unlaced and removed his sneakers. He raised them up closer to his face for further inspection, but turned them over ever so slowly. His eyes widened in anticipation, his hands shook slightly as more and more of the sneakers' soles came in view.
Nothing… He sighed, relieved, and then tossed them across the room. He fell back on his bed, his knees to his socked feet dangled over the side, his eyes staring up at the slats, springs and mattress of the bunk above. He wasn’t feeling sick or anything, but he was feeling just a bit sorry for himself for the unprovoked scolding he'd received. Wouldn't it have been great if it was something Kelly did?
He had to admit some strange things had happened in just a short morning, what with stains coming and going around the house and moving green gloop on the side of the road. It was like something from a Saturday morning cartoon or a Goosebumps’ story!
He looked around his room and spotting his soccer ball, he got up, grabbed it and climbed onto his upper bunk. He absently played with the ball as his thoughts wandered.
Jonathan was a fairly quiet lad and had little to say to most people. The things he enjoyed in life didn’t require him to speak a great deal and though he couldn’t put it in words, he just didn’t have that much to say! What idle conversations he had were usually with his folks, a few of their friends and—of course—his best friend, Jimmy. He talked plenty to his little sister, but that wasn’t very conversational.
His buddy never seemed to mind when Jonathan was quiet. Jimmy was more than happy to do the chatting for the both of them.
His buddy also recognized Jon to be a great deal smarter than other people thought he was. Why was it people thought you were stupid if you didn’t talk? It seemed, to Jonathan, that people often proved just how stupid they really were once they did open their mouths.
Turning the ball between his hands, he considered his favorite sport. Jonathan enjoyed the strategy of soccer more than anything else. It was great fun watching players out-maneuvering each other, trying to gain position and a winning pattern that would get the ball up to and past the guard and into the net. Being the fastest wasn’t all there was to it. You had to know your competition; out move and out guess them. Timing, stamina and planning was everything. There was no talking once you were on the field, doing what you had to do to help your team succeed. Soccer didn't need big talkers.
No doubt about it, he assured himself, returning his thoughts to his best friend, Jimmy was a good buddy. Sure, he had his faults. But, hey, nobody’s perfect!
Besides—grown-ups are pretty weird!
Nature calling, he rose up and swung his legs off the bed, leaped down, spun around on the soft carpeting, tossed his ball in the corner and left to use the bathroom just down the hall. When he finished, he paused by the mirror. Scrunching up his face and angrily rubbing his hair, he stuck his tongue out at his reflection which returned the favor.
“Oh yeah?” he threatened his double, “Come on out here and try that!” His self-imposed battle was interrupted by an odd thumping noise. Cautiously opening the door of the bathroom, he peered out into the hall. No one was there, and no more noise was heard.
He left the bathroom and returned to his bedroom, launching himself, once again, on his upper bed. Burying his head beneath his pillow, he had just shut his eyes when he heard another, even louder, thump coming from somewhere in the house.
“Mom?” he asked, raising the pillow from atop his head and looking towards his bedroom door. When he heard no reply, he rose from the disturbed covers, and, though he couldn’t explain why, he walked slowly, suspiciously, to the door. Opening it carefully, he peeked into the hallway. “Dad,” he said softly, “Are you home?” Seeing nothing, he stepped out more boldly and called again. “Mom? Dad? Kelly? Is that you?” There was a familiar, nasty odor that permeated the air as he headed for the stairs.
Halfway down the steps, he froze in place, his eyes wide, his mouth open in terror. At the bottom of the stairway, a gross and almost cartoon-like shape lay quivering and growing. It looked like a large, slithering, green sneaker with yellow and black wings. Its horribly fetid odor wrenched his stomach. Stretching its way up the stairs towards him, was a gooey, green, elastic-like neck with his mother’s face bulging at its top and staring back at him. “Well," the Jell-0 face screeched at him in a rasping imitation of his mother’s voice. "I see you’ve finally taken off your shoes in the house!” The thing’s animated mouth suddenly expanded and smiled broadly with sharp, green teeth. "Have a cup of tea, son?"
“Nooooooo!” Jonathan cried out. He ran quickly up the stairs.
“Jonathan, you come right back here!” the horror screeched again. “Don’t you want to know where those stains came from?”
Jonathan tore into his room, slamming the door shut and leaning against it with his back. “Oh, wow! Oh, man!” he gasped several times, his eyes shut tight as if that would stop the vision that his brain kept recalling.
“Pat! We're back! Where is everybody?” he heard his father call out.
“Jonathan, look what daddy bought me...,” Kelly’s voice said, stopping abruptly.
Jonathan heard muffled cries and great gurgling, grinding noises.
“Dad? Kelly? Dad! I’m up here! Look out! There’s a... thing...!” His cry was interrupted by a horrible and absurd burp. "Oh, no! It's eaten them!"
Thump-kada-thump! Thump-kada-thump, he heard from outside the doorway. He knew the green gloop was ‘kada-thumping’ up the carpeted stairs and heading for him. Looking around his room, he spotted his dresser. He ran to it, and grabbing it, he pushed and pulled at it and propped it against the door. He stepped away from the door and waited. Not a sound could be heard from the hallway.
It was there. Now! Right outside his door.
What was it? What did it want? He was certain it was trying to figure a way to get in.
His mind raced back to earlier that day and the green slime he and Jimmy saw along the road. Could it really be the same thing? How had it gotten so big? Did it…did it really eat his family? Oh, heavens, what was he supposed to do?
911, of course! He ran to the portable phone on his desk. Lifting the receiver to his ear he heard nothing. No dial tone. It was dead. He tapped the receiver and pushed buttons over and over. Nothing... He slammed the phone back down.
“Okay! Okay!” he said to himself. “Don’t panic, man. Think! It’s not real! It’s not real…it’s like a…like a computer game! Yeah, that’s it!”
He paced back and forth in a fast rhythm with his train of thoughts. Walking toward the door, he first smelled the fetid odor then saw the green, gloppy ooze spreading out from underneath the door frame and his dresser. He stared at the approaching slime as he backed away. Just as he bumped his butt into desk, the phone rang.
“Ahh!” he yelled in fright. His hand to his chest and breathing rapidly, he turned and picked up the receiver.
“Hey!” A familiar voice rang out.
“Jimmy! Jimmy, it’s you!” Jonathan hollered into the receiver. “Hey, listen, that green stuff we saw…it’s here! It’s…it’s gigantic! It ate my mom and I think it ate Kelly and dad too, and it’s after me now! You gotta call the cops! My phone’s screwed up or something! I can't call out! Hurry, tell them I’m in trouble!…”
“Ha, ha, ha,” Jimmy's voice laughed. “You’re so funny, Jonathan!”
“No, no! I’m serious, man! This is totally for real, Jimmy!” He turned and saw more of the gloop oozing its way between the crack of the door and the carpeted floor and from under and around his dresser. It was coming closer. He turned away whispering covertly into the phone, not sure if the stuff could hear or understand what he was saying to his best friend on the other end. “I’m not kidding! You gotta help me!”
“Tell me something Jonathan, does it still smell as putrid as when we first saw it?” Jimmy droned on, his voice becoming thicker and louder. “What does it look like now?” he asked. His voice was no longer on the phone but behind Jonathan.
Jonathan whipped quickly around and looked at the moving gloop now rising from the floor. How had he missed it before? Sure enough, not only was his mother’s face somewhere in that mess, but there was Jimmy, smiling malevolently at him. “Oh, no! Not you too!” he cried. The viscous, green muck edged closer.
Jonathan threw the phone at the living, wriggling, gelatinous mass as he skirted away and around towards his bed, grabbing everything he could throw at the thing from the desk. He tossed his arsenal of school supplies on the upper bunk and climbed up.
He watched as the gloop incorporated the phone into itself and added the utilities’ features to its own, already ridiculous, form. “Come on, Jonathan. It’s not so bad in here.” The thing drawled in something almost like his father's voice. “Don’t fight it, son!” it added, as Jonathan maneuvered on the bed to keep from hitting his head on the ceiling.
“No way, man! You're not my dad! Get out of here!” Jonathan demanded. He looked over to see if there was an opportunity to escape out the door. The “stuff” seemed to still be pouring in from underneath, even though a large part of it, already in his room, was taking on some sort of recognizable form.
Suddenly he realized something that made his mind race back. Of course! That’s it! He remembered! The dresser that he placed at the door was made of wood, and though the ooze slid in under the door, it avoided contact with both the door’s edge and the dresser. Just like it avoided the branch he tried to poke it with. Wood! For some reason, the gloop wouldn’t, or couldn’t, come in contact with it!
The horrible gloop was growing ever larger, still looking like a huge, green, flying sneaker, only now, it began to sprout arms and he thought he recognized, hair, and bare feet, even though they were slimy and in various shades of green. Amid all of that, were the distorted faces of his mom, dad and his sister, Kelly—not to mention, his best friend, Jimmy—straining their necks and faces towards him. Their mouths gaped and twisted and swore threats of ultimate defeat at the boy trapped up on the bed. Jonathan tossed the books he'd thrown up on the bed, but they had no effect as the gloop surrounded the bed but avoided the wooden parts of it. It shaped a section of itself into hands which began to pull at the covers, bringing Jonathan towards it as well. He backed away as far as he could. Suddenly, he felt the sharp edge of the ruler beneath his knees.
He grabbed it and anxiously pointed it at the gruesome monster coming towards him. He slapped at the gloop hands and the howling, angry gloop cringed back to avoid further contact with the wooden slat he held tightly in his fist. Feeling braver, Jonathan edged a little unsteadily on the springy bed towards the cowering beast.
“Jonathan! You put down that thing!” demanded his mother’s voice.
“Hey, man! Don’t hurt me, Jonathan! I’m your buddy remember?” cried what was once Jimmy.
“Jonathan, you drop that thing or you can forget about going to soccer practice for the rest of the summer. You hear me?” his dad’s voice threatened.
Jonathan hesitated. It was really them. Or was it? “What do I do? What do I do?” He asked himself.
His answer came in less than a heartbeat when he lost his balance. Trying to regain himself, he began to weave about and flail his arms like a windmill. Jonathan fell forward and right at the convulsing, green monstrosity.
At and in, both he and the ruler flew! Surrounded by a thick, yellow-green jelly, barely able to move, he felt his lungs ready to burst from lack of air. With what he felt was his final breath, he gave one great effort and pushed his arm forward until his hand and the ruler within it, pushed up and out of the consuming glob. A moment later, there was total darkness, and just as suddenly, a bright flash of light exploded in front of him.
Lying around him on the floor were his family and Jimmy. All of them were coated with traces of green slime. Gradually they recovered themselves and together, they sat up then slowly helped each other to their feet. Looking around they saw Jonathan's bedroom was spattered with dripping, green gloop. It was on everything and reeked horribly! The ruler still in his hand, Jonathan nervously touched a bit of the slime with its tip. Nothing moved. He repeated his jabbing in several other rubbery splotches and got the same unresponsive action. With a great sighs, each of them hugged the other, laughing nervously.
“Wow!” Jimmy croaked. “No one’s gonna believe this!”
“What do you think, dad? Will we have to burn this room to get rid of that smell?”
“Oh, I think a good scrubbing and some fresh paint should cover it.”
“Come on, everybody,” said his mom. “Let’s get out of here and get cleaned up. Jonathan, why don’t you grab a change of clothes for you and Jimmy then, when we're all finished, we’ll fix something to eat and drink.” his mom finished.
Having washed the gloop from their bodies and disposing of the ruined garments they wore, it was like an added feeling of freedom and freshness for everyone. They were about to prepare a lunch when a visitor entered the kitchen.
“Hi, gang!” said Jimmy's father, as he walked in feeling right at home. “Hey, Jimmy! Thought you’d be here. Ha, ha! Where else, huh kid? Well, what’s up, fella? Anything new?” he asked his son. Then, looking about, he sniffed the air. “Whew! What stinks around here?”
Everyone looked at him, then at each other and began laughing “Have a seat, dad,” Jimmy said to his perplexed father, “I’ll tell you all about it!
“Oh no you don’t,” said Jonathan. “If you remember, the title says it's my story. Let me tell it!”
Jimmy's dad listened to the strange tale, while just outside the kitchen window a small, fragile, yellow and black butterfly began to flutter about erratically. It appeared to be desperately trying to fly upwards, but even after great effort, it was still inexorably and helplessly pulled downward.
Below, a green, garden spider quickly wrapped its wriggling dinner within its silken tomb.
PRIMROSE & LANE©
THE KITCHEN ADVENTURE
Written by Mickey Ray
Illustration by Mickey Ray
It was close to Christmas and that’s a reasonable time for the children to become very excited and full of energy. Even more excited and with a great deal more energy than is usual! That was how the day went while visiting their grandma and grandpa’s house. The evening was at an end after having eaten dinner and watching some TV. It was time to go to bed.
Naturally, there was a bit of a fuss. Neither Krystal nor Shelley was the teeniest bit sleepy, though they both yawned and yawned while pleading for a story as their grandma dressed them for bed.
“Please, please,” cried Krystal. “You tell and read such good stories! We’ll go right to sleep, I promise, I promise! Pleeeeeeze!” Her big eyes pleaded.
“Oh, yes” said Shelley, “Tell the one with the princess and the ‘punkin’!”
“Nooo, not that one! The one with magic horses!” said Krystal.
“The mermaid one, the mermaid one!” cried Shelley, jumping up and down on grandma’s bed.
“Whoa! Slow down!” said grandma. “Get into bed, get under the covers and I’ll read you a new story your Uncle Mickey wrote about two mischievous, toy bears who were brought to life and became famous.”
The girls quickly slipped under the covers. Grandma’s bed was always so cozy and comfy. It smelled good too! Sort of like flowers. Then grandma stretched out on top of the covers alongside Krystal and Shelley and began to read from a book that seemed to come out from nowhere.
“A long time ago,” grandma began, “two beautifully hand-made teddy bears, dressed in very elegant clothes, stood upon a long wooden shelf. Had you been there to see them, you would have been surprised to see how they began talking to one another.
However, there was no one else in the room at the time; certainly no one who cared to talk back to them. And as they recalled later, even though it was night time, it was rather bright outside their window with the shining, white light of the full moon, and an unusually large, bright star gleaming quite close by.
To this day, no one can be sure how it happened that two toy bears should have been brought to life, but there were many opinions on the matter. Perhaps it was the magic of the full moon. Or maybe it wasn’t a bright star outside that window but rather a Fairy Godmother who had come to do some special magic. Or, as in the story of Pinocchio, maybe it was a secret wish that came true.
What really matters is that it did truly happen, and it was an incredible bit of magic! Remarkably, they came alive and stayed that way when, and for only as long as the moon was full, which gave way to the more popular belief that the moon had something to do with it after all. When the moon was no longer full in the night sky they would become as still and as quiet as they were the day they were made.
They were named Primrose and Lane, and the fact that they came to life for only a few days every month did not concern them. During the time they were not animated, it seemed no more than good night's sleep until they were up and about again.
‘Up and about’ is a very mild way of putting how Primrose and Lane conducted themselves when they came to life. The fact that they could eat, drink, talk and walk like people did not keep them from behaving like mischievous bear cubs. Always curious and always hungry!
Primrose was a very pretty bear who loved wearing the beautiful dresses her owner made for her. She was dainty and well mannered—for a bear—but couldn’t resist playing tricks on her brother, Lane.
Lane was definitely a bear’s bear!
No fancy foo-foos for him! Oh, no! Not that he had much of a choice. It seemed no matter what comfortable clothes he changed into while he was awake, after the month's sleep, he’d wake up again wearing some fancy, perfumed, lacy stuff that always made him sneeze horribly! Someone insisted on putting those odd, frilly duds on him whenever he was asleep!
That these amazing bears had come to life could not be kept a secret forever, considering the mischief they’d always get into. And, in time, they became quite famous. They had their pictures taken by newspapers and magazines. They appeared on television. They went on tour to every teddy bear convention at every full moon period of the month. Incredibly, toy manufacturers made other bears in their likeness. (Fortunately, none of them came to life as well!) It was on one of their tours that Primrose and Lane proved just how fortunate that was.
Lane had been sleeping soundly on a pile of Primrose’s clothes in their hotel room closet. He had, after all, a very busy evening of photo shoots and misadventures and those huge hotel beds might be okay for dainty bears like Primrose, but he’d prefer the quiet and darkness of the cave-like closet. He also enjoyed lying on the soft, fluffiness of Primrose’s dresses, and although he didn't care for perfumed scents, he like the flowery smells of her clothes like lavender, lilac and his very, very favorite, — meatloaf. Meatloaf?
Many people love to go on midnight kitchen raids and, believe it or not, teddy bears are no exception! Lane’s nose was never wrong. He had an excellent sniffer and could track one honey-graham cracker in a sealed canister three blocks away! So, if his nose could smell meatloaf, then somewhere, certainly not on one of Primrose’s dresses, lay a goodly chunk of meatloaf with his name on it.
Fully awake and alert, he rose from his closet bedding and crept very quietly out. After all, there was no need to wake Primrose and that, of course, would leave more meatloaf for him.
He left their room still wearing his very colorful pajamas and nightcap and tiptoed to the elevators down the hall. He looked up at the elevator buttons and hesitated. Earlier this evening, he'd had quite an exhausting adventure with these huge, silver, moving boxes, so he wasn’t at all happy about getting back into one. But the constant and delicious aroma of that meatloaf was drifting from somewhere below. Determined, he would once more chance this fascinating contraption until he arrived at where his meatloaf was waiting patiently for him. He stopped at every floor sniffling and snuffling the air until the doors opened one floor below the lobby and Lane stepped out.
All around him in rather dull shades of green, was a maze of walls and halls. Any other person would have given up at the idea of having to search down any of the confusing pathways that twisted and turned in seemingly haphazard fashion. However, being a very hungry bear with the greatest sniffling nose in the world, twisting hallways and green mazes presented no challenge at all. “Send me mazes, or even dragons! Nothing shall keep me from my beloved meatloaf!” he said in his fierce, growling voice, which was a credit to toy bears around the world.
His marvelous, meatloaf-sniffing proboscis—that’s a fancy word for nose—brought him to a pair of doors, each with a circular window set in it, but those windows were far too high for Lane to see into. Behind those doors, he knew, was his beloved meatloaf. He listened carefully and heard nothing. Second only to his bear’s nose, his ears were almost as perfect and Lane would be the first to tell you that!
He pushed against one of the swinging doors and one more sniff told him he would soon be in bear paradise. The door swung easily forward as Lane stepped in and he sidestepped to let it swing back out.
Just as he was about to look around he stepped back to where he was a moment ago and the door quickly returned to swat Lane from behind in a most embarrassing way! He was suddenly pushed forward, somersaulting head over heels, and landed seated on his already injured behind. His nightcap had fallen down over his eyes. Gruffly, he pulled it up and tried to look around for the villain who so rudely pushed him from behind. It was too dark to see anything clearly.
“How wonderful!” he exclaimed, sniffing in the darkness. Along with the powerful odor of the luscious meatloaf, foods of every sort wafted their special aromas throughout the room. Having discovered what light switches were and how to use them (another adventure you’ll just have to read about) he reached up high, felt along the walls and found the one he needed. With a slight push he lit up the large, hotel kitchen.
Never had Lane seen such a shiny room. Everything glistened and reflected both light and images. As he turned, his own reflection smiled back at him from a huge cabinet to his right. But good heavens! His reflection was wearing a pink, frilly nightgown!
“That’s impossible!” he shouted aloud.
“Hee, hee, hee!” his reflection giggled. Behind him and to the left, stood Primrose.
“What are you doing here?” asked Lane as he turned back to her.
“Same thing you are,” she said. “Only, I got here first! When I heard you coming, I turned off the lights. I was afraid, like yesterday, those big people with the fire hats were coming back to holler at me again. Gee, how was I supposed to know what that red button on the elevator was for?” They both grinned and enjoyed the memory of their mischief and all that excitement earlier that evening.
“Well, as long as you’re here, did you find anything good to eat?” Lane asked as he walked over to the tall refrigerator against one of the kitchen walls.
“I can smell lots of great stuff, but getting to it is another story,” Primrose said. “They’ve hidden everything behind those big metal boxes!”
Did I mention that bears are incredibly good climbers? Well, it’s true. And Lane would be the first to tell you that he, in fact, was the best climber in the whole world!
The handle of the tall, kitchen refrigerator was way too high to reach, but this would not stop a hungry and curious bear. “Help me with this!” he said to Primrose, and together they pushed and pulled a tall, metal chair over to the spot Lane had picked which was in front of the gleaming, silver refrigerator. He nimbly climbed up the metal rungs on the chair and, once standing on top, pulled at the big handle before him. “I did it!” he shouted, as the door began to fly open.
At that moment, everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong! As the large, metal door opened, it banged into the metal chair, throwing Lane backwards. He tried to stop his fall by grabbing onto a metal shelf within the refrigerator, but succeeded only in pulling it out and letting it's contents spill over. Down went plastic bowls of sauces, condiments and pickles, gallon cartons of milk, and a large silver bowl of biscuit batter.
He then fell backwards onto a large, cold, metal, utility counter. His arms spun back and slammed against one of four braces which held up the six or seven shelves loaded with kitchen pots, pans, hanging spoons and other metal utensils.
Bang! Crash! Boom! The noise was deafening as shelf after shelf collapsed like dominoes, one upon the other. Pots and pans bounced and banged in every direction sending Primrose, on the floor below, scurrying about in twisting circles in an effort to get out of their path.
Backing up at one point, she slipped in the spilled batter and landed clumsily on her behind and in doing so, she pushed against a smaller group of shelves, which held several canisters of sugars, salts, seasonings and flour. Down from above, they spilled their contents, showering in every direction! Flour and seasonings coated Primrose’s beautiful fur and elegant nightgown. “Oh!” she cried, as she sniffed at the ground pepper and other seasonings clouding around her and throughout the kitchen. Immediately she began to sneeze terribly. Even a polite, lady bear can, at times, find it difficult to sneeze daintily!
Meanwhile, Lane had recovered from his fall only to climb down from the counter and slip and slide on the batter, sauce, and milk-spilt, floured and spiced-slicked floor. He landed hard and skidded against some copper tubing which suddenly bent, cracked and broke, spraying water everywhere. Poor Lane tried unsuccessfully with his paws to stop the water from gushing out and only served to soak himself thoroughly.
Now both bears were splashing and skidding recklessly from one end of the kitchen to another. They were covered in a pasty mess of batter, milk, food, flour and spices when the kitchen doors swung open to reveal the stunned faces of the hotel manager, a security guard and a crowd of other employees and hotel guests. Among those faces was their very upset owner.
“Oh, Lane," cried a very messy, undignified Primrose, "I think you are in serious trouble,”
Then, looking at each other's faces, and their bed clothing, covered in all the sticky, floury mess, they began to giggle which then turned into wild laughter. They laughed and laughed and tossed clods of the goopy mess at one another. The people watching could only stare in wonder.
"What a mess! And what silly bears they are," the hotel manager said. "Thank heavens that the moon would not be full tomorrow!"
Grandma set the book down and looked to see if Krystal and Shelley were still awake. She whispered, “I love you!” Then Grandma kissed them both goodnight and left them to have pleasant dreams. Which they did!
Written by Mickey Ray
Illustration by Mickey Ray
Oh wonder of wonders, it was great to be alive and, at last, nine years old!
Daniel ran from his grandparent’s farmhouse and out into the deep snow which had nearly reached the tops of his boots. The sun shone squinting bright against the fresh white powder. Danny squeezed his eyes shut against the brilliance until they adjusted to the brightness and he could look around with ease.
About fifty yards from the house was his grandparents’ burn pit and after another fifty or so, his most admirable fort, also clubhouse, which he made all by himself with old blankets, branches and boards that served no use to anyone else. With each visit, he would add more and more to his fortress.
His warm coat felt good as he trudged over to the fortress. It may be sunny, but the March, winter wind was still cold and a boy could get very uncomfortable if he wasn’t prepared. Like wearing a thick wool cap, thermo gloves, and never, never, leaving the house without his trusty Jim Bowie knife attached to his belt and strapped to his leg. You just never knew what dangers lay out in the wood. A boy of nine had to be careful, don’t you know.
He squeezed into the secret opening to his hide-away—today it was an army camp— and reported his day to his immediate superior. Now surely, you don’t have to be nine to know that nobody else was really there!
“Yes Sir! Pvt. Daniel Trout reporting Sir! They nearly killed us all Captain. Some of the men were scalped and eaten alive by the savages!” Almost all of his reports were gruesome.
“But I saved the men who came back with me with my trusty knife,” which he pulled out of its sheath to demonstrate, “I killed those rotten…,” he stopped his report when he thought he heard a noise outside the fort.
Moving the blanket which covered the entrance, he peeked into the sunshine. The fort’s front faced the woodlot and the fencing that bordered it. There, attempting to find food in the deep snow, was a deer. A doe, in fact, and it stirred only slightly as Danny stepped out, squinting in the bright sun, to get a better look.
“Don’t worry, Captain”, he said in a whisper. “I’ll get the men food they need to keep from starving!” With that promise in his heart, Daniel began to creep quietly towards the grazing deer. He readied his knife, all of six inches of solid aluminum. It was a genuine copy of the famous blade wielded by the great frontiersman, Jim Bowie. Danny’ grandpa gave it to him for his birthday yesterday and he wore it with great pride, having already lain to rest dozens of his enemies, two buffalo and a tiger. Now he would save his entire company of soldiers with the deer meat they desperately needed.
What Daniel hadn’t noticed, nor do most boys his age, that the time had gone by very rapidly. It was getting dusk. The sky turned gayt without warning and the air chilled even more so.
The deer chase became a frustrating game. Each time Daniel made his way closer to the animal, the elusive creature would move deeper into the wood. He followed the doe across a narrow wooden bridge that spanned a rapidly running creek. He’d no sooner crossed it, when he heard a loud crack behind him. He spun around and watched the braces closest to the opposite shore collapse. He would not be able to get back across by this route, he supposed glumly. When he turned to continue his hunt, the deer had suddenly disappeared. He proceeded to follow the doe’s tracks in the snow.
By the time the Danny realized how dark it was getting, he was already too far into the deep woods to find his way back out. As he wandered about the towering pines, he began to feel the wet drops of rain upon his cheeks. “Oh, great! Now, on top of getting lost, it’s going to rain on me as well!” he complained. The drops became heavier, more like sleet combined with large flakes of snow. He tried to back-track his footprints in the deep snow, but it became too dark to see them any longer. Besides, he knew he’d only wind up at the broken bridge. He would have to find his way to somebody’s house soon, or he’d freeze in the cold, wet, night air.
Looking out her door at the night’s snow, the old women noticed the shadowy streak trying to slip inside. Mrs. Oakes bent down and grasped the black cat by the nape of its thick neck and screeched her words. “Oh no, my dear Marquis Le Blanc, you’ll not bring the rain and snow in with you tonight!”
She quickly tossed the distressed beast back into the miserable weather outside her small, crude hovel and shut the door. The storm had become more turbulent and she suspected the cat would respect her freshly cleaned floors from now on.
She thought to herself, as in the past, that the storm would probably bring her a late night visitor. Old Mrs. Oakes’ crude cabin was the only one in the standing, dark wood within five miles of town, and her property ran to the town’s bridge, the only egress to and from the village over the local creek.
Only a few farms neighbored between her and the town and they were at a comfortable distance apart on the village side of the bridge. Usually, if fear and superstition did not deter visitors, the first, heavy, winter squall would create enough damage to the bridge to make it untenable a crossing.
Inevitably, though, some stranger—a lost wanderer—drawn to the comforting lamp light shining through her window in the cold night, would be around to ask for help and shelter, she was certain.
Within moments of her thought, there came a tapping on the warped door. Mrs. Oakes opened it and greeted her visitor with a smile. Nearly toothless, she offered her humble accommodations to the frozen youth at her threshold.
The soaked, dripping, gangling, young man gazed for a moment at the old lady standing before him. He stared at her long gray-white hair, like dried, thin mop strings, drooping carelessly about her shoulders. He saw, too, her strange, wide, almost too eager eyes which flashed his reflection in their green tinted pupils. Her small, hunched body gave him a sympathetic shiver.
Her hands were varicose and their large knuckles were covered with blue tinted, paper-thin skin. Her drab, distressed clothing was covered partially by the black, cowled robe she wore over her garments. The boy considered that if there were such people as witches, this old woman sure fit the bill.
“Come in! Come in, from the rain, dear!” said the old woman.
“How do you do, ma’am?” the boy uttered quite mechanically. “My name is Daniel. Daniel Trout, and I’m afraid I’m lost in this woods.” He stepped in shivering, and Mrs. Oakes moved slightly back. “I’m really sorry,” he stammered. “I was chasing this deer and wasn’t watching where I was going. Now I’m caught in this stupid storm...it’s like something out of a movie. But, I am lost and I need your help. Do you have a phone?”
Something out of a movie, indeed, thought Mrs. Oakes. A sudden winter storm, a washed out bridge, an old hut whose host is a...what? A nutty old lady? A psychopathic killer? A fortune telling gypsy, or perhaps, a witch? The young lad’s discomfort made her giggle aloud. “Excuse me, I was thinking about the Marquis. Please forgive me. I’m terribly sorry, but I’m afraid I have no phone. Do sit, though, and rest,” she said, while closing the door and bolting it. “My furniture, though scarce, is at least very comfortable.”
Daniel sat in a very large, oaken chair, wondering what the old crone’s idea of comfortable might be. Certainly not this hard chair he sat in now. It was a beautifully carved old piece but rough on a guy’s butt!
“I’ll put some water on for tea, shall I? Fine! It won’t take too long.” She reached for a thick towel near the sink and handed it to the boy. “Here, dear. This should help.”
“Please, just call me Danny”, he said, accepting the towel. He removed his wet coat and had begun to dry himself, amazed at how near to dry he already was. Just slightly damp, he realized. He watched her as she creaked from her old hand pump from which she drew the water, to the blackened coal stove that was remindful of images in many of the storybooks he’d read. It certainly provided plenty of warmth. She placed the kettle on top of one of the red hot burners. Oddly, enough, the chair he sat in seemed quite comfortable now. His thoughts turned to what she had said a few moments ago. What was it, Marquis? Before he could stop himself he squeaked, “Marquis..?.”
As if the old woman read his thoughts, she interrupted. “Marquis, if you were wondering, is my cat. The Marquis Le Blanc, is his full name, and I don’t mind saying so, he’s the finest black cat I’ve ever owned. He simply loves it here. He never leaves me for more than an hour or two. But there are times he gets terribly underfoot.”
“Black cat?” inquired, Daniel. “I’m learning French in school. Doesn’t ‘blanc’ mean white in French?”
“Oh, dear me, yes! Yes it does! Oh, Danny, what a bright young man you are! What a sweet boy!” she gushed. “But you see, when the Marquis first arrived here, in a storm, much like yourself, he objected to everything in the house!” The old hag continued as she withdrew two large mugs from the cupboard and began to prepare a second kettle with the tea and filter. “He didn’t like the furniture, the food, not even me! So, somehow, I had to get him to mind me. And so, to punish him, I made his name an objection to his color. Oh, I have many more pets! Would you like to see them?” She asked, excitedly.
She removed a canister from a shelf above the stove and poured the dark tea leaves into the filter. Grasping the steaming kettle gingerly, she poured the boiling water over the tea leaves and into the second kettle. Preparations, completed, she then poured the brewed tea into the mugs, handing one to Daniel.
Nervously, he took the mug and hesitated. “Oh I’m sure, ma’am, it would be nice to see your pets. I like animals. But I’m afraid I really have to be going. My grandparents will be really worried. I hoped you could tell me another way to get back to their farm. You see, the little bridge I crossed collapsed!” He stared at the steaming mug with concern. The intricately carved mug had little dancing animals all about it. And it seemed if you stared at it, they seemed to actually move.
“Oh, dear. I’m afraid I can’t help you there, er Danny . . . Trout, did you say? That’s such a nice name, isn’t it? Lovely fish the trout. Makes me think of rainbows and running streams! But you see,” she continued, “the only way across the creek is the bridge.” She touched her lips with a knurly finger. “I suppose,” she paused, “I could let you fly over on my broom if you like? How is your balance, dear?”
“What?” Danny gasped, setting the tea down on the near-by table. “Broom? Fly?” His eyes widened and his mouth gaped.
Mrs. Oakes laughed—she actually cackled—very loudly. “I’m so sorry, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to see if you were thinking whether or not I was a witch! You were, weren’t you? Everyone thinks so. Lord knows, the folks ‘round here do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought I was responsible for the sudden storms that occur so often in these woods,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “You would think they knew witches don’t have that much power!” she added. “But, I don’t mind, really. Even when their children throw rocks at my house. There’s always a way to get even with their pranks. In fact, I was going to show you...” She was interrupted by faint noises outside the cabin.
“What’s that?” asked Danny. “It sounds like hammering. Shall I go look?”
“No, no! Don’t open that door! Please!
“But it sounds like the storm has stopped. Someone is probably fixing the bridge.”
“No. It’s those people, they’re coming to hurt me. I always knew they would one day!”
“Look,” pleaded Daniel, “let me go see! If it is someone trying to fix the bridge, maybe I can help, and if it’s the townspeople, I’ll talk to them. Surely they’ll listen to reason!”
“They won’t!” The old woman paused, listening to...something. “Perhaps you’d better leave after all. But be careful, and don’t let them know you were here or they’ll kill you too.”
Danny rose to his feet, threw on his coat and crossed to the door. “Don’t worry, I’m sure no one means you harm. I’m sorry for being so silly before. Thank you for letting me in out of the storm.” He unbolted and opened the door and withdrew from the house. He turned back. “Goodnight,” he added, seeing the door close and hearing it bolt from behind.
The icy rain had ceased its downpour as suddenly as it had begun and Danny walked toward the sounds of people shouting and thrashing through the forest. The figures approaching him glowed beneath torches they held aloft. The snow beneath their feet shimmered in the angry firelight.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” asked the first man to reach him.
“My name is Daniel. Daniel Trout. I got lost chasing a deer when the ice storm hit and the bridge broke. I was trying to find a way back home.”
“There’s nothing wrong with the bridge!” the man growled.
“But . . . I saw . . .”
“The bridge is fine! Be on your way. We have business here, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll get out of these woods... now!” the man shouted. The others, about ten or twelve, murmured agreement and waved their fires.
“What’s going on here?” Danny asked, knowing but not ready to believe what he would hear.
“We’re going to destroy the witch! She stole our children and turned them into beasts!”
“Witch? That’s ridiculous! You’re not in the dark ages! You surely don’t believe in these things!” Daniel was beside himself with shock.
“Get out of our way! For all we know, you’re one of her . . . tricks and we’d have to kill you too!” They ran off to the hovel before Danny could say anything more.
When he caught up to them, the old woman’s hut was completely ablaze. Danny turned away and wept for the her. Looking down, he saw a huge black cat sitting and watching him. Around its neck was a ribbon and attached to it, a rolled foil of paper. He bent down to the animal, removed and uncoiled the yellow sheet.
“Don’t worry, dear Daniel,” the inscription read. “They didn’t get to me this time. Below is the formula to help the Marquis become the man he once was, if you’re so inclined to do so. Everything you need is in a hidden metal box in the house which will not burn in the fire. The Marquis will show you where it is. I’m certain he misses his Marquise by now, so I’ve decided to let him return to her, in spite of his objectionable attitude. Of course she might be just a tad too old for him now, considering he’s been with me for one hundred and seventy years!
“I’m afraid all the other beasts have run off into the woods, so it would be impossible to tell my pets from...well...the others. I’m sure they’ll do well on their own. I really am glad you didn’t drink your tea, dear Danny Trout. You would have made a lovely fish for the Marquis’ repast, but as I said before, you are a sweet boy, and I think you deserve a better fate than becoming a cat’s dinner. Good-bye, for now! Always, Sabbatha Oakes.”
Written by Mickey Ray
Theodore was not physically much different from any other boy in his neighborhood. His hair may have had a little more or less curl, and his small nose an extra few freckles, but he loved to play outdoors as much as the others and got into no more than the usual kinds of mischief that just naturally goes along with being almost eight years old. He did, however, possess one amazing talent; a special gift. A truly excellent gift, as the other children would call it. He had been able to conjure up a giant swan that only he and the other children could see!
While other children had their imaginary playmates to enjoy on rainy days, or perhaps, in the closet or under the bed monsters to occupy their restless nights, Theodore had his swan. A good boy, Theodore was not selfish. He shared his swan with all of his friends and all of his friends’ friends. This was a wonderful thing, but far too great an event not to eventually reach the ears of the grown-ups.
It was on a bright Sunday in June, when Mr. and Mrs. Flowers were taking their usual walk shortly after they had left church. Holding on to a fist full of Mrs. Flowers’ skirt was their four-year-old son, Donny. His two-year-old baby brother, Michael, was riding in the stroller, excitedly pointing and naming everything he saw. The family walked the same route they always did and they stopped and talked with the same people they always met along the way; as they did the Sunday before and the Sunday before that.
The couple they were talking with, at the moment, were the Philips. They recently moved to the small town and, impatiently, standing with them was their three-year-old boy, Bobby. The foursome's conversation and the people they talked about seemed repetitious of last week’s chat and just as they were about to go their separate homes; Donny began to tug at Mrs. Flowers’ skirt. “Mommy! Mommy! Look! See? It’s Theodore!” he shouted.
At once, Bobby, noticing the direction Donny’s tiny finger was pointing, started in the chorus. “Oh, mommy, daddy, look! It is! It is, Theodore!”
“Theodore! Theodore!” the boys chimed together.
Both sets of parents tried to see what they were pointing to, but only a peaceful cloud lay overhead. Against the parents’ protests, the children insisted Theodore was somewhere in the sky. Both mothers were becoming quite embarrassed. “Well, Jane,” broke in Mrs. Flowers, “we really must be going!” With sighs of relief and fond farewells, the families departed. Donny, however, was still excited.
“Mommy, daddy? Didn’t you see? Wasn’t he beautiful?”
“Who, Theodore?” asked his father, who was totally confused as to what was going on.
Carl gave his father a sour look. Like a disappointed trainer. “No, no, daddy! Not Theodore!” The boy spoke with a scolding tongue. “His swan! Theodore’s swan!”
“Theodore’s... swan?” The man echoed, looking to his wife. “Where did the Theodore kid get a swan? What kind of pet is that for a child?”
“Pay no mind, dear,” pleaded Mrs. Flowers. “Theodore doesn’t own a swan!” She continued, “I didn’t want to worry you over this epidemic, so...”
“Epidemic? What epidemic? Has some wild swan bitten someone? What’s going on around here?” He removed his hat and scratched his thinning hair.
“Oh, you know children,” she replied. “They'll sometimes get carried away with their imaginary playmates! Well, it’s that sort of thing, that’s all.”
Leonard Flowers was normally a patient and humorous man, but now he was confused and concerned. “But what does Theodore have to do with it? And what about this swan?”
“It’s beautiful!” shouted Donny. “It’s real big and whiter than marshmallows, ‘n’ Theodore flies on its back, ‘n’...”
“Hold it! Hold it right there,” said Mr. Flowers with an incredulous grin. “You mean you’ve seen this bird...and Theodore—flying on it?”
“Sure! All the kids have!” the boy assured his father.
“Donny!” his mother scolded. “That will be enough talk about this animal and Theodore. I don’t want you to mention it again!”
“Wait a minute, honey,” said Mr. Flowers to his wife, “maybe...well...are you sure this is all imagination? I mean if all the kids are seeing this...”
“Now, Leonard!”(Mrs. Flowers always called him by his full name when she was serious. Otherwise it was Len, or Lenny, or honey) “Don’t you start!” she scorned. “It’s not real. I don’t know how or why Theodore started this thing, but somehow, he’s has all the children seeing and believing in this huge, magical swan that flies him wherever he wants to go. Some of the older children swear to have even ridden on this...this make- believe bird! They tell about their trips describing places their parents say they never been to before! It’s all a very elaborate game, but that’s all it is, nevertheless!”
“But how can you be so sure?” Lenny asked sincerely. “Maybe...”
“Oh, Leonard!” his wife replied. “Really! Talking that way in front of Donny! I’ve been trying all week to dismiss this figment...”
“But Lisa, honey,” he interrupted.
“No, Leonard,” she insisted. “There isn’t a chance that this thing is real. No one else, but the children, says they’ve seen this animal. Every mother—and I might add the fathers too—are worried sick about this dilemma. His mother doesn’t know what to say! I feel just terrible for her!”
“All right, Lisa. We’ll talk about this when we get home,” Mr. Flowers conceded.
“After the babies are in bed!” She began to push the stroller forward.
“I’m not a baby! I’m four!” Donny cried. “And there is too a swan!”
Little Michael giggled and pointed upward. “Bird. Bird.”
As they continued on, Mr. Flowers was secretly glancing up at the sky.
Meanwhile, at Theodore’s home, his mother was sorting the laundry when she heard the familiar ‘I’m home!’ banging of the screen door. First things first, Theodore ran over to the kitchen table. His smile turned upside down. “Hey, mom!” he yelled.
“I’m up here in father’s room,” she answered, “and you don’t need to shout. I’m not deaf, you know!” Theodore ran up the steps two at a time.
“Mom,” he cried. “What’s happened to lunch? Did you forget, or something?”
“No, I didn’t forget!” His mother sassed as she continued folding father’s socks. She turned to the boy and spoke sharply. “And there’ll be no dinner, nor breakfast for you tomorrow, unless you quit this incredible nonsense you’re spreading about town. You’ve got the whole place thinking you’re daft, and I’ll have no part in it!” His mom’s Irish brogue stood out the most when she was upset.
“But Mom!” he pleaded.
“Hush up and listen,” she continued. “Even your own father, the bravest and biggest man in the whole city, I might add, is afraid to go to work. Do you know why? It's because he can’t face the laughing and the jokes they’re all passin' out with their smug smiles and sneakin' looks! He’s ashamed. Ashamed, I’m telling you. And I can’t say that I blame him any either. From now on Theodore, there’ll be no more talk of magic swans, and flying, and other such nonsense. You’ll no more be getting the neighbors’ children sick with fear of this beast...”
“But mom, they’re not afraid of him! They like him! And he likes them! And he does anything I ask him to!” Theodore's eyes opened wide and he whispered, “Mom, he even showed me where the wee people live!” His words were cut sharply by a quick smack to his cheek.
“Stop it!” she cried. “There’ll be no more of it, and I mean it! Now...you go to your room and you stay there. You’ll not be allowed out of this house until you admit to me and your father that this was all your imagination and some game you’ve been playing and that you’ll not mention the subject again! Is that understood? Now get to your room! Go on now.”
Theo left as told and went to his room across the hall, closing the door behind him. His mom watched him go in then she turned to hide from the tears that she saw in her son’s eyes and the one’s she herself began to shed. She looked at her hand. It hurt; but not as half as much as her heart. She never had to hit the boy before. But, she had to do something drastic. Didn’t she? He wasn’t daft like those people whispered. She knew that. He wasn’t...he just wasn’t.
A loud knocking at the door downstairs made her jump. Now who could that be, she wondered, as she quickly wiped the moisture from her eyes with her apron. From the top of the stairs she could see a partial view of her visitor through the screen door. It wasn’t hard to guess who it was. There was only one person who stood like that in the whole town and probably the only person in the whole world who would greet his neighbors with such carefree humor. For years, always the clown, Mr. Tom Carlson made it a habit to stand at the door with his toes and knees facing and greeting each other in a pleasant, silly knock.
“Well who could this be?” the lady of the house said loud enough for her visitor to hear and knowing full well who it was.
“The top ‘o’ the mornin’ to yer, mum!” Mr. Carlson exclaimed as Theodore's mother opened the door. He loved to imitate his host’s distinctive accent.
“And the rest of the day to you!” She answered happily. “Come in! Come in! How are you, Tom? Well, goodness me, where’s the Missus? She’s not ill is she, the darling?”
“One, I’m fine. Two, the Missus is at home and t’ree, she’s very well herself!” They both laughed. “I hope I won’t be intruding, ma’am if I ask, is Theodore about? It’s him I’d like to have a few words with, if that’s all right?”
“Oh, yes, he’s here, but...Tom, if it’s about that swan business, I’m terribly sorry for any trouble it’s caused and you needn’t worry anymore. He’ll not be mentioning it again. I’ll make sure of that.”
“To be frank,” said Tom seriously; “I’m not as worried about it as everyone else seems to be. However, I am curious and thought I might find out something more about this if I talked with Theo myself. It may be I can be of some help. You see, ma’am, Theo and I have something in common.” He paused a moment to study the woman’s face, then whispered as though sharing a great conspiracy. “It wasn’t long ago, I, myself, had a pet swan as well.”
“Glory be! You don’t say?” Theodore's mom gasped. “Well, I’ll be! Oh, Mr. Carlson, ...Tom, ...if you could help...I’d be so grateful. He’s upstairs in his room right now; second door to the right.”
“Thank you. I’ll be just a moment.” The kindly neighbor went up the stairs and knocked on Theo's bedroom door. No one answered. He quietly opened the door and discovered the room was empty. “Are you sure he was up here?” He called to Theo’s mom as he made his way back down the stairs.
“Well, yes. I saw him go in. There’s no way to climb out of a window from his room, and he couldn’t have gone by the both of us standing here. Well, for goodness sake, where could he be, then?” She opened the screen door, looked about and hollered. “Theodore! Theodore!” There was no reply. “Well, if that don’t beat all! What has gotten into that young man? Oh, my! When his father finds out he’s disobeyed, he’ll tear into that boy somethin’ fierce.”
After a moment’s reflection, Mr. Carlson said calmly, “Why don’t we hold off from saying anything to the boy’s father for a bit. Maybe I can solve the problem about this mysterious bird once and for all.”
“But his father will be home from his Sunday bowling in a few hours!” she vowed. “He’s bound to find out. He’ll expect Theodore to be in his room.”
“A few hours, huh? Well, that might be enough time. I think I know where I can find him. Don’t you worry yourself. I’ll have him back in a jiffy!” Mr. Carlson was soon out the door and down the street, deeply lost in his thoughts. He’s probably at the lake; the idea came to him. Where else would that swan take him?
“None of the grown-ups can see you.” Theodore said to his friend. “They don’t believe me or any of the other kids.”
The large bird laid its soft, white head on the boy’s shoulder.
“Oh, not that it bothers me if they don’t believe, but if I keep on talking about you, mom won’t give me breakfast or lunch or dinner, forever and ever! Well, maybe not that long, but, gee, she’s awfully sore, and so is dad!” he sighed. “I don’t know what to do.”
The beautiful bird lifted its head and looked at Theo with its bright, onyx, black eyes. It blinked softly and made a small sound from its throat.
“Of course I love you!” the boy said. “But how can I keep you? The grown-ups will never believe! Never! They just can’t see you!”
“I see him!” a quiet voice said.
“Mr. Carlson!” Theo jumped. “How...?”
The man walked over and patted the swan’s head. “Hello, old timer. It’s been a long, long time since we met!”
“Hey! Mr. Carlson! You can see him! You can really see him!” Theo’s voice was joyous.
“Sure I can!” Tom said. “Can’t you?” he asked, grinning.
“Well, yeah, but...”
“Come here to me Theodore, I’d like to talk to you.” Mr. Carlson moved his glance from Theodore to the swan. “Will you excuse us, Longfellow?” The swan nodded its great head as if to comply.
“Longfellow?” asked Theodore as the man and boy stepped to the lake’s shore. There, they both sat Indian style.
“Mmm-hmm. That’s what I used to call him.”
Theodore just stared at this special adult, waiting for something more to be said.
“You know your mother is very concerned as to where you are. Why did you leave your room?”
“I didn’t know what to do! Mom hit me. She never did that before. I was feeling real bad when Aesop,” he pointed to the swan now lying on the grass and pruning his snowy feathers, “that’s what he told me his name was, came to the window. He wanted to see me. Is mom real mad at me?”
“No. Not so much angry as worried.”
“Mr. Carlson, how come you can see Aesop...I mean Longfellow, and none of the other parents can?”
“Theodore,” he sighed and hugged the boy. “How can I tell you?” He released Theo and jostled the lad’s hair. “I guess the only explanation I can give you is hard to understand. You see, my boy,” he paused, trying to think of just the right words. “Grown-ups, today, have lost touch with their childhood;" he stopped and cleared his throat. “No that won’t do! Let’s see...did you know that everyone has two hearts in one lifetime?”
“Two hearts?” Theo asked.
“Why sure! Well, not the physical kind, you know. Not the one that’s right here,” he held his hand to his chest and stood, “where we hold our hand to pledge allegiance to the flag! ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to...’ well you know the rest. He sat back down. “No, not that kind. I’m talking about the kind of hearts that make us feel things. Happy things and sad things. We all have two of them!”
“Why two?” asked Theodore.
“No one knows why, for certain, but it seems we have a ‘child’s heart and a grown-up’s heart. The problem is that as we get older, most of us forget about the child’s heart. That is to say, we forget the things we loved as children, but worse, we forget how hard we loved them and how important and real they were to us then. Magic is not impossible for children. Riding on the back of a giant swan is as real as forcing down a forkful of spinach. Only one of those things is a great deal more fun!”
“But what about you? You didn’t forget?” asked Theodore.
“No. I didn’t forget. I felt...I knew it was possible to grow up and keep a little piece of that child’s heart. Which,” he groaned as he stood up again and winked at the swan and laughed, “is why I can still see Longfellow...er, Aesop."
“But now is the sad part, Theodore. We can’t keep Aesop and his magic to ourselves forever.”
“But I’m not!” protested Theo. “I let the other kids see him and ride him and,”
“I know, son. But it’s the magic in your heart that lets it happen. The others, they have their special friends too. Oh, maybe not as grand as our friend, but then I’m not so sure he doesn’t choose us as the other way around.
“Still...if we’re to finally grow up, and, like it or not, we must, then we have to let him go on to other children. And Theodore, it’s that time for you. You have to give him up, but you must do it of your own free will.”
“Give him up?” the boy cried. He ran to his swan and hugged its neck, pressing his tear stained cheeks against Aesop’s soft down. “But why?” he sobbed.
“Theodore, try to understand, that as our bodies get taller and stronger, so do our hearts; even the ones not hiding in our chests. It’s then that the grown-up heart takes over and the child heart gets smaller and smaller.
“But, if were lucky, just as you and I have been, to have met Aesop, we can learn to keep a small part of that child’s heart forever. And you’ll never laugh or scold your children when they tell you about a magic swan who takes them everywhere. Why? Because you’ll remember and you’ll know he really exists. And you’ll say to yourself, as I did, ‘Maybe he’ll let me see him just once more.’ And he will! Just as he lets me see him as clearly as I see you.”
Theodore released the bird’s neck. He used his sleeve to wipe his face, which was red and puffy with tears. Sniffing he said, “I guess I have to say good-bye, then, huh?”
“Are you ready to start growing up?” Mr. Carlson asked.
“Oh, sure! I mean, I love Aesop and all, but I’ve spent so much time with him I haven’t been paying attention to the things I’m supposed to do around the house. I haven’t been much of a help to mom and dad either.”
“Ah, you see,” said Mr. Carlson, “you are growing up. Thinking of others and about their feelings is a sure sign.” He smiled at the boy. “But don’t say good-bye. Say, 'so long'. He’ll know you don’t want to forget him then.”
Theodore turned back to Aesop. “Well, fella. I guess it’s—so long!" he choked. "You see, I’ve got to grow up now. But, I’ll always remember you. Honest! I wouldn’t...I couldn’t ever forget you!” He gave Aesop a final, tearful hug and backed away.
The great swan looked toward the sky and stretching upward as to fly away, its beautiful, white body rose upward and vanished from sight.
“Thanks old man,” whispered Mr. Carlson. “Thanks for letting him grow, and letting me say hello again.”
As the sun began its slow descent in the western horizon, the two grown-ups walked quietly back to town.
My eclectic, artistic background and biography.
I provide a detailed, intimate look at my personal life and background for those of you who hold such interests.
And in case you didn't already know, the owner, designer, artist & writer of this site happens to be
If this is surprising and/or especially disturbing news to you, then you're probably a stranger and got here by mistake. While being gay is a real and significant part of my life, its political agenda, its cause and effect, is NOT the running purpose of this site. This site expresses many of the personal and artistic facets of my life as well as provides a forum for professional and non-professional theatrical and artistic interests and pursuits, for both the watchers and the participants.
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My one and only life partner for 21 years!
April 9th, 1936 - September 30th, 1989
Some of my pencil/pen and ink renditions, cartoons and portraits!
This page of my artwork is dedicated to my favorite Divas!
This is a dedication memorial page to my mother, Lillian Marie Hoyt ~ Pfleger/Chiusano
I created transparent, clipart you may use freely for your email or web pages!
An Extension of my performance past!
My whole new family and my newest artistic endeavor!
Stories, prose & poetry by yours truly. Still under construction.
SOMETHING JUST FOR FUN
Take a walk down memory lane, or drive down in your '57 Ford Fairlane...
What do you remember about the 50s??? What have your parents told you????