ISSUE I
June 2008

Inklings is the teen literary magazine of the Associated Libraries of Monroe County: Barrett Friendly Library; Clymer Library; Eastern Monroe Public Library; Pocono Mountain Public Library; and Western Pocono Community Library.

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Ranch of Riddles

 

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Inklings

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SHORT STORIES

Ranch of Riddles

Eric awoke with a start, feeling the last vestiges of a dream fade under the weight of a new day. He rolled over and stared blearily at the clock beside his bed. It flashed a wild array of unintelligible numbers, giggled out a high pitched alarm, and gave up the time, 5:34 am. Throwing back his blankets, Eric sat up and set his bare feet on the floor. His stomach growled.

The house was quiet, for once, the halls dark with the receding shadows of night. As he made his way down the stair, Eric considered the possibility that the fridge might yield up something good for breakfast—something he wouldn’t have to beat into submission before he ate it. At the bottom of the stairs he heard a series of soft squawks from the empty bird cages in the den. Eric shut the door. It was early. His parents and his six-year-old sister wouldn’t be up for another half an hour, unless the house roused them.

When he reached the kitchen, he picked up the straw broom beside the old fridge and turned to survey the kitchen. Sure enough, someone had forgotten to put the artichokes into the refrigerator last night. There were two, green veggies, rolling around on the top of the chopping block bumping each other and making small choking noises.

Eric raised the broom. He had no patience this morning for the odd or weirdly odd. Besides, he really hated artichokes because they were always killing each other off and leaving a sticky mess for him to clean up.

“Get off the counter,” Eric hissed and brought the broom down with some force upon the restless veggies. He missed. The artichokes tumbled off the chopping block, hit the floor with small meaty thuds and rolled under the cabinet. He could hear them gasping and wheezing in their hiding place.

With a snort of disgust, Eric went to the fridge, opened it carefully and peered at the contents. Everything looked normal. No food wars today, thank God. He set the broom aside and snatched a jar of jelly, a loaf of bread and a container of butter. The bread lay docile in his grasp to lazy to put up the usual battle. As he set the food on the now vacant chopping block, his eyes scanned the kitchen for anymore stealthy fugitives. This was the routine at his house—be alert, be prepared, and never, ever put anything into your mouth before examining it first.

He carefully selected a plate from the cabinet above the chopping block. His luck held steady because when he opened the cabinet door the saucers weren’t hovering like UFOs and none of his dad’s drink coasters flew out to spin wildly in loop-de-loops over the top of his head. Still, Eric took nothing for granted in a house where dust bunnies took over vast territories under beds, in closets, or under the living room couch. Yeah, those things sounded cute until you saw what they did to your sock and shoes.

Eric studied the jar of jelly with great caution. He’d removed two slice of bread and placed them on his plate. He was ready for the jelly, but a movement inside the jar caught his eye. Unscrewing the lid, he peered into the jar. A jellyfish floated there like a big pink and purple bubble. It sported an amazing mass of swirled tentacles and a sail which was perched upon its top like a crown. He almost dropped the jar when he realized was it was.

“A Man O’ War in the jelly!” Eric exclaimed, “What’s next?”

He carried the jelly jar to the sink and poured the creature down the drain. Then he turned on the food grinder. There was a satisfying whirl of blades. Tiny purple blobs splattered the sink. He ran the water to get rid of the remains then shut off the garbage disposal. Leaving the empty jar on the counter, Eric turned his attention to the butter container.

He bent back the edge of the lid so he could glimpse inside without risking serious injury. No sooner had he leaned over to look in the container then great globs of yellow erupted into the air. He snapped the lid back into place and snatched the two slices of bread from his plate. He knew that eventually the butterflies would melt away into little yellow puddles, but he couldn’t wait because he was starving. He jumped around the kitchen slapping the slices together and squishing the butterflies until none were left to flutter about the kitchen.

As he took a seat at the breakfast table, his sister, Alex, entered the kitchen. She was wearing a pair of teal flannel pajamas. Two furry dinosaur slippers graced her feet. The dinosaurs roared and flashed felt teeth at each other as if they were competing for food. Alex’s blue eyes filled with laughter. She twitched her feet back and forth, laughing at the antics of her footwear.

Just as Eric shoveled the sandwich into his mouth, he spied his mother standing in the doorway. She was wearing her favorite robe, a periwinkle blue that his dad bought because it matched her eyes.

“Yo Mom,” Eric mumbled, crumbs dribbling from his mouth..

Alex was suddenly at Eric’s elbow, pulling at his sleeve. “My slippers won’t let me walk right.”

He glanced down and saw that the dinosaurs had spotted the artichokes hiding under the chopping block and were straining to attack them. “Take them off and stash them under the chopping block,” he suggested. He figured the artichokes would be history.

“You’re up early,” his mom said as she entered the kitchen and checked the clock on the microwave. There was a smiley face where the time should have been displayed. Unfazed, his mom walked to the table, picked up the butter container and went to the fridge. “Everything okay this morning?” she asked as she opened the door. Eric waited for something to fall out or attack or just jello his mom, but nothing happened. It was weird that nothing ever happened to her. He wondered whether she had ever found Nessie in her coffee pot or had to chase her scrambled eggs across the floor with a spoon.

“Have you seen my wallet?” his mom continued as she withdrew a grapefruit from one of the drawers in the refrigerator. It was purple and swollen and reminded Eric of the now deceased Man O’ War in the garbage disposal. “I took it out of my purse yesterday to write a check for the plumber. And that reminds me, the plumber says he has no idea what that was clogging up the sink.”

“There’s always something clogging up the sink,” Eric’s father stated as he entered the kitchen. He held up something in his hand.” Here you are sweetheart. I found it stuck on the wall again. I guess there’s an advantage to knowing where the wallets turn up at the end of the day.” He took a seat at the table next to Eric and pick up the newspaper. It was just a plain old paper, Eric noted. It didn’t bite or snarl, or leave an unpleasant residue behind, maybe because it came from somewhere outside the house.

“Great Gargoyles!” his dad said. “There was a hit and run late Saturday night over on Barksville Drive. Two people were seriously injured. The police think it may be alcohol related. An eyewitness says she thought she saw a car full of teenagers cruising the area a few minutes prior to the accident.” Pausing to turn the page, his father continued. “Hours later the witness, herself, was run down by another vehicle which was later abandoned in a nearby parking lot. Talk about a run of bad luck!”

“That’s not far from here,” Eric’s mother said. “Weren’t there several accident’s last summer over in Sun Valley?”

“I guess so,” his father replied. “I don’t think anyone was caught, either. What a shame. I understand the families of the victims are having a hard time paying for the medical bills. I hope they catch these goons, before someone gets killed.”

Eric glanced at his sister who was happily chomping on the peanut butter toast his mom had dropped in front of her while cutting up grapefruit. He slowly leaned down and pulled her slippers out from under the chopping block. The tips of dinosaur’s noses were tinted green. No more choking noises.

“Too bad nobody’s seen them,” Eric’s mom said as she slid into the seat next to his dad.

“Oh they’ve been seen, alright. It’s probably why the witnesses keep ending up in the hospital. You’d have to be a fly on the wall to catch these guys and not get hurt—or invisible.”

“Eric can be indivisible,” Alex suddenly piped up.

“Here are your slippers,” Eric said and slapped them down on the table directly in front of his little sister.

Alex shrieked.

“Get those off the table!” Eric’s mom yelled.

“Eric!” His father hollered simultaneously.

Alex snatched up her slippers and ran over to the sink. She stuck them under the faucet. The dinosaurs roared, gurgled, choked and roared some more.

“I saw him do it!” Alex cried.

Eric’s father gave his son a stern look. “I don’t want you putting dirty slippers on our table, especially while we are eating.”

“He did it twice!” Alex shouted over her father.

“Well if you do it again,” Eric’s mom warned, “You’ll be washing the table before every meal for the next week.”

“I haven’t done anything,” Eric muttered. He glared at Alex.

“Liar, liar, pants on fire!” Alex sang at him. She tossed her dark head and gave their parents a knowing look. “Eric is Superman. He’s indivisible sometimes.”

Eric abandoned his seat with a terse comment that he needed to get dressed. His sister’s chanting followed him up the stairs. He slammed his bedroom door and stuffed some dirty socks in the crack at the bottom to keep Alex from peeking underneath.

Going to the mirror over his dresser, Eric stared at his reflection. When could Alex have seen him? He had tried to be so careful. Even the kids at school at no idea he could become invisible. Eric reached inside his pocket and fingered the bits of colored paper he always keep there. Closing his eyes, he focused intently on the colors of each strip. The process was like diving into a pool of ice water. An unpleasant sensation of cold started at the top of head and rippled down into his neck, then torso and into his arms and legs.

He opened his eyes and saw no reflection. A squeal of delight behind him caused him to spin around. Alex had followed him upstairs, pushed open his door, and squeezed her face into the narrow crack.

“I told you! Mom, Dad, Eric’s doing it again!” Alex’s face disappeared.

Eric charged after his sister, forgetting he was still invisible. He caught up to Alex at the bottom of the stairs and grabbed her under her arms. She flailed wildly.

“What the heck is going on? Eric’s dad came around the corner from the kitchen.

Alex broke free. Eric, off balance, pitched forward and crashed into his dad’s sturdy frame. Father and son fell over backwards landing hard on the wooden floor. Eric heard his father grunt as he took the full brunt of their fall.

“Alex! Don’t you tell!” Eric bellowed. He climbed over his dad who let out another loud ‘whooofff! when Eric’s elbow jabbed him in the stomach.

His sister was hiding under the table, screaming about Superman, or Spiderman, or something like that. He dove after her, seized her by her arms and pulled her out from under the table. Lifting her up into the air he yelled into her face.

“Don’t say a word!”

“Mommy!” Alex wailed. She hung in mid air, like a little fairy without wings.

The response was immediate. Something hit Eric on the top of his head. He nearly dropped his sister as his mom appeared. She was swinging the loaf of bread back and forth as if swatting flies. It took him a couple of seconds to realize that she couldn’t see him. The loaf of bread was no longer loafing. It stiffened, getting harder by the minute so that the succession of blows that hit Eric actually started to hurt.

“Let go!” His mom roared like an angry mother bear. “Jonathon, get in here and help me! Something’s got Alex!”

Eric’s dad appeared carrying the vacuum cleaner. “I think it’s some kind of poltergeist. Keep distracting it. I’ll suck it up and toss the bag into the garbage disposal!”

“Oh, no you won’t!” Eric’s mother cried, “I’m sick of paying that plumber to fix the sink!”

“Then I’ll flush it down the toilet. It’ll end up in the septic tank. It’ll suffocate in there!”

With both his parents on the attack, Eric released his sister and ran for the kitchen door. This was horrible. He was about to be unmasked! How would his parents feel about having a freak for a son? A quick glance over his shoulder revealed that his dad had plugged the vacuum in and was untangling the hose. Eric tripped over one of the chairs, knocked over a plant and wrenched open the door to the backyard. The lake was visible through the trees. Remembering the kayak, he ran down the path to the dock where the boat was tethered. Feverishly picking at the slipknot, Eric peered back at his house. He had left a trail of footprints in the muddy path and his father was following those tracks. The vacuum bounced along behind his dad.

“Honey, get the extension cord out of the garage!” His dad shouted. “It’s headed for our dock.”

Clamoring into the kayak, Eric tossed the rope at his feet, shoved away from the dock, and picked up the oars. His father arrived at the dock, the vacuum several feet up the path, the hose stretched to its limit, just as Eric started to row away from shore. Looking down at himself, Eric realized he had lost his focus and was actually flickering in and out of his invisible state. He heard the clunk of the hose as his father dropped it.

“Eric, Is that you?”

Ignoring his father's question, Eric paddled faster until he was out of earshot of his father's voice. When he reached the center of the lake, he ceased to paddle and let the Kayak glide without guidance. A steady wind blew from the East, Gently pushing his boat in the
direction of the dam which kept the lake from flooding the lower part of Hallowood acres.

As the kayak floated along the surface of the water, Eric's thoughts drifted with it, He wondered what his father was saying to his
mother. Would she believe him? Would they gather Alex and jump into the minivan in the hope that they might cut him off before he
reached the dam? Or worse, what if they did nothing? What if they didn't care enough about him to find him and bring him home? With his thoughts churning wildly Eric slipped his hand into his jacket pocket and absently rubbed the paper between his thumb and index finger. By the time the kayak reached the dam, it appeared as though it had no captain and that the oar simply sat idle upon bow. Eric waited until the kayak touched the shore along the left side the dam before carefully climbing out onto dry land. He tethered the boat to tuft mountain laurel jutting out of the bank. The path Eric followed was well known to him. It was used mostly by the deer population and was a thin, uneven track that required agility, balance, and stamina on the part of the hiker. He traveled easily upon it until he came to a gravel road. Turning right, Eric made his way to the main road. He was thinking of a quiet place not more than a few paces from the fence of a big, green Farmhouse.

It was a soothing place where Eric sometimes went to dip his feet in the creek and toss pebbles at the trout while he listened to the
conversation that drifted out from the front porch of the farmhouse. The main road ran over the creek by way of a narrow metal bridge. Eric liked to sit in the shadow of its grated form. Sometimes he'd be showered with dirt as a large truck passed over head. Once he got brained by a beer bottle as he sat there working through his problems. Today the creek water was too icy for a toe dip and the trout were too sluggish to offer good sport, so he simply sat on the bank to mull things over.


A loud squeal of rubber against asphalt shattered the stillness. Eric heard a meaty thud. A instant later something plummeted over the rail of the bridge and landed with a terrific splash in the creek. Leaping to his feet, Eric dashed the muddy water out of his eyes and stared, astonished, at the man who lay face down and in the water. Instinct kicked in. Eric waded into the creek and carefully turned the man over on his back. An unconscious man could drown in shallow water. As he pulled the man onto shore he was mindful of that fact that the stranger might have unseen injuries.

"Hey you! What do you think your doing?"

Eric's head snapped up and four faces which peered over the steal railing of the bridge. For a moment, Eric was to surprised to answer. Then he recovered and motioned for them to come down.

"Help!" Eric cried, "Somebody hit this guy and left him here to drown!"

The four faces simply looked down at him. The injured man groaned. He twitched, his lips moved slowly.

"Dang kids! They did it on purpose!"

The blood froze in Eric's veins. He glanced up at the faces and noticed that they weren't showing any concern for the victim of the
accident. An unpleasant realization struck Eric hard.


"You stay right there!" One of the faces ordered, "We're coming down."


Eric looked down into the face of the stranger. It was crinkled with pain and yet the man managed to reach into his coat and pull out a cell phone.

"Run, boy, RUN!"

Eric didn't need to be told twice. He turned tail and ran. The creek led back to the dam and the kayak. Eric ran along its banks, leaping over fallen trees and dodging large boulders the size of a compact car. Behind him, he heard the sounds of pursuit. Had Eric's pursuers been raised in the woods like he had, they might have caught him.
He could hear their clumsy attempts to keep up and knew that they were city kids who couldn't catch a kid on a tricycle without
dialing North Star for directions. He reached the dam and found his
kayak. Just as he was pushing off from shore the four pursuing boys came into view.
Eric paddled for home. The shock of seeing the stranger fall had made him visible and the fear of what might happen to him if they caught him had kept him visible. He had to focus. He had to become invisible. It took him a few minutes to reach his family's dock. Eric jumped out of the kayak and ran for the house. He didn't know
whether the boys had followed him along the shoreline of the lake but he didn't want to take any chances. As he past the drive way of his home he saw that the family minivan was gone. A flicker of relief streaked through him. His family had gone out to search for him after all. Eric paused. He fought to catch his breath. A screech of tires brought him upright. There, at the foot of his driveway, was a red sport car. Three faces peered out of the passenger's side, three faces he recognized. How the heck had they found him? Eric didn't have time to come up with an answer. The red sports car pulled into the driveway. The doors popped open. Four figures emerged and charged toward him. Eric ran for the backdoor of the house. He prayed the door was unlocked. Sometimes the house got resentful when the family went out and would go into lockdown mode, sealing itself up so tightly not even a spider could gain entry. Fortunately, this time the house seemed indifferent to the family's departure and Eric was able to enter with ease. He immediately went into the kitchen to search for a phone. When he saw that his parents had taken it with them, he shifted his attention to the kitchen drawers. Maybe he could find something in there that he could use as a weapon.

He found dishtowels, potholders, and lots of great spices, but no silverware. In the top cabinets he located yellow dish wear and matching cheerful mugs. In desperation, Eric tried the cabinets under the sink. He found a couple moldy sponges and a bag of potatoes with beady eyes that peered up at him with alarm.

"Great what am I supposed to do, throw napkins at
them?" Eric groaned. The napkins on the counter crinkled angrily at him. The jellyfish came to mind. Eric opened the fridge door and saw only a small jelly jar remained. Inside the container, a tiny baby blob

pulsed weakly.

"Drat!" He returned the jar to the shelf. There were a couple of pork chops hacking away at a bunch of grapes and a ball of dough that rolled in tight circles around an open pack of barking hot dogs.

"Games up, small fry," an unfamiliar voice said.

Eric straightened and peered around the fridge door at the boy standing in the kitchen. Great, it was one of the faces from the sports car. Why didn't the house work its mischief on these bozos? Reaching into the fridge, Eric grabbed whatever was within reach and threw it and the intruder. The hot dogs hit the boy right in the face. The dogs latched onto the kid's lips, cheeks, nose, and earlobes. Stumbling back, the boy frantically slapped at the mad hot dogs. He tripped over the vacuum cleaner left near the table and fell into the living room. As the boy hit the floor, the couch potatoes erupted from beneath the sofa
cushions where they had been snoozing and swarmed over the struggling boy.

Eric had never realized how many couch potatoes lived in the couch cushions. There must have been hundreds, for waves and waves of infuriated potatoes assaulted the thrashing boy.

"Well, I guess you won't be much trouble any more," Eric said. At that moment the front door opened. In the doorway, there stood another of the faces from the sports car. The boy spied Eric and rushed forward across the threshold. Turning away from his large adversary, Eric ran up the stairs. He made it halfway up the stairs before he felt fingers close about his ankle.

"You are so dead!" The boy stated.

Eric looked around for something to throw. There, perched at the top of the stairs, were Eric's long lost sneakers. Those darn things had snuck away a few months back while he was taking a shower. His
mother claimed that true athletic gear never liked being shut away in a box; they were shoes that liked action and needed exercise to contain
their aggression. There they were white, new, and never worn.

"Sic-Em!" Eric yelled. The response was immediate. The sneakers began a wild dance as if some invisible person was jogging in them or, Eric hoped, revving up for action.

"Get him you dumb shoes!" He roared again.

Suddenly one of the sneakers flew straight at Eric and smacked him in the forehead.


"Ugh" Eric grunted. The force of the hit sent him stumbling backwards right over his attacker. He lay stunned on his back at the bottom of the stairs. In the background he could hear an odd rhythmic noise.

"Oof, oof, stop!"

Lifting his head Eric spied the boy pinned up against the wall. The sneakers were hammering him from all different directions over and over again as if to an inaudible beat. The boy cowered up against the wall, covering his head with his arms.

"That's two," Eric muttered as he rubbed the bump on his forehead.

The sound of shattering glass brought Eric to his feet. He listened intently, concentrating over the sound of the rioting couch potatoes and the pounding sneakers. A second crash led him conclude that at least one of the two remaining invaders had discovered the art
room. Eric mounted the stair deliberately stomping on the foot of the subdued boy as he stepped over him. The upper hall was dark. Eric
had to pass Alex's room and his parent's room in order to reach the art room. He slowed as he came abreast of Alex's bedroom door and
eased by without incident. When he came to parent's room a shadowy figure emerged and blocked the hall.

Eric, temporarily caught off guard by the sudden appearance of another boy, stared up at the kid.

"This is for making me chase you!" The shadowy form said. The blow knocked Eric off his feet. He lay on the hallway carpet while little
cherubs danced in front of his eyes. It figures I'd get little chubby babies instead of stars, Eric thought to himself, this house is always messing up the clichés.

"Now we're going to dance and you’re gonna swear you'll never tell nobody nothing about what you saw and what we did!"

Eric decided this guy was a dope. The hit and run victim had a cell-phone. The police were probably on the way. All Eric had to do was hold on until help arrived. The boy clenched his fist again. There was no doubt he intended to make mincemeat out of him before the imminent rescue. Eric closed his eyes. He wondered whether he'd see cherubs or stars or maybe broccoli. His fingers curled into the shag
carpet with tension. Then, something occurred to him--the color of the carpet.


Eric grinned and disappeared.

"What?" His attacker exclaimed.

That was the last word the boy uttered. As he peered around for Eric the door in the ceiling, the attic door, alias, 'attack door', suddenly swung down on its hinges and struck the boy’s back with the force of a baseball bat in the hands of pro-ball player. The boy flew over Eric's head, hit the wall, and tumbled down the stairs. He must have
taken out his friend, who was still pinned against the wall by the furious sneakers, because there was a tremendous crash and then a strange rumble that was accompanied by the frenzied thump of sneakers on flesh. There was a lot of yelling, too.

Eric reappeared, climbed to his feet, and gently tested his limbs. "Three down, only one more to go," he said grimly. The house was proving to be very helpful after all. Maybe he had been too hard on
it. His dad always said you could tell the caliber of a friend by the way that friend stood by you in troubles times. Well, this was definitely a time of trouble. Funny, Eric had always thought of the house as something to live, eat, and sleep in, but this house was different. It was a reject. A freak. Nobody had wanted it until his Mom and Dad had come along. They claimed it was special. They said it had potential. Well, they ought to see it now, acting all bad and mean, taking out evil dudes left and right. Eric rubbed the bump on
his forehead. His mom's words echoed in his head, "It’s all in the way you look at it, dear, it’s all in the way YOU look at it."

Eric took a deep breath and walked toward the art room door. “Okay, it's you and me against them. Just try to miss me on occasion okay?”

He reached for the doorknob of the art room and discovered that it was unlocked. He pulled it open revealing the mess that lay within the room. The jumble of his parent's projects still littered the room. Eric’s

gaze traveled over the mess. No evil dude. Maybe the house sucked him into one of the dusty vents. Stepping further into the room he examined the far wall opposite to the door through which he had entered. Someone shoved him from behind. The door to the art room slammed shut. He stumbled, nearly fell on his hands and knees, then spun around to face his final adversary.

The light from the windows revealed the boy’s face, he was

a lot bigger than the others, a lot taller, and perhaps a lot
smarter, too. He seemed to have escaped the house's pitfalls

well enough.

Eric waited for a second, but nothing happened.

“Uh, anytime you’re ready,” he said to the silent house.

"All right kid, its over, the clever tricks end here. I'm starting to wonder what's with this freak house of yours. I’d like some answers but I think I'd rather knock your teeth out instead."

He was pulling up his sleeves, looking totally menacing. When the boy took a step towards him, Eric retreated further into the room. The bump on his head throbbed. Eric started thinking about finding a place to hide.

Just as the boy reached out to take hold of Eric’s shirt, there was a horrific scream. A hideous gargoyle soared through the broken window. It was one of the gargoyles from the rooftop. Its once lifeless stone eyes burned with a purple glow and its granite teeth were barred in a ferocious snarl. It landed in the center of the room. The floorboards groaned under its weight. Folding its sandstone wings, the

huge monster uttered a low, terrifying growl.

Eric dove out of its way, taking refuge under a broken piano.

The boy’s face drained of color. His hands were still raised

but the fingers were now spread out as if to ward off the beast.


"What is that?"

The Gargoyle sat back on its stony haunches. Opening its mouth wide, it inhaled so much air out of the room that Eric felt as if he was in a gigantic vacuum. The dude was turning out to be not only evil but woefully stupid as well because even a dimwit knew better

than to stand there and make a target of himself. With a gurgle like a broken faucet, the gargoyle's gullet convulsed. A jet of water
spewed from the gaping mouth of the stone sentinel. It hit the boy squarely between the eyes.

"Argh!" yelped the boy as he fell back onto the stacked sheets of music in the corner. A wave of dust rose around him. He sputtered, coughed, and began to wheeze. As though on cue, an army of dust bunnies hopped from their hideaways beneath furniture, out of cracks, crevices, and old shoes to attack the boy. The thug spun around, tilting and dipping as fuzzy puffs of allergens exploded like tiny mushroom
clouds around his head. He staggered about the room making gagging noises. The Gargoyle drew back its stone fist and whacked him firmly on the crown of his head. The boy gasped, his eyes rolled up, and he toppled like a ton of bricks onto the art room floor.

Eric stuck his head out from under the piano and peered at the unconscious boy. When there was no further movement from the dude, Eric slid out from under the piano and stood. The gargoyle yawned widely. Its purple gaze settled on Eric. For a brief moment Eric thought it might douse him with water, too. A flicker of yellow
shone in its gaze. Then, to Eric's disbelief, one grey eyelid slowly dropped, hiding the purple iris in a ponderous wink.

At the Gargoyle’s feet, the thug lay still. His chest rose and fell with each breath. It made Eric feel better to know the boy wasn't dead.
The wail of a siren broke the silence. Eric heard a great deal of noise outside. In the mist of the chaos he heard his mother calling his
name. She sounded angry and scared and lots of things all at once. It seemed the world wasn't defined in singular terms anymore for Eric. The world had become larger in one day.

Eric heard car doors slam shut, just outside the window. He turned back to look at the Gargoyle. He glimpsed the tip of its forked tail as it disappeared through the broken window and out into the night. Eric smiled faintly and ran for the art room door. He pulled it open and charged down the hall. He had just reached the landing when the front door flew open. Police swarmed inside followed by his worried looking parents and his little sister, Alex, who seemed more interested in the sneakers lying inconspicuously at the foot of the stairs then in the strange boys. Eric slid out of the officers’ way as they tramped through the door, spread out, and halted in the center of the living room. The policemen peered around the room then down at the potatoes littering the floor. One officer curiously toed a couple of potatoes out of the way. The others gathered around a huge mound of potatoes which all but buried two sets of feet.

The mound shifted and more potatoes tumbled everywhere as one of the boys sat up. Red splotches covered his face where the hot dogs had bitten him. His eyes bulged when he saw the cops but he couldn’t move because of the weight of the potatoes.

“Man!” The boy raved his hands in the air. “They came out of nowhere, that stupid kid and his freak house! The potatoes came out of the couch and tried to kill me!”

Eric stifled a laugh as stepped over the two dazed boys at the bottom of the stairs and joined his parents in the living room. Both his parents looked tense but relieved. Eric could feel his mother’s eyes boring into the back of his skull. He knew he was going to have to deal with them later.

The officers seemed unimpressed by the accusations being made with regard to the potatoes. “You are under arrest for vandalism of private property,” one of the officers stated, “for the assault of five people, stealing, harassment, and attempted murder.”

A couple of policemen yanked each boy from the potato pile, then proceeded to put them in handcuffs. The two other boys who were lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs began to argue as the police seized them.

“What about these sneakers?” one of them recounted as he, too, was handcuffed. “They tried to beat our brains out!”

“Yeah, I wanna sue!” the other boy hollered. He glared at Eric. “This house ain’t normal. I bet it’s a UFO or something.”

“We’ll go back to the department and we’ll take a few blood tests, boys, see what’s really been going on,” a policeman with sergeant bars on his shoulder said.

“There is one more upstairs.” Eric offered.

The sergeant signaled for two of his men to follow Eric to the art room. As they trio mounted the stairs, Eric in the lead, one of the officers eyes rested on a wallet that was stuck to the wall at the top of the stairs. Eric grinned and casually plucked it from the wall. “My mother’s an artist. She’s always trying out new glue techniques.” He handed the wallet to the officer closest to him. “Here, I think it belongs to one of the bad dudes downstairs.”

The policeman took it, flipped it open and read the license.

“Yup, this will come in handy in notifying the kid’s family,” the man said with satisfaction.

When Eric returned to the living room with the two policemen and a very dazed boy in handcuffs, his parents came forward and intently surveyed Eric. For a moment Eric thought that his dad was going to yell at him, but to his astonishment, his dad grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him into a manly hug. He felt his mom’s touch as she slid in to hug him, too, and finally Alex’s vigorous hug.

“We were worried sick,” his mother said, straightening as the last boy was being added to the group in the living room.

“So was I,” Eric admitted. He waited until they released them, rubbed his eyes, because they were a bit itchy, not because he was emotional or anything.

As the four boys were being led from the house, the doormat curled up. One of the boys tripped and nearly toppled onto his co-conspirators. “Watch it, you dope,” the boy in front snapped irritably. As the last boy crossed the threshold, the front door slammed shut. There was a shout of pain. Eric’s mother opened the door in time to witness the last boy getting to his feet. He rubbed his backside and cast a murderous stare back at her.

The sergeant stood nearby watching. He held the wallet Eric had turned over to one of the policemen upstairs in the hall. The sergeant gestured for Eric to come outside on the lawn. Stepping carefully over the doormat, Eric obeyed the officer. He went over to where the sergeant stood. For a long moment, the sergeant simply stared at the house, traveling over the patchy grass, the weedy garden and finally the gargoyles perched on each corner of the house.

“So, are you going to tell me what really happened?” The sergeant asked curiously.

Eric’s gaze lifted to the nearest gargoyle. He shrugged.

“Well, sir can’t really say for sure.”

The police were loading the boys into the back of two police cars. The house windows seemed to narrow as though giving the arrested boys one final glare. A glint of yellow in the gargoyle’s eye made Eric glance nervously at the sergeant. Although the policeman appeared to be staring at the same gargoyle, the man gave no indication he’d seen anything unusual.

“That’s a mighty odd house you got there, boy. It might be worth something someday if you fix it up a little,” the man gave Eric an intent look, “maybe modernize it a bit.”

Eric stood on his front lawn with the sergeant. In the doorway, framed by a soft, gold, light, his family stood close together, waiting for Eric to come back inside the house. His family, he was a part of something special, something larger than just himself. It made Eric feel a heck of a lot better to know that he wasn’t alone in the world and that the world was filled with unusual things, not necessarily bad things, just different things.

“I like it the way it is. It makes it unique.”

KW


End of Issue I