Friday, February 29, 2008

Chapter Seventeen, In which I have Thanksgiving with Weirdo

On the Friday after Thanksgiving I got a call from Weirdo.

“Hey, do you want to have Thanksgiving dinner with us?”

“What, you mean next Thanksgiving?”

“No, this Thanksgiving.”

“You’re a little late aren’t you? It was yesterday.”

“Well, we are having Thanksgiving today because my mom had to work all day yesterday.”

I didn’t even know Weirdo’s mom had a job. I still don’t think she had a job, but I didn’t worry too much about that. I counted myself lucky to get a Thanksgiving dinner two days in a row. I put my jacket on and walked over to Weirdo’s house.

When I came to his driveway I saw a big sign hanging in the window of Uncle Jake’s RV. It was a messy drawing of a turkey eating a person. Uncle Jake had written “Happy People Day” at the top. I knew it was Uncle Jake who wrote it because in the corner he also wrote “The Dragon Bleeders Rock!”

I rang Weirdo’s doorbell and his Uncle Luis answered. He was wearing his gloves and sunglasses and standing there at the door looking at me like he wasn’t sure if he knew me. Finally he asked if I needed something. I was surprised to see him because I didn’t see his bike outside the house, plus I was still embarrassed about the last time I met him.

“I… I… I…” The reason I was there totally escaped me.

“Did Weirdo invite you over to partake in the bountiful spread of our Thanksgiving dinner?”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but I recognized the word ‘Thanksgiving’. He spoke very friendly to me, which made me feel more comfortable around him, especially after making fun of him and his goofy bike so much.

“Yeah, Weirdo invited me.” I glanced behind myself and asked, “Where is your bike? I didn’t see it.”

“Oh, that wacky excuse for a vehicle?” I thought for a moment he was trying to make me feel bad. “I sold that thing a couple weeks ago. I was getting a little embarrassed riding that thing around. Why ride on two wheels when you can ride on eight?” Uncle Luis reached behind the door and picked up a pair of old white roller skates. He put the skates down and closed the door behind me as I came in the house. I didn’t say anything about the skates, I learned my lesson already.

Everyone was already gathering around the dining room and I could smell great food as I walked up the stairs.

I came into the dining room and looked at the table. They put the extra leaves in the table so it was super long and there eight chairs around it. On the table was a humongous platter with all the food on it. There were mashed potatoes, corn, jellied cranberries, stuffing, biscuits, green beans, sweet potatoes and the turkey all cut up and ready to eat at the center of it all.

When everyone sat down I tried to get a chair next to Weirdo, but his sister and Uncle Jake got there first. I ended up sitting between Uncle Luis, who took his glasses off but still wore his gloves, and Weirdo’s Grandpa Carl, who I never met before.

I tried to say hello to Grandpa Carl, but he was so old that I don’t think he even knew there was anybody sitting next to him. Uncle Jake heard me say hello to him and laughed.

“Don’t even try man. G-man Carl is so far gone that he probably thinks your Weirdo.”

I looked at Grandpa Carl, who was staring at his plate and fiddling with his fingers. He turned to me slowly and said, “Now that’s a good boy.”

Once everybody was seated at the table Weirdo’s dad announced, “How about we all give our thanks for this great food?” He looked to his right and said, “Let’s start with you, Mother.”

“Well,” Weirdo’s mom folded her hands and closed her eyes, “I would like to thank the good lord for his many blessings this year, and for the gifts he has provided for this Thanksgiving meal. Thank you, Jesus our lord and savior.”

Grandpa Carl called out, “And also with you.”

Uncle Jake chuckled and said, “We’re not in church Grandpa.”

Everyone else laughed a little too. Then Weirdo’s dad straightened up in his chair and folded his hands.

“I would like to thank the magnificent ways of natural selection for evolving the elements of the universe into this delicious Thanksgiving feast.”

Grandpa Carl started to say “And also…” but Weirdo’s mom politely patted him on the hand to make him stop.

Next it was Uncle Jake’s turn. He scratched at his beard and looked at the corner of the ceiling.

“I am thankful for electric guitars.”

Weirdo’s eyes lit up. He grabbed Uncle Jake’s wrist and said, “Hey, I was going to say I’m thankful for electricity. That’s kind of the same thing. What a coincidence!”

Uncle Jake pulled his wrist away and rolled his eyes. Weirdo sat up in his chair and put his finger in the air.

“I’m thankful for…”

We all said at the same time, “Electricity.”

Weirdo frowned and said, “Hey, that’s not fair.” Then he turned to his sister and said, “I guess it’s your turn.”

Weirdo’s sister slouched a little further in her chair and said so quietly we almost couldn’t hear, “I’ll be thankful when I get these braces off.”

“And also with you,” Grandpa Carl said.

Weirdo’s dad motioned to Uncle Luis, who was picking lint balls from his gloves.

“Oh, my turn?” He put his hands in his lap. “I’m thankful for smoothly paved sidewalks.”

My turn was next. I should have been thinking about what to say instead of listening to everyone else, because my mind was totally blank. I tried to buy some time by speaking very slowly.

“I… am… thank… ful… for…”

“Spit it out,” Uncle Jake demanded.

“I’m thankful for… uh… uh…”

Weirdo’s mom said in her overly sweet voice, “There must be something you’re thankful for. Are you thankful for your family?”

I nodded my head.

“Are you thankful for your school?”

I wasn’t, but I nodded my head anyway.

“See, there are plenty of things to choose from. Just pick one.”

I still couldn’t think of anything. I closed my eyes and thought really hard, then decided that I would just open my eyes and say I was thankful for the first food I saw on the table. I opened my eyes and tried to look at the food, but Weirdo was crossing his eyes and puckering his lips at me, trying to make me laugh.

“Weirdo,” I said. “I’m thankful for Weirdo.”

Everybody was very quiet for a second. Then they burst out in laughter.

Weirdo’s sister said, “Oh come on, you can’t be serious.”

I nodded my head and confirmed, “No, really, I’m thankful for Weirdo.”

When I said that everybody got really quiet again and looked down at their plates. Weirdo spoke up.

“That’s kind of weird, man.”

Weirdo’s dad said, “Well, to each their own.” Then he turned to Grandpa Carl and said, “You’re up, old man.”

Grandpa Carl put his wrinkled finger against his chin like he was thinking really hard for something to say. We waited for two minutes. Finally he opened his mouth, but no sound came out. We waited some more.

He opened his eyes wide like he had an idea. He pulled his finger from his chin and put it in the air and said, “I was born on Christmas Day.”

Everyone laughed, and Grandpa Carl put his finger back on his chin and muttered to himself. Then everybody put their napkins on their laps and situated their plates and silverware in front of them.

I figured it was time to dig in when I saw Uncle Jake scooping some mashed potatoes onto his plate. I reached out took a biscuit from the platter, and then reached for the big fork used to dish out the turkey.

“Whoa, hungry little feller,” Weirdo’s dad put his hand on my hand to stop me from picking up the turkey fork. “I don’t know how you do Thanksgiving in your house, but that’s not the way we do it here.”

I figured he was talking about me reaching across the table. I wasn’t allowed to do that at home for any meal, but I didn’t think I was reaching that far.

“Sorry, can you please pass me the turkey?”

“You’re just not getting the message are you?” Weirdo’s dad gestured to the rolls in front of me. “You’ll need to wait your turn for the turkey. There are plenty of rolls for you right now.”

I wondered what the heck he was talking about. Then I looked around the table and saw what he meant. Weirdo was scooping all the corn onto his plate. Weirdo’s mom was removing all the stuffing from the platter and putting it on her plate. Uncle Luis took all the sweet potatoes. Uncle Jake took all the jellied cranberries. Weirdo’s sister took all the mashed potatoes. Weirdo’s dad took all the turkey, and there was a lot of turkey. Grandpa Carl was putting all the green beans on his plate, one at a time.

That left the biscuits for me. I felt weird doing it, but I piled all the biscuits on my plate and watched the others to see what they would do next.

Before I had time to guess what they were up to, they all dived into their plates like this were the first and last Thanksgiving they ever had.

“Coo it, Unga Jage,” Weirdo said with his mouth full of corn. Little yellow pieces spit out as he talked. “Weave some cwanbewies fo a wes of us.”

Uncle Jake slowed down a bit, took a big bite of cranberries and said, “don cawk wi yo moug fur.”

I munched on a biscuit, feeling bummed that I wouldn’t get to eat any of the other food. I wondered why in the world they would eat this way. Who ever heard of eating a plate of just one thing for Thanksgiving?

I was halfway through my biscuit when Weirdo’s dad called out, “Switch!” Everybody put their silverware down and pushed their plates to the person sitting to the left of them.

The half eaten biscuit was still in my hand when I pushed my plate to Grandpa Carl. He saw that I was still holding on to my biscuit.

“Thief! He’s a thief. Your son is a thief!”

Everybody stopped what they were doing and stared at me. Weirdo’s dad told me to give the biscuit in my hand to Grandpa Carl. I thought it would have been rude to pass half eaten food to someone else, but I just went along and put the biscuit on top of the rest of them and finished scooting the plate over to Grandpa Carl.

Uncle Luis passed his plate of sweet potatoes to me. I hated sweet potatoes. I could only imagine what kind of goofy rule they had for not eating what was in front of me, so I took tiny little bites but mostly just pushed the food around on the plate so it looked like I was eating it.

I looked next to me because Grandpa Carl’s head fell into the plate of biscuits. He immediately started snoring.

Weirdo shouted, “Free biscuits!” then explained to me that if someone falls asleep at the table you don’t have to wait for that plate to be passed around. I took my half eaten biscuit back and the rest out to the others around the table.

It seemed like forever before the mashed potatoes came to me. There was plenty left, but they were a little cold. Plus, there was no butter or gravy to put on them. Weirdo’s mom said, “Not everybody likes butter or gravy, so it wouldn’t be right to ruin a perfectly good plate of mashed potatoes with unwanted accoutrement.”

I asked what accoutrement meant, and Uncle Jake snapped, “It means butter and gravy. What did you think it means?”

* * * * *

Finally the plates had been passed around twice and Weirdo’s dad announced, “Last call!” Weirdo explained to me that last call means the plates would go around one last time, so you better get enough of your favorite food because you wouldn’t get another chance.

Everybody began eating faster and messier. I had my eyes on the jellied cranberries, and they were going fast. The rule was that you could not finish the entire plate of something unless it was the plate you started with and everybody had gotten two turns with it. So I wasn’t too worried about there being enough cranberries. Although, when they finally came to Uncle Luis, which meant that I was next, there was the tiniest little bit left. Uncle Luis knew the rule, so he just took a tiny little speck and ate it very slowly while he waited for Weirdo’s dad to call out “switch”.

When it was time to switch I sat looking at the little dab of cranberries left on the plate. There wasn’t even enough to fill my fork. I decided to try something sneaky. When everybody was staring out the window admiring a red cardinal on the birdfeeder, I at the rest of the cranberries in one quick bite. Then I lifted up Grandpa Carl’s head and pulled out the biscuit plate and slid the cranberries plate in its place. Then I started munching on one of the many biscuits that was left as if nothing happened. When the bird flew away nobody even noticed what I did.

Finally all the plates were passed around and everybody sat back in their chairs and sighed. One by one they all got up from the table, leaving all the plates and uneaten food, then left the dining room; everybody except for Grandpa Carl, who was still asleep, and me, who was wondering where everybody went.

I walked away from the dining room to look for Weirdo. Uncle Luis was sleeping on the couch in the family room, and Uncle Jake was sleeping on the floor next to the couch. Weirdo’s sister’s door was cracked open and I could see her sleeping on her bed. Weirdo’s parent’s door was closed, and so was his. I cracked it open and saw him sleeping on his bed.

I thought for a moment about finding some place to fall asleep too, but I didn’t want to be around when Grandpa Carl woke up and somebody would need to explain why there was cranberry juice all over the side of his face. So I decided it would be best if I just went home.

When I got there my mom asked how Thanksgiving at Weirdo’s was. I told it her was okay. Then I asked her what accoutrement means.

“Accutra what?”


“I don’t know, but it sounds French. Why? Where did you hear it?”

I said, “Oh, nevermind. I read it in a food book at Weirdo’s.” Then I went and lay down on my bed.

Thanksgiving at Weirdo’s was by far the strangest meal I ever ate, but I can’t disagree at all with one thing. The nap afterwards is the best idea ever.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Chapter Sixteen, in which a rabbit's foot brings us luck

I was walking to Weirdo's house one Saturday when I saw him poking around in the woods that separated our neighborhoods. He was kicking around dead leaves and looking all over the ground. I entered the woods and approached him.

"What are you looking for?"

"I dropped a twenty dollar bill a little bit ago, and I can't find it."

"Why did you have your money out in here?"

"I was going to pay the woodland faun to teach me some spells."

"You what?"

"I said, I was going to nail it to this tree."

"But I thought you said you were going to pay a woodland faun."

"Oh, so you did hear me the first time? So are you going to help me find it, or just pretend to be deaf all day?"

Weirdo pointed to the other side of the woods and said he hadn't looked over there yet. So I went to that area and slowly walked around looking just in front of my feet. We looked for at least thirty minutes and found no money. We did, however, find a lot of other interesting things.

We made a small pile by the big tree in the middle of the woods. There were: three old lighters (two yellow ones and a blue one), a dirty shoelace, a few soggy pages from a newspaper, a plastic fork with one prong broken off, a torn piece of flannel cloth, an empty peanut butter jar, six soda cans (three diet pepsis, two regular, one dr pepper, and one generic cola), a thin metal rod, a ripped envelope and our favorite... a black bowling ball with a big chunk broken off.

I steered clear of the old bucket Weirdo used for his BM, but Weirdo assured me he checked inside it twice already. My neck was getting sore from looking down. I finally said to Weirdo, "I don't think we're going to find it. We've looked this whole place over twice."

"Three times a charm, my friend."

So we scoured the woods for another twenty minutes. We found some more items: another diet pepsi can, a long rusty nail, a tangled ball of yarn, a piece of a tennis ball and the missing prong from the plastic fork. No twenty dollar bill.

"Man alive, that was fun! It probably wouldn't be so much fun if I actually had lost a twenty dollar bill."

My mouth dropped open.

"What, you mean you actually thought I lost a twenty dollar bill. You are something else."

"Why did we just spend an hour looking for something that you knew wasn't there?"

"It was a treasure hunt, except that you didn't have to pretend, because you really believed there was money to be found. You should thank me."

"Thank you for wasting an hour and putting a kink in my neck?"

"My grandpa says that if you can't make lemonade out of lemons, then you don't deserve any lemonade at all."


"Are you pretending to be deaf again? Come on, let's go get a bag from my house to put all this cool stuff in."

We turned to leave the woods and saw Blake Wilson coming in. He treated us much nicer after he put his hand in Weirdo's BM that day, but he was still a jerk.

"What are you losers looking for, your barbies?"

"No," Weirdo said, "they're at home. I lost a twenty dollar bill and we couldn't find it."

"Are you serious, a twenty dollar bill?"

"Yeah, you can have it if you find it."

Blake left us alone and immediately started searching for the money. We heard a voice from the other side of the woods.

"What are you guys looking for?"

It was Eric. He lived in the house behind mine and played with us in the woods sometimes. When he came near I said, "We lost a twenty dollar bill. You can have it if you find it."

Weirdo and I left the woods laughing to ourselves. Erik and Blake were searching carefully for the money.

"Weirdo, don't they look like dopes looking for something that's not even there?"

"Yeah, but not as dopey as you looked. Because I didn't even tell you that you could have it if you found it."

I thought about that for a moment, then heard Erik's voice cry out, "I found it!"

Weirdo and I turned to see Erik running towards us with a dirty twenty dollar bill. Weirdo punched me in the arm.

"Ow, what is that for?"

"You told him he could have it if he found it."

"You told Blake that he could have it if he found it!"

"Do you worry about everything, or just dumb stuff?"

Erik stopped in front of us and put the bill in his pocket and pulled out a green rabbit foot key chain.

"Boy, this rabbit foot sure is lucky. Thanks guys, I'm going to buy a new Nintendo game with this. See you later."

Erik ran across the woods towards his house. He stopped for a moment near Blake, who was still searching, and said, "Watch out for that bucket over there. It looks like someone took a dump in it."

* * * * *

I told Weirdo that I had a lucky rabbit foot at home.

"Why didn't you go get it when I told you I lost a twenty dollar bill?"

"But you made that up."

"You always get hung up on the details, don't you? Go get it anyway, I lost a baseball in the field next to my house. Let's see if your's really is lucky."

We ran home and got the rabbit foot. Mine was purple, but I lost the chain part so it wasn't a key chain anymore. Weirdo grabbed it from me and we went to his house. We looked around in the field next to his house for only two minutes before finding an old baseball in some brush.

"Wow, your's really is lucky too! This is awesome!"

I remembered the baseball I lost in my neighbor's garden. They lived behind us and had a huge garden separating our yard from their's.

"Let's go find my baseball!"

"What are we waiting for?"

We ran to my backyard and started poking around my neighbor's garden. We found the ball almost right away.

"Wow, not only did we find your baseball, but we found about a hundred strawberries too!"

I looked at Weirdo and he had red juice running down his chin. I knew we weren't supposed to eat my neighbor's strawberries, but now that Weirdo had one I might as well have one too.

I picked a nice red one and pulled the stem out. As I put it to my lips I heard my neighbor, Mr. Shepherd, open the sliding door at the back of his house. I pulled the strawberry away from my mouth, but it was too late.

"What do you think you're doing?" Mr. Shepherd stood at the edge of his garden with his hands on his hips. He wore just a pair of gray sweatpants and his bedroom slippers.

Weirdo and I stood speechless, caught in the act. I tried to drop my strawberry so Mr. Shepherd wouldn't see.

"Well you might as well eat it now. It won't do anybody any good laying there in the dirt. I sure as hell won't eat it after it was on your lips.: He walked halfway across the yard to us. "Who told you you could eat my strawberries?"

I shrugged my shoulders and looked down at the strawberry I dropped.

"Did I tell you you could eat my strawberries?"

We shook our heads.

"Then who told you you could eat my strawberries? Oh, you must have made that decision on your own. That's funny, they're not even your strawberries and you decide who gets to eat them."

"We're sorry Mr. Shepherd. We won't eat any more."

Weirdo was hiding one behind his back, and I was trying not to look at it. Mr. Shepherd shook his head and walked back inside. He stood at the door and looked at us through the glass until we left the garden.

"Boy, your neighbor sure is a grouch. But your rabbit foot sure is lucky. We found two baseballs, and we got to eat a bunch of strawberries."

"I didn't get to eat any."

"You see, that's the problem with you. You just aren't aggressive enough. Come on, let's go back over to my house. We lost the remote to the downstairs TV. I bet we can find it with the rabbit foot."

We walked back over to Weirdo's. He ate the strawberry as we went and when we got to his house we went to the basement.

"Here, give me your rabbit foot."

"I don't have it. I thought you had it."

Weirdo folded his arms and pursed his lips.

"I do not have it. I remember giving it to you when we went to your backyard."

"And I remember giving it back to you right before we got caught by Mr. Shepherd."

I checked all my pockets again for the foot. Nothing.

"Great," Weirdo said, "what do you use for luck when you're looking for a lucky rabbit foot?"

Uncle Jake, who we didn't notice laying on the sofa, said, "You get yourself a rabbit trap, some carrots and a gun. When the rabbit enters the trap you shoot it."

"Why would we shoot a rabbit?"

"Because that way it won't hurt the rabbit when you cut its foot off."

"Why would we cut its foot off?"

"Because it's a rabbit's foot you want, right?"


"Then where do you think you get a rabbit foot? From a pig?"

"You mean those things are real rabbit feet?"

"If they weren't real you would buy them off the shelf for five bucks. You get them for a quarter in the gum ball machine because rabbits are free you dummy. Fake rabbits cost money."

Weirdo and I looked at each other and frowned. I wiped my hand against my pants. I had no idea lucky rabbit feet came from actual rabbits.

Weirdo said, "Well, what else is lucky? Uncle Jake, you said you got lucky last night. What did you have? A dragon scale or something?"

Uncle Jake sat up on the couch slowly and stretched. He pulled at his whiskers and smiled. "I grew a lucky beard. Works every time."

Weirdo and I both felt at our naked chins. Then we noticed that Uncle Jake had been laying on the remote. Weirdo reached for it but Uncle Jake slapped his hand away.

"You lost your lucky rabbit foot. I guess it ain’t your lucky day."

Weirdo got mad at that. He scrunched his eyebrows and stared hard at Uncle Jake. Suddenly, Weirdo reached and yanked out a piece of Uncle Jake's beard out and ran up the stairs.

"Owwww! Grow your own you little twerp!" Uncle Jake held his fingers over the little bald spot on the side of his chin and looked at me. He held his chin up to me and sighed, "Well, you might as well make it even."

I smirked and reached out. I yanked at his beard and ran up the stairs laughing with a bunch of whiskers between my fingers. Uncle Jake yelled out behind me, "Oww! Not so much! I doubt if you can handle that much luck!"

Friday, January 18, 2008

Chapter Fourteen - In which Weirdo and I tell scary stories

I asked Weirdo to spend the night at my house. He pulled at his lip and thought about it for awhile.

"Okay, but you aren't going to make me sleep in the same bed as you or anything are you?"


"Then I guess I can make some time for you."

The next day he was going to get off at my stop with me. Since my stop was six stops after his, and since Weirdo had never been to my house before, he got to see where a bunch of other kids lived.

"Oh man, this is so cool to see how the other side lives. I ride the bus every day with all of you, but you never really know a person until you see where he lives." Weirdo pressed his face against the window. "Ooh man, whose house is that? Did you know a wise man said 'Home is not the place where you live, but the place where you belong', but my Dad says that most people never find where they belong so they may as well just throw that saying out the window."

I often found my mouth hanging slightly open when Weirdo talked.

"Oh man, look at the size of that maple tree. I bet he could hang some sweet Halloween decorations from that. What kind did he hang up last Halloween?"

"I don't know. Who cares?"

Weirdo pulled a big ziplock bag from his backpack. It had a little tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, his night time mask in a tube and what looked like a little thing of chapstick.

"Why did you pack chapstick?"

"That's not chapstick, it's deodorant."

"I've never seen deodorant like that before.

"That's what they give out in jail. Uncle Jake got it when he went to jail last month."

"What did he go to jail for?"

"He says it was because he drank too much coffee at a party and got arrested for speeding on the way home."

We turned down my street I showed him where my house was. He made a face like he was disappointed, but didn't say anything.

* * * * *

I spent the afternoon showing him around my house and yard. If I showed him something he thought was interesting he would tell me I did good for myself. If I showed him something he thought was ordinary he would just nod his head and stay quiet. He became bored with my tour and asked to see the kitchen.

My mom was in the kitchen looking through the phone book when we came in. She asked if we had any requests for Chinese food.

"My mom makes her own Chinese food. She had a Chinese boyfriend in college who taught her Tai Chi and how to roll a perfect egg roll. Do you know how to make General Tso's sauce?"

My mom stared at him.

"Maybe my mom can call over and give you some pointers. That's if you have the right ingredients, though."

Weirdo opened our pantry and looked through it. He shook his head as he pulled out a can of Del Monte green beans.

"My dad says that anybody who buys Del Monte is a sucker. They all come from the same farm, but Del Monte costs more just because of the label. Did you know that?"

My mom took the beans from him and placed them back in the cupboard. Then she gave me the look.

"Come on, Weirdo. Let's go downstairs."

My older brothers shared a room downstairs next to the TV room. I sat down on the couch and turned the TV on. Weirdo was gone. I called for him and heard him in my brothers' room. My oldest brother had a locked trunk that he kept all his comic books in. The trunk was open and Weirdo was sitting on the floor next to it reading through all the comics.

"Weirdo! My brother is going to kill us if he finds out you broke into his trunk."

"Relax, he was just in here and said I could read them. He opened it for me."


My brother never let me read his comics. I sat down picked one up to read it. My brother walked in.

"What are you snots doing with my comics? How'd you break into my trunk?"

I looked at Weirdo. He looked back at me with big eyes and said, "What?"

"You said he opened it for you."

"That was so long ago, why are you even talking about it still?"

Weirdo tossed the comic he was reading back into the trunk.

"Besides, I already read #42. I have them all the way up to #56."

My brother looked surprised. "You mean you have Bonzai Man #'s 43 through 56?"

"No. I have #'s 1 through 56. I even have a special edition of #12 that's never even been read."

My brother was impressed. He picked me up by the arm and pushed me out of the room. The door closed behind me. I sat and watched TV while Weirdo and my brother sat by the trunk full of comics and talked about Bonzai Man and all the other cool comic book characters I knew nothing about because my mom wouldn't let me buy them and my brother wouldn't let me read his.

The doorbell rang and my mom yelled, "The food is here!" We all ran upstairs to the table. My mom passed out paper plates and forks.

"You guys eat your Chinese food with forks?"

We all stared at him. My dad looked at the fork in his hand and asked, "What do you expect us to use, our fingers?"

"You guys are too cute. My dad says that if you eat Chinese food with anything other than chopsticks you might as well dip it in ketchup too."

I kicked Weirdo beneath the table and gave crinkled my forehead at him.

"Well, I guess I can use a fork too. It won't hurt just this once."

* * * * *

After dinner Weirdo and I played in the back yard until it was too dark. We came inside and began getting ready for bed. We brushed our teeth together in the bathroom, then Weirdo pulled out his chapstick size deordorant and rubbed it into his armpits.

"You put deordorant on before you go to bed?"

"The mask makes my whole body sweat."

"Oh come one, please don't put that mask on. It's weird."

"Try eating Chinese food with a fork. That's weird."

Weirdo said he would do me a favor by not wearing the mask as long as I slept on the floor so he could sleep in my bed. I agreed. We went to my room, made my bed on the floor and turned the light out.

"Hey, I brought a surprise in my bag."

"What is it?"

I watched Weirdo reach into his bag and pull out a flashlight.


"We have flashlights. What's the big deal?"

"Yeah, maybe you do, but do your flashlights do this?"

Weirdo pushed the little white switch and the flashlight turned on, beaming a bright circle on the ceiling. None of the flashlights in our house ever had batteries that actually worked. So I agreed with Weirdo that his was pretty cool.

Weirdo told me to get settled in, because he was going to tell me a scary story. He put the flashlight under his chin to make his face look real creepy.

"Last year... there was a man who worked at the bank. His boss told him he needed to get some papers signed by one of their clients. So the man went to the client to have the papers signed, but when he got back to the bank he couldn't find his brief case."

I was waiting for it to get scary.

"He looked, and looked, and looked for the brief case everywhere. He eventually told his boss that he lost the briefcase with the papers in it. His boss fired him on the spot."

I thought there was more, but Weirdo just looked at me waiting for me to react.

"That's it?"

"What do you mean, 'That's it?' Wouldn't that scare you silly if it happened to you?"

"I don't know. It doesn't sound scary.”

"The here, you tell a story scarier than that."

Weirdo handed the flashlight to me. I held it underneath my chin like he did. I felt like an old Indian storyteller sitting around a fire late at night in some tepee far out in the mountains.

"Once upon a time..."


"I didn't even start yet. Shut up."

I couldn't see real well in the dark, but I knew Weirdo was rolling his eyes.

"There was a man driving down a lonely highway at midnight. His car broke down and he had to pull over. There was nothing around but trees on every side. He didn't know what to do and thought he would have to start walking down the road to the next gas station miles away. He started walking, but then saw a light far off in the forest. It looked like a little cabin. He walked..."

"This had better get scary soon."

"It's called building up suspense. Now shut up."

"I think it's called a bedtime story for two year olds. Come on, let's get this story moving already."

I shook my head and continued.

"He walked into the forest and deep into the trees until he finally came to the little cabin. There were candles lit inside, which he could see through the little windows, but there was nobody in there. He opened the door and screamed! There was an old woman laying dead on the floor with blood all around. He heard something running toward the cabin. He turned around and screamed again! There in the doorway was giant wolf man with blood around his mouth!"

"Enough! That is so stupid. I thought we were telling scary stories here. We might as well save the batteries in my flashlight."

"What do you mean that's not scary? What's so scary about some dummy losing his job?"

"That could really happen! My Dad lost his job once and it was really scary. Wolf men aren't even real. How can it be scary if it can't happen?"

Weirdo took the flashlight from me and shined it underneath his chin again.

"Okay. Do you want to hear something really scary? I mean really, really scary?"

I nodded my head.

"Once, and this is a true story by the way, my Uncle Jake was on a plane that crashed high on top of a mountain. A bunch of the passengers died, but there were many who were still alive, like my Uncle Jake. There were stranded for days and were getting very hungry. They had no food at all except for chocolates that they passed out on the plane before it crashed. After three days, Uncle Jake decided that he was so hungry he could eat anything. He walked over to one of the people who died in the crash, licked his lips and started to..."

"No, that's gross. Don't even say it."

"What? Don't say that he checked the pockets for more chocolate? He was dead, you know. Dead people don't need chocolate."

"I thought you were going to say that Uncle Jake wanted to eat the dead person."

"Oh, that is gross. Why do you say things like that?"

"Well, then what's so scary about taking chocolates from a dead person?"

"I wasn't even done. Can I finish?"

I nodded in the dark.

"Uncle Jake knelt down next to the dead guy. Very slowly he reached into the guy's pocket. He didn't find any chocolates but he screamed when..."

Just then the flashlight batteries died and the light went out.

"Humph. I guess I'll just have to finish telling you later."

Weirdo put the dark flashlight back into his bag and fell asleep on my bed.

For once Weirdo was scary. Too scary. I wasn't sure that I wanted to know how the story ended, so I didn't ask him to tell the rest. I don't know what Uncle Jake screamed at, but my mind wandered the possibilities.

He screamed when the dead person grabbed his arm? He screamed when a spider hiding in the dead person's pocket bit him on the hand? He screamed when he found that the pocket was full of blood?

I pulled the blanket over my head and tried to think of happy things. I thought about throwing balls at a target to knock a clown in the water. I thought about how many colors of sprinkles are on donuts. I tried to think about Abraham Lincoln, but I remembered that he was dead. That threw my mind right back to Uncle Jake with his hand in a dead man's pocket.

I had a very hard time falling asleep, just like every time I sleep at Weirdo's house. Somehow he always creeps me out at night.

* * * * *

Weirdo woke me up in the morning. He was excited because he forgot that he packed an extra set of batteries.

"Now I can finish the story."

He turned the flashlight on and put it under his chin. The morning sun was shining and the flashlight didn't make a difference.

"So Uncle Jake put his hand in the dead man's pocket to look for chocolates. Then he screamed when he saw a helicopter come towards the mountain. He jumped up and waved his arms, and the helicopter pilot saw him and rescued all the survivors."

I stared at Weirdo.

"That's why he screamed? That's it? Geez Weirdo, what's so scary about that? I was up all night scared out of my wits."

"What do you mean what's so scary? The helicopter pilot almost didn't see them and they could have been stranded forever."

We were both quiet for a long time, just looking at each other. Weirdo scratched his head and looked at the corner of the ceiling. After another moment he said, "I saw my sister kissing Blake Nelson the other night."

"Now that's scary."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chapter Thirteen - In which Uncle Jake buys an RV

One day in the summer I walked to Weirdo’s house and saw a big, junky RV sitting in his driveway. The parts that were supposed to be brown had turned orange, and the parts that were supposed to be white had turned brown. The screens on the windows were ripped, and somebody made a rainbow on one corner with spray paint.

As I walked up the driveway Uncle Jake burst from the creeky door on the RV and skipped into Weirdo’s house. Weirdo came out of the RV a second later.

“Why is Uncle Jake so happy today?”

“Because he finally got his own place.”

“You mean he’s moving out?”

“Kind of. He just bought this RV and he’s going to live in it.”

“Where is he going to move it?”

“Nowhere, he’s going to keep it here in the driveway.”

Uncle Jake came out of the house whistling and holding a white plastic bag.

“Come on kids,” he said in the happiest voice I had ever heard him speak in before. “I have a house warming present for all of us.”

We followed him into the RV. It was so hot inside that I instantly started sweating. Uncle Jake slid open the windows and plugged in a small fan.

“Now careful, kids. I tried to sweep all the mouse poop out, but there still some under the cabinet there.”

I looked to where he pointed and saw a small opening beneath a counter and shuddered to think of all the dust and mouse poop underneath there. Weirdo and I sat at the rickety table near the door and waited to see what was in the plastic bag. Uncle Jake sat down with us and dumped out three chocolate bars.

Weirdo and Uncle Jake promptly pulled theirs from the wrapper and licked the entire bar up and down. Then they set to taking huge bites. I unwrapped half of mine and took only a few bites before they had finished theirs. Uncle Jake reached for mine, and I pulled it away.

“You ate your’s. This one is mine.”

Weirdo also reached for mine and said, “But you didn’t lick it all the way. Whatever you haven’t licked belongs to anybody.”

I quickly unwrapped the rest of mine and went to lick it when Uncle Jake tried to snatch it from me. He accidentally knocked the bar from my hand and it flew onto the floor, sliding beneath the counter.

Uncle Jake lept from the table and reached his hand beneath the counter. Suddenly he stopped and opened his eyes real wide.

“What do we have here?”

Uncle Jake pulled a small dusty box from beneath the counter and placed it on the table. We gathered around closely and stared at the box.

“What do you think it is, Uncle Jake?”

“Well, it could be anything? Whoever owned this sweet RV before me must have forgotten this under there.”

I said that maybe it was filled with rubies. Weirdo and Uncle Jake laughed at me. Weirdo put his ear to it.

“I think I can hear a voice in there. Do you think there could be a fairy in there?”

Uncle Jake listened.

“I don’t hear anything. If there’s a fairy in there, it’s probably dead.”

I suggested that they open it to see. Uncle Jake blew the dust off the top and very carefully opened the lid.

“Dear sweet Jesus, would you look at these.” Uncle Jake put his fingers in the box and lifted out an old set of dentures. We were in awe.

“Just think of some old geezer riding across the country in this RV, couldn’t remember where he put his teeth,” Unlce Jake said looking back and forth between Weirdo and me. “Now he’s probably laying dead in his grave wondering where his teeth are.”

While Weirdo and Uncle Jake marvelled at the false teeth, I went to the corner where there was a tiny bathroom. I slid the accordian door open and squeezed myself in. It was so small in there I could barely get my pants undone.

When I finished and came out of the bathroom Uncle Jake stared at me.

“What did you just do in there?”

“I went pee.”

“Why did you go in there of all places?”

“Because it’s a toilet.”

“Yeah, a toilet that doesn’t work! Oh great, guess what now?”


“Weirdo, go inside and get some paper towels. We have to soak your friend’s pee out of my toilet.”

* * * * *

When we finished soaking all my pee out of the toilet Uncle Jake told us to leave because he wanted to take a nap in his new pad. It was still boiling inside the RV so I was glad to leave. Weirdo and I went and played in his backyard for awhile. When I was ready to go home Weirdo asked me if I wanted to spend the night in the RV.

“Uncle Jake is spending the night at his friend’s house tonight and he said we could sleep in the RV.”

It may have been dusty, broken down and full of mouse poop, but it sure sounded like fun. I went home for dinner and came back later in the evening with my sleeping bag. We played for long while outside, and when it was very dark we went into the RV. It was still like an oven, but was bearable with the fan blowing right on us.

The box with the dentures in it was sitting on the table. We sat at the table and opened the box to look at the teeth again.

“Go ahead, take them out.”

“Your Uncle Jake won’t mind?”

“Heck no. He won’t care.”

I picked up the teeth and looked at them closely. I almost dropped them when I heard a voice outside on the street.

“Weirdo, who was that?”

“I don’t know. What did they say?”

“I didn’t hear.”

It didn’t sound like some person talking. It sounded like somebody moaned. Then we heard it again, but louder.

“Whooooo haaaaassss myyyyyyy teeeeeeth?”

Weirdo and I stared at each other, frozen. The voice came closer, maybe at the beginning of the driveway, I wasn’t sure.

“Whooooo haaaaaassss myyyyyyy teeeeeeth?”

“They want their teeth, Weirdo. Are these their teeth?”

Weirdo shrugged his shoulders and bit on his tongue. He looked more scared than I was.

There was a knock on the far end of the RV.

“Doooooo yoooouuuuu haaaaaaave myyyyyyy teeeeeeeeth?”

There was a knock at the middle of the RV.

“Doooooo yooooouuuuu haaaaaaaave theeemmmmmm?”

A rattle at the door.

“I waaaaaaaaaant myyyyyyyy teeeeeeeeth!”

I stood up and threw the teeth under the counter where Uncle Jake found them earlier.

“I don’t have your teeth. I put them back! I don’t want them! Leave us alone!”

The door shook, someone moaned. Weirdo and I backed away. Weirdo said he peed his pants a little. I looked and there was a dark spot on the front of his shorts.

The door shook again and it opened! Uncle Jake burst through the door holding his belly and laughing. Weirdo fell over holding his belly and laughing too.

“Oh, we got you good. Oh, so good. Weirdo, that was good, peeing your pants a little. Just like I told you to.”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed too. I felt silly to be joked on like that, but I was relieved.

Uncle Jake went over to the cabinet and got on his knees. He reached under it to find the teeth, but he stopped and a strange look came over his face. He pulled his hand out slowly and held it up in the light.

Uncle Jake began wimpering as we all looked at the dark substance covering the side of his hand and running down his wrist. He made an awful face and cried, “Ewww, what is it?”

Weirdo grabbed his arm and looked closely. He sniffed at the stuff, then licked it lightly. Weirdo’s eyes lit up.

“It’s the chocoate bar we forgot beneath the counter! It’s melted like chocolate syrup. Awesome!”

Weirdo and Uncle Jake fell to their knees and reached beneath the counter. They repeatedly dipped their fingers in the melted chocolate and licked them clean.

“Mmmm,” Uncle Jake said, “I didn’t know I bought you a crunch bar.”

I thought for a moment, then said, “You didn’t.”

“Then why is this so crunchy?”

We all realized it at the same time, and in unison shouted, “Mouse poop!”

Weirdo and Uncle Jake ran to the tiny bathroom in the corner of the RV and puked into the toilet. They finished gagging and slid to the floor with their backs against the dirty brown wall, laughing and sighing.

I asked Uncle Jake if his toilet was still broken. He closed his eyes and banged the back of his head against the wall a few times.

“Weirdo, do you favorite uncle a favor. Go get the paper towels.”

We slept in Weirdo’s room that night.