Book One in the Harris Huxley Series
By Susan Schroeder
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously.
©2016 by Susan Schroeder. All rights reserved.
Ebook printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address Magnanomite Publishing, 2542 Willow Knoll,
St. Louis, MO, 63129.
Cover design by Peggy Nehmen, www.nkcreative.com
Editing by Karen Dowell
Illustrations by Madeline Schroeder and Mary Schroeder
For the Magnanomites:
You know who you are.
A Special Thank You to Karen Dowell, my friend and editor. Without you, this project would not have come to fruition. Thank you to Priscilla and Bosco Westrich, Kristine Rosa, and Jane Wright, my fresh eyes who caught the small stuff left behind. Thank you to Mary and Madeline Schroeder who listened intently and drew me the fabulous pictures. You are all wonderful. And, to Peggy Nehmen, book designer, who turned the cover idea into a visual reality.
The Information on elves found in this book, also known a Huldufolk, courtesy of Wikipeida.
Book One: Harris Huxley Knows What’s Behind the Door
Book Two: Harris Huxley Falls Into Something Strange
Book Three: Harris Huxley Finds a Fissure to the Past
Book Four: Harris Huxley Plays a Dangerous Game
Book Five: Harris Huxley Takes a Dare
We were like a small army of four, crawling on our bellies across the yard to the big burr oak tree near the center of my neighbor’s backyard. I think Miss Lillie might have yelled at us if she knew what we were going to do in her backyard, so we were being as quiet as possible. She was always looking out her back window at the animals in her yard. She fed the birds, the squirrels, even the butterflies. She had a fat beagle dog named Penny that liked to bark when it saw anyone near the house, and so we were in danger of being found out.
“It’s right near the bottom on the other side of the tree,” Willie whispered. Willie was the biggest of us four. It wasn’t like he was fat or anything, he was just stocky, and he had big muscular arms. He had a mop of brown curls on his head, and coffee brown eyes the shape of almonds. He was the first one to stand up for any of us if we were threatened. He was a good guy to have next to you when there was a bully around, but he could be a bully at times, too. We were sitting in the up-high treehouse just this morning when Willie told us about the little doors and windows he had seen on Miss Lillie’s burr oak tree. “Oh, it’s just the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said in his sweetest old lady voice, “You just have to see it.”
The yard was remarkably quiet, no birds or squirrels moving around. That was strange considering all the bird feeders she had hanging in the trees, plus a bird bath, and several butterfly bushes. We crawled, dragging our bellies and keeping our heads down, as we moved around the bushes to the side of the tree. We crept around to the front and sure enough, there it was, just as cute as Willie had said.
“I wonder if the door comes open,” I said, putting my fingers on the little door knob. I was shocked when the knob twisted under my touch. I pulled on the door and, to my surprise as the door opened just a bit, I saw a bright yellow light behind the door. Then the door slammed shut so quickly all I could do was blink my eyes. ‘Did anyone else see that?’ So I tried it again. This time the knob would not budge, the door would not open.
“Did you see something?” Johnny asked. Johnny was the brains of the group. He even looked like a nerd with his crew cut hair. He had his mom cut his hair almost to his scalp because it was red, and he was always being called carrot top, gingersnap, or just red. His skin was fair, covered almost completely with red freckles. To look at him you would instinctively know that he was the smartest kid in all of sixth grade. He also had a sharp wit, he could make you look really stupid. He was a good kid to have on your side when older kids wanted to tease you.
“What did you see?” Willie pushed his way up closer to the door. He too put his fingers to the knob, but it would not open.
“I’m not sure I saw anything,” I said, although I could have sworn there was a light that came through the open door
“Let me try,” said Justin, the smallest of all my friends. Justin was a good looking kid with blond hair and blue eyes. He was small, but he was wiry. Any acrobatic maneuver that would hurt most guys Justin could perform with ease.
“Oh sure, like you could get the door to move,” said Willie. Justin reached under his shirt to grab the small hammer he had tucked into his pants. “I took this out of my little brother’s building set, thought we could use it.” It was a real miniature hammer. He put the claw side to the door jam, using it like a wedge, he tried to pry the little door open. The door held tight. It was like it had been glued to the tree.
When Justin was red in the face, Willie, the strong man, took the hammer from him saying, “Here, let me try you weakling.” Willie put the claw end of the hammer behind the side of the door on the opposite side that Justin just tried. He pushed hard, grunting as he pushed on the hammer, but still it would not budge. “Who’s the weakling now?” Justin shot back. Willie’s brown curls were sweaty, plastered against his forehead.
“Let me see that,” I said, taking the hammer. This time I put the claw edge to one of the yellow windows, pushing it as hard as I could. The little window pane snapped off the tree landing at Justin’s feet. It came off so quickly that it scared him, causing him to yell and jump backward. The pane of the window was no longer yellow, but just plain white. ‘Did anyone else see that?’ The sound of Justin’s yell alerted the dog inside, it started to bark, and so we ran. “Every man for himself!” I shouted. We scattered quickly out of Miss Lillie’s yard, leaving the window pane on the ground near the tree.
And so it began.
I lay as still as a statue; I could barely see my stomach rise and fall. The acorns were in the folds of my shirt, my hands were just to the sides of my body next to the acorns as I lay on my back in the center of my yard. I had been like this for almost an hour. The squirrel was on the bird bath in Miss Lillie’s yard and it finally spotted me. At first it just stood there staring, but I kept very still. I had my eyes almost closed but I could peek out through my eyelashes. After what seemed like forever, probably only two minutes, he moved. He raced over to the tree, a big sycamore in the center of the yard, then stood still again deciding what to do. Shimmying up into the tree, he ran down the branch that was nearly over my head. He jumped from limb to limb until he was right above me. He hesitated, I knew he saw the acorns waiting to be had. I could almost see the wheels turning in his little pea-brain. He jerked his head, his body followed, and down the tree he scrambled. He hesitated once near my feet, then slowly, as if caution were now part of the plan, he moved onto my shoe. Excitement coursed through me as I felt the pressure of his little body on mine. He moved up my body, slowly taking every step with caution. I had to force myself to stay still. He carefully maneuvered his body right in front of the acorns and looked me right in the eye. I could feel his heart racing in his chest. I could even smell his sweaty fur. He picked up the acorn, his tail brushed against my hand. It’s now or never I thought and I grabbed at the squirrel with both hands, feeling the swoosh of fur as it slid away from my fingers. My hands were jetting back and forth as I was grabbing at the air, but in an instant the squirrel was gone.
I sat up shouting, “Shoot”, (at least that was what I thought I yelled, but it sounded more like something else). I can cuss like a sailor, I am told. I wanted to catch that squirrel. I had already caught two birds and a rabbit. I needed to catch the squirrel for bragging rights. My friend Johnny Slider claimed he had already caught one. I wasn’t going to let the likes of a freckly-faced red-haired ninny-boy best me!
I am Harris Huxley, I am the best bare-hand hunter in all the 6th grade. I can swipe flies right off the counter. I am fast, and I’m athletic too. I’m told that I’m pretty good looking with my black hair and gray eyes, and I am probably the most popular kid in class. The other kids look up to me. That’s right, I’m cool, at least that’s what I’m told. I have the biggest tree, a sycamore, in my yard. Dad says it’s nearly 200 years old. It’s awesome! My dad, who is the coolest dad in all of Yorkie, that’s short for Yorktown, built me a treehouse in that old sycamore. It’s way up there in the leaves. It has a big platform and three walls with a window in each wall. One side is open so you can swing your feet over and look out. There’s a flat roof over the top, so you can sit up high even when it’s raining, but not if there’s lightning. The only way up to the platform is to climb the rope, which is also the only way down to the ground. Not just anyone can get to it, you have to be tough, strong, and able to climb up high. No sissies can come into my treehouse.
Only a small group of boys can climb up there with me. We are the ‘High-up Boys’ in the ‘High-up Club’. There’s Johnny Slider, Justin Mason, and Willie Stone. They are the coolest guys I know because they aren’t afraid to climb up high. We meet all the time, at least once a day in the High-up Clubhouse.
When we started the club, we all had to bring something to put in the High-up Clubhouse. I brought an old rug for us to sit on. Johnny brought a candle, just in case we needed light, although we don’t have any matches. Justin brought a pair of old binoculars. They have some rust, one of the eye pieces is cloudy, but you can still see out of them if you squint your eyes. Willie brought a dancing Hawaiian Girl. We thought it was kind of strange, but when he sat it down in front of us and flicked it with his finger, it started to sway back-and-forth. He looked at our faces saying, “It’s cool to watch.” Johnny burst into laughter, I followed, and so did the others. You may have seen one, it looks like she’s doing the Hula. His mom had it sitting on the dashboard of her car and Willie just took it. I think his mom was mad when it suddenly disappeared. I don’t know why he brought it, but we all secretly like it. It sits in the window, swaying in the wind.
I climbed the rope to the base of the clubhouse floor, popping my head through the hole. “Almost had him,” said a familiar voice. Johnny had been watching with the binoculars. “He jumped the moment you moved your hand. You’re not very steady. When I caught my squirrel, I was steadier. I waited longer, that’s the trick. What I have just can’t be taught,” he said smugly as he ran his fingers though his short cropped hair.
“Oh, shut up,” I retorted. Johnny was such a know-it-all.
“That dumb squirrel jumped before I even moved my hand, it was like it knew I was going to grab him.”
“No, you just moved your hand too slow, that’s all it was.”
“You think you know everything about catching squirrels,” I yelled.
“Well, that’s because I already caught one. I could’ve caught that squirrel, too. I’ll show you how it’s done.” Putting the binoculars down, he grabbed the rope and swung to the ground. He pulled something out of his pocket, laying down flat on his back in nearly the same spot I had lain. He sprinkled something black all over his stomach, closed his eyes and laid completely still. ‘That stupid kid,’ I thought, ‘that squirrel’s not coming back.’ I threw my legs over the side of the platform and picked up the binoculars. If you squinted your eyes you could see quite well. I scoured the yard to see if I could find the squirrel. Just as I thought, the squirrel was gone.
I swept the glasses over Johnny, he was just lying there like a dead man. Well, serves him right. He can just lay there all day as far as I cared. I picked up the Hawaiian Girl, giving her a flick with my finger. She wiggled back-n-forth, smiling at me with her hands held high in the air. I don’t know why I liked her so much, but I did. I was watching her wiggle, thinking about what I could find in the refrigerator, when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head but I saw nothing. I gave the Hawaiian Girl another flick and she wiggled like a maniac in my hand. I smiled, then something hard hit me square on the head. It bounced off rolling to the edge of the platform. I looked down and saw an acorn. “Ouch,” I rubbed my head, “That really hurt.” I reached out to pick it up, I wanted to throw it at Johnny, but it suddenly started to move on its own toward the edge of the platform. I reached for it, but in a swish it was gone over the edge. I watched as it fell the long way to the ground. I instinctively rubbed the sore spot on my head, then I saw it. The squirrel was in the tree looking at me. I thought I saw it smile. Did it throw that acorn at my head?
The squirrel moved to the ground, stopping when it spotted Johnny. I find it fascinating that squirrels can become little statues in the blink of an eye, then move and freeze again. It was doing just that as it was making its way to Johnny. It approached him from the side, sitting up on its hind legs next to him. The sneaky squirrel reached up to take what was on Johnny’s shirt. They were small black ovals but what were they? I put the glasses to my eyes and saw what looked like sunflower seeds. He must have robbed Miss Lillie’s bird feeder! The squirrel cautiously took a seed and cracked it, quickly eating the contents. It looked around nervously. ‘Grab it’ I thought. It took another one, doing the same thing it did before. ‘Grab it, grab it now’, I almost hollered. Johnny just laid there, a small smile lifting the corners of his lips. He’s showing off, he’s going to let that squirrel eat those sunflower seeds right off his shirt. ‘Well, he still hasn’t caught the darn thing,’ I thought. As I watched and waited my mind was screaming, ‘GRAB IT NOW.’
As I impatiently waited, I saw Johnny’s thumb twitch. The squirrel stopped and looked around nervously. ‘Erg, this is killing me, the waiting.’ Then, without even a warning, Johnny was holding that squirrel. I had missed the grab, it happened so quickly. I dropped the Hawaiian Girl on the floor and grabbed the rope. I swung to the ground and stood at Johnny’s side watching him struggling to hold on to that very angry squirrel.
“I got him, did you see how I did it!” he yelled.
Before the squirrel could clamp his jaws on Johnny’s thumb, Johnny let him go, and the squirrel darted off toward the woods. Johnny stood up and brushed himself off. “If you want to catch a squirrel, you have to be smarter than the squirrel,” he said as he smirked at me. “What I have you just can’t teach. Sorry Harris, you’ll never be as smart as me,” Johnny continued, smirking that cocky smirk he sometime wore.
I just stood there looking at him. I couldn’t think of anything to say. He had bested me and that just made me mad. I turned and stomped off toward my house. “Hey, don’t be mad because I’m smarter,” I heard him call behind me. “Are you coming back? The guys will be here soon!”
I shook my head as I passed my mother’s gnome. I couldn’t help myself, I gave it a hard kick in the hat, and a red piece went flying off hitting the back door. ‘OOPS! Mom’s not going to like that,’ but I just didn’t care.
I slammed the door behind me, walking into the coolness of the kitchen. What I needed was a cold drink. I grabbed a glass, opened the refrigerator, and poured myself some juice. I drank nearly half, took several breaths, and drank some more. I put the glass down as I sat on the stool at the counter. “Don’t be mad because I’m smarter,” I mumbled under my breath. A noise from behind startled me and I turned around quickly, knocking over the glass. The rest of the juice spilled across the counter. I tried to grab the glass, but it fell to the floor and shattered. “Shoot” I thought I yelled. I didn’t think the glass was that close to my elbow or the edge of the counter.
“Harris, what did you just say, and what just broke?”
Oh great, Mom’s on to me. “Ah, nothing?”
“That didn’t sound like nothing. Clean it up, and clean up your mouth, too.”
I cleaned up the mess. I was fuming. I went into the living room where she was sitting reading a magazine. My mom was pretty nice, when she wasn’t yelling at me to clean up after myself. I was upset and I wanted some sympathy. I sat down next to her, forcing her to lift her arm and put it around me. I wiggled a bit to get into just the right spot.
She dropped the magazine to her lap saying, “Are you comfortable yet?”
I nodded slowly, wanting her to dote over me. She leaned over, giving my hair a quick kiss then she picked up the magazine. It was filled with ads for soap, cleaners, and recipes. What a boring magazine! I was ready to leap off the couch, but when she turned the page again all I could do was stare at the picture in the middle of the page. There was a big tree, like my tree in my backyard, but on this tree was a door. Not just any door, this door had a rounded top with black, decorative hinges that went halfway across to the middle of the door. The handle was decorative as well, but there was more. Little windows of the same style dotted the tree making it look like there were little rooms with lights on because the window panes were yellow. It was stunning, and I had seen it before in Miss Lillie’s yard. I stared at the picture realizing it was an ad for the little doors and windows that you put on your trees.
“Hey Mom, look at that!”
“Oh yeah, aren’t those sweet? They are supposed to make your trees look like little elf houses. They’re so cute, I was thinking about getting one. Look, there’s the web address.”
“Miss Lillie has one,” I said. “Have you seen it?”
“Not yet, but I’ll make my way over there later.”
Not wanting to sit still any longer, I slid off the couch to run upstairs.
“Nice seeing you,” she yelled after me.
Upstairs, I closed the door and dove on top of my bed. At that moment a trophy that was on a shelf over the bed fell off. It came crashing down on the bed next to me, just barely missing my head. “What else can happen?” I said out loud. It had been like this for a while, all week long, my glasses spilling over, and things falling and hitting me in the head. Just this morning the trash can lid seem to snap at my fingers as I threw my napkin away. It looked like it was trying to bite me.
Things have not been going my way. I was weary of all the bad luck I was having. Pushing my hand between the mattress and box springs I grabbed the journal I keep hidden there. I opened the secret journal, the one our club keeps all our top secret missions in, and started to read what I had written yesterday. In my large, loopy handwriting, I had written, ‘Our team of elite warriors had maneuvered our way into the enemy territory finding the secret habitat of the little people. Upon arrival, they all fled. We were able to destroy their habitat, and scatter their fleet.’ All we were able to really do was knock a fake window off Miss Lillie’s tree, but all of our missions were the same. We were always triumphant, we always went in with a plan, and we always recorded our victory. I was the record keeper and I kept the journal because it was my idea.
Staring at the ceiling, I lay back thinking of a mission could we pull off today. I had picked up my favorite pen and started drawing a picture of a squirrel when I heard a loud whistle. That was Johnny, he could put his fingers in his mouth and whistle so loud it would pierce your ear drums. “They’re here!” I jumped up knocking the journal to the floor as I ran to look out the window. Sure enough, I could see them in the High-up Clubhouse.
I bent to pick up the journal to take it with me when I noticed my favorite pen had started to leak. As I watched, a small trickle started to appear on the paper, then suddenly, like the dam just broke, a gush of blue was all over the journal. I jumped up grabbing for something to mop up the ink before it ruined the journal. What I grabbed was my white sock that was lying on the floor. I used it to quickly wipe up the mess, but what I got was a big blue blob on my paper and a BIG BLUE spot on my white sock! “Great, Mom’s going to love this.” What was I going to do now?
I gingerly picked up the pen, looking closely at it, for now the ink was all over it and it was getting all over my fingers. How could a pen just all of a sudden burst? Something is not right. I needed to clean up, so I picked up the sock and the journal and walked into the bathroom. That was when I saw the blue all over my hands. “Ahhhh!” I yelled. I threw the sock in the hamper, and grabbed Mom’s bar of pink soap to wash off my hands. The stuff wouldn’t come off. When I was tired of scrubbing my hands, I took a tissue to the journal but that just smeared the ink even more. That ink wasn’t going to come off anything, so I closed the journal hoping no one would notice. As I glanced in the mirror I was shocked to see that there was ink on my forehead and chin. I didn’t remember touching my face, but I had to get it off. I opened the cabinet below the sink and heard another whistle. I had to find something, fast! My hand fell on a spray can, hair spray, sure. I sprayed the stuff all over my hands and like magic the ink came right off. I closed my eyes so I could spray my face and I wiped it off as quickly as I could. The only bad thing was that now my skin was sticky, so I grabbed the sweet-smelling hand soap, put it under the stream of water turning the bar over-and-over in my hand until I had a nice lather to wash my face and hands. I was finally clean, but the journal was a mess! I tossed the pen in the trash thinking I could get another from the kitchen drawer.
I made my way to the kitchen and pulled open two drawers, rummaging through, but every pen I found was dead. Just as I heard another whistle I saw a nice shiny pen on the counter so I grabbed it. Out the door I ran. I slid the pen into my pocket, the journal into the front of my pants and climbed up the rope to my clubhouse.
I popped my head through the hole at the top saying, “You miss me?”
“We thought you were mad. Johnny said you couldn’t catch the squirrel so you were home crying like a baby,” mocked Willie. Sometimes I really hated that kid.
“No, I was grabbing the journal,” I took it out of my pants tossing it in the center of the rug. Justin picked it up and opened it saying, “What happened to the journal?” as he pointed to the ink spot.
“Accident,” was all I said.
All the guys stared at the giant blue blob in the center that seemed to seep through many of the pages. “It’s ruined,” said Willie. “You might as well just throw it away.”
“It’s not ruined. The ink spot makes it look more rugged,” I replied.
Justin turned to look at me, his eyes wide in disbelief. He sniffed the air.
“What?” I said.
“You smell funny, like flowers,” he sniffed the air again.
“You been bathing in bath salts or playing with your mom’s perfume?” questioned Willie.
“NO!” I shouted. “I got ink on my hands and had to get it off.”
“Smells like perfume to me,” Willie went on with that smug grin. I could see where this was going and it wasn’t good.
“It’s just soap, you know the kind that gets stuff off your skin,” I protested. In my nervousness, I picked up the Hawaiian Girl giving her a flick of my finger hoping to take the attention away from me.
It was Willie with his infinite teasing that drove on. “I think you smell like a girl. I think you smell like a Hawaiian Girl,” with that they all laughed. I kind of laughed too a little, but I could smell danger in the air.
“I think you smell like ‘POOP’”, I said to Willie, (except, that’s not the word I used).
“Oh, now you’re just acting like a baby,” replied Willie.
“Not just a baby, a ‘Baby Hawaiian Girl’”, said Johnny, causing the clubhouse to erupt in laughter. Willie was on his back holding his stomach, Justin rolled onto his side, his shoulders bouncing up and down. Johnny was slapping the floor saying, “That’s what we should call you, Baby Hawaiian Girl!”
I could feel the heat in my face as rage soared through my body. I knew this had gone into a full-fledged attack and the only way out was a counterattack. The best defense is a good offense, so I had to hit hard, but which one? Johnny was the smartest, he would surely diminish whatever I called him. Willie was the biggest, I had to be careful for he could hurt me. Justin was meek, often tender- hearted, he was my target. I turned and glared at him, I could see he knew it was coming.
“Okay, if you’re going to call me ‘That’”, I spat the word off my tongue, “Then I’m going to call you,” I had to think quickly, “CUPCAKE.” Justin’s face sank. The other boys roared with laughter. “Cupcake, that’s great,” said Johnny as he held his stomach. Willie rolled on his back snorting as he laughed even harder
I was on a roll, I had to hit Willie with something equally bad, but he was laughing too hard to even hear me so I had to wait until he could feel the pain of the blow. Names raced through my head, then I had it! It was just as sweet as Cupcake, but a little more insulting. Just when he was sitting back up, off guard, I turned my evil gaze to him. His eyes widened as he braced himself.
“Snowflake,” was all I said. Justin was the first to laugh, Johnny followed. Willie looked around nervously, then let out a laugh.
“It’s not as bad as Baby Hawaiian Girl,” he said.
I looked over at Johnny who was still laughing, wiping the corners of his eyes. This one had to be good, it had to be so insulting that the others forgot Baby Hawaiian Girl so we would go back to being just Willie, Justin, Johnny and Harris. I curled my lips into an evil snarl saying, “And you Johnny, leader of us all, must be known as Princess Buttercup.” Who didn’t love that name? Everyone roared, especially Johnny. Willie was on his back again snorting, Justin was hitting the floor with his hand, and Johnny was holding his stomach. I had to admit, it was funny.
Finally Johnny calmed down. He looked over at me saying, “Okay, Okay, but just call me Buttercup for short,” and with that the laughter started all over again. I had a bad feeling that those names would stick.
I woke up happy, why I can’t say, but I’m sure I woke up in a good mood. I suddenly realized why when I was getting dressed, it was Saturday, the most perfect day of the week! Every Saturday after breakfast, the guys and I would meet in the High-up Clubhouse at 9:00 am sharp. We would plan our day. We are men of action, we have mischief to plan. It was before 8:00, so I had plenty of time to get ready.
I stood in the middle of my room looking around. What could we do today? I rubbed my chin, lost in thought. I drew a blank, I couldn’t think of anything. I needed to get moving. It was time to hide the essentials and eat some breakfast. I pulled the top quilt up over my pillow, my version of making the bed. I kicked the dirty clothes under the bed, my version of picking up my room. I took the journal out from between the mattress and box springs, my version of a perfect hiding spot, not very original, but out of sight from the parents. I was feeling good about today, I had put those awful nicknames behind me.
I rushed downstairs to have breakfast so I could get outside as quickly as possible. I always could think better in the peacefulness of the clubhouse. I had finished breakfast and was out the back door when something red caught my eye. I stopped and stared at the small object near my feet. It was the hat of the gnome that I kicked off yesterday. I stooped down and ran my hand over the hat, it had been glued back on perfectly. That was strange, but what was even stranger was how the gnome seemed to be looking at me. I had never really noticed it before, but now it looked as if it were smiling. I bent down to get a better look at its face. No, that wasn’t really what it looked like at all. It looked like a crazed, scary grin with evil behind its eyes. Terrified, I stepped back and immediately tripped over the hose. That’s weird because the hose is usually coiled up behind the bush, not left out in the middle of the yard. I scrambled to my feet and ran to the rope, climbing as fast as I could to get into the High-up Clubhouse.
While I was climbing up, I could hear that someone was already up there. When I popped my head through the hole, I saw Johnny and Justin. “Hey Baby Hawaiian Girl,” said Johnny, “Why did you trash the place?”
“What?” I said, looking around. The rug was pushed over the side and was now hanging from a limb. The binoculars were also hanging from a large branch completely out of reach. The candle was broken and red wax was scattered all over the floor. I looked around for the Hawaiian Girl, but she was nowhere in sight.
“She’s not here” said Justin.
“Who’s not here?” I tried not be obvious.
“Your girlfriend,” Johnny replied with a smile.
“She’s not my girlfriend, Princess Buttercup!” I yelled at him.
“I told you, just call me Buttercup!” Johnny hollered back. “Whoever did this is going to pay.”
I moved over to the edge of the platform looking at the items hanging in the tree.
“How are we going to get the rug and the binoculars?” asked Justin.
“I don’t know,” said Johnny. He moved to the edge. Sitting down he stared at the rug hanging pretty far out of reach on a limb to the right of the clubhouse. I sat down beside him and Justin joined us on the other side.
“I guess I could lower myself down on the rope, swing over, grab the rug, and then swing it back over here,” said Justin. He was small, wiry and strong. He could do it if he wanted to.
Justin stood up bringing the rope to the side of the platform. He let the rope fall over the side, then he grabbed the rope, lowering himself to the same height as the rug. With his foot he pushed off of the tree to swing out to the rug. He needed to go farther, so when he swung back he pushed off harder. The rug was farther out on the limb than it had appeared. On the second pass he reached out his hand as he flew by, missing it by an inch. When he came back, he gave himself a harder push and he flew out past the rug. On his way back he extended his body out as far as he could only hanging on to the rope by his fingers. He managed to grab the rug, but its full weight tugged his body hard and the hand holding the rope slipped off! His body swung downward. He was hanging from the rope upside-down by his feet. He dropped the rug, letting it fall to the ground. Justin’s feet were wrapped around the rope and his hands were in a frenzy reaching for anything they could find.
I jumped to my feet, Johnny at my side and we lunged for the rope. “Hang on,” I yelled. Johnny was first to grab the rope as it swung past the platform, I reached for it, too. We steadied the rope as Justin stretched for the nearest limb. We were very high up, if Justin had fallen it would have been dreadful. Justin held onto the limb, pushing his body upright. When he had the rope in hand, he wrapped his legs around and climbed back up to the platform.
His face was white, his hands shaky as we steadied him back to a sitting position. “Hey there Cupcake, let’s not kill ourselves over this,” said Johnny. Justin gave a weak smile.
“I’ll swing down, roll up the rug and tie the rope around it, then you guys can haul it up,” I said. I had the rope in my hands ready to swing down when I again spotted the binoculars. They were farther out on a branch than the rug. Whoever had put them out there knew we would have a hard time getting them back. I knew it would be nearly impossible after what just happened trying to get the rug.
While I took care of the rug, the other guys cleaned up the candle. Basically they picked up the wax and tossed it out, a couple of pieces hitting me while I was working on the rug. Willie showed up when the work was done, as always.
“What’s going on?” he asked
“Someone threw our stuff out of the clubhouse, broke the candle, and stole the Hawaiian Girl,” said Johnny.
Justin pointed to the binoculars hanging on the limb, “I don’t know how we’re going to get those. I‘m not going after them.”
Johnny smiled at him, “But you did such a good job getting the rug, Cupcake.”
“Who did this?” asked Willie.
We all looked at each other. “Not many people can get up here,” I replied.
“Not many kids even know about this place. You can’t see it from the ground, and any girl who knows about it is too afraid to come up here,” said Johnny. He sat down on the rug in his usual spot, I came over to sit down next to him. One by one we all sat in a small circle. Justin put his head in his hands shaking his head. “I’m going to miss those binoculars.”
At that, we all looked out at the branch where they swayed in the wind.
“What do you want to do?” asked Willie.
“Reconnaissance,” Johnny suggested, looking around at all of us. Willie, Justin and I nodded our heads in agreement. Justin slumped over, propping his head up by his hands.
“Where do we start?” I asked.
It was Johnny who always laid out the plans. He looked at Willie, “Snowflake, you walk around the block, look for anything that looks suspicious.” Willie gave one nod. “Cupcake, you’re on backyard duty. Go through the adjacent backyards. Don’t let yourself be seen, duck behind bushes, shrubs and trees. Look for anything suspicious.” Justin sat up giving one nod of his head. “Baby Hawaiian Girl, get your rake, I’m going to get those binoculars out of the tree.”
“Do you want me to help you?” I asked.
“Nope, I think I can do it. You’re going over to Miss Lillie’s yard to see what you can find.” My stomach dropped. I got the sissy job. Yeah, we often went into her yard, but usually just to goof around. There really wasn’t anything there, it was just a cool yard to sneak around in.
“Let’s go, report back here in one hour.” He looked at his watch saying, “Move it.”
I got the rake out of the shed. As I handed it to Johnny he pointed to the neighbor’s yard. “I got this, go on.”
I hated it when Johnny treated me like a little kid. You would have thought it was his backyard the way he bossed us all around. I walked over to the chain link fence and easily climbed over. I hid behind the bush then fell to my stomach, crawling slowly around the yard. The dog was inside, I could see it laying by the sliding door. I didn’t think it could see me, so I got on my hands and knees and crawled to the nearest tree. As I was crawling, I spotted something moving just in front of me. I lowered my body to the ground rolling behind the nearest butterfly bush. From under the bush I could see a pair of feet. It was Miss Lillie! She was moving slowly around the bird feeder, like she was trying to sneak up on something. But there were no birds or squirrels in the yard, not even a butterfly.
I curled myself up tighter, moving the bush leaves so I could see what she was doing. Miss Lillie was crouched down on all fours looking for something on the ground. Her head was moving back-and-forth, and her neck was craning from side-to-side. From where I was hiding, she looked like she was crazy with her head bobbing and weaving in all directions. I moved the bushes just a little so I could get a better look. When I did, I saw the side of her face, and froze thinking surely she could see me from where she was, but she didn’t. I looked closer and noticed that her one eye was closed. Not just closed, but it was squeezed shut. What was she doing? Her head continued to bob around as she crawled around her bird feeder and she moved closer to her big burr oak tree. I knew Miss Lillie was a little odd, but this behavior was almost scary!
As she approached the tree, I could see that her other eye was wide open. She stopped just inches away from the little door that was nailed to the tree, and then she smiled. It was a huge grin. She didn’t move, she just stayed like that. There were no other sounds in the yard. I held myself perfectly still so as not to be seen.
Without any warning, there was a loud crash! The dog moved inside the glass door, looked around, and started to bark. Miss Lillie stood up and turned to look at the door. She mumbled something, then stormed off toward the barking dog. I looked to where the sound of the crash had come from and realized that it came from my yard. “Oh shoot!” I think I said. Crouching down, so I wouldn’t be seen by Miss Lillie, I crawled, then ran back toward my own yard.
I hopped over the fence, then I ran to the clubhouse. I noticed that the rake was on the ground and the binoculars were out of the tree. Scrambling up, I found Johnny sitting on the edge with the binoculars to his eyes looking at Miss Lillie’s backyard.
“I heard a crash. What happened?” I asked Johnny.
Without taking the glasses from his eyes he said, “Oh, I dropped the rake. It made a terrible racket. What is she doing over there?”
I sat down next to him asking, “Can you see her? She’s acting so weird!”
Again, without looking away, he said, “Yeah, she was looking at the little objects moving around on the ground. Didn’t you see them while you were over there?”
“No, there’s nothing moving around, believe me. It’s as quiet as a church.”
He took the binoculars away from his eyes saying, “You can only see out of one eye now, and the other eye is really fuzzy, but I could definitely see little objects moving around right in front of her.” He handed the binoculars to me. I took them, quickly putting them up to my eyes. He was right, they were hard to see out of. One eye was now completely dark, so you could only see out of the fuzzy side. I used the little focus at the top to make it as clear as possible and looked in the same direction Johnny had been looking. Sure enough, there were little fuzzy objects moving around on the ground in Miss Lillie’s yard! They were really close to where I was hiding. Why couldn’t I see them when I was there?
I took the glasses away from my eyes and looked at Johnny. “How long have they been there?”
He took the binoculars from me, putting them back to his eyes. “Awhile now. You must have seen them, you were looking right at them.”
“I didn’t see anything. Are they still there?”
“Yeah, I’m watching them now. They look like small animals standing upright, and they don’t appear to move very fast.”
I grabbed for the rope. “Where are you going?” he asked.
“I’m going back over there, I want to see what they are.”
“I’m coming too,” he said putting the binoculars down.
We swung down, climbed the fence, and as quietly as we could, we moved through Miss Lillie’s yard to the old burr oak tree. We crawled to the same place I had been hiding before and moved the bush to look at the area we had been spying from the clubhouse. Nothing. We could see nothing from where we were hiding in the yard, although, from above in the clubhouse we had definitely seen something there.
Johnny rolled over on his side to look at me, “Nice job Baby Hawaiian Girl, you scared them away.”
“I scared them away? I think you scared them away.” We were no longer being quiet, yet the yard was amazingly still. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a limb move, but there were no birds, squirrels, butterflies, nothing. What could have made it move?
Johnny looked me squarely in the eyes, “I saw something over here. I know I did.”
“I saw something over here, too, but there’s nothing here now,” I barked back. “Don’t go blaming me for scaring things away.” Just as I said that, something hit me on my head. It made a loud “Bonk!” as it bounced off my noggin. “Ouch!” I cried, rubbing my head. Johnny laughed out loud, but as he was beginning to turn to leave, he too was bonked in the brain case with something hard. “Darn it!” was what he should have said as he too rubbed his head. We looked at each other, then it started hailing nuts! We were hit with a barrage of little acorn projectiles. They seemed to be coming from everywhere, not just the sky. One hit me square in the eye, a big one hit me in the mouth, and I could feel welts forming as they bounced off of me everywhere. I jumped up quickly, running for the fence. Johnny was at my side in an instant. We cleared the fence with a leap. He grabbed the rope first and was halfway up when I grabbed it too, secretly praying that it could hold both of our weight. In a flash, we were both in the treehouse.
“I hope I don’t look as bad as you,” he said, looking at me as I gasped for air.
“Why?” I asked.
“Cause your lip is bleeding, and you have the beginnings of a black eye.”
I rubbed my lip and, looking down at my hand, I saw there was blood on my fingers. I could feel my eye beginning to swell. I had welts all over my head, my arms, my chest, I could feel pain everywhere on my body. I looked over at Johnny, and he too had welts everywhere. He also had a little blood trickling down his nose. “Your nose is bleeding,” I told him. He rubbed his upper lip, seeming surprised to see blood.
“What just happened back there?” he asked. He pushed his body to the wall, leaning back, looking around wildly. His breathing had slowed down a little, and he looked at his arm inspecting his bleeding elbow.
“I don’t know. It was like we were attacked.” I rummaged in my pocket and pulled out an old tissue. I used it to wipe off my lip.
As we were assessing our wounds, Willie popped his head through the hole, “Hey guys, did you find anything?” he asked before he actually could see what was going on. “Wow, what happened to you two?”
“Something attacked us,” Johnny said.
“What was it?” asked Willie.
I shook my head, Johnny shook his head too, “I don’t know.”
“You guys look like you were beat up,” said Willie coming in closer for a better look. “What caused all the welts?”
“Acorns, I think,” I said.
“Acorns did that? You’re both bleeding.” He pointed to me, “the Baby Hawaiian Girl has a black eye.”
Johnny smiled looking at me, “That’s because he’s a Baby Hawaiian Girl.”
“And you’re Buttercup,” I shot back.
Just as we were insulting each other, Justin’s head popped up. “Hey guys, I got to tell you what I found,” he said as he was making his way onto the platform. He stopped and stared at our faces. “What happened to you guys?”
“Attacked,” we said in unison.
“By what?” he asked with a look of shock.
“Don’t know. Just out of the blue, acorns came flying at us,” I said.
“How do acorns come flying at you from out of the blue?” he asked.
“I don’t know!” I hollered, “They just did.”
Justin sat down, cautiously looking around for something to come flying at him. “Did it happen here?”
“No, we were in Miss Lillie’s yard, behind her butterfly bush. We saw something through the binoculars and went to see what it was,” said Johnny.
Justin spotted the binoculars and cautiously picked them up. He put them up to his eyes looking around. “You can’t see out of one of the eye holes,” he complained.
“Yeah, I know. When I pulled them out of the tree with the rake, they fell and hit the ground. I think something inside jammed when they hit,” said Johnny.
Justin’s face fell. He put them back up to his eyes looking over into Miss Lillie’s yard. He sat there for a moment, then he tried to focus the binoculars.
“Do you see anything?” I asked.
“I can’t tell, it’s too fuzzy,” he replied. “Hey, you’ll never guess what I found.” He turned to face us, “While I was sneaking through the yards I saw two more trees with doors and windows. They looked almost like the ones in Miss Lillie’s yard, except the doors were kind of different.” He took his index finger drawing a peak in the air. “One tree had four different kinds of windows on it. They’re really cute.”
“You’re so sweet, just like a little Cupcake,” teased Willie.
Justin made a face at Willie, “There’s more. You know creepy Mr. Gormley, well he lined his entire walkway to the front door with those little statues.” We all looked at him, puzzled. “You know, with the little pointy hats,” he put his hand over his head pulling his fingers up as to mock a pointy hat. “Baby Hawaiian Girl, you have one outside your back door.”
“Oh, you mean a gnome,” said Johnny.
“Well, what are we waiting for, let’s go see them!” Johnny exclaimed.
Justin led us through my backyard to the houses on the next street over, down to Mr. Gormley’s yard, and sure enough, there was a parade of little gnomes lining the sidewalk. Willie was first to speak up, “I find them odd.”
“Creepy, if you ask me,” added Justin.
“I think they’re evil,” I said, but it was Johnny who nailed it. “No matter what pose they are in, they all seem to be looking at us.”
He was right, from every direction they were planted in the yard, they were watching us. “Does he have a tree with doors and windows?” I asked.
“He doesn’t need one. Look!” said Willie. Next to a bush in front of his house, almost hidden from the street, was a small two-story house. It looked to be made of little bricks and rock, held together with mortar. The house’s shutters, trim and door were painted so many bright colors, it was hard to miss, yet we all had missed it until now.
“It gives me the Willies,” I said. I looked over at Willie saying, “Sorry Snowflake, it just does.”
“Let’s keep moving,” said Johnny. Justin led us down the street, then ducked between two houses. He squatted down as he walked next to a white picket fence. We were on the side of Mr. Myer’s house, he was an older man that kept his yard very tidy. You weren’t ever allowed to walk on his grass, it was so precious. His curb appeal was very nice, but his backyard was ‘fabulous’ according to my mom.
Justin stopped, pointing to the big pin oak in the center of his backyard, a very nice tree with all the limbs trimmed up high. There, on the bottom of the tree, was the coolest door I had ever seen. It looked like it had a decorative carved frame which came to a point, and a round window in the center of it. Above the door were five windows. Each had yellow window panes, and on each window frame was a flower box with tiny flowers, each one just a little different. It was so interesting that I could look at it all day. I could imagine little people coming and going in and out that door carrying baskets full of fruit, and little bags of grain. Oh for goodness sake I was becoming a girl! I shook my head as if to clear all the thoughts away. It wasn’t more than half an hour ago that I was being pelted with acorns from some invisible force. This wasn’t cute at all!
I glanced over at Johnny, his eyes were fixed on the tree, Willie was staring like he was a statue, and Justin’s eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his head. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. They were all fixated by the doors and windows.
“Where do you suppose it came from?” asked Willie.
“I saw one advertised in a magazine my mom was reading,” I replied.
“Why are people putting those things on their trees?” asked Willie again.
“Cause they’re cute. You really are a Snowflake because you have ice for brains,” scoffed Johnny. “Anything else?”
Justin nodded his head, “Yeah, follow me.”
We left as quietly as we had come, no need to cause a ruckus. We continued down the street toward the woods. No one said a thing. I think we were confounded by all the strange things we had just seen.
Justin led us to the end of the street, then quickly ducked behind a row of bushes, bending over as he jogged so he would not be seen by the people who lived in the house. It was the only house at the end of the street and we could be easily spotted since there were no other bushes inside the yard. I followed doing the same thing Justin did, and the others followed me.
When we were near the very back, Justin slowed down and began to crawl to the grassy area where he stopped, pointing to what looked like a row of little houses. They were the oddest houses I had ever seen. The walls weren’t strait, and neither were the roofs. In fact, the houses seemed to lean and bend in all different directions. They looked to have real shingles on the roof, misshapen doors, twisted windows, and real door knobs. What made them so striking was the colors they were painted. One was bright yellow with blue trim. The next one was green with purple trim, one was orange with pink trim, and the last one was blue with purple trim. They were so interesting that I forgot about the last tree we saw with the cool door and fancy windows.
“Would you look at that,” said Johnny. “This just gets weirder and weirder.”
Willie seemed stressed, whining “Where are they all coming from?”
Johnny looked around to see if anyone was looking at us, then sat down in the grass. “I don’t know, but I don’t like it.” He had brought the binoculars with us and now put them up to his eyes. He was scanning the area when suddenly he froze.
“What is it?” My voice sounded a little shaky.
He didn’t reply, he just kept looking. Suddenly he took the glasses away from his eyes whispering, “Let’s get out of here.”
Fear passed between us with the sound of those words. We all sprang up from where we were sitting and hurried back toward the street. At first we ducked behind the bushes, but there was a point where caution gave way to fear and we stood upright, running as fast as we could. We kept running until we were well away from the house, on to the next street. It was Johnny who slowed down first. I came up next to him, breathing heavily I asked him what he had seen.
He slowed down to catch his breath and finally he spoke, “You know those fuzzy things we saw in Miss Lillie’s yard?”
I nodded yes.
“I saw them around those houses, I also saw them in Mr. Myer’s yard.”
We slowed down to a stop. He continued, “I didn’t want to get pelted with acorns, or rocks, or whatever else they could throw at us.”
I rubbed my head, my eye was still sore. I don’t know what had attacked us earlier, but I didn’t want a repeat either.
We walked more slowly now as we approached my backyard. Nobody seemed to have much to say. Justin looked scared, Willie looked confused, Johnny looked to be deep in thought, and I was just curious as to what those things could be.
We reached the clubhouse, climbed up one at a time, and settled in before Johnny spoke again, “We need to be able to see these things, whatever they are.”
We all nodded in agreement.
At that precise moment we heard a frantic voice from below. We all jumped as my mom yelled, “Harris Huxley, you get down here right now young man. You’re in big trouble!” This didn’t sound good.
“What did you do?” asked Justin.
“I don’t know. Be right back,” I said as I grabbed the rope, swinging down to the ground.
“Harris Norman Huxley, you did it now, you really messed things up, get inside,” she yelled pointing to the back door. I looked up at my friends and shrugged my shoulders before I went into the house. My mother was standing at the door with her hands on her hips. Yep, this did not look good at all.
My mom was nearly in tears as she followed me into the kitchen. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table looking over the computer monitor that was sitting in front of him. He shook his head slightly, that was a really bad sign. I slid into one of the chairs at the table hanging my head, waiting for Mom to burst into tears and tell me what I did that was so awful. I was the only child, and being the only child landed all my parents’ attention on me. Don’t get me wrong, it was great sometimes to be the only child. I was the only one who got attention before school. I was the only one who got presents at Christmas. I always got what I wanted. But, I was also the only one around when it came to getting into trouble. There were no siblings to take the blame for something that went wrong. When something was wrong, it was always my fault.
“Harris Huxley, what has gotten into you? Why do you do this to me?” Mom was just getting started. “Don’t you ever think before you do things?” Her voice had already reached that pitch that was two octaves higher than she usually spoke. Her voice would soon begin to quiver and that meant watch what you say back. The best thing to do was keep quiet and play innocent. If that didn’t work, I sometimes acted shocked, that I didn’t know my actions could lead to such harm and destruction. This tactic had gotten me out of quite a few jams.
She was standing there with her hands on her hips, staring at me. Things were not looking good. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
I honestly had no idea what I had done. I looked around the room for some clue, anything that would give me some idea as to what it was I was in trouble for. Then I spotted the laundry basket. On top was my sock with the ink blob. That must be it, so I proceeded with caution.
“My pen broke, and I grabbed my sock to clean it up with,” I said calmly.
“I saw that!” Mom spat back. “But did you have to put it with the rest of the laundry?” She moved over to the basket picking up a towel which now had its own blue spot. Then she picked up a pair of shorts, blue smudges on those too. She plunged her hand in, pulling out at least three more things that had blue stains. Finally she produced the blouse, which I believe she had on yesterday. A nice blouse with blue spots all over it. Tears were now streaming down her cheek as she choked back a sob. “This is my favorite blouse,” very loud sob, “Look at it,” she pushed it out in front of her, “Just look at what you’ve done!”
I lowered my eyes, “I’m sorry, Mom,” was the best I could do.
“Sorry is not going to make my blouse look better, is it?” she snapped back.
I felt just terrible, how could I make this better for her. I looked up at her red swollen eyes, there were tears streaming down her cheeks. “Mom, when I couldn’t get the ink off my hands, I used some of your hairspray, and it took it right off.” I thought this could help, but somehow it backfired.
“You used my hairspray!” Mom yelled. “Gees Harris, what else do you have to tell me?” A new series of sobs began shaking her body.
I sank a little more into my chair looking over at my dad. He set his coffee cup down as his fingers started tapping the keys of his computer. He peeked over at me, I could see he wanted to help.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “Harris is on to something. It says here that denatured alcohol from hairspray can be used to take ink out of clothes. It says using hairspray and dish detergent as a pre-wash can actually take the ink out completely from clothes.” He looked up at my mom saying, “I think we should try it. Harris, run and get your mother’s hairspray.
I looked over at Mom, she nodded her head yes. I jumped off the chair, running as fast as I could to the bathroom, my hands fumbling over the bottles and cans until I found the can of hairspray. I was back in a flash, can in hand. I gave it to Mom, then hugged her hard. As I was hugging her I said, “Mom, I’m really sorry I ruined your blouse.” She nodded her head, wiping a tear from her eye. She took the can, lifted the laundry basket and left the room.
I stood there for a moment thinking I was off the hook, slowly moving toward the door to go back outside. Then my dad cleared his throat, “Where do you think you’re going?”
“I was going to go back outside, the guys are waiting for me in the clubhouse.”
“I think retribution is in order.” He closed the computer and stood up. “You’re going to help me clean the garage.”
My head fell back on my shoulders, “Nooo…”, I whined.
“Don’t tell me no. You can either help clean the garage, or spend the rest of the day in your room, no television, no computer or video games. What’s it going to be?”
“Looks like I’m cleaning the garage,” I said in a small voice. I followed my dad outside. He moved both cars out, leaving the garage clear of vehicles, I could see that the garage was littered with leaves that blew in when the garage door had been up. Other stuff had accumulated along the edges, and it did need some work. He started handing me bags telling me where to put them. “This one goes in the shed, put this one on the work bench, this goes inside, and give it to your mother.” I didn’t complain or resist, I did what I was told, hoping it wouldn’t take all day.
It wasn’t more than an hour when I stood in the middle looking around. The garage looked pretty good. “I’m taking your mom’s car to have it washed. If you sweep out the floor, then you’ll be done. Thank you for helping, you did a good job Harris,” he put his hand on my head and ruffled up my hair. I usually hated that, but today it was a good thing.
He handed me the broom, leaving me to the empty garage. I started to sweep, then behind me I heard a crash. I turned to see that a can of nails had fallen off the shelf and was now scattered all over to the floor. I walked over bending down to pick them up and when I did, a bucket full of golf balls fell over from a shelf above my head and began rolling out on top of me. Every one of the golf balls hit me in the head, and were now rolling around the garage. How the heck did that happen? The broom that I had set against the wall now wobbled, falling over in front of me. “What the heck?” was what I really said, then the tackle box fell out of the rafters and shattered on the ground at my feet. I screamed, but not like a girl. I ran inside standing at the counter in the kitchen. I needed a drink. I grabbed a plastic cup, remembering what happened yesterday, and filled it with water. I drank it down, filled it again, but just a little bit. I set it on the counter, resting my hand next to the cup. I did this on purpose. It looked innocent enough, but I was going to be ready. Something was causing all these things to move, I was going to find out what it was. My head was turned so it looked like I was gazing out the window, but my eyes were off to the side looking at the cup. I stood there perfectly still, fixed in position. If I was going to find out what was going on, I had to wait for the smallest movement. I stood there perfectly still for at least a minute, then I thought I saw the cup wiggle. Without moving my body or head, I watched it, and sure enough it moved. I saw it again! The cup gave just the slightest shake and that was when I swept my hand across the counter, knocking over the cup and grabbing at the air. To my utter amazement, I had something in my hand! When it moved, I screamed, this time I may have sounded a like a girl. I almost released what was in my hand, but I held tight. I brought the other hand in, securing my hold. I couldn’t see anything, so I shouted, “I’ll squeeze tighter, let me see you!” That was when I let out my most girlish scream ever. What I saw scared the poop out of me.
In my hands was a little person, head, body, arms, legs, hair, eyes, the whole shebang, and it was angry. It was pounding its little fist on my fingers, and it was strong! I could barely hold on to it. When I finally started thinking straight, I grabbed a large empty pickle jar from under the sink, opening it with one hand. I slid the little guy into the jar, shaking the jar so he slid to the bottom. I put the lid on before realizing there were no holes for air, so I grabbed the jar and took it into the garage. I found a hammer and nail on the work bench, then carefully began to bang holes in the top with the tip of the nail. When I had ten or so, I stopped and looked into the jar. The little person was sitting on the bottom staring back at me. “Oh my gosh, I really caught one!” I looked around the garage seeing the big mess. What was I going to do? I had to clean it all up before Dad got home, or all hell would break loose. I picked up the jar and put it in the middle of the garage floor. I didn’t want it to fall off the work bench and break.
“Look at what you did,” I said to the little person in the jar. “Just look at the mess you made. I have to clean this all up.” I looked around. I grabbed the bucket and started picking up the golf balls. I had my eyes on the glass jar as I moved around the garage. When I glanced away, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the jar start to wobble. I ran back to steady it, looking frantically around for more little people. Of course I wouldn’t be able to see them, they can make themselves invisible. I had to hurry to get this mess cleaned up, or I would run the risk of the jar breaking and the little guy escaping.
I had the golf balls up, I grabbed the nail can and in two swipes of my hand I had all the nails back inside. I grabbed the tackle box and scooped up the contents, careful of the hooks, putting it all back in. I put the tackle box, the bucket of golf balls and the can of nails off to the side so they couldn’t get dumped again, then grabbed the broom. I swept as fast as I could, sweeping the pile into the dust pan. I disposed of the contents of the dust pan in the trash, then put everything away. I scooped up the jar and ran inside. I grabbed my hoodie, put it on, and stuffed the jar under the hoodie, tying it around my waist. I ran over to the rope that led to the treehouse, grabbed the rope and scrambled up quickly.
Justin and Johnny were still up there looking in Miss Lillie’s yard with the binoculars. “Baby Hawaiian Girl, you got to see this,” said Johnny.
“NO, you got to see this!” I blurted out. I untied my hoodie and carefully pulled the jar out of the inside pocket, sitting it on the floor in front of the guys. They both looked at the jar.
“What?” Johnny asked.
“What? Can’t you see it?” I said, looking at the jar. It looked empty. “NO!” I shouted grabbing the jar. “This can’t be.” I stared at the jar and sure enough, the jar was clear.
“What was in it?” asked Justin.
“There was a person in there,” I said. “It couldn’t get out, the jar was sealed.” I checked the jar, the lid was still on tight.
Johnny looked at Justin then back at me, “You really think you had a little person in that jar?”
I could see where this was going. I started to panic. “It’s got to be in there,” I said so I shook the jar hard. Something slammed against the lid, I could feel it. “Show yourself, or else I’ll shake this so hard,” I threatened. Instantly the little person reappeared.
Justin fell over, Johnny gave a gasp, slamming his body backward into the wall of the clubhouse.
“What is that?” Johnny yelled.
“It looks like a person,” Justin said as he got to his feet and moved closer. “It is a person! A really small person,” he said putting his face up close to the jar. The little guy gave a kick at the side of the jar and the jar jolted sideways causing Justin to yelp and almost fall over again. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of Justin almost falling. “Take it easy, Cupcake,” I teased.
“How did you get it in the jar?” asked Johnny. I could tell he was impressed.
“I was helping my dad clean the garage, when all this stuff started to fall off the shelves hitting me, like this morning with the acorns.” I looked at Johnny and he nodded at me. “Well, I got a little scared, so I went inside to get a cup of water. Yesterday when I left my glass on the counter, it moved to the edge and I knocked it over. So, remembering that, I kept my hand near the cup and pretended to look out the window. When I saw the cup move a little, I made a sweeping grab, and I got him!”
“Wow, I can’t believe what I am seeing!” exclaimed Justin.
Johnny grabbed the binoculars and sat down at the edge of the platform. He looked over into Miss Lillie’s yard then slowly put the binoculars down. “There’s nothing over there. They’re all gone.”
“I bet they’re in the garage,” I suggested.
“I think they’re in your kitchen,” offered Justin.
“No,” Johnny whispered, “I think they’re right here, right now, watching us.”
We all suddenly looked around, afraid. “What are you two doing? You know you can’t see them,” said Johnny.
“He’s right,” I agreed.
“What’s going to happen?” asked Justin in a trembling voice.
Johnny grabbed the jar holding it up high, “Nothing is going to happen to us, not when we have this,” giving the jar a little shake. He was showing them who was in charge now.
I picked up the binoculars and looked around the clubhouse, I jumped a little when I saw the first fuzzy shape. “There’s one,” I pointed to the window. I moved the binoculars, I saw three more in the next window. “I see three right there,” I indicated pointing to that window. I looked around everywhere and there were little fuzzy shapes all around us. “They’re all around us, and they are looking at the jar!”
Johnny moved to the middle of the platform saying, “Leave now, all of you.” He looked around, but I knew he couldn’t see them. He acted like he could, so I handed him the binoculars. He held them up to his eyes, “I can see you through these. I know you are all standing here. Leave now or the little guy gets it,” he shook the jar so hard the little guy stumbled falling to his knees. Johnny jumped back as if something was going to hurt him. He shook the jar again, this time the little guy flew up hitting his head on the top of the jar and fell back down hard. “Don’t make me hurt him again.” Johnny turned around looking everywhere. I took the jar, as it looked like Johnny could stumble on his own two feet. He did another four or five circles of the place then pulled the binoculars away from his eyes, “They’re gone, for now.”
“What are we going to do?” asked Justin. He was just sitting with his back up against the side of the clubhouse. “We can’t see them, but they can see us.”
“And they’re everywhere,” I said.
“We need a plan,” said Johnny. “Let’s get out of here and find Willie.”
Willie was sitting on his front porch playing with his Nintendo when we walked up. He looked up saying, “I’m almost on the next level, just give me a few more minutes.”
“Turn it off Snowflake, we have something we need to show you,” insisted Johnny. Willie looked up, slowly turning off the game.
“We need to go inside,” whispered Justin as he looked around nervously.
“What’s going on?” asked Willie.
“Inside,” I said, pointing toward the door. “They can see us.”
Willie stood up, looked around as he opened the door, “Who can see us?” He walked in and we all followed behind him. Justin closed the door quickly. Taking the binoculars I looked around the room. I looked up high, on the furniture, and on the floor. I took a full five minutes to search every room on his first floor, including the bathroom. I pulled the binoculars away from my eyes. “All clear.”
“All clear. What does that mean?” asked Willie.
Johnny placed my hoodie on the kitchen counter, unfolded the material and presented the jar to Willie. Willie flinched, jumping back when he saw the jar. “What do you have, is there a spider in there?” Willie was petrified of bugs and spiders.
Willie sighed with relief as he eyed the empty jar.
Johnny shook the jar hard, and the little figure appeared. Willie’s eyes grew as round as saucers, “What’s that?” He hesitated, reaching for the jar. He looked first at me, then at Justin, then at Johnny. “That’s a person in there. How did he get in there?”
I smiled, but Johnny answered, “The Baby Hawaiian Girl caught him. He put him in the jar. We need to be careful, the rest of them are watching us.”
Willie looked around, “The rest of who?”
Justin spoke up this time, “There are a whole lot of them,” he pointed to the jar, “they seem to be everywhere.”
“How do you know? Can you see them?” asked Willie.
“We can with these,” I said holding up the binoculars.
“You mean you really can see them with the binoculars?” inquired Willie. “I tried looking through them today. You can only see out of one eye, and everything you see is blurry.”
“Yeah, but somehow that makes the little people visible,” I said.
Willie looked at the little guy in the jar again saying, “This is so cool.”
“No, it’s not!” protested Justin. “They know we have him, and they’re after us. You heard what they did to Baby Hawaiian Girl and Buttercup this morning. They’re going to do the same to us.” He was almost in tears.
Willie looked first at me, then at Johnny, “We need a plan,” he stated.
“That’s why we’re here,” Johnny replied.
We followed Willie into the family room. He carefully put the jar down on the floor and we all sat around it in a circle. I took the binoculars, scanning the room three or four more times. “All clear,” I announced. Justin had been holding his breath. Johnny leaned in whispering, “Does anyone have another pair of binoculars?” he asked.
We looked at each other, then I said, “My dad has a pair, I can ask if I can use them.”
“We need to keep this one hidden,” said Johnny. If they know where he is, then we’re in trouble.
“I’m sure they know he’s here now,” said Willie, “What are we going to do?”
We looked at each other. “Can’t let Baby Hawaiian Girl take him, they are already in his house,” said Johnny. “They saw us bring him here, so they’ll probably be here next,” he continued. “We have to move him. Sorry Snowflake, you can’t keep him here.”
Willie’s face fell. He reached for the jar. “He’s so cool,” he said holding the jar up to his face watching every move the little guy inside was making.
Johnny looked directly at Justin, “Cupcake, can you take him?” he asked.
Justin looked frightened, “I guess I could.”
“Okay, we stash him at Cupcake’s house,” said Johnny.
“What do I feed him?” asked Justin.
We looked at each other. We hadn’t thought about how we were going to take care of him. “What if he’s hungry now,” said Willie. “I’m always hungry. I’m going to find something for him to eat.” He jumped up going back into the kitchen. I followed with the binoculars sweeping the area around the kitchen. “All clear,” I said. Willie opened the pantry pulling out bags of food and putting them on the counter. He had chips, crackers, dried cherries, marshmallows, and peanut butter. “Think he’ll like some of this?”
Johnny and Justin followed us in, taking a seat at the counter. Johnny put the jar in front of him on the counter. Willie pulled out a marshmallow. He carefully opened the lid, moved it over just enough to push the white treat through and then closed it up tight. The marshmallow fell hitting the little guy in the head. He punched at it as it fell and hit the floor at his feet. Bending down to look at the white blob in front of him, he reached out and poked it with his finger. Compared to him it was the size of a soccer ball. Willie took a marshmallow in his hand. He picked up the jar and held it up to his face. When the little guy in the jar looked at Willie, he showed him the marshmallow and he shoved it into his mouth, chewing the white mass. “Mmmmm,” he said smiling at the person in the jar. He took another one and did the same thing. The little guy in the jar just stared at him like he was crazy.
“You must have caught the stupid one,” suggested Willie “That’s probably why you were able to catch him“.
“Give me that,” I said taking the jar. “He might not like marshmallows.” I took a cracker out of a box, broke it in half and just like Willie had done, I open the lid just a little letting the cracker fall down the side of the jar. I immediately put the lid back on. “Try that,” I said. The little guy looked at it, then he kicked at it with his foot.
“Maybe he doesn’t know how to speak English,” Johnny offered. “That is a possibility.”
Justin was staring at our captive. “What if he’s thirsty? How are we going to get him water?”
We all looked at each other, then Willie started to look around the kitchen. “We need something small to put water in,” he said. He was already opening and shutting cabinets. He pulled out a small bowl and placed it on the table.
“He’s not a dog, he’s not going to drink out of a bowl, he needs a cup,” I argued.
“Hey, what about the lid to the vanilla bottle,” Justin said as he pulled the bottle out of the cabinet.
“Yeah,” Johnny agreed taking it from him. He rinsed it out, then filled it halfway up with water. He took a strip of paper towel, set the lid in the middle and pulled up the edges making a sling. He opened the lid and carefully lowered the lid-cup to the bottom. The little guy stood watching the sling being lowered to the bottom of the jar. He took a step over to the lid full of water and picked it up. He sniffed it, took a sip, and then suddenly flung the rest of the contents at us. We jumped back and watched the water droplets run down the sides of the jar.
“Maybe he’s not thirsty,” I suggested.
“Ya think?” Johnny sarcastically replied.
He could be such a wise guy sometimes.
Justin sat down hard putting his head in his hands as he often did when he was frustrated or upset. “We still need a plan.”
“Okay,” said Johnny, “This is what we do. We leave together, then split up. Cupcake, you go around the block, then sneak off to the backyards going to your house as secretly as you can. Keep the jar hidden, but not in the hoodie this time.”
Justin nodded in agreement. “Baby Hawaiian Girl you go home and get your dad’s binoculars. Then go outside. Watch for those things in Miss Lillie’s yard.” It was my turn to nod.
“Snowflake, sit tight. See if you can find some binoculars too.”
Willie made a face saying, “I don’t know why I can’t keep him here.”
“Glacier-brain, they know he’s here,” blurted Johnny. “You are going to have company very soon, as soon as they find a way in, so watch out! They like to throw things at you.”
Justin looked up, worry written all over his small face, “Okay, I’ll take him home. I’ll look for some binoculars, but this isn’t much of a plan.”
“I know,” Johnny sighed.
Suddenly it hit me! I was the biggest target. They had seen me catch their friend and put him in the jar. They saw me carry him off in my hoodie. I didn’t want to go home. Then it really hit me, Mom and Dad were at home! What was going to happen to them? Now I was worried. I stood up saying, “My mom and dad are in danger. The other little people know I took him, what’s going to happen to my parents?”
I rushed to the front door. Grabbing my hoodie I opened the door and ran out. I wrapped the hoodie around me as I took off running toward my house. What if they hurt them like they tried to hurt me? Worry quickly turned to fear, so I ran as hard as I could. I sprinted up the driveway, flinging open the door. It slammed against the wall as I came running in. Both of my parents were sitting at the table eating lunch. I let out a huge sigh of relief as I ran to hug my mom. I stood there hugging her as hard as I could. They both looked me, then at each other with surprise and curiosity.
“Harris, what’s the matter?” asked my mom.
I pulled myself back to look into her face, “Just happy to see you.”
“Okay then, go back and close the door,” said my dad.
“Are you hungry?” asked Mom.
I was too nervous and scared to be hungry, “No, just happy that you guys are okay.” I could see the growing confusion on their faces.
“Why would we not be okay?” asked Mom cautiously.
“Well, you know, sometimes people have accidents. I worry about that sometimes.” I was sounding paranoid. I needed to say something normal. “Hey Dad, can I borrow your binoculars?”
This time Dad appeared confused. “Sure, son. But, why do you need my binoculars?”
“Just looking at stuff,” I tried to sound casual.
“You help Mom clear the table while I see if I can find them.” He left the room and I heard him rummaging around in the laundry room. I peeked around the corner looking to see which cabinet he pulled them from. I grabbed the bread and the mayo and quickly put them away. I cleared the table in record time. Now that Mom and Dad were okay, I needed to see if there were any of those little people in our house. My dad returned with the binoculars, and I quickly put them up to my eyes. I swept around the room and saw nothing. Mom and Dad watched me curiously.
“You looking for something?” asked Dad.
“Uh, no, I just like the way things look through them,” I said. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a glass begin to tip. My reflexes were really great right then and I grabbed it before it could fall over. I put the glass up to my lips making it look like I was thirsty. A feeling of dread spread through me. They were here, but I couldn’t see them through these binoculars. Something was wrong, terribly wrong!
“I’m going outside to look around,” I said, putting the glass down quickly as I headed for the door. I stepped outside and suddenly stopped as I spotted something that made my world come crashing to a halt. I screamed!! Yes, I screamed like a little girl and not just once. I know I screamed pretty loudly because both of my parents came charging out the backdoor. I was standing in front of my favorite big tree frozen with fear. I may have screamed again, I really can’t remember, all I remember is that my mom was shaking me. I turned to face her, and that was when my screaming stopped.
“Harris, Harris what is it?” she had to yell at me over my screaming.
I couldn’t speak, I just pointed to my tree. On the front of my tree, on MY favorite tree was a door and five little windows. Not just any door, but a really large door. I bet I could fit my whole head in that door, if it ever opened.
“Harris, it’s okay. Your dad put that up for me today after you left. I ordered it Friday, and it arrived today. I was amazed, your dad was here so he put it up. Oh honey, I know you think this is your tree, but can’t we share it?”
She didn’t understand, this was trouble. No wonder they weren’t hurt, they were busy helping the little people move in!
I think I went a little crazy just then. I know I was ready to cry. I was scared, confused and paranoid. I shook my head as I walked away. My parents watched me as I made my way up the rope into the High-up Clubhouse. They were probably thinking I was just a spoiled little only child who didn’t want to share my tree, but it was so much worse. I swung my legs over the side, putting the binoculars up to my eyes. I looked first in front of our tree where the door was located but saw nothing. Then I looked over to Miss Lillie’s yard. I could see nothing out of these binoculars. What I meant was that I could see clearly, but no little shapes were visible. Suddenly, I felt a pain on the top of my head. “Bonk” I heard the familiar sound of something hitting my noggin, and knew I had just been pelted by an acorn.
Things were not looking good. I was fixing to cry right then. I drew in a long breath, telling myself, ‘You are Harris Huxley, kids look up to you. You can’t sit here crying like a baby. Man-up’. I sat up putting the binoculars back to my eyes. I looked over in Miss Lillie’s yard, and this time I saw a robin on the bird bath. It was minding its own business, taking a drink, when it suddenly stopped. I turned the little knob on top of the binoculars so I could see it better. The robin cocked its head to the side as if trying to see something, then its beak began to snap at something. The bird gave a surprisingly loud squeal and it flew off. In fact, all the birds flew off at the same time. Again, Miss Lillie’s yard became completely silent, like it had been this morning when I was over there. No birds, no squirrels, no butterflies. I wondered if it had something to do with that little man I caught in the jar.
I was just sitting there, gaining courage and trying to see something through the binoculars when Miss Lillie stepped outside. I watched as she opened the door to let the dog out. The dog refused to come out and ran somewhere back in the house. That’s strange, that dog loved to come outside. She shook her head at the dog, then came out to sit on her swing. She was looking at her yard and I realized that she looked very sad. I wondered if it was because there were no animals in her yard. She was one of the few people I knew who could sit outside without frightening the animals away. They weren’t afraid of her. As she slowly pushed herself on her swing, I watched her through the binoculars. I saw her glance up at me. She put her hand above her eyes to block the sun, then she waved at me.
“Harris, is that you up there?” I heard her call.
“Yes Miss Lillie,” I replied.
“Harris, come over here and sit with me.” She had often invited me over in her yard. Why not? I’m a nice enough kid.
I put the binoculars around my neck and swung down to the yard below. I scrambled over the fence making my way toward her. She was patting the space next to her, so I went and sat down with her on the swing.
“I see you have some binoculars, Harris. What are you looking for?” she inquired.
I froze. What should I say, that I was watching her? I couldn’t say that, so I said, “I’m watching your birds. I saw a robin on the bird bath a minute ago. He flew away, so did all the birds. I can’t see any squirrels either.”
She slowly nodded her head. She seemed so sad. She also seemed to know why. “Yes I know. They’re all gone I’m afraid.”
I looked around, “What happened to all of them?”
She stared at the ground for a while before she replied, “Harris, I’m afraid they have all left and I’m afraid it may have been my fault.”
I looked at her in amazement. The animals loved her, she fed them, planted bushes and trees they liked, even provided a bird bath. How could she be the reason the animals are gone? I shook my head asking, “Why do you think that?”
“Harris, I’ve done something stupid. I brought something else into the yard that has chased them all away.”
I looked around, then I saw it, the door and windows on the tree. I was staring at it when she said, “I think you know, don’t you?”
I nodded, “I think I do.”
“There are so many of them. I didn’t think there would be that many, or that they would be so destructive. They have taken over everything. They are in the birdbath, they gathered all the acorns, they guard the bird seed, and they even harass the dog. She won’t even come out here with me!”
She closed one eye looking around bobbing her head up and down. I had seen her do this before, but as I watched her now, it became clear to me how to see them. It wasn’t through binoculars, it was by looking through one eye. I closed both of my eyes then I opened just one. I bobbed my head like she was doing, and I was shocked. I jumped off the swing, there were so many of them, dozens, maybe even a hundred! Most of them were looking at me. I muffled my scream, grabbing the binoculars with my hands.
“How did you know to look through only one eye?” I whispered.
“I was watching the robin. Their eyes are on the sides of their heads, so they can only see out of one eye at a time. As I was watching I realized it was looking at something, trying to defend itself against it. I just imitated what I saw it do, and then I could see them too.”
“I’m guessing you miss the birds in your yard. Would you like your birds to come back?” I asked.
“I thought it would be fun to have other visitors in my yard, but they just took over. No animals want to come into my yard anymore.” She frowned as she said it.
“How did they get here? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Well, last week while I was out walking, I saw those sweet gnomes in Mr. Gormley’s yard. He was out tending to his flowers, so I asked him where he got them. He went inside and came out with this magazine. We talked as I was looking at all the garden decorations in the magazine. I saw this picture of little doors and windows on a tree. The caption at the bottom said, ’Let the magic begin’. He told me to keep the magazine, and encouraged me to get a door for my tree.” She was wringing her hands as she spoke.
“My mom just had my dad put one up on the big tree in our yard, too.” I looked at her, I’m sure she could see the fear in my eyes, “Do you think they will move into my tree?”
“Oh, Harris,” she put her hand over mine in a comforting way, “I’m sure they already have.”
I crept into the house quietly. I didn’t want them to hear me. I wanted to see how many were in my house. I put the binoculars on the counter and scanned the room with one eye closed. I’d never realized how hard it was to see with only one eye open. I moved all through the kitchen, I saw nothing. Maybe they had moved into the tree, leaving the house alone.
As I walked into the laundry area I froze. There were two little men lifting up clothes, searching through my hoodie. I slowly backed out, hoping they hadn’t seen me. I tiptoed upstairs to my bedroom and I cautiously opened my door. I carefully scanned my room. If they were here, they were surely hiding. Suddenly I remembered that it was crucial that I contact the guys to tell them how to see the little people.
I didn’t want to leave my room, but I needed to use the phone. I quietly edged into the study, looking around the room with one eye closed. I didn’t see any small images in the room so I carefully picked up the phone. I dialed Johnny’s number and waited for him to pick up. His mom answered the phone saying he was out, and that she would have him call me back when he came in. They must still be at Willie’s, I thought. I quickly dialed Willie’s number. “Hello,” I heard him say. “Snowflake, it’s me Baby Hawaiian Girl, I know how to see them!” As I heard a click, the phone went dead. I panicked hitting the redial button as fast as I could. I heard him pick up once more, “Baby Hawaiian Girl,” he said. I yelled into the phone, “YOU CAN SEE THEM IF YOU CLOSE ONE EYE!” Then click, the phone went dead again. They were here, and they were watching me. I closed one eye to look around the room, and, just as I suspected, little men were everywhere watching me. My panic rose to near hysteria as I started to back away from the mob that gathered just inside the study door.
The attack caught me by surprise. They are rather small and I am quite big compared to them. Although I’m not a mountain of a person, I am large for a sixth grader. I climb trees and I can run quite fast, I never sit on the couch watching TV or playing video games. I actually go outside and do stuff, but still they got me.
From behind me a blanket dropped down over my head. As I turned to see where it had come from, a rope coiled around my body. I couldn’t move my arms or legs, and it was hard to breathe. I tried to scream and something hit me in the jaw, hard. There was one of the little men on my head punching me in the face! Others jumped on my back and pushed me to the ground. I tried to rise to my hands and knees, but the rope was too tight around my middle. I wiggled like a worm back-and-forth and I felt the kicking of tiny feet on my side. Then the craziest thing happened. They all lined up on one side and started pushing me forward and I began to roll. Something like a heavy rug was wrapping around me, Feeling my body teeter on the first step, I tried to stop from going over, knowing it would be painful to roll down the stairs, but together they gave a powerful push and I went crashing down the steps. My body bounced as I hit every step hard. I saw stars when I hit the landing. I was just getting adjusted when the dragging began. My body was being pulled, dragged over the wood floors in the hall. My head hit the wall, then I was turned and drug through the dining room. I could see in my mind what I looked like as they maneuvered me through the house. I hit another door as we entered the kitchen. I could hear the sound of many tiny feet moving across the floor, then I heard the door to the outside open. I could feel the bump as my body was dragged over the door jamb. This must have taken more effort because I could hear heavy breathing and I could feel the tearing of the blanket as they struggled to get a grip on the ropes. As I felt the temperature rise, I realized I was outside. The friction of the grass seemed to take a lot more effort than the smooth floors inside the house. Suddenly I stopped. I was lying somewhere in the middle of my backyard, but where? I tried to flail my body, but that resulted in small jabs in my arms and legs that felt like little needles, so I stopped. I nervously waited for what was going to come next, and it didn’t take long. I was rolled out of the rug and laid flat. Something positioned my head, then a tight squeeze, a hard push from behind, and a pop. I could felt my body folding into a very cool, confined space. I was inside something very small, but what?
What happened next was mind boggling. I heard a ripping noise and saw a blinding light. I closed my eyes against the brightness, and when I could stand the intensity, I cautiously opened one eye expecting to see a little person. I was surprised to see standing next to my face, wiggling back-and-forth, the Hawaiian Girl.
As scared and uncomfortable as I felt, I was happy to see her again. My mind was awash with confusion. What had just happened? I was inside MY tree. At least, I think it was my tree.
When my brain slowed down and my heart stopped racing I was able to think more clearly. I realized that I needed to take inventory of the situation. I closed one eye, looking around as best I could. It was a cavernous small space, like a bright cave inside my tree. I wondered if all trees looked like this on the inside. The light was blinding, although I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. There were little pots and pans lining the wall, a small bundle of spoons below the pans. There wasn’t any furniture, but that was probably because they had to move it to accommodate my giant body. I rotated my body so I could look up into the tree. I had to squint my eyes, for this was where the intensely bright light originated. I felt like the sun was overhead and the tree was a hollow tube funneling the light directly into my eyes. I couldn’t take it, so I rolled just a bit on my side, away from the stream of light. I adjusted so that I was now on my stomach, again with one eye closed, I looked directly ahead of me, and I saw the yard gnome that had stood next to our back door. They had stolen it, too. It had been placed in a little grotto carved out of the tree, just the right size for its body. The face, however, was no longer that of a happy yard gnome, but that of an angry elf! Oh my goodness, is that what these little people were, ELVES? It suddenly came back to me that I had kicked the hat off the gnome a little while ago. Oh, I bet that made them mad! Another wave of fear shook my body. I looked back over at the Hawaiian Girl to see if she, too, was mad, but she was still smiling at me while she swayed back and forth.
As I lay there, I noticed that the tree was quiet. Even with one eye closed, I couldn’t see any elves moving around. They had left me here alone. What were they going to do to me? My arms and legs were hurting from the ropes, and the bright light was hurting my head. I moved so I could rest my forehead on the floor and close my eyes. I needed to think of a way out.
If I could use my head as an anchor, I could push my knees under me and sit up, but only if the ropes weren’t too tight. There were so many ropes wrapped around my legs, that I couldn’t move them. As far as I could tell, I was stuck. I rolled on my side again, letting my mind drift off and fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.
An intense pain in the middle of my face woke me. Something had hit me hard on the nose, the pain causing me to clench my eyelids shut. When I could finally open one eye, I was shocked to see an elf standing directly in front of me. “That hurt, did it?” he asked in a raspy voice.
The pain was blinding and I had to blink a tear out of my eye before I could respond. He took a step toward me and kicked me in the nose again. “Ouch,” I yelled. “Stop that!”
“What you gonna do about it? You all tied up.” He crouched down close to my face, “Or hadn’t you noticed?” He started to laugh with that raspy voice, it was so creepy. “You is the funniest one to mess with. You make that ugly face, and scream like a baby. What is that they call you, Baby Hawaiian Girl?” He stood up laughing harder at his own little joke. I swallowed back the pain, fear and agony crept over me as I watched him laugh.
How was I going to get out of this mess? I was cramped, I was confused, and now I had an intense pain in the middle of my face. I started to get mad, I could feel my face getting hot with anger. “What you gonna do now boy? You gonna catch me like you did Albert? Put me in a jar? Who’s in a jar now?”
With every word he uttered, I got angrier and angrier. I thought to myself, ‘When I get out of this, you better watch out.’
He walked over to stand next to the Hawaiian Girl. “Isn’t she lovely,” he gave her a kiss, then a shove, and her body began to rock back and forth in that crazy dancing way that usually amused me. “She’s mine now. This whole tree is mine, ours,” he swept his arms around him and that was when I saw all of them. I realized I had both eyes open and I could see them all. There were twenty or more, fat, thin, tall, short. They were all male, and they were all looking at me. My fear intensified.
“You think you can outsmart us? Just because you’re bigger doesn’t give you an advantage. This here is our tree now. We have moved in, and we are taking over.” He flashed a frightful grin full of brown, rotting teeth while looking at all his comrades standing around me. A roar went up. They all started fisting the air, chanting, “Our tree! Our home!”
I tried to drown them out of my head, I closed my eyes praying that this was a bad dream. I needed to wake up from this! My heart was pounding wildly in my chest, I could hear it in my ears. Suddenly, I heard a loud bang over the beating of my heart and my eyes snapped back open. It got quiet, then it was pitch black and they were gone. The blinding light was gone, I could see nothing around me. It was as if they had turned off the lights and fled.
I strained my ears to hear what was happening since there was only blackness around me. Suddenly a loud bang, the tree shook, then there were the shouts. I saw a pin prick of light. I had to roll my head around to see where it was coming from. A little beam was visible, then, slowly the little door opened. I could see an eyeball! I screamed, you know that high-pitched girl scream that you can’t help when you’re afraid, well, that was what came out of me.
A beam of light struck me in the eye, then I heard a familiar voice, “Baby Hawaiian Girl, is that you?” It was Johnny, his head was next to the ground and he was holding a flash light, the light hitting me right in the eyes.
“Let me see,” I heard Willie say. “How’d you get in there?”
“I don’t know, just get me out!”
Unexpectedly, there were hands reaching in grabbing my hair and my shirt and pulling me. “Ouch,” I cried. One hand was in my hair, yanking me toward the door. “Let go of my hair!” I yelled.
I heard Johnny’s voice, “Let’s get his head out, take it easy, and don’t pull his hair.”
I felt hands at my collar yanking me hard. My head hit the door jamb really hard and I cried out, “OUCH!” The hands moved around my head, adjusting as they went. This time the movement was slower, and with some careful maneuvers my head was out. Willie and Johnny were on both sides of me with their hands around the ropes pulling on my body. My shoulders were stuck inside, and no matter how hard they pulled, my body was not budging. “Stop,” Johnny finally said. “It’s not working.”
He sat back, shaking his head. “How did they get you in there?”
Justin stood there with his eyes wide. “You have no idea how weird this looks. I know this is a big tree, but your head is sticking out, and it looks like you don’t have a body.”
“He’s right, it looks weird,” said Johnny
“I think you’re stuck,” said Willie.
“I think I could maneuver my body out if you could get these ropes off me,” I suggested.
Justin took out a pocket knife, handing it to Willie, “Be careful with that thing,” I said as he brought the blade next to my body.
“Don’t be such a girl,” he said. Without really seeing what he was doing he reached in and started sawing through the ropes. I felt the first one release, then, one-by-one, he sawed through all the rope down to my elbow. I could finally move my arms! I squeezed one arm through the rope, then the other arm, and then pushed the rope down to my waist. I had to think about what I was doing since I couldn’t see my body. My head was out of the tree but my body was still inside. Justin was right, this not only looked funny, but it felt funny too.
“Give me the knife so I can get these ropes off my legs,” I said. It seemed like forever trying to get my legs free without seeing what I was doing. I had to think about how I was going to get my arm up by my head and out through the hole. I had to push my head back into the tree, put one arm out, then my head again, and with my legs I pushed my body through one shoulder at a time. When my shoulders were out, Johnny and Willie grabbed me, pulling me the rest of the way through. Johnny pulled me into a sitting position.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
I was rubbing my sore arms and legs when I asked, “How did you guys find me?”
“With this,” Justin pushed a piece of paper into my face. I grabbed it reading the words out loud. “If you want to see the Baby Hawaiian Girl again, bring the jar to the High-up Clubhouse and open it by the tree.” I looked at Johnny asking, “Where did you find this?”
“We found it on your bed,” said Justin. “After you called, we knew you were in trouble. We ran down here and your mom let us in. We went to your room, but you weren’t there. This was lying on your bed.”
I looked at the jar laying on its side, open in the grass. “You let him out?” I asked.
Justin ran over to the jar, “No, the lid was on a moment ago.” He picked up the jar and reached his hand inside. “He’s gone.”
“How did you get inside the tree?” asked Willie. He was now using the flashlight to inspect the inside of the tree. “Hey, our Hawaiian Girl, she’s inside.” He bent down to put his arm in, but the door swung shut with a loud snapping noise. Willie grabbed the door handle to open it up, but it wouldn’t budge.
“How’d you get it open before?” I inquired.
“I just pulled on it,” said Willie, “And it came right open, but now it won’t move at all.”
“Are you sure you saw her in there?” asked Johnny.
“Oh, she’s in there all right. She was right next to my face when I was tied up. The garden gnome is in there, too,” I said.
“How are we going to get them out?” asked Justin.
I looked at my friends, then I realized we weren’t alone. I closed one eye looking around the yard. I looked at the tree, all the way up to the clubhouse, and as I focused, I saw them. So many of them on the branches, in the treehouse. They were all staring down at us. Johnny caught on first, closing one eye to look around. Willie was next, then Justin. I heard Justin gasp behind me. “They’re everywhere, and they’re watching us,” he said in a trembling voice.
“They don’t look happy,” said Johnny quietly.
Then I saw him, the one I had caught. He was standing next to the one who had kicked me in the nose. They were smiling, then the one who kicked me in the nose gave a signal. He took his arm, raised it up to the sky, and swung it over his head. On that cue, acorns began to fly. We were being pelted again with acorn missiles. They hit me in the head, on my sore shoulders and body. I jumped up, running for the back door. I heard the others behind me as we made our way into the kitchen. When we were all in, I slammed the door, locking it behind us. What good that was going to do? They could still get in the house. We were in big trouble. Boy, was an understatement!
We were sitting in a dark corner in Willie’s basement on an old piece of carpet. It smelled like dog, dirt, and stale pizza. It wasn’t nice like the high-up treehouse. My arms and legs were still sore from rolling down the stairs. I had little red welts all over my body from the two ambush attacks of acorns, and my nose had two dark brown bruise spots from where I had been kicked. I was humiliated, but more so, I was mad. I had the journal open in front of me, ready to write.
It was Johnny who had decided we needed a safe place to talk, and it was Johnny who said we needed a plan of retaliation. So here we were, ready to work on a plan.
“Baby Hawaiian Girl, write this down,” he said. I nodded as I put the pen to the paper “They can be invisible to us, but we can see them with one eye closed.”
‘One-eye closed’ I wrote quickly.
“They live in the trees with the doors and windows,” said Justin.
‘Doors and windows’ I scribbled.
“How did they get those doors and window?” asked Willie.
“I know,” I said. “My mom has this magazine where she ordered them. It only took one day for them to arrive at my house. My dad put it on the tree for her that same day.”
“Why would he do that,” Willie said with disgust.
“Because they’re cute,” said Johnny. “Woman can’t resist that cutesy stuff. You know, garden gnomes, flowers, little spinning windmills,” he used his hands to gesture the windmill.
I cringed, Willie made a face and so did Justin. “I’m glad I’m not a girl,” he said.
“Oh, I know what else, they throw acorns,” said Willie.
“Quick, get a bucket, his ice-brain is melting,” said Johnny.
“What?” said Willie, “I thought we were writing down all we know about them?”
Johnny nodded at me, and so I wrote down they throw acorns at us.
“Is that all we know?” asked Justin.
“They can get inside our homes,” said Johnny.
I wrote that down quickly, looking around. “Why aren’t they in here?” I asked.
“Maybe they don’t know where I live,” said Willie.
“If they don’t know now, they will soon,” I said.
I sat back then I remembered what the head elf had said, “He said the tree was theirs now.”
“Who said that?” asked Willie.
“The head guy, the one who kicked me in the nose, and this is strange, there are no girls. It was all guys. There wasn’t a single girl in the tree, only the Hawaiian Girl.”
“Maybe they don’t like girls?” said Willie. “I don’t like girls.”
“Then why steal the Hawaiian Girl?” I asked.
“Maybe girls don’t like them,” stated Justin. “I don’t like them,” he said under his breath.
“Maybe there just aren’t any girls,” said Johnny
I scribbled, ‘NO GIRLS?’ In the journal with a question mark.
“How do we get rid of them?” I asked. “I don’t want them in my house or my treehouse anymore.”
“That is the question now, isn’t it?” said Johnny.
I wrote, ‘How do we get rid of them?’
We sat in Willie’s basement talking for hours. It was dark outside when I headed home. The darkness was a welcome cover to mask our movements. We had to be aware that they were always around watching us.
I got home and scanned the house with one eye closed. I didn’t see any elves in the kitchen or living room. I ate my dinner with only one eye open. My mom asked me what I was doing, so I told her I poked myself in the eye and it was too sore too open, so I just wanted to keep it closed. She seemed to be okay with that.
In my room, I looked everywhere. Under the bed, on the shelves, in my drawers, closet, nothing was there. They knew I figured out how to see them, but probably remembered that even without seeing them, I had already managed to capture one. Maybe they were staying clear of me, at least that was what I was hoping for. That night when I fell asleep, I dreamt I heard little footsteps, I felt little hands touching my face, and I imagined them crawling all over me.
I awoke to the sun shining in my window. I opened my eyes, immediately looking around my bedroom, expecting them to be staring down at me, but I didn’t see a single one. There was no sign of damage done to my room. I breathed a sigh of relief and crawled out of bed needing to use the bathroom. While washing my hands I glanced in the mirror, and I could not contain the scream that escaped my lips. What I saw in the mirror was more than frightening. My face had been covered with colorful drawings of flowers, butterflies, and ladybugs. My hair was even worse, it had been cut, teased and tinted every color of the rainbow. I pulled up my sleeves, on my arms were more pictures. The words Baby Hawaiian Girl were written all over my arms, my stomach, down each leg, my back, and even on my buttocks. I screamed again, someone had written Baby Hawaiian Girl across my butt! Oh, I bet they were laughing now. I stripped down and jumped in the shower. I scrubbed harder than I ever had before, I must have been in there for a long time because my mother was banging on the bathroom door for me to come down to breakfast.
I stood and looked in the mirror, shocked. This stuff would not come off! I had managed to get the hair to lay down, but the ink was another story. I grabbed the hairspray, closed my eyes and I sprayed it in on my face until I couldn’t breathe. Opening my eyes, I grabbed the wash cloth. I scrubbed, and finally some came off. I repeated the process over and over again. When it no longer worked, I tried something new. I grabbed the cold cream out of my mom’s drawer, and generously applied that to the remaining ink. That stuff seemed to work, so I applied it all over my body. I must have used nearly a box of tissue getting it off. When I was ready to emerge from the bathroom, my skin was red and raw from all the scrubbing.
I came down to the table very quietly so Mom wouldn’t look at me. She was reading a book, and as she glanced up to see me, she did a double take. I could see the shock on her face. I quickly turned away, grabbed a bowl of cereal and sat at the counter. I poured the milk, shoveling the cereal into my mouth as fast as I could. I needed to find out if anyone else had experienced the wrath of elves while they slept.
“Harris, what happened to your skin?” I heard Mom ask patiently.
“I think I have a rash, it’s itchy like poison ivy.”
“Oh, poor thing. I have some lotion you might want to use.”
I finished my last spoonful, put the bowl up to my mouth to drink down the sweet milk, and wiped my mouth. “I’ll come back later to get it.” I put my bowl in the dishwasher, grabbed my shoes, and ran out the back door. “Bye Mom,” I said as the door slammed behind me. I sat on the back step putting on my shoes. Running to the rope, I scrambled up to the treehouse. When I got up there, I sat down and closed one eye, I looked around. I didn’t see any little people around. I picked up the binoculars and searched Miss Lillie’s yard. My skin felt tight from all the scrubbing and soap. I ran my fingers through my hair, it was still a little knotty. I was wondering if it was just me, but then Johnny poked his head through the hole in the floor and I could see he had some visitors last night, too.
“What did they write all over you?” I asked.
He plunked down next to me, “Princess Buttercup. They even wrote it across……”
“Your butt,” I finished his sentence for him.
“Yours too?” he asked.
I nodded yes.
“It took me forever to get that stuff off my face. They even cut and teased my hair,” I said.
He gave a snort, “I guess it’s good to have short hair.”
I picked up the binoculars, scanning the yard. I craned my neck to look into Miss Lillie’s yard. No birds, no squirrels, no butterflies. It was as quiet as a library. Nothing appeared to move, except for the front of the tree where the door was now open. There was a flurry of activity going on over there. I looked at the sliding door, the dog was no longer sitting there looking out. In fact, the curtains were drawn like no one was home
“What is it?” asked Johnny.
I handed him the glasses so he could look. “It looks dead over there, all except the tree,” I said.
He shook his head. “This is bad.”
We sat there, looking around with one eye closed, looking at the neighbor’s yard, avoiding eye contact with each other. Neither of us said a thing. I suspect he was thinking the same thing I was thinking. How bad can this get?
It was faint, but we both heard it. It was like a ‘ping’ that you would hear on a computer. Neither of us reacted, we just sat there until we heard it again. At that second he looked at me and I looked at him. Without a word spoken between us we knew what was happening. ‘Ping’, ‘Ping’, ‘Ping’, ‘Ping’. I could feel the boards shift under my legs as I sat near the edge of the clubhouse floor. The nails were literally popping right out of the boards. I jumped to my feet to see the boards shuffle under my feet. I backed up against the wall, only to see the nails pop out. ‘Ping’, ‘Ping’, ‘Ping’, ‘Ping’. The sound was frightening, and the wall became weak behind my back as boards began to fall to the floor. One missed the floor and fell all the way to the ground below. I looked at Johnny, his eyes were as big as quarters. He put the binoculars around his neck and grabbed the rope. He was the first to swing down, then run to safety out of the way of the boards and nails as they rained down on the yard. I grabbed the rope after him and, as I swung away from the tree, the landing I was standing on fell away under my feet. I held onto the rope, watching as my beloved treehouse disassembled itself. It fell apart before my very eyes. Large pieces of plywood and boards plunged to the ground. I ran over to where Johnny was standing. Some of the boards bounced as they hit the ground, others shattered into pieces. I felt a tear slide down my cheek. I didn’t want to let Johnny see me cry. I held on until I heard my mom’s voice.
“Harris Huxley, what on earth have you done now?”
I looked at the ground, realizing it looked like a demolition site. “Mom, it just fell apart,” I said to her with my hands out at my sides.
The look on her face was a combination of surprise, shock and anger. “You’re going to tell me that a treehouse just fell apart?” She stood there with her hands on her hips
Johnny came over to my side and shook his head, saying, “Honest Mrs. Huxley, we were just sitting up there when the boards started to buckle and give away. We barely got out alive!”
Mom looked at him then at me. “Treehouses just don’t fall apart by themselves. Is this because I put that door and windows on the tree?” She was pointing to the door. I nodded my head yes, unaware that my answer, as true as it was, was not what she wanted to hear. “Harris, when are you going to start sharing? You can’t have everything all the time. So you destroyed your own treehouse because you didn’t want to share!” She shook her head in anger.
“NO, Mom, that’s not what happened.” I tried to explain.
“Harris, stack this wood up, pick up the nails, and then go to your room. Johnny, since you helped make this mess, I expect you to help clean it up. Don’t make me call your father at work.” She stood there glaring at us. I could almost see the smoke coming out of her ears she was so angry. I knew to get moving or she was going to get really mad. Johnny helped me pick up the biggest pieces, then together we stacked the rest of the boards by the house. Mom gave me a coffee can, and we picked up all the nails that had fallen into the grass. When Mom was inside, Johnny said, “We need a better plan, and we need it soon.”
Justin arrived to see us stacking the wood. He looked up and his jaw dropped. “What happened?”
“They kicked us out of the tree is what happened,” I grumbled. “Help us clean this mess up.”
Willie came by while we were scrounging around for the rest of the nails. He looked up, shocked by the empty tree.
“My dad is never going to believe that the treehouse just broke apart. What am I going to tell him?” I posed the question to the guys.
“Maybe we should tell him the truth,” proposed Justin.
“Oh sure, just tell him that there are small men marching around the yard and our house and their sole purpose in life is to play pranks on us. Oh yeah, by the way, they live in our tree,” I said sarcastically.
“We do need his help,” said Johnny.
“He’s an adult, he won’t listen,” argued Willie.
“Wait a minute, my dad listens,” I took offense to Willie’s comment.
“No adult listens,” he shot back
“Stop it. We have to tell him something, I mean, look at the treehouse,” said Justin.
“He won’t believe me,” I insisted.
“We’ll help you tell him,” said Johnny. Willie and Justin both nodded in agreement.
“Okay,” I agreed sitting down under the tree. Justin came to sit next to me, Johnny and Willie followed. Justin leaned back against the tree and looked over at us, then he said the strangest thing. “Why is there a smiley face drawn on your earlobe?” I grabbed my ear, but he was looking at Johnny. Johnny grabbed his ear, then Justin looked over at me, “You have one, too,” he said.
Willie looked at both of us, “What have you two girls been doing?”
“It happened last night, while I was sleeping,” I said. “Those little buggers drew all over me with different colored pens. They cut my hair and tinted it, too! It took me all morning to get that stuff off.”
“It happened to me too,” said Johnny.
“Why only you two?” asked Willie.
“Maybe because we live so close,” I guessed.
Johnny’s house was catty-corner to my house. Our backyards touched at the corners. He lived only two houses away from Mr. Gormley’s house with all the strange gnomes around his yard. Willie and Justin both lived one street over.
“You think this is going to happen to us, too?” asked Justin with a look of fear on his face.
I looked at Willie who was grinning like a child in front of a chocolate cake, “I certainly hope so,” I said.
“They know us, they know what we call each other,” said Johnny. “Look,” he pulled up his shirt to reveal the words Princess Buttercup written across his chest. “They even wrote it across Baby Hawaiian Girl’s butt.”
“They did it to you too, Princess Buttercup!!” I yelled.
“It’s just Buttercup to you!!” he shouted back.
Justin’s face was in shock. He jumped up, “I gotta-g-go,” he stuttered as he ran off toward his house.
I wanted to yell after him not to be such a little baby, but decided against it. I couldn’t blame him if he didn’t want to be the target of bad body graffiti. I gave both Willie, who was still grinning like a banshee, and Johnny a mean look. I knew I was going to be in trouble about the treehouse, but worse, the treehouse was gone. It was my favorite thing in the whole world, and I would have to beg my dad to rebuild it. All that was left were the boards now stacked against the house and the rope that hung from the highest limb. I had missed some of the ink on my ears, my skin was raw from scrubbing, I had bruises all over my body, and my hair was a mess. I reached up to try to smooth it down with my hand. I didn’t like my life being out of control.
We sat there, lost in our thoughts for a while, then we heard the garage door. Dad was home. I had a bad feeling about this. I waited, I knew my mom would be telling him her version of what happened. Then the door opened, and out he came. I thought he would be mad, but he just walked into the center of the yard. Looking up he put his hands in his pockets. He looked over at us sitting in the grass, and his gaze fell on me.
“Harris, you want to tell me what happened?”
I shook my head, “You are not going to believe me.”
“Probably not, but I’m listening.”
I took a deep breath, “Johnny and I were just sitting in the treehouse when all of a sudden the nails started popping out of the wood. It happened so quickly, we barely had time to get down. When we reached the ground, we had to take cover, because all the boards and nails were raining down on us.” I stopped and waited for his reply.
“Is that what happened?” he asked the boys next to me.
Johnny nodded his head yes, “I swear to it,” said Johnny.
“What about you?” he asked Willie.
“I wasn’t here, but yeah, it’s true,” Willie replied.
“So I’m to believe that the treehouse just broke apart by itself?”
We all nodded.
“Do you see how silly that sounds?” he asked.
We all nodded yes again.
“There’s more,” I interjected.
“More?” he questioned.
“Dad, there’s other stuff, too. We have been attacked with acorns, something or someone trashed our treehouse yesterday, and they threw everything out. They even broke our candle leaving it all over the floor, and we can see these little creatures all over the place.”
“Little creatures? What do they look like?” he asked.
“They’re little people. They look like us, but smaller. Real small,” Willie said. “Yesterday Baby Hawaiian Girl, I mean Harris, caught one and put it in a jar.”
My dad’s eyes grew larger. “You caught one? Where’s the jar? I want to see him.”
“We had to let him go,” said Johnny. “It was the only way to get Harris out of the tree.”
“Harris was in a tree? Why didn’t you just swing down with rope?” he asked.
“No Dad, I was IN the tree,” and I pointed to the door. “Inside there.”
“Inside the door on the tree. You want me to believe that you went inside the tree through that door?” He was losing his patience. “Harris, I don’t know why you knocked down your treehouse, but this story of yours is outrageous. Boys, you need to go home. Harris, you’re grounded. Go inside now.”
“Mr. Huxley, it really is true,” Willie insisted.
“Just go,” he pointed to the gate.
Willie and Johnny got up and walked slowly to the gate. Johnny looked back once to say sorry with his eyes, then they were gone. I got up and went inside. I knew my dad was never going to believe me.
As I walked into the house, I saw mom unwrapping some objects and putting them on the counter. I stopped suddenly, noticing that she had unwrapped two garden gnomes. I was in shock, “NO!!” I screamed.
Mom nearly dropped the one she was holding in her hands. “What is wrong with you, Harris?” she asked, her voice full of concern.
I ran over to her, trying to take the thing out of her hands. While I was pulling on it, I could have sworn it bit me! I jerked my hand back, sure enough there was a tiny round bite mark on my thumb.
I stepped back, “What are you doing with those?” I moaned.
“Well, the other one we had vanished,” said Dad who had come back into the kitchen, “So I wanted to replace it. While I was at the store, I found those and I thought your mother would like them.” He put his hand to his chin, “You wouldn’t know where the other one is, would you Harris?”
I did know where it was, it was stuck in the tree in the middle of the yard along with the Hawaiian Girl, but I wasn’t about to disclose that information. “No, I have no idea where it is.” Dad shook his head, “I didn’t think so. Up to your room. When you want to tell me what really happened today, you just let me know. Until then, you can stay in your room.”
I trudged up to my room, slammed the door behind me and sat down heavily on the bed. I closed one eye, looking around my room for those pesky intruders. I would have killed them if I saw them. If they were here, they were hiding. I knew I was going to be in more trouble because they would probably steal Mom’s new garden gnomes and I would get the blame for that, too.
I grabbed the journal, opening it to the page I had written on last. ‘New Information’ I wrote. So what was new? ‘They are in Johnny’s house too. They know what we call each other, which means they are around us all the time. They steal garden gnomes,’ I stopped. If that were true, why did Mr. Gormley still have so many in his yard? I remembered walking past with the guys and seeing ten, twenty or more scattered throughout his front yard. That was strange, why didn’t they steal any of his?
I knew I would probably regret this later, but I had to see if Mr. Gormley’s gnomes where still in his yard. I opened my window, pulled up the screen, and crept out onto the trellis that held up the creeping roses. I had only used this route once before to sneak out, and there were consequences. Roses are not the sweet lovely flowers they seem to be. They have sharp pointy thorns that like to snag my cloths and prick my skin. I slowly, and very carefully, descended to the ground, jumping off as soon as I could. I looked at the boards stacked against the house. How could my dad even believe for one second that I would tear apart my beloved treehouse? Would it ever be the same? If I were a girl, I would be in tears, but I’m not a girl, I’m Harris Huxley, tough as nails. I choked back my sob as I ran over to Johnny’s house. At the back door, I knocked three times. That was our secret knock. Johnny must have heard because he appeared quickly. “Hey Baby Hawaiian Girl, I thought you were grounded.”
“I am, I just have to see something, come with me,” I said.
“Did you sneak out?” he asked.
“Yep,” I said. Cautiously I made my way to the other side of Johnny’s house so I couldn’t be seen from any of the windows in my house.
“Where are the guys?” I asked.
“Cupcake ran home like a girl, but you know that. Snowflake left just minutes ago. What do we need to see?”
“Well, here’s the thing,” I kept walking toward Mr. Gormley’s house. “When I went inside my house, my mom was unwrapping something. She must have complained that she was missing that stupid garden gnome, you know the one I kicked the other day breaking off the hat. Well, it’s inside the tree now with the Hawaiian Girl. Today, when Dad came home, he brought her two more, and one bit me as I tried to take it out of my mom’s hands.” I stopped in front of Mr. Gormley’s house. “I realized they stole the first one we had, and they will probably steal the new ones, too. I wanted to see if they stole any of Mr. Gormley’s gnomes.”
Johnny and I were now standing right in front of Mr. Gormley’s house looking at his yard. To our amazement, there were several more gnomes than he had last time we were there. They lined the sides of the driveway, they stood in a ring around his tree, which now had a door and little windows, and they bordered the walk in front of his house. There must have been thirty or more in all kinds of poses, but mainly just standing guard, at least that was what it looked like. Again, they seemed to be looking directly at us.
“Stay here, I’m going to walk over to the other side of the yard to see if they are all looking at me from over there, too,” I whispered. Johnny stood still while I walked away. At about ten yards, I stopped and sure enough, they had seemed to shift position. They were now looking at me in my new location. “Are they still looking at you, Buttercup?”
“Oh yeah, a couple are even scowling at me,” he replied.
Then I saw movement in the yard, it made me jump. From the side of the house came Mr. Gormley pushing a wheelbarrow. I jumped behind a bush, Johnny ran behind a parked car. In the wheelbarrow were all kinds of little objects. He stopped near the big tree, the one with the window and doors, and I couldn’t help but gasp at what I saw. It was how the grown man was dressed. He was wearing lederhosen, and a felt cap that came to a point on his head. I hadn’t realized how small he was, he looked just like a larger version of a gnome! From the wheelbarrow he pulled out a red and white checkered table cloth, spread it open on the ground, and put a gnome on each of the corners. Then he pulled out a little tea set, cups, saucers, plates, and put them out in a haphazard way on the tablecloth. He pulled out little jugs with X’s on the front and put them down in a row along the middle. Then he pulled out little plates of sausages, cheeses, and tiny loaves of bread all sliced up. He got down on his knees at one of the corners, grabbing a little napkin and a jug. I heard him ask, “Shall I pour?”
Johnny had come around the car, he was squatting by the bumper to get a better view, and we looked at each other when we heard Mr. Gormley speak.
“How many want to try the special mead?” he asked as he looked around at the tablecloth. I closed one eye and saw that there were dozens of elves spread out along the edges while others were in the middle of the tablecloth helping themselves to the food. Many had their hands in the air. He made a little chuckling noise saying, “I should have brought more cups.” He took one of the jugs, put the cork in his mouth, then swinging his jaw he removed the cork from the jug. He laughed this time saying, “Did you like that?” He picked up the little mugs, filling them up and handing them out. The elves were taking the little mugs and drinking the mead as quickly as he poured it. When the jug was empty, he grabbed the next one, removed the cork like he did before, but this time he took a swig from the jug. “That is some good stuff, don’t you agree?”
The elves had their cups out ready for refills. It was a party right there in the yard. If you were passing by not seeing the elves, you would think that Mr. Gormley had gone crazy. I needed to get back home before I was missed, so I crossed in front of Mr. Gormley’s yard. I wanted him to see me so I could ask him about his gnomes. I had to make it look like I was just walking down the street, I would just wave as I passed and maybe he would engage me in conversation. The only problem was that some of the elves might know who I am, since I am their main target for mischief.
I scooted back, stood up, and started to walk past. Johnny scrambled back behind the car so he would not be seen. I waved saying, “Hello Mr. Gormley, are you having a picnic?”
He looked up at me, his expression was not one of pleasant surprise.
“I see you have quite a lot of garden gnomes,” I couldn’t help my nervousness. The words were coming out of my mouth before I had a chance to really think about what I was saying.
He was now glaring at me, “I happen to like them,” he said in an angry tone of voice.
“I can see that,” I said with a forced smile. I was thinking that he must know that the gnomes don’t like me.
Mr. Gormley stood up quite suddenly, startling me. I must have jumped back, because he smiled. “I’ve changed my name to Mr. Gnomely,” he said.
I shook my head, “I missed that, what did you say?”
He squared his shoulders, saying it again quite loudly, “I said my name is Mr. Gnomely, not Gormley. I wish you all would get that straight.”
I nodded as if to agree with his new identity, “Okay, Mr. Gnomely.” I gave him a brief smile, a slight wave of my hand, and then I was walking as fast as I could away from his house. Johnny squatted as he ran toward me.
“Did you just hear that?” I blurted out as he caught up to me.
“Oh yeah, the man is freaky.”
“Did you happen to see how many elves were in his yard?” I asked.
“It looked like fifty or more,” he replied.
I stopped and looked Johnny in the eye. “This could be bad, really bad,” I sighed. “I have to sneak back in the house.” He watched me as I sprinted to the back door. Before I went in I saw Miss Lillie in her yard. I stopped to watch what she was doing. It looked as if she was moving the bird feeders and the bird bath, taking them to the shed. She picked up her chair and walked over to the shed with it, too. I watched as she removed all of the garden furniture. She walked over to her swing, taking down one side, then the other. She started to drag it across the patio, so I decided to go help her.
“Oh Harris, could you pick up that end?”
I picked it up and followed her into the shed. “Why are you putting all of this away?”
“No need to have it out anymore, I never come outside.” Her voice sounded sad but her face was even sadder. All that was missing were tears.
“Why don’t you need them?” I asked, even though I already knew the answer.
“All the birds have left. The squirrels and butterflies are gone too. The only thing that’s left are those wretched creatures! If I could get that door off the tree, maybe I could get them to move out, but it won’t budge.”
I already knew this, for the guys and I tried to take it off a while ago. Miss Lillie sat down on the steps that led to her porch, “I find no joy in my yard anymore. I can’t even get the dog to come out here with me.”
I felt so bad for her. “Isn’t there a way you can just get rid of those pesky elves?”
She shook her head, “I wish I could just get rid of them.” Then she looked at me as if a light had just turned on inside her head. “That’s it, Harris, I’ll just get rid of the door and windows! I’ll do it right away.” She stood up abruptly and headed for the back door. Right before she went in she turned, smiling back at me, “Thank you, Harris, thank you for helping me today,” then she was gone.
I scratched my head. What did that mean? I sneaked across the backyard, quietly opening the back door. No one was in the kitchen, so I went to the cabinet and grabbed a glass. I went to the refrigerator, took the juice out and poured myself a large glassful. I drank all of it down, then quietly put the glass inside the sink. I wasn’t going to let it fall off of the counter like it did before. I closed one eye looking around the kitchen. I saw little shadows on the counters telling me that they were here, hiding behind the objects in the kitchen. There were just so many watching me all the time. I could only wait to see how they were going to torture me today.
“Harris, is that you?” came my dad’s voice from the other room. “Are you ready to talk?”
“Sure,” I said. I walked into the family room and sat down on the piano bench. Mom grabbed the remote control, turning the TV off. “I know this whole thing is my fault,” I began, because this was true. I had made the elves angry somehow, I was elf enemy number one. They were going to make my life hell. “I don’t know how to make it up to you, but I’ll do whatever it takes to replace the things that are broken or lost.” I was hoping that the elves were listening. I closed one eye and looked around. I could see little shapes moving in the book shelves behind my mom’s glass figurines.
“Harris, you have been acting strangely lately,” Mom said with a sigh.
I nodded in agreement, staring down at the carpet in front of me.
“Harris, why the treehouse? What made you guys destroy the treehouse?”
I had to come up with something quickly, “The guys and I, we thought we could do some repairs. Some boards were coming up, some of the boards were buckling, some were cracked, and so we must have been over ambitious. We weren’t trying to destroy it, we were trying to fix it,” I said in my most convincing voice.
“Fix it!” Dad yelled, “You boys demolished it!”
I looked at my dad as contritely as I could, “Gees Dad, I’m only twelve. We got carried away.”
He huffed, “I would say you got carried away.”
“Could you help us rebuild it?” I begged.
“I don’t know, Harris, I need to think about it.”
Mom took Dad’s hand, giving him that ‘Oh please, help the poor boy look’. I walked over, bent down and gave them both a hug, and then, without another word, I left the room. I could only imagine what the elves were thinking now.
I woke up to more knots in my hair, more flowers on my face, and more ink on my butt. I instinctively reached under the sink for the cold cream and began to scrub. My hair was a whole new dimension in scary. Not only were there knots, but more was cut so that in places it stuck right out, and there were large bands of color. I sprayed more hairspray on it, then jumped in the shower. Most of the color seemed to fade, but I suspected that in bright light you could still see a faint rainbow glow of color. It took me close to an hour to get all that stuff out of my hair and off my skin.
I came down to breakfast for a second day with red, raw skin and plastered hair. Mom, who usually gives me a once over, kept her eyes on me the entire time I was eating my cereal. “Harris, how’s the poison ivy coming along?”
I kept eating, between chewing and swallowing I said, “You know poison ivy, it sticks around for a while.”
“Okay,” was all she said. “I’m meeting your father today for lunch, then we are going to do some shopping. We should be home in time for dinner.” She came to the table taking the seat next to me. She sank down in the chair, taking my hand, I could see she wanted to say something. “While I’m gone, I was hoping you would clean up your room, especially under your bed. I know that’s where all your socks and underwear hide. You are running low on socks and underwear, don’t you want to have some nice clean ones in your drawer? So could you take care of that for me?” She made it a point to look directly into my eyes, “Harris, I need you to behave today. Don’t go getting into trouble while I’m gone.” The worry was clear all over her face. She continued to gaze at me with those soft motherly eyes, so I had to say something to soothe her mind.
“Mom, I promise, I’ll clean under my bed, and put all those clothes in the hamper.” It seemed that the job I dreaded most was going to be the first thing I did after breakfast. “I’ll be good, you don’t have to worry.” She sat next to me a few minutes longer. She put her hand in my hair, trying to ruffle it like she used to, but her hand got stuck in a knot. “Harris, when was the last time you combed your hair?” I moved my head out of her reach and got up with my cereal bowl. If she only knew the story behind my hair.
As I was rinsing my bowl I heard a loud roar in the back of the house. “What on earth is that?” I heard my mom say. She opened the back door, exclaiming, “Oh my gosh, what’s happening over there?”
I brushed passed her to see, and to my amazement there was a man with a chain saw in Miss Lillie’s backyard. He had goggles on and he was cutting the limbs off of her big burr oak tree. They were falling in all directions. There were at least three other men tying ropes around the limbs pulling them away from the house. Miss Lillie was standing at the far corner of her yard, almost at the fence where our two yards meet. Mom ran out the door toward her, I followed behind.
The sound was deafening the closer we got to her yard. Mom put her hands over her ears as she walked toward Mrs. Lille. Mom shouted over the noise, “Miss Lillie, what’s going on?”
Startled, Miss Lillie turned around to face my mom. “Why, I’m taking down that tree.”
“Why? You love that tree!” yelled mom over the chainsaw.
“Not anymore,” was all Miss Lillie said, then she turned around and walked toward her house. She stood near her shed watching the men move about the yard pulling down the limbs. My mom just watched as Miss Lillie walked to the other side of her yard. Mom made a face at me shrugging her shoulders, she walked back inside our house. When she was gone, Miss Lillie looked over at me and winked. I nodded, giving her a thumbs up back. I watched as the three men in no time at all took down the big limbs. Standing by the fence, I could see the space in front of the tree. I closed one eye and watched. At first, I didn’t see anything, but as the big guy moved the chain saw to the front of the tree, I saw the little door open, and five elves ran out of the tree. The man put the saw to the tree, cutting the little door in half as he took down what was left. As sad as I was to see that big tree go, I had a feeling of relief for Miss Lillie.
Mom was getting ready, so to show her that I meant what I said, I crawled under my bed clearing out all the socks and underwear. I must say, there were quite a few clothes stashed under there. I put them in the laundry basket and returned to my room to make my bed. I actually pulled the sheets up straightening the blankets as I went. I picked up the rest of the room, trash that had missed the can, cups that were nesting in my book shelf, and some other stuff that had turned to mold that I could no longer recognize. I even grabbed the vacuum cleaner to do a quickie vacuum job.
Mom came in and hugged me. “Remember Harris, be good while I’m gone.” I gave her my best contrite look, I even managed to bat my eyes. I may have to slap myself later for that, but I was ‘Harris the Good and Glorious’ for that one moment.
When I heard the garage door close, I ran to the window to see her pull down the street. When she was gone I ran over to Miss Lillie’s yard. Two guys were busy putting the last limbs on the truck while one man was putting away the ropes and saws. I watched as she paid them, then thanked them. It only took a few moments before they were pulling away from the house. Miss Lillie came back to where I was standing. It seemed really bright without the tree for shade, but all of her flowers and flowering bushes looked much more colorful.
“Come on Harris, let’s put this yard back together.” For a brief moment, I could see how Miss Lillie must have looked when she was younger. Her face was bright, lit up with hope, and she had a bounce in her step. We worked together hanging her swing, putting the table and chairs back on the patio, and setting up the bird bath. She filled all of her bird feeders, she even put out extra bowls of sunflower seeds in the yard.
“Why the bowl of seeds?” I asked.
“Well, squirrels like sunflower seeds too, and since I took down the oak tree, there will be no more acorns for them to eat. I really enjoy watching the squirrels.”
“I do too,” I added, “but I really hated those acorns.”
“Why would you hate acorns?” she looked at me.
“I have been attacked by acorns twice in the last three days. Those things hurt when they hit!”
She laughed as she walked up to the patio. She opened the sliding door calling for her dog. “Penny, here Penny,” but the dog would not come out. “She’s still afraid,” she said. “I think she must have been attacked by her share of acorns, too. I’ll just leave the door open a bit and see if she’ll join us. Harris, would you like some lemonade?”
“Sure,” I said sitting down on one of the chairs. It was still quiet in the yard, no birds yet. Out of curiosity, I closed one eye and looked around the yard. I saw little shadows moving toward the fence, then I saw three little elves hanging around the fountain. They were glaring at me. I must have jumped when I saw them, for Miss Lillie asked as she returned, “What is it, Harris? You see something?”
“There,” I pointed toward the fountain.
She closed her one eye and looked in that direction. As we were watching, a cardinal flew to the bird bath and started to get its feathers wet. Then it shook water all over the elves. One of the elves reached out to push the bird, but the cardinal was quick and pecked it on the arm. The elf fell backwards into the water. The other two elves took off running, with no place to hide, they headed for the fence.
“They’re going to my yard,” I said sadly.
“Oh Harris, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that would happen. How can I help you get rid of them?” As she was speaking, a squirrel spotted the bowl of sunflower seeds and started to make his way toward it. On his way to the bowl, he encountered an elf running across the yard. The elf stopped when the squirrel stopped. They stood there very still, just staring at each other. Then it looked like the elf spat at the squirrel. The squirrel jumped back, looked at the elf, and then took off after the elf, chasing him down the hill. The elf ran fast, but the squirrel was faster. The squirrel leapt into the air tackling the elf down. That squirrel grabbed the elf and rolled with him in his tiny paws. It was fascinating to watch. The little elf’s arms were punching at the squirrel, but the squirrel held him tight. When the squirrel stopped rolling, he pushed the elf into the ground, turned around and sat on top of him. I couldn’t see the elf’s face, it was pushed into the grass. Miss Lillie and I burst into a fit of laughter. What a great event to witness, squirrel conquers elf!
“Yeah!” I yelled, jumping off my chair.
Miss Lillie was on her feet, too, as she gave a yelp of delight, “You got him!”
Then, out of the blue came two elves running up on the squirrel. I ran to the edge of the patio toward the squirrel. He was going to get blind-sided by the elves, I was sure he didn’t see them coming. Funny thing about squirrels is that they have the best reflexes in the world. Right before the elves reached the squirrel, he jumped off the one he was holding down, turned 180 degrees, and knocked the other two over as he ran off toward the woods. Again I yelled, “Yeah!” Miss Lillie was at my side clasping her hands together.
“I think your animals are all going to come back,” I said.
“I think so, too,” she smiled.
We sat back down on the patio chairs. I looked up into Miss Lillie’s face, she was looking at the empty spot in her yard. I could see the regret she had over losing her favorite tree. I noticed she had some old books laying on the table beside the swing. I was trying to make out what it said on the cover when Miss Lillie picked the books up. “Do you want to see these books?”
She brought them closer so I could see what they were all about. The one on top was a dark forest green, and the edges were tattered. She put the stack of books on her lap picking up the one on top. “This is why I was interested in elves,” she said. The title of the book was, . I could tell it was old, it even smelled musty. “Last week I checked it out from the library, and the librarian told me just to take them and go. She didn’t want to ever see them again. She seemed kind of rude about it, too.”
Miss Lillie opened the book to the pages that were dog-eared. There were pictures on every page. The pictures showed little men dressed in green felt shorts with funny looking shoulder straps. They all wore the red felt hats, they all appeared to be smiling. “In the book, they seem like such happy little guys,” she said. “I didn’t know how mean or destructive they could actually be.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
She tilted her head back-and-forth as if thinking of her response, “Well, they chased away the animals, they scared the dog so bad she won’t even come out here. They stole my garden tools, my angel statues, and made a mess of everything.”
“They stole the Hawaiian Girl out of our clubhouse, took my mom’s gnome, but worst of all, they demolished my clubhouse, and made a mess of everything,” I added. She nodded in agreement.
Miss Lillie sat quietly until I asked, “Do you know where they come from?”
She picked up the bottom book, which was much larger and quite a bit older. This book smelled earthy. When Miss Lillie opened it, the pages seemed to cringe and shudder in her hands. She found the dog-eared page and, reading aloud, she said, “They date back to the dawn of man, and were first found on the island of Iceland. The Icelandic call them the Huldufolk, which means, the ‘Hidden People.’ ‘Huldu’ means secrecy and ‘folk’ means people. Some believe they are hidden from us by God.” She looked at me, I must have had a strange look on my face because she started to explain in her own words. “This book says that these were the first children of Eve. It says that she was so ashamed of them, that she hid them from God. Well, nothing is ever hidden from God.” She turned the book so I could see what was written, reading “What is hidden from God, God will hide from man.” She turned to look directly at me saying, “That is why they are invisible to us.”
“Do you believe that?” I asked.
“I don’t know, the book also says that they could be fallen angels hiding from God, condemned to live between heaven and hell. I don’t know if I like that either, but the one thing I do know is that they are hidden, unless you know how to see them.”
“The one thing I know is that they aren’t very nice! They take my things, they destroy my stuff, and they do mean things to me,” I pointed to my hair and red patchy skin. “They draw on my face and cut my hair every night while I’m asleep. They write things all over my body. I wish they were all gone, but now it looks like I have more.” I stared at the ground at my feet.
“Harris, I’m sorry if I attracted them here, but I promise you, I will help you get rid of them.”
“Can you help me convince my dad that they exist?”
She took a deep breath and sat up very straight, “I can try.”
“Can you come over tonight and talk to my parents?” I pleaded, jumping up.
She put her hand on my shoulder, “Harris, let me think about how to do this.”
When I left Miss Lillie’s yard it was afternoon. I wanted to catch up with the guys and tell them what had happened. I ran over to Johnny’s house, but he wasn’t there. I ran to Willie’s house, and when he answered the door I stepped back, shocked at what I saw. He was a mess. His hair was all different lengths, there were patches of green and blue in it, but the part that looked the worst was his face, it looked like it had been scrubbed raw. I could still see faint words written across his forehead and cheeks.
“This has gone too far!” he yelled at me.
“I see you were visited last night, too.” I couldn’t contain my grin. It was bad enough waking up to that in the mirror in the morning, but it was horrible to have your friends laugh about it. Yesterday Willie had laughed at us but today he was feeling the pain.
“You think this is funny!” he yelled.
I shook my head, “Not at all.”
He let me in, saying, “Those little brats (not the word he really used), how do you get this out of your hair?”
“Hairspray, you got any?”
He gave me mean look, “I don’t use hairspray.”
“I don’t either,” I said, “But if you have it, it really works.”
“I’ll have to look.” Off he stormed into his bathroom. I followed behind to demonstrate what he needed to do to remove the color. “It makes your hair real sticky, but it helps it lay down, too,” I said.
He looked at me from the mirror, “This isn’t funny.”
“I know, just look at me. I wonder if Cupcake had the same visit.”
“Call him and find out,” he said as he fussed with his hair.
I dialed up Justin’s number and waited by the counter. On the seventh ring he answered the phone, sounding out of breath. “Hello.”
“Cupcake, is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“You okay?” I asked.
“No, not really. Some bad stuff happened last night. I’m trying to wash it off. I’ve been in the shower for almost two hours. I ran out of hot water, so now it’s just awful.”
From the bathroom I heard Willie ask about Justin, “He get it too?”
“Yeah, and it sounds like they got him pretty bad.” ”Hey Cupcake, I’m at Snowflake’s house. Dry off and come down, I’ll show you how to get that color out of your hair.” I hung up and dialed Johnny’s number, hoping he would be home by now.
Johnny’s mom said he woke up early and left the house in a hurry. She thought he was with me. She said that if he came back home she would let him know we were looking for him. I was wondering where he could have gone, then I thought about what we had seen yesterday in front of Mr. Gormley’s house.
Justin was at the front door in less than 10 minutes. Willie and I worked to clean him up the best we could. We all looked pasty with our hair plastered to our heads. We weren’t our most fabulous, but we could pass for rugged and debonair.
“I think I know where Princess Buttercup is,” I announced as we headed out the door. I talked as we quickly walked to the next street. “Yesterday, Buttercup and I went to Mr. Gormley’s house. While we were there we saw the strangest things. It looked like Mr. Gormley was having a party with the elves. He had laid out a feast of food, he was pouring them mead and was drinking with them.” We continued quickly to the front of his house, and what we saw today was even more frightening.
The gnomes were all lying on their backs with their eyes closed. They were scattered everywhere on the lawn. One was even on his head. There were clothes hanging in the big tree in front over all the limbs. The picnic area where Mr. Gormley had set up the feast was now full of discarded dishes, old food, and empty jugs. I closed one eye, looking around, there were little elves asleep all over the yard. It must have been some heck of a party last night!
“Yesterday, Mr. Gormley told me he had changed his name to Mr. Gnomely. He was wearing lederhosen and a red felt hat.”
“You mean like those,” said Willie, pointing to the tree.
A pair of decorative felt shorts were hanging from a branch. “Just like those,” I said. You couldn’t miss them, they were the largest objects hanging in the tree along with many smaller pairs. We crept up the walk, looking around at his yard, there were objects strewn everywhere. The gnomes that were standing upright yesterday were lying on their sides, and some of them looked naked. They appeared to be sleeping, just snoring away.
Justin said, “I thought you said Buttercup would probably be here.”
I looked around at the mess, “I thought he might be. It was so disturbing, I thought maybe he would come back to see it again.”
Then we heard a strange noise, like snorting and growling. We followed the noise and found, Mr. Gormley hidden in the hydrangea bush, naked except for his underwear! He was sleeping off what could have been a drunken stupor. I put my finger to my mouth indicating to the others to be quiet. We moved on to the porch where the strange little colorful house was located. It had been altered just a bit. One of the shutters was hanging by a nail swaying in the wind, and the front door was ajar. I peered in the door and gasped. It was Johnny! He was tied up and gagged laying inside. He saw me, and his wide eyes were screaming for help.
I stood up saying, “Buttercup is in there, we have to get him out!”
“How did he get in there, and how do we get him out?” asked Justin.
“With this,” exclaimed Willie as he held up a shovel.
“Where did you find that?” I asked.
“It was up against the house. I guess the little man was doing yard work. Stand back,” he said as his first blow struck the house. The shovel came down with a loud crash putting a massive dent in the roof, then he hit it again. This time the roof shifted to the side just enough for Justin and I to pull it off.
Johnny was laying cramped inside the little house. Willie and I grabbed his arms pulling him upright. His arms were tied up behind his back with rope. His legs were also bound so he could not walk. His mouth was gagged with a piece of old rag. I pulled the rag out of his mouth, and he spit at the ground saying, “We need to get out of here now!”
Just as he spoke those words, the place came alive. Little shadows started to move around us. Even the gnomes that were lying down seemed to stand up taking notice. There was no time to untie the ropes, we looked at each other, and we picked Johnny up and ran from the house. I had a leg, Justin had a leg, and Willie was carrying him by his arms. We were flying down the walk making our way quickly to the street. As we fled I looked back to see the gnomes trailing right behind us. I even thought I felt one or two grab at my legs! Justin was screaming, so was Willie. We didn’t stop until we were well down the street.
When we finally did stop to put Johnny down, I looked back at Mr. Gnomely’s yard. The gnomes were lined up in a long row along the street, staring at us. Each one had a scowl on his face. One was even holding a pitchfork. From where we were standing we could see Mr. Gnomley rise to his feet, notice he was nearly naked, then look around at the mess in his yard. He saw us and raised a fist to the sky.
“Does he think we had something to do with that?” asked Justin.
“The man’s insane,” said Johnny, “Get me out of these ropes.”
Justin had a pocket knife, and in no time at all the ropes were off. We ran to Willie’s basement to talk. It was not the safest place since Willie had been attacked last night, but we needed to go somewhere. We all closed one eye, looking around the whole basement, there didn’t seem to be anything lurking in the shadows.
We lowered our voices and started to talk. “How did you get inside the house?” Willie asked Johnny.
Johnny was still stretching out his neck and legs. “Yesterday, Harris and I saw that creepy Mr. Gormley, or should I say Mr. Gnomely, setting out a tea party, no a mead party, for the elves. We noticed the creepy old guy had bought more gnomes, he was even dressed like one!” He looked at me, “Did you tell them about that?”
I shook my head no, “I didn’t have time to explain.”
He rubbed his head and neck, “Well, after what I saw last night, I wanted to see how things panned out this morning. So after I washed off all the ink,” he stopped to look at Justin and Willie, “I see you two have the same nocturnal problems. Sweet.” He shook his head and continued, “I went over there first thing. When I got there, the place was dead. I mean it looked like everyone was passed out. I crept up to look around, then out of the blue there was a blinding pain. Something hit me hard on the head, and when I woke up I was tied up and stuck in this small space. I thought I might be in the house, considering they put you in the tree, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know how I was ever going to get out. How did you guys find me?”
I spoke up, “I called your house earlier and your mom said you were already gone. When I arrived at Snowflake’s you weren’t there or at Cupcake’s either, so I thought maybe you went back to Mr. Gormley’s to look again.”
He looked at me, “Maybe you aren’t as dumb as I thought.” It was meant as a compliment, but it sure didn’t feel like one.
“Well, maybe you aren’t as smart as you think,” I shot back.
“No, I’m pretty smart, they took me by surprise,” he replied.
Johnny can be such a jerk sometimes. I huffed, saying, “I need to tell you what happened today in Miss Lillie’s yard.” I told them about the big burr oak, and how she had it cut down. I told them about the way the elves had left the yard, how the squirrel had jumped on the elf, knocking it down and then tackling another one. “It was awesome. It was like the squirrels hate elves too.”
“I hate those little buggers,” said Willie, (but I’m sure he used different words). “If I have to wake up to this every morning, someone’s going to pay.”
“Yeah, yeah, save it for the Boy Scouts, we have work to do,” said Johnny. “We have nutty Mr. Gnomely who thinks he’s an elf, we all have elves in our homes, and there’s Miss Lillie who got them out of her yard. We need to concentrate on how she did that.”
“There’s more,” I said. “She told me where they come from, and what people believe about them.” I told the guys about the books she had, and how Miss Lillie had showed me the pictures. “Do you want me to ask if we can see those books?”
“Heck yeah,” said Justin. He had been quiet up until now. His eyes were wide and I could see he was scared. “Let’s go ask her right now.”
We marched out of the basement with a purpose, men of action ready to take on anything those little elves could throw at us. Actually, we walked out of the basement with our heads down in fear of the next unforeseen attack. We had a plan, but it felt a little weak to me. For the second time in two days we officially were on a mission. We were going to collect information that could lead us to a successful retaliation at least that was what I was telling myself. We walked with only one eye open at all times. It was hard to do, and of course we looked funny, but we were weary of being watched. I don’t know if I believed anything Miss Lillie told me, but it was the only thing we had to go on, and she said she would help.
When we reached her yard, we approached with caution. We walked up to her door as if we were approaching a holy building. “Let me do the talking,” I said. I knocked, and we waited. I knocked again, but still no answer. I drummed on the door with my fist as hard as I could, I knew she was at home. Finally she opened the door. She gave us her warm smile, looked at us with curiosity, so I spoke up, “Hi Miss Lillie, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind letting us see the books you showed me this morning.”
She shook her head, “What books, Harris?”
“Remember this morning, in the backyard, after I helped you put your furniture back, you showed me some books,” my nervous voice was a full octave higher.
She shook her head again, “This morning I cleaned the house. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She stood there just looking at me.
My face must have turned three shades of red, so I stammered the next sentences, “Miss Lillie, don’t you remember the men who cut down your tree? They were here early, and I helped you. Don’t you remember?”
She shook her head as her smile faded. “Harris, there were no men here. I don’t know what you are talking about.”
It was as if all the air escaped my lungs, I felt my body go limp. My fingers started to tingle, the pit of my stomach began to ache. Either I was hallucinating, or Miss Lillie was delusional. I gave her a weak smile, “Sorry to bother you, I must be mistaken,” I turned away. The guys just watched. I don’t know what they thought of me just then, but it couldn’t be good.
They followed as I crossed into my yard and opened the back to enter my house. “What was that?” asked Willie. “Is she senile or what?”
“Or did what you said actually happen?” asked Johnny, staring at me with accusing eyes.
“Why would I lie?” I asked. “Ask my mom about the tree if you don’t believe me.”
“Well, your mom’s not home right now, is she?” said Johnny.
“No, but you can see for yourself that the tree is gone from her yard,” I shot back.
Justin was the first to burst through the back door looking into Miss Lillie’s yard. Sure enough, the tree was gone.
“I told you she took the tree down,” I said, pointing into her yard.
“Why would she lie to us?” asked Justin.
I stopped to think about that, “I don’t know, but it can’t be good. Stay here, I’m going to get those books,” I ran off to the fence. Once over the fence, I crossed the yard quickly. I saw the books sitting in the same place they had been this morning. I took the steps to the patio two at a time, grabbed the books without even looking around, and in no more than a minute I was down the steps, across the yard and over the fence. I hurried back to the guys, throwing the books into Johnny’s arms. I stood only a few inches from his sweaty, pasty white body and I spoke the words right into his face, “Those are the books”. He stepped back, I think he was afraid I might punch him.
“Nice job,” said Justin, breaking the tension between us. He was the first to reach for a book. He went inside the house, sat at the table and opened the book. I took the one on the bottom and joined him in the kitchen. I plopped down in the chair next to him at the kitchen table and slammed my book open. Johnny came in and sat down, cautiously opening the third book. As we three combed through the pages, Willie opened the cabinets searching for food.
Justin was the first to speak up. “You were right, they descend from Icelandic folklore. It says here they were small because they were hidden from man. It also says that if you provoke them, they become angry and troublesome.”
Willie nodded in agreement as he opened a bag of chips and pulled out a handful, stuffing them in his mouth. “They are troublesome alright,” he murmured with a mouthful of food.
We read in silence for some time, then Johnny spoke up, “Here’s something, it says that the Icelandic people have a special connection with the hidden people. They share four holidays, Christmas Night, Twelfth Night, which is January 6th, New Year’s Eve, and Mid-Summer Night.”
Willie paused before he put the next chip in his mouth, “What is Mid-Summer Night?”
Justin looked up from the book, “The Summer Solstice.” He looked back at the book again, “It says, ‘folklore states that if you sit at the crossroad on one of these nights, they will try to seduce you with food and gifts. If you give in, you will be punished, but if you resist, you will be rewarded.’ It also says that on this night they have great bonfires and big parties.”
We were stunned. We looked at each other. No one said a thing for a long time. “What does that mean, ‘a crossroads?’” asked Justin.
I was busy looking in the book that was in front of me, so was Johnny. Justin was turning pages, scanning them for the word ‘crossroads’. Willie got up, walked over to the calendar that was hanging on the wall and said, “So, when is the Summer Solstice going to occur? I think we need to find out about this crossroads thing.”
I saw Justin out of the corner of my eye, and he was staring directly ahead. I turned to look at Johnny, he was staring in the same direction as Justin. I froze in my seat, gripped with fear. I slowly turned my head around in the direction they were looking to see that all the cabinet doors were slowly swinging open. I held my breath. A glass in a cabinet over the sink started to jiggle, then it tipped over falling out of the cabinet, and smashing onto the counter. “NO!” I screamed as I leapt out of my chair. I ran to the cabinets slamming the doors shut. My hand was on one door, when a cup from another cabinet began to move. First, a little jiggle, then bam, down on the counter in hundreds of pieces.
“Help me!” I shouted.
Justin was out of his seat and so was Johnny. They were closing cabinets, holding them shut like I was doing.
“Tape, we need duct tape,” yelled Johnny.
Willie stood in the center of the room with his hands out in front of him turning in circles expecting the tape to magically appear. “Where’s the tape?” he finally yelled.
“Garage, hanging with tools,” I yelled back as I held the cabinets closed. An unseen force was trying to open all of them around me, so each time I took my hand off of one to close another, a different cabinet would swing open again. The drawers, too, were pulling themselves open. The three of us were frantically closing cabinets and holding them closed.
Willie finally returned with the tape. He began tearing long pieces, putting them over the cabinets as we held them closed. It took some time to get them all taped down, but when it was done, they seemed to be securely held in place. I assessed the damage, only two glasses broken. Justin had grabbed the broom and was sweeping the floor while Johnny was pushing the shards on the counter into a paper towel. It didn’t take long to clean up the mess. Mom might not notice the missing glasses, but she would surely question the tape over the cabinets. I couldn’t help that, I would just have to make something up. I was thinking maybe an earthquake was the way to go. I would see about that when she got home.
I closed one eye looking around the room. “We need to be careful what we say and where we say it,” I whispered.
“I think that would be a really good idea,” replied Johnny.
With little conversation, Johnny left with one book, the old one that was so old it actually smelled like dirt, Justin took a book, the one with a shiny plastic cover, and I took the green one. No sense in Willie taking a book, it wasn’t likely he would even open it. The guys left and I went upstairs to my room. I scanned my room for any moving shapes before I plopped on my bed with the book. I opened it again to read all the pages that had been dog-eared by Miss Lillie. After I was sure that I had all the information I could gain from this book, I reached under the mattress and grabbed the journal. It fell open on the page with the huge ink blot. I flipped through it to find a clean page. I jotted down everything I knew about elves from the books. I turned the page and wrote the word ‘CROSSROADS?’ in bold at the top with question marks behind it. We had to find out where this was, and soon.
After dinner, when my mom had picked up the plates and was over at the sink out of earshot, I engaged my dad in a quiet conversation. “Dad,” I said in a hushed voice, trying not to sound like a whisper, “Where is the crossroad?” He stopped what he was doing and looked over at me. “I’ve heard of locations called Crossroads. I think there is a section of town in Kansas City, Missouri called Crossroads.” He picked up the bowls from the table and went over to the sink placing the bowls on the counter. “Hey Honey, do you remember when we went through that area in KC, Missouri, didn’t we see an area called Crossroads?”
My mom, who had been trying to listen to what I said, looked up from putting the dishes in the dishwasher, “Oh, I remember that area. Didn’t we stop and have lunch there? I remember an overlook.”
Dad smiled at her saying, “That was where we decided to have a family. Remember, we said that the crossroads was a place where you are faced with a dilemma and you have to make a decision about your life.” She smiled back at him, suddenly I felt invisible. I took advantage of the situation, sliding off my chair so I could scramble back upstairs. I called Johnny, impatiently waiting for him to pick up. When Johnny answered I said, “Hey, I found out about the Crossroad. My dad said it was a place in Kansas City, Missouri.” Johnny took a minute to reply, “I looked it up, there are at least 10 locations called Crossroads. There was one in Kentucky, one in Mississippi, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Texas. There were so many locations that some are even in other countries.” My heart sank, that feeling of dread crept over me again. “Johnny, what are we going to do? Every time we get a lead, it takes us to a brick wall.”
“I know,” he said. “I’ve been reading the book from Miss Lillie, there’s so much in there. Did you know that there are dark elves, light elves, and even black elves? I think it has to do with where they’re from and their lifestyle.”
“What kind do we have?” I asked.
“It looks like we have the dark elves, their abode is in the trees and underground.”
“How does that make them different?” I asked.
“Well, the light elves are supposed to be the ones that live in the forest and can be helpful to travelers. The black elves are believed to cause illness and pain, the dark elves are believed to cause mischief and havoc. They are the pranksters.”
“Great,” I said with a sigh, “We got the troublemakers.”
“Have you looked at the book you took?” he asked me.
“Yeah, but I’m so confused. It tells me something about them on one page, then on the next it says no one’s sure if any of it is true.”
“Let me know if you find anything helpful,” he said.
“Okay, I’ll keep reading.”
“You going to stay up late?” he asked.
“I hate going to bed, I know how I will end up in the morning,” I grumbled.
“Me too,” he agreed as he hung up the phone.
Johnny wasn’t one to hang on and have long conversations.
I returned to my room to look over the book one more time. I sat down hard on the corner of my bed. I dreaded going to sleep because it meant waking up with ink on my face and knots in my hair. Apparently we had made enemies of the elves, and we were going to pay dearly. I picked up the book and opened it up to the beginning. I crinkled my nose at the smell of the old pages, it seemed to flow out of the book and into my room. Why did it smell like that I wondered?
I looked at the pictures, turning and skimming the pages, but mainly looking at the pictures. I let my eyes rest on a drawing of an elf with one side of his head full of long luxurious hair while the other side was short. The look on the elf’s face was fear. I laughed, then read the paragraph next to it. It spoke of the ‘Elf Locks’. What was a locks? I sat back really reading the text. It said that if you could cut a piece of the elfin hair, the elf would lose his ability to harm you. It was not clear if it was the shame you caused the elf by taking his hair or just simply possessing a piece of his body that made it work. It was only known to be a way that humans could control the elves. It was worth a try! I closed the book putting it in the hiding space between my mattress and box springs, then I closed one eye, looking around the room. I saw the shadows move behind the objects on my shelves. I devised a plan, a trap of sorts to make them stop tormenting me. They were watching, so I knew I had to be sneakier than they were since they could see what I was doing. I needed to catch one, like the way Johnny catches squirrels, and I needed to cut his hair. How I was going to do it was the question. What I needed was caffeine. If I was going to catch an elf, then I needed to stay awake to do it. I put on my pajamas, and ran downstairs. I grabbed a can of soda out of the refrigerator, opened it and drank it down.
“Harris, what are you doing?” came my mother’s voice from the other room. I was caught. If she came in, I was in serious danger of being in trouble. Soda was off limits, especially before bed.
“Just grabbing some juice,” I said. I hated to lie to my mom, but it was for a good reason.
“Don’t drink too much, it will make you have to go to the bathroom all night.”
“Okay,” was all I could say, hoping she would not come into the room. I grabbed another can to take up to my room. Usually, I can’t have drinks in my room, but I snuck it up in my sleeve just in case Mom caught me on the steps. I had to use the bathroom to brush my teeth, pee, and wash my face. When I was done I grabbed the small scissors out of the cabinet. I pushed them up my other sleeve out of sight. I didn’t want the elves to see what I was planning.
I needed to stay awake so I drank most of the second can of soda, then I lay down in bed. I closed my eyes, but I was wired. The caffeine was making my brain race inside my head. I replayed the conversations with Miss Lillie, the first one after the tree was cut down. I remembered how we had put her patio back together, how we saw the squirrel run over the elves. Then I replayed the conversation where she seemed not to remember what had happened earlier in the day. Why had she acted so weirdly? I had this feeling of worry wash over me because I had not gone back to check on her.
I replayed how we found Johnny in the small house in Mr. Gormley’s front yard, and the condition of Mr. Gormley when we found him. I began to wonder if he would be a part of the Mid-Summer Night Holiday celebration with the elves. Something in my gut said he would be.
I saw the green tattered book in my mind with the pages of pictures over and over again. I saw the cabinet doors swing open and dishes fall to the floor. I replayed the conversation I had with the guys about the elves, I remembered the look of worry on Justin’s face, and the sound of worry in Johnny’s voice on the phone.
My mind was racing when I felt the cool tip of a marker touch my face. They were here, the moment to stop this torture was now! I had to react with accuracy, I knew I only had one chance to get it right. I concentrated on the location of the cool tip of the marker as it touched my skin. In one swift move, both of my hands came up grabbing at the air. I was shocked when I made contact with a soft body and the rigid pen. I had him! I squeezed the little person tight, the pen fell away and I could feel it as it slid past my cheek. I opened one eye, I was holding the meanest, fattest, elf I had ever seen. Not that I had seen that many elves, but this one had hatred in his eyes.
Carefully, I sat up. “Got ya,” I said rather calmly, although calm was nothing like I was feeling. I gave him a squeeze as revenge coursed through my body, I could see his eyes bulge and he let out a bit of scream. I had gained his full attention and I scanned around my room looking to see if I had the attention of the rest of them, too. “Come out, we need to talk about what you’re doing in my bedroom.” The tone in my voice was less than sincere. This was going to be a come to Harris talk, I let the scissors fall out of my sleeve and onto the bed.
In less than a second I had a ring of elves surrounding my body as I sat on the bed holding my hostage. I pushed myself up to my knees so I could sit higher on my haunches, and secured the elf I was holding with my left hand. I wanted to be higher than the minions before me, I wanted to make sure they knew who was in charge now. I moved quickly, grabbing the scissors with my right hand, putting my fingers through the holes. I kept my eyes on the elves and they kept their eyes on me. Every move I made, they followed with their gaze. I let my eyes fall on the elf in my left hand. ‘Let’s see if this works’ I told myself. I brought the scissors up to the elf’s small head. He started to squirm as soon as he saw the scissors coming his way, it was all I could do to keep him in my hand. I decided it would be less dangerous if I went for his beard, for his beard was rather long and bushy. I carefully placed the scissors right below what looked like his chin giving the scissors a quick snip. A long bundle of hair fell at my knees.
I looked at the elf, his eyes were bulging with anger as he glared back at me. My heart was beating so hard I thought it was going to beat right out of my chest. I felt scared and powerful all at the same time. I quickly looked around at all the elves that had encircled my body, and I heard a cry of fear from those standing by my left side. I closed my eyes, thinking they would attack me, but to my surprise, they started running in all directions. I blinked my eyes open to see them knocking each other down, crawling over the ones that had fallen to get away from me. In a few short seconds, I had cleared the room. I blinked my eyes again to make sure I had just seen them all disappear.
I looked down at the elf I was still holding. He, too, had a look of fear, for I was holding the scissors close to his head. I moved it away and his little body slumped with relief. I decided to act on my advantage so I stared down into his beady little face. “I want this to STOP!” I yelled at him.
He closed his eyes as the words hit him in the face.
“I don’t want you or your friends in my room ever again.”
He looked up at me, “We ain’t going to be bother’in you anymore, but we will take what we want,” he said back at me.
“Who said you could take my stuff, come in my room, write on my face, destroy my clubhouse, and break my mom’s dishes?”
He smiled up at me, “You do the same things we do, we been watching you. You take stuff you’re not supposed to have, you call your friends names, and you hide stuff from your mum.”
I was shocked. I thought about what he just said, was it true?
“We ain’t no different from you,” he said again.
“You are different. You’re mean, and you hurt people.”
He started to laugh at me. That was when I squeezed him really hard and his eyes bulged. I sneered at him saying, “I don’t like you.”
He sneered back, replying, “That’s too bad now isn’t it.”
I needed information, but he was making me so mad I couldn’t think straight, so I took a breath, sitting there gathering my thoughts, just looking at him. Finally I asked, “What’s your name?”
He looked shocked that I had asked his name, “What’s it to you?”
“I want to know what to call you,” I said with an edge in my voice.
He relented, “I’m called Albert.”
“Okay Albert, I’ve cut your hair, I mean ‘locks’, you know what that means don’t you?” I was hoping he would tell me because I really didn’t know what it meant. I was just hoping it would somehow disarm him. He looked down at the hair laying on my bed and he didn’t say a word. I squeezed him again saying, “You know what that means, answer me.”
“Yes, it means we have no power to be invisible to the person who holds our ‘locks’,” he shouted back at me.
I looked down at the mess of hair that lay in front of me. With my right hand I carefully swept into in a pile. I need to keep this hair I thought, “Yeah, and what else.” I was hoping for even more.
“And we have to respect you as a ‘Giant Folk’, we can’t prank or harm you.”
Ahh, relief flooded through my body, but I wasn’t finished yet. I couldn’t give anything away, so I squinted my eyes at him saying again, “And what else’” hoping for more.
“And we have to leave if you ask us to,” he said, I could feel his body go limp.
‘Victory!!’ My mind was shouting. I swallowed hard, this was the moment I take control. “Okay then, you have to leave and never come back here, ever. I’m holding on to this,” I picked up a few strands of the hair to show him my intention, “And if you ever come back, I’ll invoke the Full Power of the Locks on you.” Whatever that meant, I shook the hair in front of his face.
Albert gasped, “The Full Power?” he asked with panic.
There must be more that I don’t know, I thought, but at least I had his attention. “Tell the others that we are on to you, we know your weakness, and we are prepared to use the locks, so leave us all alone.” I released my hold on him saying, “Go now, get out of here, and don’t ever come back here, ever!”
He stretched out his arms, straightened himself up, and then looked into my face disappointed.
“What’s wrong with you now?” I asked.
“I’m going to miss the fun we had making you miserable.”
“That’s terrible, can’t you find something constructive to do?” That was what my mom always said to me when I was full of mischief.
“Like what?” he asked.
“I don’t know, build something, houses?”
“We don’t have to build houses, they are here for us to move into. You put the doors and windows on a tree, then we automatically have a home. We move in and set up camp,” he said.
“Well, don’t you need to gather food, or go to work?”
“Work? Don’t be silly, we take the food we need from you, and what do we need to work for?”
I was shocked at this. “Well, what about your family, you must have a wife and children to care for.”
“A wife? Children? Why would we bother with that trouble? We don’t need that sort of mess,” he said as if I were crazy to ask.
Now my curiosity was really peaked, “Where do you come from that you don’t have a family? I mean, didn’t you have a mother? Sisters?”
His expression changed to one of confusion, “We left them behind a long time ago to come here. I guess they could have come if they wanted to, but they seemed happy that we were leaving.”
I thought about this, and my conclusion was upsetting. “Didn’t that give you a clue about what kind of people you are? I mean, if people are happy that you are leaving, then you might not be very nice people to be around.”
His faced changed again. The happy, carefree, expression was completely gone. He looked somber and regretful as he thought about what I had just said. Then his expression was replaced by spite as he walked right up to me saying, “Well maybe those others, those women just didn’t know how to have any fun.”
I didn’t know how to respond. One minute he seemed decent, the next he was a beast all over again. “So you just cause mischief all day long, is that what you do?”
His posture changed, he stiffened up again looking me right in the eye, “We’re no different than you. You think you’re better than us, but you’re just the same.”
“I’m nothing like you, and neither are my friends,” I yelled at him.
“We’ll see about that,” he said. He turned away, then quick as a wink he was gone.
I closed one eye, looking around the room and sure enough they were all gone. I checked the time, it was late. It was too late to call Johnny to tell him what had just happened. I gathered up the hair, rolling it into a small scrap of paper, then I wrapped tape all the way around it to secure the hair within. I made it small so that I could put it in my pocket to have with me all the time. I grabbed the journal from the secret hiding place. Because I was so wired on caffeine I could not sleep, I began to write. I wrote down everything that Albert had said. I wrote down all the crazy thoughts that were now racing through my brain. Was it true? Were we really just like them? More importantly, did the locks really hold the power to make them behave, or better yet, go away for good?
I opened one eye, I was fully awake, but I wanted to know if I was alone. I cautiously looked around my room but nothing was moving. There were no shadows, no movements, but best of all, no ink when I looked down at my arms. When I reached up to feel my hair, to my amazement, there were no knots. I jumped up, running to the bathroom. I stared at myself in the mirror, cold relief flooded my body as I saw no flowers or words written across my face. I looked down at my hands, arms, legs and feet. Again, I saw nothing. I turned so I could see my backside. “YES!” I was all clear. I wanted to scream with joy, but Mom would surely ask why I was so happy, so instead I did a short celebration dance right there in the bathroom, then I ran back to my room to get dressed. I made the bed, picked up my clothes and shoved them quickly into the hamper, grabbed my shoes and I was down the steps in a flash. Today I didn’t need to spend a lot of time in the bathroom scrubbing and applying the creams to get rid of the ink, or brushing the knots out of my hair. Today, I was free, it felt so good! I put my hand over my front pocket realizing I forgot something, so I ran back upstairs. I fished around under my pillow and grabbed the small rolled-up piece of paper. I put it in my pocket, pushed it to the bottom to make sure it wouldn’t fall out, grabbed the journal and the green Elf Book, and I took off.
I ran to Johnny’s house first. It was early, but I was sure he would be up. When he answered the door, he was fully dressed and ready to go. “Hey, I didn’t get ‘The Treatment’ last night. How about you?” he asked.
“I know,” I said. “I think I took care of that.”
“How?” he asked.
“I was looking at the pictures in the elf book and there was this picture with an elf with only a half a head of hair. I read what it said, it was something about the ‘Elf Locks’ having special power. I thought hard about what that could be. I decided to try to catch one and cut off some of its hair to find out, so I caught one and cut its beard off.” I fished in my pocket pulling out the little rolled-up paper. “This little beauty is going to keep us safe.”
He took the paper from my fingers, “You did what? What is this?”
“In there are the whiskers of an elf, his beard hair. If I have that on me, then I have special power against those little buggers,” I said with confidence. I flashed him a huge smile of success. Finally a breakthrough! “Let’s go see if Cupcake and Snowflake are ink-free, too.” I grabbed the rolled-up paper back, and shoved it deep into my pocket, “Grab your book, and let’s go.”
When we arrived at Justin’s house, he too was dressed and in a great mood. Nothing unpleasant had happened to him as he slept. That was good because Justin was not taking the harassment well. He was reluctant to come with us to find Willie. “I was thinking about just staying in and reading a book, or helping out with the dishes.”
“What, you want to be a couch Cupcake today, watch the Ellen Show with your mom?” asked Johnny in a demeaning voice.
“No, I just don’t want those ‘things’ bothering me anymore,” he whispered.
“They can’t hear you, they aren’t here anymore,” I announced.
“How do you know?” he asked, looking around uneasily.
“Because I told them they had to leave, and they did!”
Johnny looked curiously at me, “You told them to leave? And they did?”
“Come on, let’s get Snowflake, and I’ll tell you all everything that happened last night.”
Reluctantly, Justin donned his shoes, grabbed his book and followed along.
Willie had just rolled out of bed when we got to his house, his hair was a mess, and he was only wearing a pair of gym shorts. “Hey guys,” he said when he answered the door
“You look good,” nodded Johnny.
“What?” Willie looked confused and followed us as we made our way into his kitchen.
“No ink, no knots,” I said pointing to his hair.
He reached up running his hand through his hair, then he walked over to the microwave to have a look at his reflection in the glass, “Yeah, nice. Looks like those little BLEEP (he called them something I can’t repeat) left.” His language was not complimentary to the elves.
“They didn’t just leave,” I said. “I made them leave.”
“How did you make them leave?” he asked.
“Yeah, how did that happen?” asked Johnny.
Out of sheer habit, I closed one eye to look around the room. This led to everyone doing the same thing. When I was sure they were no longer here, I opened the journal to what I had written last night and began to explain. I showed the guys the little rolled-up piece of paper that I pulled out of my pocket. I opened the green book to the page that explained the ‘Elf Lock’. Then I said, “As long as I have this, they have to respect us as ‘Giant Folk’. I asked them to leave, and they had to do it. I’m not sure if they still live in the tree in my yard, because Albert, the elf, said that once we put that door and windows on the tree then they could move in. I think we have to remove that stuff from the tree if we want them to really leave permanently.”
“How are we going to do that? We couldn’t get them off Miss Lillie’s tree,” reminded Willie.
I shook my head. “I really don’t know.” All I could think of was how she got rid of them, by cutting down her tree. My tree was over 200 years old, it was not likely that my dad would be willing to cut it down.
“Did you guys find out anything in the books you took home?” I asked.
Justin opened his book to a page he had marked, he turned it so we could see the page, “At the crossroads, on the Mid-Summer Night celebration, there is a bonfire and a party. Apparently, the elves will tempt you with food and gifts that are special to only you, and if you resist, you are greatly rewarded, but if you give in, you will experience terrible tragedy.” Justin looked scared, “What kind of tragedy I can only guess.”
“What kind of rewards?” Willie inquired.
“I don’t know, it didn’t say.”
“Did you find out where the crossroads was located?” asked Johnny.
“I thought you guys were looking that up,” Justin said, looking from me to Johnny.
“We did,” I replied. “We found about 50 places in the world called ‘Crossroads’. It was no help.”
“Maybe the ‘Crossroads’ isn’t a location,” said Johnny. “Maybe it’s a place.”
“What? That doesn’t make any sense,” replied Willie.
“In my book,” Johnny opened his book to the page he had marked, turning it to show us the words, “It says that a crossroads is a place where the ‘Fabric of Reality crosses with the Principles of Morality’. What if it’s a place that changes location based on situation and circumstance? Just think about it. If it is a place where those two meet then it might be different every year, and for every celebration.”
Somehow that seemed to make sense to me, and I could feel a strange reaction creeping over me as I began to realize that I knew the place that the Mid-Summer Night Celebration was going to happen. I could see it in my mind. I also knew that when I went, I would be tempted by the elves. My mind was racing forward and for a brief period, I could see the four of us standing in the darkness, flashes of light playing on our faces from the blaze of a bonfire as we stood mesmerized by the temptations of the elves. They’ve been studying us, they’ve been in our rooms, in our homes. They know what we like, they hear what we say, but more importantly they know our weaknesses and fears! Part of me wanted to back out now, just call it a day and go home. So what if they lived in my tree, so what if I could never go in my backyard again, I did not want to play this game anymore. I ran my hands up and down my arms, then down my legs in a reaction of anxiety. Then I felt the little bulge at the bottom of my pocket. I reached my hand in and put my fingers around the rolled-up-paper. ‘WE CAN DO THIS’ I thought.
“I know where it’s going to be,” I said.
“Me, too,” said Johnny.
“I think I know,” added Justin.
“Well, would someone tell me because I haven’t had breakfast, and when I don’t eat I can’t think right,” said Willie.
“Mr. Gnomely’s yard. Reality is definitely being crossed with Morality there, wouldn’t you agree?” I asked. Johnny was already nodding his head, yes. Justin, too, gave a nod.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” said Willie. He wasn’t always known for his fine thinking ability, breakfast or not. He was always more brawn than brains, unless it came to bugs and spiders, then he was the first one out the door. “Do we have a date for this Mid-Summer Night Celebration?” he asked.
“The Mid-Summer Night is the summer solstice,” said Johnny.
“The Summer what?” asked Willie.
“When the ice melts, and the water runs out, the brain is left empty. Do you ever pay attention in school? The summer solstice is the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, June 21 or 22, depending on the revolutionary cycle of the earth. All we have to do is consult a calendar and see which date it’s going to occur on,” said Johnny.
Justin went over to look at the calendar hanging on the wall. “The date this year is June 21, two days away.” He stood there, his face pale from fear.
I hadn’t been keeping track of when the summer solstice would occur, heck it was summer vacation and what kid ever paid attention to a calendar in the summer. Summer was freedom from books, school, and waking up early. I really hadn’t realized that we were already in the middle of June. I had been feeling better thinking June 21 was a ways off and we had some time to prepare, but it was only two short days away, and we had to be ready! But how could we be ready for something we didn’t really know about.
I turned the page in the journal, grabbed the pen and was ready to take notes. Justin was looking down at the last page that I had written on, then he looked up at me with a question on his face, “What does that mean?”
“What?” I asked.
He pointed to the page saying, “You wrote here, ‘Are we any different than they are?’”
My eye caught his and I replied, “Albert kept saying that they weren’t any different from us, that we do the same kind of things that they do.”
“Like what?” asked Johnny.
“Well, he said they take what they want, like the Hawaiian Girl. Snowflake just took it from his mom’s car, so they didn’t think it was bad that they just took it from us.”
“I didn’t just take her,” argued Willie.
“Yeah you did, I was there, remember,” Justin insisted.
“What else did he say,” probed Johnny.
“Well, they don’t like to be bossed around, neither do we. They don’t like girls or girlie things, we really don’t either. They play pranks on people, so do we sometimes. They don’t like to do any work, we don’t like work. It’s scary how we seem to be so similar.”
‘Morality’, that word had seemed distant and harmless just moments ago, but now it put a crushing blow on my thinking. I had refused to believe that we were like them, but now it seemed like we were pretty similar to them. Writing it down was one thing, but hearing my very own voice say these things out loud made it clear as day. I wasn’t the only one thinking this. It appeared as if everyone was stunned by this revelation.
“Albert said that a long time ago they left their homes, he said that the ones who stayed behind were happy to see them go. I hope that if I left my house my parents wouldn’t be happy to see me go.”
“That’s the difference, don’t you see?” said Johnny. “Our parents and siblings would be sad if we left because they do care about us. As bad as we can be, we still work to be members of our families. We care about them, and they care about us.”
“I’m nothing like them,” said Justin. “I don’t care what those awful elves think, I’m nothing like those little good-for-nothing pieces of BLEEP.” Justin never says bad words, but today, he was pushed to the limit. “So what’s our plan to get rid of them once and for all?” he asked. Justin had just manned-up.
I lay in bed wondering what the elves were going to do to tempt me. What weaknesses had they observed? Was it self-doubt, was it lack of athletic ability, was it fear to stand up to others and do the right thing? I knew they were smart, they probably realized we finally figured some of this stuff out, and they were probably planning their revenge. I remembered reading in the green book that sometimes the elves’ antics resulted in death. A shiver of anxiety ran through me, so I reached under the pillow to let my fingers curl around the small piece of rolled-up paper. I had touched it so many times in the past day that now it was so wrinkled it felt soft like old cloth. The other guys had talked me into putting a few pieces of hair into small rolled-up papers, for each of them, too, so they could carry some locks around for assurance that nothing harmful could befall them.
I lay in my bed wondering ‘what was the real ‘Power of the Locks?’ What kind of powerful magic could be tied up in their hair? What did hair mean to the Huldufolk, or the ‘Little People’?’ I knew that girls were always worried about their hair, fussing over it, but I never really thought about my hair. When I was young my mom made me get my hair cut really short, she said it was easier to take care of, but now that I’m older, I could choose how I wanted to wear it. I knew some guys had their hair cut real short, because it was easier to take care of, but other guys had longer hair. I think it’s a sign of independence. It’s your hair and you get to do what you want with it maybe that was its power, the power to do what you want with your life. Then I remembered what Albert had said, “Means we have no power to be invisible to the person who holds our ‘locks’, we have to respect you as a ‘Giant Folk’, we can’t prank or harm you,” but the last thing he said was the most important. “We have to leave if you ask us to.” That said it all. If their hair was their independence, their ability to do what they want, harass who they pleased, and steal anything from anyone, then to lose it meant they lost their power. It also meant that having one elf’s hair was like having all the elves’ hair. I really was invoking the ‘Power of the Locks’!
I lay there, putting it all into place in my head. After I left the guys I went over to Miss Lillie’s house to see if she was okay, and she said she, too, was experiencing the calm. The day we came by to get the books, she said she had seen a half dozen or more elves in the house, and she didn’t want to provoke them. She was hoping that after our conversation in the backyard I would figure it out and just take the books. She said she left them back there for me to find. I asked her if she was willing to talk to my dad about the elves, and she said she was going to, but she needed to figure out how she was going to address the issue with him. She didn’t want him to think that she was filling my mind with scary stories about elves, or promoting weird ideas that I had latched on to.
The more I thought about everything that had happened, what we were about to encounter, the more uneasy I became. The Mid-Summer Night Celebration was only two days away, and me and the guys had talked about what we thought was going to happen, but I was sure it wasn’t going to be anything like we expected. Johnny seemed to think that it wouldn’t be a big deal at all. He said, “We show up, we resist the temptations, we stand our ground, and make them leave.” That sounded a little too easy if you ask me. I think even he is expecting more.
Willie is looking forward to it. He’s been pumping up. He said, “They’re really too small to cause me any harm. I’ll just catch them and throw them as far as I can. It would take twenty or more to even hurt me. I’m not scared.” Too bad he’s never really encountered them. I think being tied up, thrown down the steps, and left in a tree might change his mind.
Justin’s the one I’m worried about. He’s smaller, more reserved, more skittish, even if he is wiry and fast. He’s a bit of a follower, and I was afraid he could be easily manipulated. As I lay there thinking about how they could tempt us with gifts, food, and other things, I drifted into a sketchy dream.
I was walking in Miss Lillie’s yard. It was sunny, breezy, and I could hear the birds singing. There were squirrels and butterflies all moving around her yard. Miss Lillie waved for me to come over and sit with her on her deck. It felt warm as I crossed the yard, then something caught my eye. I saw a glowing stream of light that made everything behind it curve and bend. I headed for the light instead, mesmerized by the brilliant glow of color and objects that shimmered within it. I looked down to see that my foot was no longer on the ground, I was floating above the yard. Suddenly I felt my body fall forward. My arms pin-wheeled around as I tried to grab onto the bushes nearby, but the leaves slipped through my fingers. I braced myself for impact with the ground, but I hit something soft instead, then the lights went out.
I opened my eyes as a black hood was pulled off my head. My nostrils filled with the smell of campfire smoke. I choked, squinting to see my surroundings. I was outside, it was cool and damp except for the hot bonfire that blazed away right in front of me. I pulled my head back, for the heat was so intense it hurt my eyes and skin. I tried to move my arms, but they were stuck to my body. When I looked down, I could see that there were big ropes wrapped all the way around me, preventing me from moving anywhere. I ran my finger down the outside of my pocket, I could feel the bulge from the rolled-up paper. My body relaxed for I knew I was still protected.
I looked around and saw Mr. Gnomely sitting on a bench in front of the fire drinking out of a mug. He was laughing, talking amicably with the elves sitting next to him. They all had mugs in their hands, some were laughing, some were singing for I could hear a faint song off in the distance.
“Hey you, hey Baby Hawaiian Girl,” I heard someone call. I looked around at all the faces that were now staring at me trying to find out where the voice was coming from. “Over here you sissy, momma’s boy. What boy would let himself be called Baby Hawaiian Girl? Didn’t your parents like you?”
It was Albert, the elf I had caught in my room, talking to me. I looked directly at him saying, “Baby Hawaiian Girl is not my name, my name is Harris.”
“No, it’s not, your friends call you Baby Hawaiian Girl, so that must be your name.”
“Stop calling me that, my name is Harris.”
“Stop calling me that,” he said in a high, mocking voice, “We’ll call you what we like, you’re our prisoner, we control YOU now,” he emphasized the ‘you’. “You will have to respect US, and do what WE say.”
I felt my pocket again, carefully I moved my hand inside pinching the rolled-up paper between my thumb and fingers. I carefully pulled it out of my pocket, I didn’t want to lose it. I held it out at my thigh so they could see what I had. “I have your ‘Hair Locks’ so let me go.”
I saw a wave of shock pass among the elves. Some flinched, others shuffled back into the darkness, but all of their eyes widened to take a look at what I was holding in my fingers.
“So, what do you think you can do with that?” asked Albert.
“Control YOU is what I am going to do with this. Now let me go, and I want you to leave,” I said with authority in my voice.
“Well, Mr. Baby Hawaiian Girl, we decided not to listen. We decided we weren’t going to be afraid of a piece of hair,” he smarted back to me.
A shiver of fear ran through me. I needed this ‘Hair Locks’ to have some power over them. I needed some protection from what harm they could do to me. I spoke before I even knew what I was saying, “So what are you going to do to me?”
Albert smiled an evil smile, “Torture you, beat you, scold you, maybe even shove you in that big tree of yours and let you rot there.”
My mouth went dry, I looked around at the crowd. I could see the smoke from the blazing fire, I could hear it crackle, and I could even smell it. This must be real, I was in big trouble. “What did I ever do to you?”
Albert laughed, taking a step forward, “We just don’t like you Baby Hawaiian Girl. Are you a boy or a girl? I think you’re a girl, we don’t like girls at all. Do we fellas?”
I was looking around at the heads that were nodding in agreement yelling remarks at me being a girl. I heard, “We hate um, girls are awful, and what do we want with girls?”
I spoke up, “I’m not a girl. You can see that.” Desperation started to build. “What’s so bad about girls?”
“They are bossy, they are stingy, and they are always complaining,” came the words from the boisterous elves around me.
“They are always asking you to do things for um, and they want you to clean up after yourself,” said another.
“They are never happy, we don’t like them,” said Albert.
“Well, what about your mother? She was a girl, didn’t you like her? Moms are nice and they take care of us. They make us cake and tell us stories,” I said.
“Shut up Baby Hawaiian Girl! You are a girl and we don’t listen to girls!” Yelled an elf standing in the tree.
“I’m NOT a girl! Can’t you see that?” I yelled back. “But if I were, would it be so terrible? Girls can be nice, Miss Lillie was nice to you, wasn’t she?”
“That old lady was awful. She cut down our tree and chased us away from our home. She chased us away with birds and squirrels. We are going to get her, you wait and see,” said the elf in the tree.
My heart sank in my chest. I was suddenly very afraid for her. She was sweet and I didn’t want to see her harmed by these heartless little beasts.
“Stop it!” I yelled, “Don’t even think about hurting her.”
“Stop it,” he mocked me in a high voice, “You like girls because you’re a girl.”
“What is it about girls you don’t like? I mean your mom was a girl.”
They went quiet when I mentioned their mom. I wasn’t sure if they had feelings of remorse or if they were just fuming inside. Then Albert started it all over again, “Baby Hawaiian Girl must pay.”
“I’m not a GIRL!” I screamed again, “And I’m not mean like you. I’m nothing like you!” I shouted back. Fear had left me and now I was determined to get free and pummel these little brats, (although that wasn’t the word I was thinking).
“Are you saying we’re not nice?” asked an elf near the fire. He looked around at the others, “He doesn’t think we’re nice. Or should I say, SHE thinks we’re mean.”
“You are MEAN! And that’s why girls probably don’t like you! I bet your mom didn’t like you either!” I yelled, knowing I had said too much. I was surely going to provoke them with that, but I was mad and I was not going down without a fight. Laughter turned to silence again.
“SHUT UP!” yelled Albert. He looked around at the faces that were now sober and angry.
“Mum said we were bad,” replied the elf in the tree. He looked around at the faces that now began to nod in agreement, “She said we were all BAD. She said we should ‘GROW UP!” He choked back a sob, the area was now dead silent.
Albert looked around, his eyes, too, were now glassy as if he could cry, “That’s why we all ran away.” Again, heads began to nod in agreement. “We don’t have to listen to any of them anymore, do we fellas?” he yelled.
“NO!!” Shouts of agreement rose all around the bonfire. Even Mr. Gnomely was raising his glass saying “Not anymore, NO!”
I looked around at all the shouts that had broken out, the crowd was getting animated. They were slapping each other, some were sobbing, and others were outright crying.
I suddenly felt another wave of fear wash over me, as I felt the heat of the fire on my face and heard it crackle loudly in my ears. This must be real, they’re going to hurt me.
“You know what Baby Hawaiian Girl, it’s time to show you how mean we can be.” Albert threatened. Then 10 elves took long burning sticks out of the fire, I could see the red glowing ends as they moved toward me aiming them at my body. I thought I was going to faint. I pinched the bundle of paper between my thumb and index finger, flicking the ‘hair lock’ directly into the bonfire.
I could see it flame up quickly, and as it did Albert burst into flames, then dropped as a pile of ash at my feet. Screams of horror followed. The elves dropped their burning sticks, running in all directions. They ran into each other, and knocked each other down as they scrambled to evacuate the area. The ropes suddenly loosened, falling off my body. My arms were aching from the tightness of the bonds, I reached with my hand to rub my upper arm, and as I shifted my body to look around, BAM, I hit something hard. My body had hit the floor of my room as I fell out of my bed. I woke up in a cold sweat. I quickly crawled back up on my bed, and reached my hand under my pillow. Nothing! I panicked. I lifted my pillow, then grabbed for my flashlight and I swept the beam across my bed. There, in the upper corner lay the piece of rolled-up paper! I grabbed it, squeezing it tightly. I brought it up to my chest hugging it to myself. This was my power, I had to make sure it was with me at all times. I lay back down in my bed, closed my eyes and tried to sleep.
Do I tell the guys about the dream? I sat at the breakfast table, groggy and confused. What would I say, I mean, it was just a dream, or was it? Was I just imagining all that, or was there some magic to that lock of hair?
The Celebration was only a day away, and I was filled with apprehension, anxiety, and fear. I grabbed my journal and pen, with the rolled paper safely in my pocket, I walked outside. Out of habit I looked up to see my High-up Clubhouse, then remembered it was just a pile of boards now stacked next to the house. I really missed it. I sat down in the grass, and my eyes rested on the little door now firmly attached to my favorite tree. How I really hated it there. I closed one eye, looking all around the yard. I didn’t see elves outside the tree. I looked up into the tree, I didn’t see any there either. I wondered where they all were, then I remembered that Albert and I had an agreement. I put my head in my hands thinking about what was going to happen. Tomorrow marked the Mid-Summer Night, the elves were probably getting ready for their celebration. I looked over into Miss Lillie’s yard and to my surprise it was alive with animal life. Birds, butterflies, bees, even squirrels, were moving about everywhere. I smiled, realizing my yard could be back to normal soon if everything went well.
I heard the grass behind me swish, turning around I saw Johnny walking over to where I was sitting in the grass. He plopped down next to me. He looked tired and worried.
“Hey, what’s going on?” I asked
He shook his head, then slouched over putting his head in his hands. He was slumped over just like I had been not more than a minute ago. I knew exactly how he felt. I asked, “Are you worried about Mid –Summer Night?”
He nodded, then turned his head to look over at me saying, “I had the strangest dream last night.”
My eyes shot open, “Was it about the bonfire?”
He nodded yes.
“Were the elves teasing and tormenting you?” I asked.
He nodded yes again.
“Did something happen to the lock of hair in your dream?” I asked.
He sat up, “Yeah. I dreamt I threw it in the fire and the elves all turned to ash.”
I quickly got to all fours, “Me, too! Well, not all of them, but the outcome was similar. Did you have that lock of hair I gave you with you when you were sleeping?” I asked.
“Of course, I have it with me all the time.”
“I may be crazy, but I think that lock of hair has some power. I think it gave us both ideas as to how we can use it,” I said.
He looked at me, then he dropped his eyes to the ground. “Maybe, or maybe we’re just hyped up and our minds are working overtime.”
I sat back down. He was probably right. I opened my journal and grabbed my pen. I jotted down my dream then put a little note next to it that Johnny had a similar dream. I made a note to ask the others if they, too, had a dream about the fire and the lock of hair.
Mom came out while we were sitting there, saying, “Harris, I need your help moving stuff from the basement to the garage. We are having a garage sale tomorrow, and I need some help. Johnny can help, too. I’ll pay you.”
With that we both jumped up. As we were heading into the house, Justin arrived and followed us inside. Mom led the way to the basement. She started to hand us items and told us to take them up to the garage. We spent nearly the whole morning walking boxes out of the basement to the garage. Old baby clothes, toys, and other junk that had been collecting throughout the years. Willie arrived just as we finished moving the last boxes. As always, he showed up when the work was done.
Mom made us all lunch, then went back out to the garage to start unloading the boxes onto the tables. The guys followed me to the garage where we combed through the stuff on the tables. Mom gave me a stern look and told me to leave the stuff alone, “We’re getting rid of this stuff, not bringing it back in!” I found a lot of my old junk, but the really great stuff belonged to my dad. He had a couple of old baseball gloves, baseballs signed by players, and all kinds of bats. Justin picked up an old corkball bat, it was slimmer and lighter than a regular bat. He was running his hand along the side of the slim bat, feeling the smoothness of the wood in his hands. He looked over at me saying, “H & B, this is a great corkball bat. How much does he want for this?”
My mom was standing nearby and said, “You like that bat?”
Justin nodded his head. “My grandpa has one like this.” He put his hands around the handle and practiced a few swings.
“I’ll tell you what, you help me the rest of the day, and it’s yours,” Mom said to Justin.
“Deal! What else needs to be done?”
The guys and I just looked at each other. How did he just pull that one off?
“What does the H & B stand for?” asked Willie.
Justin handed him the bat. “Hillerich and Bradsby, they make the best corkball bats ever,” I was surprised, I didn’t know that Justin knew anything about corkball bats.
We spent the whole afternoon finishing the garage sale prep and agreed to meet at Willie’s house tomorrow after dinner. We had only one more day before we would face the elves. When the guys all left I went up to my room and grabbed my journal. I read everything I had written down so far. I realized then that the elves had probably read everything I had written. I closed my eyes tight trying to recall the dream I had last night. I instinctively let my hand fall to my pocked to feel for my little piece of rolled-up paper. I was glad to still have it, although I wasn’t sure how much protection it would actually give me.
I slept badly that night, not dreaming at all, but tossing and turning all night worried about what was to come. I spent the whole day helping my mom with the garage sale, which gave me something to take my mind off the horror we could face tonight. Johnny came over, so did Justin. He was still carrying around that corkball bat. We helped Mom move the stuff that didn’t sell back into the garage. A man would come and pick it all up next week. We kept our eyes open, I should say one eye open, for the presence of those annoying elves.
After dinner I grabbed my flashlight. I turned it on, making sure the batteries were good, and then I told my parents goodbye. I thought I should, just in case I couldn’t resist the elves temptations and I never saw them again. I hugged my mom, kissed her on the cheek. I hugged my dad and shook his hand. As I crossed the room to leave my mom called me back, “Harris, you feeling okay?”
I nodded yes, then said, “I hope I see you later.” I saw Mom give Dad a weird look, then Dad said, “Okay, Harris, until later.” I walked out the door. They had no idea what I was going to face tonight. I walked purposefully to Johnny’s house. When he saw me he coming, he came right out. He had his flashlight, too, and we walked silently to Willie’s house. When we got there, we saw him putting on his heavy boots. He had on camouflage pants and shirt, and he was wearing black paint on his face. Johnny and I just looked at each other.
“Cupcake here yet?” Johnny asked.
“Not yet,” said Willie as he put on his camo hat.
“What’s the plan?” asked Willie.
“I say we should resist any temptation,” replied Johnny.
“I know that, anything else?” asked Willie.
Johnny scratched his head, saying, “I don’t know why you’re worried, the elves won’t even see you.”
Willie looked happy at that remark, “That was what I was hoping for.”
Johnny turned away so Willie couldn’t see his face. He looked directly at me, crossing his eyes and sticking out his tongue. I had to laugh.
Justin showed up just as we were leaving. He had a flashlight in one hand and the corkball bat in the other hand. Johnny looked over at me saying, “Baby Hawaiian Girl, we’re underdressed.”
We stood just outside Willie’s garage waiting for him to come out. Justin looked around, “Where’s Snowflake?”
“Haven’t seen him,” I said.
“Me neither,” said Johnny.
“I’m right here,” insisted Willie as he came from inside the garage.
“Oh my,” gasped Justin as he got a look at Willie. “Were we suppose to dress up?”
“Who’s dressed up?” asked Willie.
“We should go,” Johnny said briskly as he turned to leave.
It was getting late, but the sun was still low in the sky. Since this was the longest day of the year, the sun would set late in the evening. We made our way over to Mr. Gnomely’s yard, and as we approached the smell of bonfire filled our nostrils. It was a welcome smell with the summer sunset. We walked quickly toward the fire, as if we had to fulfill a secret mission, which was partly true. We were here to rid ourselves of the mischievous elves that had plagued our lives, and to get our territory back.
When we arrived, we saw a ring of gnomes standing around the bonfire. Mr. Gnomely was sitting in a chair by the fire in his lederhosen. He had on that ridiculous hat, and was drinking from a large mug, swaying it back-and-forth singing cheerfully. When you looked at him with both eyes open, he looked crazy and out of his head. If you closed one eye, not only did you see hundreds of elves holding mugs, swinging them from side-to-side, but you could also hear the chorus of voices. We didn’t need to close one eye anymore for we all had part of the Hair Locks.
We stood at the edge of the yard, not moving, just watching. It was both strangely entertaining, and totally scary all at the same time. My blood was pumping like an engine through my veins. What awful things were they going to tempt me with? Actually, they were probably going to tempt us with really great things that I had always wanted.
Suddenly, the singing ended, then one-by-one the elves’ heads turned so that all of them were staring at us. Mr. Gnomely stood up, waving for us to come over, “Please come and join us. We’ve been expecting you.”
It felt as if my stomach sank all the way to my knees. They’ve probably been preparing for this for days. They were all excited, filled with mayhem, I could feel it. I looked over at Johnny, he looked back at me, nodding. We were probably thinking the same thing. I was the first to step forward, making my way through Mr. Gnomely’s yard, messy with discarded food and bottles. I knew the guys were right behind me, I could hear Willie kicking things as we approached the bonfire.
I spoke up, “I’m looking for Albert.”
Heads started to turn as I heard, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,…” come from the mouths of dozens of elves.
I looked at the small faces illuminated by the firelight, “Is Albert here?” I asked.
“Right here,” a fat elf raised his hand.
“Over here,” replied a tall, slender elf.
“Here,” a bald elf waved his hand.
“Aye,” said another.
I was hearing and seeing almost every elf raise his hand saying yes in some way. “Albert,” I repeated again.
“What is it you want?” asked the elf closest to me.
“I want to talk to Albert,” I replied.
“Well then, talk,” said the tall one.
“Which one of you is Albert?” I asked.
Again, all of them raised their hands saying, “Me, here, aye,” or something of that sort.
“Are you all named Albert?” I questioned.
“Yup,” replied all of them. As I looked around, all the heads were bobbing up and down.
“Mum named all of us Albert,” said a tall one. “They call me ‘Tall Albert’”.
“I’m Thin Albert,” replied another.
“Hairy Albert,” one chuckled, and he was very hairy.
It was Willie who had to chime in, “And HEY, HEY, HEY, IT’S FAT ALBERT!” He pointed to a rather stout elf standing by the tree. He began to laugh, not realizing no one else was. Johnny, Justin and I stared at him. He stopped, noticing he was the only one to get his joke. “What?” He shrugged his shoulders.
I swallowed hard as I continued, “Are you all related?”
“In some way,” announced Short Albert, then they all started to laugh like we missed the joke.
I turned and looked at Johnny saying, “They’re all named Albert.”
He nodded, “It seems so.”
“Okay, then this should be easy.” I cleared my throat, beginning again. “Albert,” I looked around. “We need you to move out of my tree and leave us all alone. Forever.”
Their faces went blank, then laughter broke out. They were holding their stomachs, slapping each other on the back. One even fell to the ground and started to roll with laughter. Finally one elf said, “Now why would we do that?”
I fished into my pocket, pulling out my rolled-up paper, “Because I have the Hair Locks,” I said.
Silence fell over the crowd, then the Albert I had taken it from spoke up, “It doesn’t mean anything.”
My gaze fell upon him, “I think it does.”
“Nope, means nothing,” he said quickly like he was trying to hide something.
“So if I flick this into the fire, then nothing would happen,” I put it between my fingers and took a step toward the big bonfire. Terror crossed the faces of all present.
Mr. Gnomely stood up quickly saying, “There’s no need to put more paper on the fire, put that away. Come, have some ale. Drink and dance with us. Join our Mid-Summer Night Celebrations.” He waved us in to have a seat on the logs that suddenly became clear of elves.
I looked at the guys. Willie gave a nod. I put the paper back into my pocket and stepped over the log. We all sat at the same time. Immediately, four elves came up to us with a mug of ale. I shook my head no, so did the rest of the guys. Next, there were four plates of food filled with meat, cheese and crusty bread. Again we all shook our heads no. More elves came with plates of cakes and pies, it was hard to resist, but we refused.
“Well then, how about some music,” said Mr. Gnomely. Suddenly, the sweetest sounds filled the air. The music was lively and melodic, not like the off-tune voices we heard when we came up to the fire, but the most beautiful music that you could dance to. Within seconds, dozens of elves were on their feet dancing in a line together. It was a harmonious thing to witness, I felt myself wanting to join in. A sudden movement off to my right made me turn my head, to my surprise Willie and Justin were up dancing along. I tried to resist, but before I could brace myself to stop, I was up, too. My hands were on my hips and I was kicking my feet to the beat of the music. It was fun, I found myself laughing as I joined hands with Johnny and we swung each other around the fire. We continued on like that for what seemed like an hour because the sun sank lower in the sky, falling behind the hills. It was now dark. Completely dark.
The music ended and we sank back down on the log, exhausted. Willie looked over at us saying, “I don’t know what that was, but if any of you ever tell anyone how I was dancing, I will kill you.”
Johnny and I laughed out loud, and Justin gave a weak smile. I could tell he was really scared. His hand gripped tightly around the bat as he sat with it in his lap.
Mr. Gnomely filled his mug saying, “Listen closely to me, I will tell you the story of the elves.”
We looked at each other first, then focused on the little man who looked like an overgrown elf himself. “Some say that they are a race of little people who cause only harm and mischief, but they are really a race of misjudged harmless folks who bring humor and good cheer where ever they go.”
“Humor and good cheer. Is that what you call it when you pelt us with acorns?” asked Johnny.
“They were just playing with you,” smirked Mr. Gnomely.
I looked around at the elves, they were nodding in agreement with Mr. Gnomely, “We were just playing,” I could hear many of them saying.
“They destroyed my treehouse,” I yelled.
“Did you get hurt?” Mr. Gnomely asked. “See, just good humor. If you look closely into the fire, you can see the images of how harmless they really are. That’s right, look deeply into the fire.”
I looked over to see Johnny staring into the fire like the man suggested. He was looking straight into the fire. When I looked in, I saw a wavy image of Johnny appear in the flames, I knew it was starting. The temptations had begun.
I looked back at Johnny, and I could see he was in a trance. I waved my hand in front of his face, he didn’t even blink an eye. I looked back into the fire, I could see his temptation.
Johnny’s image was being transformed. His short red hair was now growing out to a full head of dark wavy hair. His skin was turning from milky white to tan, his body was becoming less angular and more athletic. He looked more relaxed, he walked with an easy stride. He had been transformed into a good-looking kid, heck, he had been transformed into me! Johnny’s new image looked strikingly similar to mine. I looked over at Johnny, he was staring at the image with a huge smile on his face. I heard Albert’s voice say, “With looks like that, you are going to be the most popular kid in class.”
I sat there shocked. I had those looks but I wasn’t the most popular kid in class. Well, I actually was. Johnny was smart and all, but he wasn’t popular like me. How could Johnny want to be like me? Heck, I was always wanting to be more like him. I passed my hand in front of his face again, “Johnny snap out of it. You don’t want to look like me, do you?”
Johnny’s face changed upon hearing those words. “Stop!” he yelled. “I’m happy being who I am, I don’t want to look like, act like, or be like Harris.”
“Thanks buddy,” I said.
He looked at me, embarrassed, “You’re a dunderhead, why would I want to be like you?”
He looked back into the fire, at his new image, the good-looking Johnny image was now surrounded by a lot of good looking kids. They were admiring him, for he was the most popular kid in the group. Johnny’s face changed again, he smiled, admiring his new self.
I turned and yelled into his ear, “It’s just a temptation, you can’t really have it. RESIST!”
The image was now riding on a motorcycle with a girl hanging on the back. The wind was making his hair blow around his handsome face, and he put on a cool pair of sunglasses.
“You don’t even know how to ride a motorcycle, RESIST!” I yelled.
He was on a surfboard waiting for a wave. It rose up behind him, pushing the surfboard. The new, handsome Johnny stood up and began to ride the wave. I couldn’t take my eyes off the image, it was fantastic. It was Johnny, looking just like me, riding a wave. All this time I had known Johnny and I had never realized that Johnny secretly wanted to be like me. Last year I had gone surfing with my dad and had actually stood up, catching some waves. I had told Johnny, but he didn’t really seem too interested. I was athletic, while Johnny struggled athletically. I had no idea that he envied me in any way. He was always telling me how smart he was, how I would never catch up to him.
Now the image changed, Johnny was the captain of the football team. He was tall, wearing the helmet and jersey. The cheerleaders were lined up all around him, so was the football team. Willie was there in a jersey, so was Justin, but I wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Wait, I was there, but I was smaller, carrying coolers of water. I was the water boy! I looked over at Johnny and he was laughing.
“STOP!” I yelled, pushing Johnny off the log. He didn’t see it coming and hit the ground hard. “RESIST THE TEMPATION!” I yelled at him.
He sat up, shouting, “You’re just jealous it isn’t you!”
“NO, it is me!” I yelled. “You want to be me you stupid idiot.”
He came at me, “I don’t want to be you!” He yelled as he wrapped his hands around my throat.
I couldn’t breathe as his grip tightened around my neck. I had one good shot before he choked me to death. I pulled my right arm back behind me, then I swung it hard and let it sink into his stomach. I could hear the air rush out of him as he fell back hard. I didn’t have a lot of time so I threw myself on top of him. I shook his shoulders making him look at me, “It’s a temptation, DON’T GIVE IN!”
He finally looked up at me, saying, “Okay, stop. I get it.”
I sat there for a few more seconds making sure he wasn’t going to look back into the fire. Johnny got up, wiped off his jeans, and looked over at the elves.
“Don’t you want to be like the person in the fire?” an elf asked.
“Not at all. I like Harris, sometimes I wish I had his looks, but I want to be me. I like myself. I like who I am.”
“Aren’t you even a little bit tempted?” Albert smiled deviously at Johnny.
“No, not at all.” With that the images faded.
I looked over at Willie. He was screaming and when I looked into the fire, I knew why.
Willie by far was the strongest and most athletic, but that did not make him the most courageous. He seemed tough and fearless, you should have seen how he came dressed to the elf celebration, he was ready for a fight tonight, but what he got was something unexpected. These little buggers knew us well, they had been watching and taking notes. They knew how to get to Willie, get his full attention, and it was through his worst fear.
Johnny had settled down after his ordeal, he was sitting next to me on the log, exhausted. I saw Justin hold the bat closer to his body as he just watched what Johnny had gone through. He looked around, scared, and I felt bad for him. Willie was at the far end of the log, he was laughing and joking with all the elves around him. I don’t think he believed they could hurt him, he believed himself to be rather invincible, but that was not true. He was totally blindsided as to what came next. Willie wasn’t afraid of the dark, monsters, vampires, zombies, or even girls. No, Willie was afraid of something much more sinister. Willie was afraid of spiders.
There is a saying, ‘It’s all fun til someone loses an eye.’ Well, it’s all fun til Willie sees a spider. At first you see Willie stop and focus on something moving across the floor, then, when he realizes he is seeing an eight-legged creature, he bolts straight out of the room. It’s not graceful either, he usually knocks over or plows through anything in his way. That’s what happens when he sees a spider in real life. What happened to Willie that night was so much worse. I knew it was bad when the screaming began.
I saw him nodding his head, laughing, and then quiet fell around the fire as the next event began. It was as if tempting and torturing us became the main event of their celebration. I felt like this was their Christmas morning, we were the presents they couldn’t wait to open. I am sure this was a present the elves were looking forward to opening with curious anticipation. I’m sure a lot of evil went into planning this temptation.
It started off simple, a small bug flew down, landing on Willie’s pants. It startled him, he stopped talking and quickly swatted it off his leg. Job done, he started talking and kept talking, unaware that the elves were now watching him closely. His conversation with Hairy Albert was engaging, animated even, as he continued on, using his hands to tell his story.
As I watched I was unaware of what was beginning to happen. Justin was looking at the ground, Johnny was still recovering from his ordeal, and I was the only one who seemed to be paying attention.
Something landed on Willie’s shoulder, he looked over as he was talking, and his eyes grew wide. He gave a scream, swatting it off in a panic. His body gave a shiver of disgust as he looked over at the elf and began talking again. He failed to notice the grin that the elf had plastered on his face. Willie was oblivious to what was going on, even after he had been given two rather large hints. It must have been a good story, because he did not notice the large, hairy object that landed on his head. It wasn’t until the spider started to crawl over his head that Willie looked up. He put his hand on his head and felt the spider. A blood-curdling scream escaped from his lips. He jumped off the log, swatting at the top of his head trying to get it off. Willie looked like he was doing another strange dance around the bonfire.
I tried to jump up to help, but my hands and legs were now bound to the log. When I looked down, I saw the ropes wrapped around my hands and feet. I looked over at Johnny, seeing that the same thing had happened to him. Justin’s hands were free, but his feet were bound to the log. He held the bat close to his body. I yelled, “Justin, swing the bat at them and make them stop!”
Justin just sat there. I yelled again, but then I realized I couldn’t hear my own voice! I could talk, but no sound came out. I tried to scream again, but nothing happened.
Johnny was also trying to scream at Willie and Justin, and I could see his lips move, but no sound was coming from his mouth either.
This was bad, this was really bad. Willie was flailing his arms about his head trying to remove the big, hairy spider, and now there were more spiders moving toward him from all directions. There were fat ones, long-legged ones, hairy ones, and striped ones. It creeped me out, and I’m not afraid of spiders.
His hand finally landed on one of the spider’s legs and he grabbed it, flinging the spider off his head. He reached up to make sure it was gone, his body giving a shiver of relief, then he looked around. His eyes bulged out of his head as he saw the army of spiders approaching him from all sides. That’s when the screaming really started.
This time, instead of the hands, it was the feet. Willie started dancing about dodging the approaching spiders. He was on his tip-toes, moving his legs up high so none of the hairy critters could jump on his pants. I have to admit, if it weren’t so scary, I would have laughed my head off. A big boy like Willie, I mean really big, dressed in army camo, on his toes screaming like a girl doing a scaredy-cat dance. I think I was laughing at that point. I also think I wasn’t the only one. I looked over at Johnny and he was laughing so hard he was doubled over. I looked around the bonfire, the elves too were laughing very hard, and most of them were on the ground holding their stomachs. I have to admit, it was great entertainment.
The only one not laughing was Justin. As he sat there watching, his face grew angry. I stopped to watch what he was doing. He was pulling something out of his pocket. It was a small flat object. It was his pocket knife! He opened it up, then he started sawing through the ropes around his feet. When he stood up, he looked around. I made eye contact with him and he came over to me, cutting the ropes around my hands then giving me the knife to release the ropes around my legs. I reached down quickly cutting the ropes around my feet. Reaching over, I cut the ropes around Johnny’s hands and legs.
Justin was now swinging the bat at the spiders. His hands were wrapped fully around the skinny end of the bat, he was hitting the spiders away from Willie’s body as though they were golf balls.
I jumped up and started stepping on the smaller ones, smashing them into the ground. Johnny started doing the same, and within just a few minutes we had cleared almost all the spiders from around Willie. It didn’t matter, he was crazy with fear. He had gone into a full-blown screaming frenzy. I had never seen anything like it before. Willie had no idea that the spiders were now gone, his eyes were still bulging out of his head, and he could not settle down.
As Justin and Johnny combed the area to make sure all the spiders were away from Willie, I stepped in to calm him down. It was not an easy job because he was manic with fear. When I reached out to grab his arm, he swatted me away. I tried to grab him by his shirt, he punched me in the face. Willie’s eyes saw only spiders.
I leaned close to him to yell his name, before realizing that my voice was still silent. In Willie’s mind the attack of spiders was still going on, and nothing else was real. I was going to have to physically hold Willie down and make him see me. That was going to be hard since he was bigger and stronger than me, and he was out of control. I realized that it was going to take two or maybe three of us to do the job.
I turned and grabbed Johnny by the arm. Since I couldn’t be heard, I just pointed to Willie and stared at him hoping he would read my mind. It worked! He gave me a nod, then I grabbed Justin. He stopped looking around for spiders long enough to look into my eyes and I pointed toward Willie. He, too, nodded.
When I turned to look at Willie, I saw that he was still screaming and doing his scaredy-cat dance, only now his hands were flailing wildly over his head again. This was going to be a ninja maneuver, and since I wasn’t a ninja, I could really get hurt. Picking my moment, I grabbed Willie and held him hard around the waist. His hands came down immediately and started to punch me. I pushed him hard, trying to tackle him to the ground.
Johnny came in from the side, grabbing one arm, and then Justin came in from the other. Together we got him to the ground, holding down his arms and legs. I sat on top of his body, Johnny held down his head. He wouldn’t open his eyes, he squeezed them tightly shut. I tried to talk, even scream, but my voice was still not going to be heard.
I put my hands on the sides of Willie’s face, gently slapping his cheeks. Justin grabbed his other hand and tried to stop his kicking feet. Willie started to flail back and forth, but Johnny held down his strong shoulders while Justin sat on his legs. After a long five minutes of holding him down, Willie started to tire out. It didn’t take long after that, he stopped from sheer exhaustion, his head rolled to one side, and his body went limp. I kept gently slapping his cheeks, then I bent in saying, “Snowflake, you’re okay, the spiders are all gone.”
I was shocked, I could hear my own voice again! He rolled his head toward me and opened his eyes. “They’re all gone,” I said again.
Willie rolled his eyes around to see. I moved off of him so he could sit up. Since he had very little energy left, he sat up slowly with my help. Willie saw, to his happy surprise, that the spiders were either dead, or gone. Nothing was crawling toward him anymore. He pushed himself up and lifted his body onto the log. Still weak with exhaustion, he let his head roll back.
I turned around to face the elves. They had stopped laughing and were now looking at me. “What kind of temptation was that?” I yelled.
Albert scowled at me saying, “It’s our Celebration, we decide what we want to do. We can tempt you or scare you. Did you forget, you came to our party?”
I was mad now, “So you think that’s funny, scaring a kid with spiders. I think you are all sick, mean little people. I think you have to be causing harm or destruction to be happy. I think that’s why you had to leave your home. I think that’s why your mom made you leave. I think that’s why no girls want to be near you!” I think I may have said too much.
All of the elves were now standing, in fact they were making fists and they all had angry faces. I swallowed hard. I feared that what was going to come next was probably going to be worse than what I had already seen. It was either going to be me or Justin. It was probably going to be me. I realized that I may have just made a very big mistake.
Willie was sitting on the log recovering from the prank. Johnny and Justin were standing next to him filled with anticipation. I was out in front, knowing that I was now the main attraction.
The voice that was speaking was coming out of Mr. Gnomely, but it wasn’t his voice. It was lower and stranger, speaking with strong conviction. “Harris Huxley, you are a coward and a bully. You lie, you steal, and you think you are better than anyone else. Your false ideas about yourself will be your undoing.”
My heart was racing like a car in the Indy 500. I could feel the goosebumps on my arms and my legs, and my lip was starting to quiver. I was scared, but was I really a coward? I would be if I didn’t speak up, so I opened my mouth, and what came out was a shock to me. “A coward is someone who does mean things and then hides or lies. I don’t do mean things, I do not hide when I am in trouble, and I do not lie. I do not bully anyone. I may tease my friends, but they tease me back, and I never steal. I did borrow things without asking, which I do admit is not good, but I always return the items I borrow. I do not think I am better than anyone else, I just think I should like myself, and be positive toward other people. And one more thing, I like girls. I like my mom, I like Miss Lillie, I like most of the girls at school, and they like me!” I was suddenly shouting, and the fear I had been feeling had subsided. I took a deep breath, ‘I can do this,’ I thought.
Mr. Gnomely threw his head back and began to laugh, “The Baby Hawaiian Girl has spoken,” he said. I looked around at all the elves now laughing at me. I began to tremble again.
“Let’s get on with this!” I shouted, not knowing what I was in for.
The laughing stopped as I looked around at the little faces. Then one-by-one, the Albert’s began to point into the fire. Gripped with fear, sweating from the heat, I turned my face to look into the flames which now blazed higher than they had before. They were now so high, they were over my head. The image was blurry, I raised my hand to shield my eyes, squinting to see. I saw me, younger. I was playing soccer, I was running on the field. I was surrounded by a bunch of boys as the ball rolled right in front of me. Someone kicked the ball, and I ran after it as fast as I could. Then I was behind the ball, moving it skillfully in and out, avoiding the other players. As I neared the front of the goal, I kicked the ball as hard as I could and it moved swiftly past the goalie as he dove for it. The goalie missed and the ball rocketed into the net. SCORE! I saw myself throwing up my hands running back to my team. I remembered that day, but what had really happened was that the goalie caught the ball and threw it out on the other side of the field. I never made that goal, and I had scolded myself for not getting the goal that would have won the game for my team.
The image changed, I saw myself now sitting in math class. We were playing a game and Willie was at the board. It was him and Susie. The two people at the board had to solve a problem, then the winner got to stay and their team got a point. The loser had to pick someone else from their team to take the next round. It was boys against girls. I remembered this game! Willie wasn’t good in math, and he solved the problem all wrong. The class was watching him add, subtract and multiply in the wrong order. Most of kids were laughing at him. When his turn was over, he went back to his seat and slumped in his chair. I heard the girls next to me say, “He’s such a dunderhead.” I laughed, and didn’t speak up for him. I turned and looked at Willie sitting on the log, could he see what I was seeing? With an angry expression, Willie turned his head away from me.
I looked back into the fire, seeing another image, this one was of gym class. The teacher was letting us pick teams for flag football. I wasn’t the captain, but I was standing next to the captain telling him who to pick. I saw that we had already picked two or three guys, so I told him to pick Roger, a big kid who could block. The next round I suggested Timmy, he could really catch a ball. The next round I told him to pick Deandre, he was fast. We were coming down to just a few guys and I saw Justin standing there looking at me. I told the captain to pick Marcus, he was tall, but not that athletic. It was now down to just two, Justin and Marc. I told him to pick Justin but he picked Marc instead. Justin’s face was full of humiliation. I should have suggested he pick him earlier, but I wanted to win. I looked over at Justin now and he looked like he could cry. I felt so bad, I wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the right words. I remembered that day, I had felt badly for a long time afterward.
I looked back at the fire, I had a feeling this was only going to get worse. I saw the image of one of the happiest moments in my life. As I walked down the street from my bus stop, I saw a huge pile of wood my dad had just bought sitting in the driveway. I knew what was going to happen. My dad, my uncles, and my dad’s best friend were going to build me a treehouse! I remember how excited I was at that moment. I ran to the backyard, where the men had gathered around the table with the plans. John, Dad’s friend, had climbed up in the tree with Uncle Eddie, and Dad was hoisting large boards up to them. I was so energized, they were doing this for me! I was so happy that day, and I could feel it all over again. I watched as they built the whole thing, it was right there in front of me again as I watched it in the flames. It was like a film of the whole event in fast motion. Dad moved around the side of the house grabbing the sheets of plywood, and quickly hoisted them up to the men in the tree. John and Uncle Eddie quickly hammered them in place. More wood, and more hammering. The floor, the walls, the roof, and in no time, it was built. Then I saw myself, I grabbed the rope to climb up, and I remembered feeling so big that day. When I looked out from the treehouse, I could see everything. I could see the water tower in town, I could see the hills to the south, and I could see the reflection of the lake at least five miles away. It was all so thrilling!
I was so happy, then I looked down, and at the base of the tree was Johnny. He had been watching from his yard. I didn’t call him over because I wanted this all for myself. I saw him looking at me, waving. I didn’t want to share, not yet, but he was still waving at me. I turned away, and went to the other side of the treehouse to look out the window. When I finally came back to throw down the rope, Johnny was gone.
The next day when I walked up to the bus stop, Johnny saw me coming, and turned away. “Something wrong?” I asked. He ignored me and wouldn’t speak. I had no idea what was wrong with him, so I moved to stand directly in front of him, and asked again, “Did I do something to you?”
Johnny was scowling at me, “Sometimes I really hate you,” he said.
I was shocked! “Yeah, well sometimes I hate you, too,” I shot back.
That made him really mad, and he let me have it. “Why didn’t you let me come up in YOUR clubhouse yesterday? You saw me there watching, you saw me there at the tree, and you acted like I was invisible!” he yelled at me.
Suddenly I realized I had hurt his feelings, so I said in reply, “I just wanted to have it to myself for a while was all.”
“You selfish little brat! You get everything you want because you are the ONLY CHILD! You don’t like to share, you’re just selfish!” he yelled at me.
Ouch! That was painful to hear. Maybe I was selfish, maybe I was self-centered, and maybe I thought I was better than he was. Maybe I thought I was better than all of them. Maybe the elves were right! I looked over at Johnny and he was glaring back at me.
I was so confused! They had exposed all of my worst flaws, not just to me, but to my best friends. They were all clearly angry now, annoyed with me, and I was sure that whatever came next I would be on my own. I had been abandoned by my friends, and I knew I probably deserved it for what I had done to them. I wanted to cry, but tears were not the answer. I swallowed hard, and stood up tall saying, “I thought this was going to be a temptation. This is just throwing up my past making me look bad in front of my friends.”
Mr. Gnomely looked at me with an evil scowl, “This is our party, Fool. We will do as we please.” He pointed to the guys sitting on the log, “I’m not so sure they are still your friends now. Look at them, they hate you.”
I turned to look at my friends sitting on the log, and saw that it was true. All three looked as though they hated me! My stomach hurt with pangs of guilt and sadness. I had let them down by acting badly, and I had seen what I really looked like in their eyes. I looked back at the fire. The flames were dancing and licking at the blackness that surrounded me.
“You’re not who you think you are, Harris Huxley,” Mr. Gnomely said. “You are weak, you are selfish, and you’re not true to your friends or even to yourself.”
“Who are you to judge me?” I yelled back.
“This is the crossroad between the Fabric of Reality and Principles of Morality. Your Reality does not reflect your Principles of Morality. At least, it doesn’t seem to look that way to anyone, does it now?”
I looked at my friends again, the scowls on their faces, and then I got mad. Really mad. Who were they to judge me? “That’s not how I always act. Yeah, sometimes I act badly, but we all do. NO ONE IS PERFECT!!” I screamed. “Most of the time I AM a good friend!” I looked at the guys again, and they just stared at me. “Come on guys, I’m not always like that. Remember, Willie, last week when I helped you clean your basement. You didn’t want to because of the spiders, so I went first, killing them for you.” He slowly nodded his head.
“And you, Justin, remember I stood up with you when that Jackson kid on the bus was giving you a hard time, remember?” His face changed, he nodded.
“Johnny, you’re my best friend, we do everything together. I’ve known you since I was really little. You know all of my flaws, the truth is I would probably be the most selfish person on the planet if it weren’t for you. You make me want to share, you make me want to be smart and witty like you. That’s why I try to best you all the time. I don’t have any brothers, and you are the closest person I have to a sibling. You’re the smart brother, and I’m the one who tries to be like you.” A small smile, a nod of his head told me he was still my friend.
I turned to face the flames, “I think your Principles of Morality refer to you as much as they do to me. I think your reality is that you have no morals. You do what you please, and you don’t care who you hurt. That is why we came here tonight. We came to tell you to leave. We don’t want any more of your reality or morality. Just LEAVE!” I shouted.
At that, Johnny was at my side, along with Willie and Justin. We were standing shoulder to shoulder, united again.
Mr. Gnomely looked at all of us as his eyes glowed a strange color blue. It was so grotesque, it made his face look all wrinkled and distorted. He stood up and he looked so much like one of his yard gnomes it was down-right scary! I glanced around, noticing that the yard gnomes were now part of the circle around the bonfire. Little statues standing among the elves, only now they looked like a small army of soldiers. If I weren’t so angry, I would be scared. Actually, I think I was very afraid!
“You want them to leave, then let’s settle this with a challenge, shall we?”
The four of us looked at each other. First there was a temptation, then a prank, followed by a reality check, and now a challenge. What could it be?
“What kind of challenge?” Willie yelled.” He was coming back to life, ready for a fight.
“You think you can just make us leave?” said Short Albert, and suddenly all the elves were yelling, shaking their fists. “I challenge our freedom to live here with a duel,” shouted Fat Albert.
“A duel?” questioned Johnny. “What’s a duel?”
“A fight to the finish,” said Tall Albert, and a round of “Yeas,” filled the air.
I was so confused. All of them against us, we would surely lose! I had to speak up, “Well, we are clearly outnumbered. That would just be stupid.”
“Afraid, are you?” asked Slender Albert.
“No, I’m not afraid of a little tyrant like you,” yelled Willie.
He wasn’t helping the situation. We needed some clear thinking. It was Johnny who stepped in to redirect the discussion. “How about one of us, and let’s say, five of you?”
Skinny Albert stepped up saying, “Ten, make it ten, and we get to pick which one of you will be doing the fighting.”
I looked over at Johnny, he reluctantly nodded yes. I looked over at Willie, he gave a big nod of his head. He was ready to pummel some little people, I could just tell. I looked over at Justin, he gripped the bat hard as he nodded yes. I had a bad feeling about this. “Okay, which one?” I asked.
Mr. Gnomely looked around at the elves giving them a knowing look. I could tell they already had a plan. He walked over to where we were standing to look first at me, saying, “Athletic,” then he poked me in the chest. “Handsome, too. It would be fun to mess up your hair and bloody your face.” One of the little Albert’s stepped up saying, “We already did that to him, it wouldn’t be that much fun. Although, he does scream like a girl,” with that, a roar of laughter went up among the elves. I sneered at him, pushing him away.
He walked up to Johnny, looked closely into his face, “This one’s smart. It would be fun to see him tied up hanging upside-down over the fire.”
Johnny scowled at the little man, then with both arms he pushed him down next to the fire. “Get on with it!” he yelled.
Mr. Gnomely got up, clearly affronted, and brushed himself off. He glared at Johnny as he walked past to look at Willie. He paused, reaching up to feel his biceps. “Strength is his virtue, we need to skip this one.”
He approached Justin, deep down I had known this was coming. Justin was the smallest and most reserved of all of us. I was concerned that he wouldn’t even fight back. He had never, for as long as I have known him, hurt anyone or anything. He never punched or hit any of his siblings. He didn’t even argue with them. It wasn’t as if he was afraid, it was more like he didn’t want to be the cause of anyone’s suffering. He was truly the nicest person I had ever known. How could he stand up to these little monsters?
I looked at Justin as Mr. Gnomely walked up to him. He looked different. He looked mad, defiant, and something else. He looked fierce! I realized just then that they had pushed him to a new limit, and Justin was ready to fight. Not that fighting was the answer, but he was ready to stand up for himself, for all of us. A small seed of hope started to sprout in my gut.
The little man was standing in front of Justin, looking into his face. They were about the same height, and the same weight. Justin was younger, more fit, but they looked so similar at that moment. “I choose him,” Mr. Gnomely announced.
Justin choked up on his bat, his eyes squinted as they looked into the eyes of the little man standing right in front of him. “Let’s do this,” I head Justin say quietly.
Mr. Gnomely turned and snapped his fingers and things quickly changed. Without any warning, we were all standing in a clearing not far away from the bonfire. There was a circle of gnomes around Justin, and we were standing on the outside. The elves were standing on the other side of the ring, just outside of the gnomes. There were shouts and cheers as one of the elves emerged from the crowd. It was the elf we had caught in the jar. He was the first to enter the ring with Justin. As he entered the ring, the elves watching sent up a loud cheer. Then two identical-looking elves also emerged from the crowd. They were pumping their fists in the air as they entered the ring. The next elf to enter was tall and lanky. Then there were three more who looked rather short and stout. The last three were the scariest looking elves I’d ever seen, they were massive, and very hairy. They looked like they were the meanest, mangiest elves that ever lived. One was missing his beard, and I knew why. I reached down, feeling the little bulge in my pocket. I was feeling very sorry I had let Justin do this, but it wasn’t like I had a choice. Justin was the one they had chosen. I realized that these elves were smart, much smarter than we gave them credit for. They had planned this out more strategically than we had expected!
Justin was standing in the middle of the circle, holding the corkball bat. It was a stroke of luck that Justin had brought that bat, or maybe he just had a feeling they were going to single him out. Either way, I was glad he was holding a weapon. He was looking around with an air of strength and confidence that I had never seen in him before. This was a Justin I did not know.
It was the elf from the jar that attacked first. He was standing behind Justin, and he lunged for his foot. Justin appeared not to see it, but the bat came around hitting that little elf, catapulting him out of the circle. He flew into the air, landing in a nearby bush. Johnny, Willie and I laughed hard as we saw the look on that little bugger’s face as he flew past us. He had not seen that coming.
Justin stood in the center of the circle, slowly rotating on his heels, just waiting for the next attack to come.
It must have been the swiftness of Justin’s action as he counter- attacked the first elf that changed the course of the battle, because the elves seemed to change strategy. The next attack was as a unit, it was the three short, stout elves that came at him. From different sides they lunged in on him. Justin swung, hitting the bat right in the face of one of the buggers, flinging him toward the fire. The other two were on him, one on each leg. Justin stomped hard with his right leg, and the elf fell off. He stepped back, swinging the bat and hitting him square in the buttocks. That elf flew past Willie’s face forcing him to move out of the way. The third one had climbed up to his thigh when Justin grabbed him with his right hand, and tossed him into the air. Then, swinging the bat hard, he hit the elf square on the back and propelled him off into the woods.
‘Impressive! Four down, six to go’ I thought. Justin gripped the bat firmly, and lifted it over his shoulder like he was expecting the next pitch to be thrown. The tall elf moved toward the twins, and they quickly let the tall one climb up on their shoulders to launch him toward Justin. He flew through the air landing on Justin’s stomach. Justin’s eyes bulged showing the shock of what had just happened. He then calmly reached down, pulling the elf off, and throwing him toward the fire. That was when the other five attacked. Yep, all of them came running in on Justin at once! I started to scream, “Justin, swing the bat! Justin, just swing at them! Justin, swing now!” I stomped my feet, I heard Johnny and Willie screaming too, punching the air, stomping their feet. We were fighting them outside the ring with our bodies, too, shocked at the ferocity of the attack against Justin. It had happened so quickly. It was like they had been playing with him before, but, now they were determined to take him down.
I looked around at the elves scattered on the other side of the ring, they too, were yelling, “To the death!” I heard. “NO!” I screamed. “Justin, SWING THE BAT!”
It was like Justin suddenly heard me, for he started to swing that bat like he was swinging for his life. He focused on a bulky, hairy one, and the bat made contact, sending him flying out of the ring. Justin then focused on one of the twins, the bat hit him square in the stomach, and he was flying past my face. I was so happy, tears were streaming down my cheeks as I clenched my fist in excitement.
There were only three remaining now. One of the twins had climbed high on Justin’s leg, stabbing him with a small knife leaving little trickles of blood. One of the big, bulky ones was on his back punching him hard, and the other big one was on his stomach holding on to his belt loop, swaying as Justin was swinging the bat. Justin reached down and grabbed the one on his leg. He squeezed him tight, and the elf dropped the knife. He tossed him up and swung the bat, missing him by hair. The elf hit the ground hard, and jumped up, running back at Justin.
Justin took the bat in both hands, swung the bat up over his head in a circle and let it come down on his back hitting the elf attacking him from behind. That elf was struck dumb, falling off Justin’s back hard onto the ground. Stepping back and using the bat like a golf club Justin swung low, and boomeranged the elf out of the circle into the next field. Only two left now.
I held my breath, I knew he could do this. He was so brave and strong at this moment.
The big, bulky one that was holding on to his belt loop was now climbing up his shirt, and he quickly made his way to Justin’s neck. He grabbed Justin’s collar and pulled both ends tight, starting to choke him. Justin grabbed for the elf, letting go of the bat with his right hand, and that was when the other elf attacked his left hand making him release the bat. Justin tried to turn his attention to his left hand as he reached for the bat, but the elf had wrapped a rope around his arm, and was now pulling it over to his body.
The larger elf tightened the grip on his collar, Justin’s face was turning blue. He reached for the elf, but he couldn’t make him release his hold on his shirt. He stumbled to his knees as he tried to remove the elf from his collar. Then Justin keeled over and passed out!
“NO!” I yelled. I tried to get past the gnomes to get into the circle, but they had created a barrier that was impenetrable. I looked over at Johnny and Willie, and saw that they, too, were struggling to get into the circle.
Quickly, the two elves wrapped the rope around Justin, and together they stood on top of him and declared victory. The whole crowd of elves were roaring loud with cries of victory. One of the twins picked up the corkball bat, and struggling swung the bat so it hit Justin in the leg. Two more joined him, this time when the bat came down it hit Justin in the side of the head. “Stop it!” I yelled. “Stop hurting him!”
Suddenly they were all in the ring, lifting Justin up to carry him away. The ones holding the bat carried it away, too.
“Let him go!” I yelled at Mr. Gnomely.
“We will not. He lost, he is our slave now,” he replied.
“He is not your slave, you will let him go!” insisted Johnny.
“We will do no such thing. We won, the elves stay, and we keep the Cupcake. He is ours now. You may leave.”
“We aren’t going anywhere without him,” yelled Willie as he struggled to get past the gnomes.
In the time it took to argue with Mr. Gnomely, Justin was gone, carried off by the elves.
“Bring him back,” I yelled. “Bring him back or,” I put my hand in my pocket bringing out the little rolled-up paper. I held it out in front of me, “Or I’ll use this.”
The remaining elves stopped suddenly. A knowing look passed among them. “Bring him back or I will throw this paper, with the locks, into the fire.” No one moved. I held it up, and I walked toward the bonfire. I got three steps in, then I was attacked from all sides. The elves threw themselves on me. I made it two more steps before I was brought down. They were on my legs, back, stomach and one even managed to crawl quickly up to my head, but my hand was still free and I was very close to the fire.
“Throw it in!” yelled Johnny, who also down on the ground covered with elves.
I tried to move my arm back, but an elf was already there. I didn’t think I could toss it far enough to make it into the fire from my position on the ground. Then a hand, big and powerful, grabbed it from my fingers. It was Willie! He was crawling on all fours with twenty or more elves hanging from his body. I don’t know how, but he managed to stand up, took two more steps, and tossed the paper into the fire. It crackled as it burst into flames, then sparks flew from every direction. All around my body, sparks flew past as the little elf bodies went up in flames. Shocked, I looked around, there were sparks flying everywhere as each and every little body crackled, exploded, and then dissolved into ashes.
Johnny and I stood up quickly. I looked around and saw Mr. Gnomely on the ground screaming, and then sobbing. “Look what you did. Just look at the destruction you caused. You destroyed everything!” I looked around, the place was a mess. The gnomes were knocked over on their sides, there were little mugs and dishes scattered everywhere, but there were no elves to be seen. None at all.
“Are they all gone?” asked Willie.
“Does it look like they’re still here?” Mr. Gnomely yelled. “You destroyed them with that Hair Lock!”
“But how?” asked Johnny. “It was hair from just one elf.”
“You didn’t know what you had, did you? Since all of them are related, a lock from one was like a lock from all of them,” whined Mr. Gnomely. He started to cry, “Now I don’t have anyone.”
“They weren’t good people. They were always causing mischief,” I said.
“They were good to me,” he sobbed.
“You were the only one they were good to,” said Willie.
“Where did they take Justin?” I asked.
“I don’t know. You may never see him again. They could have stuffed him anywhere.”
“They couldn’t have gotten very far,” I said. “We need to go look for him.” We grabbed our flashlights and ran off in the direction the elves had been dragging his body when we were attacked. The beam from the lights showed where the grass was pressed down until it left the yard, and then the trail ended. It was dark and getting very late. I suspected it was just after midnight. I looked at the guys for a plan.
Johnny spoke up first, “I’ll take the path that leads down to the woods and search there. Willie, you go through the backyards, up and around your house to Justin’s house. Harris, back to our houses. Look in all the yards. Meet in Harris’ yard in one hour.” We nodded in agreement, then we were off.
I ran as fast as my legs would carry me back to my yard. Sweeping over the grass with my flashlight, I searched for any evidence of it being trampled. I walked back and forth on the property line, then I went over to Johnny’s yard doing the same thing. When I found nothing, I went to Miss Lillie’s yard and quietly searched the whole backyard. Despair had settled in the pit of my stomach, and for the second time tonight I just wanted to cry. I wanted Justin back, and I wanted him to be okay.
The sounds of grass swishing alerted me that someone was approaching behind me. I climbed the fence to find both Willie and Johnny sitting under the big tree in my backyard. By the looks on both of their faces, I knew they had found nothing. I still had to ask.
“Anything? Did you find anything?”
They both shook their heads. “He’s gone,” whispered Willie.
“He can’t just be gone,” I argued.
“I know,” agreed Johnny, “But he is.”
“So what do we do now?” I asked.
They looked at each other, then they looked at me. “We wait,” suggested Johnny.
“Wait? Wait for what?” I asked.
“We wait to see if he shows up,” said Johnny.
Not a brilliant plan, but it was the only one we could come up with. The guys went home, I snuck into my house and went to bed. Before I turned off the lights, I pulled my journal out from between the mattress and began to write. My eyes were closing, my head was drooping, but I wrote as much as I could before I finally nodded off.
I opened my eyes and thought for a brief moment that the world was normal, then it turned upside down all over again. Mom burst into my room and using a stern voice she asked, “Is Justin here?”
“What?” I asked.
“Justin’s mom is on the phone. She’s frantic. Justin did not come home last night. Do you know where he is?”
“I don’t know where he is,” I said. It was the truth, I had no idea where he was.
“Have you seen him? Was he with you last night?” she asked.
This was the defining moment of integrity, I knew it. I mustered up all the courage I could find in my body saying, “He was with me last night, but I don’t know where he went.”
“Well, what were you doing that he got lost?” she demanded in a rather mean sounding voice.
“This is going to sound strange, so I want you to sit down.”
She swept the clothes aside that were laying at the end of my bed and sat down on the edge. “Mom, I need to tell you about the elves. The little people who do mean things to us.”
Her left eyebrow rose as she said, “Elves. Harris, do you want me to believe that elves really exist?”
“They do, well they did until last night.” I sat all the way up crossing my legs. “We found a way to get rid of them, but they took Justin before we could do it. We don’t know where they put him.”
“Harris, I don’t know what you are talking about, but I have a bad feeling about this. Justin’s mom is on the phone waiting for me to get back to her. I think we need to have a long talk before I really tell her anything. Don’t go away, I’ll be right back,” Mom commented as she left my room.
She’ll never believe me! I needed the other guys to help bail me out. I needed to show my parents where it all happened. I scrambled to get dressed, making my bed so that when she came back we could talk about what happened last night. I brushed my hair then I grabbed my journal. When she came back, I was ready.
I sat at the edge of my bed waiting. When Mom came in she saw me sitting on my bed already dressed, bed made, room straightened up, and my hair brushed down. She sat down next to me, and I slowly opened my journal. I looked at her saying, “You may find this hard to believe, I hardly believe it myself so I wrote it all down as it happened. I even drew pictures of what happened.” I stopped where the big blue ink spot was in my journal.
“Remember when I ruined the laundry with the ink, well that was almost the beginning. It started earlier than that, but I didn’t know what was really happening.” I turned the page. “I had noticed that cups seemed to tip over right next to me when I didn’t even touch them, objects seemed to move when I turned my head, Johnny and I were attacked by acorns in the High-up Clubhouse, and even the trash can seemed to want to bite me. I was beginning to think I was crazy. When I was in the garage helping Dad, the can of nails turned over all by itself, and a bucket of golf balls fell over from a shelf above me, all of them hitting me in the head.” I looked into my mom’s caring eyes saying, “That was when I knew it wasn’t all me, there was something else going on. I came inside to get a glass of water, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the glass move to the edge of the counter. I had a strange feeling about it, that something or someone was making it move, and that was when I caught one. I mean I actually caught one!” my voice had risen an octave.
Mom put her hand on my mine holding tightly, she looked at me with eyes of concern, “What exactly did you catch, Harris?” she asked.
“Mom, I caught an elf. A little guy, look.” I pointed to my journal where I had made a sketch of a little person in a jar. “I put him in a jar and ran off to show the guys.”
“Why didn’t you show me or your dad?” she asked.
I looked down at the journal, realizing my mistake, “You’re right. I should have shown you first. Instead I ran to Johnny and Justin showing them.” I looked at her face, “But you should have seen him, he was so cool! He looked just like a big person, except he was so much smaller. He fit inside of a jar.”
She stroked my hair, “Harris, you’re asking me to believe that you actually had an elf inside of a jar. Do you see how crazy that sounds?”
I sighed, “Yeah, I do. I really do.”
“Harris, I need you to tell me what you know about Justin. His parents are talking to the police right now. They will probably be here soon to ask you some questions. I don’t want you to go on about some elf story. This is serious, Harris, they need your help.”
I felt so bad. I nodded my head, “Mom, I know. I wish I knew where they took him.”
She stood up quickly, clearly frustrated, “Now Harris, stop this talk about elves taking him! I want some truthful answers out of you.”
I looked up at her, “Mom that is the truth.”
“Harris, you are going to stay in this room and think about what you just said to me. When you come out you better be willing to have some straight answers, and I don’t want it to be about elves. Do you hear me?”
I nodded my head yes. She kissed me on the head, then left the room. She’s never going to believe me. I sat at the edge of my bed, then I heard the whistle. The guys were here! I ran over to the window, looking down into the yard. Willie and Johnny were standing there. I opened the window, and Johnny called, “Get down here. The place is crawling with cops!”
I ran back to the bed to grab the journal. I stuffed it into my pants, opened the window, and started to crawl down the trellis. Willie and Johnny bent over and ran to the back of my yard toward Miss Lillie’s yard. I followed the same way. When I got there, they were hunched behind a bush that was along the fence.
We made sure we were out of sight, then Willie started talking in a hushed voice, “The police were at Justin’s early this morning. They came to my house looking for him and I told them I didn’t know where he was, and that I hadn’t seen him.”
Johnny nodded, then said quietly, “They called my house and I told my mom I didn’t know where he was.”
They both looked at me, so I came clean. “Justin’s mom called my mom asking if he was here with me. Mom came up to my room to ask me what I knew. I told her the truth.”
“What truth?” asked Johnny.
“I told her that we were all together and then the elves took him away.”
They both looked at me dumbfounded. “She believed you?” asked Willie.
“I didn’t say that she believed me, I said I told her.”
“So she didn’t believe you?” asked Johnny.
“Of course she didn’t believe me, she’s an adult,” I said.
“So, what happened next?” Willie asked.
“So, I’m grounded to my room, that’s why I crawled out the window.”
Hearing a noise, we stopped talking to peek around the bushes. There was a crowd of people, Justin’s parents, some other neighbors, and the police, gathered in my backyard. My stomach sank. We watched as they started calling for Justin, spreading out to look for him. We would be caught for sure hiding behind these bushes. We froze in place.
From behind me I heard the crunching of leaves and sticks, getting louder by the minute. I turned my head to see Miss Lillie approaching the fence just to the left of the bushes. She was far enough away not to draw attention to the bushes where we were hiding, but she was still close enough for us to hear what she was saying. She did not look at us, although I was sure she could clearly see us from where she was standing.
She waved over one of the police officers, calling, “Hello, what’s going on over there?”
As he approached the fence, we stayed perfectly still. From where the officer was standing, we were still in cover, but I knew Miss Lillie could see us hiding.
“Hello there, I’m Officer Charlie Jones. We’re looking for a young man, Justin Mason. He was seen around here yesterday, and his parents have reported him missing. Do you know this young man?”
She looked upset, “Why yes, I do know him. When was the last time he was seen?”
“His parents said the last time he was seen was after dinner. He went outside to meet some friends, and he hasn’t returned home. His friends seem to be missing, too. Have you seen any of the boys he usually hangs around with?”
We were sitting right there in her plain sight. She stiffened her body, I was sure we would be given up right then, but her response was surprising. “No Officer, I can’t say I have seen any of them today. If I do see them, I will promptly let you know. Is there anything else I can do to help?”
“Yes ma’am there is. You can keep your eyes open, report anything that is strange or out of the ordinary,” he replied.
Miss Lillie nodded her head as she spoke, “I will do that.” She smiled graciously at the officer, and he turned and rejoined the group. Miss Lillie stayed at the fence, waiting for him to walk away before she spoke to us. She put her hand over her mouth casually so as not to draw attention to herself as she whispered, “Did they take him?”
“Yes,” I replied, just loud enough for her to hear.
“Do you know where they took him?” she asked.
“No,” said Johnny.
“Well, someone needs to find him fast before this gets out of hand,” Miss Lillie said.
“We know,” agreed Willie.
“Well, you’re not going to find him sitting back there. I’ll let you know when the coast is clear, then you can move out. Do you have any idea where he could be? Where is the last place you saw him?” she asked.
“Mr. Gnomely’s yard,” Johnny answered.
“You mean Mr. Gormley’s yard?” she asked with sarcasm. “Start there.”
When the crowd dispersed to search for Justin, Miss Lillie came over to where we were hiding. “They’ll be looking for you, too, so be careful. Now get going.”
We peeked out, the yard was empty. We jumped, up running as fast as we could through the backyards over to Mr. Gormley’s house. When we arrived, we were shocked. The gnomes which had guarded the house were gone! All of them, and there had been so many. The yard was plain as could be. Even the decorative house that Johnny had been stuffed into was gone. We snuck around the side of the house, and spotted Mr. Gormely’s wheelbarrow. It was full of the gnomes. They had been carelessly thrown in and looked chipped and broken. The area where the bonfire had been held was cleaned up, raked over with hay and grass seed. There was even a sprinkler shooting out water on top of the hay. No one was going to believe what happened here last night!
I stood in shock and despair.
“Why are you just standing there? Look for him,” Willie shouted at me.
“Where?” I asked.
“I don’t know, just keep looking!” he yelled back. “He has to be somewhere!”
So we searched. We looked up in the trees, behind the bushes, next to the house, under the hay and grass seed. We looked in that yard everywhere. We trampled over every square inch of it, Justin was not there. While we were conducting our futile search of the property, some of the neighbors began to show up. We took cover behind the tall grasses that lined the back of Mr. Gormley’s property.
“He’s not here,” I said in a hushed voice.
“I didn’t think he would be here,” said Johnny.
“Then why are we here?” asked Willie.
“Because the old lady said to start here,” Johnny replied.
“Where do you think he is?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but not here,” muttered Johnny.
“Great! Just great!” exclaimed Willie as he sank to the ground.
“He’s got to be somewhere. People just don’t disappear,” I said.
As we hid there, the back door opened and Mr. Gormley came strolling out. From where I was squatting, I could see him move about his yard. Something about him was different. His hair was still short, his face was still round and pudgy, but he was different. He was wearing a pair of jeans instead of the silly suede shorts with suspenders. He had on a normal t-shirt instead of the white shirt with puffy sleeves with fringe around the collar and sleeves. I watched intently as he moved to the sprinkler to readjust it, then up to the path that leads around his house. In just a few seconds, he was out of sight.
I turned to the guys asking, “Does he look different to you?”
“I was just thinking the same thing,” said Johnny.
“What is it?” I probed.
“He’s taller,” Willie replied.
That was it! He didn’t seem so small today. He looked like a regular guy. I jumped up, running toward his house, “Come on, let’s find out what he knows.”
The search had moved to the other side of the street so we had just a few moments to catch up with Mr. Gormley to see what he knew. I quickly rounded the house, seeing him out in front picking up small items. He was not visible from the street. He had a handful of small mugs when I came up behind him.
“Still cleaning up?” I asked.
Startled, he spun around to discover me standing behind him, Willie and Johnny standing right next to me. Oddly enough, he was the same height that I remembered, but without the strange clothes, he did appeared taller. “What do you want?” he growled.
“We want our friend back,” demanded Willie.
“Well I don’t have him,” he responded.
“Where did they take him?” asked Johnny as he moved in closer.
“How am I to know?”
“You know because you were one of them,” I said.
“You spoke for them last night,” said Willie, coming around to Mr. Gormley’s other side.
By now we had made a small circle around Mr. Gormley, and we were crowding him. He looked at the determination in our faces and sighed. “I really have no idea. I shouldn’t have gotten that close to them.” He swept his hand toward his yard. “Look at this mess. You have no idea how long I have worked to clean this all up.”
He looked into our worried faces, “If I had any idea of where they took your friend, I would tell you. Last night was all in good fun.”
“Good fun!” yelled Willie. He stepped in putting his hands on Mr. Gormley’s collar and pulling him close to his face. Willie was at least two inches taller than the older man. “You agreed that Justin would be their slave. You were one of them until I threw the lock into the fire. You would still be one of them now if it weren’t for that.” He spat the words in Mr. Gormley’s face, then pushed him away, letting him fall into the bushes.
Mr. Gormley stayed there with his body pressed against the bush, his eyes on the ground in front of him. Embarrassed by his previous behavior he said, “I don’t know where they took him. I wish I did.”
With that, a police officer appeared in front of Mr. Gormley’s house. “Time to go,” alerted Johnny, so we ran.
The crowd was everywhere looking for Justin, and looking for us. We were hiding, our bodies pressed up against the house next to Johnny’s. We had raced around his house, going around to the next house, and were now hiding around the outside corner. Willie’s hands were tugging at his hair as he was whispering over and over, “He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s really gone.”
I reached up and flicked his ear with my fingers. “Ouch!” he yelled.
“Knock it off,” I said to him. “We’re not going to find him with that kind of thinking.”
“He’s not gone, he’s just hidden,” suggested Johnny.
“Where could they have hidden him?” asked Willie.
Johnny and I locked eyes. They had taken both of us, hiding us out of view. “I think I know,” said Johnny. But before I could ask him “Where”, he was already moving quickly around the house.
“Hey, you there!” we heard someone shout, and when we looked in the direction the voice had come from, we saw a police officer hurrying toward us. “Hey, stop!” he commanded. At that, we took off running.
For the third time today, we were on the run. We ran between the houses, down the hill through a small wooded area until we were up along Miss Lillie’s fence. Once there, we squatted down behind the bushes, making a quick right. We were in my yard again, and that was where we literally ran into my dad. He was talking to another police officer! We froze as we heard Dad say, “Look, here they are now.”
Dad marched over to me and in a hushed voice he said, “Just where the hell have you been? Your mother and I have been looking for you everywhere!” He reached down, putting a strong hand on my shoulder and said to the officer, “This is my son, Harris.” Dad looked directly at me, I could tell he was tense and very, very angry as he said, “You may ask him anything you want.”
I looked up at Dad, “You’re not at work.”
He replied, “No, Harris, I came home because your mother called, said Justin was missing, and that you had disappeared. We have been crazy with worry. Just where have you been?” His tone was now beyond angry.
“We’ve been looking for Justin,” I answered in a small voice.
“Just where do you think he is?” questioned the police officer.
“We don’t know,” said Johnny.
“When was the last time you saw him?” asked the police officer.
I looked at Johnny and Willie, then I replied, “Last night. We were all together, then he just left.”
My dad looked directly at me asking, “So, you’re telling me that Justin, the kid who is afraid of the dark, just left by himself IN THE DARK?”
“Kind of,” replied Willie.
“What does that mean?” asked the police officer.
“He kind of just disappeared,” said Willie.
My dad was getting very annoyed at us and he asked, “So he just disappeared on his own?”
“No,” said Willie, “It was a little more complicated than that.”
“Then someone better explain it to me,” said my dad, barely able to contain his anger.
Johnny had slowly stepped away and was looking around the yard. I noticed he had walked over by the big tree and he was slowly walking around it. He kept looking at the tree, rubbing his chin with his hand. I realized he was thinking that the elves may have stuffed Justin inside the tree. Of course! The tree was the perfect place to hide Justin.
“Dad, listen to me. Justin was carried away by…” I hesitated.
I had Dad’s full attention, “By… By what? What are you trying to say?”
“I can’t tell you,” I whispered.
“Why can’t you tell me?” he asked in a hushed voice.
“Because you won’t believe him,” said a soft womanly voice. It was Miss Lillie. She had quietly crossed the yard and was now standing right behind me. She put her hand on my head and ruffled my hair.
“I’m afraid this is all my fault,” she said.
“You took Justin?” my dad asked.
“No, I didn’t take the boy, but I know who did,” she replied.
“Who took him, and where is he now?” demanded the police officer.
“The BAT!” I heard Johnny yell. “I found the corkball bat, it’s over here.”
I turned around, running over to where Johnny was standing. In the grass, which was tall, under the big sycamore tree, the corkball bat lay hidden from view. I could see the large H & B carved on the side. It was the same bat. “They carried this away, too, when they took him,” I said.
“I bet he’s in the tree,” said Johnny.
Willie ran over to the base of the tree, and knelt down in front of the little door. He took a deep breath before stretching his hand toward the door. He let his fingers fall on the little door knob, turned the handle, and then gave the door a slight yank. To my utter amazement, the door swung open! I almost fell over.
Willie bent down, putting his face up to the door to look in, “Oh my gosh, he’s in there!” he yelled. We all ran to the tree to look inside.
Ever since I saw the first door and window on the tree over at Miss Lillie’s yard, I imagined that there would be a little home inside the tree. I imagined that there would be a little table and chairs, a fireplace with pots and pans over it on a small rack, maybe even a small couch and furniture. When I was inside the tree, I did see some of these things, but since I was so large I took up most of the space. It didn’t seem cozy at all. I knew exactly how Justin was feeling having been inside that tree myself. He was feeling cramped, claustrophobic, scared, but most of all he was probably wondering how he was going to get out.
I put my eye to the door, and sure enough, Justin was tied up and gagged inside. His eyes were red and scared, he had bruises all over him. “Hang on, Buddy, we’re going to get you out of there,” I called to him.
My dad crouched down, not believing what was going on, he put his head to the ground and looked into the little door. He saw Justin inside, tied up, and said, “What the heck is going on? Just how did he get inside there?” He sat up looking even angrier than before. He said to me and my friends “Did you do this to him?”
“NO!” I cried, followed by the same response from Johnny and Willie.
“I swear, we had nothing to do with this,” added Willie.
“Then someone better tell me how he got in there,” said the police officer who was now on his knees looking inside the tree.
“You won’t believe us,” said Johnny.
“Try me,” encouraged the police officer. “I’ve heard a lot of stories in my 12 years on the force, I’m sure this can’t be that different.”
I swallowed hard, “It was the elves,” I volunteered.
My dad looked as though someone had just hit him in the face, “The what? Is this about the elves again?”
“I knew he wouldn’t believe us,” said Willie.
The police officer was still looking inside the tree. He scratched his head, “You’re right, I don’t believe you. Let’s get that poor kid out of there, I’m sure he’ll tell us what happened.”
Both the police officer and my dad stood up. Dad was saying that he had a chain saw. He was willing to get it to cut the tree down if that was what it was going to take to get Justin out. The police officer agreed, saying that this was a pretty awful prank, and it could be punishable by juvenile detention.
I looked at the guys and said, “Let’s try to get him out like you got me out, head first.”
Willie got down on his knees in front of the door. He slipped both of his hands inside. “I got his shoulders. Let me pull him to the door.”
“Take the gag off his mouth first,” I suggested.
Johnny handed Willie his pocket knife saying, “Look in and cut the ropes around his arms.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I need to free him inside so he can help us.”
We heard a loud rip, followed by a yelp. Willie pulled his hand out with the large piece of tape that had been over Justin’s mouth. “Hey Cupcake, how you doing in there?” asked Willie.
“I thought you guys were never going to find me. They were hitting me chanting ‘Our Slave, Our Slave,’ then they all went up in flames and ash. How did that happen?” he asked.
I bent down to look inside so I could see his face, “I threw the Hair Lock in the bonfire, if I hadn’t they would have taken you away and we would never have found you.”
Willie carefully cut the ropes around Justin’s arms, then handed Justin the knife so he could cut the ropes around his legs. “Let me know when you’re ready,” said Willie. I could see Justin moving inside the tree, then the knife was pushed toward the door. Johnny picked it up and put it back inside his pocket. We heard Justin call out, “Ready.”
“Hang in there, Buddy,” said Willie as he put both of his hands in the door and grabbed onto Justin’s collar. He grunted as he heaved Justin’s head toward the door, his muscular body inching backward.
“Watch his head,” we heard a voice from behind us. It was Miss Lillie. She was now bending over trying to see into the door around Willie’s body. “A little to the left,” she said helpfully.
Willie adjusted his body, then heaved backward again. Justin’s head appeared in the door, and after more grunting his head was all the way out. “I need a little help. We need to turn him on his side so his shoulders make it through,” said Willie.
I positioned myself on Willie’s right side, Johnny on his left. I pulled Justin’s left shoulder up by his shirt, Johnny pushed his right shoulder down toward the ground. Willie did most of the tugging, and before long, Justin was out to his waist, his shoulders clear of the door. He could do the rest himself. We backed up to give him room, he pulled his hands out one at a time, and then pushed his body the rest of the way out of the tree. When my dad and the police officer returned with the chain saw, they found Justin sitting up with his feet still in the open door.
Staring at Justin, now covered with dirt and ash, my dad asked “How did you get him out?”
“The same way they got me out when I was stuck in the tree,” I explained.
My dad put the chain saw down, “So you’re telling me that you really were in that tree too. I know you told me this before, but I still can’t believe it.”
I nodded my head. “They got me out in pretty much the same way,” then I remembered that she was still inside the tree. I crawled over by the open door, and looked inside. I didn’t see her at first, but just off to the side I saw a hand. I put my arm inside the open door, felt the area where I saw the hand, and my fingers touched something. It swayed out of reach, but in a second it came bouncing back to my fingers. I missed again, but was ready for her to sway back. When she did I grabbed her. I pulled her out and put her down gently on the grass.
“Hey, you found the Hawaiian Girl,” said Willie picking her up, and giving her a gentle push. He had a huge grin on his face as he held her up, watching as she began to sway back-and-forth. He looked up into the tree, and his smile faded. “Too bad there’s no place to put her anymore.”
I reached back inside the tree, sweeping my hand around until I found the little nook where the gnome had been placed. I wrapped my fingers around his body and pulled him out of the tree, too. I placed him on the grass in front of the tree. My dad squatted down to pick him up.
“So, this is where you hid your mom’s garden gnome,” he accused me.
“No. I didn’t take it,” I argued.
“Then how did it get into the tree?” he asked. “Did the elves put it in there?”
As happy as I was that we had found and rescued Justin, I was still feeling very anxious, Dad was never going to believe me, and that wasn’t all. At least forty people were still out there looking for Justin, and the police were involved.
The police officer had phoned Justin’s parents to let them know that he had been found and was safe. It would be only minutes before a mob of people showed up in my yard. I also knew that the police officer was going to make us answer a lot of questions, and I knew no one was going to believe us. There was no avoiding it, we were in a lot of trouble.
My mom was the first to show up. She looked down at the little door, now standing open and said, “I don’t remember there being an opening in that tree.” She knelt down to better look inside the door. “That’s pretty cool, you can see right inside. It’s really bright in there.” She seemed amazed at what was inside the tree.
Suddenly I had an idea. I pushed the door shut saying, “Dad, can I borrow your hammer?”
“Why?” he asked.
“I want to show you something.” Without waiting for an answer, I ran to the garage and pulled out Dad’s hammer, and ran back to the tree. I knelt down in front of the tree, putting the claw of the hammer to the side of the door frame that was attached to the tree. I made sure the door was closed all the way, pushing it hard until I heard the latch engage. “I really hope this works,” I muttered under my breath. Using the back of the hammer like a lever, I pushed on the end of the handle trying to get the door to come unhinged.
Willie sat down beside me and reached for the hammer, “I got this.” He put the claw of the hammer securely behind the door frame as I had, then gave a huge yank. The door flew off the tree, revealing the tree was closed, there was no opening in the tree at all!
“What?” said the police officer, “How did you do that?”
My mom put her hand to the bark of the tree. “It was open just a minute ago, I looked inside.” She looked at my dad standing with his hand on his chin.
More people started to move into the backyard. Justin’s mom ran over to where we were crowded around the tree. Justin stood up and launched himself into her arms. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she hugged him, then she pushed him away to check him over. She looked angrily over at us saying, “Why is he all bruised up? What did you boys do to him?”
Justin looked up at her, “It wasn’t them. They were the ones who saved me.”
“I want to know what’s going on here?” said Justin’s dad.
The police officer walked over to where they were standing, he scratched his head. “I don’t think those boys are the ones who hurt him. I’m not sure what happened here, and at this moment I don’t know what to believe.”
“Well, would someone tell me? I want some answers,” demanded Justin’s mom.
Mom and Dad looked at each other, Miss Lillie shook her head. It was Justin who spoke up, “I’m okay now. I don’t think anything like this will happen again. I think we’re all going to be okay.” At that moment Justin looked very brave and sure of himself.
Justin’s dad was still furious, “I want an explanation! Who took my son? Why does he look so beat up?”
“Dad, Dad,” calmed Justin as he gently took his father’s hand. He hugged his dad saying quietly into his ear, “I’ll tell you everything that happened, but not now.” He pulled back, looking at both of his parents, “Let’s go home. I’ll explain everything to you when we get home.”
Justin’s dad relaxed a little, but he glared back at me and the guys as he walked off with Justin and his mom. The police officer moved to disperse the crowd, then returned to where we were standing. “I don’t know what I just saw. That kid was inside the tree. The door was open and I could see inside, now the door is gone and there is no opening at all! I don’t know what you all are playing at, but I don’t like it. I’m going to see that kid and his parents’ home. I’m going to hear what that kid has to say. If I don’t like it, I’m coming back here.” He gave us all a threatening look, then took off after Justin and his parents.
Dad was standing next to Mom with his hands on his hips. “I’d like to hear the whole story, if you don’t mind.”
It was Miss Lillie who spoke up, “It’s going to be hard to hear, but I’d like to be the one to try and explain.”
My mom was shocked to hear Miss Lillie come forward. “I think I may have been the one to bring this problem to my yard, and, since you are right next door, it spread over to you. You see, I was out walking a few weeks ago, and I noticed Mr. Gormley had a yard full of garden gnomes. I happen to think they’re fun to look at, so I stopped and admired them. As I was looking, Mr. Gormley waved me over to show me his tree in the front of his house. He had put on a sweet little door and windows very similar to the one you have on your tree.” She pointed to our big sycamore. “I asked him where he bought them. He said he had a catalog, and if I would wait, he would be right back. He returned with a garden magazine, one that I had never seen before with all kinds of strange and magical items. I took it home and opened it up. There were so many interesting things to buy to spruce up your yard! Like I said, I had never seen this catalog before. The words under the picture said it would be a magical experience, so I ordered a door and windows for my tree, the tree I have recently taken down.” She stopped talking and sighed. “It was the same magazine I gave you.” She gave my mom an apologetic look.
Miss Lillie put her hand to her cheek saying, “It came the very next day. I was so excited, I put the door on myself. It was so special, but almost immediately, things in my yard started to change. The first thing I noticed was that the dog’s water bowl had been moved. I put it back, but when I came out again, all the water had been dumped out. I filled the bowl, putting it in its rightful place. When I came out again, it was gone, totally missing, and that was when my dog started to act funny. She started hiding under the outside table, growling at the air, and then finally my dog refused to come outside with me at all. I also noticed the bird feeders were always completely empty, even though I would fill them up two or three times a day. The strangest thing was that there were no birds in my yard. None at all! Squirrels either. It was as if they had all vanished.” Miss Lillie closed her eyes, shaking her head, “No birds, no butterflies, not even squirrels would come to my yard. Once in a while I would see a bird land, and when it did it would often squawk, leaving immediately. My yard had become a silent, lonely place.”
“One morning when I was sitting outside in the painful quiet of my yard, I saw a robin land on the birdbath and I noticed it was looking at something. This robin was not easily scared away, it seemed to be standing its ground. It moved sideways, like it was being pushed by something. I couldn’t see anything around it, but it scooted sideways all the way down to the edge of the birdbath. The robin was cocking its head to the side looking in the direction of the invisible object pushing it. That was when I realized it could only see out of one eye. When it flew off, I went over to where it had been, bent down and closed one eye. I was shocked when I saw a little person looking back at me! I jumped back, falling over my own two feet. I immediately got down on my knees to watch what was going on.”
That was when I spoke up, “I saw you do that.”
She looked at me, “You saw me do that?”
“I wasn’t spying on you, I’m sorry. The guys and I were in the treehouse, we were having some trouble of our own. We got pelted with acorns, they stole the Hawaiian Girl, and they threw all of our stuff out of the treehouse onto the limbs, it took us forever to get it back.”
Johnny continued then, “We could see them through the old pair of binoculars because you can only see out of one eyepiece.”
My dad touched my shoulder to get my attention, “Is that why you asked to use my binoculars?”
“Yeah, but then we figured out you really didn’t need them. Miss Lillie was right, you could see them if you just closed one eye,” I replied.
“When I realized what I had done, how I had let the elves chase all the things I love from my yard that was when I decided to have the tree cut down. But I think that only made them angrier. I soon noticed they were in my house, I saw them everywhere I looked,” said Miss Lillie.
“Where are they now?” asked my mom. “I really want to see one!”
“They’re gone,” said Willie. “We finally got rid of all of them.”
“How did you do that?” asked Dad.
“Miss Lillie helped us,” I replied.
My mom and dad looked at Miss Lillie. “I needed to find out more about those little beasts,” she spat out the words revealing her anger at the situation. “I went down to the library searching for anything they had about elves. I found myself in the basement, accompanied by a very rude and impatient librarian. She wasn’t nice at all. She directed me to a stack of books in the boiler room, telling me to watch my step, and turn off the lights when I came back up. She left me down there alone, and I have to say, it was rather awful.” She pulled her sweater tighter around her body. “I found a stack of books, old, musty and smelling like mold. I brought them up, and put them on the counter. The librarian looked at me saying, ‘Just take them. I don’t want them back here, ever.’ She pushed the stack toward me and pointed to the door.”
“I reluctantly brought them home. I didn’t want the elves to see what I had.” She shrugged her shoulders, “I had already helped them move in. I bought the door and put it on the tree. Then I made them angry by cutting the tree down, so they took up residence in my house. I surely didn’t want to aggravate the situation any further, so I put the books on the back porch, covering them with an old towel. When the boys came over asking to see the books, I became scared. I told them I didn’t know what they were talking about.” She let her head sink as her eyes fell to the ground.
I walked over, putting my hand in hers. “If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t know about the power of the Hair Locks, and they would still be here. Thank you for the books.”
Miss Lillie looked at me and a smile crossed her pretty face. She may have been old, but she was still pretty when she smiled.
“What’s this about Hair Locks?” asked Dad.
Johnny, who had been very quiet, spoke up, “According to one of the books, if you have a personal item from an elf, like hair, then you can control them. If you destroy that item, then you destroy the elf. Since they are all related, it seemed to work on all of them.”
“How did you get a lock of hair from an elf?” asked my mom in amazement.
“I got it,” I said. “At night, the little beasts would come and prank us. They would write words, draw flowers all over our bodies in ink. They would tease, cut and color our hair, too. It was horrible waking up in the morning.”
Mom looked at me in surprise, “Is that what you were doing in the bathroom for so long?”
I nodded my head, “And then one night I took a scissors, and pretended to be asleep as I waited for them to prank me. When I felt the marker touch my face, I quickly made a grab, and I caught one!”
“You caught one? You really caught one?” asked my dad.
“I actually caught two, that was my second one,” I replied.
“You caught two? What happened to the first one you caught?” Mom asked.
“He was let go when we found Harris stuck in the tree,” replied Willie.
“When did this happen?” asked Dad.
“Last week when you and Mom went out shopping, the elves captured me and stuck me in the tree,” I said.
“We got a message to come to the tree and bring the jar with the elf inside. When we got here, Willie opened the door and we found Harris inside the tree. It took us a little while to get him out, and when we were done, we noticed the jar was open and the elf was gone,” said Johnny.
My dad scratched his head as he walked around the tree looking it up and down. “Go back to the Hair Locks. What did you say happened with that?”
“Well, after I had the Hair Locks, I told the elf I had taken it from to stop harassing me. I told him to leave, and that night they all left. When I woke up, there was no ink on me and my hair was normal.” I touched my head. “The elf said that if I told him to leave, he would have to leave, and somehow that made them all leave.” I shook my head in disbelief, “I rolled-up the hair in a small piece of paper and kept it on me at all times. I kind of felt that it held some kind of magic, but I didn’t really know what until last night. I made sure I always had it with me.”
My mom was looking around at all of us, “So, where are they now?” she asked.
“Gone. They are all gone,” said Willie.
“Did they just leave?” asked my Dad.
I shook my head no, “I think we may have destroyed all of them.”
“How? I mean this is so ludicrous, all of it.” My dad said in exasperation, “I’m finding this so hard to believe.”
“Well, believe that they took your treehouse apart,” said Johnny. “It would have taken us a week to pull all of those nails out of those boards, but they had it apart in a matter of minutes,” he said pointing to the stack of boards still leaning against the back of the house.
My dad looked at the boards saying, “Yeah, I couldn’t understand why you would take down the treehouse.” He scratched his chin, “What happened last night? You said that Justin just disappeared and today he was found inside the tree. How did Justin get inside the tree?”
My mom chimed in, “Yeah, how come I could see inside before, but now I can’t?”
I shuffled my feet, then I took a deep breath, and I began to explain what happened last night. “In one of the books, it tells that the Huldufolk, or the secret people who came from Iceland, celebrate four holidays. Christmas Night, New Year’s Eve, Midsummer Night, and one other,” I paused.
“Twelfth Night,” added Johnny.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Anyway, it said that on these nights they would sit at the crossroads, they would tempt humans with gifts and food. It said that if you gave into the temptations, then it would mean trouble for you.”
“Was Midsummer’s Night last night?” asked my mom.
“The summer solstice, it’s the same thing,” said Johnny.
“Oh, that’s right,” said Dad. “So where were you last night?”
Johnny took a step forward, and started to explain what happened. “It took us a while to figure out just where the crossroad would be. It said it was at a place. A place where there was a cross between the Fabric of Reality and the Principles of Morality, whatever that was supposed to mean. Well, a few days before we had been snooping around the neighborhood, and had noticed that Mr. Gormley had been doing some strange things. In fact, I had the same experience as Harris. The elves had taken me and put me in this strange little house Mr. Gormley has in his front yard. The guys found me and had to get me out in a similar way.”
I jumped in, “We also watched him have a party with the elves in his yard one day. It was so creepy!”
Johnny began again, “We decided that we would see if this was the crossroads. I mean it was the strangest reality I had ever seen, and it did question morality.”
Willie cut in, “You wouldn’t believe what we saw when we walked up to the bonfire.”
“There was a bonfire?” asked Mom.
“A big one, a really big one,” said Willie. “The elves were drinking and dancing. They offered us something to drink, but we said no.”
“They offered us food too, but we refused,” I interjected.
“What happened after you refused the food and drink?” asked Dad, now truly engrossed in our story.
“We danced,” said Willie. “We couldn’t help it, we all got up and danced.”
Dad tilted his head to the side, “You danced? You boys danced around a bonfire?” He was clearly amused at this part of the story. “Was that all you did?”
“NO!” said Willie raising his voice. I don’t think he wanted anyone to ever know about the dancing part, but he was the one who brought it up.
“We were laughing, having fun while we were dancing, and when they got us off guard that was when they started to mess with us. I was first, they tempted me with the opportunity to be popular,” Johnny looked over at me imploring me to keep quiet. “With the help of my friends,” he continued on looking directly at me, “I resisted the temptation.”
Willie swallowed hard, “I was next. They didn’t tempt me, instead, they pranked me. They sent an army of spiders to attack me.” He gave a huge shiver wrapping his arms around his body as he shook, “It was horrible.” He fell silent.
Johnny put his hand gently on Willie’s shoulder, “You did just fine, Buddy.” Willie gave an acknowledging nod back.
“Then it was my turn,” I said. I took a moment to gather my thoughts, “It was humiliation they wanted out of me. They wanted me to look bad in front of my friends. I think they were hoping to make my friends abandon me, and they nearly succeeded.” My eyes welled up with tears. “I’m not always the nicest kid, especially to my friends, and they showed that in the flames of the bonfire last night.” I stopped talking, remembering the images I had seen of myself acting selfishly. A huge lump was lodged at the base of my throat, I tried to swallow it away. How awful it was to see my selfish actions and how they affected my closest friends. ‘Someone else say something’ my mind was screaming.
“It was intense,” said Johnny after a while, “but we were holding our own.”
“What does that mean?” my dad asked.
“We were standing up together, for one another, united, and then came the challenge,” said Willie. “We no longer had control, that’s when the really bad thing happened.”
While we were talking, we had not noticed the small crowd gathering around us, including one of the police officers. We were oblivious to what was taking place in my yard. A man with a video camera, and a woman with a notebook taking notes were standing close enough to hear everything we were saying.
Willie began again, “They knew us well. They knew all of our weaknesses, they were determined to win. They went for Johnny’s pride,” he looked at Johnny with a knowing look. “They went for my fear of spiders, they went for Harris and his selfishness, but the worst was how they went for Justin.” He swallowed hard, “They knew he was the smallest, he appeared meek, he was always nice, he was afraid of the dark, and they picked him to fight against ten of them.”
“What?” cried Dad.
“It’s true,” said Johnny. “They challenged him to battle against TEN of them.”
Mom straightened her back, “This sounds too weird.”
I shook my head in agreement, “It was really weird.”
“Tell me,” was all Dad said.
It was Willie who spoke again, “Ever since he realized we were going to do this Justin was nervous and scared. When you let him have that bat,” he looked at my mom, “he carried it around with him all the time. When the elves had failed with the three of us, I knew it was going to come down to him.” Willie fell silent, remembering what had happened to his best friend.
Johnny spoke up then, “It was a challenge. Ten of them against one of us, and they got to choose which one of us it would be. Of course they picked Justin. I thank his lucky stars he had that bat.”
I wanted to speak up, but the memory of Justin holding his own was playing back in my mind. All three of us were quiet.
“Will one of you tell us what happened,” said the police officer standing with the crowd.
“Let them have a minute,” requested my dad, coming to our defense.
It was then that I realized we weren’t alone. I looked around at all the faces listening to what we were saying. I was reluctant to say any more, but they had to know what happened, so I began to talk again. “Justin used the bat to defend himself. He was doing really well, until he wasn’t.”
Everyone was dead quiet. “He had taken down more than half of them, then he fell. They bound him up, hit him with the bat, and carried him away,” said Willie almost in tears.
“We told them to bring him back, but they just laughed at us,” said Johnny.
“They said he was their slave now,” Willie interjected. A tear slipped down his cheek, he quickly wiped it away with the back of his hand.
“They carried him away. We were scared, upset, outraged. We didn’t know what to do,” said Johnny.
“So you just stood there and let him go?” asked Dad now clearly upset.
“We couldn’t get to him, we tried!” yelled Willie.
“No,” I said. “That was when I took the rolled-up paper out of my pocket and flung it into the bonfire.”
My Dad’s hands flew up, “And what? Magic?”
I nodded my head yes, “Pretty much. All of the elves still standing around the bonfire sparked, then went up in flames and turned to ashes.”
“Sparked and went up in flames?” Mom questioned.
I nodded my head again, so did Johnny and Willie. “Yep.”
“But the bad thing was, we didn’t know where they had taken Justin,” said Johnny. “Until we just finally found him holed up in your tree.”
My dad scratched his head, walking toward the tree. He stood there looking at it. Mom shook her head in disbelief, looking around at the crowd. The people in the crowd seemed confused as well. Miss Lillie put her hand on my shoulder saying, “I’m proud of you boys. They’re gone because of you.” She came closer saying more quietly, “I don’t care what these people believe, they don’t know the harm and chaos those little ‘Bleeps’ caused all of us.”
Mom looked at her, her stare questioning what she had just heard. None of us had ever heard Miss Lillie say an unkind word, much less a cuss word! Dad just stood there at the base of the tree taking it all in. When he looked around he must have realized that we had quite the crowd gathered in our yard and the expression on his face changed suddenly. “Okay,” he said as he nodded his head. “You all heard what the boys had to say, now it’s time to move on,” He swept his hands outward, “That’s all, off you go!”
No one in the crowd moved. Dad took a deep breath, I could tell he was getting perturbed, “Please move on.” He walked over to the police officer still lingering in the crowd saying, “Help me move these people out of here.”
The police officer turned to the camera man, “You come with me, and everyone else needs to move out. Thank you for all your help, but Mr. Huxley is asking you all to leave now.” Upon hearing that, the crowd slowly started to leave our yard.
The police officer walked up to my dad saying, “I’m going to take the video down to the Mason house, if the story checks out your kid is in the clear.” He strolled out of the yard, leaving only my parents, my friends, and Miss Lillie.
My dad walked over to me and said, “That is quite a story!”
I looked up into his eyes to reply, “I, I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s the truth.”
He nodded his head, only to say, “Okay. Shall we do something about that pile of wood over there?”
I looked at him, then at Johnny and Willie. Dad walked inside the house, when he came back out he said, “I think we should rebuild.” I wrapped my arms around his middle, hugging him as hard as I could, then I ran to help pull the pieces of wood back into the center of the yard. Dad had made a few phone calls, his friends soon arrived with hammers and drills to put the clubhouse back together. Since the wood was already cut into the right sizes, it just took a little time to figure out which piece went where. In only a few hours the treehouse was completely reassembled.
Dad and his friends were up on the platform when they dropped the rope for me to climb up. I took it in my arms, hugging it. For the second time today my eyes welled up with tears. This time they were tears of complete and total joy. I could smell the earthy scent of the rope, prickly in my hands. I couldn’t wait to pull myself up, wrapping my feet around the course fibers until I was eye level with the platform. I hugged the rope again sending shivers down my spine. When I opened my eyes, Johnny was standing in front of me grinning. I could see the happiness he had for me in his face. I stopped, swallowed hard, and stepped back. I handed him the rope saying, “I’d like for you to go first.”
Johnny took the rope, gave me a wink, and shimmied up to our clubhouse.
The information on elves found in this book was taken from Huldufolk – Wikipedia
Buttercup swung down from the Clubhouse leaving me alone, up-high with my thoughts. School was starting up again next week, and the feeling of dread crept over me like walking into a spider web, I just couldn’t shake it off. I was sitting at the edge of the Clubhouse with my feet dangling over the edge, watching the branches sway in the wind, the leaves shimmering in the late afternoon sunlight. I was both relaxed and anxious. The guys and I had been talking about what an eventful summer this had turned out to be. We had defeated the elves, and felt triumphant in our accomplishments, but we let the rest of our summer slip away, nothing really happened after that.
The elves had been exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Isn’t it weird that facing extreme challenges makes a person feel so alive? When the elf adventure was over, we were relieved, yet nothing after that seemed as rewarding. Feeling so confused rethinking those days, I ran my fingers through my overlong hair. I was in desperate need of a haircut, but somehow the long hair made me feel more empowered, in charge of my life. It was the Hair Lock that had ended all of it for the elves. We had taken away their power to be individuals, and that still held a strong anchor in my brain. I had learned a lot about them, and myself, this summer. I wasn’t going to let that lesson go.
I laid on my back looking up into the tree, its branches swayed carelessly overhead, the leaves danced in the sunlight. I closed my eyes so I could listen to the sound of the leaves clapping together, the sound of bees visiting the last blooms of the season, and the whisper of the warm air rushing over my face. Soon it would be fall, and the trees would erupt into glorious colors before they lost all the foliage to become naked. I wanted to savor the last morsels of the summer, like squishing the last crumbs on the brownie pan together to get that last sweet bite before the pan was truly empty. I took a deep breath, somehow I could smell that over-sweet smell of chocolate. I had to be hallucinating.
Taking another deep breath to get it all in, I let my eyes relax, folding my hands over my chest, allowing the muscles in my shoulders to loosen up. I was floating in my mind, the sound of leaves overhead, the smell of sweet chocolate, and the feel of the hard boards of the Clubhouse floor pushing up against my back. I didn’t want to be anywhere else, I was in a place of complete serenity. My senses were attuned to my surroundings, and now I could hear the sound of the distant train whistle.
As I was floating in my mind, I could feel myself suspended by the updraft of air pushing me high into the sky. My hair was tickling my face, as my arms and legs were dangling by my sides. I was weightless and carefree. My left eye twitched, and my body trembled with the sensation. After a moment, I relaxed again and my breathing became deeper and more intense. I was so high up, I opened my eyes and I believed I could see the clouds billowing around me, I gave a short whoop of elation.
My left eye twitched again, and only one second later my right knee gave a jerk, a hard jerk. It disrupted my serenity, and that was when gravity took over. I felt myself begin to fall, slowly at first, and then like a rock. I fell downward toward the earth. The rush of air moving past my body pushed my arms and legs into the air above me. I could feel the air molecules slide past as they gave way to my falling body. I gained speed with every second, knowing that soon I would hit the ground, but I didn’t care, the falling was somehow fun. Down I went, faster and faster, then I stopped. My body jerked awake on the floor of my High-up Clubhouse. I sat up quickly, sweating from the dream, or was it reality?
Little doors and windows have been popping up on trees all over town. They look so sweet and draw a lot of attention, but what Harris Huxley finds is not what he expects. Little men lurking in his back yard, his house and his neighborhood, watching every move he makes. Wee people who have nothing better to do than torment Harris and his friends. They wreck his club house, steal his mom’s garden gnomes and write strange messages on his face and body while he sleeps. Harris and his friends search for a way to rid the strange creatures from their lives. Learn what really lurks behind those cute little doors, and find out how Harris and his friends take care of this strange situation.