Warning: Use of undefined constant is_single - assumed 'is_single' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /home/customer/www/niarg.com/public_html/wp-content/plugins/better-page-speed/inc/fun.inc.php on line 70
Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 2 By Carol Marrs Phipps
Illustrated By: Lana Dobbins Cramer
“Let’s stop here for just a bit, Gobbler,” Krista said as she planted herself down on a large, flat-topped tree stump and motioned that he should draw near for his usual session of scratching, petting and being told him how extremely magnificent he was.
He went to her at once and leant blissfully into her hand. As she began her deft ministrations, he gobbled a sigh of utter contentment.
“I have a surprise for you Gobbler. Today is a very special day, my sweet,” Krista crooned as she wove her nimble fingers through Gobbler’s satiny feathers. “It is a holiday we humans call Thanksgiving. It is a time when we gather together with our loved ones and give thanks for our bounty. This year, dear one, you will be the guest of honor and from then on you will forever be a part of me. How does that sound?”
In answer Gobbler simply pushed his head further into her soothing fingers and closed his eyes dreamily. He didn’t see farmer Stanz coming up from behind his wife to hand her the freshly sharpened hatchet and then step back by the rail fence to observe Gobbler’s execution at the hands of the woman he adored.
Suddenly, Krista’s fingers tightened painfully in Gobbler’s neck feathers and his eyes flew open in shock. He stared up into Krista’s beautiful green eyes imploring her to tell him what he had done for her to suddenly treat him in this manner. The odd gleam in her eyes and the humorless grin she gave him in return frightened him nearly senseless. He began to struggle frantically to get away from her.
“Oh no, my pet, it is much too late for that,” Krista said as she grabbed him by the throat and stood, putting her hatchet down on the stump she had just vacated. With her other hand now free, she grabbed his beak and held it shut so he couldn’t bite her. “I’ve been feeding you up for months in anticipation of the fine meal you would make for my family on Thanksgiving and I’m not about to let you get away…” With those fateful words she twisted Gobbler’s neck and he went limp at once. She smiled broadly in satisfaction and laid him carefully out with his head and neck draped over the stump. She studied him for just a moment to make certain he was dead or at the very least, safely unconscious. She picked up her hatchet and raised it to chop off his magnificent head. Just at that moment Gobbler opened his eyes which were now glowing an eerily blood-red color. He stared straight at Krista with such hatred she gasped and backed away trembling.
Farmer Stanz at once sprang towards his wife. “What are you doing, Krista? Chop the damn bird’s head off!” he commanded as she took another step back and stumbled over the bucket her husband had put there to throw Gobbler’s severed head into. Her arms instantly began to pinwheel backwards and she lost her grip on the hatchet. It spun end over end through the air then lodged deeply into the middle of the farmer’s forehead, splittting it open. Krista landed smack on her backside just in time to sprayed with blood and brains and gore from her husband’s split skull as he, too, crumpled to the ground. She let out an unearthly shriek then stumbled to her feet and tried to jerk the hatchet from her dead husband’s head. It took her three mighty attempts before she freed the instrument from where it had lodged, deep within Ben’s skull. Wildly she spun back to where Gobbler had been draped across the tree stump, but he was no longer there. He was on his feet staring at her with those unearthly glowing eyes.
“But you can’t still be alive!” she rasped. “I wrung your neck…what are you?”
Gobbler continued to stare at her as he silently advanced toward her.
Krista’s eyes bulged in terror, she raised her trembling hand with the hatchet held in her white-knuckled grip. “Stop now or I swear I’ll kill you!” she warned. But when Gobbler continued to advance she spun around and fled. Running in blind fear she tripped over her husband’s body and fell forward. Instinctively she flung her hands out before her to break her fall. Her only sound a sharp, “umph!” as she hit the ground and lay still, her life’s blood flowed from her chest and seeped away into the dirt. Krista’s chest had been ripped open when she landed on the upturned hatchet blade. It had cleaved her breastbone and sliced clean through her heart.
Gobbler surveyed the morbid scene for several long minutes as his glowing eyes slowly returned to their usual beady dark brown. “What do you think of your Thanksgiving surprise, now?” he asked, then slowly strutted back to his barnyard home.
Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 1 By Carol Marrs Phipps
Illustrated By: Lana Dobbins Cramer
“Just look at him, Sid,” Sybil Fantail gasped in dismay as she paused on the porch to the beautiful home she shared with her mate and their only son, Gobbler…and the rest of the turkey flock, of course. “He’s watching for her again…I just know it.”
Sid nodded as he turned back to look at his beloved. “I expect you’re right. He’s got the ridiculous faraway look in his eyes he always gets when he is expecting her to show up.”
Sybil hurried down the few steps to stand by her mate. “He’ll come to a bad end if he keeps this up. He needs to start showing some interest in one of his own kind, rather than moping after that…strange hussy. I hear tell that Rodney and Alvira Strut’s young hen, Fancy, is looking for a mate.”
Sid pecked at a few grains of corn by his feet and chewed thoughtfully. “I heard that too dear, but I expect that Gobbler already knows, just as he knew about Sassey, Mandy and Peeps. No, all he can think about is that alien human thing.” He shook his head and continued. “The boy just ain’t right, darlin’…I’m sorry, but he just ain’t, and never has been. You remember, I told you back before he hatched, right after that big blow when we found his egg rolled out of the nest all the way across the floor in that dark dusty corner of the house. I told you then that we should leave him right there and try for another clutch, but you wouldn’t have it.”
Sybil eyed her spouse in irritation. “And you remember what I told you then, too,” she retorted. “I wasn’t about to abandon my very first fertile egg and I’ve no regrets that I didn’t, Sid. He’s been a good boy…until now. Well, he’s not actually bad now, either, just…a bit confused.”
“Have it your way, darlin’,” Sid soothed, “I don’t want you to get your feathers all in a knot. Maybe you’re right and he’s just going through a phase. Though, I kinda think it’s because she doesn’t miss a day coming to see him and giving him all the extra feed he wants, scratching his head and making over him like he’s somethin’ really special.”
“You may have the right of it Sid,” Sybil agreed after a moment, “but what I don’t understand is why. Why has she singled out our boy when there are dozens of others she could have chosen?”
Sid glanced at his mate, uncertain whether he should share the dire warning he had recently been given by Widow Pluckly.
Sybil, however, noticed the odd look in her mates eye and leaned close to him with an inquiring look. “I know that look, Sid,” she said with certainty, “so whatever it is you aren’t telling me you had better just do so right now!”
“You might wish I hadn’t, love,” he replied softly.
“Now!” she insisted.
“All right, I expect you should know this, anyway,” he conceded with a sad shake of his head. “I was out grazing on the south side of the house yesterday when Widow Pluckly strutted right up to me and told me she’d been noticing our boy had taken up with that human siren. Well…what could I say? I mean, I expect just about everyone has noticed by now, darlin’…so I just nodded. Then she went on to say that her Tom had been enchanted by that very woman before he disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again…and that he vanished just about this time of year, too, so we should be keeping an extra keen eye on Gobbler.”
Sybil reared her head back and glared at her mate.. “What? How does Gladys even know that she is a widow then, if no one has ever seen or heard from her Tom again? Perhaps he just…left her for another. There are wild turkeys about in these parts, you know…and I’ve heard lots of tales about some of those hens, let me tell you!”
Sid sighed. “I know, darlin’, we’ve all heard those stories, but this is something quite different.”
“Oh?” Sybil asked. “What do you mean?”
“Darlin’ have you ever heard that at this time of year humans have a big feast they call Thanksgiving?”
“Why no, but it sounds lovely. But what do humans give thanks for?”
“I’m not exactly sure, beloved, but the point is that their feast supposedly is made up of certain traditional foods with the main course usually being a plump, juicy stuffed and roasted…turkey.”
Sybil’s beady eyes bulged in alarm. “That’s why that tramp has been feeding our Gobbler with all that extra corn and grain! We have to save him, Sid…”
Sid nodded in agreement, but when he and Sybil looked over where Gobbler had been standing for the past hour awaiting the farmer’s wife, Krista, they discovered to their utter horror he was nowhere in sight.
*Don’t miss Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 2 on Thursday’s blog!*
Benny laughed and sailed up the walk to the neat brick front stoop and the cheerily decorated house before them. It even had fake spider webs all over the bushes near the house and a neat witch decoration on the front door. Benny rang the doorbell and a moment later the boys heard an odd pitter patter coming across the floor inside the house. A few moments later the screen door creaked open a crack and Josh and Benny peered inside, somewhat confused that they at first saw no one and didn’t know why the door had come open. Suddenly, Josh felt something tap on the top of his shoe and looked down to see a disembodied hand motioning him inside. His first reaction was to jerk his foot away from the little horror and get the hell out of there, but Benny was giggling. Josh looked inside again and saw a young boy, Benny’s age, dressed like Count Dracula, himself, remote control in hand, coming towards the door. Beside the little vampire was a beautiful girl, with long, blonde hair, dressed up like Sleeping Beauty. He was sure she had to be close to his own age. Benny’s party shows promise, he thought as their hosts stopped at the door to greet them and bid them enter.
The party was amazing and both Josh and Benny were having the time of their lives. The costumes were the most realistic either boy had ever seen. The beautiful teenage girl turned out to be Mindy Cates. “Moving back to this very spot and even having this party was my idea,” she explained to Josh. “Well, and my therapist’s, too. He felt that I must confront what had happened to me. You know, that was ten years ago on Halloween night on this very spot,” she confided. “The doctors hope that I might finally free myself of my horrible nightmares of what happened that night.”
It seemed a bit extreme to Josh, but hey, what did he know about psychology? Soon he found himself dancing to crazy Halloween tunes like The Monster Mash and having the time of his life. When Michael Jackson’s Thriller began to blare from the CD player the partiers got into place and began an incredible imitation of what the boys had both seen Jackson and his incredible dancers do in their music video. To Josh’s surprise, they pulled him into it. He was having such a riot he never even noticed when Mindy, Damon and Benny disappeared from the room.
Mindy and Damon led Benny to a quiet little room down a long hall that was completely empty save for three chairs. Mindy indicated he should sit with a wave of her hand. Once he had complied she and Damon took the other two chairs.
“So,” Benny said after a moment, “is this some kind of game?”
“No,” Mindy said, sharing a quick look with Damon, “this is quite real and quite serious, Benny. You see, Damon and I want to help you…if you will let us?”
“Help me? I don’t get it. Help me what?”
“Heal your body and your sad heart,” Mindy replied in almost a whisper.
Benny’s eyes widened. “How? The doctors said it will take years of surgery…and even then, I won’t be the same as I was before the accident.”
Mindy chewed her bottom lip briefly and studied Benny’s face. “Look…you’ve nothing to be afraid of and this is all…complicated. So, I’m going to ask you to just trust me and do what I ask. I promise I won’t hurt you and when it is over, you will look exactly as you did before your accident…if that is what you want?”
Benny sat back in his chair and looked questioningly at Damon, who nodded his reassurance. “OK,” he replied. “What do I have to do?”
“Close your eyes tight and keep them shut, no matter what, until I tell you to open them,” Mindy instructed. “Will you do that?”
“All right,” Benny said after one more quick glance at Damon. Then he squeezed shut his eyes and waited. A moment later he felt something quite cool, but very soft, brush across his neck, and pause there.
“You can open your eyes now, “ Mindy said in what seemed to Benny to be only a few seconds later. “All done.”
Benny blinked. “That’s it? Now I’m magically transformed into my old self?”
“Yeah, all transformed…only, we’ll have to do this again every year on Halloween until you become eighteen. Then…you decide if you want your healing to remain permanently, or return to what you were before I…helped you,” Mindy said.
Benny frowned. “I’m confused. What exactly did you do and how do I even know that you did anything?”
Damon jumped up and hurried over to a door on the far wall and jerked it open, revealing a full length mirror attached to the backside of what Benny could now see was a closet door. “Come take a look,” he invited.
Benny strode quickly to the door and gasped when he saw his flawless reflection. Then he reached up in wonder and felt his now baby, smooth skin. Tears of joy and gratitude sprang into his eyes. “But…how?” he asked as he turned back to Mindy, who had come over to stand by him and Damon.
“I…shared my regenerative powers with you,” she said, “but when you become 18 you will have to either become fully like me or become as you were.”
Benny reached slowly up and touched the place on his neck where he had felt that cold, soft touch. Mindy nodded at the realization she saw in the young boy’s eyes. “Yes, Benny, I am a vampire. But you are not…yet…as I am. I will come to you every All Hallows Eve until your appointed time. No matter where you go, I will find you. But the final choice will be yours. Do you understand?”
Benny glanced at his image in the mirror once more then back at Mindy and nodded.
“Good, then we should return to the party, I expect it is nearly over and you and Josh must return to your lives while Damon, I, and our friends return to ours. You will not remember how you were transformed this night, until we meet again, next Halloween. That is both for your own protection and ours,” she said. Then she led him back to the party that did, indeed, come to a conclusion, almost as soon as they re-entered it.
Time somehow seemed to stretch and then shrink and become all fuzzy. The next thing Benny knew he and Josh were standing back in their own kitchen and their Mom was coming through the kitchen door.
“Hi guys!” Jean said breezing into the kitchen, “how come you’re both still up? You didn’t just get here, did you?” she asked as her eyes narrowed and her gaze darted to the bold-faced kitchen clock. It clearly read 12:15. She placed her hands on her hips and turned back to wait for a reply from her sons. Suddenly she gasped and nearly fainted as she finally got a clear look at Benny’s no-longer ruined face. She stared questioningly at Josh, who shrugged and shook his head. Benny just beamed and threw himself into his Mother’s arms.
The next morning, Jean packed her two sons into the car and drove to 666 Mockingbird Lane, determined to get to the bottom of this mysterious healing of her precious young son and also to thank whoever had been responsible for this amazing miracle. The family piled quickly from the car the moment Jean turned off the ignition and hurried to the narrow sidewalk between the tall hedge…and stared in amazement at the empty lot beyond.
Benjamin Burns sprang off the last step of the school bus and rushed up the walk and into his house. And he did so with a happy bounce to his step for a change. After all, it was Halloween and he had just made a new friend at school. But, most of all, his new friend had invited him, him, to a costume party at his house this very night! (After he had finished trick-or-treating, that is).
“Hi Mom!” Benny sing-songed as he fairly skipped into the kitchen where his mother was already preparing supper.
Jean Burns turned from the sink where she was peeling potatoes curious to learn why he seemed so happy and excited, and smiled brightly at her precious younger son. She hadn’t seen him show this much enthusiasm since before the accident. The accident where she nearly lost him. The horrible car crash that stole away her beloved husband, Robert, and left her eight-year old boy scarred and disfigured, possibly for the rest of his life. The semi driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and crossed over into the oncoming lane. Bob had been killed instantly, but Benny was critically injured when the car flipped over four times before it came to a stop upside down in the ditch and caught on fire. Benny was wearing a seat belt, but he had first, second and third degree burns over most of his body, before he was freed from the wreckage. He had hideous burns on his face and had lost his sight in his left eye.
That was two years ago, but since Benny had returned to school he had been depressed. The children at school treated him differently now and did not play with him unless they had no choice. Benny no longer had any friends. He said the kids didn’t like him because he was ugly now. He was convinced that many of them were even afraid of him. It broke Jean’s heart. She had gone to school and explained to all his classmates about the terrible accident Benny had been in, hoping the children would understand and begin including her son in their play once more. But it hadn’t happened. A few girls did try to talk with him and include him, but Benny stopped playing with them after a few days. When Jean finally coaxed him to tell her why, she had been horrified to learn that the girls wanted him to be the scary monster and chase them.
Today was the last day she expected Benny to come home fairly bursting with energy and excitement. She had almost kept him home from school this morning because last year some cruel boys had told him that he could trick-or-treat without a costume. He had come home devastated.
Jean bent over and kissed her son on the top of his curly brown mop of hair. “So, you gonna tell me what has you all excited?” she asked.
Benny nodded and pulled a small envelope from his pocket and handed it to her, then waited as patiently as he could while she read it. As soon as her bright blue eyes shifted from the party invitation in her hands to his own sparkling brown one’s he blurted, “So, can I go Mom? Please?”
Before Jean could open her mouth to form a reply, his teenage brother, Josh, strolled into the kitchen. “Can you go where, squirt?” he asked as he studied first his younger sibling’s imploring face and then his mother’s bemused expression and noticed the party invitation in her hand. “Oh! So you’re invited to a Halloween party, huh?”
Benny beamed and nodded and Josh looked back at his mother. “Hey Mom, don’t sweat it, I’ll take Benny to the party if you have to work tonight.”
“Thank you, Josh,” she said, handing him the invitation to his momentary surprise, but he quickly realized she must have done so because he would need to know the time and location of the party. He glanced quickly at the invitation, read the time and address, then started to hand it back to Benny…but froze with the card still in his hand and met his mother’s eyes before taking a better look at the card.
“Hey! What’s goin’ on?” Benny asked, as his excitement of a moment ago began to turn to fear that he was not going to be able to attend the first fun event he had been invited to since before his accident. “Can I go or can’t I?” he added, confused by the odd turn of events. He had thought his family would have been just as happy and excited as he was.
His mom and Josh exchanged a look over top of his head. “Look, sweetheart, you go get your homework done and we’ll talk about it over supper, OK?”
Benny looked from his mother to his brother, then down at the floor. “Yeah, sure,” he mumbled sullenly and trudged to his room.
Supper was a quiet affair until the dishes had been cleared away, then Jean and Josh took turns explaining to Benny that they both wanted more than anything for him to go to his new friends party and have a wonderful time…but the problem was that the address on the invitation said the party was to be at 666 Mockingbird Lane at the Cates’ residence and as far as they both knew, there no longer was a house at that residence. The Cates family that had once lived there were all now deceased.
Benny listened to this information and nodded, a relieved, but knowing look on his young, disfigured face. “I know all of that,” he said impatiently, “but now there is a house there again. It was moved there from Grangerville just a few days ago. My friend, Damon’s family got the place real cheap because the people who owned it had both passed away. They had no family so the city council wanted the land for a parking lot. But they decided that maybe they could make a little profit on the place if they sold it instead of having it demolished.
“Damon also told me that his Uncle John and Aunt Marie’s family lived in the house at the address where his house sits now. They were all murdered by a madman. All except his cousin Mindy, that is. She was only badly wounded and left for dead. The cops had the newspapers report the whole family had been killed because they were afraid that the murderer might try again to kill her if he found out that she was still alive and might be able to identify him. So, when she was well enough, Mindy was sent to live with Damon’s parents, Wolfgang and Elvira Cates,” he added this last with a great sigh and a hopeful expression cast first at his mother, then his big brother, who immediately exchanged a look across the table.
“That is quite a story, young man,” Jean said with a look on her face that Benny knew quite well meant she was not entirely convinced it was all true. Oh, not that he was lying, just that he might not really have been told the truth by his friend, Damon. Still, Benny could tell that the imploring look on his disfigured young face was winning her over, nevertheless. “So…I’ll tell you what. Even though I’m not sure I buy the whole thing I’m going to take a chance and say that you can go…see about this party. Your brother will take you there after you finish with what trick-or-treating you wish to do. If there truly is a house at that location now and your friend and his family are there having a party, you may attend it until ten o’clock. No later. Understood?”
Benny grinned and nodded his head up and down enthusiastically.
“Good,” Jean said, then cautioned. “However, if, as Josh and I fear, there is no house in that location, you will come straight home and do your very best not to feel too bad. You know that there are people out there who are unkind and even cruel to people who are …different…than they are.”
Benny thought this over for a few moments before he slowly nodded. He knew all right. He had been the victim of such cruelness far too often since the accident.
“Then run and get your costume and I will help you get ready before I leave for work,” his mother said. Benny grinned happily and flew to his room to gather up his costume.
Jean bent over and tied a neat bow at the neck of Benny’s faux fur prince cape and then set the shining gold plastic crown with the big pretend jewels upon his curly head and kissed his scarred forehead. “Have fun trick-or-treating, and remember…”
“Don’t eat anything until I get home and you or Josh inspects it for signs of tampering,” Benny said before she could.
Jean smiled and nodded. “And…don’t be too disappointed if your party…doesn’t work out.” Benny nodded solemnly and Jean’s mouth spread into a smile once more. “OK, I’ll see you later, then, sweetheart.”
Benny smiled back and waved as he followed Josh out the door and spent the next two hours merrily trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. But now they had finally arrived at Mockingbird Lane, and Benny was anxious to get to the party, though his brother insisted they might as well trick-or-treat the houses along the way.
“Come on, Benny,” Josh said, “at least if it turns out there isn’t anything at 666 we’ll have something to show for coming all the way here.”
Benny agreed, but just to keep Josh off his case. Teenage brothers could be such a pain if they didn’t get their way!
It seemed like time had slowed down, though, and Benny was beginning to feel like they would never reach the end of the block where Damon said his house was. What was more ominous, though, to Benny, was that it was pitch dark at the end of the lane where the Cates’ house should be. He began to feel disappointment and betrayal creep over him the closer they approached to that lightless spot. He trudged downheartedly from the brightly lit porch of 665 beside Josh who cast him a truly apologetic look, as they began to cross the street to go 667 and back up the other side of the lane.
There was a foreboding thick hedge in front of the property at 666 at the end of the lane, broken only by a narrow sidewalk that split the hedges in the center and ran on up into the darkness. By some unspoken agreement, both boys stopped outside the hedge and stared into the inky blackness towards where the narrow sidewalk ended. Suddenly a great many lights flared all at once, illuminating the house that now resided on the property. Josh and Benny both started in surprise, then exchanged looks of wonder.
“Well little brother,” Josh said with a grin, let’s go see about this party, shall we?”