Ghoulish For Dinner

“RUN AWAY!” yelled Rachel, holding onto a blanket with one hand and her porcelain doll in the other. “It’s going to get us! It’s going to get us!” She sped right by Jonathan and Steven, out the door, and into the woods.

“AH!” Jonathan and Steven screamed in unison and followed her along the muddy path through the woods. The children’s screams could be heard for a half-mile in any direction as they wound their way between trees, over boulders and under bridges until they finally reached their favorite rocky beach.

Rachel was positively covered with mud all the way up to the knees of her stockings, and Jonathan and Steven had slipped a few times, cakes of mud dripping from the collars of their shirts. When they finally stopped to breathe, they looked at each other’s brown-speckled cheeks and filthy clothes and started laughing and pointing at one another until their tummies hurt.

“Why were we running?” Jonathan asked.

The laughter stopped for a moment as everyone considered Jonathan’s question until Steven cracked a smile, renewing the roar. “You mean you just started running and screaming because I was?” Rachel asked.

“Well, yeah. What else were we supposed to do?” Steven giggled.

Then Rachel looked dreadfully serious as she said, “Mom said we’re eating the most terrible thing for dinner tonight. Said we were having something ghoulish! I didn’t know what that meant, but last I checked, eating ghosts is a sure way to be haunted by them forever!”

Steven and Jonathan looked at each other with surprise and amusement. Steven looked back at Rachel, “You’re kidding, right?”

“No! She said, ‘the ghoulish is almost ready, we’re gonna eat our brains out,’ and then I screamed and ran out the door and you two followed me.”

Steven hit his head with the palm of his hand, “We’re having goulash for dinner.”

Where Do Wishes Go?

(This is a scene from a book I’m currently working on. For a little background, Rachel and Alice are eleven years old.)

Rachel stared at the field full of flowers with carefully considered ambivalence. It was the type of field you only see in childish memories and Hollywood: bright green grass dotted with yellow and white dandelions, violets, clover, and forget-me-nots, surrounded by a ring of trees that led to a mysterious forest, and a slight hill as if the ground hoped to look out over the trees. Rachel, of course, was at the top of the hill, sitting in a small ring of dandelions. She loved to pluck the yellow ones, dab the sap out onto the ground, and stick them in as many places as they’d fit in her hair. But this time, she pondered over the white dandelions with a stern, furrowed brow.

Her eyes crossed as they focused on the miniature umbrellas that detached and floated away, carrying an even more miniature brown seed. The wind blew just hard enough to carry them off one by one, some of them floating well above the forest before finally dropping somewhere between the canopy of leaves. She wondered if any of them would float all the way to her house from there, if they could sojourn on the tree tops awaiting a swift gust and aim themselves in a proper direction. She wondered if they wondered about the places she could go without the wind.

But mostly, she wondered about the wishes they carried when a full dandelion head was huffed and puffed by anyone daring enough to dream. Rachel saw Alice come through the tree line on the path the Children made during their frequent visits to the field, but she still sat there in wonderment. This matter was far too pressing to be distracted, even by dear friends.

Alice was out of breath when she finally reached the top of the hill. “You’re going to ruin your eyes before long if you keep that up,” she said between gasps.

Rachel smirked ever so slightly while maintaining her intent gaze and replied, “Where do you think the wishes go when we blow them onto the little umbrella-ettes?” She twirled the tiny flower between her fingers before looking up at Alice, who was standing, arms crossed and tapping her foot.

Alice asked, “Do you really think breathing produces wishes that cling to the seeds of weeds?”

“What happens if I go to make a wish and accidentally breathe in too quickly and the fluff goes up my nose? Is that what happens to adults when they give up on their dreams? Maybe it traps the dreams in between their brain and the world and never has a chance to escape…”

Alice raised an eyebrow, “So what happens when you sneeze? Does your dream dry up in a booger?”

Alice and Rachel looked at each other in a pointed stare a little while longer until Rachel rolled on her back, giggling. Alice tried to maintain composure but finally fell to her knees, imitating a sneeze as they both yelled, “Ew! BOOGER!”


What Really Scares Us

(Continued from The Children – Rachel and Jonathan)

A few minutes after the hilarity had calmed, when everyone wiped the last tears from their eyes and huffed their last giggles, Jonathan emerged from his room, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. The 17-year-old boy laughed at his mother briefly; she was still clad in her suave and sassy getup, but this was certainly not abnormal in the Shines’ household. Bruce, Deboooooraaah, and Rachel were munching the last bites of breakfast, still making silly remarks and chuckling here and there. “Breakfast is on the stove,” Bruce announced between sips of coffee. “Thanks da,” replied Jonathan within a yawn. He took his seat at the average-sized, round wooden table, and with a half-smile, addressed his mother, “So what’s the occasion, Deborah?”

She startled all of them as she quickly stood up, whipped the boa around her neck, and theatrically outstretched her arms, “IT’S DEBOOOOORAAAH!” The laughter was renewed partially by surprise factor and partially because of her proclivity for well-timed punch lines. Rachel fell out of her chair again. Jonathan ran swiftly to help her back into her seat, and between giggles, said, “What a relief. I thought another pet fish had died and we were going to hold another ‘Funeral of Extravagant Consequence’ again.” Each of them let loose a few more snickers, as that is exactly what happened when Douglas the Goldfish was found belly-up in his bowl, and their mother had attempted comedy to ease their grief. Let it be noted that this is not an effective way to announce death, as Rachel and Jonathan were still just as heartbroken when she finally admitted the reason for excessive comic relief so early in the morning. Let it also be noted that this sort of behavior was frequently to be expected, and it is this joy and laughter that brought such brightness to Rachel’s demeanor.

After everyone had eaten their fill and scraped their plates in the garbage, leaving them stacked in the sink for Mother to clean later on. Rachel and Jonathan ran to get dressed and bolted out the door. With a gleeful skip, Rachel kicked up leaves and twigs and other forest debris as she and Jonathan made their way along a trail in the woods. After a few hundred feet of Rachel humming a merry tune, Jonathan smiling in tow, he asked her, “What were you fussing about last night on the couch? You said something…” he chuckled deeply in his chest, “… about nuffinty blumputs or something like that?” At the mention of the ridiculous words, Rachel froze in her tracks and turned to him, “What? How much… I mean, how much did I say? What did you hear?” she seemed slightly ashamed that she had spoken any of it out loud; her embarrassment appeared on her cheeks. “Not much,” he shrugged, “Just a few funny words and stuff. When I saw you flailing, I tried patting your head a bit to calm you down, but I don’t think the nightmare ever really stopped… What’s a jobbity? And what does its brigobrough look like?”

She turned to continue walking, Jonathan still somewhat behind her. “It’s not really about what any of that is, per se,” she explained. Jonathan raised an eyebrow as she continued, “It’s more about what I think it is when I’m facing it. Like, you know how there are things you’re afraid of for no reason, like the dark and open waters and stuff like that?” He thought for a second before answering, “No, not really.”

She sniffed humorously, knowing that Jonathan had very few things he was ever actually afraid of, “Well, us normal people get scared of ridiculous things, and it doesn’t matter much what they’re named or what they look like. We’re never actually afraid of anyone or any thing, though, we just think we are. But what we’re really scared about is whether or not we will be able to survive when we face it.” She looked at him for a reaction. He seemed to be thinking, but maintained the peaceful smirk he always had on his face. “The important thing isn’t what I was fighting or how strong it was or anything like that. Even clowns intimidate people. The problem is I always question myself and ask ‘can I do this? Do I believe in me?’ and that’s always the point when I don’t win.”

“Do you always face it alone?” Jonathan asked. She seemed surprised by the question, “Well, yeah. It was my battle. It was my monster. It was like that time you fought to reel in that fish all by yourself when we were at the lake with da.” He smirked a little wider, “Well, yes, I was the only one reeling it in, but I was never fighting it by myself. I don’t fight any ‘battles’ by myself. I’ve always got you and da and ma and friends and stuff. You weren’t tugging on the line like I was, but you were there with me. That’s why I’m not afraid. I just know I never have to go it alone. I guess that means I’m never the only one that has to believe in me.”