Requiem for a missed chance: The Weird Singing Draculas

Somehow I let Friday the 13th go by without comment. To rectify the gross oversight, here’s a short story, written in October of 1995 (that’s 22 years ago, for the folks who don’t like math):
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The Weird Singing Draculas
By Andrea Lynn Schultz
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Once upon a time, there were these three Draculas, who wanted to sing. Their names were Weirdo, Dodo, and Idiot. One day, they went to somebody’s house. The other monsters said they’d be back for them. At night the Draculas started singing the scariest thing they knew. It was “We will, we will, rock you, sock you, pick you up and drop you.” The person in the house got so scared he ran away. The Draculas laughed and laughed and laughed until they cried. One day the man came back. At night they started singing “We will, we will rock you, pick you up and drop you.” The man ran away again.
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It was finally Halloween night. Finally the guy came back. He had a plan to get the Draculas out of his house. He dressed up as Frankenstein and went into his downstairs bathroom and waited for them to start singing. When the Draculas started singing the man came out of hiding and started singing “I will eat you when I’m ready. I will give you one second to run away from me.” Right at that moment the man’s black cat came running downstairs and hit a fake witch on a broomstick. The fake witch hit a switch that turned on a big Halloween set! There was a goblin, a vampire, and another witch! The vampire’s head hit a bucket with a gooey monster, covered with slime and it fell out. That ruckus made the fake ghost and bat make noise. The pumpkin was lit so it had red glowing eyes. The Draculas remembered what the other monsters said when they left. They got so scared that they fainted. When they wake up, they ran so fast that all that you could see of them was a blur! The man was so glad, but the real monsters came and they ate him. The monsters take over the house. So that’s that.
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The End

In my continuing defense, at some point in the past I worked very hard on these

A Mouse Tale
By Andrea

Eeny, meeny
miney dragon
Have you been
plane in my wagon?

Eeny meeny
miney to Have
you been sleepn in
my shoe?

Eeny meeny
miney wink
Have you been
Planying in my sink?

© 1993/94

You thought I was kidding about scalping my Elementary schoolwork for blog material, didn’t you? “A Mouse Tale” has been transcribed exactly as written, and looks only slightly less like a series of texts written by a drunk person in the original handwriting. In my defense I was six (or possibly seven) at the time, and had only learned to write either a few weeks or a few months before. Mind you, this was not the first book I ever wrote. But I’ll save that remarkably good read for another time.

Oh! But speaking of texts (or more accurately – modern phones), two grades later, in the Fall of 1995, I came up with the following invention:

The crazy wacky wierd telophone.

When you press a button you can say the persons first and last name and it will dial the number for you. And if its to soft it will louden it up for you. I invented it so if you dont know what the number you can just press a button and say the persons first and last name and it will dial. You can buy it at malls. It costs $900 dollars.

I think someone in the phone industry may owe me a good deal of money.

At the end of the year – or so I’m guessing, considering its placement in the back of the file marked “Third Grade” – is a story that has actual plot, dialogue, and markedly improved sentence structure and spelling. That was my first year with Mrs. Anderson (I had her again in fifth grade), and she still rates high in the rankings of my favorite teachers. I can trace everything I first learned about story structure and plot progression to her.

So, without further ado, The Story Folder now presents “Among the Stars,” a third grade production of daring adventure in space, first brought to the world probably late in the Spring of 1996!

My story starts in Missoula, Montana in the forest. There’s a pond many, many trees and there is my house. It is pretty, white with black trimmings and it has a big garden.

By the way my name is Andrea Lynn Schultz. I have a friend named Czechislovakia. I’ll call him Chuck. He’s a skinny young boy and has blond hair, blue eyes, and is almost 4 feet tall. We both are 9 years old. One night Chuck and I were sitting on the front porch just enjoying ourselves. Suddenly a huge light appeared out of no where and it landed. The light ceased. In its place was a rocket!

My friend got scared stiff and almost fainted. I just stood there. It was blazing with the light of stars. Printed on the side of the rocket in golden letters was Star Lab. It had a blue stripe on the top of it, and the rest of it was gray. It was shimmering like a crystal. There was about a million ridges on it and was about 45 feet tall. On the tip of the nose of the rocket was a fire ball. It wasn’t burning the rest of the rocket, but I think that’s what kept it shimmering. It had the power of at least 20 trucks and was in the shape of a cone. It looked like it just had been polished. But right then to my horror the door opened and Chuck and I were sucked in! Finally he got to his senses and I wasn’t so frightened. Inside of the rocket were green buttons, red buttons, blue buttons, long buttons, small buttons, buttons of all different shapes and sizes. I couldn’t believe how many buttons there were! The inside of the rocket was painted teal and it too looked like it had been polished. It had two little chairs that were soft and could be twirled around. It had a couple of windows shaped into a circle. Then I remembered I had to get out. I tried and tried to get the door opened but it was locked! I was trapped and frightened!

Just then there was a jolt, and I flew back and landed on a big green button which turned the rocket on! I tried pushing a button but the pressure pushed me back and off we went! Finally the rocket slowed down and then what do you think happened? Chuck and I went floating through the air! I pushed myself toward the control room and found a little blue button which was labeled gravity. I pushed it and whump, bump Chuck and I came bumping down to the floor.

Then I looked out the window and I saw the horizon, the zenith, and then I saw Missoula. I started crying but I stopped crying because I knew it wouldn’t help getting home. Then I looked up and I saw many many different kinds of constellations. I saw Aquila, that means eage. And I saw Cassiapeia, Corona Borealis, Cygmus, Delphinus, Draco, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Lycra, Ophiuchus, Serpens, Orion, Pegasus, Polaris, and last but not least, Ursa Minor.

I was not sure where I was headed but it looked like I was going for the sun! But right when we were about to hit we took a sharp turn and there in the back of the sun was a green mushy mucky gooey planet! Yuck! What a disgusting planet! “What should we call this disgusting planet?” I asked Chuck.

“Beats me,” he answered.

“How about gooey green and mucky thing?” I said.

“No, that sounds like some monster covered with slime.” Chuck answered.

“Yah. I guess your right. Hmm I wonder.” I said.

“Hey! I know,” Chuck said. “How about the planet Oableck,” he said.

“Yah! Cool! Awesome! Radical! Nice name.” I said.

“I wonder if we will land.” Chuck said.

“Nope not on this planet. But I wish we would.” I said.

“Me too.” Chuck said. But I wouldn’t get out. I looked out the window again. Now the stars were shimmering even more than before. I looked at the world, and it was really small now. I sighed and said “I wonder if we will ever get back?”

“Wait a minute,” I said, “why don’t we turn this baby around.”

“Don you touch anything!” yelled Chuck. “I don’t want to get killed!”

“Oh don’t be such a baby.” I answered.

“Well O.k.” Chuck said. “Then lets get moving. Here’s a red button that says turn.”

“Then push it!” I said. “O.k.” And so we turned toward the sun.

I told Chuck to get some food because both of us know it is midnight snack time, so Chuck went to get some food that we found in a pantry. He came back, tripped on a bump and came jolting forward and hit a button that said “full speed ahead.” Aaauugghh! “We’re going straight for the sun!” We both yelled at the same time! I pulled at along skinny button that said stop, reverse. I pulled that, but I guess the pressure was to strong and it snapped off! Chuck and I knew that the long skinny button was our only chance and now it was snapped off.

We both started screaming as loud as we could and when we just started screaming, whump I fell out of bed! “Whoa What a nightmare,” I said. I jumped out of bed and then heard a small clunk. I looked on the floor and laying there was the long skinny button! I almost fainted I was so surprised! At breakfast I told my family about what happened last night, but no one believed me. I even showed them the long skinny button! I guess it was invisible to them. When I went to school I told all of my friends except Chuck about what happened and I showed them the long skinny button but nobody believed me and they couldn’t see the button either! Then Chuck came running up to me and he said he had a really bad dream and he told me about what happened. He was telling the story of what happened last night! When he got to the last part of it he ended it like this and when he was finishing I showed him the button and it sounded like this, “Then I um woke up” and he fainted.

“What a sissy,” I said. And now I knew I really had been among the stars.

The Child Grew Up

The old lady frightened me.

Every neighborhood seems to have an old man or woman who lives on the block, inhabiting the deep confines of their yards, possibly boiling brews but just as likely concocting evil to visit on curious neighborhood children.  There are stories about these people, passed in whispers at recess and on school buses, sometimes about quiet murders behind closed doors, other times of old secrets and mysterious pasts, but every story has the same foundation: they are dangerous and wicked and will not let you pass their house unharmed.  We of the children of the neighborhood watch always know which house to stay away from.

We lived right next door to ours.

She was an old bat, quiet but somehow angry, like the world had let her down in some deeply unforgiveable way. She never shouted “get off my lawn” while angrily waving her trowel in the air, but then she didn’t need to.  A deep green hedge, made up entirely of pine and nearly as tall as my house, enshrouded her yard in the same foreboding mystery that windows with always closed curtains do.  On our side of the property a red fence stood sentry, splintered and falling apart, barely able to contain the needles and branches trying to break its hold.

Together they hid one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen.  Full of deep colors, a muffled sense of privacy, it felt like walking into a secret.  And I was lucky enough to discover it because of the goose.

The only inviting thing about her was her white, slickly feathered pet. It came up to my waist, a loud honking thing with a beak full of very small, very sharp teeth. I was always quietly sure, letting the goose nibble at my fingertips, that I was about to lose a finger. It scared me as much as it thrilled me, because knowing someone who owned a goose was a novelty, good for boasting about at school and worth the trip into her backyard.  It wandered her garden, breaking the stillness with its unconcerned honking.

Somehow that made the old woman next door more real, more prone to saying “yes” when we asked to come over.  My older sister was in charge of all requests back then, so I didn’t have to worry about talking to her, or making eye contact.  She didn’t seem so bad once we’d made it past the hedge, more someone’s grandma and less Hansel-and-Gretel-who’s-that-nibbling-at-my-house witch.  Outside of her backyard she reverted to a dark presence, hidden behind her hedge. But surrounded by her bursting flower bushes, she was just an old gardener.  Visits felt like tea parties with a duchess, she dignified on her white patio furniture, my sister and I dressed in our summer dresses. We’d pet the slick feathers on the back of the goose’s neck, storing up details for our friends.

The goose died.  The visits stopped.

I saw her a few times after that.  Once, when she ventured onto our side of the property line to prune the hedge.  Another time when I was helping Dad scrape the snow off our roof.  I could see into her yard and I caught a glimpse of a figure in her window.  Her severe voice sometimes broke the evening, cracking out at the yippy, unfriendly dogs she’d bought in place of the goose.

Somewhere along the line I grew up.  There were no secrets, no gruesome murders, no Hansel and Gretel witches; just a woman in her garden.  Her presence lost its power and her two shih tzus, though evil, could be counted on for a laugh, leaping out of gaps at the bottom of the hedge at unsuspecting passersby. On late summer evenings, after I was supposed to be in bed, I’d peak out of my bedroom curtains as soon as I heard someone about to walk by her house, because the nasty little things were always good for a jump-scare. I was too old to be afraid of the boogeyman.

Nearly ten years ago I came back to my old hometown for a visit, dragged along by my parents and wondering when the streets had gotten so small.  Eventually we made it out to our old house, and I stood on the driveway feeling my heart break because it wasn’t ours anymore.  The woman living there had ruined it. My house had lost its magic, my room was filled with junk, and the stories we’d told as children felt less real, more childish.

I walked along the hedge as my parents talked.  The red fence was gone, replaced with cold chain link, and I trailed my fingers along the metal to see how it would feel.

Two dogs leapt out at me from the hedge, yapping wildly, and I jumped back, startled.

“Hush,” I heard her snap through the fence.

And I still didn’t dare come over.

Three Ways I Got Out of Baiting a Hook and One Way I Didn’t

The first time I got out of baiting a hook I was too young to know better.

I was five years old and big enough to hold a pole, which was reason enough for Dad to put one in my hands.  The first worm was always a freebie.  He’d string up the bobber and bait the hook with one hand, tipping the circular container in the sunlight so that I could see the silhouette of dirt against blue plastic.  There was a very distinct smell to it, earthy and good and kind of wormy.  I was afraid to touch the punched holes.

Once he was done I’d jitter with fisherman-like zeal, sending ripples out from the shore as I jerked the line to make it more interesting to the fish.  When that failed I’d dangle the line right above the water, worm spinning in lazy circles against the surface as I waited for my well thought-out plan to succeed.

The desperate need to catch something was outweighed by only one thing: the desperate need to keep the worm on the hook for as long as possible.  I spent most of my time looking to see if the bait was still there, relieved when it was.  With five-year-old enthusiasm I’d re-dunk it, wondering if a worm could drown.

The result was unavoidable.  My sister and I would need to re-bait our hooks.

We usually waited until we both needed to get another worm, with the comforting thought that the other person would go first. We’d start poking at the night crawler container with high-pitched “eee!” noises before the lid came off, increasing in volume every time we dropped one.  Four or five “eee!”s in and Dad would come over and tell us in a carefully patient voice that we needed to be quiet or we’d scare the fish.

(Our older brother, standing with calm certainty on a rock along the shoreline, wouldn’t look at us when this took place, though he did always manage to adopt a general air of disdain that was impossible to ignore. Or maybe that was just basic smugness.)

Dad had this wonderful way of sighing without noise.  He’d let out the breath in one long exhale of silence as he squeezed the remaining half of the worm onto the end of one hook then the other, a motion that could have been “I love you” or “why did I think this was a good idea?”

The real trick was that I’d known better for years.

I could have baited my own hook, but Dad had already reinforced my behavior (there are articles about this in parenting magazines), and I got out of it for years.  Inevitably, however, the “eee!” wore out and I was back to hoping my sister would go first.  The worms hadn’t gotten any less creepy.

(I didn’t actually have a problem with touching worms. Once, when pulling the weeds out of my mother’s lilacs, I found a juicy worm that had to be taken to Dad in the living room immediately.  He declined the offer, thanked me as he looked around for Mom, and told me to put it back where I found it.  I was insulted, and felt the enormous waste of the quarters that went into the stands that sold nightcrawlers.  It was squeezing them hard that creeped me out, the way they’d wriggle in your hand when you were forcing the powerfully floppy things onto a hook.)

Adversity breeds creativity.  Even if it’s not that creative. As soon as the worm was lost I suddenly had a hundred and one things I could be doing.  I’d be unexpectedly thirsty, off to the pickup for a can of pop, finally ready for my bathroom break maybe.  I even stared at a tree once, looking up at the leaves with my wormless pole in hand, and told my dad how pretty it all looked when he came over to see what was the matter.

He baited the hook, since he was over there anyways.

One day, I turned into a girl.

It was looking in a mirror that did it.  I suddenly wanted to grow my hair past the mushroom-cut I’d sported for years, and wondered if shopping was really so bad as it at first seemed.  We’d moved at that point, but every summer the family came back to Montana and for a couple days Dad would disappear with my brother, my uncle, and my cousin.  They returned with sunburns, pictures, and a cooler layered with rainbow trout and salmon.  I’d look at the pictures, consider how impressed I should be by the size of the fish, and think how it wouldn’t be fair to break into the annual guy trip.

The first few times they went (years before we’d moved) the entire family came along, all sixteen of us: cousins, Aunts, Moms, even Grandma.  We walked for miles, caught very little, and a few years later my mother said “no thank you,” my two Aunts said they’d be fine shopping, and my sister and our female cousins said “nah” a little tentatively, like they didn’t want to upset anyone but they didn’t really want to go either.

“Do you want to go?” I asked my sister once.  I sounded accusatory, more “who would want to go?” and less what I was really asking.

“No,” she said.  “Why?  Do you?”

I remembered standing out on rickety rocks, casting lines into the water while Dad carefully pretended not to watch, the skin-crawling sensation of a worm trying very hard to get out of your fingers.

“No,” I told her, and that was the end of that.

I preferred spinners and Dad knew it.  I’d recently dared to buy myself a fishing license for the summer, and Dad had taught me how to use a lure.  In-line spinners were my favorite, twirling in the clear water as gold winked off the surface of a river, and I figured the trout in beaver creek had to be nearly as interested in the Jag as I.

But there were largemouth bass lurking in those depths.  “Rumor has it that bait is the way to go.”

“Rumor” meant someone from church had a strong opinion on the subject, and there were enough decent fishermen in the congregation to make it worth listening to. Despite any protests I might have. Dad held out the blue plastic container and I took it.  I opened it and he pushed it out of the patch of sun I was holding it in, back into the shade.

He demonstrated, pulling out a worm with confident fingers.  Dad had already cut himself helping me fix my hook and the dirt bled into the cut.  I envied his lack of hesitation.

The years had erased the fact that you had to thread the worm halfway through the hook before jabbing the metal out the other side.  I had an image of smashing the center of a worm onto the hook, which is probably why I always ended up with half a worm to work with when I was a little girl.

I couldn’t be a sissy.  I grabbed the worm and immediately felt it strain at my fingers, bunching against my thumb and index finger.

I simultaneously dropped it and remembered, keenly, why I’d made those “eee!” noises fifteen years earlier.

I laughed, nervous and embarrassed, and fished it out of the river bank, sure that I had lost points with Dad.

He was smirking when I looked at him.  “Want me to do it?”

“No,” I said, and I jammed the bait onto the hook, feeling hard metal work its way through the soft flesh of a struggling, creepy worm.