Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Halloween for St. Patrick's Day

Just read this one to Mrs Gray's 4th grade class in Willard, MO for Read Across America. They approved!

The Skeleton’s Pajamas

Back in 1994, there lived a skeleton in a hollow tree at the end of Chigger Road. He was only about two feet tall. You might think he was a little boy’s bones, but he was actually the skeleton of an Arkansas leprechaun. Because he was 95% dead, he didn’t have loads of energy. Most of the time, he slept all day, woke up after the school bus went by,  and chewed on an acorn or a pine cone for breakfast. When he felt full, he let the food fall down through his ribcage. He could do a little dance to make an acorn roll ‘round and ‘round in his pelvis before it plopped onto the ground. Then he would pick it up, yell “POOP!” and throw it as far as he could. He didn’t need much to eat, being 95% dead.
    Some evenings, the skeleton sat in his tree trying to remember his name. His brain was pretty much gone, so his memory was poor. He had to do most of his thinking aloud.
    “I think it started with “C”… Charlie… Curtis… Calvin….”
    “What are you doing?” asked a woodchuck.
    “Trying to remember my name,” said the skeleton.
    “Oh,” said the woodchuck. “You’re dumb, Charlie Curtis Calvin.”
    “Well, you are fat,” said Charlie Curtis Calvin, but the woodchuck was already squeezing into a hole in the dirt.
    The skeleton was bored, but the moon was full, which gave him more energy. Walking up Chigger Road, he looked for something to do. Hanging over a barbed-wire fence, a row of catfish heads was singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Even though they looked like stinky beef jerky puke-buckets, they made a cheerful sound.
    “Hi!” said Charlie, “Hi, heads!” The catfish heads looked at him, but kept singing. So the skeleton started singing along. Then the catfish heads stopped singing.
    “Hey,” said the largest head, “you’re messing up our song.”
    “Aren’t we just singing for fun?”
    “No, this is our job,” said the smallest catfish head with astonishing pride.
    “Really? Wow, how do you get this job?”
    “Well, for starters, you have to be a catfish head.”
    “Gross,” said Charlie.
Further up the road, he saw the gate to Rose Hill Cemetery. He knew they wouldn’t let him in, because it was only for people who bought tombstones or made reservations. But he picked up a stick and began tapping on the gate. Nothing happened. He poked his head through the bars. He could see some ghosts and a rather fresh corpse-lady talking way in the back.
    “Hey, what’s going on in there?” shouted Charlie.
    “Go away,” said a tall skeleton in a tuxedo. “Members only.”
    “Why can I not be a member?”
    “You are not fully dead, not formerly human, you do not own a casket or a tombstone… you are riff-raff.”
    “I’m 95% dead, and I own this stick,” Charlie said, tapping the gate so it went PING DING DING. “Just let me in. You can say that I won the raffle or something. Riff-raff raffle!”
    “The answer is NO. Run along.”
    “Then just tell what’s happening in there.”
    “It is private, so sorry.”
    “Snob,” said Charlie Curtis Calvin. He walked away. A bunch of walnuts lay along the road and in the ditch. He picked one up and ate it, turning back to face the cemetery gate. The walnut bounced off his ribs and pelvis, where he caught it, then threw it very hard. “Big poop!” he yelled. The walnut hit the tall skeleton in the back, but was ignored.
    So Charlie went on until he saw some cattle, and an iron sign that read Asher Creek Ranch.
    “This is a rodeo place!” Charlie crept through the tall grass until he was close enough to touch a cow’s tail. “These cows are too big.” Then he saw a calf that was only one month old. “Hey, that one is just my size!”
    Charlie jumped on the calf, and the ride began immediately. The calf ran up a hill, under a tree, and over a log, but Charlie held on. The calf splashed through a creek, then over to the fence, and back toward the herd. Gripping and pinching the calf’s hide to hang on, Charlie laughed. But being pinched made the calf bug her eyes out. She kicked and bucked even harder. One of Charlie’s leg bones popped off.
    “Ow!” said Charlie. “Slow down!” His leg bone dragged the grass, but was still hanging on by a ligament. Looking for a way to get off, he tried to steer the calf by pulling her ears, but she went the wrong way—straight toward an old farmhouse. The calf bawled, which started two dogs barking. The mother cow was chasing them, and an old farmer came out of the house with a shotgun.
    “Get offa that calf, ya creep!” He shot his gun into the air because he felt like the situation called for shooting, but he preferred not to shoot his own cattle.
    “This rodeo stuff is rough!” Charlie said as his leg bone broke loose and flipped into the grass. The calf ran around the house and under a clothesline. Charlie grabbed the line and watched the calf scamper away. Now the dogs, the cow, and the farmer were closing in on him. He scooted down the clothesline into a pair of pajamas, just his size, that said “#1 BABY.” Then he dropped down into a laundry basket left out by the farmer’s daughter. He wanted to pull more laundry down over his head and hide in the basket, but the cow was already about to trample him to get to her calf. Ducking under the cow’s belly, Charlie saw the two hungry dogs and the angry farmer in hot pursuit. “Hey, get me out of here!” He hooked his toe bones in the laundry basket, grabbed the cow’s tail, and skidded away.
    “Get outta them pajamas, you thievin’ bone-booger!” the farmer yelled, waving his gun.
    “Don’t shoot,” Charlie cried, “I’m similar to a little boy!” But the dogs found his leg bone just then. The farmer tripped over them and fired his gun, blasting his last shot into the sky. The cow ran faster, but Charlie held on.
    “Dang it, I’m old,” said the farmer. He went to get his tractor, but it would not start, so he went back to bed.
    The cow chased her calf all the way back to the herd. Once all the cows were back together, the dogs settled down to fight over Charlie’s leg bone. The calf, thirsty from running, started nursing. Charlie climbed on top of the laundry basket, pointed to his pajamas, and yelled at the retreating dogs, “I’m #1, BABY!” Unfortunately, he was still right behind the cow. She wasted no time in kicking him over the fence.
    Charlie landed hard on the pavement, knocking more bones loose. He just lay there for a minute, laughing and crying at the same time.
    “Ow, cow!” Charlie cried. “This rodeo is no joke… how can cowboys stand it? I know they have more cartilage than me, but come on!” He unzipped his pajamas and checked his bones. Two ribs had to be hooked back on, one kneecap was chipped, and the one fibula was gone. “I’ll bet those dogs are gnawing on it right now. I s’pose that makes me 96% dead.”
    Charlie limped down the road. He rolled into the ditch to avoid a truck. Climbing out, he found a bendy straw and an Altoids tin.
    “Man, people throw away nice stuff!” He fitted the bendy straw into his leg to replace the missing bone, then clamped the mint tin around his knee. “Guess I’m a cyborg now—WEEP WOOP WEEP!”
    Now the moon was going down and it was getting very dark. Charlie had to walk all the way back down Chigger Road. He walked past the cemetery, where all was still amongst the graves. He walked past the catfish heads, now snoring on the fence. He paused at the woodchuck’s hole to toss an acorn in.
    “Hey woodchuck, you’re fat!” he said into the hole, but nothing happened. “Well, good night, then.”
    At last Charlie made it home. Just outside his hollow tree, he stumbled over some pine cones. “Oh yeah, my cones!” He piled them back up. “I still need some string so I can make a squirrel trapeze.”
    He went inside, checked for creeping possums, then lay down, resting his head on an old plastic brontosaurus. “Man, what a day! I sang in a band, and did my first rodeo! Plus, I stole these great footsie pajamas. I haven’t felt this cozy since I had flesh.”
    But then Charlie felt bad when he realized there must be a baby back at the rodeo place who was missing the pajamas. “What if that baby is cold right now? No… I saw some more pajamas on that clothesline. And that baby will outgrow these clothes soon… I know! I will raise money so I can buy bigger pajamas for that baby. I will pick up walnuts and sell them for $8.00 per 100 pounds! Then I’ll put the money in their mailbox in an envelope that says “#1 BABY!”
    Charlie’s plan to set things right made him happy again. He read six Bazooka Joe comics by the light of a fox-fire fungus, then fell asleep and forgot his name again.