Monthly Archives: September 2013

No. 463

After many years of training, Luke Bakker went down to the astronaut office to sign up.

“You’re too short,” they told him. “Much too short.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he argued. “I’m plenty tall.”

The astronaut people pointed to a sign on the wall that clearly stated the necessary height requirements to join. They also suggested that Luke return when he was a little older.

“Eight is too young,” was the final word.

No. 462 – Bony Finger Canyon Part 4

“Why?” I ask, after Karl tells me to “Just go stand right there.”

“Nevermind,” he says quickly. Too quickly.

I see him check his watch. The others look on. They are huddled nervously behind a scrubby bush, just down the canyon.

Karl decides that it is the correct time. “Catch,” he says as he throws Mr. Granley’s arm at me.

I fumble the bones and they fall to the sandy ground. I reach down to pick them up, and when I straighten, Karl has dashed off to join his sidekicks.

Obviously, I am to be bait. “Bait for what?” is the question.

I swear I can hear a cricket chirping, just to set the mood. The moon has ducked behind a cloud, and a light breeze has picked up, funneled down the canyon.

I shiver slightly.

Somewhere, in the distance, a coyote howls. It’s pretty much the perfect setting now for a horror movie.

I probably would have peed my pants by now, if I hadn’t gone earlier. “Always go when you get the chance,” is what I always say.

I can hear somebody in the group whisper excitedly. They’re pointing to something upstream from me. I turn to face whatever is coming.

A light begins to flicker across the rock walls. The something is clearly jumping and bobbing about as it approaches.

It rounds the final turn and I can see clearly what it is. I stand, frozen in terror, and can only think to do one thing.

I throw Mr. Granley’s arm as hard as I can toward the phantom.

No. 461

Most days, it was all Walter could do to get out of bed. But he was a sloth, so who could blame him? Certainly not the squirrels. It’s not like they were doing any work. Walter knew that all the “foraging” and “gathering” that they purported to be involved with was a sham. He’d never seen a squirrel put in an honest-day’s work in his life.

Walter swore that some day he would get revenge on the squirrels that called him lazy.

Some day.

Probably not today.

No. 460 – Bony Finger Canyon Part 3

“Not bad,” said Karl. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”

I’d won a grudging respect by handing over Mr. Granley’s arm. The limb was currently jammed haphazardly into Karl’s backpack, but I was fine with that. It meant that Karl wasn’t looking at it too closely.

“Alright guys, let’s go introduce Philip to Bony Finger Canyon,” Karl said. He waved his own arm and our small band of campers began to move down the narrow trail toward the canyon floor. I wish I could tell you that there weren’t thorn bushes, but there were. There were lots of thorn bushes.

We made it to the bottom fairly quickly. The canyon was deeper, but also narrower, than I’d always imagined. The rocky walls were maybe thirty feet high but, at the top, it seemed like there was a small enough gap that somebody could leap across.

Karl led us to the widest point, a small sandy beach at the side of the stream that flowed through the bottom.

“Put your tent up over there,” he told me, pointing at the farthest-possible spot from where he was clearly going to pitch his.

I obeyed his directions and hustled to unload my backpack.

There was something going on amongst the other boys. I could feel a nervous energy as they made camp and began to pace around the site.

“Are you ready yet?” Karl yelled from the middle of the group.

“Almost,” I called back to him. Which was a minor lie. I was almost finished, if I cut some corners.

“Better hurry,” he said. “It’s almost time.”

“Time for what?” I asked.

“Just hurry up,” he said.

I noticed that Mr. Granley’s arm was out of Karl’s backpack, and it was now clutched between Karl’s very white knuckles.

No. 459 – Bony Finger Canyon Part 2

“I probably won’t,” I tell Miss Kelly.

She’s worried that I’ll throw up in the middle of class. She’s asked me about seven times already if I’m ok.

I guess it’s fair. I’m in a bad state. Nerves, you see. At lunch I made a stupid promise to meet Karl and his buddies and head to Bony Finger Canyon.

I also promised to bring the skeleton arm that gave the canyon its name. But I don’t know where it is. Nobody does.

There’s a good chance that tonight will end with a beating. Definitely humiliation. Oh, and ghostly mutilation. There’s that, too.

I’ve been trying to come up with a plan to avoid bodily harm. My first thought was to fashion a crude arm from junk that I could find in my basement. Maybe slather some meat from the fridge on it and show it only when it’s dark out. That was the frontrunner until I realized that I’m not that handy with crafts.

Poop.

I should have paid more attention in grade two.

The eleven-billionth wave of nausea hits me and I’m forced to put my head down on the desk.

“Philip, are you sure you’re alright?” I hear Miss Kelly call from the front of the room.

“Yes,” I try to mumble with enough conviction that she’ll leave me alone for two minutes.

I open one eye and see the answer staring right at me.

It’s Mr. Granley’s empty eye sockets.

Why didn’t I think of that before? Well, I guess the whole canyon dare proves that I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box. But still. I’m not that dumb.

Mr. Granley is the name that some class in the distant past gave the plastic skeleton that hangs in the corner of the room. I heard there was an actual teacher named that, but he died, or something.

I look closely at the connections between the bones. They’re held together with heavy wire. If I can find something to cut it with, I’ll be one step closer to getting through the night.

There’s one class left in the day. I’ll have to sneak back into the room after school.

I hope I can pull off the, if not perfect, then at least adequate, crime.

No. 458 – Bony Finger Canyon Part 1

“Many, many times,” I lied.

There was no way I was going to tell Karl that I had never camped out in Bony Finger Canyon. All the high school kids did. They even had parties down there. I had always just found a way to miss them.

Bony Finger Canyon got its name way back when, when some miner or prospector or somebody found a skeleton arm down there. People say that the owner of the arm now haunts the canyon, looking for his missing limb, occasionally hacking the arms off of unsuspecting visitors.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I don’t want to take the chance.

Supposedly, if the arm is returned, the ghost will lead the good Samaritan back to a buried treasure.

But, of course, nobody knows where the arm is, either.

“Come on, you’ve never been,” said Karl. “I’ve never seen you there.”

“I have!” I insisted. “I’ll go tonight, to prove it.”

Oh crap. What have I done?

“And I know where the Dead Man’s arm is, too!” I head myself telling him.

“Well what don’t you bring that, too,” Karl sneered.

He didn’t believe me.

It made sense. I wasn’t believable.

Karl seemed to think about my offer. “Alright,” he said, after a while. “Tonight, just after nine. Meet us at Old Man Johnson’s field.”

“Oh, and don’t forget the arm,” he added, just to make sure that I knew that he knew I was bluffing.

No. 457

“Here’s the thing. Remember when I said that I’d haunt you forever?”

“Yes,” I told the ghost of my friend, Alan.

“Well, I’ve been offered a better deal. I think I’m going to take it,” he said.

“So, you’re not going to be around much longer?” I asked. “That ‘forever’ went by pretty quick. It was what? Three weeks?”

“I know,” he admitted. “I’m sorry. It’s just. You know. An opportunity.”

No. 456

The mice were eaten by cats, and the cats were chased by dogs, and the dogs were directed by humans, and the humans were eaten by bears. And that’s the way it worked for hundreds, or even thousands of years. Until, one day, Danny R. Mouse invented a robot suit and turned the tables on the cats. Then, everything changed.

No. 455 – Peter Spider and the Picnic

Peter Spider had eight legs, but no friends.

He was a very lonely spider.

He spent all day on his web, waiting to catch flies.

Peter didn’t want to eat the flies. He just wanted somebody to talk to.

One day, two very big things sat down in the field next to Peter’s web.

Peter studied them carefully with his many eyes. Maybe these were friends!

Peter waved his leg. The very big things didn’t see him at all.

Peter summoned up all his courage and left his web to investigate.

He crawled slowly toward the very big things.

When he was closer, he tried to wave again.

They saw him.

One of the very big things made a very loud noise.

The other very big thing tried to shoo Peter away.

Peter left, but he was sad.

He climbed all the way back up to his web, alone.

But when he got there, it wasn’t empty!

There was a fly in his web.

“Help,” shouted the fly. “A spider!”

“Don’t worry,” he told it. “My name is Peter. I won’t eat you.”

Peter untangled the fly.

“Are you OK?” he asked it.

The fly stretched her wings carefully. “Yes,” she said. “I’m Grace.”

“Did you see the very big things?” said Peter.

“They’re people,” said Grace. “They’re having a picnic.”

“I tried to join them,” said Peter.

“So did I,” said Grace. “They didn’t like me.”

“You and I could have a picnic,” Peter suggested.

“That’s a good idea!” said Grace.

And so Peter Spider and Grace Fly had their own picnic and became best friends.

No. 454 – The Rainy-Day Story

Thunder boomed outside the window, but Emily was warm and dry in her room. She clutched a full mug of hot chocolate, with marshmallows, close, and burrowed deeper into her comfy chair.

She watched the raindrops pelt into the window and run down, out of view. She felt very safe.

Turning toward the row of stuffed animals lined up on her bed, she began to read aloud from her favorite book, “Peter Spider and the Picnic”.

The gallery listened intently, as best friends do.