Read Jake and the Giant Hand Online

Authors: Philippa Dowding

Jake and the Giant Hand

BOOK: Jake and the Giant Hand

For Ben, the king of weird stories


This Part Is (Mostly) True

should know, before you even start this book, that it's a little scary. And parts of it are even a bit sad. I wish I could make the story less scary and sad, but this is the way I heard it, so I really have no choice.

It starts like this:

A long time ago, a little old lady disappeared.

She lived on a farm around here, then her husband died and her children moved away, and she took to wandering. One moonlit summer night, she just vanished. Some say she wandered into the fields and no one ever found her. (This is definitely the sad part). Others say she went to live at her brother's farm in another county, and still others say she joined the circus and lived out her days in warmth and comfort.

People had lots of ideas about what happened to her. Whatever the case, one day her son came to visit and found the house empty and dark. The back door was banging in the wind. People looked for months and years, but they never found her.

Do you want to know what I think? I think she wandered into the swamp. Once you go in … you sometimes never come out.

Here's the scary part. A little while after she vanished, people started to hear … noises coming from the swamp. Howls, cries, weird shrieking. Right around then, some say a face began to appear in windows at night and scared perfectly nice people half to death.

Some say it was her face. The little old lady who disappeared.

You don't have to believe this story. But just because things are odd or a little strange or unbelievable doesn't always make them untrue. Truth is an odd thing; one person's truth can be another person's lie. That's the most important thing to remember about this story: sometimes things that seem like lies are actually true. And sometimes you never can tell.

That's the spookiest thing of all.

Chapter 1


hung on. It wasn't easy.

The old pickup truck almost veered off the winding gravel road, and Jake bumped up and down on the front seat. His teeth chattered.

“Sorry, Jake,” his grandpa grunted. “That fly was BIG!”

His grandpa got the truck back on the road, and Jake settled down in the front seat again. He'd be at his grandpa's farm soon.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I hunted the biggest spider in the world, Jake?” his grandpa said after a minute.

Oh, no.
Jake could feel a grandpa story coming. An
. Or more often, a huge, impossible lie. The thing you have to know about Jake's grandpa is he told stories. Too many stories.

“No, Grandpa. You haven't told me that one. Maybe some other time? I'm kind of tired right now.” Jake leaned against the door of the pickup and tried to look like he was going to sleep.

Which was fine. Until Gus tried to lick Jake's face.

What you have to know about Gus is that he smelled. Awful. Not only was he a giant, slobbering hound dog, he also wanted to lick everything.

Gus looked sad all the time, with big floppy ears and droopy eyes and a huge, panting tongue. Jake had seen that tongue-of-death lick a dead, smelly rabbit plus lots of other gross things that a tongue has no business being near. Like garbage and horse poo.

Jake wasn't too interested in having it touch his face.

“Move over, you smelly dog!” Jake gave the old hound a shove down the seat. The dog wasn't used to two people in the front seat of the truck. Whenever he went anywhere with Jake's grandpa, he pretty much had it to himself.

Except when Jake came to visit for two weeks every summer.

Jake looked out the window. It was dark out there in the fields and trees. Every once in a while, he could see a kitchen far back in a field, with a light on. Someone was having dinner in a farmhouse. But everything else was black, much darker than in the city, where Jake lived with his mom.

It was a little spooky, all those dark trees, all the empty black fields.

Jake fiddled with the old radio, but he couldn't find a station. Gus breathed in his face, so he squirmed away and looked out the window again. His grandpa was silent, staring straight ahead. Jake couldn't stand the darkness and the silence any longer.

“So, Grandpa, what are we going to do for the next two weeks?”

“Digging. This year we're building a shed,” his grandpa answered with a grunt. He leaned over the steering wheel.

Shed. That was a new one. Jake was going to have to swing a hammer. Last year it was painting the barn red.

Maybe it won't be so bad. I'll build some muscles at least.

Then Jake recognized a turn in the dirt road. They were getting closer to his grandpa's farm. He looked through the darkness and could make out the trees in the distance that stood near the … swamp.

Don't think about the swamp! Don't think about Kate Cuthbert's creepy ghost stories either.…

Too late. Kate's voice from last summer popped into Jake's head.

“… a long time ago, a little old lady disappeared. She lived on a farm around here, then her husband died and her children moved away and she took to wandering….”

Jake gulped.

Think about something else!

They pulled into the driveway of Grandpa's old farmhouse. Gus bounded over Jake and out the truck door, then the smelly old dog ran to the back of the house.

It was a small farmhouse with a white front door and apple trees all around. Jake could smell the late-summer apples, even if he couldn't see them very well in the dark. The farm had been in the McGregor family for three generations, over a hundred years. His grandpa, his great-grandpa, and his great-great-grandpa had all lived there. It was a family homestead.

Jake grabbed his bag from the pickup and followed his grandpa around to the kitchen door at the back. As long as he had been coming to visit his grandpa, they had never used the front door. No one ever did.

Beside the back door was a water pump with a horse head carved out of the top. Jake ran his hand over the smooth old wood of the horse's head. It was hand-made by a soldier who was going off to the First World War. It was an interesting water pump, definitely one of a kind.

Jake walked past the horse-head pump, then past the barn that held Maggie, the real horse. She wasn't for riding anymore, but you could hook her up to a little cart, and she'd pull you to town to get ice cream.

Behind the house was a giant field with nothing growing in it except grass for the neighbour's cows. It smelled sweet, though.

Jake clomped upstairs to his room at the top of the house and dropped his backpack on the lumpy old bed. His grandpa had opened the window to air out the room. A night-time breeze that smelled like grass and sunshine blew the curtains a little. He walked over to shut the window. The swamp was back there, way back in the woods. Jake suddenly felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

No. Don't think about the swamp!

He forced himself to look down at Gus digging in the dirt instead. The kitchen light shone on him, and Jake could see the hound sniffing at something. Then the dog threw back his head and howled.

Crazy dog. What could be so interesting in the dirt?

Jake looked closer. Gus was eating something. It looked like a … fly? But no fly could be
big. It was the size of a bat. And it was

Gus chomped whatever it was in half then ate it in two gulps. Gone. Then he looked up at Jake in the window and wagged his tail. He licked his paws with the tongue-of-death.

Jake yelled out the window at the old dog. “That's disgusting! Your name is in the word disgusting, did you know that? Dis-GUS-ting. That's what you are!”

A huge fly buzzed in through the window and right into Jake's face. Its enormous wings brushed his mouth.

“EW! Gross!” Jake swatted the big fly away. It smashed into the window then buzzed lazily back outside. It was the biggest fly he had ever seen.

Weirdly big.

Jake said goodnight to his grandpa, brushed his teeth, and got into his pyjamas. But not before he made sure the window was closed and latched. He took a quick look out at the darkness …
… and drew the curtains, too.

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