Authors: R. L. Stine
Tags: #Children's Books.3-5
“What did you do to him—you big monster?” Mindy shrieked. She knelt down by
my side and bent over me. She brushed my hair from my eyes.
“Y-you’re a… a…” I stopped and coughed weakly.
“What, Joe? What is it?” Mindy demanded softly.
“You’re a SUCKER!” I exclaimed. And burst out laughing.
Mindy jerked her head back. “You little weasel!”
“Tricked you! Tricked you!” I cheered.
“Way to go, dude!” Moose grinned.
I scrambled to my feet and slapped Moose a high five. “Suc-ker! Suc-ker!” we
chanted over and over.
Mindy folded her skinny arms in front of her and glared at us. “Not funny,” she snapped. “I’m never going to believe
another word you say! Never!”
“Oh, I’m sooooo scared!” I said. I knocked my knees together. “See? My knees
“I’m shaking, too,” Moose joined in, wiggling his whole body.
“You guys are totally juvenile,” she announced. “I’m out of here.”
She slid her hands into the pockets of her white shorts and stomped away. But
then she suddenly stopped a few feet from the stairs.
In front of the high basement window.
The window that looked out onto Mr. McCall’s front yard.
She stared up through the window’s sheer white curtain for a second. She
squinted her eyes. Then she cried out, “No! Oh, no!”
“Nice try,” I replied, flicking a dust ball from the carpet in her direction.
“There’s nothing out there. I’m not falling for your lame trick!”
“No! It’s Buster!” Mindy cried. “He’s next door again!”
“Huh?” I sprinted to the window. And jumped onto a chair. I yanked the filmy
Yes. There sat Buster. In the middle of the vegetable patch that covered Mr.
McCall’s front yard. “Oh, wow. He’s in the garden again,” I murmured.
“My garden! He’d better not be!” Moose declared, stomping up behind me. He shoved me off the chair to take a look. “If
my dad catches Buster in his vegetables, he’ll turn that big mutt into mulch!”
“Come on! Hurry!” Mindy pleaded, tugging on my arm. “We have to get Buster
out of there. Right away. Before Moose’s dad catches him!”
Moose, Mindy, and I raced upstairs and out the front door. We charged across
our front lawn, toward the McCalls’ house.
At the edge of our lawn, we leaped across the line of yellow and white
petunias that Dad had planted. It separates our yard from the McCalls’ garden.
Mindy squeezed her fingernails deep into my arm. “Buster’s digging!” she
cried. “He’s going to destroy—the melons!”
Buster’s powerful front paws worked hard. He scraped at the dirt and green
plants. Mud and leaves flew everywhere.
“Stop that, Buster!” Mindy pleaded. “Stop that—now!”
Buster kept digging.
Moose glanced at his plastic wristwatch. “You’d better get that dog out of
there fast,” he warned. “It’s almost six o’clock. My dad comes out to water the
garden at six sharp.”
I’m terrified of Mr. McCall. I admit it. He’s so big, he makes Moose look
like a shrimp! And he’s mean.
“Buster, get over here!” I begged. Mindy and I both shouted to the dog.
But Buster ignored our cries.
“Don’t just stand there. Why don’t you
that dumb mutt out of
there?” Moose demanded.
I shook my head. “We can’t! He’s too big. And stubborn. He won’t budge.”
I reached under my T-shirt and searched for the shiny metal dog whistle I
wear on a cord around my neck. I wear it day and night. Even under my pajamas.
It’s the only thing Buster will obey.
“It’s two minutes to six,” Moose warned, checking his watch. “Dad will be out
here any second!”
“Blow the whistle, Joe!” Mindy cried.
I brought the whistle up to my mouth. And gave a long, hard blow.
Moose snickered. “That whistle’s broken,” he said. “It didn’t make a sound.”
“It’s a dog whistle,” Mindy replied in a superior tone. “It makes a really
high-pitched sound. Dogs can hear them, but people can’t. See?”
She pointed to Buster. He had lifted his nose out of the dirt and pricked up
I blew the whistle again. Buster shook the dirt from his fur.
“Thirty seconds and counting,” Moose told us.
I blew the silent dog whistle one more time.
Buster came trotting slowly toward us, wagging his stumpy tail.
“Hurry, Buster!” I pleaded. “Hurry!” I held my arms open wide.
“Buster—run—don’t trot!” Mindy begged.
We heard a loud slam.
Moose’s front door flew open.
And Mr. McCall stepped out.
“Joe! Come over here. Now!” Moose’s dad barked at me.
He lumbered toward his garden, his big belly bouncing in front of him under
his blue T-shirt. “Get over here, boy—on the double!”
Mr. McCall is retired from the army. He’s used to barking out orders. And
having them obeyed.
I obeyed. Buster trotted by my side.
“Was that dog in my garden again?” Mr. McCall demanded, eyeing me coldly. His
cold stare could make your blood freeze.
“No, s-sir!” I stammered. Buster settled down beside me with a loud yawn.
I usually don’t tell lies. Except to Mindy. But Buster’s life was on the
line. I had to save Buster. Didn’t I?
Mr. McCall bounced up to his vegetable patch. He circled his tomatoes, his
corn, his zucchini, his casaba melons. He examined each stalk and leaf
Oh, wow, I thought. We’re in major trouble now.
Finally, he gazed up at us. His eyes narrowed. “If that mutt wasn’t in here,
why is the dirt all pawed up?”
“Maybe it was the wind?” I replied softly. It was worth a try. Maybe he’d
Moose stood silently next to me. The only time he’s quiet is when his dad is
“Um, Mr. McCall,” Mindy began. “We’ll make sure Buster stays out of your
yard. We promise!” Then she smiled her sweetest smile.
Mr. McCall scowled. “All right. But if I catch him even sniffing at my
melons, I’m calling the police and having that dog hauled off to the pound. And
I mean it.”
I gulped. I knew he meant it. Mr. McCall doesn’t kid around.
“Moose!” Mr. McCall snapped. “Bring the hose out here and water these
casabas! I told you they need to be watered at least five times a day.”
“See you later,” Moose muttered. He ducked his head and ran toward the back
of his house for the hose.
Mr. McCall shot one more dark glance at us. Then he lumbered up his front
steps and slammed the door.
“Maybe it was the wind?” Mindy rolled her eyes again. “Wow, that was fast
thinking, Joe!” She laughed.
“Oh, yeah? Well, at least I had an answer,” I replied. “And remember, it was
my whistle that saved Buster. All you did was smile that phony smile.”
Mindy and I headed toward our house, arguing all the way. But we stopped when
we heard a low moan. A frightening sound. Buster cocked his ears.
“Who’s that?” I whispered.
A second later, we found out. Dad lurched around the side of the house,
carrying a big watering can.
He was wearing his favorite gardening outfit—sneakers with holes in both
toes, baggy plaid shorts, and a red T-shirt that said “I’m All Thumbs in the
And he was moaning and groaning. Which was really weird. Because Dad is
always in an excellent mood when he’s gardening. Whistling. Smiling. Cracking
But not today.
Today something was wrong. Really wrong.
“Kids… kids,” he moaned, staggering toward us. “I’ve been looking for
“Dad—what is it? What’s wrong?” Mindy demanded.
Dad clutched his head and swayed from side to side. He took a deep breath.
“I-I have something
to tell you.”
“What, Dad?” I cried. “Tell us.”
Dad spoke in a hoarse whisper. “I found a… a fruit fly on our tomatoes! On
our biggest tomato. The Red Queen!”
He wiped his sweaty forehead. “How could this happen? I misted. I sprayed. I
pruned. Twice this week alone.”
Dad shook his head in sorrow. “My poor tomatoes. If that fruit fly ruins my
Red Queen, I-I’ll have to pull out of the garden show!”
Mindy and I glanced at each other. I knew we were thinking the same thing.
The adults around here were getting a little weird.
“Dad, it’s only one fruit fly,” I pointed out.
“It only takes one, Joe. Just one fruit fly. And our chances for a blue
ribbon—destroyed. We have to do something. Right away.”
“What about that new bug spray?” I reminded him. “The stuff that came last
week from the
Dad’s eyes lit up. He ran a hand through his flat, rumpled hair. “The
!” he exclaimed.
He jogged up the driveway to the garage. “Come on, kids!” he sang out. “Let’s
give it a try!” Dad was cheering up.
Mindy and I raced after him.
Dad pulled out three spray cans from a carton in the back of the garage. The
words “Wave Bye-Bye to Bugs with
Bug Be Gone!
” were printed on the
labels. A drawing showed a tearful bug carrying a suitcase. Waving bye-bye.
Dad handed one can to Mindy and one to me. “Let’s get that fruit fly!” he
cried, as we headed back to our garden.
We ripped the caps off the cans of
Bug Be Gone.
“One, two, three…
spray!” Dad commanded.
Dad and I showered the two dozen tomato plants tied to wooden stakes in the
middle of the garden.
Mindy hadn’t started yet. She was probably reading the ingredients on the
“What’s all the fuss about?” my mother called, stepping out the back door.
Mom was wearing one of her around-the-house outfits. A pair of Dad’s old
baggy plaid shorts. And an old blue T-shirt he gave her when he came back from a
business trip a few years ago. The T-shirt said “I Mist You!” One of Dad’s lame
“Hi, honey,” Dad called. “We’re about to destroy a fruit fly. Want to watch?”
Mom laughed, crinkling up the corners of her green eyes. “Pretty tempting.
But I have to finish a greeting card design.”
Mom is a graphic artist. She has an office on the second floor of our house.
She can draw the most incredible pictures on her computer. Amazing sunsets,
mountains, and flowers.
“Dinner at seven-thirty, everybody. Okay?”
“Sounds good,” Dad called as Mom disappeared into the house. “Okay, kids.
Let’s finish spraying!”
Dad and I showered the tomato plants one more time. We even sprayed the
yellow squash plants nearby. Mindy squinted. Aimed the nozzle of her can
directly at the Red Queen. And let out a single neat drizzle.
One tiny fruit fly flapped its wings weakly and fell to the ground. Mindy
smiled in satisfaction.
“Good work!” Dad exclaimed.
He clapped us both on the back. “I think this calls for a celebration!” he
declared. “I have the perfect idea! A quick visit to Lawn Lovely!”
“Oh, nooooo,” Mindy and I groaned together.
Lawn Lovely is a store two blocks from our house. It’s the place where Dad
buys his lawn ornaments. A lot of lawn ornaments.
Dad is as nuts about lawn ornaments as he is about gardening. We have so many
lawn ornaments in our front yard, it’s impossible to mow the lawn!
What a crowd scene! We have two pink plastic flamingos. A cement angel with
huge white wings. A chrome ball on a silver platform. A whole family of plaster
skunks. A fountain with two kissing swans. A seal that balances a beach ball on
its nose. And a chipped plaster deer.
But Dad really loves them. He thinks they’re art or something.
And do you know what he does? He dresses them up on holidays. Pilgrim hats
for the skunks on Thanksgiving. Pirate costumes for the flamingos on Halloween.
Stove-pipe hats and little black beards for the swans on Lincoln’s birthday.
Of course, neat and tidy Mindy can’t stand the lawn ornaments. Neither can
Mom. Every time Dad brings a new one home, Mom threatens to toss it into the
“Dad, these lawn ornaments are totally embarrassing!” Mindy complained.
“People gawk from their cars and take pictures of our front yard. We’re a
“Oh, please,” Dad groaned. “One person took a picture.”
That was last Christmas. When Dad dressed all the ornaments as Santa’s
“Yeah. And that picture ended up in the newspaper!” Mindy moaned. “It was soooo embarrassing.”
“Well, I think the ornaments are cool,” I replied. Someone had to defend poor
Mindy just wrinkled her nose in disgust.
I know what really bugs Mindy about the ornaments. It’s the way Dad sticks
them in the yard. Without any order. If Mindy had her way, they would be lined
up like her shoes. In nice neat rows.
“Come on, guys,” Dad urged, starting down the driveway. “Let’s go see if a
new shipment of ornaments has come in.”
We had no choice.
Mindy and I trudged down the sidewalk after Dad. As we followed him, we
thought—no big deal. It’s almost dinnertime. We’ll just glance over the
ornaments at the store. Then we’ll go home.
We had no idea we were about to start the most horrifying adventure of our
“Can’t we drive, Dad?” Mindy complained as the three of us hiked up the steep
Summit Avenue hill toward Lawn Lovely. “It’s too hot to walk.”
“Oh, come on, Mindy. It’s only a couple of blocks. And it’s good exercise,”
Dad replied, taking long, brisk strides.
“But it’s sooooo hot,” Mindy whined. She brushed her bangs away from her face
and blotted her forehead with her hand.
Mindy was right. It was hot. But get serious. It was only a two-block walk.
“I’m hotter than you are,” I teased. Then I leaned into Mindy and shook my
sweaty head at her. “See?”