Authors: R. L. Stine
Tags: #Children's Books.3-5
A few small beads of sweat flew onto Mindy’s T-shirt.
“You are so gross!” she shrieked, drawing back. “Dad! Tell him to stop being
“We’re almost there,” Dad replied. His voice sounded as if he were a million
miles away. He was probably dreaming about buying his next lawn ornament.
Just up the block, I spotted the tall, pointy roof of Lawn Lovely. It jutted
into the sky, towering over all the houses around it.
What a weird place, I thought. Lawn Lovely is in an old, raggedy three-story
house, set back from the street. The whole building is painted pink. Bright
pink. The windows are covered with brightly colored shutters. But none of the
I think that’s another reason why Mindy hates this place.
The old house is not in good shape. The wooden floorboards on the front porch
are all sagging. And there is a hole in the porch where Mr. McCall fell through
As we marched past the flagpole in the front yard, I spotted Mrs. Anderson in
the driveway. She owns Lawn Lovely. She lives there, too. On the second and
Mrs. Anderson kneeled over a flock of pink plastic flamingos. She was ripping
off their plastic wrap and setting them in crooked rows on her lawn.
Mrs. Anderson reminds me of a flamingo. She’s real skinny and wears pink all
the time. Even her hair is sort of pink. Like cotton candy.
Lawn ornaments are the only things Mrs. Anderson sells. Plaster squirrels.
Kissing angels. Pink rabbits with wire whiskers. Long green worms wearing little black hats.
A whole flock of white geese. She has hundreds of ornaments. Scattered all over
her yard. Up the front steps to the porch. And right through the door into the
entire first floor of the house.
Mrs. Anderson carefully unwrapped another flamingo and set it down next to a
deer. She studied this arrangement, then moved the deer about an inch to the
“Hello, Lilah!” my dad called out.
Mrs. Anderson didn’t answer. She’s a little hard of hearing.
“Hello, Lilah!” Dad repeated, cupping his hands around his mouth like a
Mrs. Anderson raised her head from the flamingos. And beamed at my dad.
“Jeffrey!” she cried. “How nice to see you.”
Mrs. Anderson is always friendly to Dad. Mom says he’s her best customer.
“It’s nice to see you, too,” Dad replied. He rubbed his hands together
eagerly and gazed around the lawn.
Mrs. Anderson stuck one last flamingo into the ground. She made her way over
to us, wiping her hands on her pink T-shirt.
“Do you have something special in mind today?” she asked my father.
“Our deer is a little lonesome,” he explained, shouting so that she could hear
him. “I think it needs company.”
“Really, Dad. We don’t need any more lawn ornaments,” Mindy begged. “Mom will
Mrs. Anderson smiled. “Oh, a Lawn Lovely lawn always has room for one more!
“Right!” Dad declared.
Mindy pressed her lips together tightly. She rolled her eyes for the
hundredth time that day.
Dad hurried over to a herd of wide-eyed plaster deer, standing in the corner
of the yard. We followed him.
The deer stood about four feet tall. White spots dotted their reddish-brown
Very lifelike. Very boring.
He studied the deer for a few seconds. Then something caught his eye.
Two squat gnomes standing in the middle of the lawn.
“Well, well, what have we here?” Dad murmured, smiling. I could see his eyes
light up. He bent down to examine the gnomes.
Mrs. Anderson clapped her hands together. “Jeffrey, you have a wonderful eye
for lawn ornaments!” she exclaimed. “I knew you’d appreciate the gnomes! They
were carved in Europe. Very fine work.”
I stared at the gnomes. They looked like little old men. They were about three feet tall and very chubby. With piercing red
eyes and large pointy ears.
Their mouths curved up in wide, silly grins. And coarse brown hair sprouted
from their heads.
Each gnome wore a bright green short-sleeved shirt, brown leggings, and a
tall, pointy orange hat. Both wore black belts tied tightly around their chubby
“They’re terrific!” Dad gushed. “Oh, kids. Aren’t they wonderful?”
“They’re okay, Dad,” I said.
Mindy shouted. “They’re
! They’re so gross! They
look so… so evil. I
“Hey, you’re right, Mindy,” I said. “They are pretty gross. They look just
“Joe, you are the biggest—” Mindy started. But Dad interrupted her.
“We’ll take them!” he cried.
“Dad—no!” Mindy howled. “They’re hideous! Buy a deer. Buy another flamingo.
But not these ugly old gnomes. Look at the awful colors. Look at those evil
grins. They’re too creepy!”
“Oh, Mindy. Don’t be silly. They’re perfect!” Dad exclaimed. “We’ll have so
much fun with them. We’ll dress them as ghosts for Halloween. In Santa suits at
Christmas. They look just like Santa’s elves.”
Dad pulled out his credit card. He and Mrs. Anderson started toward the pink house to complete the sale. “I’ll be back in
a minute,” he called.
“These are the ugliest yet,” Mindy groaned, turning to me. “They’re
completely embarrassing. I’ll never be able to bring any of my friends over
Then she stomped off toward the sidewalk.
I couldn’t take my eyes away from the gnomes. They were kind of ugly. And
even though they were smiling, there was something unfriendly about their
smiles. Something cold about their glassy red eyes.
“Whoa! Mindy! Look!” I cried. “One of the gnomes just moved!”
Mindy slowly turned to face me.
My wrist was held tightly in the chubby hand. I twisted and squirmed. Tried
to tug free.
“Let go!” I squealed. “Let go of me! Mindy—hurry!”
“I—I’m coming!” she cried.
Mindy came racing across the yard.
She leaped over the flamingos and sprinted around the deer.
“Hurry!” I moaned, stretching my left arm out toward her. “He’s
But as my sister came near, her face twisted in fright, I couldn’t keep a
straight face any longer. I burst out laughing.
“Gotcha! Gotcha!” I shrieked. I danced away from the plaster gnome.
Mindy swung around to slug me. Swung and missed.
“Did you really believe that gnome grabbed me?” I cried. “Are you totally
She didn’t have time to reply. Dad came jogging down the pink porch steps.
“Time to bring our little guys home,” he announced, grinning.
He stopped and stared down happily at the ugly gnomes. “But let’s name them
first.” Dad names all of our lawn ornaments.
Mindy let out a loud groan. Dad ignored her.
He patted one of the gnomes on the head. “Let’s call this one Hap. Because he
looks so happy! I’ll carry Hap. You kids take…”
He stopped and squinted at the other gnome. There was a small chip on the
gnome’s front tooth. “Chip. Yep, we’ll call this one Chip.”
Dad hoisted Hap into his arms. “Whoaaa. He’s an armful!” He made his way
toward the driveway, staggering under the gnome’s weight.
Mindy studied Chip. “You take the feet. I’ll grab the top,” she ordered.
“Come on. One, two, three… lift!”
I stooped down and grabbed the gnome by its legs. Its heavy red boot scraped
my arm. I let out a cry.
“Quit complaining,” Mindy ordered. “At least you don’t have this stupid
pointy hat sticking in your face.”
We struggled down the hill, following Dad.
Mindy and I inched forward, struggling side by side. “Everyone in the
neighborhood is gawking at us,” Mindy moaned.
They were. Two girls from Mindy’s school, wheeling their bikes up the hill,
stopped and stared. Then they burst out laughing.
Mindy’s pale face grew as red as one of Dad’s tomatoes. “I’ll never live this
down,” she grumbled. “Come on, Joe. Walk faster.”
I jiggled Chip’s legs to make Mindy lose her grip. But the only thing she lost was her temper. “Quit it, Joe,” she
snapped. “And hold your end up higher.”
As we neared our house, Mr. McCall spotted us trudging up the block. He
stopped pruning his shrubs to admire our little parade.
“More lawn ornaments, Jeffrey?” he called out to Dad. I could hear him
Mr. McCall is mean to Mindy and me. But he and Dad get along fine. They’re
always kidding each other about their gardens.
Mrs. McCall poked her head out the front door. “Cute!” she called out,
smiling at us from under her white baseball cap. “Come on in, Bill. Your brother
is on the phone.”
Mr. McCall set his pruning sheers down and went inside.
We lugged Chip past the McCall driveway and followed Dad into our front yard.
“Over here!” Dad instructed as he set Hap down in the far corner of the yard.
Next to Deer-lilah. Deer-lilah is the deer. Dad named her after Lilah from Lawn
With our last bit of strength, we dragged Chip over to Dad. These gnomes were
heavy. They weighed a lot more than our other ornaments.
Mindy and I plopped the gnome down on the grass and collapsed in the dirt
next to him.
Whistling happily, Dad set Chip on one side of the deer. And Hap on the
He stepped back to study them. “What cheerful little guys!” he declared.
“I’ve got to show your mom. She won’t be able to resist them! They’re too cute
He hurried across the lawn and into the house.
“Yo!” I heard a familiar cry from next door. Moose jogged across his
driveway. “I hear you have some ugly new lawn things.”
He charged up to the gnomes and stared. “Way ugly,” he boomed.
Moose leaned down and stuck his tongue out at Hap. “You want to fight,
shrimp?” he asked the little statue. “Take that!” He pretended to punch Hap in
his chubby chest.
“Wreck the runt!” I cried.
Moose grabbed the gnome around his waist and gave him a dozen quick punches.
I scrambled to my feet. “I’ll wipe that ugly grin off your face!” I yelled at
Chip. I closed my hands around the gnome’s neck and pretended to choke him.
“Watch this!” Moose shot out a thick leg and karate-kicked Hap in his small
pointy hat. The squat figure wobbled.
“Careful! Stop messing around!” Mindy warned. “You’re going to break them.”
“Okay,” I said. “Let’s tickle them!”
“Tickle, tickle!” Moose squeaked as he tickled Hap under the armpits.
“You’re a riot, Moose,” Mindy declared. “A real—”
Moose and I waited for Mindy to finish insulting us. But instead, she pointed
to the McCalls’ garden and screamed, “Oh, no! Buster!”
Moose and I spun around and spied Buster. In the middle of Mr. McCall’s
garden, pawing away at the green stalks.
“Buster! No!” I screamed.
I grabbed the dog whistle and raised it to my mouth. But before I could blow,
Mr. McCall exploded out of his front door!
“That stupid mutt again!” he shouted, waving his arms wildly. “Get out of
Buster whimpered, turned, and trotted back to our yard, head down, stumpy
tail between his legs.
Uh-oh, I thought, studying Mr. McCall’s angry face. We’re in for trouble now.
But before Mr. McCall could start lecturing us, Dad pushed the front door
open. “Kids, your mother says that dinner is almost ready.”
“Jeffrey, are you deliberately sending that mutt over to ruin my melons?” Mr.
Dad grinned. “Buster can’t help it,” he replied. “He keeps mistaking your
melons for golf balls!”
“Are those tomatoes you’re growing?” Moose’s dad shot back. “Or are they
“Didn’t you see the tomato I rolled into the house yesterday?” Dad replied. “I had to use a wheelbarrow!”
Buster danced around the yard. I think somehow he knew he had escaped big
We started for the house. But I stopped when I heard a heavy thud.
I whirled around to discover Hap lying face down in the grass.
Buster busily licked his face.
“Bad dog,” Dad scolded. I don’t think Dad likes Buster any more than Mr.
McCall does. “Did you knock that gnome over? Get away from there!”
“Buster—come here, boy!” I called. But he ignored me and licked at the face
more furiously than ever.
I brought my dog whistle to my lips and gave one quick short blow. Buster
raised his head, alert to the sound. He forgot about the plaster gnome and
trotted over to me.
“Joe, pick Hap up, will you?” Dad demanded, annoyed.
Mindy held onto Buster. I grabbed the gnome by his shoulders and slowly
heaved him to his feet. Then I checked for damage.
Legs. Arms. Neck. Everything seemed okay.
I raised my eyes to Hap’s face.
And jumped back in surprise.
I blinked a few times. And stared at the gnome again.
“I—I don’t believe it!” I murmured.
The gnome’s smile had vanished.
Its mouth stood open wide, as if trying to scream.
“Hey—!” I choked out.
“What’s wrong?” Dad called. “Is it broken?”
“Its smile!” I cried. “Its smile is gone! It looks scared or something!”
Dad jumped down the steps and ran over. Moose and Mr. McCall joined him.
Mindy walked slowly in my direction, with a suspicious scowl on her face. She
probably thought I was playing another joke.
“See?” I cried as everyone gathered around me. “It’s unbelievable!”
“Ha-ha! Good one, Joe!” Moose burst out. He punched me in the shoulder.
“Huh?” I lowered my eyes to the little figure.
Hap’s lips were curved up in a grin. The same silly grin he always wore. The
terrified expression had disappeared.
Dad let out a hearty laugh. “Good acting job, Joe,” he said. “You really
fooled us all.”