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Authors: R. L. Stine

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BOOK: Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes
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“Maybe your son should be an actor,” Mr. McCall said, scratching his head.

“He didn’t fool me,” Mindy bragged. “That one was lame. Really lame.”

What had happened? Had I imagined that open mouth?

Mr. McCall turned to Buster. “Listen, Jeffrey,” he started. “I’m serious
about that dog of yours. If he comes into my garden again…”

“If Buster goes over there again, I promise we’ll tie him up,” Dad replied.

“Aw, Dad,” I said. “You know Buster hates to be tied up. He hates it!”

“Sorry, kids,” Dad said, turning to go inside. “That’s it. Buster gets one
more chance.”

I bent down to pet Buster’s head. “Only one more chance, boy,” I whispered in
his ear. “Did you hear that? You only get one more chance.”

 

I woke up the next morning and squinted at the clock radio on my night table.
Eight A.M. Tuesday. The second day of summer vacation. Excellent!

I threw on my purple-and-white Vikings jersey and my gym shorts and ran
downstairs. Time to mow the lawn.

Dad and I had an agreement. If I mowed the lawn once a week all summer, Dad
would buy me a new bike.

I knew exactly which model I wanted, too. Twenty-one gears and really fat
tires. The coolest mountain bike ever. I’d be able to fly over boulders!

I let myself out the front door and raised my face to the warm morning sun.
It felt pretty good. The grass shimmered, still covered with dew.

“Joe!” I heard a loud bellow.

Mr. McCall’s bellow. “Get over here!”

Mr. McCall leaned over his vegetable patch. An angry red vein throbbed in his
forehead.

Oh, no, I thought as I edged toward him. What now?

“I’ve had it,” he roared. “If you don’t tie that dog up, I’m calling the
police! I mean it!”

Mr. McCall pointed to the ground. One of his casaba melons lay in the dirt,
broken into jagged pieces. Melon seeds were scattered everywhere. And most of
the orange fruit had been eaten away.

I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. I didn’t know what to say. Lucky
for me, Dad showed up just in time. He was on his way to work.

“Is my son giving you some gardening advice, Bill?” he asked.

“No jokes today!” Mr. McCall snapped. He scooped up the broken pieces of
melon and shoved them in my dad’s face. “See what your wild dog has done! Now I
have only four melons left!”

Dad turned to me. His expression grew stern. “I warned you, Joe! I told you
to keep the dog in our yard.”

“But Buster didn’t do this,” I protested. “He doesn’t even like melons!”

Buster skulked around behind the flamingos. His ears drooped flat against his
head. His tail hung low between his legs. He looked really guilty.

“Well, who else could have done it?” Mr. McCall demanded.

Dad shook his head. “Joe, I want you to tie Buster up in the back. Now!”

I saw that I had no choice. No way I could argue.

“Okay, Dad,” I mumbled. I shuffled across the lawn and grabbed Buster’s
collar. I hauled him to the corner of the back yard and sat him next to his red
cedar doghouse. “Stay!” I commanded.

I rummaged through the garage until I found a long piece of rope. Then I tied
Buster to the tall oak tree next to his doghouse.

Buster whimpered. He really hates being tied up.

“I’m sorry, boy,” I whispered. “I know you didn’t eat that melon.”

Buster pricked up his ears as Dad came around back to make sure I had tied
the dog up. “It’s just as well that Buster is tied up today,” he said. “The painters are starting on the house this afternoon. Buster would only be in
their way.”

“Painters?” I asked in surprise. Nobody told me that painters were coming. I
hate the smell of paint!

Dad nodded. “They’re going to paint over that faded yellow,” he said,
pointing to the house. “We’re having the house painted white with black trim.”

“Dad, about Buster…” I started.

Dad held up a hand to silence me. “I have to get to work. Keep him tied up.
We’ll talk later.” I watched him make his way to the garage.

This is all Mr. McCall’s fault, I thought. All of it! After Dad drove away, I
stamped angrily into the garage and grabbed the lawn mower. I pushed the mower
around the side of the house and into the front yard. Mindy sat on the front
steps, reading. I rammed the mower forward.

“I hate Mr. McCall!” I exclaimed. I shoved the mower around a flamingo. I
felt like slicing off its skinny legs. “He is such a jerk. I’d like to smash the
other four stupid melons!” I cried. “I’d love to wreck them all so Mr. McCall
will leave us alone!”

“Joe, get a grip,” Mindy called, peering up from her book.

After I finished mowing, I ran into the house and grabbed a large plastic bag
for the grass clippings. When I came back out, Moose was sprawled on our lawn. Several brightly
colored plastic rings lay scattered on the grass around him.

“Think fast!” he cried. He hurled a blue plastic ring at me. I dropped the
bag and leaped for it.

“Nice catch!” he said, scrambling to his feet. “How about a game of ring
toss? We’ll use the gnomes’ pointy hats.”

“How about using Mindy’s pointy head?” I replied.

“You are so immature,” Mindy said. She stood and walked to the door. “I’m
going to find some place quiet to read.”

Moose handed me a few rings. He flung a purple one toward Hap. The ring slid
neatly around the gnome’s hat.

“What a throw!” he exclaimed.

I took a ring and spun around like a discus thrower. I tossed two yellow
rings at Chip. They slapped against the gnome’s fat face and slipped to the
grass.

Moose chuckled. “You throw like Mindy. Watch me!” He leaned forward and
hurled two rings. They settled neatly around Chip’s pointy hat.

“Yes!” Moose cried. He flexed his bulging muscles. “Super Moose rules again!”

We tossed the rest of the rings. Moose beat me. But only by two points—ten
to eight.

“Rematch!” I cried. “Let’s play again!”

I dashed over to the gnomes and gathered up the rings. As I pulled a handful from Chip’s hat, I stared into his face.

And gasped.

What
was
that?

A seed.

An orange seed about half an inch long.

Stuck between the gnome’s fat lips.

 

 
9

 

 

“Is that a melon seed?” I asked, my voice trembling.

“A what?” Moose stomped up behind me.

“A melon seed,” I repeated.

Moose shook his head. He clapped a big hand against my shoulder. “You’re
seeing things,” he declared. “Come on, let’s play!”

I pointed to Chip’s mouth. “I’m not seeing things. There! Right there! Don’t
you see it?”

Moose’s gaze followed my finger. “Yeah. I see a seed. So what?”

“It’s a casaba melon seed, Moose. Like the ones scattered on the ground.”

How could a casaba seed find its way into Chip’s mouth?

There had to be an explanation. A simple explanation.

I thought hard. I couldn’t think of one.

I brushed the seed from the gnome’s lips and watched it flutter to the grass.

Then I stared at the gnome’s grinning face. Into those cold, flat eyes.

And the gnome stared back at me. I shivered in the heat.

How did that seed get there? I wondered. How?

 

I dreamed about melons that night. I dreamed that a casaba melon grew in our
front yard. Grew and grew and grew. Bigger than our house.

Something startled me out of my melon dream. I fumbled for my alarm clock.
One A.M.

Then I heard a howl. A low, mournful howl. Outside the house.

I jumped out of bed and hurried to the window. I peered into the shadowy
front yard. The lawn ornaments stood in silence.

I heard the howl again. Louder. Longer.

It was Buster. My poor dog. Tied up in the back yard.

I crept out of my room and down the dark hall. The house was quiet. I started
down the carpeted stairs.

A step squeaked under my foot. I jumped, startled.

A second later, I heard another creak.

My legs were shaking.

Cool it, Joe, I told myself. It’s only the steps.

I tiptoed through the darkened living room and into the kitchen. I heard a
low, rustling sound behind me. My heart started to pound.

I whirled around.

Nothing there.

You’re hearing things, I told myself.

I stumbled forward in the dark. Closed my hand around the doorknob.

And two powerful hands grabbed me from behind!

 

 
10

 

 

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Mindy!

I breathed a sigh of relief. And yanked myself away from her grasp.

“I’m going for a midnight snack,” I whispered, rubbing my neck. “I’m going to
eat the rest of Mr. McCall’s stupid melons.”

I pretended to cram my mouth full and chew. “Yum! Casabas. I need more
casabas!”

“Joe! You’d better not!” Mindy whispered in alarm.

“Hey, I’m kidding,” I said. “Buster is howling like crazy. I’m going out to
calm him down.”

Mindy yawned. “If Mom and Dad catch you sneaking out in the middle of the
night…”

“It’ll just take a few minutes.” I stepped outside. The damp night air sent a
small chill down my back. I gazed up at the starless night sky.

Buster’s pitiful howls rose from the back.

“I’m coming,” I called in a loud whisper. “It’s okay, boy.”

Buster’s howls dropped to quiet whimpers.

I took a step forward. Something rustled through the grass. I froze in place.
And squinted into the darkness. Two small figures scampered by the side of the
house. They scraped across the yard and disappeared into the night.

Probably raccoons.

Raccoons?

That’s the answer! The raccoons must have eaten Mr. McCall’s melon. I wanted
to wake up Dad and tell him. But I decided to wait till morning.

I felt much better. That meant that Buster could be set free. I made my way
over to Buster and sat next to him on the dew-wet grass.

“Buster,” I whispered. “I’m here.”

His big brown eyes drooped sadly. I threw my arms around his furry neck. “You
won’t be tied up for long, Buster,” I promised. “You’ll see. I’ll tell Dad about
the raccoons first thing in the morning.”

Buster licked my hand gratefully. “And tomorrow I’ll take you for a long
walk,” I whispered. “How’s that, boy? Now go to sleep.”

I slipped back inside the house and jumped into bed. I felt good. I had
solved the mystery of the melon. Our troubles with Mr. McCall were over, I
thought.

But I thought wrong.

Our troubles were just beginning.

 

“I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it!” Mr. McCall’s cries cut through the
quiet morning, waking me from my heavy sleep.

I rubbed my eyes and glanced at the clock radio. Six-thirty A.M.

What’s all the screaming about?

I hopped out of bed and hurried downstairs, yawning and stretching. Mom, Dad,
and Mindy were at the front door, still in pajamas and robes.

“What’s happening?” I asked.

“It’s Bill!” Dad cried. “Come on!”

We piled outside and stared into our neighbors’ garden.

Mr. McCall hung over his vegetable patch in a tattered
blue-and-white-checkered robe. He grabbed frantically at his casaba melons,
screaming.

Moose and his mother stood behind Mr. McCall in their robes, wide-eyed and
silent. Instead of her usual friendly smile, Moose’s mom wore a grim frown.

Mr. McCall lifted his head from the garden. “Ruined!” he roared. “They’re
totally ruined!”

“Oh, boy,” Dad muttered. “We’d better get over there, Marion.” He started
across our front lawn. Mom, Mindy, and I followed.

“Take it easy, Bill,” my dad said calmly as he stepped into the McCalls’ front yard. “Nothing is worth getting so upset
about.”

“Easy? Take it easy?” Mr. McCall shrieked. The vein in his forehead throbbed.

The raccoons, I thought. They attacked the casabas again. I’ve got to tell
Dad. Now. Before Buster gets blamed for this, too.

Mr. McCall cradled his four casaba melons in his hands. They were still
attached to the vine.

“I came out to water my casabas and I found this… this…” He was too
upset to finish. He held the melons out to us.

“Whoa!” I cried in amazement.

No raccoon could have done this.

No way.

Someone had taken a black marker and drawn big, sloppy smiley faces on each
melon!

My sister shoved me aside to get a good look.

“Joe!” she shrieked. “That’s horrible. How
could
you!”

 

 
11

 

 

“What are you talking about?” Mr. McCall demanded.

“Yes, Mindy, what
are
you talking about?” Mom asked.

“I caught Joe sneaking outside last night,” Mindy replied. “In the middle of
the night. He told me he wanted to wreck the rest of the melons.”

Everyone turned to stare at me in horror. Even Moose, my best friend. Mr.
McCall’s face was as red as a tomato again. I saw him clenching and unclenching
his fists.

Everyone stared at me in shocked silence. The smiley faces on the melons
stared at me, too.

“But—but—but—” I sputtered.

Before I could explain, Dad exploded. “Joe, I think you owe us an
explanation. What were you doing outside in the middle of the night?”

I felt my face grow red-hot with anger. “I went out to calm Buster down,” I
insisted. “He was howling. I didn’t touch the melons. I would never do anything like that. I
was only joking when I told Mindy I wanted to wreck them!”

“Well, this is no joke!” Dad exclaimed angrily. “You are grounded for the
week!”

“But, Dad—!” I pleaded. “I didn’t draw on those melons!”

“Make that two weeks!” he snapped. “And I think you should mow Mr. McCall’s
grass and water his garden all month. As an apology.”

“Whoa, Jeffrey,” Mr. McCall interrupted. “I don’t want your son—or your dog—in my garden again. Ever.”

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