Authors: R. L. Stine
Tags: #Children's Books.3-5
He rubbed the casaba melons with his huge fingers, trying to erase the ugly
black stains. “I hope this comes off,” he muttered. “Because if it doesn’t,
Jeffrey, I’ll sue. Believe me, I will!”
Two hours after the melon disaster, I sprawled on the floor of my room.
Grounded. With nothing to do.
I couldn’t play with Buster in the yard. Because the painters were outside.
So I stayed in my room and reread all of my
Super Gamma Man
I ordered a glob of rubber vomit from the
five dollars. That’s most of my weekly allowance. Then I sneaked into Mindy’s
room and mixed up all the clothes in her closet. No more colors in rainbow
When I had finished, it still wasn’t even noon.
What a totally boring day, I thought, as I wandered downstairs.
“Hand me the yellow, please,” Mindy’s voice rang out from the den.
I crept toward the door and peeked in. Mindy and her best friend, Heidi, sat
cross-legged on the floor. They were decorating T-shirts with fabric paint.
Heidi is almost as annoying as Mindy. Something is always bothering her.
She’s too cold. Or too hot. Or her stomach hurts. Or her shoelaces are too
I watched silently as the two girls worked. Heidi drew a silver collar on a
large purple cat.
Mindy hunched over in concentration and slowly outlined a large yellow
I leaped into the den. “Boo!” I screamed.
“Yaii!” Heidi shrieked.
Mindy jumped up, smearing a big yellow blotch on her red shorts. “You jerk!”
she cried. “See what you made me do!”
She scraped at the paint with her fingernails. “Beat it, Joe,” she ordered.
“Well, I’m not,” I replied. “Thanks to you, Miss Snitch.”
bright idea to draw faces on those melons,” she snarled.
“But I didn’t do it!” I insisted.
Mindy counted off the evidence on her fingers.
“You were up in the middle of the night. You went out in the yard. And you
told me you wanted to wreck the rest of the melons.”
“I was joking!” I exclaimed. “Don’t you know what a joke is? You should try
making one sometime.”
Heidi stretched out her arms. “I’m hot,” she said. “Why don’t we go to the
pool? We can finish our shirts later.”
Mindy fixed her eyes on me. “Joe, do you want to go with us?” she asked in a
sweet voice. “Whoops. I forgot. You’re grounded.” Then she burst out laughing.
I turned and left the two girls in the den. I have to get out of this house,
I headed for the kitchen. Mom and the painter huddled together at the
counter, checking paint swatches.
“We want the onyx black for the trim. Not the pitch black,” she instructed,
tapping the swatches. “I think you brought the wrong paint.”
I tugged on her sleeve. “Mom. Buster’s really bored. Can I take him for a
“Of course not,” she replied quickly. “You’re grounded.”
“Please,” I begged. “Buster needs a walk. And that paint smell is making me
sick.” I held my stomach and made gagging sounds.
The painter shifted impatiently from foot to foot. “Okay, okay,” Mom said.
“Take the dog.”
“Excellent! Thanks, Mom!” I cried. I darted through the kitchen and into the
back yard. “Good news, Buster,” I exclaimed. “We’re free!”
Buster wagged his stumpy tail. I untied the long rope and clipped a short
leash to his collar.
We walked about two miles. All the way down to Buttermilk Pond. That’s our
favorite stick-chasing spot.
I tossed a fat stick into the water. Buster plunged into the cold pond and
fetched it. We did that over and over until it was three o’clock. Time to go
On the way back to the house, we stopped at the Creamy Cow. They have the
best ice cream in town.
I used the last bit of my allowance to treat us both to double-dip
chocolate-chip cookie dough cones. Buster liked the cookie dough, but he left
all the chocolate chips on the ground.
After we finished our ice cream, we continued home. Buster pulled at his
leash excitedly as we strolled up the driveway. He seemed really happy to be
He dragged me into the front yard and sniffed everything. The evergreen
bushes. The flamingos. The deer. The gnomes.
Was something different about the gnomes?
I dropped Buster’s leash and bent down for a closer look.
I studied their fat little hands. What were those dark smudges on their
I rubbed their chubby fingers. But the smudges remained.
No. Not dirt.
I leaned in closer.
Paint. Black paint.
Black paint. The same color as the smiley faces on Mr. McCall’s casabas!
I swallowed hard. What’s going on here? I wondered. How could the gnomes’
hands be covered in paint?
I’ve got to show someone, I decided.
Mom! She’s in the house. She’ll help me figure this out.
As I reached our front door, I heard a scraping sound coming from the
“Buster! No!” I shouted.
Buster circled Mr. McCall’s vegetable patch, his leash dragging behind him.
I quickly shoved my hand under my T-shirt and yanked out my dog whistle. I
blew it hard.
Buster trotted right back to me.
“Good boy!” I cried in relief. I shook my finger in his face. I tried to be
stern. “Buster, if you don’t want to be tied up, you have to stay out of that
Buster licked my finger with his long, sticky tongue. Then he turned to lick
I watched Buster slobber all over them.
“Oh, no!” I cried. “Not again!”
Chip’s and Hap’s mouths gaped wide open. In the same terrified expressions I
had seen before. As if they were trying to scream.
I slammed my eyes shut. I opened one slowly.
The terrified expressions remained.
What was going on here? Were the gnomes afraid of Buster? Was I going crazy?
My hands trembled as I quickly tied Buster to the tree. Then I ran into the
house to search for Mom.
“Mom! Mom!” I panted breathlessly. I found her upstairs, working in her
office. “You’ve got to come outside! Now!”
Mom whirled around from her computer. “What’s wrong?” she demanded.
“It’s the gnomes!” I cried. “There’s black paint on their hands. And they’re
not grinning anymore. Come out. You’ll see!”
Mom slowly shoved her chair away from the computer. “Joe, if this is another
“Please, Mom. It will just take a second. It’s not a joke. Really!”
Mom led the way downstairs. She gazed at the gnomes from the front door.
“See?” I cried, standing behind her. “I told you! Look at their faces. They look like they’re screaming!”
Mom narrowed her eyes. “Joe, give me a break. Why did you get me away from my
work? They have the same dumb grins they always have.”
“What?” I gasped. I ran outside. I stared at the gnomes.
They stared back at me. Grinning.
“Joe, I really wish you’d stop the dumb gnome jokes,” Mom said sharply.
“They’re not funny. Not funny at all.”
“But look at the paint on their fingers!”
“That’s just dirt,” she said impatiently. “Please, go read a book. Or clean
your room. Find something to do. You’re driving me crazy!”
I sat down on the grass. Alone. To think.
I thought about the casaba seed on one of the gnome’s lips. I remembered the
first time their mouths had twisted in horror. That was the first time Buster
had licked them.
And now they had paint on their fingers.
It all added up.
The gnomes are alive, I decided.
And they’re doing horrible things in the McCalls’ garden.
The gnomes? Doing horrible things? I must be losing my mind!
Suddenly, I didn’t feel too well. Nothing made any sense.
I stood up to go inside.
And heard whispers.
Gruff whispers. Down at my feet.
“Not funny, Joe,” Hap whispered.
“Not funny at all,” Chip rasped.
Should I tell Mom and Dad what I heard?
I wondered as we ate dinner that
“How was everyone’s day?” Dad asked cheerfully. He spooned some peas onto his
They’ll never believe me.
“Heidi and I rode our bikes to the pool,” Mindy piped up. She arranged a
mound of tuna casserole on her plate into a neat square. Then she flicked a
stray pea away. “But she got a cramp in her leg, so we mostly sunbathed.”
I have to tell.
“I heard something really weird this afternoon,” I burst out. “Really, really
“You interrupted me!” Mindy said sharply. She blotted her mouth carefully
with her napkin.
“But this is important!” I exclaimed. I started shredding my napkin
nervously. “I was in the front yard. All alone. And I heard whispers.”
I made my voice low and gruff. “The voices said, ‘Not funny, Joe. Not funny.’
I don’t know who it was. Nobody was there. I… uh… think it was the gnomes.”
Mom banged her glass of lemonade down on the table. “Enough with these gnome
jokes!” she declared. “No one thinks they’re funny, Joe.”
“But it’s true!” I cried, crushing my shredded napkin into a ball. “I heard
Mindy uttered a scornful laugh. “You are so lame,” she said. “Please pass the
“Sure, honey,” Dad replied, handing her the wooden tray of dinner rolls.
And that was the end of that.
After dinner, Dad suggested that we water the tomatoes.
“Okay,” I replied with a shrug. Anything to get out of the house.
“Want me to get the
Bug Be Gone
?” I asked as we stepped outside.
“No! No!” he gasped. His face turned ghostly pale.
“What’s wrong, Dad? What is it?”
He pointed silently at the tomato patch.
“Ohhh,” I moaned. “Oh, no!”
Our beautiful red tomatoes had been crushed, mangled, and maimed—seeds and
pulpy red tomato flesh everywhere.
Dad stared openmouthed, his hands balled into fists. “Who would do such a
terrible thing?” he sighed.
My heart began to throb. My pulse raced.
I knew the truth. And now everyone would have to believe me.
“The gnomes did it, Dad!” I grabbed the sleeve of his shirt and began tugging
him to the front yard. “You’ll see. I’ll prove it!”
“Joe, let go of me. This is no time for jokes. Don’t you realize that we’re
out of the garden show? We’ve lost our chance for a blue ribbon! Or any ribbon,
for that matter.”
“You have to believe me, Dad. Come on.” I held tightly onto Dad’s sleeve. And
I wouldn’t let go.
As I dragged him out front, I wondered what we would find.
Blood-red tomato juice smeared all over their ugly faces?
Squishy pulp hanging from their tiny fat fingers?
Hundreds of seeds stuck to their creepy little feet?
We approached the gnomes.
My eyes narrowed on the hideous creatures.
And finally we stood right before them.
And I couldn’t believe what we found.
Not a single seed. Not one.
I searched their bodies. Frantically. From their ugly, grinning faces to
their creepy, stubby toes.
No clues. Nothing.
How could I have been wrong? My stomach lurched as I turned to face my dad.
“Dad…” I started in a shaky voice.
Dad cut me off with an angry wave of his hand. “There’s nothing to see here,
Joe,” he muttered. “I don’t want to hear another word about the gnomes.
Understand? Not one!”
His brown eyes flashed with fury. “I know who’s responsible for this!” he
said bitterly. “And he’s not going to get away with it!”
He whirled around and trotted into the back yard. He scooped up a handful of
The juice oozed between his fingers as he circled the house and charged next
I watched Dad march up the McCalls’ steps and jab at the doorbell. He began
howling before anyone answered the ring. “Bill! Come out here. Now!”
I crouched behind Dad. I’d never seen him this angry before.
I heard the lock turn. The door swung open. And there stood Mr. McCall. In a
white jogging outfit. Holding a half-eaten pork chop in one hand.
“Jeffrey, what are you yelling about? It’s difficult to digest with all this
noise.” He chuckled.
“Well, digest this!” Dad screamed. Then he brought his hand up and hurled the
They splattered against Mr. McCall’s white T-shirt and dribbled down his
white sweatpants. Some of the mushy pulp landed on his clean white sneakers.
Mr. McCall stared down at his clothes in total disbelief. “Are you nuts?” he
“No. You are!” my father shrieked. “How could you do this? For a stupid blue
“What are you talking about?” Mr. McCall shouted.
“Oh, I see. Now you’re going to play innocent. You’re going to pretend you
don’t know anything. Well, you’re not going to get away with this.”
Mr. McCall stomped down the steps and planted himself about an inch away from
my dad. He puffed out his broad chest and hung over my father menacingly.
“I didn’t touch your lousy tomatoes!” he roared. “You wimp! You probably
your blue-ribbon tomatoes last year.”
Dad shook an angry fist in Mr. McCall’s glaring face. “My tomatoes were the
best at the show! Yours looked like raisins next to mine! And whoever heard of
growing casabas in Minnesota, anyway? You’re going to be the joke of the garden
My whole body shuddered. They’re going to get into a fist fight, I realized.
And Mr. McCall will