Authors: R. L. Stine
Tags: #Children's Books.3-5
“I don’t know,” I replied sadly. I paced back and forth in the McCalls’
driveway, thinking hard. The asphalt felt warm and sticky on my bare feet.
I moved to the grass. And noticed a line of small white paint spots.
“Hey, what’s this?” I cried.
I followed the paint trail across the grass.
Over the petunias.
To the corner of my yard.
The paint drips ended where the gnomes stood, grinning at me.
“I knew it! I knew it!” I cried out. “Moose, come look at this trail. The
gnomes splashed your car! And did all the other bad things around here.”
“Lawn gnomes?” Moose sputtered. “Joe, give up. No one will believe that. Why
don’t you give it a rest?”
“Check out the evidence!” I demanded. “The melon seed on the gnome’s lips.
This trail of white paint. I even found black paint on their fingers. Right
after your dad found the smiley faces on his casabas!”
“Weird,” Moose muttered. “Very weird. But lawn gnomes are lawn gnomes, Joe.
They don’t run around doing mischief.”
“What if we prove they’re guilty?” I suggested.
“Excuse me? How would we do that?”
“Catch them in the act,” I replied.
“Huh? This is nuts, Joe.”
“Come on, Moose. We’ll do it tonight. We’ll sneak out, hide around the side
of the house, and watch them.”
Moose shook his head. “No way,” he answered. “I’m in big trouble after last
“And after the police finish, what kind of trouble will you be in then?”
“Okay. Okay. I’ll do it,” he muttered. “But I think this whole thing is a big
waste of time.”
“We’re going to trap these gnomes, Moose,” I told him. “If it’s the last
thing we do.”
My alarm clock! It didn’t go off!
And now it was nearly midnight. And I was late. I’d promised to meet Moose outside at eleven-thirty.
I leaped out of bed, still dressed in my jeans and T-shirt. I grabbed my
sneakers and ran outside.
No moon. No stars. The front lawn lay blanketed in darkness.
The yard was silent. Too silent.
I glanced around for Moose. No sign of him. He probably went back inside
when I didn’t show.
What should I do now? Stay out by myself? Or go back to bed?
Something rustled in the bushes. I gasped.
“Joe. Joe. Over here,” Moose whispered loudly.
He popped his head out from behind the evergreen shrubs in front of my house.
And waved me over.
I slid down next to him.
Moose punched me hard on the arm. “I thought you chickened out.”
“No way!” I whispered back. “This was
“Yeah, your crazy idea,” Moose replied. “I can’t believe I’m hiding behind a
bush. In the middle of the night. Spying on lawn ornaments.”
“I know it sounds crazy, but—”
“Shhh. Did you hear something?” Moose interrupted.
I heard it. A scraping sound.
I reached into the shrub and parted the thick green branches. The needles clawed at my hands and arms. I jerked my arms out
quickly. Too quickly. Blood dripped from my fingers where two needles had
pierced right through my skin.
The scraping sound came closer.
My heart pounded in my chest.
Moose and I sat there. We exchanged frightened glances.
I had to look. I had to see what was making those sounds.
I parted the needles once again. And stared through the mass of needled
branches. Two small, glowing eyes met mine!
“Get it, Moose! Get it!” I cried.
Moose jumped up from behind the bush. Just in time—to see it scamper away.
“A raccoon! It was only a raccoon!”
I let out a long sigh. “Sorry, Moose.”
We sat there a while longer. We parted the branches every few minutes to
check on the gnomes. My arms were scratched raw from the rough needles.
But the gnomes hadn’t budged. They stood grinning into the night in their
silly suits and caps.
I groaned. My legs felt stiff and cramped.
Moose checked his watch. “We’ve been out here for over two hours,” he
whispered. “Those gnomes aren’t going anywhere. I’m going home.”
“Wait a little longer,” I begged him. “We’ll catch them. I know we will.”
“You’re a pretty good guy,” Moose said as he parted the bushes for the
millionth time. “So I hate to tell you this, Joe. But you’re as crazy as—”
He didn’t finish his sentence. His mouth dropped open, and his eyes nearly
popped out of his pudgy head.
I peered into the shrubs—in time to see the gnomes come to life. They
stretched their arms over their heads. And stroked their chins.
They shook out their legs. And smoothed out their shirts.
!” Moose cried.
And then I lost my balance and fell. Right into the bush.
They’ve seen us, I realized.
“No. Oh, man. No!” Moose whispered. He tugged me to my feet. “They’re moving.
They’re really moving!”
Squinting through the branches, we both stared in horror at Hap and Chip.
The gnomes bent their knees, limbering up. Then they each took one stiff
step. Then another.
I was right. They are alive, I thought. Very alive.
And they’re coming for Moose and me.
We have to run, I told myself. We have to get
But neither of us could take our eyes off the living lawn gnomes!
The full moon suddenly appeared low over the trees. The front lawn lit as if
someone had turned on a spotlight. The stocky figures swung their short, fat
arms and began to run. Their pointed hats cut through the air like sharks’ fins.
They scrambled toward us on their stumpy legs.
Moose and I dropped to our knees and tried to hide. My whole body was
trembling so hard, I was making the bush shake!
The gnomes ran closer. So close that I could see the dark red of their evil
eyes and the white gleam of their grins.
I clenched my fists so tightly, my hands ached.
What were they going to do to us?
I shut my eyes—and heard them run past. I heard thudding footsteps.
I opened my eyes to see them racing across the cement walk and around the
side of the house.
“Moose—they didn’t see us!” I whispered happily.
We helped each other to our feet. I felt dizzy. The dark ground tilted. My
legs felt soft and rubbery like Jell-O.
Moose wiped his sweaty brow. “Where are they going?” he whispered.
I shook my head. “I don’t know. But we have to follow them. Come on.”
We gave each other a quick thumbs-up and stepped out from our hiding place. I
led the way. We moved across the cement walk and past the front porch. Toward
the side of the house.
I stopped when I heard their raspy voices, talking low. Just up ahead.
Moose grabbed my shoulder, his eyes wide open in alarm. “I’m getting out of
I turned around. “No!” I pleaded. “You’ve got to stay and help me catch them. We have to show our parents what’s been going
He heaved a long sigh. It made me feel a little better to know that a big,
tough guy like Moose was as frightened as I was. Finally, he nodded. “Okay.
Let’s go get them.”
Keeping in the dark shadow of the house, we made our way around to the back.
I saw Buster, sound asleep beside his dog house in the center of the yard.
And then I saw the two lawn gnomes. They were bent over the pile of paint and
brushes and drop cloths the painters had left beside the garage.
Moose and I hung back as Hap and Chip picked up two cans of black paint. They
pried the cans open with their thick fingers.
Giggling, the two gnomes swung back the open cans, then hurled the black
paint at the side of my house. The black paint spattered the fresh white paint,
then dripped down in long, thick streaks.
I clapped a hand over my mouth to keep from screaming.
I knew it. I’d know it all along. But no one would believe me. The gnomes
were behind all the trouble around here.
The gnomes returned to the pile for more paint. “We’ve got to stop them,” I
whispered to Moose. “But how?”
“Let’s just tackle them,” Moose suggested. “Tackle them from behind and pin
It sounded simple enough. They were little, after all. Smaller than us.
“Okay,” I whispered, my stomach fluttering. “Then we’ll drag them into the house
and show my parents.”
I took a deep breath and held it. Moose and I started to inch forward.
If only my legs weren’t wobbling like rubber bands!
And then I saw Moose go down.
He toppled forward—and hit the ground hard, letting out a loud
It took me a second to see that he had tripped over Buster’s rope.
He struggled to get to his feet. But the rope had tangled around his ankle.
He reached down with both hands. Gave it a hard tug.
And woke up Buster!
“Rrrrrrowwwwwf! Rrrrrrowwwwwf!” Buster must have seen the gnomes because he
started barking his head off.
The gnomes spun around.
And fixed their eyes on us. In the bright moonlight, their faces turned hard
“Get them!” Chip growled. “Don’t let them escape!”
“Run!” I screamed.
Moose and I bolted toward the front of the house.
Buster was still barking his head off.
And over the barking, I heard shrill giggles. The gnomes giggled as they
chased after us.
Their feet slapped sharply on the grass. I glanced back, saw their stubby
legs moving fast, a blur of motion.
I pumped my legs, gasping for breath, and rounded the side of the house.
I could hear the high-pitched giggles of the two gnomes close behind us.
“Help!” Moose cried. “Somebody—help us!”
My mouth hung open. I struggled to breathe. They were gaining on us.
I knew I had to run faster. But my legs suddenly felt as heavy as bricks.
“Hellllp!” Moose called.
I glanced at the house. Why wasn’t anyone waking up in there?
We ran around the house and kept running.
Why were Hap and Chip giggling like that?
Because they knew they were going to catch us?
I felt a stab of pain in my side. “Oh, no!” A cramp.
I felt Moose tugging me. “Don’t slow down, Joe. Keep going!”
The pain sharpened, like a knife in my side. “Can’t run…” I choked out.
“Joe—keep going! Don’t stop!” Moose cried, frantically pulling my arm.
But I doubled over, holding my side.
It’s all over, I thought. They’ve got me.
And then the front door swung open. The porch light flashed on.
“What’s going on out here?” a familiar voice called.
She stepped out, pulling at the belt of her pink bathrobe. I saw her squint
into the darkness.
“Mindy!” I called. “Mindy—watch out!”
The gnomes grabbed her.
Giggling loudly, they pinned her arms back. Dragged her down the porch steps.
Carried her to the street.
Mindy thrashed her arms and kicked her legs. But the giggling gnomes had
“Help me!” Mindy called back to Moose and me. “Don’t just stand there—help
I swallowed hard. The pain in my side faded.
Moose and I didn’t say a word. We just started chasing after them.
They had already carried Mindy to the street. Their feet slapped on the
pavement. In the light from the street lamp, I saw Mindy struggling to free
Moose and I hurtled down the driveway. “Put her down!” I shouted
breathlessly. “Put my sister down—now!”
More giggles. They scurried past the McCalls’ house. Past the next two
Moose and I ran after them, shouting, begging them to stop.
And then—to our shock—they did stop.
In the shadow of a tall hedge, they set Mindy down. And turned to us. “We mean you no harm,” Chip said.
The gnomes’ expressions were serious now. Their eyes peered at us through the
this!” Mindy cried, straightening her robe. “This is
“Tell me about it,” I muttered.
“Please listen to us,” Hap rasped.
“We mean you no harm,” Chip repeated.
“No harm!” Mindy shrieked. “No harm! You just dragged me from my home! You—you—”
“We only wanted to get your attention,” Hap said softly.
it!” Mindy exclaimed.
“We mean you no harm,” Chip said once again. “Please believe us.”
we believe you?” I demanded, finally finding my voice. “Look
at all the trouble you’ve caused. You’ve ruined the gardens! You splashed paint
“We can’t help it,” Hap interrupted.
“We really can’t,” Chip echoed. “You see, we’re Mischief Elves.”
?” Mindy cried.
“We’re Mischief Elves. We do mischief. That’s our mission in life,” Hap
“Wherever there is mischief in the world, we’re there,” Chip added. “Mischief
is our job. We can’t help ourselves.”
He bent down and broke off a chunk of the concrete curb. Then he pulled open the mailbox across from us and shoved the
piece of concrete inside.
“See? I can’t help myself. I have to do mischief wherever I go.”
Hap giggled. “Without us, the world would be a pretty dull place—wouldn’t
“It would be a much
place,” Mindy insisted, crossing her arms
in front of her.
Moose still hadn’t said a word. He just stood and stared at the two talking
Hap and Chip made pouty faces. “Please don’t hurt our feelings,” Chip rasped.
“Our life isn’t easy.”