Authors: R. L. Stine
What happened to her? Did she faint or something? Was she bitten by some kind of forest animal?
I ran across the grass and pushed my way into the circle of kids.
And I saw Courtney standing in the center of the circle, an excited smile on her face.
I was wrong. Nothing terrible had happened to Courtney.
She was showing off again.
She had her hand raised and was showing everyone her open palm. Two enormous bumblebees were in her hand, walking across her palm.
I sucked in my breath and stared along with the others.
Courtney's smile grew wider as her eyes landed on me.
One of the bees had crossed her wrist and was walking down her arm. The other bee stood in the center of her palm.
Mr. Melvin and Ms. Prince stood in the circle across from Courtney. They had admiring expressions on their faces. Mr. Melvin was smiling. Ms. Prince had her arms crossed tensely in front of her. She looked a little more worried than Mr. Melvin.
“Bees will not sting you unless they are provoked,” Courtney said softly.
“What do they feel like?” a kid asked.
“They kind of tickle,” Courtney told him.
Some kids hid their eyes. A few others groaned and shuddered.
of them!” someone urged.
The bee crawled up Courtney's arm toward the sleeve of her T-shirt. I wondered what she'd do if it crawled under her shirt.
Would she panic then?
Would she go totally nuts, screaming and thrashing her arms, trying to get it out?
No. No way. Not Courtney.
Cool, calm Courtney would never panic.
The other bee walked slowly across her hand.
“It tickles. It really does,” Courtney giggled. Her blond hair gleamed in the sunlight. Her blue eyes twinkled excitedly.
Come on, bee â sting! STING!
I urged silently.
I wondered if anyone else had the same secret wish.
It was a mean thought, I admit. But Courtney was really asking for it.
Come on â just one little sting!
I begged, concentrating with all my might.
The bee on her arm turned around when it reached the T-shirt sleeve and made its way back slowly toward Courtney's elbow.
“Bees are really very gentle,” Courtney said softly.
Both bees were in her palm now.
Courtney smiled at me. I felt a shiver go down my back.
How does she
I had to admit to myself that I was afraid of bees. I'd always been afraid of them, ever since I'd been stung when I was a little kid.
“Would anyone else like to try this?” Courtney asked.
Nervous laughter rose up from the circle. No one was crazy enough to volunteer.
“Here, Eddie â catch!” Courtney cried.
And before I could move or shout or duck or do
â she pulled back her hand and tossed both bees at me!
I screamed and stepped back.
I heard loud gasps all around.
One of the bees hit my shoulder and dropped to the grass.
The other bee fluttered onto the front of Hat's shirt and stuck there.
“Get it off! Get it off!” Hat screamed. He shook his shirt with both hands and did a wild, frightened dance.
Some kids were screaming. But most everyone was laughing uproariously.
I had my eye on the bee on the grass. It buzzed loudly off the ground and made a dive for my face.
“Whoa!” I screamed and dropped to my knees, flailing my hands above my head.
“I think it's time to get back to school,” I heard Mr. Melvin say over the laughter of the other kids.
Courtney flashed me a smug grin as I walked past her down the aisle on the bus. I kept my eyes straight ahead and walked faster, ignoring her.
Some kids were making buzzing bee sounds. Others were hissing like snakes. Everyone thought it was a total riot that Hat and I had acted like such chickens.
I slumped down into the very last seat with a sigh. Hat dropped beside me and pulled his cap down over his eyes.
The seat stretched all the way across the back of the bus. Molly and Charlene joined us. Charlene was chewing her bubble gum furiously. Molly was trying to unstick her gum from her braces.
None of us said a word until the bus pulled away.
Then we started to grumble in low voices about Courtney and what a show-off she was. “She just thinks she's the greatest,” Hat muttered unhappily.
“She acts as if she isn't afraid of anything,” Charlene said. “Like she's Superwoman or something.”
“Throwing those bees at Eddie was a mean joke,” Molly added, still struggling to unstick the gum from her braces.
“She knows what a chicken Eddie is,” Hat said. “She knew he'd scream and carry on like a jerk.”
“Well, so did you!” I cried, not meaning to sound so babyish.
“Hey, I'm on
side!” Hat insisted, giving me a shove.
I shoved him back. I was really angry. Mostly with myself, I guess.
“There's got to be
that Courtney is afraid of,” Charlene said thoughtfully.
The bus stopped at a red light. I glanced out the window and saw that we were at the woods that led to Muddy Creek. “Maybe she's afraid of the Mud Monsters,” I suggested.
My three friends laughed bitterly. “No way,” Charlene said. “No one really believes in the Mud Monsters anymore. That's a stupid old fairy tale. No way Courtney would be afraid of them.”
There's a legend in our town that the Mud Monsters live under the muddy banks of the creek. And sometimes, when the moon is full, the Mud Monsters rise up from the creek bed, all dripping with mud, and look for victims to pull down into the mud with them.
It's a good story. I used to believe it when I was a little kid. My brother, Kevin, always took me into the woods there. He would tell me about the Mud Monsters rising up. Then he'd start to point and tremble and say that he saw them. I tried not to get scared. But I couldn't help it. I always started
screaming and running for my life!
“Is your brother still making that movie about the Mud Monsters?” Hat asked.
I nodded. “Yeah. You should see the disgusting costumes he and his friends cooked up. They're really gross.”
Kevin and some of his friends were making a home video for one of their high school courses. It was a horror movie called
The Mud Monsters of Muddy Creek.
I begged him to let me be in it. But he said he couldn't take the risk. “What if the
Mud Monsters rose up and came after you?” he asked, grinning at me.
I tried to explain that I was too old, that he couldn't scare me with that stuff anymore. But Kevin still wouldn't let me be in the video.
The bus started with a jolt. I glanced up to the front and saw Courtney and Denise staring back at me, laughing.
I turned to my friends. “We've got to find a way to scare Courtney,” I said heatedly. “We've
“Eddie's right,” Hat quickly agreed. “We've got to find a way to scare Courtney and embarrass her in front of a whole bunch of kids. Otherwise, she'll never let us forget today.”
“But she's so brave, so totally fearless,” Charlene said, shaking her head. “What could we possibly do to frighten her?”
We all moaned quietly, shaking our heads, thinking hard.
Then I saw an evil smile break across Molly's face. She pushed her glasses up on her nose. Behind them, her brown eyes sparkled with excitement. “I think I have an idea,” she whispered.
“My brother has a disgusting rubber snake,” Molly whispered. Her excited grin grew wider.
The four of us huddled together on the edge of the backseat. Every time the bus bounced, we nearly fell to the floor.
“Courtney isn't afraid of snakes,” Hat interrupted. “She likes to pet them. Remember?”
“That was a stupid green snake,” Molly whispered. “My brother's rubber snake is big and black. The mouth is open. It's got these huge, pointy white fangs. It's got a fierce expression on its face, and â”
“Does it look real or does it look fake?” I asked.
The bus hit a hard bump. We all bounced a foot straight up.
“It looks real,” Molly replied, her eyes flashing behind her glasses. “And it feels warm and kind of sticky.”
“Yuck!” Charlene exclaimed, making a face.
“He's scared me with it a dozen times,” Molly confessed. “It's so real and disgusting, I'm fooled by it every time. Once when I reached under my pillow in the middle of the night and felt it there, I screamed for at least an hour. No one could get me to stop.”
“Great!” Hat declared.
I still had my doubts. “You really think it'll make Courtney scream?”
Molly nodded. “She'll freak. She'll totally freak. This rubber snake is ugly enough to scare a
We all laughed loudly. Some kids in the front turned to see what was so funny. I could see Courtney and Denise in the front seat, writing in their notebooks. They were probably copying their work sheet lists over. They both
to be perfect students in every way.
“I can't wait to scare Courtney,” I said as the bus pulled up to our school. “You sure you can get this snake from your brother, Molly?”
Molly grinned at me. “I know which drawer he keeps it in. I'll just borrow it.”
“But what are we going to do with it?” Charlene demanded. “How are we going to scare Courtney with it? Where are we going to hide it?”
“In her lunch bag, of course,” Molly replied.
The four of us climbed off the bus with big smiles on our faces.
The lunch bags were kept on a low bookshelf in the back of our classroom. My class always eats lunch right in our classroom. Our school is very small, so a cafeteria was never built. Courtney's lunch was always easy to spot. It was the biggest one on the shelf.
Her mother always packed her
boxes of juice. Plus a bag of potato chips and an apple, some string cheese, and usually a fruit rollup or two.
I don't know why Courtney's mom gave her such big lunches. There was no way Courtney could eat it all. She became a big hero at lunchtime because she shared a lot of it with kids who had crummy lunches.
The next morning, I got to school a little late. The lunch bags were already spread out on the low shelf. I could see Courtney's overstuffed brown paper bag at the end.
I studied Courtney's lunch bag as I set mine down at the other end. Had Molly succeeded in her mission? Had she stuffed the rubber snake into the bag?
I couldn't tell by looking at the bag. But I
tell by looking at Molly. Her face was bright red, and she kept darting nervous glances at me.
Molly had succeeded.
Now we just had to survive the three and a half hours until lunchtime.
How would I be able to concentrate on anything? I kept turning around in my seat and glancing back at Courtney's bulging lunch bag.
I kept imagining what was about to happen. I pictured the wonderful scene again and again. I saw Courtney sitting across the table from Denise, as she always did. I saw her chattering away. I saw her reach into the brown paper bagâ¦.
I saw the horrified look on Courtney's face. I imagined her scream. I imagined the snake popping up from the bag, its fangs bared, its eyes glowing like hot coals.
I pictured Courtney shrieking in fright and everyone else laughing at her, making fun of her. I imagined myself walking over casually and picking up the snake. “Why, it's only rubber, Courtney,” I'd say, holding it up high so everyone could see. “You shouldn't be afraid of rubber snakes. They're harmless. Perfectly harmless!”
What a victory!
All morning long, Hat, Molly, Charlene, and I kept grinning at each other, casting secret glances back and forth. I don't think we heard a single word Mr. Melvin said.
I couldn't tell you what spelling words were written on the blackboard. And I couldn't tell you what kind of math was on my review sheet. It was just a blur of numbers and squiggly signs to me.
My three friends and I spent most of the morning staring eagerly at the clock. Finally, lunchtime rolled around.
We hung back, all four of us. We waited at our tables and watched Courtney and Denise walk together to the back of the room to get their lunches.
We watched Courtney bend down in front of the bookshelf. First she handed Denise's lunch up to her. Then she picked up her own bag.
The two of them made their way to the table where they always sat. They pulled out chairs and sat down across from each other.
This is it,
I thought, holding my breath.
This is the big moment.
My friends and I hurried to get our lunches. We didn't want anyone to wonder why we were just standing there staring at Courtney.
We sat down at our usual table. I kept my eyes glued on Courtney. I was so nervous and eager, I thought I would burst!
Courtney started to open her lunch bag.
Just then, everyone heard a low groan from the back of the room. It was Mr. Melvin. “Oh, no,” he cried. “I forgot my lunch today.”
“That's no problem,” Courtney called back to him.
Mr. Melvin walked over to her table. He leaned down and started talking to her. I couldn't hear what they were saying. It's always really noisy in the room at lunchtime with everyone talking and laughing and crinkling their lunch bags and unwrapping their food.
Hat, Molly, Charlene, and I were the only ones in the room who were being quiet. We
watched as Courtney and Mr. Melvin continued to talk.
“What are they talking about?” Hat whispered to me. “Why doesn't he let her open her bag?”
I shrugged, keeping my eyes on Courtney. She had a thoughtful expression on her face. Then she smiled up at him.
Then she handed him her lunch bag.
“No, really, it's fine,” Courtney said to Mr. Melvin. “You can have some of my lunch. You know my mom always packs too much.”
“Oh, no,” I groaned. I suddenly felt sick.
“Should we warn him?” Hat asked me.
Still standing beside Courtney's table, Mr. Melvin opened the bag and reached inside. His eyes narrowed in bewilderment.
Then he let out a high-pitched, startled cry as he pulled the big black snake out.
The lunch bag dropped to the floor. The rubber snake wriggled briefly in his hand.
Molly was right. It was
Mr. Melvin let out another cry, and the snake dropped to the floor.
The room filled with startled shrieks and cries.
Courtney leaped up from her seat. She gave Mr. Melvin a gentle shove to move him out of the way. Then she began stomping on the snake. Fierce, hard stomps.
A few seconds later, she picked the snake up and flashed Mr. Melvin a triumphant grin. The snake was in two pieces. She had stomped off its head.
“My brother is going to
me!” Molly groaned.
“Well, at least we scared Mr. Melvin,” Charlene said after school. Charlene always tries to look on the bright side.
“I can't believe he spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find out who put the snake in the bag,” Hat exclaimed.
“Courtney kept looking over at us,” I said. “Do you think she suspected us?”
“Probably,” Hat replied. “I'm just glad to get out of there.”
“Mr. Melvin has a really funny scream,” Charlene remarked.
Molly didn't say a word. I guessed she was thinking about what her brother would do to her when he discovered his rubber snake was gone.
We were walking to my house. We had all agreed to hold a meeting and try to come up with a better plan for scaring Courtney.
It was a beautiful, warm day. It had been raining all week. This was the rainy season in Southern California. But today the sun was bright yellow in a clear, smogless sky.
Everyone was thinking about how we almost got caught â and how we failed at frightening Courtney.
We failed. And Courtney was a hero once again.
“The rubber snake was a bad idea,” Hat murmured as we crossed the street onto my block.
“Tell us about it,” Molly grumbled, rolling her eyes.
“Courtney will never fall for a fake,” Hat continued. “We need something real to scare Courtney. Something alive.”
“Huh? Something alive?” I asked.
Hat started to reply â but a woman's voice interrupted him.
I turned to see Mrs. Rudolph, one of our neighbors, running toward us. Her blond hair was all wild, and she had a very troubled expression on her face.
“Eddie, please â you've got to help me!” she cried.