Authors: R. L. Stine
The tall monster lurched toward me, its dripping arms reaching out in front of it, ready to grab me.
“Kevin â get
of here!” I cried. “You're dripping mud all over my floor!”
My older brother, Kevin, lowered his arms to his sides. “It isn't real mud, punk,” he said. “It's makeup.”
“I don't care,” I replied shrilly, jumping up off the bed and giving him a hard shove in the stomach. “It's dripping all over.”
He laughed. “Scared you, didn't I?”
“No way!” I insisted. “I knew it was you.”
“You thought it was a Mud Monster,” he said, grinning at me through the thick brownish-orange gunk dripping down his face. “Admit it, punk.”
I hate when he calls me punk. I guess that's why he does it. “You don't look like a Mud Monster,” I told him nastily. “You just look like a pile of garbage.”
“We scared some little kids who came into the woods this afternoon,” Kevin said gleefully. “You should've seen their faces. We ran at them and yelled BOO. Two of them started to cry.” He snickered.
“Way to go,” I muttered. I gave him another shove toward the door and got the thick brownish-orange gunk all over my hands.
“The video is almost finished,” he told me, deliberately wiping his hand on my open notebook. He stared down at the dark stain he had made on my math homework. “Maybe I'll let you see it when it's done.”
“Get away from my stuff, Kevin!” I said angrily. Then I remembered what I wanted to ask him, and changed my tone. “Can I be in the video?” I pleaded. “Please? You said maybe I could be in it â remember?”
“Huh-uh, punk.” He shook his head. “You'd get too scared.”
“What?” Was he putting me on?
“You'd get too scared, Eddie,” he repeated, scratching his forehead through the heavy, wet makeup. “All alone in the deep, dark woods with three Mud Monsters walking around. You'd lose it. You'd totally lose it.”
“Hey!” I cried angrily. “You're not funny, Kevin. You promised â”
“No, I didn't,” Kevin insisted. A big brown blob of gunk fell off his shoulder and landed
on my floor. “Whoa. You're going to have to clean that up,” he said, grinning meanly.
“I'm going to make you
it!” I shouted angrily, crossing my arms over my chest.
He just laughed.
I suddenly had an idea. “Kevin, will you help me with something?” I asked thoughtfully.
“Probably not,” he replied, still grinning. “What is it?”
“Do you have any good ideas for scaring someone?” I asked.
He narrowed his eyes at me. Then he gestured to the brownish-orange stuff covering his whole body. “Isn't this scary enough?”
“No. I mean, some other way to scare someone,” I said, wondering how to explain. I decided just to come right out and say it. “Some friends and I, we're trying to scare this girl Courtney.”
“Why?” Kevin demanded, resting a globby hand on my dresser top.
“You know. Just for fun,” I told him.
“But we haven't been able to scare her at all,” I continued. “Everything we try totally bombs out.” I sank back onto my bed.
“What have you tried?” Kevin asked.
“Oh. A couple of things. A snake and a tarantula,” I said. “But she didn't get scared.”
“Too small,” he muttered. He stepped away from the dresser. I could see that he had left a big brown stain on the side.
“Huh? What do you mean âtoo small'?” I demanded.
“Too small,” he repeated. “You're trying to scare her with little things. You've got to scare her with something big. You know. Maybe something bigger than she is.”
I thought about what he was saying. It seemed to make sense. “What do you mean by big?” I asked him. “You mean like an elephant?”
He frowned and shook his head. “Eddie, where are you going to get an elephant? I mean like a big dog. You know. A huge, growling dog.”
“A dog?” I scratched my head.
“Yeah. Let's say this girl Courtney is walking down the street, or she's in the woods, maybe â and suddenly she hears angry growls and snarls. She looks up and sees this enormous dog, its mouth open, its fangs bared, running right at her. That'll scare her. No problem.”
“Not bad,” I said thoughtfully. “Not bad. You're a genius, Kevin. Really.”
“Tell me about it,” he replied. He walked out of the room, leaving a muddy trail behind him.
A huge, growling dog,
I thought. I pictured it in my mind. I pictured it raising its head to the moon and howling like a wolf.
Then I pictured Courtney walking innocently down a dark street. She hears a sound. A low growl. She stops. Her eyes grow wide with fear.
What's that noise?
And then she sees it. The biggest, meanest, loudest, angriest dog that ever lived. Its eyes glow red. It pulls back its heavy lips to reveal a mouth full of pointy fangs.
With an earth-shattering growl, it makes its leap. It goes right for her throat.
Courtney cries out for help. Then she turns. She's running now, running for her life, shrieking and crying like a frightened baby.
“Here, boy,” I call to the attacking beast.
The dog stops. It turns around. It walks quickly to me, its tail wagging. Courtney is still crying, still shaking all over, as the dog gently licks my hand.
“It's only a dog,” I tell her. “Dogs won't hurt you â unless they sense that you're
I jumped up from my bed, laughing out loud.
It's definitely worth a try,
I thought excitedly.
Definitely worth a try.
Now, who do I know who has an enormous, growling, ferocious dog?
Saturday afternoon we were in Charlene's backyard, trying out the new croquet set her father had bought. It was an overcast day. High clouds kept blocking out the sun, sending long gray shadows over the back lawn.
The roar of a power mower from next door made it a little hard to be heard. But I was telling Molly, Charlene, and Hat about my brother's idea for scaring Courtney.
“A big, angry dog is way scary,” Hat quickly agreed. He tapped his mallet hard against his green croquet ball and sent mine sailing into the hedge.
Molly frowned. She still hadn't forgiven me for the tarantula incident, even though I had apologized a thousand times. She straightened the bottom of her yellow T-shirt over her black shorts and prepared to take her turn.
“We need a dog that really looks vicious,” Molly
said. She slammed her ball hard. It missed the hoop and bounced off a wooden peg.
“I guess my dog, Buttercup, could do it,” Charlene offered, sighing.
“Huh? Buttercup?” I cried out in surprise. “Get serious, Charlene. Buttercup is a big, lovable oaf. He couldn't scare a fly.”
A teasing smile formed on Charlene's face. “Buttercup could do it,” she repeated.
“Oh, sure,” I said, rolling my eyes. “He's real vicious. That's why you gave him a vicious name like Buttercup.”
“It's your turn,” Molly said to me, pointing to my ball way over at the hedge.
“This is such a boring game,” I complained. “Why does anyone like it?”
“I like it,” Hat said. He was winning.
Charlene cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted, “Buttercup! Buttercup! Come here, you ferocious beast!”
A few seconds later, the big Saint Bernard came lumbering toward us from the side of the house. His bushy white tail was wagging hard, making his entire backside waggle as he hurried across the grass, his big pink tongue drooping out.
“Ooh, I'm scared! I'm scared!” I cried sarcastically. I dropped my croquet mallet and hugged myself, pretending to shiver in fright.
Buttercup ignored me. He ran up to Charlene and started licking her hand, making tiny mewing sounds, almost like a cat.
“Ooh, he's tough,” I exclaimed.
Hat came up beside me, adjusting his baseball cap over his eyes. “He's a big, lovable Saint Bernard, Charlene,” Hat said, bending to scratch the dog behind the ears. “He's not too scary. We need a big wolf. Or a six-foot-tall Doberman.”
Buttercup turned his big head to lick Hat's hand.
“Yuck!” Hat made a disgusted face. “I hate dog slobber.”
“Where can we get a real attack dog?” I asked, picking up my mallet and leaning on it like a cane. “Do we know anyone who has a guard dog? A big, ugly German shepherd, maybe?”
Charlene still had that teasing grin on her face, as if she knew something the rest of us didn't. “Give Buttercup a chance,” she said softly. “You might be surprised.”
Clouds drifted over the sun again. The air suddenly grew cooler as gray shadows slid over the grass.
The power mower on the other side of the hedge sputtered to a stop. The backyard suddenly seemed eerily quiet and still.
Buttercup dropped to the grass and rolled onto his back. His four furry paws kicked the air as he scratched his back on the lawn.
“Not too impressive, Charlene,” Hat said, laughing. The dog looked so stupid.
“I haven't done our little trick yet,” Charlene replied. “Just watch.”
She turned to the dog and started to whistle. A tuneless whistle, just a bunch of shrill, flat tones.
The big Saint Bernard reacted immediately. As soon as he heard Charlene's whistle, he rolled off his back and climbed to his feet. His tail shot out stiffly behind him. His entire body appeared to go rigid. His ears stood up on his head.
Charlene continued to whistle. Not loudly. A steady, low whistle of long, shrill notes.
And as we stared in silent surprise, Buttercup began to growl. The growl started deep in his stomach, angry and menacing.
He pulled back his dark lips. He bared his big teeth.
He growled loudly. His growl became a vicious snarl.
The dog's eyes glowed angrily. His back stiffened. His head arched back as if preparing to attack.
Charlene sucked in a deep breath and whistled some more. Her eyes were locked on the growling dog.
“Buttercup â get Eddie!” Charlene suddenly screamed. “Get Eddie! Kill!
“No!” I shrieked and fell back toward the hedge.
The dog growled a warning. Then it leaped to attack.
I raised my arms in front of me as a shield and waited for the impact.
When I slowly lowered my arms, I saw that Charlene was hugging the dog around the neck. Charlene had a gleeful grin on her face. Buttercup turned and planted a slobbery dog kiss on her forehead.
“Gotcha, Eddie!” Charlene declared. “That was to pay you back for the tarantula.”
Molly laughed. “Way to go, Charlene.”
“Wow,” I exclaimed weakly. My heart was still pounding. The backyard was spinning in front of me.
“That's a good trick,” Hat told Charlene. “How did you teach him that?”
“I didn't,” Charlene said, giving the dog a final hug, then shoving him away from her. “It was sort of an accident. I was whistling one day, and Buttercup went ballistic on me. He started growling and snarling, showing his teeth.”
“I guess he really hates the way you whistle!” I exclaimed, starting to feel a little more normal.
whistling,” Charlene replied, brushing dog fur off the legs of her denim cutoffs. “Maybe it hurts his ears or something. I don't know. But you can see what it makes him do. He goes nuts like that every time someone whistles.”
“That's great!” Hat declared.
terrify Courtney,” Molly said.
We watched the dog lumber away, his tongue hanging nearly to the ground. He sniffed at something in the flower bed, then disappeared around the side of the house.
“Poor dog,” Charlene said, shaking her head. “He hates California. He's hot all the time. But when we moved here from Michigan, we just couldn't bear to part with him.”
“I'm glad you didn't,” I said enthusiastically. “Now we're finally going to scare the
out of Courtney!”
Molly tapped a croquet ball softly with her mallet. She had a troubled expression on her face.
“We're not really going to
Courtney, are we?” she asked. “I mean, Buttercup isn't really going to attack her, is he? If he gets out of control â¦”
“Of course not,” Charlene answered quickly. “He stops growling and carrying on as soon as I stop whistling. Really. As soon as the whistling stops, he goes right back to his gentle personality.”
Molly looked relieved. She tapped the ball through a hoop, then used the mallet to push it back out.
We had all lost interest in the croquet game. Planning how we were going to use Buttercup to terrify Courtney was a lot more exciting than any game.
The sun had poked out from the high clouds. The closely trimmed grass gleamed brightly in the sunlight. We tossed down the mallets and made our way to the shade of the big grapefruit tree in the center of the backyard.
“We should scare Courtney in the woods, at that tree house she and Denise built by Muddy Creek,” I suggested, sprawling on my back on the grass. “It's the perfect place. She and Denise all alone in the woods. Suddenly, a snarling dog leaps out at them. They'll both scream for a week!”
“Yeah, that's good,” Hat agreed. “In the woods, there are plenty of places for us to hide and watch. I mean, Charlene can hide behind a bush or an
evergreen or something and whistle her brains out. We'll all be hidden. Courtney will never know who did it.”
Sitting with her legs crossed, Molly chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. She pushed her glasses up on her nose. “I don't like it,” she said. “It's no fun if we don't scare Courtney in front of a lot of people. If we scare her in the woods with no one around, who will care?”
will!” I argued.
will see it. That's all that counts.
will know that we finally managed to terrify her.”
“And maybe we can all jump out and yell âGotcha!' and stuff, so she'll know we saw her get frightened,” Charlene added enthusiastically. “Then we'll spread it around school, and everyone will know.”
“I like it!” Hat declared.
“When should we do it?” Molly asked.
I said, jumping to my feet.
“Huh? Now?” Charlene reacted with surprise.
“Why not?” I argued. “Let's just go do it. Maybe we'll get lucky and find Courtney and Denise at their tree house. They go there a lot on weekends, you know, to hang out and read and stuff.”
“Yeah! Let's go!” Hat jumped up and slapped me on the back. “Let's do it!”
“I'll go get Buttercup's leash,” Charlene said. “I guess there's no reason to wait.” She turned to Molly, who was hanging back.
“I have a better idea,” Molly said, pulling a blade of grass from her brown hair. “Before we go running off to the woods, let's make sure that Courtney is at the tree house.”
“Huh? How do we do that?” I asked.
“Simple,” she replied. And then Molly did the most amazing impersonation of Denise.
“Hello, Courtney. Meet me at the tree house in ten minutes, okay?”
It was incredible! She sounded just like Denise!
We all gaped at her in amazement.
“Molly, I didn't know you were so talented,” Charlene said, laughing.
“I've been practicing,” Molly said. “I can do all kinds of voices. I'm really pretty good at it.”
“Molly, maybe you can do cartoon voices when you get older,” I suggested. “You could be Daffy Duck. You sound a lot like him already!”
Hat laughed. Molly stuck her tongue out at me.
“Let's go inside and call Courtney,” Charlene said eagerly, sliding open the screen door. “If she isn't home, she's probably already at the tree house. So we'll get Buttercup and go there. If she
home, Molly can pretend to be Denise and tell Courtney to meet at the tree house.”
We made our way into the kitchen. Charlene handed the kitchen phone to Molly. Then she brought over the cordless phone for the rest of us to listen in on.
Molly punched in Courtney's number, and we each held our breath as we listened to the phone ring. One ring. Two.
Courtney picked it up after the second ring. “Hello?”
Molly put on her best Denise voice. “Hi, Courtney. It's me.” She really sounded just like Denise. I think she could've fooled Denise's own mother!
“Can you meet me in the woods? You know. At the tree house?” Molly asked in Denise's voice.
this?” Courtney demanded.
“It's me, of course. Denise,” Molly replied.
“That's weird,” we all heard Courtney say. “How can
be Denise when Denise is standing here right next to me?”