Authors: R. L. Stine
“Oops. Wrong number,” Molly said. She quickly slammed down the receiver.
Calling Courtney had turned out to be a bad idea.
Our plan hadn't exactly worked. But we were sure we could scare Courtney with Buttercup.
We just had to catch her in the woods at the right time.
The next day, Sunday, it rained. I was very disappointed.
My brother, Kevin, stood beside me at the window, watching the raindrops patter against the glass. He was very disappointed, too. He and his friends had planned to finish their Mud Monsters video in the woods.
“Today we were going to tape the big finish where the Mud Monsters rise up out of the mud,” he said.
“Maybe the rain will stop,” I told him.
“It doesn't matter,” Kevin sighed. “We won't be able to shoot anyway.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Too muddy,” he replied.
The week dragged by. It rained just about every day.
On Saturday afternoon, the sun came out. Charlene put Buttercup on a leash, and we eagerly headed to the woods.
to be there. She's
to!” I declared.
“Someone has to scout out the tree house,” Molly said. “Someone has to make sure Courtney and Denise are there before we let Buttercup go.”
“I'll do it!” Hat and I volunteered in unison.
Everyone laughed. We were in a good mood. I think we all had a really good feeling, a feeling that this was the day we were finally going to scare Courtney out of her wits.
The woods started a few blocks from Charlene's house. It was a really pretty day, the first all week. Everything smelled fresh and sweet from all the rain.
Buttercup kept stopping to sniff flowers and bushes and other plants. Charlene had to keep tugging the leash to keep him walking. It was a tough job. It isn't easy to tug a Saint Bernard if he doesn't want to be tugged!
“My mouth is kind of dry,” Charlene complained as we neared the edge of the woods. “I hope I can whistle okay.”
She tried whistling. It came out real breathy. Not much whistle sound.
But that didn't seem to matter to Buttercup. He raised his head instantly. His ears shot up and his tail stood straight back.
Charlene blew harder, but she still wasn't getting much sound.
Buttercup's stomach began to rumble. The rumble became a low growl. The growl became a snarl as the big dog ferociously bared his teeth.
“Charlene â stop,” I said. “Don't waste it.”
Charlene stopped whistling. The dog relaxed.
“Does anyone have some gum?” Charlene asked, holding her throat. “My mouth is really dry.”
Molly handed her a stick of gum.
“Buttercup is ready!” Hat declared happily as we stepped into the woods.
Shadows of the leaves overhead danced on the ground. Sparkling rays of sunlight beamed down through the trees. Twigs and dried leaves crackled under our sneakers as we walked.
“Come on, dog!” Charlene pleaded, tugging hard at the leash.
Molly warned. “We've got to be quiet now. If Courtney is in the woods, she'll hear us.”
“Come on, Buttercup!” Charlene repeated in a loud whisper.
The dog was being difficult. He kept stopping to sniff things. He pulled at the leash, trying to break free and go off on his own. I guess there were too many exciting smells for him. His tail was wagging back and forth, and he was panting noisily.
We were deep in the woods now, approaching the creek. It grew shadier and cooler. Purple shadows surrounded us as we walked.
“I'll sneak up near the tree house and see if Courtney and Denise are there,” I whispered. I handed the brown paper bag I'd been carrying to Hat. “Hold this for me. I'll be right back.”
Hat gazed suspiciously at the bag. “What's in it?”
“You'll see,” I told him and hurried off on my scouting mission. Keeping low, I made my way through a clump of tall weeds.
I glanced back at my friends. They had clustered around Buttercup. The huge dog had plopped down on the ground and was chewing on a big stick.
As I followed a narrow dirt path through the trees, I realized my heart was pounding excitedly. This was it! The day of our victory over Courtney.
Her tree house was perched near the creek on the other side of a small grassy clearing. As I approached the clearing, I could hear the soft trickle of water from the creek bed.
Slipping between the trees, I kept in the shadows. I didn't want to be spotted by Courtney or Denise. That would spoil the surprise.
A smile broke over my face as I thought about how scared they were about to become.
they were thereâ¦.
I stopped at the edge of the clearing and peered across it. The tall grass was matted down by dozens of footprints. I realized that my brother and his friends must have taped part of their Mud Monsters video there.
Keeping under the trees, I began to make my way around the circle of the clearing. There, on the other side, Courtney's tree house came into view. It looked like a large wooden crate perched in the lowest limb of an old oak tree. A rope ladder connected it to the ground.
Were they there, Courtney and Denise?
I couldn't see them.
I took a few more steps, pushing tall weeds out of the way as I came nearer. “Ow,” I muttered as something prickled my shoulder. Glancing down, I carefully pulled two burrs from the sleeve of my T-shirt.
Then I kept walking, trying to be silent as I moved nearer the tree house.
I stopped when I heard voices. Girls' voices.
And then I saw Courtney and Denise. They were just ahead of me, walking in the woods.
I ducked low behind a clump of thick shrubs.
They were only a few feet in front of me. Had they seen me?
They were talking excitedly, having some kind of heated discussion. I watched them through the shrub. They were both wearing blue midriff tops and white denim shorts. Twins.
They were walking slowly in the other direction, casually pulling up weeds and wildflowers as they walked.
this was the day!
I turned and silently hurried away. I couldn't wait to get back to my friends.
I found them in the same spot, still huddled around the dog. “Buttercup, do your stuff!” I cried excitedly, grinning and waving as I ran up to them.
“You mean they're there?” Hat asked, surprised.
“They're there,” I said breathlessly, “waiting to be scared.”
“Great!” Molly and Charlene exclaimed. Charlene tried to tug Buttercup to his feet.
“Wait,” I said. I grabbed the brown paper bag from Hat. “Before Buttercup gets up, let's put this on first.”
I pulled out the can of shaving cream I had brought.
“What's that for?” Hat demanded.
“I thought we'd smear shaving cream around his mouth,” I explained. “You know. Make him look like he's frothing. Rabid dogs always froth at the mouth. When they see a growling dog frothing up white stuff as he attacks them, Courtney and Denise will drop dead!”
“Excellent!” Molly cried, slapping me on the back. “That's really excellent!”
Everyone congratulated me. Sometimes I do have great ideas, I have to admit.
Buttercup lumbered to his feet. He started pulling Charlene toward the clearing.
“Let him get closer to them,” Charlene whispered loudly, as the big dog trotted through the trees, dragging her with him. “Then we'll smear the stuff on and let him loose.”
Molly, Hat, and I followed close behind. A short while later, we were at the edge of the clearing. We stopped behind the tall, thick shrubs and squatted down. We were completely hidden from view there.
Courtney and Denise had stepped into the clearing. They were standing in the tall grass, their arms crossed over their chests, their heads bowed as they discussed whatever it was they were discussing.
We could hear the murmur of their voices, but we weren't close enough to hear what they were saying. Behind them, we could hear the creek trickling past in its muddy bed.
“It's showtime, Buttercup,” Charlene whispered, bending down to unleash the dog. She turned back to us. “As soon as he heads into the clearing, I'll start whistling.”
Gripping the shaving cream can, I sprayed a thick puddle of white lather into my hand.
Suddenly, I heard a sound behind us in the trees.
A rustling, crackling sound. Something running over the dry leaves and twigs. A squirrel appeared in a break between the shrubs.
Buttercup saw it, too. As I leaned over and reached out my hand to smear the shaving cream on his mouth, the big dog took off.
I toppled over onto my face.
I looked up in time to see the dog bolting for the trees, chasing after the squirrel.
My three friends were already on their feet. “Buttercup! Buttercup! Come back!” Charlene was shouting.
I climbed to my feet. I had shaving cream smeared over the front of my T-shirt. Ignoring it, I turned and ran into the trees after them.
They were already pretty far ahead of me. I couldn't see them. But I could hear Charlene yelling, “Buttercup! Come back! Buttercup â where
I ran as fast as I could and caught up with my friends. “Where â where's Buttercup?” I asked breathlessly.
“Over there somewhere, I think,” Charlene replied, pointing to a thick clump of trees.
“No. I think I heard him over there,” Hat said, pointing in the opposite direction.
“We can't lose him,” I said, struggling to catch my breath. “He's too big to lose.”
“I didn't know he could run that fast,” Charlene said unhappily. “He really wants to catch that squirrel.”
“Doesn't he know he has a job to do?” Molly asked, searching the trees.
“I â I shouldn't have let go of the leash,” Charlene moaned. “Now we'll never catch the big oaf.”
“Sure we will,” I replied, trying to sound cheerful. “He'll come back to
after the squirrel runs away.”
Dirt and dried leaves had stuck to the shaving cream when I fell over. Now I had a big, dark smear on my T-shirt. I wiped at it with my hand as my eyes searched the woods for Buttercup.
“We'd better split up,” Charlene said. She looked really worried. “We've got to find him before he gets into some kind of trouble. He isn't used to the woods.”
“Maybe he's by the creek,” Molly suggested, straightening her glasses. She had a twig caught in her hair. I pulled it out for her.
“Let's stop talking and go find him,” I urged impatiently. “Maybe we can still scare Courtney and Denise with him.”
I'm always the optimist in the group.
“Let's just find him,” Charlene murmured, a tight, worried expression on her face. “If anything happens to Buttercup â¦” She was too upset to finish her sentence.
We split up. I took the path that led toward the creek. I began jogging, pushing away low tree branches as I made my way along the twisting path. “Buttercup! Buttercup!” I called in a loud whisper.
that dumb dog mess us up like this? How could he be so irresponsible?
“Ow!” A sharp thorn tore through my wrist as I ran past a large bramble bush. I stopped to examine the cut, breathing hard. A small teardrop of bright red blood appeared on my wrist.
Ignoring it, I resumed my search. “Buttercup! Buttercup?”
I should be pretty near the creek by now,
I realized. But I couldn't hear the sound of the water.
Was I on the right path? Had I gotten turned around somehow?
I began running faster, jumping over a fallen log, pushing my way through tall reeds. The ground became soft and marshy. My sneakers were sinking into soft mud as I ran.
Shouldn't the clearing be right up ahead?
Shouldn't the creek be on
side of the clearing?
I stopped. I leaned over, struggling to catch my breath, resting my hands on my knees.
When I looked up, I realized I was lost.
I gazed up to find the sun. Perhaps I could recapture my sense of direction. But the trees were too thick. Little sunlight filtered through.
“I'm lost,” I said out loud, more startled than frightened. “I don't believe it. I'm lost in the woods.”
I spun around, searching for something familiar. Slender white-trunked trees nearly formed a thick fence behind me. Darker trees surrounded me on the three other sides.
“Hey â can anyone hear me?” I cried. My voice came out shrill and frightened.
me?” I repeated, forcing myself to shout louder.
A bird cawed loudly overhead. I heard fluttering wings.
“Hey, Hat! Molly! Charlene!” I called their names several times.
A cold shiver rolled down my back. “Hey, I'm lost!” I shouted. “Hey â somebody!”
And then I heard the crunch of footsteps to my left. Heavy footsteps. Coming toward me rapidly.
“Hey, guys â is that you?” I cried, listening hard.
No reply. The heavy footsteps moved closer.
I stared into the dark trees.
I heard the caw of another bird. More fluttering wings.
Heavy footsteps. Dry leaves crunching.
“Buttercup â is that you? Hey â Buttercup?”
It had to be the dog. I took a few steps toward the approaching sounds.
I stopped when the dog stepped into view.
I gasped as I stared into the glaring red eyes of another dog. An enormous, mean-looking dog, nearly as tall as a pony, with smooth black fur. It
lowered its sleek head and snarled at me, its red eyes glowing angrily.
“Nice doggie,” I said weakly. “Nice doggie.”
It bared its teeth and let out a terrifying growl.
Then it took a running start and, snarling with fury, leaped at my throat.