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The Imagination Plantation
_____________ . _____________
by kkc bauder & laura alexandra hays

"MONSTERS!," Kay screamed on her way out the door, leaving Olivia behind in the bedroom the two girls shared, her eyes wide, terrified.

What to do... what to do.... Olivia had been perched on the large old window seat, which did double duty as a toy box. The window box's contents only moments before had growled an ugly growl and scratched and growled again. She knew if she moved, whatever it was that was in there could get out. She also knew that if she didn't....

This was more than an eight-year-old could take, she thought.

She heard Kay's screams echoing down the hallway going largely ignored by the rest of the household.

In every home there is always a screamer; Kay was one of the best, and in the Jackson Parish Home for Girls there was always something to scream about.

Not because the huge old plantation that had eventually become the Home was ancient, mind you. Or because it was near the damp and silent cemetery that slept next to the old church. Or because the church with its pretty little vicarage and great rambling orphanage were nestled beneath all those acres of moss laden oaks, deep in the back woods.

No. There was simply something different about this house, regardless of how nicely it was maintained, something very different. Not even the rose lined lawn with its splashes of red, yellow, and white roses that the Vicar kept neatly trimmed, or the pretty white chapel nearby with its colorful stained glass window of St. Michael, could cover the fact that something was just - not - right about this house.

"GRRRRR," s-c-r-a-t-c-h, s-c-r-a-t-c-h, s-c-r-a-t-c-h!

The window box shook violently.

Olivia, known for her deep thinking, but not for her bravery, jumped up and screamed "MONSTERS!" as she followed Kay's echoing voice down the hall.

Olivia tried to run as fast as she could, but like a dream, the hall seemed to stretch longer and longer and the bedroom shared by Carol and Mary at the end of the hall seemed a million miles away.

She didn't dare look back or even listen back. She just kept all of her attention on reaching that bedroom. Finally, it was within her reach, when SSLLAAMMM. The door shut in her face.

Olivia had huge brown eyes that looked even bigger now in proportion to her small frame. Small didn't really describe Olivia. She was downright tiny, with long, stringy dark hair and a voice that could be heard in the next county. Somehow she couldn't find that voice. Her eyes said it all. On the inside of the room, Kay was frantically telling what had just gone on, to two of her house-mates.

Carol, not being the brightest, replied "What do you mean, monster?"

Mary answered "You know... large, hairy or sometimes slimy beasts of unknown origin, usually with very large teeth and a known appetite for small, mostly stupid children."

Mary was the smart one... very smart... too smart. This excess of brain power left her little or no room for imagination.

"Oh," said Carol, in a small voice.

Mary continued, "And just how did a monster of the size and ferocity that you just described...."

"What's ferocity?" asked Carol.

"Aggressiveness," said Mary.

"What's agressi...?" asked Carol.

Mary explained as simply as she could, "How mean it is."

"How mean is it?" asked Carol

"It's mean! Real mean!" cried Kay.

"When you say mean, what exactly do you mean?" asked Carol.

"Would you stop interrupting!," shouted Mary.

The room quieted and Mary continued calmly, "As I was saying, how did this monster get into that little window box?"

Suddenly, from just outside the door of the room, "Let me in! Let me in!"

"It's the Monster!" cried Carol. "Run for your life."

Kay, of course, started to scream. Kay had a very nervous nature, best expressed by screaming. She was of medium build, and had already started experimenting with makeup. This tended to give her already pale complexion a ghostly, washed out look, and along with her talent for screaming, made her a leading contender for stardom in horror films.

"Let's get a good look at this thing," Mary replied and she swung the door open to a stunned Olivia.

"It's horrible," yelled Carol.

"I am?" replied Olivia. "I mean, I am not!"

Kay pulled Olivia through the bedroom door and slammed it shut. The girls all started talking at once.

"Did you see it? Does it slither?"

"What did it look like? Does it drool?"

"Did it try to eat you?"

"Girls, please," Mary said, "The problem is not that we have a monster.

The problem is, how do we get rid of the monster."

"We?!?" They all yelled at once.

"I thought you didn't believe in monsters?" asked Kay.

"Yeah, well, we haven't had a good monster around here in... we... we've never had a good monster around here," answered Mary.

"What about Miss Ida?" said Kay.

To which Mary replied, "Miss Ida slithers, but hardly ever drools."

Miss Ida is the church Matron. Very prim and proper, with her starched white hair piled neatly into a tight bun, on top of her starched white head.

Several layers of makeup tried to disguise Miss Ida's unknown years. The only thing that can be said about Miss Ida, is that she had zero patience for kids.

"I say it's time we move," said Mary.

"Great, I'll pack my things," said Olivia.

"No, I mean move... take action... hunt this monster down."

They all stopped.

"The way I see it is like this. We get it... or it gets us... at night... in the dark... in our sleep!"

Kay screamed.

The girls spent the next hour or so planning their attack. Olivia traced out all the escape routes from the house, while Kay tied together all the sheets from the linen closet to make a long rope in case a window was the only way out. Mary worked on a list of supplies they would need.

Carol sat, pulling the heads and arms off all of her Barbie dolls.

No one really bothered to question Carol at moments like these.

After the supplies were gathered, Mary passed out four backpacks.

Each girl proceeded to stuff a backpack with essentials for an adventure of this magnitude: cookies, crackers, sandwiches, gum, playing cards (for the duller moments), flashlights, coins (in case any palace guards needed to be paid off), and what every girl needs at a time like this, a carefully folded ball gown had been neatly tucked away in the bottom of each and every pack.

"Okay, there's only one person we need now," said Mary.

They all yelled, "GERALD!"

_______ . _______

Gerald, the caretaker, had the lid of the window box propped open. He had tossed Barbie bits and other odds and ends from inside. A huge pile had already formed on the floor.

He stopped as he pulled out a dismembered Ken doll. He gave the girls a questioning look. They, of course, all turned and glared at Carol. He tossed the Ken aside and continued on his quest.

Gerald was an attractive, elderly man, quite capable. He was not an employee of the Parish, but rather one of the church members who liked to help out in his spare time. He could do and fix just about anything, and he enjoyed everything he did.

Gerald's hobby was genealogy, (tracing family histories back as far as he could). He told the girls that he was a the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson of a great Viking King, and that's why nobody ever messed with him.

The girls tried to envision him in furry shoes and a horned helmet, but it just didn't seem to fit Gerald.

"A monster you say?" Gerald asked.

"Uhn, huh," the girls replied meekly.

The girls stood ready, with their packs perched on their backs. Kay had the sheet rope across her shoulder. Each had a makeshift helmet that resembled small wicker trash baskets, and in each small hand was a headless, armless Barbie doll with the taped legs pointed outward. The pointed end of Barbie feet can be quite lethal.

Gerald worked hard as he tossed the last bits of junk from the window box.

"Doesn't look like there's much by way of a monster in here. Must have moved on," he stated.

There was a mixed sigh of relief and disappointment from the girls, when:

"Wait, there is something..."

The girls tensed up.

"I think I see somethi..."

Gerald screamed a bloodcurdling scream and fell head first into the window box, his feet flailed the air, a horrible gurgling noise followed.

The girls in typical fashion, screamed and ran out of the room.

The sound of the bedroom door down the hall slammed shut.

All was silent.

Gerald pulled himself up from the window box, laughing. He lived for these moments.

"I love this job."

_______ . _______

"You go first."

"No, you go first."

The girls were standing in front of Olivia's and Kay's bedroom door trying to get their courage up to find out what had happened to poor Gerald.

Mary grabbed Carol and shoved her through the door.

"She'll go first."

Thrust inside, Carol stood frozen, stunned; the others stayed out of sight.

From outside the door "Well, what do you see?"

Carol replied, "A mess."

"Is it horrible"

"Lots of blood and gore?"

"No," said Carol "I mean the room's a mess. There are toys everywhere.

Missy Hyde is gonna be mad."

Missy Hyde ran the Jackson Parish Home for Girls.

She was like a mother to all the girls, as well as teacher, counselor, disciplinarian, human shield, and chief bottle washer. She never stood still long enough for anyone to get a real good look at her.

The others slowly entered the room. Carol was right. It was a mess.

"No blood? No gore? No body bits? I don't get it," said Kay.

"We are obviously dealing with a very meticulous monster," stated Mary.

"Meticu-what?" asked Carol.

"Neat. The monster likes to lick its plate clean."

Carol lifted one foot "Eeeeuuuwww, monster spit!"

"Carol," said Mary "open the lid to the window box."

Without thinking, Carol agreed and tossed the lid back. Nothing happened.

"Well, nothing chewed off her face," said Mary.

Sudden realization hit Carol. "I hate it when you do that."

Mary leaned over and reached for something round and tarnished that lay in the bottom of the box. "There's something here", she said, leaning over to pick it up. "Gerald must have had something in his pocket when the monster ate him"

Instead of the piece of metal coming up in her hand, though, one whole side of the bottom of the box raised up.

"It's a secret compartment", breathed Carol.

They all peered into the window box, to see a long winding stairway down into the gloom.

"Hmmmm."

"Yes, hmmmm."

"What do you think?" asked Kay.

"I think, from the obvious lack of human remains, that Gerald is somewhere down there, being saved as a possible snack for later, and we have to save him."

"We..." replied Kay, "there's that word again... WE. Aren't there policemen who take care of this sort of thing, or army men?"

"Do you remember the last time we called the army?" said Olivia.

"Oh, yeah, nevermind."

"All right... helmets!" cried Mary. They all placed the trash baskets firmly on their heads.

"Lights." They each pulled out a flashlight and switched it on.

"Weapons." Barbie feet were drawn and ready.

"Carol, you go first."

"I was afraid you were gonna say that," squeaked Carol.

With that they each in turn climbed into the window box. The lid slammed shut behind them.

_______ . _______

The girls pushed and shoved their way down a very long, very dimly lit hallway.

"Everyone stay close" whispered Mary. "Ow!" she continued, after being slapped in the head, "Not that close."

She turned to see Olivia, whose eyes were tightly shut. She waved her arms wildly around. "Oli, open your eyes."

"I can't," said Olivia as she threw an arm back smacking Kay squarely in the face.

"Ow!" shrieked Kay.

Mary asked calmly "And why can't you open your eyes?"

"I'm too scared," she replied.

"Now, Oli, think this through. Whatever is out there probably doesn't have its eyes closed. Right?" Mary continued.

"Right," said Olivia. "So what's your point?"

Kay and Carol chanted, "You're gonna be monster meat. You're gonna be monster meat."

Olivia shouted, "Missy Hyde always says 'What you can't see, can't hurt you.'"

Kay answered, "Oli, she was talking about ghosts."

"GGGhh...hic...sssts...up!" hiccuped Carol.

"Kay!" yelled Mary.

"Hic...up!" continued Carol. "Sorry," she replied meekly.

Mary sighed deeply, turned to Olivia, and said "Okay, listen. Oli, what you can't see with your eyes open, can't hurt you."

Then she turned to Carol and said, "Carol, it is impossible, no matter what Gerald told you, to be allergic to ghosts."

"Hic...up!"

"All right, let me think," said Mary. "First we have to rescue Gerald, then we have to defend all of Jackson Parish from a man-eating..."

"And girl... hic... eating... up... mmm... mmm... mmm...." interrupted Carol.

"Don't interrupt," said Mary. "First we have to rescue Gerald, then we have to defend all of Jackson Parish from a people-eating-what's-it. We have to cure Carol of her..."

"Hic-up!"

"Right," continued Mary. "And we have to cure Oli of her fear of... fear of... what exactly are you afraid of?"

Olivia quickly rattled off "The dark, monsters, shellfish, ghosts..."

"Hic...cup!"

"...sharks, teachers, haircuts, boys, public speaking, getting caught doing something completely stupid and embarrassing..."

"Hic...cup!"

"Is that it?" asked Mary

"Oh, no," continued Olivia, "there's also..."

"This is gonna be harder than I thought," Mary said, cutting Oli off.

"We're doomed!" screamed Kay.

Mary quickly clamped her hand over Kay's mouth "No screaming."

"Guys!" Olivia said in a small voice.

"Hic...cup!"

Mary quickly clamped her other hand over Carol's mouth, "No hiccuping!"

"Guys!" Olivia said again.

If only Mary had another hand, "No, guying."

"But guys, look," and Olivia pointed down to the end of the hall which had another set of stairs. At the top of the stairs they could see a very large, very dark door, delicately carved, and decorated with images of odd little creatures.

"What do you think?" asked Mary.

"Hnush ghfl dlkjgs," replied Kay.

"Hiugj... uppp," replied Carol.

"I agree," said Mary as she removed her hands.

"We're here," said Kay in a creepy voice.

"Whe... hic... re... up?" hiccuped Carol.

"Yep, this is definitely it," said Mary.

"It what?" asked Carol.

"Now, what do you suppose is behind that door?" asked Olivia.

Mary, always quick to take action, grabbed to doorknob, pulled open the door, shoved Carol through, and slammed the door shut. A long silence followed.

Mary carefully opened the door to see Carol standing there stunned and silent. Her hiccups cured.

"One problem down, three to go," said Mary.

_______ . _______

The girls plowed through the door and saw a wonderful tea set prepared for three, carefully laid out on a small circular mahogany table. Three overstuffed chairs surrounded the table in what appeared to be a lovely Victorian drawing room.

Long, flowery curtains decorated the windows overlooking a darkly wooded area. Next to the windows were floor to ceiling bookcases filled with books. At the other end of the room was a simple outside door.

Kay was very disappointed, "No... no... no... no bones? No slime? No Gerald? This isn't right. This isn't a proper monster den!"

"It's gotta be a trap! Don't anybody move!" cried Mary.

"What? What's going on?" asked Olivia.

"Oli, open your eyes" said Kay.

"No... no don't!" cried Mary.

Too late... Oli opened her eyes and saw the tea set.

"How wonderful. It must be time for tea."

Olivia had always been a sucker for a pretty tea setting, and this was one of the prettiest she had ever seen. In fact, playing tea party was just about her favorite thing to do. She'd had many tea sets of her own, but they always seemed to disappear. She could never figure that out.

The others, of course, had carefully hidden them away in the attic, hoping Olivia would finally outgrow the "tea-set-thing" as they called it. They were tired of always having to stop for tea at the beginning of an adventure, in the middle of an adventure, at the end of an adventure, after the adventure... they were all tea-ed out.

"Oh, no. The monster must know our weaknesses," said Mary, and with that she ran for one of the chairs, followed closely by Kay and Carol. After a brief moment of musical chairs, Mary and Kay landed safely. Poor Carol was left out in the cold.

"Ladies..." said Olivia. In unison, they all pulled off their backpacks and pulled out their gowns.

A young lady is prepared for any occasion, they thought.

They pulled on the gowns over their clothes.

Jackson Parish was not a wealthy parish by any means, but Missy Hyde always liked to make sure her girls had something special.

Not that she loved to sew, in fact, she hated it, but she did love to see the looks on the girls faces when she made them a new ball gown.

Every year they got a new one, and not just for special occasions. There really weren't many special occasions in Jackson Parish. There were none, in fact. It was hands down the dullest place to live on the face of this earth.

These were play gowns, for playing dress up, or to wear when you find yourself in a situation that required a pretty dress, like the situation they were in now.

Besides, who really needed an excuse, right? After they all were finished zipping each other up, they sat down gently and...

"You may serve now, Caroline." Olivia said sweetly to Carol.

"Yes, mum." Carol answered. She was quite used to this routine.

"Hmmm... Curiouser and Curiouser," said Mary "The monster is smarter than I thought. Refined... tasteful... with a penchant for tea and biscuits."

"Pen-what?" said Carol.

"Look it up," snapped Kay.

Suddenly, Mary was struck by an idea.

"That's it," she cried.

"That's what?" said Kay.

"We'll look it up!. There can't be many monsters like this. Missy Hyde says you can find anything in books. We'll just look it up and it should tell us everything we need to know."

"Look it up where?" asked Olivia.
"There," and Mary pointed to the rows and rows of books which lined the huge bookcases.

"But Mary, there must be thousands of books up there," said Kay.

"Oh, come on, how hard can it be?" answered Mary; and with that she crossed over to the bookshelf.

_______ . _______

A short time later, the room had changed from a neat and tidy drawing room, to what looked more like a monster's den. There were books everywhere except where they were supposed to be. The tea and biscuits were no more. What remained were a million tiny crumbs that covered the floor like a carpet.

Mary looked through a book, while the rest of the girls were slumped on the chairs.

"The scared of boys part I can understand," muttered Kay, "but you lost me on the shellfish."

"I found it!" screamed Mary.

The others crowded around and peered over Mary's shoulder at the book in her hand.

"Habitat: drawing rooms," read Mary.

"Ohhhhh" the others replied.

"Eating habits:..." continued Mary, "tea, biscuits, and human flesh."

"Eeewwwhhhh"

Carol burped loudly, "'scuse me."

"Only known natural enemy..." Mary continued.

"What?!?" they said all at once.

"Dust." Mary finished matter-of-factly.

"Aaahhhhh."

"Now all we have to do is lay a trap," said Mary.

"Trap!" said a scared Olivia, "Trap?! Who said anything about a trap?"

"Where are we going to get enough dust?" asked Kay.

"Are you kidding? The way Missy Hyde cleans?" answered Mary.

They all had to agree. Missy Hyde was very good at what they called the Readers-Digest-abridged-version-of-house-cleaning."

Suddenly, the doorknob to the exterior door turned noisily. The girls were frozen in terror. The doorknob stopped, jiggled back and forth. The door was locked. Whew!

"It's the Monster!" screamed Kay.

"Oh, come on, this'll be a breeze. It can't be that smart if it locks itself out of its own drawing room," said Mary, "Let's get a good look at this thing."

She crossed to the door.

"Mary!... No!" the others screamed.

Mary swung the door open to see Miss Ida, the church matron, dressed for tea. Perched on her head was a a hat with two plastic daisies sticking straight up. Her usually stern, wrinkled face was wide-eyed and shocked to see the girls and the room a wreck.

Behind Miss Ida, the girls caught a glimpse of the plantation house across a distant expanse of lawn.

Without stopping to think, Mary slammed the door shut in Miss Ida's face.

"Miss Ida!" screamed Kay.

"We're gonna die! We're gonna die!" screamed Olivia.

"Hic-up!" screamed Carol.

"I'd much... hic... rather face a monster... hic... than Miss Ida," said Carol.

"No! Don't you see! Miss Ida is the monster! It must have taken over her body," cried Mary.

"Oh come on," said Kay, "Miss Ida is Miss Ida, and this is her weekly tea with the Jackson Parish Ladies Anti-Gun and Violence Club. And we've been caught. She's probably on her way now to get her gun."

"We're gonna die! We're gonna die!", wailed Olivia.

"No! No! No! She is the monster! She's a doppelgänger!" cried Mary.

"Doppel-what?" asked Carol.

"Shape changer," said Kay.

"Matron by day, monster by night," explained Mary.

They all shuddered. Suddenly a large shadow fell over the window. It looked like a large head, with two tentacles sticking up, and then the shadow had its arms raised with long bony fingers. They heard, "hmgraf sfeij jaumnrjd...."

Kay screamed.

"Run away! Run away!" shouted Olivia.

They headed for the hidden passageway door, but were stopped by Missy Hyde's voice echoing down the hidden passageway.

"Girls!" Missy Hyde shouted, "This room's a disaster... Girls? I know you're here somewhere. I know you can hear me. Girls!?"

They slammed the door shut.

"I think we'll have better chances with the monster!" cried Kay.

"Right," they all agreed.

They scrambled to the other door. Mary grabbed Carol like a shield.

"Ready or not!" shouted Mary.

She threw the door open. They all screamed, the shrieking stopped Miss Ida in her tracks just long enough for the girls to make their break, and then they zoomed like lightning.

Mary shouted "Head for the house!"

They took off, their screams echoing across the neatly trimmed lawn, a wide area between the Plantation house and the drawing room located in the vicarage they just exited.

The muffled shouts of Miss Ida followed, "Skjlwef lsdkfj ejkels jsdkfe!"

When Miss Ida gets excited, her dentures never work right. Of course it sounded like monster mumble to the girls.

Halfway through their screaming run across the lawn, they passed the Vicar; mid-forties, head of the household and head of the church, with his head down, golf putter in hand, staring at a golf ball.

They each in turn slammed to a halt, stopped, curtsied, and...

"Vicar," said Mary politely.

"Vicar," said Kay politely.

"Vicar," said Olivia politely.

"Vicar," said Carol politely.

Without looking up, the Vicar said "Good morning, girls."

Then, without missing a beat, they continued their screaming flight toward the house.

The Vicar was still looking at the golf ball and wiggling his butt to get his stance just right, when Miss Ida ran past.

"Gjkeng skjdir dkjlgns!"

Without looking up, the Vicar said, "Good morning, Miss Ida."

The girls finally reached the house, made it inside, slammed the door shut and locked it.

Breathless, they stood with their backs against the door.

"This isn't gonna hold her for long." said Kay.

"We're gonna die, we're gonna die!" howled Olivia.

"Oli, get a grip," said Mary.

"That's right. Stay calm." said Kay, "What we need now is calm."

"What we need now is dust," said Mary.

They all thought a moment and then Kay burst out, "The broom closet!"

They all made a mad dash to the broom closet, then pushed and shoved to get inside. The closet was small and cluttered with a lot of cleaning supplies that looked pretty much untouched. Each girl grabbed a dust mop, until they realized that the mops were brand new, still in the wrappers.

A pounding came from the front door and followed by shouts of "Kngd! Dknek! Ghkeng! Klkdng!"

Olivia screamed, "We're gonna die! We're gonna die!"

From upstairs Missy Hyde yelled "Girls, will someone get the door."

"Okay everyone, grab a mop and start dusting," cried Mary.

After they pushed, shoved, and grabbed, the girls split up and started whisking their way around the room, at times bumping into each other.

Well, more like all the time bumping into each other.

As Mary worked at a feverish pace, she turned to see Olivia waltz with her mop.

Then she turned to see Kay polka with her mop.

Then she turned to see Carol trying to mop with the wrong end of the mop.

"Everybody stop! We're never going to get anywhere this way." Mary said as she tunneled back into the cluttered broom closet.

The girls heard CRASH, THUD, PLUNK, then Mary emerged with a huge grin on her face.

"Jackpot!" she said as she pulled out two dustpans full of dust. "Now to set the perfect trap."

_______ . _______


The girls were quietly huddled together in the dark broom closet, waiting. A heaping pan full of dust had been precariously balanced on top of the trim surrounding the front door, rigged to dump its contents on the monster if it tried to come inside to get them.

Mary tried to pry open Olivia's tightly closed eyes.

"Oli, fear is all in your head," said Mary.

"No, fear is at the door," said Olivia.

"You have to face that fear. Meet it head on. Say, 'I'm above all this. You don't frighten me. I'm the boss here... creator of my own universe. I make up all the rules. The world is mine to conquer."

Inspired, Olivia slowly opened her eyes, looked around and grinned. Then from the other side of the closet door they heard Missy Hyde open the front door.

"Oh, Miss Ida. I'm sorry, please come in. How long have you been standing out..."

CLICK, FWOOSH, CRASH, SCREAM!... then everything became very still... too still.

"Hic-up!"

After a terrifying moment, the closet door slowly swung open and the girls saw a very angry Missy Hyde halfway covered in dust and grit. She stepped back to let the girls see Miss Ida, similarly covered in a film of dirt. Her knotted hair had loosened and drooped dispiritedly. Odd bits of trash dangled from the grimy plastic daisies on her filthy hat. And beneath all the dust, Miss Ida's face was an outrageous shade of purple.

Olivia (her eyes still shut), suddenly began to shout at whatever was standing there, ready to devour them all.

"I'm above all this!", she yelled boldly, "You don't frighten me. I'm the boss here… creator of my own universe. I make up all the rules. The world is mine to conquer!"

Miss Ida arched one dusty eyebrow, Missy Hyde rolled her eyes heavenward, and the other girls cringed in horror.

_______ . _______

The girls, banished to an upstairs bedroom that wasn't equipped with an escape route, slumped together on Carol's bed, awaiting news of their impending punishment.

Shouts could be heard from downstairs, along with Missy Hyde's occasional "Yes, Miss Ida." "No, Miss Ida." "Yes, Miss Ida."

"Death by hanging?" asked Olivia.

"No, she'll go for something slower, more painful," said Kay.

"Well, at least we cured Oli," said Mary.

"Cured me?" asked Olivia.

"Yeah. You faced one of your greatest fears and survived," answered Mary.

"My fear of monsters?" asked Olivia.

"No. Getting caught doing something stupid and embarrassing in front of everybody you know," answered Mary.

"Oh, yeah," she said with a sigh of relief.

Missy Hyde entered the room. They started to make a mad dash for the closet.

"Stop" she said.

They stopped.

"Sit" she said.

They sat.

Missy Hyde continued "So, you wrecked your room."

They nodded.

"And you wrecked Miss Ida's afternoon tea."

They nodded.

"And you wrecked Miss Ida."

They groaned.

"Okay. I'm open to any explanation short of misguided orphans and sun spots."

There was nothing but silence.

"Okay, would you rather explain it to Miss Ida" said Missy Hyde.

They all started in at once.

"Monster..."

"Growling and slith..."

"Screaming and..."

"Enough!" she cut them off. "Listen. I'm not completely out of it. I know Miss Ida can be a pain sometimes, but don't you think you went too far?"

Silence again. Missy Hyde looked heavenward with a "why-me-look", heaved a deep sigh. A stern lecture was always a requirement at times like these according to the Vicar, but Missy Hyde thought that reasoning never worked before... but...

In her best motherly voice, "You're going to run into a lot of people you don't like very much. The better you treat them, the better they treat you. It's that simple. You treat someone like a monster they're going to act like a monster. Am I getting through?"

"The Vicar always says, 'kill them with kindness,'" said Olivia.

"Exactly," said Missy Hyde.

"But dust was such a practical approach to monsters," said Mary.

"Yes, well, as soon as you get everything cleaned up, we'll talk about practical punishments."

"So what's it going to be? Death by hanging?" asked Kay.

"Starvation?" asked Carol.

"Life imprisonment?" asked Olivia.

Missy Hyde grinned a very evil grin "No, worse. Much, much worse."

She waved for the girls to follow and they all filed out the door moaning.


. _______ . _______ .

As they left, a small white scruffy looking little dog with the unlikely name of Phoophie, scampered into the room, one of the many pets that Missy Hyde allowed to roam in and out of the plantation house.

It scampered to the window box, nudged the lid open with its nose, and pulled itself inside. It growled a couple of times, scratched at the bottom of the window box, circled around five or six times, then settled down in the cozy little hideaway for its usual afternoon nap.

. _______ . _______ .


The girls, uncomfortable in their starched white Sunday dresses, sat on uncomfortable folding chairs in the front row of a large room that was full of other uncomfortable folding chairs, and filled with gray-haired old ladies who wore pretty floral print dresses with too much lace.

The smell of mothballs was everywhere. At the front of the room stood Miss Ida, reciting a poem...

"'Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took, and each doth good turns now unto the other;" Miss Ida strolled over to the podium with a book in hand, wearing her blue chiffon dress and a hat garnished with an unlikely stalk of two purplish looking cherries which bobbed hypnotically in the air as she spoke.

The girls sat uncomfortably, arms hanging limply, eyes glazed, slowly fading into the dreaded death-by-boredom.

"I would rather have been hung," whispered Kay.

"When that mine eye is famished for a look, Or heart in love with sighs himself doth smother," continued Miss Ida.

"Smother!" whispered Carol to Mary.

"Sshhh!" said Mary.

"With my love's picture then my eye doth feast, And to the painted banquet bids my heart," recited Miss Ida.

The other women smiled, listened, and worked on needlepoint. This was the social event of the week.

Olivia stared at Miss Ida, the glaze in her eyes beginning to recede, replaced by an icy dread, as she watched Miss Ida the doppelgänger, become a monstrous, tentacled blob in blue chiffon, wearing a pretty little hat wedged between the bulging eye stalks that waved about on her head.

"Another time mine eye's my heart's guest, And in his thought of love doth share apart."

Olivia watched as one of Miss Ida's slithering tentacles reached over to the book, and gracefully turned the page...

  The End

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