The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts, p.13Daniel Pinkwater
"Well, that's all that matters," Chase said, smiling—if a rabbit can smile. "Look for me after the doings on the mountain are over, and I'll show you how to get home. Now Elwood and I are going to meet some people, so please excuse us." They wandered off, arm in arm.
Witch Rodeo and Ghost Olympics
As the sun began to set, the streets began to empty. There was a long procession up the road that led out of New Old Hackensack and up the mountain. At first, I couldn't figure out how they could hold a Witch Rodeo and Ghost Olympics on a steep, skinny mountain, but then I saw there was a big open space about halfway up. It was a natural arena, with a big flat floor with gently sloping ground all around it, so everybody would have a good view. We got good seats down in front. We'd be close to the show.
"What happens first?" I asked a weird sister who was reading a program.
"First, Uncle and the council of helpers will come out and open the festivities. Next are the dancing witches," the hag said.
"This will be our chance to get a look at the council of helpers," I whispered to Viknik.
"If the amulet did its work, they should be powerless," Neddie said. "How can we tell if they're powerless?"
"I don't know. How do you look powerless?
"Maybe we should do something to get them to react," Big Audrey said. "We could try to make them mad and see what they do."
"Yes! That would work," Seamus said. "We could insult them and see if they can put a curse on us or chase us or something."
"Of course, if the amulet didn't work, we'd be in big trouble," I said.
"The amulet must have worked," Viknik said. "Our old stories, old Shmoonik—why would he have hidden it in the the quivering bog if it wasn't the real thing?"
"About old Shmoonik," Neddie asked. "Just who was he, and what is known about him?"
"He was an old wizard," Viknik said. "Very great."
"Why was he great? What made him great?"
"Well, the only story I know about him is the one about hiding the amulet," Viknik said. "That, and the various traditional names for him."
"Yes, Old Shmoonik, Crazy Shmoonik, Shmoonik the Bungler, names like that."
"Those were his names?"
"Sure," Viknik said. "Why are you looking at me like that? He was a great wizard. One of our greatest."
"Uh-oh," Neddie said. "I hope we're not going to be bitten by wolves."
"Bitten by wolves?" I asked. "Why would you say a thing like that?"
"I don't know," Neddie said. "It just popped into my head."
"Oh, look! Here they come!"
Coming out into the middle of the big open space was someone who could only be Uncle, with a little knot of witches around him. Uncle was a tall old man. He was wearing a big ten-gallon hat that cast a shadow over his face, and a muffler wrapped around his neck and chin. Even so, I could see that he was extremely handsome. I was not prepared to like him, but for some reason I did. I liked him a lot. There was something oddly familiar about him. He walked slowly, and he looked sad.
The witches were another matter. They were cold. They were bad. They had scary eyes. Very scary. They were all smiling, which made it much worse. We could feel the crowd shrink back in fear.
"Everybody is afraid of them," I whispered to Big Audrey.
"I don't think the amulet is working," she whispered back. "They look pretty powerful to me."
"Well, I guess we'll see the show, and then look for Chase and see about starting for home," Seamus said. "Sorry about the amulet thing, Viknik, old man. It was a good try."
The council of helpers had arranged themselves behind Uncle. It looked as though he was about to speak to the crowd. Everyone was quiet. It was the silence of fear. And then, suddenly, Viknik was on his feet. "Boo! Boo! Down with the evil council! Down with fershlugginer Uncle! Free the people of the Valley of Shlerm! Boo! Boo!"
We struggled with Viknik, trying to drag him into a sitting position.
"Boo! Boo! Uncle is an idiot! Down with all bad witches!" There was no stopping him.
"Gonna get bitten by wolves," Neddie said. One of the council of helpers pushed Uncle aside and pointed at us with a long crooked finger.
"You children! Come here!"
I for one had no intention of going there. And yet I found myself on my feet and trying hard not to take a step in the direction of Uncle and the witches. The other kids were standing too, and they were also trying to resist the overwhelming urge to begin walking.
"Come here!" We all took a faltering step.
"I can't understand it," Viknik said. "Why didn't the amulet work?"
We took another step.
The witch crooked her crooked finger. "That's right. Come to us."
"Wolves, big wolves, gonna bite us all over," Neddie said.
"Get the amulet out!" I said to Viknik. "Take it out of your bag!"
Viknik pulled the wooden box containing the amulet out of his leathern bag.
"Come to us."
"Take it out of the box! Take it out of the box!" Viknik opened the box, removed the amulet, and held it up high.
"I hold the sacred turtle, which belongs to the people!" Viknik screamed at the top of his lungs. Instantly, I felt the weird magnetic pulling stop. The whole audience let out a sort of whooshing breath, a gasp of surprise. I looked up and saw what they were whooshing at.
It was a bubble. It was a large bubble high in the air above the middle of the stage, where Uncle and the witches were standing and looking surprised.
Inside the bubble was a pretty blond lady with a goofy smile, wearing a really silly party dress. The bubble with the lady inside was slowly descending. "Shmenda! Shmenda!" voices in the crowd said.
"What's Shmenda?" I asked the hag with the program.
"Shmenda, the good witch of the Northeast," the hag said. "Extremely good witch. So good, she's boring. But good."
The bubble landed. Shmenda stepped out. Part of the audience cheered her; another part booed her. "Boo! Boo!" "Goody two-shoes!" "Sanctimonius old killjoy!" "Boo, Shmenda!" "Yaay, Shmenda!" "Yaay!" "Boo!" "Yaay!"
The helper witches were cringing and shrinking. It was obvious they were afraid of Shmenda. Uncle just stood there in his cowboy hat, looking confused. Shmenda held up her dainty little hand for silence. The crowd settled down. She turned and looked at the council of helpers, who cringed and shrank even more.
"You bad witches!" Shmenda said. "You bad, bad witches! What did you do? Shame on you! You controlled this well-intentioned but simple-minded man, and in his name you ruled the people and made everyone unhappy! And now these fine children have retrieved the magical amulet, the sacred bunny..."
"See?" Neddie whispered to Viknik. "I told you it was a bunny."
"It's a bunny? Then what's a turtle?" Viknik whispered back.
"I showed you," Neddie said. "Oh, never mind. Listen. Shmenda is saying more."
"Be gone!" Shmenda was saying to the council witches. "You have no power here. Now slink off!" The witches slunk off. Uncle stood where he'd been standing.
"You are not to be blamed," Shmenda said to him. "You are not evil, only weak-minded. Go and sit with the children who have accomplished this great feat. I will go now so everyone can enjoy the festivities. I know they would be eclipsed by my goodness."
"You got that right, sister!" someone in the audience yelled.
Shmenda got back into her bubble and floated away. Uncle came and sat down among us, next to me. He took off his cowboy hat and loosened his muffler. I was astonished.
The dancing witches came onstage, and everyone was clapping.
"You look exactly like my father!" I said to Uncle.
"You have a twin brother?"
"I don't suppose your name would be Herman 'Prairie Dog' Birnbaum, by any chance."
The dancing witches had finished and the broom jugglers were coming out. The crowd was hollering and clapping.
"I am Yggdrasil Birnbaum, your niece."
"My brother, Buck, is your father? Well, I'll be hornswoggled. Where has he been all these years?"
"Los Angeles. We're planning to go back there after the show. Why don't you come along?"
"I'd like to. It would be good to see my twin, and everyone around here knows me for a nitwit."
"They'll never notice in L.A."
The show just got better and better. There were spinning witches, a ghostly magic show, ectoplasmic fireworks, and the ghostly choir, which did the best singing any of us had ever heard.
"This the first time I've really been able to enjoy the show," Uncle Prairie Dog said. "Now that everyone knows I'm an idiot, and I'm not responsible for anything."
After the ghostly chariot races, and more fireworks, the entertainment came to an end and the crowd began to break up. Chase turned up. She had been looking for us.
"Let's go," she said. "The bus for Los Angeles is leaving in a few minutes."
"We're going back on a bus?" I asked.
"Sure, if you get a move on," Chase said. "Unless you feel like walking and crossing the river and all that again."
"My uncle wants to come with us," I said.
"If he wants to come, let him come," Chase said. "Just don't stand around here and make us all miss it. We'll be back in L.A. in a couple of hours."
Neddie was buying Devil's Shoestring souvenirs for his father.
"Come on, Neddie!" I called to him. "The bus will be leaving!"
Big Audrey asked if she could come with us. She said now that she had been outside New Yapyap City, she had developed a taste for travel. We invited Viknik to come too, but he wanted to stay where he was. "There's no place like Shlerm," he said.
To be continued in The Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl in Los Angeles, now available in bookshops in Old New Hackensack, New Yapyap City, and other enlightened communities.
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Daniel Pinkwater, The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts
The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts by Daniel Pinkwater / Fantasy / Humor / Young Adult / Actions & Adventure have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes