The halloween mouse, p.1
By Richard Laymon
Pictures by Alan M. Clark
Cemetery Dance Publications
Dedicated in loving memory to Richard Laymon
Text copyright © 2001 by Richard Laymon
Illustration copyright © 2001 by Alan M. Clark
Book design by Alan M. Clark
Published by Cemetery Dance Publications
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
All Persons in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance that may seem to exist to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental. This is a work of fiction.
Cemetery Dance Publications
P.O. Box 943
Abingdon MD 21009
Printed in the United States of America
Timothy Maywood Usher Mouse was a fine young lad who lived in the Elmwood Public library.
In the library he liked to read stories about great, thrilling adventures . . . tales of giants and pirates and bandits, of secret treasures and gallant journeys, of lost tribes and narrow escapes.
"I should like to have such an adventure myself," Timothy often thought.
But then he looked out the library window
The outside world looked very big.
So very big and strange, not at all like his cozy library with its shelves and its books . . . its many many books that were full of such wonderful adventures.
He wasn't sure he wanted to leave his library.
"But I must," he told himself. "If it's such fun to read an adventure, it must be ten times more fun to have one."
And so he kept watch out the window . . . watching for just the right sort of day for starting a great adventure.
Some days were gray and rainy. He hoped for an adventure, not a soaking.
Some days, the wind blew so hard he supposed that a tiny fellow such as himself might be blown clear off his feet and into the next town.
Other days, he spied dogs and cats on the library's lawn. He had read many tales about cats and dogs, so he knew they might like to eat him.
"I would rather have none of that," thought Timothy.
And so he waited and watched.
Finally, there came just the right sort of day. The sun was bright. The wind looked mild. Across the street, the trees down by the river were full of bright leaves. Most of them stayed in the trees. Others fell softly, moving sideways in the gentle breeze. Some landed on the ruffled water of the river and floated slowly away.
For as far as Timothy could see, he saw no dogs or cats.
"This is just the day for me!" he thought. "Out I'll go, and have a great adventure!"
"Or should I?" he wondered.
What if a nasty storm is just around the corner? Or what if a dog is? Or a quick and hungry cat?
"I'll wait just a little while longer. Just to make sure it's safe."
He waited and waited.
No dog or cat or storm came by.
Soon, the sun took on a wonderful golden color. It spread its gold over the trees and grass and river.
"My, oh my," thought Timothy. "I've never seen such a beautiful day. If I don't go out now, I'll be sorry. There might never be a better day than this."
The window gave him some trouble. He was a good, strong mouse, but only a mouse. Though he tried and tried, the window stayed shut.
The sun moved lower in the sky outside.
Though only a mouse, Timothy was a very smart mouse. He went and got a pencil and pried the window open.
"Ah ha!" he said.
Out he rushed, and over the sill and down the ivy-covered wall. Before long, he came to the ground.
"That was easily done," he thought.
Then he turned to the lawn.
From his window, the lawn had looked like a soft carpet of green.
Down here, it looked like a million blades of grass, each one taller than Timothy himself. He couldn't see over them, not even on his tiptoes.
"Oh, well," he said. "Adventures do have their ups and downs."
With that, he marched into the field.
"I do hope I don't get lost. It might add spice to my adventure, but I would rather go without it. This is only my first adventure. I should like to keep it simple."
Pushing through the grass was not so hard, but more than grass got in his way. Sometimes, he had to circle around pine cones and small stones. Other times, he needed to climb over twigs and branches.
One old stick was shiny and had very bright stripes. While Timothy climbed over it, it moved.
He almost fell, but didn't.
"A moving branch," he thought. "How wonderful!"
He had never read of such a thing.
"It just goes to show, books don't tell you everything."
With his arms out like a tightrope walker, he rode the branch through the grass.
"I do hope it's taking me in the best direction."
Then he thought, "Oh, well, really . . . any direction is fine with me. It doesn't matter where an adventure happens, just so it happens."
Timothy was having a very fine ride. But all of a sudden the moving stick curled around and Timothy found a snake staring him in the eyes.
Though he had never read of moving sticks, he had read about snakes. They loved to eat mice!
This one gazed at Timothy with bright yellow eyes and licked its lips.
"Not me!" he exclaimed, and jumped off the back of the snake.
He landed on his feet and ran. He ran and ran and ran as fast as his feet could make him run.
Then he looked back.
There it was, close to him and getting closer.
Timothy tried to run faster.
"Oh, dear," he thought. "I wanted an adventure, not a disaster!"
Then he came to a sidewalk. He leaped onto it and made a quick turn to the right. The sidewalk was smooth and flat and he could run very fast on it.
He looked back.
Here came the snake!
"Oh, I never should have left the library! I should have been happy just reading books! Make-believe adventures are dandy, and I don't get eaten!"
Looking back at the snake, he had not been watching the sidewalk ahead of him. Suddenly, he remembered that smart mice don't run backward for long distances.
He faced the front, but not fast enough.
A Tootsie Roll!
Timothy tripped over it, tumbled and bounced and rolled.
When he stopped tumbling and bouncing and rolling, he sat up and . . .
Here came the snake!
The Tootsie Roll had already rolled out of the snake's way and didn't even slow it down.
Racing toward Timothy the snake opened its mouth very wide. Its fangs looked as big as elephant tusks.
Timothy leaped up and whirled around and ran . . .
. . . smack into the big yellow top of a candy corn.
"Umf!" he grunted.
Then he thought, "Ah-ha!"
Hugging the candy corn like an old friend, he picked it up and swung around. He pitched it at the snake with all his might.
Timothy, however, had never been terribly good at sports. He was a mouse, after all . . . not a child.
"I'm doomed," thought Timothy.
The snake suddenly struck!
But not at Timothy. At the candy corn.
Leaping high, it snapped the candy corn out of the sky. It made a beautiful landing. Winking at Timothy, it slithered off into the grass with its treat.
Timothy hurried on his way. After all, one piece of candy corn was hardly a full meal. Just a snack, really. Done gobbling it up, the snake might still be hungry.
Soon, Timothy came upon a second piece of candy corn.
"This is my lucky day!" he thought, and picked up the candy with his mouth and took it along with him. "Now I'll be ready in case the snake comes back."
As he hurried along, however, he began to taste the candy. He had read about candy corn in a book about Halloween, but never before had he tasted any. It was so much better than normal corn!
Sometimes, a real adventure is better than a book.
He nibbled it and nibbled it as he walked along.
"Better save some for the snake!" he thought.
But he ignored his thought. By the time the sun was very low on the horizon, he ate the last of his candy corn.
"I sure do hope the snake stays away," he thought, and looked behind him.
Coming up the sidewalk . . .
Not the snake but . . . ghosts and monsters and witches!
A mummy! A vampire!
Heart thudding, Timothy whirled around and ran.
"Oh why, oh why didn't I stay in the library? This was such a bad idea!"
No matter how fast Timothy ran, the horrible creatures were catching up to him. Closer and closer, talking and laughing. They all carried bags. Some of them even carried flashlights.
"If they light me up," thought Timothy, "they'll chase me down! They'll throw me in a bag with all the other mice they've caught tonight and take me home with them. The vampire will drink my blood. The witch will toss me into her brew! Oh, I'll be bashed and smashed and stirred and they'll fight over who gets to gobble me up first!"
The beam of a flashlight slid toward Timothy, so he leaped off the sidewalk and into the grass.
Though the grass was tall, the horrible creatures were even taller. They were the size of people . . . almost. As they came closer and closer, Timothy crawled under a large, crisp leaf.
"I'll be safe here," he thought.
But he shook with fear as he heard their footsteps and voices and laughter coming closer and closer.
"Oh, don't let them see me! Please don't let them see me! Oh, I should have stayed in the library! What was I thinking!"
Though Timothy had read about such creatures, he'd been pretty sure they were only make-believe. He had never expected to meet them in a nice little town like Elmwood.
"Well," he thought, "it just goes to show that books don't tell everything."
The creatures walked on by and approached a house in the distance. There came the sound of a ringing doorbell. Voices called out, "Trick or treat!"
"Of course!" thought Timothy. "This must be Halloween!"
He'd read books about Halloween. It came once a year, on the last day of October. Each Halloween, children put on costumes and went from door to door, calling "Trick or treat!"
Those horrible creatures hadn't been real. They'd been children dressed for Halloween. Human children, not monsters and ghosts and vampires and witches and mummies and snakes!
"How silly of me to be frightened of them."
And how wonderful that of all the many days and nights of the year Timothy had set out for his great adventure on Halloween!
He suddenly remembered the taste of the candy corn.
"I should go trick-or-treating!" he thought, crawling out from under the leaf.
At the edge of the sidewalk, he looked both ways. Nobody was nearby, so he hopped up and saw that he was not very far from a house. It looked old, dark and a bit creepy. The sight of it gave him mouse-bumps. Then he realized it was silly to be afraid. "I'm a mouse after all---not a chicken."
But then he saw lights glowing in the windows of the next house. Its big picture window was full of Halloween decorations: cardboard witches and black cats and ghosts. Best of all, a Jack-o'-lantern smiled down at Timothy from the porch.
"This is just the house for me," thought Timothy.
On his way to the porch, however, he heard voices and laughter. He glanced over his shoulder.
Here came the trick-or-treaters!
He leaped off the walkway. Hiding in the grass, he watched them.
Timothy got mouse-bumps all over again.
"I hope they are trick-or-treaters," he thought. "Oh, they must be. They have bags for their candy."
He hoped the bags were for candy.
The trick-or-treaters climbed the porch stairs. One lurched past the bright, smiling Jack-o'-lantern and rang the doorbell. Then all of them yelled, "Trick or treat!"
"I knew they were only children," Timothy thought. "I knew it all along."
The door was answered by a woman. Smiling, she said, "Oh, look at your cool costumes. How original!" Then came sounds that sounded very much like candy bumping into other candy . . . candy already at the bottoms of paper bags.
"Cool costumes?---Oh, dear," thought Timothy.
The children said "Thank you." After that, everyone seemed to be saying, "Happy Halloween," and "Thank you" and "Bye!"
Timothy stayed hidden in the grass until the trick-or-treaters were gone. Then he climbed onto the walkway and looked down at himself. All he saw was Timothy Maywood Usher Mouse.
"Oh, what shall I do? I can't go trick-or-treating without a costume! It just isn't done!"
But Timothy was a very smart mouse. He was also well-read and had a good imagination. So instead of giving up, he went to the porch and sat on the bottom stair. "I'll sit here," he decided, "and use my head. That's what it's for, after all. It's not just a hat-rack."
Scratching his head, he thought, "If only I had a hat!"
Any sort of hat would do nicely.
In a baseball cap, he could be a pitcher for the majors.
In a police hat, he could be a cop.
In a beret, an artist.
In a top hat, a magician.
In a fedora, a private eye.
In a ten-gallon hat, a cowpoke.
In a helmet, a soldier.
Sitting there on the stair, Timothy imagined himself in hat after hat after hat.
"But I don't have a hat," he reminded himself. "I don't have a cape, either."
Oh, but if he did have a cape . . . !
Perched on the stair, he pictured himself as a super hero.
"Oh," he thought, "the things you can do with a hat or a cape!"
But he had no hat or cape at all. He had only himself.
"I can't go trick-or-treating as myself. But perhaps I don't need to dress up."
He could simply tap-dance and pretend to be a dancer.
He could act sly and pretend to be a secret agent.
Or stand on his head and pretend to be an upside-down mouse.
"Wait" he thought. "I am a mouse. I don't need to dance or act sly or stand on my head. I'll go trick-or-treating as myself. . . No, wait. That's not done . . . But why not go as a different mouse?
"I'll trick-or-treat as Mickey or Mighty or Jerry or maybe as Stuart Little!"
It seemed like a wonderful idea until Timothy realized that all those mice wore outfits . . . and he had none.
"Ha! I'll say I lost my clothes. Or I borrowed the Emperor's new clothes!"
Timothy laughed at the idea, and as he shook his head from side to side, he saw a large white cat creeping toward him through the grass.
Then he smiled. "That isn't a cat. It's a nice little boy or girl dressed up for trick-or-treating. But what a fine costume
It was a very cat-like roar and very un-childlike.
"Uh-oh," thought Timothy.
It sprang at him!
He leaped up and ran to the banister post and scampered up the post as fast as he could go.
The cat leaped onto the post.
It was hot on Timothy's tail when he reached the top. From the top, he had only one place to go . . . up the railing. So he scampered up the railing with the cat still hot on his tail.
Up and up he went, the cat rushing after him.
The cat so close behind him!
Oh, so close!
So close that he could feel the hot breath of the cat on his tail.
"I only wanted an adventure!" thought Timothy. "An adventure, not a catastrophe!"
From its post at the top of the railing, the Jack-o'-lantern smiled down at Timothy as if having itself a merry time.
"Perhaps you're having a fine Halloween," Timothy thought, "but I'm doomed."
Timothy's doom didn't seem to displease the Jack-o'-lantern.
It kept on smiling and . . .
. . . the cat pounced and . . .
. . . Timothy leaped into the Jack-o'-lantern's smiling mouth.
Tumbling head-over-paws, he crashed against something that felt like a tree trunk. He blinked and stared up at it. It wasn't a tree, of course. Who ever heard of a Jack-o'-lantern with a tree inside?
It was a large red candle with a flame at the top---a flame so bright that it filled the whole pumpkin with light.
Light and warmth.
In library books, Timothy had read about Jack-o'-lanterns.
He'd seen pictures of them, too. He'd thought some of them might be scary. Some might be cheerful. But he'd never known how bright and cozy they were on the inside.
Bright and cozy and safe. And they smelled good, too.