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Recap #181: Deadtime Stories #10: Grandpa’s Monster Movies by A.G. Cascone

Original Cover

DOWN IN FRONT

Re-release cover

When you find your dad’s old porn stash and realize you’re following the plot

Title: Deadtime Stories #10 – Grandpa’s Monster Movies, a.k.a. “A Nightmare on Green Acres”

Author: A.G. Cascone, a.k.a. Annette and Gina Cascone

Cover Artist: ???

Tagline: The midnight show is a scream.

Summary: Home movies can be a horror!

C.T. and his cousin Lea are staying at their grandparents’ old farmhouse. It’s Grandpa’s seventieth birthday, and everyone’s celebrating with a big family reunion. All the weird relatives are here, and all they seem to want to talk about are “the good old days.”

C.T. and Lea think the “good old days” are pretty boring – until they find some home movies hidden away in the attic, movies from when their grandfather was just a boy.

The home movies give them a piece of family history that their relatives never talked about.

It seems that horses, cows, pigs, and chickens aren’t the only creatures Grandpa’s been taking care of on the farm. And Uncle Ernie isn’t the only one at the family reunion whose back is covered with hair. [Wing: WEREWOLF?!]

C.T. and Lea discover there’s a monster among them – and this creature is dying to eat a lot more than the birthday cake!

Initial Thoughts

It’s my grandfather’s birthday this month so I felt this would be an appropriate book to recap. Believe me, I wish I’d chosen something else because of all the hillbilly jokes in this one.

“Deadtime Stories” was written by sisters Annette and Gina Cascone under a shared pen name. It was another series where most of the entries were independent of the other, save for the two “Tiny Town” books which inexplicably featured an identical knock-off of Chucky the Killer Doll named “Hurley the Hobo.”

Terror in Tiny Town by Tim Jacobus

What the hell, Jacobus?

Surprisingly, Nickelodeon produced a short TV adaptation a decade after the original series ended, which of course led to several books being reprinted with new covers. The episodes always featured a framing story of a babysitter narrating the books to the two little kids she was watching, and them always screaming when she gets to the twist ending.

[Wing: That is a serious Chucky knock-off.]

Recap

It was the little field of screams for Catan Thomas, a.k.a. C.T., because not only was he lost, he was on the run. He thought the cornfield would be a good place to hide from his pursuers because they couldn’t see him, until he realized HE couldn’t see THEM. Standing still didn’t help and moving around didn’t help either, because no matter what he did he was sure he’d be caught. [Wing: Cornfields are a terrible place to hide. And wonderfully creepy and terrible.]

C.T.’s only ally was his cousin, Lea Rose, who managed to find him before she got caught. He got startled a bit but was glad to see her. The two could vent all they wanted about how much they hated their current situation. They couldn’t believe their parents had dragged them to *ugh* Bumbleweed and were forcing them to be nice to a bunch of hillbillies. Or as their parents called them, their cousins.

C.T. and Lea’s families had gotten together along with the rest of their extended relatives to celebrate Grandpa’s 70th birthday. Luckily, Grandpa and Grandma were the normal ones. It was their great uncles and their families who were the problem.

First there was Great Uncle Ernie, a man who somehow survived getting struck by lightning SIXTEEN DIFFERENT TIMES. Albeit a few of those lightning bolts had left some surprises, such as his hair condition and his “Kick.” The rest of the family assumed his skull was full of holes.

Yet Uncle Ernie was nothing compared to Great Uncle Earl, a.k.a. The Family Maniac. [Wing: Uh huh.] Unlike Ernie, Earl was married. Specifically, to Great Aunt Luleen; the two were childhood sweethearts and had lots of kids. Which meant lots of grandkids. Which meant lots of problems for C.T. and Lea.

C.T. and Lea knew they had to keep moving and get back to their grandparents’ farmhouse before the cousins found them. It was then they heard something coming up behind them and they started to haul ass. The pursuer was catching up to them, but as C.T. looked back he saw nothing even as the cornstalks bent forward. Were they being chased by something invisible? The two managed to catch a glimpse of what was behind them, and it wasn’t one of their cousins. It looked like a beach ball covered completely in fur, but it was growling!

Suddenly, the furry ball rolled away as C.T. was about to pull Lea onto a different path. The two discussed what that thing could be; C.T. was sure it had teeth but didn’t know if it was dangerous since it didn’t attack them. Lea didn’t want to investigate but relented, warning C.T. if that thing bit her she’d whoop his ass. But in search for the mystery ball they encountered something much more horrifying.

It was the twins, Jessica and Elizabe-I MEAN, April and May! [Wing: Crossover time!] Dressed in identical gingham dresses, their identical blonde hair done in identical pink bows. Staring at C.T. and Lea with identical blank stares.

April and May didn’t say a word. They never did – except to one another, and then they whispered so that no one else could hear.

April and May were probably the creepiest of all the creepy cousins.

They were named April and May because one had been born just before midnight on the last day of April, while the other had been born right midnight, on the first day of May. Nobody could tell which was which. Nobody seemed to care.

Twins! So identical yet so different!

C.T. knew this was bad news, because if April and May were here that meant the other cousins must be close. He started to run when he slammed into Lea and told her to move. Lea knew it was useless because she could see they were surrounded. They’d been officially captured by the Bobs.

The list included: Billy-Bob, Bobby-Bob, Jimmy-Bob, and Joe-Bob. That made April and May the Bobs’ Twins. [Wing: I see what you did there.]

Because all the cousins were the same age their parents forced them to play together. C.T. and Lea agreed to hide-and-seek because it meant hiding from the Bobs, but now the Bobs would get to choose the next game. C.T. saw the growling ball as the perfect distraction and asked if any of his cousins had seen it in the cornfield. Bobby Bob mentioned “I think I seen it,” and C.T. had to restrain himself from correcting his cousin’s English for the umpteenth time. None of the other Bobs believed Bobby-Bob and assumed he “Seen” a tumbleweed. Bobby-Bob insisted he saw a strange little critter, revealing it ate a field mouse whole and grew a bit bigger as it did. Once C.T. and Lea admit they saw the creature, Jimmy-Bob suggests they try and find it. C.T. helpfully adds they should split up and look in different directions. Sometimes it’s just that easy.

The Bobs left C.T. and Lea behind with the twins, who ignored Billy-Bob’s orders and were still staring at C.T. and Lea. The two saw their opportunity to head back to the farmhouse when something big and menacing stepped in their way.

Relax, it’s just Uncle Ernie!

Every inch of Uncle Ernie’s skin was carpeted with wiry, black hair. It was so thick that if Uncle Ernie didn’t have a head, there’d be no way to tell which direction he was facing. The hair on his back was as thick as the hair on his chest. Unfortunately, both of them always stuck out because Uncle Ernie likes to wear his overalls without his undershirt.

*Blinks, takes several deep breaths, shudders*

I need to reboot every time I read this part. And not in a good way. It’s like drinking cough syrup. Sorry, I’m just not into body hair.

At the very least, Uncle Ernie knew the value of a clean shave, which meant C.T. could clearly see his uncle was upset about something. By Ernie’s side was his beloved pet pig Porkchop, who looked just as upset as Ernie. Ernie hollered for everyone to get out of the cornfield. C.T. knew something was wrong because Ernie’s left eye twitched as he said everything was fine. The twitch was a leftover from Lightning Bolt #3, and an open family secret. Ernie quickly said it was suppertime and that’s why everyone should get out of the cornfield.

Yeah, suppertime.

Lea began telling her uncle about the creature they saw, but Ernie assured them it was probably their imagination. He said there’s absolutely nothing like that around here, and he would know. If only he could’ve controlled that twitch, the kids might’ve believed him. Ernie didn’t exactly help his case when he told the kids to stay calm as he got everything under control. By which he meant the kids.

C.T. and Lea returned to the farmhouse planning to tell their parents what happened, but they lost their train of thought when they saw the horror show displayed in front of them. See, because so many people were staying at the farmhouse the family decided to set up the picnic tables and eat outside. It’d be “Fun.” C.T. didn’t know how they could have fun with the revolting mess spread out on the tables. Aunt Luleen declared it ain’t no mess, having snuck up behind the kids which, the book mentions, was astounding for a woman of her size.

Annnnnnnd here’s where the fat jokes start. Christ.

Luleen proudly listed each of the specialties she’d made for her kin, her “Family’s favorite vittles.” Why there was:

  • Pickled pig’s feet
  • Pig’s feet Parmesan
  • Pig’s feet and possum’s tail
  • Knuckles and noodles
  • Carameled coon
  • Ferret fricassee

Um.

I.

Okay C.T. and Lea have been very classist up until this point but that sounds legitimately horrifying. I understand people eat pig’s feet, it’s those last two that sound gross. That and the possum one because isn’t possum riddled with parasites?

C.T. figures this is why Porkchop is so jittery since it looks like Luleen butchered most of his family. [Wing: Oh my god, I laughed so hard at this. Definitely going to piggy hell.] Lea fears for her life if she had to eat any of that food, to which her mom tells her to be thankful for Luleen’s hard work. She lays into the kids that this is the first time their family’s gotten together in forever, so they better be nice. Thankfully, it’s Grandma to the rescue. She tells Lea’s mom to back off and brings out a platter of her famous fried chicken. She quietly assures the kids she understands their reservations about Luleen’s cooking and promises they won’t have to eat any of it.

Luckily Luleen wasn’t paying attention; she was telling her son Billy-Bob Sr. to stop eating the ferret fricassee before his daddy Earl had some. The fricassee was Earl’s favorite after all. Grandma thinks Earl and Eddie (Grandpa) are over in the new barn. C.T. and Lea offer to fetch them as another escape from Earl’s family. Grandma reminds them not to go near the old barn because it’s falling apart and dangerous. The two had been repeatedly warned about the old barn, and C.T. wondered why no one tore it down.

As the two cousins approached the new barn, they were in for a shock. They heard their Grandpa yelling at Uncle Earl, which was odd because Grandpa never got angry at anyone. Grandpa was telling Earl to stop being “A raving maniac,” (his words) as Earl exclaimed he was sick of all the problems Ernie’s caused them and was going to end it once and for all. C.T. and Lea heard Earl declare he’s gonna chop “That hairy critter” to bits as he sharpened a giant ax.

Grandpa ordered Earl not to cause trouble at his birthday as the kids tried to figure out what they were talking about.

There was no doubt about it. Uncle Earl was definitely planning to do something bad. In addition to the axe he was sharpening, he had a pile of other scary-looking tools as well. There were buzz saws and pitchforks, a pickaxe, and a giant box marked “TNT.”

Earl laughed at Grandpa’s insistence his birthday be a happy time, asking if Floyd Garvey’s birthday was happy too. It’s been six decades since that happened and Grandpa’s sick of hearing about Floyd Garvey. He reminds Earl what happened was Gus-Gus’s fault, not Ernie’s. Earl argues more have disappeared since, not to mention all the killings in the barn, so of course it’s Ernie’s fault.

Obviously things aren’t as boring in Bumbleweed as C.T. and Lea thought. They decide to get out of there when Earl announces he’s gonna take care of the problem, but then C.T. accidentally knocks over a shovel and gives them away. Earl screams if that’s his “Floyd-Garvey-murdering half-wit” of a brother, and the kids are horrified as their uncle brandishes an ax above them!

Grandpa orders Earl to stop scaring C.T. and Lea, grabbing the ax from his brother’s hands. He assures the kids not to take Earl seriously when Earl demands to know what the kids heard. C.T. and Lea play dumb saying they were looking for the men because it’s dinnertime, and advises Earl to hurry before all the ferret fricassee is gone. Earl is all HOLY SHIT and forgets all about Floyd Garvey. After Earl leaves, C.T. asks Grandpa what his uncle was so upset about. Grandpa tells them not to worry, and jokes they should get down to dinner before Earl eats all the ferret fricassee. But as C.T. and Lea left for the barn, he could hear Grandpa muttering there’ll be big trouble at the family reunion.

Dinnertime was something of an ordeal, or at least watching Earl and Luleen’s side of the family eating was one. Ernie and Luleen kept arguing because Ernie didn’t like the way she was looking at Porkchop.

“Don’t even think about it, Luleen,” he said. “You leave my Porkchop alone. He’s not an eatin’ pig.”

Aunt Luleen just laughed. “Every pig is an eatin’ pig,” she insisted. “Even a runt like that one.”

“Just remember what they say, Luleen,” Uncle Ernie shot back. “You are what you eat!”

AHAHAHA I GET IT IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY BECAUSE HE’S CALLING HER A PIG BECAUSE SHE’S FAT AND SHE EATS A LOT THAT’S

*Stabs book*

SO

*Stabs book*

FUCKING

*STABS THE GODDAMN BOOK*

FUNNY!!!!

Okay taking a step back was that too much? Honestly I have no idea how to tell anymore.

[Wing: Pretty sure there’s no such thing as too much going boom around here.]

Luleen chose to reminisce on how delicious Porkchop’s great-great-great grandpa, Hamhock, tasted. Earl recalled when Hamhock won the blue ribbon at the country fair before they chowed down. C.T. and Lea could see even their parents were having trouble pretending they weren’t grossed out by the conversation when Grandpa finally joined them, trying not to seem like something was bothering him. Luleen went on talking about the past, ignoring everyone’s discomfort as she revealed how Earl’s been her honey-pie since kindergarten. In fact, they had their first kiss at the very same country fair. The thought made everyone except Earl and Luleen, including their own kids, cringe in disgust.

C.T. and Lea offered to help Grandma clean up, anything to get away from Luleen. As they did they asked if she knew who Gus-Gus was. Grandma genuinely doesn’t seem to know of anyone named Gus-Gus and figures he was a friend of Grandpa before she met him. C.T. secretly hopes Gus-Gus isn’t around after all the bad shit they’ve heard. After Grandma goes into the house to get toppings for dessert, Earl grabs C.T. and demands to know where he heard the name Gus-Gus. He warns C.T. he better forget about Gus-Gus if he knows what’s good for him.

That’s about it for C.T., and Lea agrees they need space from their cousins. The two watches the Bobs and the Bobs’ Twins, a.k.a. the “Booger eating morons,” roasting marshmallows in the brick barbecue. They overheard the Bobs suggesting they could play Red Rover, but the thought of holding hands with any of them is too much for Lea. Okay honestly you two need to get over yourselves, because aside from the twins being creepy the Bobs haven’t really DONE anything to either of you.

The kids decide to hide inside the house before the Bobs find them, but they had to hurry. They decide the attic is the best place to camp out until Hurricane Bob is over. The room is naturally full of dusty junk which the grandparents probably haven’t gone near in ages. While inspecting some of the boxes, C.T. finds a bunch of old home movies on film reels. Lea asks why they’d want to learn about Bumbleweed in the old days when they can’t stand it now. C.T. argues they have nothing else to do as he finds the screen and projector, but hey! There’s a box labeled [INSERT TITLE HERE]. C.T. starts pulling out a bunch of reels titled “Frankenstein,” “Dracula,” and “The Wolf Man,” but goes pale when he pulls out a reel labeled “Gus-Gus.”

Now they have a chance to discover who or what this Gus-Gus guy is. They plug in the projector and play the reel, which brings on footage of three boys at a carnival. The boys are standing by a large pig wearing a blue ribbon and realize this is the county fair Luleen was talking about. Recognizing the boys are Grandpa, Earl, and Ernie, the kids watch as a young Luleen “waddles” onto the screen and pushes through Grandpa and Ernie to get to Earl. Earl and Luleen make goo-goo eyes at each other, but Ernie corrects Earl and says his girlfriend’s actually looking at Hamhock because she wants to eat him. Luleen responds that’s what pigs are for, and sure enough she gets into a fistfight with Ernie.

I’ll give this to Luleen. Her cooking sounds disgusting, but the woman’s not ashamed of herself.

The scene transitions to Grandpa and his brothers at an old fashioned claw machine game. C.T. doesn’t get what this has to do with Gus-Gus as Ernie plays the claw game and wins a red plastic egg. Ernie popped it open and discovered a small, furry little ball inside. The kids noticed how eerily similar the ball on screen looked to the thing they saw in the cornfield. Ernie thinks it’s a hamster or something and the camera follows the creature as the ball rolls towards the cow auction.

And that’s when things went to Hell.

“That ain’t no hamster!” Earl screamed. “That thing’s a monster! He’s eating Mrs. Beezley and her prize-winning cow!”

NICE GOING ERNIE YOU HAD IT FOR FIVE SECONDS AND IT MURDERED SOMEONE.

C.T. and Lea are not happy with the idea there is a literal monster loose on the farm. What they don’t get is why that thing didn’t try to eat them in the cornfield. Before the kids can figure out what to do they hear someone coming, so they quickly pack the stuff away in case it’s Grandpa or one of their uncles. Worse, it was their moms. The two were livid at how rude C.T. and Lea have been to their cousins. C.T. tried to tell them about the strange things going on and attempted to show them the “Gus-Gus” movie, but the moms didn’t believe him. C.T.’s mom mentions this hasn’t been easy for them either, but they expect the kids to smile and be nice to the Bobs and the others.

Lea can’t believe how pigheaded their moms are being, but C.T. understands the truth is too weird for anyone to take seriously. In fact, he wonders if the movie was a joke since they didn’t really see anyone getting eaten. Lea doesn’t believe that, and C.T. doesn’t either but he knew everyone else would. Defeated, the kids were about to go downstairs before C.T. noticed another film reel. And this one’s titled “Floyd Garvey’s Last Birthday Party.”

The kids aren’t able to watch this movie because their moms are expecting them. They don’t get another chance to sneak away that night, getting stuck playing a board game before one of the Bobs ate the dice. C.T. couldn’t leave the bedroom because at least one of the Bobs never went to sleep. It was like he was keeping watch or something. The next morning escape was nearly impossible because the kids were immediately hauled outside and forced to play after breakfast. The Bobs suggested they could all play dodgeball.

With a rock.

Thankfully Joe-Bob stopped Bobby-Bob when he actually started looking for a rock big enough to throw, but C.T. had enough. That was what, five minutes? C.T. and Lea make a break for it as one of the Bobs declares they’re gonna play “Stomp the Squirrel.”

YES WE GET IT THEY’RE HILLBILLIES!!!

The kids decide to take their chances hiding in the old barn. They’re in for a shock when they discover the old barn isn’t really falling apart. Inside is an elaborate cage involving a gate, an electric fence, and a fucking moat! And there in the middle of the cage was Gus-Gus.

Lea wonders how something that small managed to eat an entire cow. In fact, Gus-Gus looks sort of cute. And is still being held behind an electric fence and a moat, C.T. points out. The kids start to think about why their relatives kept telling them to stay away from the old barn, and if their Grandma lied to them. Lea declares they kept Gus-Gus a secret because he’s obviously a monster. C.T. wants a closer look and starts looking for the switch to the fence. He assures Lea he’s not stupid enough to open Gus-Gus’s cage when the barn door slams open. Before C.T. and Lea can hide, they find themselves face-to-face with Uncle Ernie and Porkchop. Ernie is clearly mad the kids didn’t listen to his warnings, and C.T. fears they’re never going to leave the barn alive.

Ernie doesn’t want the rest of the family finding out about this, and is figuring out what to do. C.T. immediately fears Ernie is gonna feed him and Lea to Gus-Gus, when Ernie tells the kid to stop being stupid. Ernie wants to know who told them about Gus-Gus, and gets super pissed off when he finds out it was Earl. He’s had enough of Earl being a problem and wonders if he should feed HIM to Gus-Gus. Lea quickly explains Earl didn’t directly tell them, they overheard him arguing with Grandpa about Floyd Garvey. UGH Ernie is so sick of Earl being a Floyd Garvey apologist and exclaims what happened was his fault, not Gus-Gus’s.

Ernie claims nothing happened to Floyd Garvey, which was a lie because his eye twitched. He decides the only thing to do is to introduce Gus-Gus to C.T. and Lea. The kids are all NOPE but Ernie promises Gus-Gus won’t hurt them. Like it or not, this is happening. C.T. and Lea are led across a plank set above the moat in Gus-Gus’s cage, feeling like they’re going to be executed. Ernie tells the kids to relax when they exclaim Gus-Gus is an eating machine. Ernie’s not fazed as they recall how he ate an entire cow, and reminds them they eat hamburgers which are made from cows. They can’t fault Gus-Gus for doing something they do as well. Ernie adds he doesn’t let Gus-Gus eat meat anyway. It… doesn’t agree with him.

C.T. and Lea are led into Gus-Gus’s cage, and Lea hides behind C.T. If anyone’s going first, it’s him. Like a bolt of lightning Gus-Gus rolls over to C.T. and latches onto his ankle. C.T. screams in pain before Ernie tells him to stop exaggerating. His eyes closed, C.T. felt something cold and wet brush against his nose and figured his face was about to eaten. When he finally stopped screaming C.T. looked and saw Gus-Gus, really saw him, for the first time. And had no idea what he was.

[Wing: Damn it, no werewolves.]

Ernie’s not really sure what Gus-Gus is either. No one does.

 Gus-Gus was hanging onto C.T.’s collar with a pair of leathery-looking claws. His hand feet were braced against C.T.’s chest. Gus-Gus wasn’t rolled into a ball anymore – he was all stretched out.

Only Gus-Gus’ back and the top of his head were furry. His underside was leathery. His face looked like the face of a bat, and he had bat ears.

‘Kay so Gus-Gus sounds like a cross between an armadillo and a bat. But in the TV show he looked like this.

Gus-Gus, TV version

I’ve never seen them but I’m reasonably sure this is a rip-off of the Critters movies

The little creature squeaks and gives C.T. an Eskimo kiss. Ernie and Lea think Gus-Gus likes C.T., but C.T. still feels creeped out. He tries to stay calm and still as Gus-Gus curls up on his shoulder. Ernie tells Lea it’s okay to pet Gus-Gus and she’s amazed at how soft he is. C.T. still wants to know why Earl and Grandpa were arguing about Gus-Gus if he’s supposedly so harmless. Ernie brushes it off as Earl being nuts due to his grudge about Floyd Garvey. The kids still want to know what happened to the mysterious Mr. Garvey. Ernie covers his eye as he tells them Floyd Garvey ran off to join the circus. For God’s sake man, buy an eye patch!

Ernie explains Earl thinks Gus-Gus ate Floyd Garvey at Floyd’s 12th birthday party, but Ernie admits he shouldn’t have brought Gus-Gus in the first place. He only did it because the kids knew about Gus-Gus anyway, from that county fair where he may or may not have eaten Mrs. Beezley and her cow.

It turns out at Floyd Garvey’s 12th birthday party, the birthday boy insisted on feeding Gus-Gus fried chicken. Since he knew Gus-Gus got bigger the more meat he ate, Floyd Garvey wanted to see how big Gus-Gus would grow. C.T. recalled what one of the Bobs said about Gus-Gus suddenly getting bigger after eating a field mouse. Unfortunately for Floyd Garvey, Gus-Gus was still hungry after eating all the fried chicken. They had a scuffle, Floyd Garvey got scared and ran away to join the circus. And they lived happily ever after.

C.T. and Lea don’t buy it, but they don’t let Ernie know. His eye’s looking fluttery, anyway. But now it’s time for Ernie to feed Gus-Gus. The kids go back to fearful mode when they scan the area and see nothing for Gus-Gus to eat except…

“Are you hungry, Gus-Gus?” Uncle Ernie asked with a grin.

The monster skittered down C.T.’s body as quickly as it had climbed up.

When he got to the floor, he uncurled his body, stood up on his hind legs, and let out a ferocious growl that echoed off the walls.

Breakfast was about to be served!

Ernie reminds the kids, again, he’s not gonna feed them to Gus-Gus. He pulls out a jar of baby food, sweet potatoes to be precise, and mentions these are Gus-Gus’s favorite. He keeps the critter on a strict diet of vegetables, or else it’ll be the chickens-I MEAN, the dickens to pay. Gus-Gus has to be fed every two or three hours, which makes getting a decent night’s sleep hard.

C.T. wonders why Ernie keeps Gus-Gus, but it turns out no one can get rid of him. Seems Earl and Grandpa once drove for days with Gus-Gus, and then dumped him in a lake with a cinder block tied around his neck. He was waiting for them by the time they got back to the farm, and boy was Gus-Gus mad. And besides, Ernie cares about Gus-Gus.

After eating Gus-Gus takes a nap; Ernie assures the kids they don’t want to see what Gus-Gus is like after eating meat. As long as he doesn’t eat meat, Gus-Gus is fine. C.T. would like to believe his uncle, but he can’t forget what Earl said about “Killings in the barns.” Leaving the cage and turning the fence back on, Ernie makes the kids promise not to say anything about Gus-Gus. He feels the real problem has always been Earl because he constantly provokes Gus-Gus and makes the critter angry. Ernie adds neither of the kids should visit Gus-Gus by themselves, because he can be sneaky and get free when they aren’t looking. That’s how Gus-Gus escaped the other day. C.T. swears they won’t be going anywhere near Gus-Gus.

What the three and Porkchop didn’t know was that a whole bunch of someones had been secretly eavesdropping on the conversation.

Back at the house, all the adults were buzzing like bees preparing Grandpa’s birthday party. Uncle Earl took Grandpa into town while everyone else got the party ready. They wanted to surprise him with how big the party’s really going to be. Luleen asks if anyone’s seen her grand kids; C.T. and Lea avoid admitting they ditched the Bobs and the twins.

Away from the adults, C.T. tells Lea they have to watch the movie about Floyd Garvey’s birthday and find out what happened. Neither of them really believes what Ernie told them, after all. They set the projector and screen up again in the attic and play the film reel. At first everything appears as Ernie told them, but then they reach the part where Floyd Garvey fed Gus-Gus chicken.

The Gus-Gus they saw on the movie screen had grown from a little fur ball to a creature twice as big as any of the children at Floyd Garvey’s birthday party. He was standing on his hind legs. The front of him was all muscular and leathery. But his face was particular scary.

Gus-Gus’ beady eyes were as big as softballs. They stared right at Floyd Garvey as his mouth hung open like a shark’s. His razor-sharp teeth looked to be at least two inches long.

The kids watched as Gus-Gus lunged at Floyd Garvey when suddenly the movie stopped. The light on the ceiling went out as well. Ugh, what a worse time for a power failure. But then the kids gaze out the window and see what caused the power outage. Looking out the attic window, they saw three of the Bobs and one of the twins running out of the old barn and screaming their heads off. Bobby-Bob staggered out of the barn last, his pants smoking, hands charred, and hair standing on end. C.T. can’t believe he was stupid enough to touch the electric fence with his bare hands.

Well at least he didn’t whiz on it.

But if the electricity is out, then, that would mean…

Welp now Gus-Gus is out and the Bobs and April/May are running for their lives. C.T. and Lea get downstairs as fast as they can to find Ernie, but run right into Luleen. Once Grandma sees them she asks the kids to grab some eggs from the chicken coop so she can make the frosting for Grandpa’s cake. The kids relent and head for the chicken coop, hoping to either get it done quickly or that they’ll find Ernie on the way. Besides, C.T. knows nobody would believe there’s a monster on the loose and it would be a waste of time arguing otherwise.

Oh but hey, they don’t have to worry about the eggs because there aren’t any chickens. Well, there’s one, and it’s been traumatized. It doesn’t take long for them to figure out how it happened when Gus-Gus appears.

Gus-Gus, standing on his hind legs, was well over six feet tall. There was nothing cute about him anymore. The hair on his back and on the top of his head didn’t look soft and furry. It looked more like porcupine quills. His enormous, leathery claws looked deadly as he slashed at the air, ready to strike.

His bat’s face was truly hideous. His mouth was open wide enough to reveal long, razor-sharp teeth.

C.T. is stricken with panic and fear and for a moment is unable to move before Lea grabs him and tells him to move his ass. When Gus-Gus sees them, he lets out a horrifying roar that segues into a hideous belch. C.T. watched as the monster regurgitated feathers and something else, catching a glimpse of a pink bow, like the ones worn by the twins.

Outside the chicken coop the kids fear Gus-Gus has eaten one of the Bobs’ Twins, and for the first time they actually care about their cousins. If only they knew which twin it was. Lea fears for the safety of the last chicken, but then the screams suddenly stop. R.I.P. chicken. Lea wants to tell everyone, but C.T. knows Ernie’s the only one who can help them. Trouble is they’ll have to find him first.

The kids think to look in the cornfield first because Ernie likes to take walks with Porkchop. [Wing: He walks his pig, oh my god, that is adorable.] They hope Gus-Gus isn’t going to follow them, but swear they’ll stop the creature before Grandpa comes home to find his whole family eaten. C.T. hopes he was wrong about Gus-Gus eating one of the twins. He’s ready to go into the cornfield by himself but Lea doesn’t want to be left alone. The two search for a while when Porkchop tackles C.T. and starts licking his face like a dog. Ernie appears and the kids immediately tell him what’s happened with Gus-Gus. He refuses to believe Gus-Gus ate one of the twins, insisting he can always rely on the critter not to eat family members. Hope he didn’t get that in writing.

Ernie plans to use a tranquilizer to take care of Gus-Gus. He’s got a jar of them handy for when shit like this occurs, and the pills are as big as golf balls. They’ll sneak one of the pills inside Luleen’s pickled pig’s feet (Ernie apologizes to Porkchop). Ernie goes to the house so the kids won’t have to explain why they brought none eggs. As Ernie goes to fetch the pig’s feet, the kids agree they are NEVER coming back to Bumbleweed again.

Waiting by the old barn, the kids see Ernie returning with an entire jar of Luleen’s pig’s feet. Apparently she was thrilled someone wanted to eat her cooking. Ernie goes into the barn to grab a tranq, the kids wondering if he’s more scared of Gus-Gus than they are. Unfortunately, Gus-Gus left the chicken coop a while ago. Ernie thinks he might’ve gone to the cow pastures for a snack; the kids are marveled at how fast Ernie moves. But hey, getting struck by lightning does that to a person. By the time they get to the pasture, all the cows are accounted for. So where’s Gus-Gus?

Oh maybe that giant cloud of dust heading towards the farmhouse might know.

The kids and Ernie are horrified by the sight of Gus-Gus, being chased by Grandpa and Earl in their pick-up truck. Gus-Gus is now five feet tall, even in ball form. Ernie couldn’t stand it as he watched Earl crash into Gus-Gus and run the creature over, but Gus-Gus shrugged it off. Now everyone at the farmhouse saw what was going on and, predictably, panicked. Earl and Ernie were blaming each other, Ernie asking why Earl tried to run Gus-Gus down when it made him angrier, Earl screaming they had to chase Gus-Gus out of town before anyone saw him.

Gus-Gus ravaged the picnic tables and ate the food, even the raw ribs Grandpa was gonna roast. Ernie threw Gus-Gus the tranq-stuffed pig’s foot, but the pill did nothing to calm the monster down. C.T. feared Gus-Gus was gonna prove Ernie wrong about the whole “Eating family members,” and decided to take matters into his own hands.

Lea alongside him, the two got the jar of pig’s feet from the old barn. Instead of grabbing the tranquilizers, C.T. rushed to the new barn and made his way to the TNT box. Lea fears this is too dangerous, but C.T. doesn’t know what else they can do. He starts stuffing TNT sticks into the pig’s feet, but they have to figure out how they’re gonna light the sticks.

Back at the farmhouse the rest of the family was huddled on the porch while Gus-Gus gorged himself. C.T. ordered Lea to get the marshmallows from inside as he baited Gus-Gus with the rigged pig’s feet. Ernie’s despondent the tranq’s not working while Lea returns with the marshmallows. Her parents tried to stop her but she broke free. Running over to the barbecue pit, C.T. jammed a bunch of marshmallows on a stick and set them ablaze. C.T. hurled the flaming stick at Gus-Gus and watched him blindly devour it.

For a moment, nothing happened.

C.T. was terrified his plan had failed.

Then Gus-Gus opened his mouth and let out a huge, flaming belch, like a fire-breathing dragon.

The flame singed the grass as it sent Gus-Gus shooting up into the air.

C.T. watched in stunned amazement as Gus-Gus was propelled higher. And higher. And higher. Until…

The monster exploded high above their heads like fireworks on the fourth of July.

R.I.P. Gus-Gus, you were the most interesting character in this book.

[Wing: Well that escalated … okay, not all that quickly, but pretty massively.]

Everyone hailed C.T. as a hero, and thankfully it turned out both of the Bobs’ Twins were okay. Traumatized, but okay. Ernie was upset at the loss of Gus-Gus, which was natural considering he’d spent most of his life with the evil little ball of fur.

The next day everyone was heading home. C.T.’s and Lea’s families drove together, their parents asking the kids not to tell their friends what happened this weekend. The kids were sure no one would believe them.

Or maybe not, because C.T. noticed something moving alongside the van.

It’s Gus-Gus!

No, a whole BUNCH of Gus-Guses! They’d blown Gus-Gus to a thousand tiny bits, which meant a thousand little Gus-Guses!

C.T. told his dad to keep driving, and hoped they’d outrun the hoard of Gus-Guses since they didn’t have any pig’s feet. Or dynamite.

[Wing: AHAHAHAHAHAHA YES SO MANY GUS-GUSES SO MANY.]

Final Thoughts

Yeesh.

If it makes anyone feel better I don’t think I bought this one, I found it at the library. I’m surprised at how frustrating this was considering the last book in the series, “Faerie Tale,” was fucking amazing. I’m gonna be recapping that one in January.

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