Recap #79: Graveyard School #3: The Headless Bicycle Rider, A.K.A. “The Adventures of Algernon and Mr. Toad”
Title: Graveyard School #3 – The Headless Bicycle Rider
Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins
Cover Artist: Barry Jackson
Summary: Will The New Kid At Graveyard School Keep His Cool Or Lose His Head? [Wing: AMAZING.]
Even though the class bully makes fun of his name, Algie (short for Algernon) is enjoying Graveyard School and his new town. But things start to change for Algie when he gets a new customer on his paper route. The ride to old Mr. Bates’s house is dark and creepy, and rumor has it someone was beheaded there long ago.
Algie doesn’t believe the rumors, and he’s willing to brave his paper route. Until the headless bicycle rider appears…
Round three of Graveyard School and this time we get a first hand look of how a child acclimates themselves to old G.S.. Algie is the first new addition to the ongoing cast who wasn’t mentioned in the very beginning of the series or was always simply there and never referred to, and he quickly becomes a mainstay among the sixth grade cast. We further get a glimpse of the best and worst the kids can offer, the best in Kirstin Bjork and the worst in Jason Dunnbar.
Now, you’d expect a bunch of references to Sleepy Hollow given the title and subject matter, but what you’re really in for is a bunch of “Psycho” references. Enjoy!
[Wing: I’m actually sad! I love Sleepy Hollow references. And headless riders. And new kids. Clearly I am primed to love this book.]
At lunchtime, Jason Dunnbar is the first to spot the new kid, and since Jason’s Big Man On The Playground, he decides to welcome the new meat. Of course you might be wondering, “Gee Godmother Jude, is Jason is really that bad?”
Jason Dunnbar was probably the most popular kid at Grove Hill. He had been class president since first grade, and also star quarterback of the football team. Everybody liked Jason – because everybody had to. Those who didn’t like him knew well enough to keep quiet.
Jason’s got his shark like gaze on the NKOTB, Algernon “Algie” Green.
He was smaller than the average kid, and he wore big glasses and baggy jeans. His slightly too-long hair was pulled back in a stubby ponytail.
Jason “introduces” himself by pointing his index finger at Algie’s chest to demanding to know who the fuck he is. Jason is incredulous when he hears Algie’s full name. Algie extends his hand towards Jason, but when Jason doesn’t respond, Algie simply shakes Jason’s finger. [Wing: This kid is already adorable.] Captain of the soccer team Kirstin Bjork can’t see this ending well. Jason officially welcomes Algie to “Graveyard School,” which Algie immediately realizes is due to the graveyard seen through the cafeteria windows. Jason offers Algie a place to sit at his table, and while Algie goes to get his (100% pet free) meal, Jason reports that Algie’s a fucking douchebag. The only person near Jason’s table who doesn’t laugh is Kirstin.
She thought there was something nice about Algie. Plus she wasn’t afraid of Jason. Most the time, she thought he was funny, just the way everyone else did. But when she didn’t, she didn’t feel as if she had to laugh anyway. As the sweeper and captain of the soccer team, she was fearless. She wasn’t going to be afraid of someone as lame as Jason.
[Wing: Kirstin is my new favorite, despite that use of “lame.” She’s badass, she’s fearless, and she’s not afraid to stand up to people. Delightful.]
Algie immediately knows where this is heading when he notices everyone at Jason’s table is watching him, the “entertainment,” waiting to see what happens next. This isn’t new for Algie, so he decides to get it over with as painlessly as possible. Algie almost gets away when he mentions Jason’s table is full, but Jason offers his seat. Resigned, Algie cautiously checks to make sure there’s nothing grotesque on the chair, but of course as he lowers himself Jason pulls it out from under him and Algie falls on his ass. Algie counts to ten before getting up amid the laughter ringing throughout the cafeteria and sulks off to eat by himself. He’s used to it, unfortunately.
Algie had moved a lot: he’d never been in the same school for a whole year. He was tired of being the new kid – the weird new kid. He was tired of being teased and picked on, just like Clark Kent. But although he was tired of the same old label, Algie knew there was nothing he could do. He was doomed for geekdom. Forever.
And unfortunately, unlike Clark Kent, he couldn’t just go into a telephone booth and change into Superman. He couldn’t come out and pound Jason to a pulp.
He had to abide by the rules of the real world, and Algie Green had to keep on being Algie Green.
Excuse me Algie, but you’d do well to take a page out of Clark Kent’s book. He’s an award winning journalist who exposes corruption on the highest level, is a loving father, had four amazing parents (two who literally died so he could live), was a nurturing father figure to his homeless cousin and four other kids (the son of his archenemy, his clone, his supposed daughter from the future, and an honest to God ex-Satanist), and he got to marry Lois Lane.
I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT
So, there’s worse things to be.
[Wing: SERIOUSLY. Also, Lois Lane *swooooooon*]
Algie’s mom picks him up from school, and she gets the sense of the kind of crap he’s going through and assures him it’ll get better. At home, and this part is actually kind of cute even if it doesn’t advance the plot, we find out Algie’s been trying to practice playing computer games with his feet. Why? Because he read about how Houdini was able to do all sorts of shit with his feet like write and pick locks. That’s so… ORIGINAL. Algie is sick of being seen as the “weird” kid but he does stuff like this without a shred of embarrassment or worry of what others would do if they found out. The hang up is on everyone else, not him. But Algie’s still got a ways to go, and the computer beats him a few times. Switching back to his hands, Algie thinks about the grief Jason gave him for the rest of the day, and how he’d like to pay him back.
Algie has his first Graveyard School morning the next day, learning the dread Dr. Morthouse skulks behind the front doors before the bell rings, watching the kids as a vulture would watch its prey. Algie bumps into Kirstin, and cautiously introduces himself. Algie figures Kirstin’s the type who never gets picked on, or rather, wouldn’t allow it.
“Algie Green,” she finished for him. “That’s a weird name.”
“My parents picked it. They are kind of weird,” Algie admitted.
Kirstin introduces Algie to the core kids, Park Addams, Stacey Carter, Jaws Bennett, Skate McGraw, and Vickie Wheilson. When Kirstin mentions Stacey earns money by dog walking, Algie brings up he has a paper route but immediately worries that might’ve been the wrong thing to say. Instead, he’s asked if he uses a skateboard to deliver the papers or if he has time to play sports. [Wing: Using a skateboard to deliver papers sounds like it would be simultaneously amazing and terrible. Also, for a new kid, Algie’s certainly jumped to find a job. That’s delightful. And finally, Random Wing Fact: Delivering papers was my second job, and I did it well into being able to drive.] Algie reports no, he uses a bike, and since he delivers in the afternoon he doesn’t have time but come baseball season he can switch to a morning route. [Wing: … so wait, does this town have two editions a day? Because if not, it seems unlikely they would have both a morning and an afternoon route.] Algie genuinely feels like things are looking up, so of course Jason comes along and ruins it by sneaking a fake rat in Algie’s locker. Algie’s screams catch the attention of Dr. Morthouse, but Kirstin steps in and reports someone pranked Algie. Impressively, Dr. Morthouse’s evil eye has no effect on Kirstin. [Wing: Because Kirstin is the BEST.] Dr. Morthouse departs with the fake rat in her grip, warning both Algie and the actual possible culprits she is NOT amused.
Jason shows up and is all “No hard feelings right?” Kirstin, however, point blank tells Jason it was a stupid joke, which pisses him off. The rest of the day Jason doubles down on his teasing of Algie, insinuating he needs to be protected by his “girlfriend.” Wow Jason, way to be original. At lunch Algie almost catches a reprieve as he sits with Park and the others. Algie gets to meet Maria Medina and puke perfect Polly Hannah, who of course has to remind Algie of Jason’s prank the previous day. Maria openly expresses her disgust at Polly’s rudeness before asking Algie where he’s from and about his paper route. Algie and Stacey bond over their shared desire for financial independence from their parents, while Polly eyes Jason and notes Algie will need all the help he can get.
Algie unwinds delivering papers, imagining he’s tossing them at Jason’s face, when he arrives home to learn he’s got a new client. Algie receives a letter from a “K. Bates, Seven Mile Hollow Road,” which reads as follows:
“For delivery of the daily paper precisely at 4:45 P.M. to the front steps of my house every weekday. Do Not Be Early. Do Not Be Late.
Do Not Linger.”
[Wing: I have SO MANY QUESTIONS about the details of the newspaper and the delivery schedules and practices in this town. SO MANY QUESTIONS.]
Alongside the letter comes a thick wad of cash. Algie has never been paid in advanced before, remembering the awkwardness from past buyers who let their bills accumulate until Algie had to politely ask for their money, which sometimes came in the form of bad checks. Oh shit Algie, hon, I feel you. One of the worst things about working in a comic store is dealing with regular customers who aren’t in for weeks or months but expect you to keep pulling their books for you, and no matter how many times you try to get in touch they never come in or even answer the phone. [Wing: Those people do not appreciate having a local comic book shop as much as they should. I’ve always wanted a good one that made me feel welcome as a girl (and then a woman) who loves comics, but NOPE.] It’s even worse when it involves comics they specifically ask you to order. Algie marvels at the fat stack of green daddies, and feels his luck is changing… until the following day when he learns Korman Bates is an ax murderer.
Park is horrified when Algie reports he’s delivering papers to Mr. Bates, and eagerly warns Algie everyone in Grove Hills knows he’s a murderer. Algie is incredulous, thinking Park’s teasing him like Jason when *WHAM* Jason throws a basketball at Algie’s face. While he’s quick enough to stop it from breaking his nose, it knocks his glasses off and they break in two. [Wing: What the ever loving fuck.]
“I guess I shouldn’t throw passes at boys who wear glasses,” said Jason as Algie stood up slowly.
[Wing: Oh, fuck off, Jason.]
But it’s Kirstin to the rescue, offering to let Algie use the electrical tape she stores in her locker for when she needs to fix her lucky soccer cleats. On the way Algie, Kirstin, and Park run into Vice Principal Lucre, who tells them not to dawdle otherwise they’ll miss the rest of their exercise period. [Wing: … so, gym class? Wait, this may be a US versus the world kind of thing.] Kirstin assures Algie Lucre isn’t the worst the school has to offer. When Algie quips the rest are probably ax murderers PARK, Kirstin says nah, that’s just Mr. Bates.
Kirstin is shocked when Algie tells her he’s got Korman Bates for a paying customer. Algie, not taking anything at face value, demands to know what, exactly, Mr. Bates did. If he murdered someone, who was it? Was Bates in jail? Was there a trial? A tell all book? Lifetime Movie Of The Week starring Ari Spelling and Daphne Zuniga? What happened? [Wing: All very good questions!] Park says this is just the thing everyone KNOWS, like how the ghosts of Bates’ victims wander Seven Mile Hollow Road attacking people demanding to learn where their heads are. Kirstin intercedes on this point, saying no one ever mentioned the ghost talked, reasoning why a ghost would go after total strangers to learn where their head is, and why a ghost would need a head anyway. The Seinfeldian turn the conversation takes convinces Algie Park and Kirstin are fucking with him, but Park continues to warn Algie before it’s too late.
Seven Mile Hollow Road is a pockmarked, two lane asphalt road on the far end of Grove Hill, going beyond Graveyard School until the asphalt dies out and is replaced by dirt and rocks. It winds past some farms and pastures before going into the nearby woods and swamp. Despite Algie’s insulted reaction to Park and Kirstin’s tales of woe, he saw no reason to take chances and arrived to Mr. Bates’ house on time (and left a note at home letting his parents know exactly where he was). The foreboding eeriness of the area leaves Algie considering two options: deliver the paper or return the money. He delivers the paper.
“Every man has a price,” he said. “When I get older, mine’s going to be a lot higher.”
[Wing: Oh kid.]
Biking past a “Do Not Enter” post signed by K. Bates, Algie is briefly awestruck by what a total wreck the Bates Abode is, so much so he falls off his bike. Scrambling to his feet Algie realizes someone else is nearby, and gets attacked by a large black bird. Algie chucks the newspaper at the bird, and as it flies off he realizes the stranger is just a tattered scarecrow in what used to be a vegetable garden. Algie reclaims the paper and makes a perfect toss to Bates’ front door. Pedaling away as fast he can, Algie isn’t sure if hears the mocking cry of a crow coming from above.
[Wing: This scene is awesome and actually kind of creepy. Nicely done, Stone.]
A couple of days pass, and while nothing changed at 7MH Road, Algie’s gotten a little jumpy and has taken the habit of making sure no one is able to sneak up on him by pressing his back to the wall. That doesn’t stop Jason from approaching Algie in the library to inform him of his candidacy for sixth grade class president. Oh boy, and I bet his slogan is “Make Graveyard School Great Again.”
“I thought I’d let you know. I’m running for class president this year. Again.”
“You’ve been president of the sixth grade before?” Algie asked before he could stop himself.
Algie made himself look innocent. He could almost see Jason thinking: If I kill him now, he can’t vote for me for class president.
[Wing: Literal laugh out loud at this.]
Jason explains he was president in every previous grade. He mentions how “good” Algie’s had the last few days (as in Jason hasn’t been harassing him), and promises Algie if he’d like to keep it that way, he should vote for Jason. Algie gets the death threat loud and clear. [Wing: Oh, great, this election is super USA.] Pleased at getting Algie’s “support,” Jason laughs in what he thinks is a friendly tone and leaves Algie to consider the grim possibilities. Silently pissed off, Algie looks down in the history book he was reading, and in the diagram of a neanderthal hunting its dinner he crosses out “Neanderthal” and writes “Jason.” That’s when Kirstin shows up and Algie almost has a heart attack assuming someone caught him in the act of committing such vandalism, but Kirstin’s all “Chill yo tits.” Kirstin asks Algie if he can help her with HER candidacy for class presidency. She’s officially at her limit for Jason’s bullshit and feels he doesn’t deserve the title because he’s acting like “A real politician.” [Wing: YES KIRSTIN KICK HIS ASS. POLITICALLY.] Algie doesn’t hesitate to offer both his vote and support, figuring Jason destroying him would be worth it for Jason to finally lose. Kirstin explains she wants Algie to help run her campaign, and that DOES scare him. Kirstin’s big, almost shark like grin as she asks Algie for help unnerves him enough he says yes. Kirstin eagerly thanks him and says they’ll meet at his house on the weekend to discuss battle plans. The thought of his parents gushing about his “girlfriend,” dealing with Jason, and Mr. Bates wanting his head leads to Algie reopening the history book, crossing out “dinner” in the diagram and writing his own name. [Wing: Oh, kid. You are adorable.]
Several kids help Kirstin and Algie makes posters for her campaign, even the dreaded Polly Hannah. Polly simply can’t stop making snide remarks about what Jason will do to Algie until Maria finally tells her to shut up. Kirstin, on the other hand, has total faith Algie can outsmart Jason. Maria brings up Mr. Bates and Park returns to his adamant belief about the headless ghost. Algie asks if he’s actually seen a ghost, and then questions again what Bates did specifically to create such infamy and how did the town react? If Bates has always lived in Grove Hill, was his supposed victim someone who also lived in town, and if so, who was it? Kirstin is more interested in the bloody, slashing looking way Algie’s writing her name on a poster, selecting it for her logo. Maria chimes in on the Great De-Bates, mentioning her father told her Bates ran a motel on the highway on the old road. [Wing: OF COURSE HE DID.] It shut down when the town constructed a new road because now he wasn’t getting any customers. Mr. Medina never said anything about ax murders, so Park hypothesizes the victim was a guest from out of town who got on Bates’ bad side, he snapped, and was all
Kirstin reminds Park he just made that whole thing up, but he’s all “You never know.” Kirstin adds that, if there IS a ghost, there’s no reason why it’s automatically connected to Mr. Bates.
“There isn’t a ghost,” Algie said. “I would have seen it by now, okay?”
“Maybe the ghost is waiting to catch you off guard,” said Polly.
“Shut up,” Algie said, surprising everyone, including himself.
Polly why the fuck do you even hang out with these people?
Algie puts up the first of Kirstin’s posters, which read:
KIRSTIN FOR PRESIDENT. VOTE SMART.
Jason immediately takes offense, and finally crosses the line into physical violence by grabbing Algie’s ponytail. He says if only smart people vote for Kirstin, that means only idiots would vote for Jason.
“That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it? That if you don’t vote for her, you’re stupid.”
“No, no at all.” Yes, yes, yes, you big dumb Neanderthal.
“Nice Guy” Jason is gone, and he threatens to rip Algie’s head off his neck when who should arrive but none other than everyone’s favorite janitorial custodian, Basement Bart. Jason immediately lets go of Algie and backs up as fast as his can, dwarfed by Bart’s dinosaurian, megalargian stature. Bart asks if the boys were gonna fight, and says if they ARE, it should be short and clean. None of that “sissy hair pulling” crap, he says in Jason’s direction. [Wing: On the one hand, good point. Make it brutal, make it clean. On the other hand, say that without the homophobia, Basement Bart.] Algie eagerly asks Jason if they’ll be fighting, and Jason mutters no, slinking off with his tail between his legs. Algie’s good mood is killed off fairly quickly when Bart snarks, cleaning the floor with his mop, “He’s gonna mop the floor with you kid.” OHHHHH IT FUNNY BECAUSE HE’S MOPPING AND BECAUSE OF PHYSICAL VIOLENCE. IT’S LIKE A PLAY ON WORDS. AHAHAHAHA part of me just died inside. [Wing: And I am laughing myself nearly to death at your reaction. It’s the circle of
Because SOMEbody let the air out of Algie’s tires he’s late delivering the paper to the Bates Estates. Algie tries to leave as soon as possible, the approaching evening gloom enhanced by the dark trees on both sides of 7MH Road. All thoughts of what trouble he’ll be in for being late for dinner vanish when Algie is confronted by a hulking, white-shrouded guest at the bridge. And here at last arrives the Headless Ghost of 7MH Road, but Algie doesn’t stop to exchange phone numbers, pedaling for the sake of survival until he’s back in the safety of his own home. Algie knows the ghost is after him and him alone, because why else would it chase after him on a bicycle?
At dinner, Algie asks his parents if they believe in ghosts. They’re not sure. Mr. Green had an “imaginative” friend who thought he’d seen one, and his mother’s aunt claimed she grew up in a haunted house. His parents being no help, Algie tells the kids at school about [INSERT TITLE HERE]. Stacey and the others eagerly ask question after question about who or what the ghost was and did.
“Park!” Stacey waved at Park. “Guess what happened?”
“They’re going to start using designated hitters in the National League, said Park.
“Forget baseball,” said Stacey.
A look of outrage crossed Park’s face.
Oh Park, love, never changer. (That’s a Sailor Moon joke)
Park and Stacey ask Algie if the ghost came after him with an ax and why it was riding a bicycle. Algie reports the bicycle angle was creepier than if it just floated by him. Park continues to “Ax” what Algie will do,[Wing: NOPE.] and Stacey is not amused with his vernacular comedy. Algie says he thought Park and Stacey would know what to do, but Kirstin does. She knows they need to put up the specially made stickers reading “Time To Vote Smart. Vote Kirstin.” Especially on the school clocks. Algie’s the only one not thinking of Kirstin’s campaign, surprisingly snarling at her about how his life is in danger. Park and Stacey fill Kirstin in on Algie’s brush with the bicycling dead. Kirstin is shocked, but firmly believes it’s just some idiot in a white sheet trying to scare him, maybe even Mr. Bates. Algie is surprised he’s considering Kirstin might be right, but gets pissed off again when Kirstin tries to tell him what to do “Next time.” After being asked if he’s really afraid of Mr. Bates, Algie stomps away into the school.
Jason immediately tries to make use of Algie’s story for good ammo.
“I hear Halloween came early for you, Green,” said Jason nastily, dribbling the basketball practically on the toes of Algie’s sneakers at recess.
Algie curled his toes under his sneakers and answered as calmly as he could, “As a matter of fact, Halloween just got here.”
Jason turns on his predatory “All-American Boy” smile, reminding Algie too much of Kirstin’s smile and wondering if anyone in this school is capable of smiling like a human being. He’s overwhelmed by how everyone is carrying on with their recess plans like normal, while he’s worrying about getting his head removed by a bicycling specter. But no, they’re either amazed, disbelieving, or acting like it’s business as usual. Welcome to Graveyard School Algie, hope you survive the experience!
On his bike ride to the Bates House, Algie is convinced Mr. Bates was indeed pranking him after remembering the explicit instructions NOT to be late. But what would happen if he’s late again? If Algie saw Bates, would he tell him to go fuck himself or laugh it off and politely request he stop? Was this Bates’ idea of a joke? Algie realizes he’s got no clue what type of person his client is, and somehow leads to the thinking that Bates’ possible past as a retired ax salesman got exaggerated through word of mouth until everyone thought he was a murderer. Uh… moving on, Algie does his thing and is on his way back down 7MH Road, but the ghost is back and decided to dress for the occasion.
It had on a suit. A loose, flapping suit that had a neon glow to it. It was an ugly suit. It would have been an ugly suit in any circumstances.
But this suit was really ugly. Because where the head was supposed to emerge from the collar and tie was nothing at all.
Unless you count the red ring around the collar.
The ghost moans for Algie to hand over his head, but Algie’s gut feeling tells him to back out while he’s still got a leg to stand in this heartrending conflict and keeps the ghost at arm’s length, cycling away and leaving the ghost behind. That’s using your brain, Algie.
Kirstin decides she’s going with Algie during his next trip to 7MH Road. Now everyone’s talking about Algie’s cool story and Polly Hannah won’t shut up about chainsaw massacres. Polly, angel, wrong franchise. Kirstin insists she’s helping Algie because she can’t have her campaign manager focusing on non-election related issues like cranium-impaired harbingers of death. [Wing: Come on, Algie, there are more important things to worry about, such as school elections, rather than life or death.] Algie is officially wondering if the entire school is crazy or just him, hoping his parents are planning to move for the umptillionith time. Since Kirstin’s not backing down, Algie tells her to meet him at 7MH Road at a quarter past 4. Algie’s barely able to focus on his other deliveries and makes several bad throws. Kirstin is unfortunately not there when Algie appears, marveling at how peaceful and serene the area is when he’s not being stalked by death itself. Did Kirstin forget, was she late, or is it now her turn to troll Algie? Once again, Algie’s late with the paper.
“Just ahead,” he said aloud, pretending he was a sports announcer, “is the famous Ghost Bridge. World champion pitcher and cyclist Algernon Green has been known to go over that bridge at speeds in excess of – of – twenty miles an hour.”
Algie pedals to and from Bates Land so fast his chain comes off his bike and he’s too frazzled to straighten it out. Greasy, dirty, and anxious, Algie’s mind wanders to dark places until he finally fixes the chain and is home free. Over the bridge and away he goes, Algie’s serenity is blacked out when the ghost steps onto the road. Algie breaks and falls, but the ghost grabs him. Only don’t worry, it really is Kirstin, apologizing for being so late. Kirstin’s all set to see the “alleged” ghost, searching the road for clues. Clues like bike tracks where the ghost appeared and chased after Algie. There’s a third set besides the ones made by Algie’s and Kirstin’s bikes, and they don’t match the tires on either bike. If the supposed ghost was really here, wouldn’t its bicycle not leave any tracks since the bike would be immaterial like its owner? After all, what kind of ghost would use a real bicycle to haunt someone? Impressed by Kirstin’s logic, the two search the surrounding woods for further clues but find none. Kirstin supposes whoever is doing this to Algie isn’t brave enough to carry on while Algie’s not alone, and it’s not possible for them to hide down the nearby creek because it’s too steep to get a bicycle up and down from there. Kirstin then asks if Algie really believes he’s dealing with a ghost, leaving Algie to ask if it’s not a ghost then what is it?
At school Jason makes a crack about Algie and Kirstin, the two ghostbusters, and Kirstin corrects him.
“That’s Ms. Ghostbuster to you, Jason,” said Kirstin, walking past him.
Petition to get Kirstin Bjork in the Ghostbusters sequel. [Wing: Seconded.]
Jason and his associates make joke after joke about Algie and his headless associate, which Algie tries to ignore on his father’s advice.
If people make fun of you and you ignore them, his father always said, they’ll stop. Just don’t let them know it bothers you.
Clearly, thought Algie, ignoring Jason in math class, my father was never a kid.
Park eagerly asks Algie about his investigation with Kirstin, and points out it’s odd the ghost changed clothes in-between hauntings. Algie figures if a ghost can come back from the dead it can where whatever the hell it feels like, which Park agrees with. A few more headless jokes from Jason, and Algie decides he’s done. He writes a letter to Mr. Bates terminating their relationship and returning all the money so Bates can make separate arrangements.
At the post office Algie purchases a stamped envelope for the letter, but realizes he doesn’t have a formal address to mail his resignation. The letter Mr. Bates sent didn’t have a forwarding address, and he doesn’t know what the zip code is. Not wanting to go anywhere 7MH Road again, Algie asks the clerk at the post office but she can’t help with the zip code since he doesn’t know the address, and the post office doesn’t give out addresses. When Algie finally says it’s for Mr. Bates of 7MH Road, Marty the mailman stops in his tracks and asks Algie to repeat the name and location. After Algie explains he’s been delivering papers to Mr. Korman Bates, he asks if the name and 7MH Road are enough for the letter. Marty says that won’t do, and neither will delivering it in person. Algie is so frustrated he wants to start breaking the packages marked “fragile” and has to restrain himself as he asks Marty to explain why.
“Because,” said Marty. “Because no Mr. Bates lives out on Seven Mile Hollow Road. In fact, I don’t think anyone named Korman Bates lives in Grove Hill, and I ought to know. I’ve been a letter carrier for thirty years. Walked every route in town.”
Gladys said, with sour satisfaction. “Then you don’t need a zip code at all.”
“What?” Algie couldn’t believe his ears. “This is some kind of joke, right?”
Marty gave Algie a reproachful look. “Son, I represent the United States government. I wouldn’t joke.”
“Are you sure?” asked Algie. “You’re sure no one named Korman Bates lives in Grove Hill? No one named Korman Bates lives out on Seven Mile Hollow Road?”
“Sure I’m sure. That road…” Marty paused and shook his head. “Bad news. Anyway, the old house at the end of it used to be the old Bates place. No one’s lived there for years, though. The last of the Bates family, brothers they were, they’re long gone. One came to a bad end, had an accident chopping wood… buried the poor guy with his ax. The other one, he left and went to work for one of those big fancy hotel chains. Why, there hasn’t been a Bates in this part of the country for years.”
[Wing: Because clearly the United States government would never
be a joke.]
Say it with me now.
Algie spends the rest of the day on autopilot, realizing somewhere along the line the story of the two Bates brothers got mangled and twisted to the point everybody believed the house at 7MH Road was home to a bloodthirsty killer with a head fetish. Ashamed at himself for not realizing the house was deserted, Algie decided to inspect the place closer than he had done before.
Algie returns to 7MH Road, and so does the ghost. Algie’s not scared this time, even as the ghost pedals after him, moaning for his head. Algie says the ghost isn’t a ghost and he knows who it is, because how else could the ghost know his name? Too bad the ghost doesn’t listen as it chucks an ax in Algie’s direction, and when that misses it abandons the bike and flies towards Algie. Algie can see all the way down the ghost’s bloody stump of a neck as it asks for his head…
And Algie wakes up from the nightmare in a cold sweat. As he calms down, Algie realizes he’s known, like he’s always known on some level, who the “ghost” is, and thinks about what he’ll do about it.
Algie smiled in the darkness. He couldn’t see himself smile, but if he had, he would’ve realized something.
He’d officially become part of Graveyard School. He’d perfected the evil Graveyard School smile.
And it was truly terrifying.
They grow up so fast.
It’s Election Day at Graveyard School, and Kirstin and Algie are handing out pencils for potential voters. The pencils say “I Voted Smart. I Voted Kirstin.” Kirstin gives Algie the credit due for the idea. Kirstin tells the kids to keep the pencils as reminders for when she runs for governor, and then president. Why the fuck wasn’t she on the 2016 ballot? Buzzkill Dunnbar shows up, but his intimidation only earns matching smiles from Kirstin and Algie. Algie gives Jason a pencil, telling him he’s still got time to vote smart. Jason snaps the pencil in two. Algie doesn’t care.
Algie kept the smile on his face. He wasn’t afraid of Jason anymore.
And if Jason wasn’t through with Algie, well, it was Jason who was going to be sorry…
The polls are opened and Algie votes smart, giving a thumbs up to Kirstin and receiving a friendly, warm smile back from her and a scowl from Jason. The results are tallied in the auditorium, and Algie’s announcement that he’s “cancelled” Mr. Bates is cut short by the good Doctor.
“Quiet, please,” Dr. Morthouse said into the microphone. She smiled out at the students, and something shiny glinted in her mouth.
Algie assures Kirstin he’s gonna take care of his ghost problem after school by himself.
“Students,” said Dr. Morthouse. She gave the packed auditorium the old school smile.
Silence instantly fell.
“Goooood,” said Dr. Morthouse.
Doc M’s speech on how the student officials of today are the leaders of tomorrow marks elicit concern from Park, but to no one’s surprise the sixth grade class president is Kirstin! Amid the rapid applause in the auditorium, Kirstin humbly thanks the students for voting smart and openly expresses earnest thanks for the hard work Algie did for her campaign, which earns Algie some applause of his own.
After school Kirstin addresses Algie by his full name, saying her first priority as student president is to help him deal with the Jason problem as thanks for his help. Kirstin’s giving something back to Algie and promises to take care of Jason, but Algie loudly declares his thanks and that he’s heading off to deliver his papers and he certainly doesn’t want to be late to Mr. Bates’ house. Oh is Jason listening? [Wing: SO SUBTLE.]
Algie appreciates Kirstin’s offer to help, but figures she’ll be too busy with official president stuff to do anything, and he’s more than content to settle Jason, having found the strength to go from Clark Kent to Superman. You see Algie, the power was inside you all along, like your blood cells or an unborn twin attached to your lung. Algie hopes his parents won’t be moving from Graveyard School, his home, anytime soon.
Inspecting the former Bates house, Algie can’t help but laugh at himself for what an idiot he’d been, not realizing the windows and front door were all boarded up. He’d never quite gotten close enough to the house to check. Having arrived at the bridge on 7MH Road early, Algie finds a hiding spot to put on his old Frankenstein’s Monster costume plus a glow-in-the-dark hockey mask. He hangs the mask from a branch to let it soak up enough light to look truly eerie in the dark. Moments pass, and then the so called ghost of 7MH Road appears at the foot of the bridge. Algie eagerly waits for the ghost to cross to the other side. Once it does, Algie cycles out screaming for a head. The “ghost” almost shits a brick and tries to flee, but Algie’s unable to control his laughter at the ghost’s cries of terror and gives himself away. The “ghost” gets off his bike, revealing himself to be, “shock,” Jason.
So HE was the murderer all along!
Algie doesn’t stop laughing as Jason marches towards him, but Algie’s not scared. Algie says he simply pulled the same trick on Jason which Jason pulled on him. Jason huffs his ghost costume’s not as good as his. Algie says Jason had more time, but admits it looks cool. Jason actually takes the compliment, and the two seem to, and this is really scary, talk like human beings as Jason explains his evolution from the sheet to the costume. But then Jason remembers Algie helped Kirstin beat him in the election. Algie cuts him off by asking where Jason got the money to pay Algie for the newspapers. Jason, confused, says he didn’t send Algie money nor did he ask him to deliver papers to Mr. Bates. Algie tries to explain that Mr. Bates doesn’t exist, yet Jason doesn’t believe him even as Algie mentions he thoroughly checked the house and says it’s abandoned. Although, Algie couldn’t find any of the newspaper he delivered even with the house being empty. So, if Jason didn’t pay Algie, or send the note, or hide the newspapers, who did? Jason’s still convinced it was Mr. Bates, and that’s when they hear it.
That’s when they see it.
At the foot of the bridge.
The real ghost.
It was dressed in ordinary clothes. That was one of the things that was so scary about it: the ordinary clothes. But somehow the ghost’s clothes made the costumes Algie and Jason were wearing look silly.
For one thing, it had an unearthly glow about it. For another, the ghost had on a funny-looking backpack, a strangely bulging backpack.
And worst of all, it held on to a helmet, which must have contained the ghost’s head. It was hovering, bicycle and all, nearly a foot above the ground. The whole apparition rippled and wavered against the gathering darkness behind it. It didn’t make a sound. But icy coldness seemed to be spreading out in a pool around it.
And all around them the woods had grown strangely silent.
Then it spoke. “Do you have my head?”
The sound was low and mournful. It was colder than ice and empty as death. And it wasn’t human.
Algie and Jason declare no, they do not in fact have the ghost’s head, and then they ride, ride for their lives back to their mommas as the ghost calls for them to wait up. When Algie looks back, the ghost is floating above a bend in the road, and it laughs. A laugh so horrible, the only thing worse was the realization that it’s coming from the bulging backpack and not the helmet. The boys don’t stop until they’re in their neighborhood, and only Algie is brave enough to admit he saw the ghost. Jason saunters off into the darkness, with Algie figuring he should at least try to mail the money back to say he made the effort.
Meanwhile, back at 7MH Road, the headless ghost finds Algie’s hockey mask, amused at the strange things human beings fear. Yet it considers their strangeness is why it likes them so much. Still floating silently above the ground, the ghost puts Algie’s backpack on a tree branch where it’ll be visible to passersby, but takes the newspaper out of the pack. The ghost makes room in its backpack by taking out its head.
Massaging her neck, sixth grade class president and captain of the soccer team Kirstin Bjork headed home.
[Wing: WAIT WHAT.]
Surprise! Kirstin was phone the whole time! And now it’s time to get down to biddness, as in… WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON??!!!
Did Kirstin send Algie the money? Why? Was she trying to lend him a hand by anonymously supporting his paper route? Was this a scheme to help Algie stand up to Jason, or was her plan to scare both of them? Was she killed by one of the Bates brothers if one of them was an actual ax murderer? Does Dr. Morthouse know she’s a ghost? What really happened to the Bates family? This is what I was talking about when I mentioned the ambiguity in the books, where it leaves you wonder what transpired.
I honestly think she really was trying to help Algie by sending him the money as Korman Bates, and the clue was there when you realize they both have the initials K.B.. Jason was just an eager bonus.
This one came more out of left field for me because I’d already read a few books with Kirstin in them before I read this, so I was more shocked to learn she’s a ghost then if I’d read this first.
[Wing: RIGHT? Surprise ghost is even more powerful when you’ve spent multiple books assuming she’s, you know, ALIVE.]
Jason was such a shithead I’m glad that even if Algie found some common ground with him they didn’t automatically become friends after pranking him back.
Oh, funny tidbit. This story, by accident or not, references a “Married with Children” episode when we learn Mr. Bates supposedly ran a motel and axed someone to death. There’s an early season two parter called “Poppy’s By The Tree” where the Bundys just happen to stay at the one motel where an ax murderer kills obnoxious tourists every five years. But hey, you get what you pay for in Dumpwater, Florida.
Graveyard School Grading System
- ADVANCED SCREAMING ( B )
- WEIRD SCIENCE ( F )
- COFFIN CARPENTRY ( A )
- SPOOKING FOR BEGINNERS ( C )
- HOUSE HAUNTING ( C )
- GRAVE DIGGING ( D )
- MULTIPLICATION FOR LITTLE MONSTERS ( A )
- A = ALARMING
- B = BEASTLY
- C = CREEPY
- D = DOWNRIGHT DISGUSTING
- F = FULLY FRIGHTENING
LEVY RASPUTIN has been a VILE student. So far LEVY has learned the importance of WARTS and is especially GROSS at SPIDERWEBS. LEVY works well with FANGS but needs improvement with GHOSTS. I have not seen such a ASHEN student in years.
Dr. D Morthouse
- Polly Hannah’s Wardrobe: N/A (But she does color with a pink marker)
[Wing: Seriously, a ghost president would be a VAST improvement in the USA.]