Part 13: Lies have long necks
“Time for you to pay!” Gretchen growls with a triumphant smile on her face, forcing him into the corner. There’s no way out. She’s taking a swing at him, but her arm is as heavy as lead. It seems unusual skinny to her, effectively meager. Her blow is without effect. She’s trying again and again with all her might, there’s no effect. Everything’s going black all of the sudden. Her body starts to feel strangely numb; she can’t move and drops –
Gretchen cringed, opening her eyes wide. Her heart throbbed. There was a loud roaring in her ears and she felt an oddish tingling in her limbs, almost as if her whole body was asleep.
“Damnit!” she hissed and rolled over violently.
Gretchen buried her face in her hands and rubbed her eyes. 5:09
She rolled on to her back, starring at the ceiling with narrow eyes. The voices in her head were running riot. She set up with reluctance and eventually got out of bed. Her body felt cold from sweating. Gretchen slightly shivered, pulled on her Bermuda shorts and a shirt, opened the door and closed it on the way out as cautious as possible. Prying eyes and annoying questions were the last things she needed at the moment.
Gretchen looked out of the window. The sun had casted its orange light on the twilit vicinity.
She got the ax out of the garage and walked to where she always did when she needed quiet – the alligator headed for a small stretch of woods nearby, to chop wood.
Chop. The fifth in a row – in a single night. Gretchen’s face, which just a moment ago had mirrored her sense of calm acquired in the fresh air and quiet, darkened again.
CHOP! It was always the same. She finally attained her aim after seemingly endless chases, put him where she wanted him, could finally get her long-awaited revenge. But every time she stroke out at him - … Chop! Gretchen screwed her face up a little more. Her thoughts started to run riot again. She just couldn’t – CHOP! Gretchen felt her face blushing with anger. CHOP!!
She couldn’t bear the thought.
“Rotten little - !!” CHOP!! His face flashed through her mind.
“ARGH!” CHOP! CHOP! CHOP!! The girl supported herself on the ax. ‘Weakness…’ The word etched itself into her mind. Gretchen’s face was taut with anger. ‘I DON’T HAVE ANY WEAKNESSES!’ a voice in her head insisted ‘and ESPECIALLY NOT for - !!!
“ROOAR!!!” CHOP!!! … creaaaaak – CRASH! The tree was ultimately chopped down. Gretchen, being as mad as hell, was standing in front of that wooden victim of her fury. It had become a lot hotter in the meantime. She just couldn’t bear the thought.
“Whom are you texting?” Patsy finally asked, realizing that her friend was glued to her screen all morning, which was very remarkable.
“Huh?” Nina’s reaction took a few seconds “uhm… no one you know.” The girl lied. She felt the lie slowly sliding down her throat to end as a knot in her gut.
Patsy narrowed her eyes to slits, looking askance at the giraffe.
“I get it…” she said unsmiling. Nina stared at her friend, feeling pretty uneasy.
“You’re in LOVE!” Patsy grinned “why didn’t you tell me?!” she shouted enthusiastic.
Nina felt relieved at the first moment, but that state didn’t last long. She twisted her mouth into a convulsive grin.
“What’s his name??”
“What?! Uh– “
“What does he look like???”
“Now, Gretchen is the only one missing!” Ruby joked “speaking of Gretchen, where is she?” she added wondering.
“I have no idea!” Patsy shrugged “haven’t seen her all morning.”
“Maybe she’s outside the house somewhere!” the giraffe interposed. She jumped to her feet and rushed towards the door before she stopped “uhm, Ruby? You don’t mind if I garage my device, do you??”
“Brilliant idea!” The pink-haired mongoose interrupted with relief “your device occupies half of our room!”
“Sure, as long as you don’t damage my car.”
“Thanks!” Nina said quickly and left the room. Her grin disappeared.
“Phew!” Nina gasped as she was trying to reach the garage on wobbly legs. It was one of those rare moments where she appreciated her long neck.
“I thought you’d never get that thing out.” A familiar voice said.
“Oh, hey!” she returned with a strained voice “where have you been?” “Uh, could you –? “ The alligator opened the garage gate.
“In the woods.” Nina put down the telescope carefully.
“So early in the morning?” the giraffe asked puzzled.
“I couldn’t sleep…” Gretchen replied frustrated and went inside.
“There you are!”Patsy welcomed the alligator “Where have you been? We were wondering...”
“I went out to chop some wood.” She answered.
“Have you heard the news?! Nina’s in LOVE. “The mongoose said with a giggle.
“Well, well!” Gretchen japed “Who’s the lucky man?!”
“She didn’t tell me…” Patsy answered a bit sulky “anyway, they were texting all the morning!” she continued enthusiastic.
“She’s probably sitting there in front of that telescope at this very moment, gazing at the stars and asking: ‘Dearest stars, is he the one?’” Gretchen said faux-lyrical, while putting her right hand on her chest, reaching out the other one heavenwards “Wahahaha!!”
“Probably!” The mongoose chuckled.
“You can’t come with us?! Why not?” Lazlo asked perplexed.
“Appointment?” he repeated wondering.
“With whom??” Raj asked.
“Nina?!” they uttered in unison “with a squirrel scout?!” Raj added.
“I didn’t know you were friends!” The monkey said a bit sheepish. Clam smiled.
“But - !” Raj uttered shocked “she is…one of them!” The rhino gave his friend a blank look and turned around to leave.
“Bye Clam! Have fun!” Lazlo shouted buoyantly. The elephant stood next to him open-mouthed.
“I cannot believe it!”
“What?” Lazlo asked puzzled.
“He’s ditching us to spend time with…that!” He continued aghast at his friends’ behavior.
“It’s not so bad Raj, Nina’s really nice!” the monkey assured “There’s nothing wrong if he’s meeting her.”
“Squirrel scouts are NEVER nice, Lazlo! Don’t you remember anything?!”
“ – “
“They might look nice from the outside!! But they’re pure evil!! They look nice to make you buy their Cookies! Until you can’t stop buying cookies and keep buying more and more cookies!! –“
“The cookies of EVIL Lazlo!!!”
“Man! These cookies are devilish good!” Mina interrupted.
“Agreed!!” Joana affirmed with her mouth full “hey Raj!-”
“AHHHHHH!!” the elephant screamed hysterical, running out the door.
“I was going to offer him some.” The mouse said chap-fallen.
“You really want to stay here instead of going whitewater rafting with us??” Patsy asked with irritation. Her cousin had just got the car out of the garage.
“I’m sorry but I have to accomplish my device.” The giraffe answered firmly.
“Very well then” The mongoose shrugged eye-rolling “see you later.” Nina’s cell phone made a noise.
“Is it your admirer again?!” Patsy said turning herself back to Nina, teasing her with a grin.
“No time for small talk Patsy! Have fun, see you later, bye!” the girl bounced her friend and closed the garage gate. The door lock made a clicking noise.
“Phew! That was close!” She soliloquized when somebody knocked at the back door.
“Very close!” she added.
“Hi Clam!” Nina welcomed him friendly.
“Hi Nina!” He saluted her as buoyant as ever “frowzy.” the rhino added sniffily.
“I’m sorry,” The giraffe said, looking bashfully at the ground “I had to relocate my device here.”
Clam looked at the telescope.
“Well, that’s it...” she said with a sheepish smile “I re-checked the whole construction” Nina stated with the blueprint under her nose.
“According to my calculations it should actually be possible to –“
“Done.” The rhino interrupted. Nina lapsed into silence, gazing at him.
“Testing!” He started pushing the object doorwards. Nina hadn’t moved an inch in the meantime. She was standing next to the backdoor, which was still open.
He had hardly left the garage when Nina’s eye was already glued to the telescope. Her eyes widened.
“AMAZING!” She shouted in excitement “you have to see this!!”
“Blinding!” Clam said squinting, blinded by the reflecting light.
“You did it Clam!” Nina shouted beaming.
“Uh no, we!” He corrected her and grinned, crossing his arms behind his back.
“Do you think they meet secretly??” Patsy asked psyched and giggled.
“Huh?” Gretchen stammered sleepy.
“She’s keeping something from us, Gretchen! I know it!” the mongoose said insistently with a straight face.
“Sure…” Gretchen yawned boredly.
“Why couldn’t you sleep last night Gretchen?” She asked a moment later. It took the alligator a few seconds to answer the question.
“Had a bad dream.”
“What was it?”
“What?!” Gretchen asked in annoyance.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” She answered, crossing her arms in a stubborn manner.
“C’mon Gretchen, you can tell me.” Patsy tried to encourage her friend.
“No thanks!” Gretchen refused.
“Tell me!!” The mongoose shouted impatiently, if not harsh.
“I TOLD YOU I DON’T –“the alligator growled angrily when Ruby barged in.
“We’re there!!” It sounded a bit like a desperate attempt at arbitration.
“Finally!” Gretchen moaned in annoyance and got out of the vehicle.
“Humph!” She uttered huffily and followed. Why didn’t anybody tell her anything? She looked at her phone screen. Nothing. Patsy heaved a sigh.
“I would leave that here if I were you.” Ruby advised, pointing at her cousins’ cell phone.
“What? Why?!” she responded startled.
“What happens if you put a phone in water?” Her cousin answered drily with one arm akimbo.
Patsy pulled a wry face, threw her bag back into the car and slammed the door.
In the meantime:
Diverse absurd, brilliant as well as totally useless ideas and bricolages later:
“Hungry.” Clam said.
“Me too…” Nina commented wearily. She heard the lock snap open.
“Wait for me Clam!” the giraffe cat-called him with an uneasy feeling.
Arrived at the corridor, Clam was nowhere to be seen as a clattering which was coming from the kitchen attracted her attention.
“There you are!” Nina said slight tensely, when she startled at the fact that all cupboard doors were open, even the one of the broom cupboard. Clam was standing in the middle of the kitchen.
He was holding an onion with a bite taken out of it in his left hand and a partly eaten bun in the other hand.
Nina went to the fridge to take an apple out of it.
“Alright! Can we go Clam?” She asked quickly “Clam??” the giraffe repeated baffled when she turned around, realizing that he was gone.
Nina stuck her head outside the door. Left, right…LEFT! The last door of the corridor stood open.
“Oh dear!” She uttered troubled, dashing into the room.
“Fun!” Clam shouted joyfully, while he was jumping on one of the beds.
“That’s GRETCHENS’ bed!!!” She shrieked out, covering her eyes with her hands in horror.
The rhino stopped jumping and let himself crash horizontally onto the bed.
There was a look of satisfaction on his face for a split second when something fell down with a thud and caught his attention. Clam turned his head around and spotted an ax and a pair of gloves.
A big grin flitted across his face. He sprang to his feet, gloved up and grabbed the ax. Nina uncovered her eyes warily. Clam pretended to take a swing.
“ROOOAR!” He bawled with sharp teeth, aping Gretchen’s bearing and her voice amazingly exact.
The giraffe couldn’t help laughing.
“I’m gonna get you CLAM!!” He continued aping. Nina cracked up with laughter literally by falling over her own bed.
The boy took a leap on the bed right next to her and started to jump once more.
“Nina too!” he called for her to join him. Nina sat up.
“Well, actually -!” she attempted to explain.
“Nina too!” he repeated and grabbed her arm to jerk her, so that she was forced to stand up.
“Whoops!” She uttered in surprise, trying to keep her balance, which was not so easy with all that wobbling. His jumping was so vigorous that she started hopping automatically.
“ – Hey!...This is fun!” Nina shouted slaphappy.
“Come in Raj! This is fun!” Lazlo invited his friend once more to join them, who kept his seat like he did the last few times.
“I’ll be right back.” Lazlo told his friends before he got another load of water right into his face.
He sat down next to Raj, who was – almost – completely enveloped in a towel. Only his face showed up.
“You haven’t dipped into the water even once since we arrived… what’s biting you?” Lazlo asked concerned.
“I-I don’t want to go…” he halted unstably.
“Why not?... I thought you had overcome your …uhm…what was Clam calling it again?”
“He sure would tell you this himself if he wasn’t having a great time with Nina at the moment!”
He responded caustically.
“You shouldn’t be mad at him…” the monkey said “Besides, you can have fun with us!” Raj looked worried again. He turned away.
“That’s not it.” The elephant boy said so low, that one could scarcely hear what he was saying. His heart started pounding.
“Is it about the dirt? The water is quite clean!”
“N-no Lazlo…, it’s – “
“Guuuys?!” Joana called out to them. Raj creased his face. She got out of the water, heading their way.
“Why are you just sitting here?” the mouse asked wondering, when she noticed Raj’s suspect state.
Mina and Philip were on their way out as well in the meantime.
“Is anything wrong?” she asked caring. He stared straightforward. Raj was incapable of moving, let alone speaking.
“Raj suffers from … - how do you call it when someone is scared of water?” Lazlo asked clueless, scratching his head.
“No, no. There’s another word for that…”
“What’s wrong?” Mina asked.
“Raj is water-repellent.” Joana answered sympathetic.
“Mh, I wish I was...” The raccoon-girl said, wringing out her tail.
“What’s the problem?” Philip asked unlovingly, being the last one to arrive.
“Raj’s scared of water…I thought he’d gotten over it.” Lazlo replied guiltily.
“Well, that makes more sense…” Mina said.
“How can one be scared of water??” the squirrel commented gruffly.
“I am NOT!!” Raj blurted testily. He was still hiding under his towel.
“Then why are you sitting here?” the mouse asked puzzled. Raj squinnied. His stomach cramped.
A sneer flitted across Philips face as he reached out to tear him off the towel. Joana slapped his hand, looking askance at her boyfriend, who crossed his arms offended as a result. She put her head under the towel.
“Eek!” He uttered alarmed, while he was blushing like a peony.
“Come with me!” she said lively and grabbed his hand.
“N-n-no!!” he stuttered out panicky, trying to draw back his hand quickly. Philip rolled his eyes.
“Come on Raj! There’s no need to sit here!” Lazlo spirited the boy anew, took his arm and stood up.
Joana virtually pulled him towards sea, in fact so much that she nearly made him trip.
The weak-kneed boy was forced to keep step with the girl, staring dumbfounded at her hand clutching his.
A few hours later:
“Ohh - Ouch!” Nina blurted out as she awoke. She found herself horizontal on her bed, or more precisely, it was only her neck which was horizontal. The rest of her body was sitting vertical in front of the bed, which had caused a very painful bracing. There was an opened astrology book on her right.
She straightened herself slowly, looking at Clam, who was asleep as well. He lay on his back, surrounded by Nina’s science fiction books. The giraffe had a scare.
20:47 „Oh no!“ she shouted alarmed and set straight her glasses. The girl jumped to her feet so quickly, that she became giddy.
“…Back hurts!” Clam complained, straightening himself as well “really uncomfortable!”
“Look at this mess!!” the giraffe shouted exasperated.
SNAP! “We’re back!” Patsy exclaimed when she got out of the car “Ninaaa?”
“Did you hear that?!?” Nina gasped.
“Nina?!” Patsy shouted once more. She stuck her head through the gap between garage gate and wall. All she saw were heaps of parts and apparatuses that she couldn’t place.
“She’s probably inside, reading her science fiction stuff. Let’s go.” The alligator said.
“They’re back!!” Nina shrieked hysterical, hastening through the room to tidy it up.
“You have to go Clam, NOW!” she said panicked, pushing the boy towards window, which headed in the backyard. She yanked it open “I’m so sorry!!!” the giraffe added guiltily and pushed him out.
Nina bolted out of the room, nearly running into her friends.
“O-oh, hey!” she uttered convulsively grinning “did you have fun??”
“Looks like someone was very hungry!” Ruby shouted from the kitchen.
“U-uhm, yes…sorry!” Nina said with a sheepish smile.
“What have you done to your hair?!” Patsy asked screwing up her face.
“M-my hair?” the girl wondered, touching her head “oh, that!...I had a nap!” At least that was no lie.
“Cold in here!” Patsy soliloquized with a shiver when she entered the bedroom “what’s the window doing standing wide open??” she complained heading its way, but Nina leapfrogged her and slammed it.
“I needed fresh air!” the giraffe explained tensed. A few seconds passed.
“If you’ll excuse me, the garage is a mess!” she said quickly to scram anew.
“Wait a second…” Patsy said. Nina gulped. “There’s something on your back.” The mongoose removed it. Nina starred at the object tensely, while her friends examined the short, blond hair with quizzical expressions. All of the sudden, a light flashed in their eyes.
“Well, thanks!!” she smiled constrained and rushed out.
“Hey Clam!” Lazlo greeted his friend as he entered his room “Did you have fun?”
Raj did not deign to look at Clam. This day had been exhausting enough without him and he was still mad at the rhinoceros.
“What are these… gloves, Clam?” Lazlo asked quizzically. Clam looked down at his hands.
“Clam forgot to take off. Gretchen’s gloves.” Even Raj was staring at him now. Fright and disgust were written large in his face, while Lazlo looked rather confused.
“Why are you wearing them in the first place?!” the elephant griped hostilely.
“For fun.” He answered.
“What is funny about a bunch of – YECCH! Do not get that near me!” Raj screamed frightened while repulsed when Clam approached him “who knows what atrocities that murderous crocodile has perpetrated with these things!!”
“Ehehehehe! Deadly gator germs!!” Clam teased him, approaching the elephant.
“Ah! Go away Clam!!” He shouted upset and dashed his pillow at his friend, which hit him right in the face. The rhino gave him an angry look, flinging one of his gloves at Raj, which hit him right in the face, too. SPLAT!
“Ahhhhh!” Raj shrieked in horror “GET IT OFF ME!!!” he threw it back at Clam on impulse. SPLAT!
Raj rubbed his hands clean on his legs hastily.
“Grr!!” Clam snarled “Sissy!”
“Traitor!!” He retorted.
“Guys please!” Lazlo interrupted “Stop fighting!!”
“He started it!” Raj defended himself angrily. Clam scowled and flopped himself down on his bed stubbornly with clenched fists.
“Is everything all right??” Mina bolted in. She saw Clam and Raj sitting on their beds with angry faces, while her boyfriend was sitting between them, looking pretty lost.
“Great!” Raj grumbled low-voiced and got up “I’m going to wash my face now!” he snubbed angrily and left.
Two hours later:
“I told you she’s keeping something from us!” Patsy said for what Gretchen thought was the zillionth time.
“I got it Patsy!” she replied in annoyance.
“ Anyway: When she walks in I’ll –“
They were interrupted by Nina, who was just entering the room. The two girls became silent instantly. Nina avoided making eye contact with her friends.
She knew on her own that Patsy hadn’t stopped thinking about what had happened earlier, which set Nina’s teeth on edge.
She sat down on her bed and grabbed her science fiction book immediately to give no rise to any conversations.
Patsy chuckled. Nina peered over her book cautiously. She caught sight of two grinning faces.
Patsy chuckled again.
“Is there…a problem?” the giraffe asked with a doubtful feeling.
“I don’t know?” Patsy replied faux-naif “I was hoping you could tell me.” she giggled.
“Is there something you’d like to say, Neckerly?” Gretchen asked provocative.
Nina gulped. She starred into her book as if she was hoping to find an excuse in there.
“W-well…,” she started “you know, I’d love to talk to you guys all night but I’m really tired!” Nina faked a yawn and put her book aside to lie down.
“I bet you are!” Patsy said with a giggle.
“Uhm…good night then!” the giraffe said quickly and rolled over.
“Sweet dreams.” Gretchen teased low-voiced. They looked at each other, chuckled and lay down as well.
The blond girl pulled the blanket over her head, took a deep breath and closed her eyes, before she opened them wide again a split second later. She stared into the darkness bug-eyed. Gretchen kicked her blanket to the foot of the bed.
‘This is not possible, this is not possible, THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE!!’
Patsy screwed her face and put the light back on.
“All right??” she asked puzzled while facing Gretchen, who was lying on her back, looking kinda uptight.
“Uhm, y-yeah. All’s well.” She answered shakily trying to hide her nervousness.
“Okay…” the mongoose replied confused and switched the light off again.
‘THIS. CANNOT. BE. POSSIBLE.’ It ran through Gretchen's mind again. She squinnied.