Those Youngling Varmints
Judy was determined to give her dog a bath, but Bella was not having any of it. No matter how Judy commanded in her "I'm the master" voice, the lab just pranced around, panting, appearing to almost laugh at her in sport. Finally, worn out from Bella giving her the slip, Judy caught the dog by the collar and lifted the fifty pound canine up off the floor. Bella didn't protest and enjoyed the brief moment of being carried by her human, in fact she gave Judy a few dog-lick kisses. Hauling the pooch up to the top of the steps to the second floor bathroom, Judy with a sense of victory maneuvered Bella over the tub, and released the animal into the water below. The high-pitch yelp of a child suddenly cried out.
"Mom!" Judy realized her son Danny was in the tub taking his nightly bath.
Daniel’s 11-year-old sister Darla, who became startled by the commotion, emerged from her bedroom to investigate. She had been in grey sweatpants and a green football jersey with the number 23 on it. White fluffy slippers snuggled her feet. Rolling her eyes, she guessed that her mom planned to wash the dog, but failed to notice her little brother already in the tub. Parting her long brown hair out of her face, she almost pleaded with her mother. “Keep it down. I’m working on my report for tomorrow.”
"Oh, sorry, honey,” Judy apologized to her stunned boy. “I didn't set the bath water for you, but for Bella. I didn't even know you were there." The dog and the boy both sat up. Bella licked Danny's face and he giggled. He wasn’t hurt in anyway.
“Mom...that was partly my fault. I heard the water running and thought it was Danny’s bath time.” Scolding her mother, Darla raised her voice. “Why are you washing Bella at this time anyway?”
“Bella found a mud puddle outside and was just filthy. I rinsed her off with the hose, but she smelled so bad that I thought I’d wash her up.” Glancing at her wristwatch, Judy blurted, “Oh, I guess it is time for Danny’s bath.”
Danny asked, "Well, then can we both share the bath?"
“You’re not seriously gonna let him take a bath with a dog, right?” Darla was certain her mother wasn’t crazy enough to let her brother do that.
Judy had responded to Darla. “Of course not. Don’t you need to go finish your report?”
“I’m trying to. You’re all being so loud out here.” She considered how her brother was now all covered with Bella’s hair. “Dang, Danny. Look at all that dog hair on you.” Darla retreated to her bedroom.
Her mother answered the blonde six-year-old’s dog-bath-sharing question. "Danny, you can’t take a bath with the dog. That wouldn't be good. Your sister’s right. You’re already covered with dog hair."
Danny scanned his arms, tee-heeing at the sight of Bella’s hair on them. “Look at me, I’m turning into a dog.”
His mom advised, "Why don't you go downstairs and take a shower instead?"
Danny left the bathtub, dried himself off, trying to scrub as much of Bella off of him as he could, and he wrapped himself up at the waist and headed towards the basement to take the shower his mom suggested. Bella barked after Daniel as he scuttled away from her sight.
Just as Judy poured the special dog coat shampoo and readied the scrub brush, Bella suddenly bolted out of the water, taking a puddle's worth with her, splattered it all over the linoleum, and followed after Daniel, barking the whole way.
"Oh, no you don't, Bella." Judy chased after her, but the dog had a four-leg advantage. In fact, Bella scampered away so quickly, she lost sight of where the pet had gone. She called up the stairs to Darla. “Hey, Darla. Can you help me with Bella for a second?” Absolute silence was what came out of Darla’s room. Muttering, “When I want them for something, they suddenly become hard of hearing…” Even louder, she called, “Darla. Take a break from your homework for a sec. I need your help.”
An audible sigh bloomed behind Darla’s closed bedroom door which was something she did whenever she felt inconvenienced by her mother. The door clicked open, and Darla yelled in annoyance. “Mom…I’ve gotta finish my homework! It’s due tomorrow.”
“Well, if you started it two weeks ago like you should have, you’d be done by now. Anyway, this won’t take long.” Judy could have done this task herself, but she preferred to have Darla chase after Bella because it would be easier on her. That was what kids were for, she thought.
“Why can’t you do it?”
“Because you’re younger than I am.” Smirking, Judy almost said this with a degree of playfulness.
“God, Mom.” Darla thumped her way down the steps and gave her mother an evil eye. “You’re not that old.”
Judy hunched over, placed her hand on her back, and imitated an elderly woman walking around with a cane. “Oo, my aching back. Can you help an old lady out, dearie?”
Rolling her eyes, Darla huffed and puffed. “God, Mom. You’re so childish. I should be the parent.” Since her mother would not relent on the elderly woman character she played, Darla gave up. “Fine. But, if I don’t finish my report on time, I’m gonna tell Mr. Graham that it’s all your fault.” Then, glancing side-to-side, she wondered, “Where’d she go?”
“Oh, dearie, I think that canine followed your brother down the stairs into the shower in the basement.”
“Stop doing that, Mom. It’s humiliating.” Stomping the entire way, Darla would comply with her mother’s request, but she wanted to make sure that she made loud and clear the eleven-year-old did not approve of this imposition—or a mother who couldn’t act her own age.
Finding the half-bath in the basement by following faint dirty dog prints, Bella must have entered this area. Danny must have been enjoying his shower, because the glass to the door was totally fogged up. Darla saw the prints leading into the shower, so the dog had to be in there with Danny. What was bizarre was that the spray of the nozzle sounded more like it rushed out of a faucet striking water as it pooled underneath. Only, there was no such faucet down here. Not only that, it seemed to be distant.
Pounding on the shower door, Darla demanded, “Danny. That dog better not be in there with you or you’ll be in big trouble.” Either Danny ignored her or couldn’t hear her, but Darla received no response from her brother. “Danny. I know Bella’s in there with you. Don’t make me open this door.” However, nothing, but there were barks that only Bella could possibly make, and like Danny, they seemed coming from far away. “Alright, Danny. I’m counting to 3. If you don’t open this door, I’m gonna open it. You’re gonna be in trouble with Mom.” Again, her brother said nothing. “Okay, I’m counting. One…open up.” She again thudded her fist against the door. “Danny…okay, that’s two.” Darla became impatient with her little brother. “Okay, Danny…I’m almost at three. You’re gonna get in trouble.” This threat would get her nowhere with him. “That’s it, Danny. Three. I’m opening this door.”
Darla hated to barge in on his privacy, but she gave him fair warning. She was the big sister, after all. “Fine. Have it your way.” Prying the door open, swinging it into the small finished half-bath, Darla couldn’t believe it. The only thing she saw at first was a bunch of fog, but daylight was shining through it. There were no walls, no shower head, or no hot and cold nobs. “What the heck?” She backed her head out and saw the bathroom had not changed and that she indeed was still in her own home. Everything was the same, except for the shower. It looked like a big empty space that led to the outdoors. Only…it was night outside, so she thought. All of a sudden it was daytime. “Danny?” Darla still heard his voice echoing along with Bella’s barks. The noise of rushing water was even more prevalent and of greater volume than a standard bathtub faucet, almost like something heard at a water park.
Darla stepped out into the fog and below her feet was a cobblestone pathway. She followed it, but took a glance behind her to discover the fog had now obscured her view of the house. The air smelled of flowers and a strong spice that resembled apple and cinnamon, and it also felt warm and humid. Her sinuses opened up after being subjected for so long to the dryness of her home. She forced a long, deliberate breath up her nasal passages, and she indulged in the wonderful aroma that now enveloped her.
With the gentle roar of cascading wetness off a-ways, she began to relax in a manner that she never had done before in her young life. “Whatever this place is, it’s totally nice.” For only being eleven, she had way too much tension, and Darla knew that about herself. Adults often complained that she took on more stress than should be allowable for someone her age, but she always was the type of girl to worry about everything. Her family’s financial struggles, school, other kids at school, world hunger, natural disasters throughout the Earth, and whatever she heard on the news had weighed on her mind, as if it was her sole responsibility to do something about all these issues. However, all that had melted away standing in this impossible place.
As she continued on the pathway, her brother’s voice became closer, as well as Bella’s barking. Finally, the fog gave way and in front of her was a small lake or a pond of crystal clear water. On both sides of her were dark green leafy plants with fiery-colored flowers as big as the palm of Darla’s hand. A small waterfall, perhaps ten feet high, explained the racket as it flowed from a tiny creek, giving source to the lake. With the Sun in the deep blue sky, Darla’s face basked in the warmth and brilliance of its rays. “This place seems like Heaven. I hope I haven’t died.”
Up ahead, nearly 30 yards away her brother was rinsing the suds from his body-wash out of his hair and eyes. He literally had been taking a shower underneath the benign waterfall. The depth of the lake came up to his waist. Bella enjoyed herself by running around Danny and going under the fall a few times. Danny dove underneath the surface and came up to practice the swim strokes he had learned in lessons last summer. That boy sure was having a blast gliding on top of the water, doing a front crawl with his bare bottom wiggling in the air. Ending at the shore of the lake, the cobblestone path wound around until it ended right at the point where it was even with the fall. A ramp led straight down into the water. Danny’s forest green towel had been tossed on big leafy plants on the right side of the path, just before it sloped downwards.
Bella noticed Darla strolling towards the lake and bolted up the ramp to greet her along the cobblestone path. The animal barked excitedly, almost as if explaining how she and Danny discovered this tiny, impossible paradise. Suddenly, the dog shook its coat dry, spraying water all over Darla.
“Hey, girl. You got me all wet.” She reached out to stroke her behind her ears, but then Bella dashed back into the water.
Darla was not prepared to go into the water, but as she approached the sloping end of the path, she knelt down to feel the lake with her hand. The temperature had been just right for taking a bath in, so nice and warm. She was tempted to run and retrieve her swimsuit. Darla called out to Danny, “Danny. What is this place?”
As he continued to splash, dive and reemerge from below the water, Danny swam around without a care in the world. He stopped and stood long enough to face his sister. Danny responded, “It’s like a magic place. The water is so warm. I took my shower here. It’s like a giant bathtub.”
“Well, just be careful in case the water suddenly drops off. I don’t want to have to jump in and rescue you.” She was envious that he got to enjoy this place, but she could only stand and watch. Looking around, she tried to figure out what added the heat to the pond. Darla also started to believe that she had dozed off doing her homework and this was a bizarre dream. Well, being such an awesome dream, Darla wished to continue it as long as possible. “You know what, Danny? I’m gonna go get my swimsuit. I’ll get yours, too.” Since all of this was a fantasy, she wouldn’t worry about Danny drowning or anything. None of this could possibly have been real.
Shuffling back along the cobblestone path, Bella barked in protest of Darla leaving and decided to chase after her. Passing through the layer of fog, Darla slowed her steps as there was no visibility. Her arms swung in front of her as she hoped to feel her way through the shower and into the bathroom in the basement.
“What?” Darla questioned in panic. A wall had blocked her return into her house and she padded around for what should have been the shower stall. Only, she ran her hands over the barrier in front of her, unable to see it, and it felt exactly like the tiled wall of the shower stall. “Now how am I gonna get back?” Bella rubbed her snout along Darla’s right side, and she gave an ear splitting bark. “Bella. Do you see a way to get back into the house?” However, the dog would not be of any assistance, heavily panting and pawing at the wall. She barked once more.
“Darla?” Danny had cried and must have been walking up behind her.
“I’m over here, Danny. Through the fog.” Darla regained all the tension she had first lost upon entering this paradise. Paradise wasn’t so nice if it meant being trapped inside of it.
“I can’t see you,” he whined.
“Just keep following the path. You’ll bump into me. Or Bella.”
Darla hammered her fist against the wall. “Mom! Help!”
Meanwhile, Judy had become absorbed in the island adventure of contestants on a reality T.V. show. It had been a half-hour or so since Darla went to retrieve Bella, but so far hadn’t come out of the basement. Since she heard no commotion from either of her children or the family pet, she considered herself fortunate to have a moment of peace. With her husband’s second shift work schedule, she was stuck with the burden of feeding them, compelling her kids to finish their homework, and transitioning them towards bedtime. Darla had been a big help, but she, too, needed adult guidance, especially now that she was coping with physical changes that happen to girls her age. This only added a layer to a pile of responsibilities suddenly tossed on the eleven-year-old since beginning fifth grade. However, all that quiet was unnerving. As bedtime approached, Danny usually turned into a hyperactive menace with an attitude. Bella only added to the chaos. Silence at this time in the evening never happened.
“Hey, Darla!” Judy lazily yelled from the couch, unsure if she could even be heard. “What’s taking you so long?”
Danny had joined his sister in rapping on the wall, shouting for their mother to come rescue them. They both had attempted to find a way to go around the wall, wandering off the path and wading through shrubs and bushes. Trying to keep his towel around his waist, Danny had to rescue it from being snagged on branches that were determined to steal it from him, so it seemed. However, they had no luck. The wall simply extended for miles, possibly.
Holding her face in her hands, Darla began to cry. “I can’t believe we’re stuck in this place.”
Danny offered his advice. “Maybe we should get out of this fog. You know, go back out of it so we can see if there is a way back home.”
“Well, that’s a better idea than I could come up with. C’mon, Bella.” Darla had no idea where the black lab had gone. The dog continued amusing itself pacing in and out of the fog zone.
The two kids again followed the path away from the fog and found the clearing where they could see the lake and the waterfall once more. Only, as soon as they reached that point of visibility, they screamed and Danny dodged behind his sister while Bella barked protectively. Right before them was this man who had been maybe nine feet tall with black mussed hair. He had a nose and a mouth with two fangs protruding from his bottom jaw. Instead of two eyes, he had a large solitary one in the center of his forehead. It was all red around his iris with a black pupil. The monstrous man wore a one piece sleeveless tunic, muddy brown in color that came down to his knees. At the sight of the two children he cringed backwards and balled himself up on the ground.
“Ahh! Leave me be! Leave me be!” He cried. “Don’t melt me! Don’t melt me!”
Here was this beast of a man who no doubt could crush both Darla and Danny in the grip of his one hand, and he appeared to be terrified of them. Darla, being the brave young woman that she was, dared to speak to the blubbering man-monster. “What are you? How can you be scared of us? We’re scared of you. I mean, look at you.”
Not even venturing a glance at them, he explained himself to Darla and Danny. “I know what you little runts are capable of. Us know you shoot fire out of your eyes. That you’s bites is poisonous. That you’s with your very minds can blows us all up. Go away from me.”
Danny laughed at the frightened monster. However, Darla scolded him. “Don’t make fun of him, Danny.”
“But I can’t help laughing. He’s a big, scary monster and he’s afraid of us. That’s funny.” Danny crept up to him and yelled, “Hey mister. Boo!”
This freaked out the one-eyed giant so much he sprawled himself out facedown and he covered up his head with his arms. Darla grabbed him by the arm. “Stop that, Danny.”
“Ow. Let go,” he wiggled free from her.
“Listen mister,” Darla hoped to reassure him. “We aren’t gonna hurt you. I don’t think we can hurt you. I can’t shoot fire out of my eyes and neither can my brother.”
“No. Us know all about the younglings of your kind. Go away. How’d you get here anyway?” His voice was quite muffled as he kept his mouth down along the cobblestone. “Ah, Martha! Martha! Come help me. We’s got youngling varmints.”
“Look, mister. We just want to go home. Somehow we entered this strange world from the shower in our bathroom in our house. How do we get back?” The giant lifted his head to ogle the two kids.
“Oh. Martha must have accidentally opened the door that separates us Cyclops from you’s varmints. I knew she’d been tricked into the wrong bling ball.”
“Hey, what’s all of that ruckus, Brusus?” boomed a deep woman’s voice from on top of the rocky cliff next to the waterfall. A one-eyed woman with her hair done up into a perfect cone stood up there. She had the same type of tunic, but olive green with black trim. “Ah, good uncle, is that there them varmint younglings?” Then she guffawed while slapping her hairy knee. “Brusus, you can’t be scared of those. They won’t hurt ya if ya don’t mess with ‘em. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of them, but I do know they’re harmless unless you mess with ‘em. Now get up off the path.”
As soon as she finished speaking, stepping around the side of the cliff were five more of the one-eyed creatures, all with scraggly hair and tunics of various colors. The one in the lead as they entered the cobblestone path exclaimed, “Brusus, is it true you’s got varmint younglings? Oh, I see ‘em. They’ll taste mighty scrumptious.”
Brusus, ashamed of his hysterics in front of the other creatures, bolted on his feet and shouted back to the other. “Urk, they’ll waste ya if’in’ you try and catch ‘em.”
“Ah, I don’t believe any of that malarkey about them. They’s ain’t poisonous or got powers.”
“Now, Urk,” Martha protested. “Don’t be all hasty.” Addressing Brusus, she said, “Now, how you suppose those younglings got here? Oh no!” She clutched her face in terror. “One of ‘em left something in the water. Soap of some kind. Good uncle, our water’s been contaminated. Those younglings are swirling with filth. Brusus, get rid of them before they kill us all with their diseases.”
Now, Darla was suddenly fearful of all of these creatures. As for Bella she howled and pranced around in response to these giants in front of her, but she refrained from attacking any of them. These beings freaked the animal out. “Danny, did you take your body-wash bottle in the water with you?”
“Yeah. I dropped it in on accident and just left it there.” His hair needed brushing or combing as it was as unwieldy as the men-creatures.
Brusus looked at the two children in hesitation. “Uh…what if one of ‘em bites me? We ain’t got treatment for their venom.”
“Just quickly stomp on their heads. That’ll end ‘em right then.”
Darla, hoping to keep Brusus afraid of them, threatened, “Don’t listen to her. I will bite you. Back home they call me Cobra Darla.” She chomped her teeth while approaching Brusus.
“Ahh, she’s gonna bite me,” yelled Brusus and he sprinted the other direction, jumping over the entire lake just to get away from Darla.
“Hey, Martha!” Darla cried out to her. “You better help me and my brother to go home, or we’ll come up there and bite you.”
“You don’t frighten me, varmint. One swift wallop will do you in. Get ‘em Urk.” The steps of the three Cyclops-like men bounded down the path with thunderous steps right towards the two children.
Primal fear struck Darla, and she grabbed a hold of her brother’s hand. She attempted to get him to run back through the fog. Bella bravely ran around the front of them, offering to protect her two humans. Danny resisted his sister’s tug, and nearly dropped his towel still covering his bottom half. “Darla, we can’t go that way. They’ll just catch up to us.”
“But…” Darla objected. “They’ll kill us.”
Urk, dressed in a black tunic in only a few steps would be upon Darla and Danny. Bella might have been a faithful pet, but was certainly no match for this giant. Danny closed his eyes and imagined the ugly monster blowing up. While lifting his foot to stomp on Bella, suddenly, Urk roared so intensely, that it knocked both Danny and Darla off their feet. Urk then exploded into a ball of pink feathers that rained over the path and into the big leafy plants. The other four monsters came to a complete halt with sheer terror washing over their faces.
All four monsters turned tail and darted off as they high-stepped away from the two children. “Ah. They’re gonna kill us all! It is true. Brusus was right!”
“Good going, Danny. I guess we do have powers here. Uh, Danny…you’re towel fell off of you.” Darla had pushed herself up onto her feet, and Danny followed suit.
“They must be all feathers on the inside,” concluded Danny.
Since Danny lost control of his towel, he had to retrieve it off the ground to once again conceal his body below his waist. Martha pleaded with Darla and Danny. “Please. Don’t kill us all!” She sheltered her eye with her arm to avoid the sight of the children. Darla took this as an opportunity to once again convince Martha to help them get home.
“Alright. Are you gonna help us, Martha? Or do we need to come up there. We can just blow you up right from here.”
Brusus had stood behind Martha as she shouted in agreement. “Yes, I’ll help you. But, I don’t know how you’s come into our land.”
“Woman,” Brusus addressed her. “It’s that bling ball you thought would work to close all varmint doors coming into the Cyclops world. It must have opened a door and then closed it on them.”
“Oh, I know what to do. Brusus, you wait here while I goes inside to redo what I done before. That bling ball is just fine. I forgets it has a door open and a door closed mode. I must’ve had it in the door open mode. When I tell you, let the varmints know they can leave.” Martha disappeared while Brusus anxiously waited outside, hoping the varmints wouldn’t attack him.
Calling out to Martha, “These youngling varmints become quite ornery if they have to wait for too long. Hurry up, now.” Sweat plummeted off Brusus’ brow in sheets, hoping he wouldn’t end up a ball of feathers like that fool Urk.
“Darla! Danny!” Bella barked excitedly and whipped around to run along the path back in through the fog as the voice of Judy could now be heard. Darla and Danny locked their gaze on each other.
Together, they both cried, “Mom!” As they prepared to follow Bella, their mother emerged from the cloudy air with the dog in tow. Both of her children ran up and embraced her with all their might.
“Okay, Brusus. It’s all open,” exclaimed Martha. “Tell them youngling varmints to scram on out of here.”
Judy’s bottom of her chin nearly hit the cobblestone path as she viewed Brusus and the entire beautiful, fantastic landscape. “What is this?” She asked that to her children, not really anticipating a solid answer.
“C’mon, now, yous younglings, get on out of here and leave us be,” pleaded Brusus. “Hey, Martha, one of them grown varmints has joined the younglings. Oo, if only those little varmints weren’t with her, she’d makes a great roast.”
“Mom, let’s just get out of here.” Darla was anxious to leave. “I heard what you said, Brusus, about my mom! You better not even think about harming my mom!” She raised a pointed finger at him, feigning an attack.
“Just get out of here!” Brusus yelled at her as he turned to run away from Darla’s sight.
Judy, her children, and her pet found their way back into the half-bath in the basement of the house. As they stepped through past the shower stall, they looked back and only saw the tiled wall, instead of the murky atmosphere of the implausible land of the Cyclops people. Moving through the basement and up the steps of their home, they spoke about their adventure.
Danny said, “It was all so neat. The waterfall and the lake and the warm water. Look, I’m all clean, too. It was fun!”
“If I hadn’t seen it for my own eyes and you had told me you were in a strange world behind the shower, I would never have believed you.” Judy had to admit that explaining this to anyone outside of her children, including their father, would be fraught with looks of disbelief. Everyone would believe her to be crazy. However, this wouldn’t stop her from trying.
Finally, Danny was in pajamas eating a night time snack. Darla went to finish her fifth grade report. Judy logged into her Friendface page to share what happened to her family. As for Bella she discovered the back door wasn’t latched and managed to free herself to the backyard. While yapping at the neighbor’s dog, Judy suddenly remembered that she hadn’t closed the back door all the way, and bolted to her feet. Running for the outdoors, she hoped to prevent Bella from finding the mud in the backyard once more.
“Bella!” She whistled. “Get in here, girl.” Wandering towards the house was the black lab all covered in muck, panting carefree. “Oh, Bella. I’m gonna have to give you another bath.” And so she did.