Today’s prompt is to write a story that contains the following words: Lettuce, Happen, Basket, Winter, Sister, Monster, Supper, Subject, Puppet.
The boy stared at the problem. He was good at math. Really good. Math was his best subject. He got the most answers done and correct in those timed tests. 9 x __; he could tell you! This was confusing. He closed his eyes and let the numbers and letters swim behind his eyes. He hadn’t finished a single problem. Didn’t even know how to start. He should have paid attention in class, but his hubris – well, it had better thing to do.
He knew what would happen tomorrow. The teacher would make that face she always made when someone else didn’t do their homework. The smirks and judgement of the rest of the class would be for the first time directed at him. And probably more intense. He was the dork in his grade. The smart kid. Everyone loves to watch the powerful fall. Especially when that smart kid scoffed and said things like, “It’s so easy! I don’t know how I’m supposed to explain it to you,” when other kids asked for help.
Tears started pushing into his eyes. He set down his pencil and threw himself on his bed. He needed to take a break, then he could come back. Through the wall floated the muffled the voice of his little sister, talking to someone. Well, probably some thing. She was still young enough to play pretend with all her dolls. He was definitely too old for that sort of thing, but he needed a break right now, a distraction. And he was babysitting her. So you know, it would be sort of wrong for him not to go play with her, right?
Maggie had her creepy clown puppet hanging from one of the posts on the bed. She was interrogating it. Matt stands in the doorway, watching and listening. His sister holds up with two hands a jar of mayo and asks if this is her favorite food. When the puppet was his, he was a he, but Maggie always called her a she.
“Guess not. No, you like color. Maybe this?” She’s holding the iceberg lettuce now. “Yes! I knew I would figure it out!” Matt cocked his eyebrow. He didn’t see the doll do anything. Maggie started ripping the lettuce apart, leaf by leaf, and laying them down in front of the doll. Matt was suddenly VERY happy that the mayo wasn’t the puppet’s favorite food.
“Whatcha doin’, Maggie?”
“Going to cast a spell so Winter can come alive.”
“Oh, really? And how are you going to do that?”
“If you find their favorite food and put it out for them like this,” she gestured to the mangled lettuce, “then they become monsters that night!”
“But Winter isn’t a monster.”
“Monsters aren’t bad, Mattie. Just misunderstood.”
“Who taught you that?”
“You did. I really like that Boo Radley guy. Can we read it again tonight?!”
“I like him too. And yeah. Not all of it, but we can start it again. You hungry?” She was. Of course she was. She was always hungry. It was his trick whenever he needed to get her to stop doing whatever it was he needed her to stop doing. She quickly finished spreading out the lettuce and then ran after him.
“Shouldn’t you take Winter down and put him in his sleeping basket? It can’t be comfortable hanging there like that.”
“No. He needs to want the lettuce. Like he thinks he will never get it kind of want it.” Maggie sometimes creeped Matt out.
Supper was a frozen pizza. He cut it square like she likes it. She kept looking up the stairs as she ate, half expecting to see Winter walk down the stairs, even though she knew it would only happen in her sleep.
Matt told his sister to go get ready for bed, and he would read to her. They both finished washing and brushing and pajama-ing in record time and were soon snuggled up on the bed. Winter’s back to them, like a too real hangman game. He read longer than he meant to, not noticing that Maggie had fallen asleep. He nodded good luck to Winter as he left, leaving the door open a crack. For all of her monster talk, Maggie was scared of waking up in the dark. The hallway light shone on the clown as it stared down at the piles of delicious lettuce.
Matt yawned as he entered his room. His homework was waiting. He looked at it and just gave up. He didn’t get it. He could try again tomorrow morning. Or just go talk to his teacher. If he really had to. He set his alarm a full hour earlier, pushed the thoughts away, snuggled into this comforter and fell asleep.
The house was too quiet when his alarm went off. His parents would be home sometime this morning. His dad wasn’t snoring. That must be it. He walked over to his desk. On his homework was a sticky note: This should help. From the monster.
There was nothing on the page. Nothing on the sticky note. Nothing on the backs of either. Nothing anywhere. What was the monster talking about? Matt suddenly realized that he should probably be concerned about the fact that someone had been in his room and written a note to him all while he was asleep and maybe he should call the cops but right now there was the mystery of his homework to solve and the monster and the police could (probably) wait.
He picked up his pencil and pressed the lead into the page. It started moving on its own, writing out the equations and how they should be solved and taking it step by step by step. The steps disappearing only when he understood what was happening and ready to move on. At the end of the sequence, it let him write out the answer. He got it! He wasn’t going to fail. He wasn’t going to get made fun of. He wasn’t going to have to ask for help. He was going to be nicer to people that needed help, though, because yesterday, to put it colloquially, sucked.
He ran to his sister’s room. Now he needed to take care of the “monster” issue. Winter was gone. He woke Maggie up and told her she did it! She had created a monster.
Downstairs a door opened and his father and mother screamed. Matt and Maggie raced down the stairs. The living room and kitchen were a mess. Every piece of furniture was smashed. Pillows were ripped apart. Destruction was everywhere. Their dad slipped on something spilled in the kitchen as he walked toward them, asking what had happened.
“I don’t know! It wasn’t like this when we went to bed.” His parents didn’t believe him. The two of them would have woken up if … His mother couldn’t even finish the thought. They told him he was grounded. For probably ever. He started to yell and whine and beg and bargain, but then stopped.
“Yes, ma’am.” He was too old to blame a monster. And he owed Winter one. He turned around and went upstairs to get ready for school.