© A J Hudspith - (JohnnyVee)
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---------------- ADULT HORROR -------------------
Bunny Rabbits, Elves and Flowers.
"Melissa Grimforall is a thunderous child." At least that’s what she heard Reverend Allan say behind her back. She wasn’t sure what she did to become a thunderous child, but by the sound of Reverend Allan’s voice, he didn’t like it. Well that was tough. Melissa didn’t like him, either. Anyway, what did he expect from an orphan? Her parents had been killed in a dragon collision, and her little brother, Timmy, had been kidnapped by the fairies from over the hill. There was no saving Mum and Dad of course - both dragons were write-offs. As for Timmy, maybe the fairies would torture him enough so he’d learn not to cry so easily. Melissa never cried. Eight is far too old for crying.
She painted the full stop on the sign in bright red, climbed down from the steps and checked over her work. The sign above the front door said:
`bUny rAbbitS eLVs + fLOwAS`
Paint ran from some of the straight up and down letters, so she climbed back up the steps, swept a line under each word, and jumped back down again to inspect.
Well, that looked better. It had to look good because hard times lay ahead. An orphan had to work for her living. Melissa had the idea to see what the sign looked like from the front gate. She supposed that, until the shop became well known, her customers could be anyone passing by, so a neat sign was very important. She marched to the bottom of the garden without looking back, went out of the gate, closed her eyes, then turned. She heard a thumping noise and realised it was her heart beating. Being responsible for opening a new shop was an exciting thing. Melissa felt very glad about that and didn’t want to open her eyes just yet. She tried to picture what the shop used to look like with Dad’s old sign.
`Grimforall’s Cake Shop` it said in plain black letters. Not bright red like the new sign. What good was a cake shop? People poisoned cakes and other foods like that. People weren’t trusting of cakes these days. Especially sponge and jam ones.
She opened one eye and peeked. The bright red letters looked pretty, so she opened the other eye. She said nothing at first, then her fists went to her hips and her head was nodding, big ginger curls bouncing up and down with enormous satisfaction.
“Neat!” she said. “Now to get the stock in place.”
She looked down the long dirt road to her right, then to her left. No one was about, not even a dragon, so no customers yet? But she’d better get a move on; Reverend Allan often passed this way and, despite what he thought of her, Melissa felt certain she could sell him an elf or two. She admired the new sign one last time, then marched back up the garden.
She’d prepared some of the stock earlier. Two upturned washing baskets made great cages. One was crammed full with bunnies, the other held three elves. Elves were harder to find than bunnies. The bunnies were sleeping - they seemed to like being in the sun. But the elves didn’t look healthy at all. Melissa knew they preferred the darkness of hollow trees or the shade of a thick hedge, but then, if the sun killed them, it would save her the bother. She decided to leave them in the heat a little while longer while she went to pick the flowers. Leaving the flowers until now was important to keep them fresh. She glanced up at the sign and grinned. This was going to be a great success - Melissa Grimforall, shop keeper of the year.
“Goodbye, sign,” she said, giving it a firm nod. “Be dry when I get back!”
With that, she went round the back of the house, climbed up onto the fence, and scanned the big field. Thousands of poppies sat peacefully in the sun. Melissa lifted her nose to the air and sniffed to check for fairies. Fairies smelled like fish - a smell that made her feel sick just thinking about it. There was no fishy smell.
“No fairies,” she whispered. “Thank you.”
She hauled herself up onto the fence and dropped down into the long grass, moving quickly, snapping off the poppy heads, then realised she should have brought a bucket.
She had an idea. She pulled her pinafore over her head and took off her blouse. She fastened all the buttons, tied knots at the wrists, and soon had a very convenient bag to carry the poppies.
“Way to go, Thunder Child,” she said, pulling her pinafore back on.
This was better than a bucket. The blouse could hold a whole lot more poppies than any silly bucket. When the blouse was as full as it could be, she headed back to the house, sniffing all the time for fishy fairies and checking the sky for low-flying dragons. She made it back intact, and with a great deal more poppy heads than she’d planned for. It had to be only the heads. Dad had sold these when it was a cake shop. But he’d kept them under the counter and didn’t put a sign up.
Not good business at all, she thought.
The hooded men from the dark lands were always the ones buying the poppy heads. Dad said they made tea with them, but they didn’t look like the kind to be drinking tea. Never mind. If she had to serve the hooded men she would do it.
She laid the bulging blouse down on the lawn in between the baskets of elves and bunnies. She must have been away for some time, she thought, because there was no movement from either basket. Maybe she should cut their throats anyway, just to make sure? Yes - be thorough, Melissa. Make it neat.
Poppies first though, she decided. She opened up her blouse and made the best display of poppy heads she could. The sun made them shine as bright as the letters on her new sign. This was sure to catch the eye of any passer-by. Melissa grinned so hard it hurt her cheeks. She guessed it must be pride. Why, if Reverend Allan did come along, she was certain she could even sell poppies to him.
She stood up and admired the display.
“Exy - lant!” she said, then did a dip-do-magazoo between the two upturned washing baskets. Bunnies won. She kicked the wash basket and it went tumbling away. The bunnies were obviously dead, but she would do a thorough job of it. She went into the kitchen and pulled open the cutlery drawer. The biggest knife had an edge like a saw. That’ll do, she thought, grabbing a ball of string as well and skipping back to the front lawn.
It didn’t take long. A quick slice across the throat, string around the feet, and in no time at all a dozen bunnies were strung up on the shop front. Melissa chuckled. She sniffed the air for fairies before moving on to the elves. She kicked off the wash-basket and it seemed the elves were dead, too. The sun had baked them. Still, she would slit their throats to make sure. These proved to be a bit tougher than the bunnies. It took a few saws with the knife to break through their hard skin. Sweat ran down Melissa’s face and dripped onto the dead elf. She was glad there were only three to do. Finally, the last throat was opened, the feet all tied with string, and she pushed on without a break, up and down the steps until the display was complete.
She didn’t want to look from here, so ran once more to the front gate. There was no closing-of-the-eyes suspense either. She couldn’t wait.
“Wowee, wowee, wowee,” she said, clapping. This was turning out to be the best day of her life. All she needed now were customers.
“No time like the present,” she said, climbing up on the gate. She looked up and down the road. There were no customers. Not a dragon in the sky, not a hint of a fairy, no hooded men from the dark lands. Melissa chewed her lip, knowing what she had to do. She took a deep breath then shouted as loud as she could…
“BUNNY RABBITS, ELVES AND FLOWERS!”
She scanned the road both ways and heard her shout echoing round the valley, but there were no customers to be seen.
She yelled again - even louder…
“BUNNY RABBITS, ELVES AND FLOWERS!”
This time she heard the yapping of Snoopy and Loopy, next door’s Dalmatian pups, but still no customers. She walked back towards the shop front, admiring the beauty of it all - a perfect line of bunnies hung to the left of the door, three elves to the right, her white blouse spread on the lawn heaped with bright red poppies, and of course the very artistic sign. Yes it was all very pretty, but what more could she do to attract customers? She lay down, rested her head on the poppy heap and tried to think of a plan. It didn’t take long. Snoopy and Loopy were still yapping in next door’s garden, surely they would look good on the shop front? There’s room next to the elves, too. Melissa chuckled again, very, very pleased with herself. She got to her feet, lifted her hem, wiped the sweat from her brow, and thought how best to get the pups from next door to here. A tall privet hedge stood between them. She’d need some bait, too - to trap Snoopy and Loopy.
“Got it!” she said, and ran back to the kitchen.
There were many packets of biscuits, but she hated custard creams so chose them for the bait and also grabbed a rolling pin before running back to the garden. She propped up one of the baskets with the rolling pin, tied string to it, and fed a line back to the front door. She threw a few custard creams under the basket and was soon kneeling at the privet, sawing through the thin branches with the bread knife. When the hole looked big enough, she took another custard cream from the packet and poked it through the opening.
“Pssst - Snoops and Loops - come see!”
The pups came bounding over. She dropped the biscuit inside and ran to hide in the doorway, down on her knees, string in hand. Snoopy and Loopy must have been able to smell there were more biscuits on offer because no sooner had Melissa reached her hiding place than they were squeezing through the hole in the hedge. Her heart was making that noise again. She grinned and slowly wound the string around her hand, pulling in the slack.
The first pup made straight for the heap of poppies, sniffed at them, then lifted a leg. Melissa gasped and grabbed the bread knife.
“My new blouse!” she yelled. “My precious poppies!”
She was up off her knees and about to burst into the garden when the other pup’s yapping caught her attention. It was under the trap sniffing the biscuits.
“Yay!” Melissa said, as the first pup arrived at the trap and it too went inside.
“Double yay!” she said, then yanked the string.
The rolling pin rolled away and the basket fell perfectly in place, trapping the pups. Melissa strolled to the basket, knife in hand. She wondered if their throats would be as easy as the bunnies or tougher like the elves, then guessed they’d be pretty easy seeing as they were just fur. She stood at the basket with a foot on top and began tapping the knife on the plastic.
If she lifted the basket the pups would probably make a run for it. She realised she had two choices: she could leave them in the sun for a while and let them bake, or she could stab them quite easily through the holes in the basket.
The blade tapped a few more times. She’d made her decision. She couldn’t wait for the sun. She’d stab them now and get the shop front complete, though she figured there would probably be a lot more blood if the pups tried to dodge the stabs, so she took off her pinafore and threw it over by the door.
“Who’s first?” she said, positioning the tip of the knife in one of the holes. She grasped the handle with both hands, spread her feet and bent her knees. Snoopy and Loopy wouldn’t keep still. They chased each other’s tails and snapped at each other’s feet. Melissa thought that the only thing to do was be quick. If she rammed the knife in hard and fast over and over again, it wouldn’t be long before the blade hit the spot. She braced herself and grasped the knife tight.
“One…” she wiggled her bum.
“Two…” she drew a deep breath.
Melissa squealed, dropped the knife and spun round.
“What on earth are you up to?” Mum looked very cross. Timmy held Mum’s hand sniggering.
“Just playing, Mum,” Melissa said, then began to cry.
“Let those dogs go. Oh God, look at the hedge, your father will kill you. Look at your toys! Roger rabbit, Bugsy - the stuffing’s hanging out!”
“I’m sorry.” Melissa sobbed.
“And your father’s gnomes. They’re ruined, too!”
“They’re not gnomes, they’re elves!”
“I don’t care what they are, you’ve ruined them!”
Tears ran down Melissa’s cheeks.
“And why the hell are you just in your knickers? And look at the paint on your wendy house!”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“And just look at this,” Mum said, pointing at the blouse full of poppies covered in pee.
“It wasn’t me,” Melissa cried.
Then Mum saw the custard creams and looked as if she might explode.
“Reverend Allan was right about you! - In!” She pointed at the house.