Meaner Than Meanest


October 31, 2001|By Kevin Somers

* Editor's note: This Halloween, a recipe for a monster backfires, leaving an unhappy hag with an unexpected visitor.

Some time ago, somewhere not too far away, there was a wooded swamp.

In this wooded swamp stood a rickety old hovel that seemed to lean toward the moon.

In the hovel, within the wooded swamp, lived an evil old hag who was the second-meanest creature alive.

She was the second-meanest creature only because a cat named Hisss lived with her. The cat hated the hag and the hag hated the cat, and that is just how it had been for as long as either of them could remember.

They both liked it that way.

One fall day, the hag realized that October 31st was right around the corner. She wanted it to be the darkest, spookiest, creepiest Halloween ever. But how to make it happen?

"I'll make a mean monster, the meanest," the old crone said to herself. "Yes, that's it! It'll be even meaner than Hisss and uglier than me." She cackled. "I'll make THE MOST EVIL CREATURE IN THE WORLD!"

The hag eagerly went to work.

From the cellar she got a big, old brass pot and half filled it with greasy, slimy sweat from a speckled frog. She slowly cooked it to a simmer. She added 16 scrappy scorpions and 17 sticky spiders. After that came six slithery snakes and then half a dozen squishy snails. Oh, what nasty things she put in that pot!

Soon the pot began to foam up higher and higher until it hardened into a cocoon. For the next several days the hag sat next to the cocoon.

She read it horror stories.

She poked it with a stick, saying "Get mean! Get mean!"

Just as the hag was commanding the cocoon to "Be born and name thyself, evil monster!" Hisss knocked a jar off the table. It was labeled EYE OF NEWT.

"Eye of newt! Eye of newt!" screamed the hag. "How could I have left out the most important part?" But it was too late. The cocoon began to hatch.

Out from the cocoon popped the cutest girl the hag had never wanted to meet.

"My name is Daisy!" the girl said with a voice sweeter than honey.

"What have I done!?" cried the hag. She put her head in her hands.

Daisy saw that she was upset and said, "Aw, you look like you need a cup of hot cocoa, or perhaps a hug?"

"A hug? A hug? The last thing I need is a hug!" the hag screamed furiously. She locked Daisy in the next room with Hisss. "Spend some time with the cat. Maybe some of his meanness will rub off on you!"

Later, the hag returned. She was horrified to find Hisss purring in Daisy's arms.

Daisy giggled, saying, "He's really a sweet kitty. I'm going to call him Mr. Fluff!"

The hag showed Daisy and her new friend to the cellar. "Well," the hag cackled. "We'll see how chummy you and Mr. Hugs-and-Kisses are after a few hours together in a damp, dark cellar!"

The hag paced in anger, saying to herself, "That little nonmonster took the hiss out of a perfectly mean cat."

After a few hours, the hag peeked into the cellar. Her face dropped. Daisy had found some candles and blankets. Warm and cozy, she and Mr. Fluff were happily playing cards.

"What is this?" the hag demanded.

"We're playing Go Fish!" replied Daisy, adding, "Kitty cats love fish!" The hag left the cellar, screaming.

The hag tiredly sat in her chair for a while soaking her feet. "What kind of stupid recipe for a monster makes a little girl when you forget the eye of newt?"

During the next few days the old hag moped around the hovel while Daisy was having fun playing.

The hag couldn't bear it any longer. She locked herself in her room and refused to come out.

On Halloween morning, the hag awoke. At first she was excited by thoughts of the scariest day of the year, but then she remembered. This year a little girl named Daisy was ruining all her hopes of having a truly ghoulish holiday. She decided to stay in bed.

After sunset, there was a knock at the bedroom door, followed by a high voice chirping, "Come on hag. It's time for trick or treat!"

It was Daisy, of course.

The hag could not even muster up anger at Daisy's cheerfulness. She dragged herself out of bed and went to the door, grumbling to herself.

She opened the door.

Then something very strange happened. Something that had never happened before in the hag's whole bitter life.

Her face twitched! Her mouth quivered, cracked and then broke into what can only have been called a smile.

From MEANER THAN MEANEST by Kevin Somers. Copyright c 2001 Kevin Somers. Illustrations copyright c 2001 Diana Cain Bluthenthal. Reprinted by permission of Hyperion Books for Children.

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