13] TWO STORIES WITH KIDS
     
1] Intro to Dog Stories

2] Miracle Dog

3] War Dog

4] Ghost Dog

5] Helper Dogs for the Disabled

6] Calendar Dogs

7] More Calendar Dogs

8] 3 Wild Dogs / Free Vet Help

9] My Wildest Pooch of All

10] A Christmas & Halloween Insight

11] Author's Dog Books

12] 3 Mysteries

13] 2 Stories With Kids

14] 2 Animal Cupid Stories

15] 3 Stories for a Summer Day

16] 4 Pet-less Dark Stories for a Rainy Night

17] Autographed Dog Cartoon Photos

18] Animal Photos / Pet Adoption Sites

19] Pet R.I.P Comfort

20] COVID PAWS-itive Thoughts

21] Upcoming Book Setting & Story Line

 
THE 1st FOR YOUR LITTLE ONES

 

DO ANIMALS GO TO HEAVEN TOO?

(A "happy ending" story for preschoolers)

Noel is very lonely.

Her best friend, Scarlet, is away at the animal hospital.

Scarlet is Noel's very own special dog.

"When is Scarlet coming home?" Noel asks Mommy.  "I miss her."

 Mommy gives Noel a big hug.

"I miss her, too. But Scarlet is very sick.  Maybe she won't be able to come home."

 Noel hold Mommy's hand, and thinks about that.

"Do you mean, she might die?"

 Mommy is honest.  "She might."

 "If Scarlet dies, then we can't play catch with the tennis ball."

 "No," says Mommy.

 "Scarlet won't be waiting for me to come home from school."

 "No," says Mommy.

  Noel feels very sad.

 "Mommy, can animals go to heaven?" Noel wonders.

  Mommy lifts Noel into her lap. "Yes, I think so.

 "Really?" asks Noel. "Will Scarlet have wings?"

 "If she wants them," Mommy says. "But don't you think Scarlet would rather run than fly?"

 "She always runs fast after her tennis ball," Noel remembers.

 "Will she have to start over as a puppy when she goes to heaven?"

 "I think Scarlet will look just the same as she does now.  But she won't be hurt or sick anymore," Mommy says.

 "That's good." Noel feels a little better.  "Grandma is in heaven. Do you think she'll take care of Scarlet for us?"

 "I know Grandma would love to take care of her.  Scarlet won't be too lonely."

 "She'll miss me," Noel cries.

  Mommy wipes Noel's tears.  "Yes, and we'll miss her, too."

 "Listen, Daddy's back."

 "I have a surprise, everyone," Daddy says.  "Look who's home!"

 "It's Scarlet!" Noel is so happy.

 "Yes, and she's all better," Daddy smiles.

 Noel gives Scarlet a hug.

"Scarlet," she whispers.  "Animals go to heaven, too.  But I'm glad you didn't have to go today."

                                                                      THE END


 


                                                        

 

BELOW - A SPOOKY STORY WITH BABY CHICKS (NO DOGS)


THE BACKWARDS BARN

 

            Bad enough that her parents had died in a car crash, Amanda thought to herself.  Bad enough that she had to leave her home, her school, and her teen-age friends in the city.  Now my aunt and uncle are trying to smother me to death!

            Thirteen-year-old Amanda shifted uneasily.  She'd wanted to sit alone in the back, but no such luck.  Uncle Eric and Auntie Lisa insisted she sit in the front of the old station-wagon with them.  As if sitting next to two strangers would make Amanda feel less lonely.  Or less sad.

            "Michael and Kevin will show you around our farm."  Auntie Lisa patted Amanda's shoulder for the millionth time.  "I've told them to give you the grand tour of the place."

            "You'll soon feel right at home," Uncle Eric added.  "Your bedroom set and things from your old house will be delivered the day after tomorrow."

            His voice held a phony cheerfulness that made Amanda want to scream.  They were trying to be kind, but that phony cheer wasn't helping.  The only thing that would make her feel better was if that drunk driver had never caused the accident.

            If only there was some way to bring her dead parents back.  She'd do anything... anything at all...

            Uncle Eric patted Amanda's other shoulder.  "It'll be all right, you'll see."

            Yeah, right.

            Amanda gritted her teeth, watched fields of grain slide by, and vowed if her two cousins patted her, she'd seriously consider hitting them.  Michael and Kevin might not consider her a real cousin.  The two brothers had been adopted by Auntie Lisa and Uncle Eric years ago.

            Face it, the whole family had never been big.  Thanks to some drunk driver, it was even smaller.

            "Well, here we are," Auntie Lisa sang out after an endless parade of wheat fields.  "Home, sweet home."

            Amanda peered out the window, and was pleasantly surprised.  The farm actually looked okay.  The main house looked friendly and welcoming, while the various barns and animals promised hours of exploring.  It wasn't home home, but it was nice.

            "Well, what do you think?" Uncle Eric asked.  He parked the ancient station wagon between a tractor and a combine.

            Amanda managed a smile as the three of them climbed out of the station wagon.

            "It's just as nice as Dad said it was.  He...he liked to tell me stories about growing up here."

            "Here is your home now, too, Mandy," Auntie Lisa swiped a tear from her eye.  Dad was her brother.

            Uncle Eric reached for her luggage.  "Make yourself at home, young lady.  You feel free to go wherever you want."

            "Except the old barn.  It's haunted."  A young voice from an unseen boy nearly made Amanda jump out of her skin.  He wasn't just any boy.  Amanda took a closer look.  He had to be her cousin Kevin.

            "Kevin, don't be ridiculous!"  Another boy about Amanda's age stepped into view from behind the tractor.  His smile was kind.  "Hi, I'm your cousin Michael.  Sorry about your parents."

            Amanda stood awkwardly, looking at first Michael, then Kevin, then her feet.  "Thanks."  She looked up again.  "What old barn?"

            "That one!"  Young Kevin pointed off to the distance.

            An ancient, sagging barn stood off by itself.  Its sides were dark and rotting, its roof full of holes.  It seemed terribly out of place amongst the cheerful home of her relatives.

            "Doesn't it look haunted?" Kevin demanded to know.

            Amanda couldn't take her eyes off of it.  It looked old, dark, dead.  Amanda shivered.  "It is creepy looking," she agreed.

            "Don't listen to Kevin," Uncle Eric said sharply.  "The barn isn't haunted, but it is full of termites.  Once the crops are in, I'll be tearing it down.  Until then, I'll tell you what I've told the boys.  You stay away from there!"

            "Your uncle's right," Auntie Lisa agreed.  "It's very unsafe."

            There was an awkward silence.

            "Come on, I'll show you to your room," Uncle Eric said.

            The next hour was a blur to Amanda.  Auntie Lisa took her upstairs.  Uncle Eric helped with her luggage.  Amanda put away her clothes, and went down to lunch with the family.  Then her aunt and uncle left to work the fields, ordering the boys to,

            "Stay with Amanda.  We'll do your chores today.  Clear the dishes, Kevin.  Michael, show your cousin around.  We'll be working the south field if you need us."

            Amanda didn't offer to help with the dishes.  She wanted to be alone and wandered outside, but instead of heading for the horse corrals like she'd planned, she found herself drawn to the old barn.

            "I told you it was haunted," Kevin said from behind her.

            Amanda whirled around, startled to see both cousins.  "Do you always sneak up on people?"

            "Mom said to keep an eye on you," Michael replied.  "And we know all about this barn."

            "Don't worry.  I won't bother the termites."

            The two brothers exchanged knowing looks.  Michael said, "There's no termites in here.  Mom and Dad just say that to keep us away."

            "It doesn't work, though," Kevin said smugly.

            Amanda took one step closer to the barn.  "There's no such thing as ghosts."

            "Ghosts?  Who said anything about ghosts?" Michael asked. "There's no ghosts in here.  But this is a backwards barn."

            "A...what?"

            "A backwards barn.  Everything inside happens in reverse."

            Amanda rolled her eyes.

            "Wanna see for yourself?"

            She hesitated.  It had been such a long day.  First the funeral, then the plane trip, then the tiring ride here.  She hadn't slept well since her parents had died.  She should really go and lie down, but, "All right," she found herself saying.  "Just to prove you two wrong."

            "I'll get the hen!" Kevin volunteered, then he scampered off.

            "Hen?"

            "Yeah.  The barn has different speeds."  Michael gestured for Amanda to follow him.  "We never know how long it takes to warm up and start going backwards, so we take a hen with us.  When the hen starts getting younger, we know it's time to leave."

            Amanda stopped, and nervously twisted a strand of her long hair.  These cousins of mine are crazy!  Is this what living in the country does to you?

            Michael grabbed her hand and pulled her around to the back of the barn.  "Dad boarded the door and windows over, but we made a crawl space."

            He wriggled through the hole.  Kevin was right behind her with a squawking hen, telling her to hurry up, and Amanda had no choice.  She got down on her hands and knees and wriggled through the crawl space.

            The three of them, plus one annoyed hen, gathered in the middle of the darkened barn.  It didn't seem as spooky on the inside as it did on the outside.  In fact, it almost seemed... well... friendly.

            Amanda sat down on a bale of hay.  "Now what?" she asked.

            Michael grinned.  "Show her, Kevin."

            Kevin grinned back, showing a missing front tooth.  He propped up a board against Amanda's hay bale, and pulled a toy car out of his pocket.

            "Watch this."  Kevin placed the car in the middle of the board, and the car traveled...

            Amanda blinked.  The car went up the board instead of down!  But she was no fool.

            "All right, what did you use, fishing line?"

            "Give her the car," Michael ordered Kevin.  "Let her try it herself."

            Amanda did just that.  The same thing happened.  She did it a second time.  And a third.

            "This is really weird..."

            "Told you it was haunted!" Kevin grabbed back his car from Amanda's hands.

            "Look up here and watch this!"

            Amanda looked upwards to see Michael in the hay loft.  He ran full tilt toward a hanging rope.  But when he grabbed the loop and launched himself over the edge of the loft...nothing.  He just hung there.

            Amanda stared at the rope carefully.  It looked like an ordinary rope.  "What happened?" she asked.  "Why didn't you swing?"

            "Because this is a backwards barn!" Michael called down to her.  "It does everything backwards!  Watch!"  This time he took a few steps to the rope.  He grabbed the rope tight, and merely walked off the loft edge.

            Michael swung through the air in a huge arc, back and forth...like he should have swung the first time.

            Amanda rose, ignoring her trembling legs.  "Let me try that!"  She had to know if this was really happening...  She had to do it herself!

            Her tiny step off the loft produced a huge, swinging arc, just as it had for Michael.  She swung so hard and so long that she was breathless when she finally stopped.

            Far below, Kevin laughed.  "Told ya it was haunted, told ya!"  He giggled again, and Amanda stared.

            "What happened to your tooth?" she asked.  That gap in Kevin's mouth was gone, replaced by a shiny new loose baby tooth.

            "Kevin, where's the hen?" Michael called down in a strange voice.  "Check the hen!"

            Kevin darted in among the hay bales.  Michael grabbed Amanda's hand and pulled her to the ladder.  "We've got to get out of here!  Time's going backwards too fast!"

            "Time?" Amanda echoed as she started down.  "That goes backwards, too?"

            "Yes!  That's why Kevin's tooth is back!  We don't dare stay when the barn's completely warmed up!  It goes backwards too fast!"

            Amanda's confusion vanished as Kevin emerged with the hen.  It wasn't a hen anymore.  It was a tiny yellow chick...

            "Get out, Kevin!  Now!  Hurry, hurry, hurry!"

            Kevin ran, chick in hand.  Amanda and Michael closely followed.  They slid through the crawl space in seconds, the chick peeping the whole time.  Even when the barn was far behind them, even when Kevin stopped to re-pull his loose tooth so his parents wouldn't notice, Amanda still ran...

            She didn't stop running until she was in her room with the door locked.  It took her a long, long time to stop shaking.

            She didn't come out when Auntie Lisa knocked on her door and asked if she was okay.  She didn't come out when Uncle Eric said dinner was ready, and he'd saved the wishbone for her.  It wasn't until long after dark that she came out of her room, and only because she just had to go to the bathroom.

            The house was dark.  She thought everyone was asleep, but Michael was waiting for her in the hall in PJ's when she finished with her business.

            "I knew you'd be out sooner or later," he said quietly.

            Amanda's cheeks burned.  Bad enough her parents were dead.  Bad enough she'd nearly been scared to death in a haunted barn.  Now her cousin had heard her flush the toilet...  She could just die of embarrassment.  His next words didn't help, either.

            "I'm sorry about today, Amanda.  I should never have taken you to the old barn."

            Amanda heard his regret.  "It's okay."  She tried to head back to her room.  She didn't want to talk to this strange cousin about his strange barn, even if he was kinda nice.

            "Yeah, well...sorry," he repeated.  Michael reached behind him and held up a package of cookies and a can of soda.  "I thought you might be hungry.  Want some?"

            "Thanks."  Amanda took the cookies, sank down to the floor and crossed her legs.  The floor felt cold through her jeans.  Michael opened the soda for her, then sat down himself.

            "How long has the barn been...been..." Amanda couldn't bring herself to say the word haunted.

            "Backwards?" Michael finished for her.  "As long as I can remember.  Mom and Dad have been yelling at us to stay away from it for years.  And Dad's always threatening to tear it down.  But he won't go near it.  No adults ever do.  They're all afraid of it.  "

            Amanda bit her lip.  "Are you?"

            Michael shrugged.  "Not really.  I mean, I don't want to stay this age the rest of my life.  And I sure don't want Kevin staying seven forever, either.  But as long as we don't stay too long, it's fun.  I think...I think the barn likes company."

            Amanda slowly nodded.  "It did feel friendly once we got inside."

            "Kevin thinks it gets lonely."

            No wonder she felt at home there.  She knew all about loneliness...

            "Hey, Michael..." she wondered, "Have you ever tried taking something dead inside the barn?"

            "Something dead?"

            "Yeah.  You know--like a spider or plant--to see if it comes alive again?"

            Michael shook his head.  "No.  Why?"

            "Well, my parents are dead, and I thought..."

            Michael gave her a strange look.  "What are you going to do, Amanda?  Get on a plane, go home, dig them up, fly them back here, and put them in the barn?"

            Amanda put down her half-eaten cookie.  "I guess that would be pretty stupid."

            "Very stupid," he agreed.

            There was silence in the old hall for a minute.

            "But the moving van with all the things from my old house is coming.  Maybe if I put some of Mom and Dad's clothes in there, the barn could go back to when my parents wore them.  Would that work?"

            "I don't know.  Kevin and I never tried anything like that before."

            Amanda refused to give up.  "When their things come, will you help me?"

            Michael didn't answer right away.  "If Mom and Dad catch us, we're all dead."

            Dead...  The word echoed in Amanda's head.  She shivered, and Michael noticed.  He stood up.

            "Come on, it's cold out here.  We should both get into bed before someone catches us."

            Obviously, he didn't want to help.  Disappointed, Amanda also stood.  "See you in the morning."

            "Good night, cousin."  He picked up her empty soda can on the floor, and left.

            But long after he was probably asleep, Amanda remained awake--

            With thoughts of the backwards barn...

            Her things arrived a few days later.  Michael and Eric set up her old bedroom furniture.  She straightened her clothes drawers, and then went down to the kitchen.  At the kitchen table Amanda and her aunt went through her mother's jewelry.  She thought she was doing okay until she saw Uncle Eric through the kitchen window.

            A second truck had pulled up.  Amanda watched Uncle Eric drive a car off the flat bed.  It was her parents' car!  It wasn’t dented anymore, but this was definitely the car her parents had died in.  They never wore seatbelts like she always did.

            Amanda gasped and tears filled her eyes.  She turned toward her aunt, her expression accusing.

            Auntie Lisa immediately tried to explain.  "Amanda, your Uncle and I paid for repairs to the car.  The farm hasn't been doing well, and the old station wagon barely made it home from the airport.  Legally the car is yours, and we were going to ask you first, but the time just never seemed to be right.  Talking about your father makes me so sad.  I wish I'd seen him more, but you all lived so far away..."

            Auntie Lisa began to sob.  Suddenly Amanda realized...Auntie Lisa had loved him, too.

            Michael hurried into the room.  "Mom?  Mom, what's wrong?"

            Amanda noticed for the first time how worn his shirt was, how short his jeans were, how his shoes seemed too tight for his feet.

            Why, they were poor! she suddenly realized.  No wonder the boys only had some crazy old barn for fun!  They couldn't afford anything else!

            "Son, go get...your father," Auntie Lisa said between sobs.  "Tell him...to put the car in storage."

            "No, Michael, don't!"  Amanda threw her arms around her aunt's neck and made her decision, all at the same time.  "You can keep the car.  I don't mind, really!"

            "Are you sure?" Auntie Lisa protested, but Amanda insisted.

            "I'm sure."  Amanda gave her aunt a kiss and ran her room before she broke into tears herself.

            Michael found her there, face down on the bed.  "You were awfully nice about the car.  Mom said you can change your mind, if you want."

            Amanda sat up to face him.  "They might as well use it.  I'm not old enough to get a license yet anyway."

            Michael sat down on the bed next to her.  "You know, I was thinking about what you said.  About bringing some of your parents' clothes into the old barn."

            "It was a stupid idea, huh," Amanda said listlessly.

            "We'll never know if we don't try."

            Her breath caught in her throat.  "You'll help me?"

            "Yes, but only if you promise me you won't go in alone."

            "I promise."

            "I mean it," Michael warned.  "We go in when I say, and you leave when I say.  Understand?"

            "Got it!"  Her eyes sparkled with excitement--and hope.

            "Then get some of your parents’ things.  We'll go tonight, just as soon as everyone's in bed."

            Amanda smiled, her first real smile since the funeral.  He's more than just nice-looking.  He's nice inside, too.  "I'll be waiting."

            The air was cold and windy.  Amanda shivered, despite the sweat top she was wearing.  She waited behind the combine for Michael, willing him to hurry.  He showed up a few seconds later.

            "Are you ready?  Did you get everything?" he whispered.

            "Yes.  I have a dress of Mom's, and some jeans and a pullover of Dad's.  Plus some shoes."

            "I've got this."  Michael held a sleepy chicken up in the air, then cuddled it back against his chest.  "Let's go."

            They crept across the open yard, past all the cheerful buildings and toward the dark, rickety one.   They hurried through the crawl hole, chicken, clothes, and all.

            The barn doesn't look so friendly at night, Amanda thought to herself.  But the dark wasn't nearly as frightening as being without her parents, so she pushed that thought aside.

            "What do you want me to do?" Michael whispered.  His hushed voice echoed in the eerie stillness of the rafters.

            "Let's just spread out the clothes, and wait a bit."

            Amanda carefully spread her mother's things over a clean patch of hay, and Michael did the same with her father's.  Then they sat down on the nearest bail of hay to wait.  This time Michael kept the hen in his lap.

            "No sense taking any chances.  She's not getting away from us this time."

            "I really appreciate you doing this for me.  Thanks, Michael."

            "You're welcome."  Michael smiled, then his smile faded.  "Just as long as you realize...this may not work."

            "It might!" Amanda insisted.  It has to work!

            "But if it doesn't...  Well, just don't get your hopes up, okay?"

            "I can't help it.  I guess I must be crazy."

            Michael gently stroked the feathers on the hen's neck.  "Well, craziness must run in the family, because I'm here, too."   Amanda saw him stop petting the hen, then frown.

            "What is it?"

            "Her feathers are getting smaller.  In fact, everything about this hen is getting smaller.  We have to leave, or we'll be next."

            "So soon?  But we just got here!"

            "It doesn't matter.  The barn's warmed up faster than usual.  Come on, we can't stay!"

            "But what about my parents’ stuff?"  She broke off as she stared at the clothes on the barnyard floor.

            "Leave it!" Michael ordered as the hen visibly shrank in his arms.  "We have to go!"

            They ran to the crawl space, Amanda managing one last glimpse before they and the hen were back outside.

            The night in bed had never seemed so long, nor had breakfast seemed so slow the next morning.  Amanda was in such a hurry to get to the barn that she could barely eat.

            "Is something wrong with your waffles, honey?" Auntie Lisa asked.  "I fixed them special for you."

            "I...no.  They're fine."  But Amanda was so nervous she couldn't eat them.  What if my parents are there?  What if they're just two little babies in the barn?  It's been all night!

            Finally Auntie Lisa took pity on her.  "Go on outside, child.  Maybe the fresh air will help.  And while you're out there, keep an eye out for any stray hens.  That's the third one this week I've lost."

            "Yes, ma'am," Amanda managed to croak.  Michael soon followed her.  As soon as they were outside, she ran to the barn, not caring if anyone saw her or not.

            "Wait for me!" Michael called after her, but Amanda couldn't.  She didn't even wait for him to catch a hen, but crawled straight back into the barn.

            Her cry echoed back to Michael.

            "Amanda?  What is it?"

            Amanda couldn't answer.  All she could do was look at the raw bolts of fabric, the balls of yarn, and the pieces of untanned leather that were once clothes and shoes.  She couldn't help it.

            She cried.

            Michael found her sobbing into hands.  "Amanda, I'm sorry."  He went to gently touch her shoulder, but she whirled away.

            "I know this barn can help!  I just know it!"

            "It can't!  Come on, let's go back."

            Amanda shook her head.  "No.  Not until I figure it out."

            "We can't stay here!  The more we come, the faster the barn warms up and turns things backwards!" Michael hissed.  "I know, I've been coming here my whole life!"

            "I don't care!" Amanda cried.

            "You'd better!  Do you want to end up looking the same age as Kevin?"

            Amanda's eyes got wide.  She headed toward the crawl space, but Michael wasn't through with her.

            "You stay out of here for at least a week, do you hear me?" he said as soon as they were outside.  "Because if you don't, I'll tell Mom and Dad!"

            Amanda covered her ears with her hands.  She ran back to her room, where she stayed the rest of the morning.  Uncle Eric made her come back down for lunch, but she couldn't eat.  Nor could she eat her dinner.  Auntie Lisa tried to talk to her, so did Uncle Eric, but she didn't dare tell them a thing.

            Michael knew, though.  So did Kevin, and he was furious.  "You've been back in that barn, haven't you?" he said when his parents left.  "You and Michael went without me!  You're mean!"

            Kevin ran from the table, and Michael went after him.  Amanda ended up doing the dishes alone.  But she kept her word.  She stayed away from the old barn for a whole week.  And she didn't talk to anyone.

            Late on Saturday her aunt came to her room.

            "Your Uncle and I have been talking things over, Mandy.  We've decided to sell your parents' car, and put the money in the bank for you.  We should never have kept it."

            "That's okay, Auntie Lisa.  You need the car.  Keep it," Amanda insisted, even though the thought of her dead parents in that car made her stomach sick.

            Auntie Lisa patted Amanda's hand.  "You're a good girl, Mandy.  But we have someone coming to take it away tomorrow.  That old station wagon has lasted this long. It'll just have to last a bit longer."

            "Then keep the money," Amanda insisted.  "I want to help out."  But Auntie Lisa refused and talked about college and Amanda's future.

            After a few more pats on the arm--funny how Amanda didn't mind those anymore--Auntie Lisa left.  She was almost as nice, almost as pretty as Amanda's mom...before the car crash.

            The car!  Amanda sat up straight in bed.  What if she put the car in the barn?  That was where her parents had died!  If the barn made the CAR go backwards...

            Amanda ripped off her nightgown, threw on her jeans and T-shirt, and grabbed a set of car keys out of her mother's jewelry box.  She raced down the hall, shoes in hand, knocked once on Michael's door, then burst in.  Michael was dressed and reading at his desk.

            "Michael, I need you to drive the car!"  She grabbed his hand and yanked him to his feet.  "Come on, there isn't much time!"

            "What in the world are you talking about?"

            "The car!  My parents’ car!  Don't you see?  They died in the car, so if we put the car in the barn, they won't have died in the car.  Do you see?"

            "I don't know, Amanda," he said uneasily.  "I'll have to un-board the front doors to get the car in.  Mom and Dad will catch us for sure."

            "Please, Michael, please!  I don't know how to drive, but I've seen you drive tractors and all.  You could drive, couldn't you?"

            "Yes, but..."

            "And the people are coming for my parent's car tomorrow morning!  You have to help me!  It's now or never!"

            "I wish I'd never told you about that crazy barn," Michael muttered.

            "Please!" Amanda begged.  "One last visit, that's it.  Just for tonight!"

            "If I do, this is the absolutely the last time."

            Amanda went dizzy with relief.  "Yes, yes!  I promise!"

            "All right.  Put your shoes on and let's go."

            The night air was dead.  No breeze, no sound, no moon.  Even the lights from the electric poles in the tractor yard seemed dim.  Michael quickly tore down the planks of wood nailed over the barn doors.  They came off so easily, so silently, it was as if the barn was helping them.  Amanda unlocked the car doors, then hurried around to the passenger side to wait for Michael.

            When he showed up, she traded him her keys for his hen.

            "Start it up and drive it in!" she ordered.

            Michael gave her a strange look, but did as she requested.  Amanda noticed lights go on in the main house as the roar of her parent's engine broke the still of the night.

            "Oh, no, they've heard us!" Michael moaned as he drove the short distance into the barn.

            "I don't care!  Bolt the front doors from the inside, then go outside from the crawlspace.  That should buy us some time."

            "Forget the time!  Let's go!"

            "No!  I'm staying!"  Amanda crawled into the back seat, hen and all.  "I'm staying for the whole thing!  Maybe I can trigger the barn to go backwards to other passengers.  Like Mom and Dad!"

            Michael's eyes opened wide.  "But...that's crazy!"

            "I want my parents back!  I'm not taking any chances!"

            "What if something goes wrong?  What if you can't get out?"

            "I don't care!  Leave the car running and go!  Now!"

            He climbed out, but hovered outside the car.  Already the hen on her lap was shrinking.

            "I don't want anything bad to happen to you, Amanda!"

            "It won't!  Go!  Go!"

            White-faced, Michael left.

            She was alone.

            The hen in her lap nervously clucked, and shrank even more.  Amanda closed her eyes, then jumped, her eyes wide open as the car door next to her collapsed.  The metal buckled and screeched as first the doors, then the hood of the car twisted into its previous wrecked state.

            "It's working," Amanda whispered to the frantic hen. "It's working!"

            The car contorted more, then suddenly red liquid dripped all over her lap.  Amanda screamed as her parents' bleeding bodies appeared in the front seats.  She barely recognized the maimed remains of the two people she'd loved.  Amanda shivered as the hen in her hands shrank to a small yellow chick.

            But she refused to move.  Now the metal was twisting smooth again to its original, pre-accident state.  The blood disappeared from her lap; the awful wounds vanished from her parents' heads.

            "Mandy?  Mandy?"  Her parents were calling her name!  They were moving!  They were alive!

            "Mom?  Dad!  Get us out of here!" she yelled from the back seat.

            But they were confused, and didn't know what to do.

            "Step on the gas, Dad!  We have to get out of the barn now!  Now, Dad, now!"

            But her father couldn't hear her.  And the barn didn't want her to go.  The barn was lonely, and the barn wanted Amanda!  The barn creaked and groaned, the noises of shuddering timber filling her ears and drowning her words!  Amanda shivered harder with fear.

            "Just drive the car through the doors, Dad!" Amanda screamed at the top of her voice!  "Go, go, go!"  The chick in her hand changed to a warm egg, and Amanda screamed again.

            At that same moment Michael raced back into the barn.  He flew into the driver's seat, sat on her father’s lap, three of them squashed in the front, jammed the gears into reverse, and stepped on the gas.

            The barn groaned one last time before Michael smashed through the front barn doors.  The sagging, rotting timbers collapsed with a mighty crash.

            Silence...

            Eric, Lisa, and Kevin stared as Michael helped two adults from the car.  Amanda was close behind.  The silence was broken as she threw herself into her parents' arms, laughing, hugging and kissing them.  Her parents seemed confused.  Everyone seemed confused.  But Amanda didn't care.

            "It worked!  Michael, it worked!"  She started to run to Michael, but didn't make it.  Her shaky legs collapsed and she fell to the ground.  Amanda didn't care.

            She'd done it!  Her family looked confused but alive!

            Her father rushed over.  Despite his confusion, the love in his eyes was dearly familiar.

            "Mandy?"  He cradled her in his arms like a tiny child.   "Are you okay, honey?  What happened?"

            Amanda swung toward the collapsed barn, smiled, then turned back to her father.  She gave the only answer that might even begin to make sense to the adults.

            "Termites."

            Michael started choking.

            "I...I think I need a drink," Uncle Eric said, his voice shaky, his face white.  "And I don't mean the lemonade."

            "I could use a shot of whisky myself," Auntie Lisa whispered.

            "What's going on?" Amanda's mother asked, confused.

            The adults all sounded so strange.  Amanda looked over her father's shoulder No one was looking at her parents.  Michael wasn't.  Nor was Kevin.  They stared at her with huge eyes; her relatives, her mother, her father.  Especially her father.

            "I did it, Mom!  You're back, Dad!  Dad, you're hugging me too hard.  Put me down!"  She struggled, and her teary-eyed father released her.

            She hurried over to her cousins, and looked up at Michael.  "Thank-you, both of..."  Her voice cut off.  She had to look up to see Kevin's face, too!

            Amanda stared at herself--at the tiny feet, the small fingers, the flat chest of a little girl, and screamed.

            She fell to her knees and buried her face in her hands.  Cries like a frightened chick came from her throat.  She had her parents back, but at a terrible price.  The collapsed barn had worked its magic on her teenage body...

            Backwards...

                                                                     THE END

 


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