REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница

REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница

“Moose—they didn’t see us!” I whispered happily.

We helped each other to our feet. I felt dizzy. The dark ground tilted. My legs felt soft and rubbery like Jell-O.

Moose wiped his sweaty brow. “Where are they going?” he whispered.

I shook my head. “I don’t know. But we have to follow them. Come on.”

We gave each other a quick thumbs-up and stepped out from our hiding place. I led the way. We moved across the cement walk and past the front porch. Toward the side of the house.

I stopped when I heard their raspy REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница voices, talking low. Just up ahead.

Moose grabbed my shoulder, his eyes wide open in alarm. “I’m getting out of here. Now!”

I turned around. “No!” I pleaded. “You’ve got to stay and help me catch them. We have to show our parents what’s been going on here.”

He heaved a long sigh. It made me feel a little better to know that a big, tough guy like Moose was as frightened as I was. Finally, he nodded. “Okay. Let’s go get them.”

Keeping in the dark shadow of the house, we made REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница our way around to the back. I saw Buster, sound asleep beside his dog house in the center of the yard.

And then I saw the two lawn gnomes. They were bent over the pile of paint and brushes and drop cloths the painters had left beside the garage.

Moose and I hung back as Hap and Chip picked up two cans of black paint. They pried the cans open with their thick fingers.

Giggling, the two gnomes swung back the open cans, then hurled the black paint at the side of my house. The black paint spattered the REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница fresh white paint, then dripped down in long, thick streaks.

I clapped a hand over my mouth to keep from screaming.

I knew it. I’d know it all along. But no one would believe me. The gnomes were behind all the trouble around here.

The gnomes returned to the pile for more paint. “We’ve got to stop them,” I whispered to Moose. “But how?”

“Let’s just tackle them,” Moose suggested. “Tackle them from behind and pin them down.”

It sounded simple enough. They were little, after all. Smaller than us. “Okay,” I whispered, my stomach fluttering REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница. “Then we’ll drag them into the house and show my parents.”

I took a deep breath and held it. Moose and I started to inch forward.

Closer. Closer.

If only my legs weren’t wobbling like rubber bands!

Closer.

And then I saw Moose go down.

He toppled forward—and hit the ground hard, letting out a loud “Oooof!”

It took me a second to see that he had tripped over Buster’s rope.

He struggled to get to his feet. But the rope had tangled around his ankle.

He reached down with both hands. Gave it a hard tug REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница.

And woke up Buster!

“Rrrrrrowwwwwf! Rrrrrrowwwwwf!” Buster must have seen the gnomes because he started barking his head off.

The gnomes spun around.

And fixed their eyes on us. In the bright moonlight, their faces turned hard and angry.

“Get them!” Chip growled. “Don’t let them escape!”


“Run!” I screamed.

Moose and I bolted toward the front of the house.

Buster was still barking his head off.

And over the barking, I heard shrill giggles. The gnomes giggled as they chased after us.

Their feet slapped sharply on the grass. I glanced back, saw their stubby legs moving REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница fast, a blur of motion.

I pumped my legs, gasping for breath, and rounded the side of the house.

I could hear the high-pitched giggles of the two gnomes close behind us.

“Help!” Moose cried. “Somebody—help us!”

My mouth hung open. I struggled to breathe. They were gaining on us.

I knew I had to run faster. But my legs suddenly felt as heavy as bricks.

“Hellllp!” Moose called.

I glanced at the house. Why wasn’t anyone waking up in there?

We ran around the house and kept running.

Why were Hap and Chip REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница giggling like that?

Because they knew they were going to catch us?

I felt a stab of pain in my side. “Oh, no!” A cramp.

I felt Moose tugging me. “Don’t slow down, Joe. Keep going!”

The pain sharpened, like a knife in my side. “Can’t run…” I choked out.

“Joe—keep going! Don’t stop!” Moose cried, frantically pulling my arm.

But I doubled over, holding my side.

It’s all over, I thought. They’ve got me.



And then the front door swung open. The porch light flashed on.

“What’s going on out here?” a REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница familiar voice called.

Mindy!

She stepped out, pulling at the belt of her pink bathrobe. I saw her squint into the darkness.

“Mindy!” I called. “Mindy—watch out!”

Too late.

The gnomes grabbed her.

Giggling loudly, they pinned her arms back. Dragged her down the porch steps. Carried her to the street.


Mindy thrashed her arms and kicked her legs. But the giggling gnomes had surprising strength.

“Help me!” Mindy called back to Moose and me. “Don’t just stand there—help me!”

I swallowed hard. The pain in my side faded.

Moose and I didn’t say a REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница word. We just started chasing after them.

They had already carried Mindy to the street. Their feet slapped on the pavement. In the light from the street lamp, I saw Mindy struggling to free herself.

Moose and I hurtled down the driveway. “Put her down!” I shouted breathlessly. “Put my sister down—now!”

More giggles. They scurried past the McCalls’ house. Past the next two houses.

Moose and I ran after them, shouting, begging them to stop.

And then—to our shock—they did stop.

In the shadow of a tall hedge, they set Mindy down. And turned to us REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница. “We mean you no harm,” Chip said.

The gnomes’ expressions were serious now. Their eyes peered at us through the darkness.

“I don’t believe this!” Mindy cried, straightening her robe. “This is crazy! Crazy!”

“Tell me about it,” I muttered.

“Please listen to us,” Hap rasped.

“We mean you no harm,” Chip repeated.

“No harm!” Mindy shrieked. “No harm! You just dragged me from my home! You—you—”

“We only wanted to get your attention,” Hap said softly.

“Well, you’ve got it!” Mindy exclaimed.

“We mean you no harm,” Chip said once again. “Please believe us.”

“How REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница can we believe you?” I demanded, finally finding my voice. “Look at all the trouble you’ve caused. You’ve ruined the gardens! You splashed paint everywhere! You—”

“We can’t help it,” Hap interrupted.

“We really can’t,” Chip echoed. “You see, we’re Mischief Elves.”

“You’re what?” Mindy cried.

“We’re Mischief Elves. We do mischief. That’s our mission in life,” Hap explained.

“Wherever there is mischief in the world, we’re there,” Chip added. “Mischief is our job. We can’t help ourselves.”

He bent down and broke off a chunk of REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница the concrete curb. Then he pulled open the mailbox across from us and shoved the piece of concrete inside.

“See? I can’t help myself. I have to do mischief wherever I go.”

Hap giggled. “Without us, the world would be a pretty dull place—wouldn’t it?”

“It would be a much better place,” Mindy insisted, crossing her arms in front of her.

Moose still hadn’t said a word. He just stood and stared at the two talking lawn gnomes.

Hap and Chip made pouty faces. “Please don’t hurt our feelings,” Chip rasped. “Our life isn’t easy REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница.”

“We need your help,” Hap added.

“You want us to help you do mischief?” I cried. “No way! You’ve already gotten me into major trouble.”

“No. We need you to help get us our freedom,” Chip said solemnly. “Please—listen and believe.”

“Listen and believe,” Hap echoed.

“We lived in a land far from here,” Chip began. “In a forest deep and green. We guarded the mines and protected the trees. We performed our mischief innocently. But we also did a lot of good.”

“We were hard-working people,” Hap told us, scratching his head. “And REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница we were happy in our forest home.”

“But then the mines were closed and the forests were cut down,” Chip continued. “We were captured. Kidnapped. And taken far from home. We were shipped to your country and forced to work as lawn ornaments.”

“Slaves,” Hap said, shaking his head sadly. “Forced to stand all day and night.”

“That’s impossible!” Mindy cried. “Don’t you get bored? How do you stand so still?”

“We go into a trance,” Chip explained. “Time passes without our realizing it. We come out of the trance at night and go about doing our job.”

“You REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница mean mischief!” I declared.

They both nodded.

“But we want to be free,” Hap continued. “To go where we want. To live where we choose. We want to find another forest where we can live in freedom.” Two tiny gnome tears rolled down his fat cheeks.

Chip sighed and raised his eyes to me. “Will you help us?”

“Help you do what?” I demanded.

“Help our friends and us escape?” Chip replied.

“There are six others,” Hap explained. “They’re locked in the basement. At the store where you bought us. We need your help to set them free REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница.”

“We can climb into the basement window,” his friend continued. “But we are too short to climb back out. And too short to reach the doorknob to let ourselves out through the door.”

“Will you help us escape?” Hap pleaded, tugging the bottom of my T-shirt. “You just have to climb down into the basement. Then help our six friends out the basement door.”

“Please help us,” Chip begged, tears in his eyes. “Then we’ll be gone. To a deep forest. And we will never cause you any more mischief.”

“That sounds good to REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница me!” Mindy exclaimed.

“So you’ll do it?” Hap squealed.

They both began tugging at us, chirping, “Please? Please? Please? Please? Please?”

Moose, Mindy, and I exchanged troubled glances.

What should we do?


“Please? Please? Please? Please?”

“Let’s help them,” Moose said, finally finding his voice.

I turned to Mindy. I didn’t usually ask her advice. But she was the oldest. “What do you think?”

Mindy bit her lower lip. “Well, look how much Buster hates to be tied up,” she said. “He only wants to be free. I guess everything deserves to be free. Even lawn gnomes.”

I turned REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница back to the gnomes. “We’ll do it!” I declared. “We’ll help you.”

“Thank you! Thank you!” Chip cried happily. He threw his arms around Hap. “You don’t know what this means to us!”

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Hap squealed. He leaped into the air and clicked the heels of his boots together. “Hurry! Let’s go!”

“Now?” Mindy cried. “It’s the middle of the night! Can’t we wait until tomorrow?”

“No. Please. Now,” Hap insisted.

“In the darkness,” Chip added. “While the store is closed. Please. Let’s hurry.”

“I REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница’m not dressed,” Mindy replied. “I really don’t think we can go now. I think—”

“If we stay here longer, we’ll have to do more mischief,” Chip said with a wink.

I sure didn’t want that to happen. “Let’s do it now!” I agreed.

And so the five of us crept along the dark street and up the steep hill toward Lawn Lovely. Wow, did I feel weird! Here we were, walking around in the middle of the night with a couple of lawn ornaments! About to break into the store and set six REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница more lawn ornaments free!

The old pink house was a strange enough place during the day. But at night, it was totally creepy. All those lawn animals—deer and seals and flamingos—stared at us through the darkness, with blank, lifeless eyes.

Were they alive, too? I wondered.

Hap seemed to read my mind. “They’re only for decoration,” he sneered. “Nothing more.”

The two excited gnomes made their way quickly across the wide lawn and around the side of Mrs. Anderson’s house. Moose, Mindy, and I followed behind.

Mindy clutched my arm with an ice-cold hand. My REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница legs still felt wobbly. But my heart was pounding with excitement—not fear.

Hap and Chip pointed to the long, low window that led down to the basement. I knelt down and peered inside. Total darkness.

“You’re sure the other gnomes are down there?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” Chip declared eagerly. “All six. They’re waiting for you to rescue them.”

“Please hurry,” Hap pleaded, shoving me gently to the window. “Before the old woman hears us and wakes up.”

I lowered myself to the edge of the open window. And turned back to my sister and Moose.

“We’re REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница coming right behind you,” Moose whispered.

“Let’s rescue them and get out of here,” Mindy urged.

“Here goes,” I said softly.

I crossed my fingers and slid down into the darkness.


I bumped over the window frame and landed on my feet. A few seconds later, I heard Moose and Mindy slide in after me.

I squinted into the blackness that surrounded us. I couldn’t see a thing. I licked my dry lips and sniffed the air. A sharp smell, like vinegar, filled the hot, damp basement. Sweat, I thought. Gnome sweat.

I heard a low giggle REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница from outside. Chip and Hap hurtled over the window ledge and thudded to the floor.

“Hey, guys—” I whispered.

But they scampered off into the darkness.

“What’s going on here?” Moose demanded.

“We’ve got to find the light switch,” Mindy whispered.

But before we could move, the ceiling lights all flashed on. I blinked in the sudden blaze of brightness.

And then gasped as I stared across the vast basement—at a sea of lawn gnomes!

Not six! Six hundred! Row after row of them, jammed against each other, staring at the three of REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница us.

“Whoa!” Moose cried. “It’s a mob!”

“Hap and Chip lied to us!” I cried.

Their shirts were different colors. But the lawn gnomes all looked exactly alike. They all wore pointed caps and black belts. They all had staring red eyes, wide noses, grinning lips, and large pointy ears.

I was so startled to see so many of the ugly creatures, it took me a while to spot Hap and Chip. Finally, I saw them at the side of the room.

Hap clapped his hands three times.

And three more times. Short, sharp claps that echoed off the REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница basement walls.

And then the crowd of gnomes came to life, stretching and bending, grinning and giggling, chattering in shrill, excited voices.

Mindy grabbed my arm. “We’ve got to get out of here.”

I could barely hear her over the chattering, giggling mob of gnomes. I glanced up at the basement window. It suddenly seemed so high, so far away.

When I turned back, Hap and Chip had moved in front of us. They clapped their hands for attention.

The hundreds of gnomes instantly fell silent.

“We have brought the young humans!” Hap announced, grinning happily.

“We have kept REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница our promise!” Chip declared.

Giggles and cheering.

And then, to my horror, the gnomes began moving forward. Their eyes flashed excitedly. They reached out their stubby arms toward us. The pointed hats bobbed and slid forward, like sharks on the attack.

Mindy, Moose, and I backed up. Backed up to the wall.

The gnomes crowded up against us. Their little hands plucked at my clothes, slapped my face, pulled my hair.

“Stop!” I shrieked. “Get back! Get back!”

“We came to help you!” I heard Mindy scream. “Please—we came to help you escape!”

Loud giggling.

“But we REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница don’t want to escape!” a grinning gnome declared. “Now that you’re here, it’s going to be so much fun!”


Fun?

What did he mean by fun?

Hap and Chip pushed their way back to the front and stepped up beside us. They clapped their hands together to silence the giggling, chattering crowd.

The basement instantly turned silent.

“You tricked us!” Mindy screamed at the two gnomes. “You lied to us!”

They giggled in reply and slapped each other’s shoulders gleefully.

“I can’t believe you fell for our sad story,” Hap said, shaking his head REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница.

“We told you we’re Mischief Gnomes,” Chip sneered. “You should have known we were playing mischief!”

“Great joke, guys,” I said, forcing a hoarse laugh. “You fooled us. Way to go. So now let us go home, okay?”

“Yeah. Let us go home!” Moose insisted.

The whole room erupted in laughter.

Hap shook his head. “But the mischief has just begun!” he declared.

Cheers and giggles.

Chip turned to the crowd of excited gnomes. “So what shall we do with our lovely prisoners? Any ideas?”

“Let’s see if they bounce!” a gnome called from near the back of REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница the room.

“Yeah! Dribble them!”

“A dribbling contest!”

“No—bounce them against the wall. Bounce and catch!”

More cheers.

“No! Fold them into tiny squares! I love it when we fold humans into squares!”

“Yes! A folding contest!” another gnome cried.

“Fold them! Fold them! Fold them!” several gnomes began to chant.

“Tickle them!” a gnome in front suggested.

“Tickle them for hours!”

“Tickle! Tickle! Tickle!”

The room rang out with their excited chants.

“Fold them! Fold them! Fold them!”

“Tickle! Tickle! Tickle!”

“Dribble! Dribble! Dribble! Dribble!”

I turned to Moose. He stared out at the crowd of REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница chanting gnomes, dazed and frightened. His eyes bulged and his chin quivered.

Mindy had her back pressed up against the basement wall. Her blond hair was matted to her forehead. Her hands were jammed into the pockets of her bathrobe.

“What are we going to do?” she asked me, shouting over the excited chants.

Suddenly I had an idea.

I raised my arms high over my head. “Quiet!” I screamed.

The room instantly grew silent. Hundreds of red eyes glared at me.

“Let us go!” I demanded. “Or the three of us will scream at the top of REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница our lungs. We will wake up Mrs. Anderson. And she will be down here in a second to rescue us!”

Silence.

Had I frightened them?

No. The gnomes burst into loud, scornful laughter. They slapped each other’s shoulders, hooted, and giggled.

“You’ll have to do better than that!” Hap grinned up at me. “We all know that Mrs. Anderson can’t hear a thing.”

“Go ahead and shout,” Chip urged. “Shout all you want. We like it when humans shout.” He turned to Hap, and the two of them slapped each other’s shoulders and fell on the REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница floor, giggling gleefully, kicking their feet in the air.

Over the vast basement, the chants started up again.

“Tickle! Tickle! Tickle!”

“Fold them! Fold them! Fold them!”

“Dribble! Dribble! Dribble!”

With a long sigh, I turned to my frightened sister and friend. “We’re doomed,” I muttered. “We don’t have a chance.”


“Tug of War! Tug of War!”

A new chant started in the back of the room and swept up toward the front.

“Yes!” Hap and Chip declared happily.

“Excellent mischief!” Hap cried.

“A Tug of War! We’ll tug them till they stretch!” Chip shouted.

“Stretch them REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница! Stretch them!”

“Tug of War! Tug of War!”

“Joe—what are we going to do?” I heard Mindy’s frightened voice over the enthusiastic chants.

Think, Joe, I urged myself. Think! There has to be a way out of this basement.

But I felt so dazed. The chants rang in my ears. The grinning faces leered up at us. My thoughts were a jumbled mess.

“Stretch them! Stretch them!”

“Fold them! Fold them!”

“Tickle! Tickle! Tickle!”

Suddenly, over the shrill gnome voices, I heard a familiar sound.

A dog’s bark.

Buster’s bark.

“Buster!” Mindy cried. “I hear him REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница!”

“I—I did too!” I exclaimed, turning and raising my eyes to the window above our heads. “He followed us! He must be right outside!”

I desperately wished Buster could talk. Could run home and tell Mom and Dad that we were in terrible trouble.

But he could only bark. Or… could he do more?

I suddenly remembered how frightened Hap and Chip appeared whenever Buster came around. The terrified expressions on their faces.

My heart fluttered with hope. Maybe the gnomes are afraid of dogs. Maybe Buster can scare them into letting us go. Maybe REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница he can even frighten them back into their trance.

I edged closer to my sister, my back pressed against the wall. “Mindy, I think the gnomes are afraid of Buster. If we get him down here, I think he can save us.”

We didn’t hesitate. All three of us started shouting up to the window. “Buster! Buster! Come here, boy!”

Could he hear us over the chanting gnomes?

Yes!

His big head peered down at us through the window.

“Good boy!” I cried. “Now, come here. Come down here, Buster!”

Buster’s mouth opened. His pink tongue drooped REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница from his mouth, and he started to pant.

“Good doggie!” I crooned. “Good doggie—come down here. Fast! Come, boy! Come, Buster!”

Buster poked his head into the window. And yawned.

“Down, Buster!” Mindy ordered. “Come down here, boy!”

He pulled his head out of the window. And settled down on the ground outside. I could see his head resting on his paws.

“No, Buster!” I shrieked, shouting over the chants. “Come, boy! Don’t lie down! Come! Buster, come!”

“Rowf?” He pushed his head back into the window. Farther. Farther.

“That a boy! Come on!” I pleaded. “A little REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница more… a little more. If you come down here, I’ll feed you doggie treats five times a day.”

Buster cocked his head to the side and sniffed at the damp, sweaty air of the basement.

I held my arms out to the dog. “Please, Buster. You’re our last chance. Please—hurry! Come down here.”

To my dismay, Buster pulled his head out of the window.

Turned.

And trotted away.


Mindy and Moose let out long, disappointed sighs. “Buster deserted us,” Mindy said softly. Her shoulders sagged. Moose dropped to his knees on the floor, shaking his head.

“Trampoline REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница! Trampoline!”

The chant had changed.

Hap grinned up at us. “Maybe we’ll use you for trampolines! That would be fun!”

“It’s almost time for a vote!” Chip added, rubbing his hands together eagerly.

“Trampoline! Trampoline!”

“Tug of War! Tug of War!”

I held my hands over my ears, trying to block out the sound of their shrill voices.

Silence. Please let me have silence, I thought.

Silence.

The word gave me an idea.

Silence. Buster’s dog whistle was silent!

Suddenly, I knew how to bring Buster back!

“Mindy!” I cried “The dog whistle! Buster REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница always comes when I blow the dog whistle!”

Mindy raised her head and brightened. “That’s right!” she cried. “Hurry, Joe!”

I grabbed for the shiny metal whistle under my T-shirt. It felt slippery with sweat. This has to work, I thought to myself. It has to bring Buster back.

I pulled the whistle out.

“The whistle!” several gnomes shrieked.

The room instantly grew silent.

I raised the whistle to my lips.

“Quick—blow it!” Mindy screeched.

To my surprise, Hap and Chip both dove at me.

They leaped up and slapped at the whistle.

The whistle spun REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница out of my hands.

“Noooo!” I cried in despair.

I grabbed frantically for it.

But it rolled and tumbled away, sliding across the basement floor.


Mindy, Moose, and I all dove for it.

But the gnomes were quicker.

A gnome in a bright blue shirt raised the whistle, clutched tightly in his little fist. “I’ve got it!”

“No, you don’t!” Moose cried. He leaped at the gnome. Tackled him around the knees.

The gnome let out a yelp as he went toppling to the floor.

The dog whistle fell from his hand.

And bounced across the hard floor toward REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница me.

I scooped it up. Started to raise it to my lips.

Three gnomes leaped onto my shoulders, giggling and grunting.

“Noooo!” I uttered a cry as they batted the whistle from my hand. I dropped to the floor, three gnomes on top of me.

I finally shook them off and jumped to my feet. My eyes searched for the whistle.

I saw a bunch of gnomes diving for the floor, scrambling for it. A few feet away, Moose struggled against four or five gnomes who had formed a line to block him. Mindy was battling another group REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница of gnomes, who held her back, their tiny hands around her legs and waist.

And then I saw Hap raise the whistle high.

The gnomes stepped back, clearing a circle around him.

Hap set the whistle in front of him on the floor. Then he raised his foot high.

He was about to crush it!

“Noooooo!” Another long cry escaped my throat. I scrambled over the floor, half-crawling, half-flying.

As Hap’s heavy plaster foot came down, I stretched out my hand.

Fumbled for the whistle.

Grabbed it.

Rolled away as the gnome’s foot tromped down heavily REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница. It thudded inches from my head.

I sat up. Raised the whistle to my lips.

And blew as hard as I could.

Now what?

Would the whistle work?

Would Buster come running to rescue us?


I blew the silent whistle again.

And turned to the window. Buster, where are you?

The gnomes must have been asking the same question. Because they froze in place, too. The excited chattering, giggling, and chanting stopped.

The only sound I could hear was my own shallow breathing.

I stared up at the window. A rectangle of blackness. No sign of Buster.

“Hey—!” Moose REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница’s cry made me turn around.

“Look at them!” Moose’s voice echoed through the silence.

“Look—they all froze!” Mindy declared. She placed both hands on the red cap of a gnome—and pushed the gnome over.

It clattered to the floor. And didn’t move. A hunk of plaster.

“I don’t get it!” Moose scratched his crew cut.

Still gripping the dog whistle tightly, I moved around the room, examining the frozen gnomes, pushing them over. Enjoying the silence.

“Back in their trance state,” Mindy murmured.

“But how?” Moose demanded. “Buster never showed up REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница. If they weren’t terrified of the dog, why did they all freeze up again?”

I suddenly knew the answer. I raised the whistle and blew it again. “It was the whistle,” I explained. “It wasn’t Buster. I had it wrong. They were afraid of the whistle. Not the dog.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Mindy said softly. “I never want to see another lawn gnome as long as I live.”

“Wait till I tell my parents about this!” Moose declared.

“Whoa!” I cried, grabbing his shoulder. “We can’t tell anyone about this. No way!”

“Why not?” he demanded REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница.

“Because no one will believe it,” I replied.

Moose stared at me for a long moment. “You’re right,” he agreed finally. “You’re definitely right.”

Mindy moved to the wall and stared up at the window. “How do we get out of here?”

“I know how,” I told her. I picked up Hap and Chip and stood them beneath the window. Then I climbed onto their caps, lifted my hands to the window, and pulled myself up. “Thanks for the boost, guys!” I called down.

They didn’t reply.

I hoped they were frozen for good REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница.

Mindy and Moose followed me out. Of course, Buster was waiting for us in the yard. His stubby tail began to wag as soon as I appeared. He came running over and licked my face till I was sopping wet and sticky.

“Sorry, fella. You’re a little late,” I told him. “You weren’t much help—were you!”

He licked me some more. Then he greeted Mindy and Moose.

“Yaaaay! We’re out! We’re out!” Moose cried. He slapped me so hard on the back, I thought my teeth were going to fly out!

I turned to my REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница sister. “Tickle! Tickle! Tickle!” I chanted.

“Give me a break!” Mindy cried, rolling her eyes for the thousandth time that day.

“Tickle! Tickle! Tickle!” I made tickling motions with my hands and started to chase her down the street.

“Joe—stop it! Don’t tickle me! I’m warning you!”

“Tickle! Tickle! Tickle!”

I knew I’d never forget those high-pitched chants. I knew I’d hear them in my dreams for a long, long time.

The next evening, Mindy and I were watching MTV in the den when Dad came home. “Be nice to your dad,” Mom REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница had warned us earlier. “He’s very upset that somebody stole his two lawn gnomes.”

Yes, the two gnomes were missing when he woke up.

Big surprise.

Mindy and I were so happy, we didn’t have a single argument all day.

And now we were happy to see Dad—except that he had a strange expression on his face. “Uh… I’ve brought home a little surprise,” he announced, glancing guiltily at Mom.

“Now what?” she demanded.

“Come and see.” Dad led us out to the front lawn.

The sun was disappearing behind the trees, and the sky was REVENGE OF THE LAWN GNOMES 4 страница gray. But I could still see clearly what Dad had purchased at Lawn Lovely this time.

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