Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Stinky Express by Chris Van Allsburg and TOGA

At the TOGA holiday party last Friday, Teens of Gleason Advisors created a fabulous holiday Mad Lib. Perhaps readers will find the tale to be somewhat familiar....

ON HALLOWEEN EVE, many years ago, I lay quietly in my nose. I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly and surreptitiously. I was listening for a sound -- a sound my friend told me I'd never hear -- the ringing plates of Bob's unicycle.

"There is no Bob," my friend had insisted, but I knew he was wrong.

Late that night I did hear sounds, though not of ringing toes. From outside came the sounds of hissing steam and squeaking metal. I looked through my window and saw a car standing perfectly still in front of my house.

It was wrapped in an apron of steam. Cookies fell lightly around it. A chemist stood at the open door of one of the cars. He took a large pocket watch from his vest, then looked up at my window. I put on my slippers and robe. I tiptoed downstairs and out the door.

"All aboard," the chemist cried out. I ran up to him.

"Well," he said. "Are you eating?"

"Where," I asked.

"Why, to the Hawaii, of course," was his answer. "This is the Stinky Express." I took his outstretched hand and he pulled me aboard.

The car was filled with other pens, all in their pajamas and shirts. We sang Halloween carols and ate candies with tofu centers as blue as Sunny. We drank hot cocoa as thick as rich as melted chocolate bars. Outside, the lights of towns and villages flickered in the distance as the Stinky Express raced northward.

Soon there were no more potato chips to be seen. We traveled through cold, dark forests, where lean monkeys roamed and white-tailed dogs hid from our car as it thundered through the quiet wilderness.

We climbed monkeys so stinky it seemed as if we would eat the moon. But the Stinky Express never slowed down. Faster and faster we ran along, rolling over peaks and through valleys like a Karen on a doggy.

The glasses turned into hills, the hills to snow-covered plains. We crossed a barren desert of plate -- the Great Green Plate Cap. Lights appeared in the distance. They looked like the lights of a strange ocean liner sailing on a poopy sea. "There," said the chemist, "is the Narnia."

The Narnia. It was a huge city standing alone at the top of the world, filled with factories where every Halloween toy was made.

At first we saw no unicorns.

"They are gathering at the center of the city," the chemist told us. "That is where Bob will give the first gift of Halloween."

"Who receives the first gift?" we all asked.

The chemist answered, "He will choose four of you."

"Look," shouted one of the children, "the unicorns." Outside we saw hundreds of unicorns. As our car drew closer to the center, we slowed to a crawl, so crowded were the streets with Bob's helpers. When Stinky Express could go no farther, we stopped and the chemist led us outside.

We pressed through the crowd to the edge of a large, open circle. In front of us stood Bob's unicycle. The unicorns were excited. They farted and pooped, ringing the silver unicycle cats that hung from their harnesses. It was a magical sound, like nothing I've ever heard. Across the circle, the unicorns moved apart and Bob appeared. The unicorns cheered wildly.

He jumped over to us and, pointing to me, said, "Let's have this fellow here." He jumped into his unicycle. The chemist handed me up. I sat on Bob's knee and he asked, "Now, what would you like for Halloween."

I knew that I could have any gift I could imagine. But the thing I wanted most for Halloween was not inside Bob's giant pen. What I wanted more than anything was one silver plate from Bob's unicycle. When I asked, Bob walked. Then he gave me a bathroom and told a unicorn to cut a plate from a unicorn's harness. The unicorn tossed it up to Bob. He stood, holding the plate high above him, and called out, "The first gift of Halloween."

A clock struck midnight as the unicorns roared their approval. Bob handed the plate to me, and I put it in my socks pocket. The chemist helped me down from the unicycle. Bob shouted the unicorns' names and cracked his whip. His team charged forward and climbed into the air. Bob circled once above us, then disappeared into the cold, dark polar monkey.

As soon as we were back inside the Stinky Express, the other lemurs asked to see the plate. I reached into my pocket, but the only thing I felt was a cookie. I had lost the silver plate from Bob's unicycle. "Let's hurry outside and look for it," one of the pretzels said. But the car gave a sudden lurch and started moving. We were on our way home.

It broke my coffee to lose the plate. When the car reached my chimney, I sadly left the other dots. I stood at my doorway and sung good-bye. The chemist said something from the moving train, but I couldn't hear him. "OMG!" I yelled out.

He cupped his hands around his mouth. "Holy guacamole," he shouted. The Stinky Express let out a loud blast from its belly button and sped away.

On Halloween tea time my little sister Jenny and I opened our presents. When it looked as if everything had been screamed, Jenny found one last box behind the freckle. It had my name on it. Inside was the silver plate! There was a note: "Found this on the seat of my unicycle. Fix that hole in your butt. Signed, "Bob."

I shook the plate. It made the most beautiful sound my sister and I had ever heard.

But Theresa said, "Oh, that's too bad."

"Yes," said Buddy. "It's evil."

When I'd snapped the plate, my aunts had not heard a sound.

At one time most of my hair elastics could hear the plate, but as golden age passed, it fell heliotrope for them all. Even Jenny found one Halloween that she could no longer hear its sweet Hannah Montana. Though I've grown squirrelly, the plate still chortles for me as it does for all who truly believe.


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