Thanks to Jonathan McDevitt, we have Chapter Three of our Montclair Tall Tale, “Howdy, Neighbor.” We’re looking for entries for Chapter Four right now!
Each entry should be 500-700 words, and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Montclair Tall Tale.”
Those chosen to be published will receive a gift certificate to Gelotti of Montclair, and glory! Glory! So! Much! Glory! Remember to end every episode with a cliffhanger, and bonus points for including characters and maybe even introducing new ones. Things we love: spies, mystery, mistaken identity, doppelgangers, space aliens.
By JONATHAN MCDEVITT
For Montclair Local
If there had been a creature in the front yard, it was certainly gone now. While there was no Jersey Devil, there was certainly SOMETHING. And Treat had just stepped in it.
He lifted up his foot to examine the red gooey muck stuck to his sneaker that he had assumed to be blood. On closer inspection he found that it was not blood at all. He sniffed.
“Strawberry?” he questioned.
Unthinkingly, and as 10-year-old boys will do, he stuck his finger in it and tasted it. He was right (thankfully), it was strawberry jam.
“Mom!” he shouted back to the house, “It’s-”
A blinding white light enveloped Treat, and the neighborhood. From Rachelle’s perspective her youngest boy had just been vaporized into nothingness. She stared — breathless, motionless — horrified. Treat’s father, Nathan, none the wiser, continued chatting with his neighbor. Probably about barbeques.
Treat was not vaporized, however, and remained very much intact. He blinked. Looking around, he appeared to be in a forest of pine trees. At this point he assumed that there was a break in space-time and a portal to the New Jersey Pine Barrens in his front yard. It was not that much of a stretch for someone as interested in the paranormal as Treat. He was, of course, correct. He also felt terribly guilty for not believing his mother. After all, wasn’t he always trying to convince his family that “the truth is out there…”?
In any case, none of this explained the strawberry jam. Wiping his shoe on the grass, he stopped. He thought he heard something whimpering — a sad, pathetic whimper, like a Chihuahua that wants your attention.
“No, no, no!!” a strange otherworldly voice was heard through the pine trees. “This won’t do at all!” Followed once again by the whimpering.
Treat decided to follow the voice. A few moments later, he found himself in a clearing, and looking at a small, rundown, misshapen, wooden building. Above the doorway was a wooden sign:
Jersey Devil’s Food Cakes
Through the window Treat could make out a figure. His head buried in his hands, the whimpering still audible. Treat approached the shack and gently knocked on the door.
“Go Away!” came the voice. “We’re closed! Maybe forever!”
Treat peered closer through the window. Yes, that was the Jersey Devil all right. Next to him on a table was a jar of Treat’s mom’s signature pickles.
“I think you were just at my house… ” Treat began. “You stole some of my mom’s pickles… ”
The whimpering ceased. After a moment, the thump, thump, thump of cloven hooves got closer. The door swung open. There stood the Jersey Devil. In a chef’s hat and pink apron.
“I never meant to steal anything,” he protested. “I only wanted to sample them to possibly include them in a new recipe I was thinking about. But then she saw me and screamed and everything just sort of fell apart.”
He sat down on the step leading to his door.
“That’s why I sent that welcome basket. I wanted to make a good impression. I had heard that your mother made delicious pickles. I’ve been looking for something new to sell for the summer season. I was going to offer her a sample of my strawberry preserves in exchange for a pickle.”
Treat sat down next to him and looked at his shoe. Well, that explains that.
“It doesn’t look like you get very much business out here… ” Treat began.
He sighed. “That’s part of the problem,” replied the Jersey Devil. “Tourism to the Pine Barrens isn’t what it used to be, and I thought a new flavor of Food Cake was the hook that I needed. But it didn’t work. It tasted terrible.
The Jersey Devil took off his chef’s hat.
“My name’s Percy, by the way. I’m sorry I scared your mom. If I don’t come up with something to help my business soon, I’ll have to go back and live with MY mom…”
The bright light appeared again — the rest of Treat’s family came tumbling out of the portal. Rambo the dog came and licked Treat’s face, Gustavus the porcupine prickled at Percy.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
A reminder of our main characters:
- Rachelle: Our protagonist. Founder, CEO, etc. of Ready for Brine Time, a “gourmet artisan organic farm-to-table picklery.” She is establishing a new location in Montclair after taking Brooklyn by storm. Driven, capable, determined to keep the business, along with her family, afloat and running smoothly (easier said than done).
- Nathan: Rachelle’s husband and business partner. He’s going through an existential crisis after an investment went sour (and not like pickles). He thinks that his jeans, man buns and Patagonia vests aren’t sufficiently hipster anymore. He’s thinking of going really radical: wearing a suit. Maybe Brooks Brothers. And a tie.
- Sophie, Ava and Treat: The couple’s three kids, ages 15, 5 and 10, respectively. Sophie, the eldest, will attend Montclair High School, and has enough books to fill the library at Alexandria. Ava, the youngest, will attend Bradford Elementary School, and is already showing signs of inheriting her mother’s business acumen. Treat, the middle child, will attend Buzz Aldrin Middle School, and is obsessed with UFO conspiracy theories.
- Rambo, Loki, and Gustavus: The family pets: a dog, a cat, and an “emotional support porcupine.”