Jelly Belly and Bone Magic
by Steve Teare, Christmas 2016 for my son, Brody and his son, Zelner.
[dropcap]J[/dropcap]elly Belly knew the magic of bones. He kept a wishbone in a small drawer knowing someday he’d need that saved wish. But tonight he needed greater bone magic.
Someone tossed another pine log into the campfire. Long tongues of fiery flames licked high in the black, Idaho night sky. Orange and red shooting sparks floated toward the bright stars.
“Tell the one about The Bone Monster,” Piccolo Pete said. Piccolo was one of Jelly Belly’s many good imaginary friends. Piccolo poked a slim stick in the deep red – almost blue – embers. The end of the long stick ignited. He slowly pulled it out and blew out the long flame. The white smoke curled.
“I don’t know a story of any Bone Monster,” Jelly Belly said. He wanted a fun stick to poke in the fire, too.
“Sure you do,” Piccolo said, “Only brave and strong people tell it.” All-the-Pete’s were staring at the squirming Jelly Belly.
“I don’t remember,” Jelly Belly said with a shoulder shrug. He looked at the dark ground. Here was a stick but it was too short for comfort. He might singe his fuzzy fur holding it.
“Well then. I’ll tell it,” Piccolo said. He gazed upwards, “It was a dark night like this one – and not-so-far away …”
“But the stars are out tonight,” Pete Moss said. He was Piccolo’s brother. He pointed at the wide sky. Piccolo glared at him for interrupting the story so soon over mere trivialities.
“Yes. A dark night. With a few stars,” Piccolo began again, “But dark enough – you couldn’t see too well – and no fire.” He glanced at Moss who nodded in approval.
“The kind of night when the Bone Monster was most likely to appear – and appear he did.” Piccolo paused, raising his eyebrows and faking a smile.
“You didn’t tell us what the Monster looked like. You know. All made out of bones and such.” It was Ree Pete – another brother – interrupting this time.
Piccolo was indignant. He folded his arms and perused the twinkling stars. Someone broke the moment of awkward silence.
“The Bone Monster’s made of bleached bones of dead forest animals. Their bones dried white in the sun. And then they join the huge monster’s body like magic. Made entirely of bones,” Peter the Great – yet another brother – said. He stood posing. He swallowed down a choking throat-lump after speaking and then weakly smiled. His knees went wobbly and he plopped down again. Feigned bravery.
Piccolo glared at “The Great” with a capital “G.” He shook his head.
Jelly Belly tossed his found short stick into the scorching fire. It delightfully flamed. He didn’t want to hear this unpleasant story. His imagination was too big. He thought about covering his ears and closing his eyes. But that wouldn’t be a courageous example. He too swallowed a lump in his throat and made a weak smile at Peter the Great for being so brave.
“The Bone Monster is twenty feet high.” Kom Pete – still another brother – said competitively, “I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s … It’s …”
“Monstrous?” Jelly Belly asked. The shadows played across his pudgy face.
“Yes. That’s right. Monstrous,” Kom Pete said, “Perhaps – even bigger than that.”
Everyone glanced back and forth at each other. It really was too scary already.
“What does it …,” Jelly Belly started to ask.
“Eat?” Piccolo finished, “Why – it eats …” He swept his arm at them all – pointing his finger with drama, “your – imagination!” He brought his sweeping finger to his temple and stopped. He nodded.
Horrified, Jelly Belly knew no one had a bigger imagination than he did. If the Bone Monster was looking for a midnight snack, Jelly Belly’s imagination was best. That was it. Jelly Belly was leaving. He jumped up.
“I just forgot. I need to let the cat out,” Jelly Belly said. And he started stomping off into the blind dark.
They all knew Jelly Belly had no cat – but said nothing.
As Jelly Belly advanced slowly on the darkening trail, he heard a funny noise. At least on any other night, it would have been funny. But tonight it was not. Much like the rattle of a wooden wind chime; or dead tree branches scraping together, it made a clattering sound. But the cool air was still with no breeze. Jelly Belly waited fidgeting to control himself. He held his breath and listened hard. He heard nothing.
That was all he needed. Hearing nothing scared him just as bad as hearing something. He broke out in a bouncy gallop.
“It’s just my imagination,” he repeated over and over. But that was his mistake. For that was what the Bone Monster had come for. It would gobble up his entire imagination. The bigger his imagination grew the more and faster the Bone Monster would chase him.
With this realization, Jelly Belly halted. He imagined the hot breath of the Giant Bone Monster whooshing straight down his skinny neck. He shivered. Jelly Belly’s panicked mind raced searching for a hopeful escape. But his body couldn’t budge – frozen in place immovable as a heavy pond stone.
Focusing his mind with all his might, Jelly Belly conjured in his imagination a pack of hungry hounds. Big dogs, little dogs, in-between dogs. First just a few and then a thousand hungry dogs swarming forward and surrounding him. His puny body fell to the ground face down and lay motionless as the spill of dogs brush racing by. Hands over his head, Jelly Belly heard the imaginary, silent dogs baying and growling. They circled the huge, unseen Bone Monster round and round. Jelly Belly couldn’t look squeezing his eyes shut tight. He was so afraid his imagination wouldn’t be strong enough.
But it was.
He peeked out. The dogs were gone. The bone Monster was gone. Every dog taking an imaginary bone and running off to bury it as all imaginary dogs do.
“I made it,” Jelly Belly whispered. He lay on his back for a restful moment sprawled under the stars. His breathing slowly returned to a steady rhythm.
He imagined a flower. A nice yellow one. With a long green stem. His imagination was still intact. The Bone Monster didn’t eat it. It felt good to be alive.
Elated Jelly Belly ran back to the campfire. But all his Pete-friends were wildly running over the hill. They had seen the Bone Monster rushing into the firelight. It was Jelly Belly, of course.
Jelly Belly laughed. And sat alone near the warm fire. He lit a long stick. Fearless.