A Ghoul And His Fold


There was a time, in the not too distant past, when there lived, in the land of Suburbia, an evil ghoul that terrorized the populace with its unruly penchant for devouring people whole, then rudely spitting their bones across the river and onto the residents' nicely manicured lawns. This was anathema to the citizens, who took great pride in appearances. Each morning one or another of the townsfolk walked out onto his front porch to get the morning paper only to find that the misanthropic monster had spat various and sundry calcified lumps across his greensward. This lamentable activity of the beast's played havoc with the blades of lawnmowers throughout the community and the situation presented an effrontery not easily endured! Although little thought was ever afforded the ghoul's unlucky victims, the ill manners of the beast were an outrage and could not continue.

One day the hobbledehoy gathered to consider how best to deal with the seditious carnivore. The council hall was filled to the rafters with irate lawn owners, voicing their plaints to the mayor. The mayor, a small, greasy, pudgy man with a bald spot at the back of his head, perspired beneath the barrage. What could he do, he asked of the multitude? Did they expect him to cross the river and take personal issue with the ghoul? Or would they rather he fire off a strongly worded letter? His honor made it plain he would not accept any of the blame for the monster's actions. It was an issue beyond his jurisdiction. The townsfolk only wailed the louder for satisfaction and insisted the mayor was obligated, through the auspices of his office, to deliver.

Sitting in the back of the hall was a strapping young, dockwollopper named Flemmish whose late, lamented brother was recently roasted over charcoal by the ghoul for attempting to purloin a succulent lamb from the ogre's flock, for his nuptial repast. For it was common knowledge that to abscond with one of the monster's beloved fold was an endeavor not to be survived. Therefore, when it was learned that the would-be crook was, himself, the featured course in a comestible repast, the wedding plans were canceled until the slight against the family's honor could be expunged, or indefinitely, whichever came first.

All familial attentions, therefore, were focused on the youngest son, affectionately nicknamed Flemm, as champion of the hearthside restoration movement. The father, a tall, lank, greasy man with a bald spot where his brain should have been, insisted that Flemm extract vengeance from the offending ghoul. It was his father's will that Flemm cross the river and commit battery upon the monster.

The plot thickens.

Within the walls of the council hall, voices reached a fevered pitch. The mayor was hard pressed to contain the emotions of the gathering. Moisture seeped profusely from every pore of his rotund, porcine body as he saw his vacillating control slipping away. Then a brilliant thought occurred in spite of him! He rose to his full height (well over four feet) and announced a reward to any among the throng brave enough to face the ghoul and come to terms with it. The reward consisted of a new lawnmower and a lifetime position with the local post office. A cheer exploded from the gathering! Then his honor, overcome by generosity, promised the hand of his only daughter in marriage to the man who bested the demon. At this, a groan wafted up from the throng, besweating its seat pants in the stifling room. For the mayor's cherished daughter, Janet, also sported a bald spot on her greasy, puffy, porcine head.

But, the dockwollopper's eyes widened at the prospect of a post office plumb. While the others in the chamber dissembled and shuffled their feet, casting furtive glances downwards, the mayor got the picture and rescinded his offer of his daughter's hand, or any like appendage for that matter. Another cheer broke from the crowd, as Janet waddled out red-faced.

Flemm was no dimwit, in spite of his parentage. He recognized, here, an opportunity to profit from the quest his lobotomized sire had set for him. If he had to secure vengeance in any event, why shouldn't he make a neat profit out of it for his survivors? He was a shrewd lad, a wise churl and a keen observer of the buttery side. If Flemm was unable to meet the challenge, none was. He stood up from his place on the shag carpeted bench at the back of the hall and with much aplomb, swaggered his five-foot, six-inch frame down the center of the aisle, whistling a sprightly ditty as he went to treat with the mayor.

The next morning Flemm had been outfitted with a knap sack crammed with baseball cards, chewing tobacco, chocolate bars and nylon stockings, in the unlikely event he could bargain with the ghoul, before being skewered and basted. For Flemm, being of agile mind, put very little hope in his ability to overpower and smite the monster.

Across the river went Flemm, swimming the waters, skimming lightly like a fine film; floating with the buoyancy his name implied. As he reached the opposite bank, wiping water from the front of his windbreaker, he noticed the ghoul's fold of sheep, quietly grazing in the grass by the river's bluff side. He saw nothing of the ghoul.

Yet the ghoul had seen him! It had studied his progress across the river with some astonishment, since these creatures never trespassed until the big yellow skylight fell over the side of the world. The appearance of this little creature, therefore, presented a conundrum to the ghoul (but, to be honest, which side of the straw mat to get up from in the morning presented a conundrum to the ghoul, but it was far too vain to admit this even to itself). Now it lay in wait, atop a thick tree, its evilly smiling face masked by leaves and piled bird bones. The ghoul had taken to entertaining thoughts (?) of swallowing the intruder whole in a single crushed ball, or picking him apart a little at a time. It chuckled deep in its throat, issuing a sound like passing wind.

Flemm heard the sound and stiffened.

The three-eyed, slavering ghoul shifted his weight in the tree from one buttock to another, then another, trying to get best placement for the leap down from the branches onto the approaching boy. It waited anxiously as the morsel drew closer within its range of attack. Its forked tongue lolled and dripped in salavatory anticipation from its split, camel-like mouth onto its cleft chin and down its barrel chest. From its hidey hole in the tree it waited, barely.

Flemm caught the rustle of leaves and understood that the ghoul was directly overhead. He steeled himself against looking up, moved without breaking stride to a point just ahead of the ghoul's position and stopped. Then with all the cunning of a college instructor backstabbing her way to tenure, Flemm began to unfold his plan.

"Well, I suppose I'll have to hand over all the treasure in this sack to that ghoul, if he's really as clever as people say," Flemm began baiting his trap. "But, y'know, I think I'm smarter than he is. With any luck at all, I can answer any riddle he puts to me. Then I won't have to give him any of these wonderful treasures." Flemm shook with terror while he waited to see if the ghoul bit the bait.

Up in the crook of the tree, the ghoul ran a slippery finger over its bulbous nose, stunned by this unusual development and wondering just what the boy was rambling on about. What was all that stuff about being clever? Nobody ever accused it of being clever before. Was that like 'inhuman monster,' or 'devilish man-eater?' Then it occurred to the ghoul, in spite of his objections, that the boy was issuing a challenge! If he could outsmart the boy (whatever that was) he would be entitled to the treasure in the boy's sack. Of course, it didn't occur to the heavy-headed ghoul that once he had eaten the boy the treasure was his by default. At once, the ghoul dropped from its hiding place in the branches and towered before the startled young man.

Flemm sprang back in surprise. The ghoul was sincerely terrifying. Over nine feet tall, it stooped. It's three eyes whirled in their sockets, the topmost blinking in time to some unheard rhythm. Thick drool lapped copiously from its rubbery, black, split lips, while its blue, twin tongues lolled in its cleft mouth which was undoubtedly hinged to gape impossibly wide. The point of its head, topped with a flaking tuft of red hair, rose high above its eyes. It's ears were located low on either side of its jawline and its huge nose wobbled hideously in the center of it all.

Flemm prayed fervently that his ploy had worked and the monster had swallowed his challenge whole. For the space of ten heartbeats, the two faced each other in charged silence. Then the ghoul smiled a black-toothed smile and pointed at Flemm's knap sack. Flemm sighed from deep within.

The game was afoot.

"Wacha god in da mag, lillah moy," the ghoul asked, impeded by its unusual dentition?

"Just some old baseball cards and chocolate and stuff," answered Flemm as off-handedly as he could manage, hoping to pique the monster's curiosity.

"Lemme thee wacha god or I'monna thmath yer braims oudda yer head, thon," the ghoul insisted.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Ghoul," said Flemm. "I'm not allowed to let you have the treasure unless you can stump me on a riddle."

"Thtump eoo on a riddoe? Whath a riddoe," asked the ghoul scratching the matted hair on its chest?

"Well," explained Flemm, easing readily into the charade, "if you can give me a question I can't answer; a question with a really easy, but hidden answer, then I have to give you the treasure. That's what the Mayor of Suburbia told me to do."

"Ooh. Yeth, I thee now, If I ax you a quethtion wif a really eathy anther an you doan get it, I get da treasure?"

"In a nutshell," said Flemm.

"A wot?"

"Forget it and just ask me your riddle."

"Otay. Ahem, if a clock ith thtopped an won't run no more, how many timeth will it be rite in one day," asked the cunningly grinning ghoul?

"Let's see," mused Flemm. "If a clock is stopped and won't run anymore, how many times will it be right in one day? That's a really tough one, sir. Twice," answered Flemm immediately. "Once in the morning when the time coincides with the stopped hands and once in the evening when the hands coincide again with the correct time"

The ghoul was first shocked and dismayed, then sad and confused. This little snip of a boy had snapped out the correct answer to a riddle it had taken the ghoul most of its adult life to make up, or was that remember? Then the ghoul became angry.

"Waddaya mean twyth! How many hourth ya got inna day, anyway? Thtoopid kid."

"Twenty four," said Flemm.


"So, it doesn't look like you get the treasure, does it, Mr. ghoul," beamed Flemm.

"Wait, ya godda gimme one more thyanth, thad wadn't fair," begged the ghoul.

"Okay," said Flemm, knowing he had the ghoul right where he wanted him. "I'll give you one more chance, but you have to answer a riddle for me, this time."

"Otay, thoot."

"Not so fast, big guy. If I was going to give you all the treasure in my knap sack when I missed your riddle, you have to give me something of yours if you miss mine," explained Flemm, while understanding slowly shunted across the ghoul's face.

"Bud, waddo I hab dat you'd want?"

"Well," drawled Flemm, "I noticed you have that nice flock of sheep over there by the river..."

"Huh uh! No way, buddy. Those are de onny friends I got. Pig sompthin else," warned the ghoul.

"Sorry, it's the sheep or no deal. And remember, if you answer the riddle, I still have to give you my treasure."

"Otay, smartass," conceded the ghoul. "Fer da sheep, den. Shoot da riddoe at me."

"Okay," began Flemm, "here goes. What is nine feet tall, bent over, has three squirrely eyes in its pointed head, twin tongues, a camel face, drools spittle all over itself, talks with a lisp and is ugly enough to make a slug puke?"

"Haw, dath a easy one," chuckled the ghoul. "Eberybuddy knowth dad I'm . . . Hey, waida minuite."

The ghoul's triple eyes cast upwards and inwards as he grappled with this new dilemma. Of course he could give the correct answer and save his sheep. However, from deep within his tattered and murky soul squeaked the tiny voice of self respect hidden for so long it resembled nothing more that a dust bunny. A thousand lofty and noble soul searching machinations could have occurred then in the mind of the ghoul. But they didn't have a chance. Instead the ghoul simply figured if he didn't admit to the truth of Flemm's riddle, it couldn't be true. So . . .

"Come on, let's go," prodded Flemm. "Even you said it was an easy one. Answer the riddle and you get to keep your fold, and get my treasure into the bargain . . . What's this I see? A little pride showing through one of your eyes? C'mon, don't you want my bag 'o' treasure," teased the boy?

"Ya know, kid? Da more I think about dith one, da harder it gets. Now, lemee thee. Whats nine feet tall, bent obber, hath three thquirely eyes, a poinded head, twin tongueth, a cammel face, droolth all obber itself and talks with a lithp? Ooh, an is altho grotesque enough to make a thlug puke? . . . I donno.Ya got me kid. Now, take da sheep an pith off."

A triumphant Flemm rushed to marshal the sheep to the river before the ghoul could wise up and recognize what had happened. While Flemm was given a hero's welcome back home, the ghoul starved to death trying to figure out why he didn't just eat the kid in the first place.

And the moral of this story, as you should have guessed, is: A ghoul and his fold are soon parted.

The End