When last we left troublesome 10-year-old Charlie Jackson, he was being warned by an old and possibly ghostly man not to tempt fate and fish for muskie on the lake. This after Charlie had seen the giant plastic muskie in Nevis, Minn., wink at him. What will happen next in this children's ghost story? You tell me!
Submissions for Chapter 3 of The Tale of the Haunted Muskie are due by 8 p.m. Sunday. One submission will be selected as the official third chapter and published on this blog Monday. All drafts will be viewable online for interested readers. Readers will then be invited to write the fourth and final chapter, which will be published on Halloween.
No more than 500 words. Scary but suitable for kids and tweens. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here's the complete narrative to date:
CHAPTER 1, published Monday, Oct. 10: Once every October, Charlie Jackson’s family drove north to an old smelly cabin on Lake Belle Taine. There was something very familiar – very boring – about the trip. It usually followed the fourth or fifth call from Charlie’s principal. This time, Charlie’s mom and dad were so fed up, they barely let him talk the whole four-hour drive.
“Mom,” Charlie protested, “You don’t understand. If I didn’t pull the fire alarm, the whole school was going to explode!”
His mom, Wendy, didn’t respond. The only noise was the muffled music from his big sister’s headphones.
“Another classic story from the bone-brain,” Lisa shouted.
The car rolled into the town of Nevis, like it did every year. His father, Bill, started walking into the local gas station, like he did every year. But then he turned around, like he did every year.
“Lisa,” he said, “watch your brother. Charlie, stay in that seat!”
Nevis was boring for a 10 year old like Charlie – well, almost boring. Across the street from the gas station was a giant fish – the Nevis Tiger Muskie. Charlie climbed inside its gaping mouth when he was six, only to hit his head and need stitches. He climbed on top of it when he was eight, then slipped off and sprained his right arm.
With his parents out of sight, Charlie got out of the car and walked across the road to stare at the great and mysterious plastic fish.
Something wasn’t right. He squinted.
The fish’s bulging eyes were narrower – meaner. It wasn’t in the right place either. Charlie knew the fish was supposed to be two steps from the closest picnic table, because that was how he jumped on top of the fish. The picnic table hadn’t moved, but the fish was four, five steps away at least.
Charlie looked around the town. Had anyone noticed? Across the street, an old man was staring out a storefront window. At the gas station, two teenagers were giggling. Inside the car, his sister hadn’t even noticed he was gone.
Charlie whirled back around at the Muskie. What was that?! Had it just winked? Nooooooo. The fall wind whipped in from the lake at the edge of town. Charlie shivered.
CHAPTER 2, by James McAlpine, published Monday Oct. 17:
Charlie turned and headed for the car, hoping to avoid the watchful eyes of his father. As he reached the door, a voice whispered “see you on the water.” Charlie snapped his head around, finding nothing but the old man across the street staring back at him. Charlie convinced himself the wind had played tricks on him.
His father drove out of town, traveling on the hilly road to the cabin. The sensation was like a roller coaster for Charlie. He remembered in years past getting car sick from this part of the trip. But now, something was different. The leaves were scarce on the trees, leaving a view of the lake as they traveled. Charlie stared between the trees, seeing the spots he had fished before, and picked out new spots he wanted to fish. And there was only one fish Charlie had in mind.
The car pulled in to the woods and up to the cabin. It was as he remembered: plain, dusty, cold and waiting to be brought to life again with the last visitors of the year before winter arrived. Charlie took his fishing gear down to the shore. He traveled a well-worn and familiar path, carrying his Muskie poles and oversized net down to the dock. The wind blew hard across the lake causing a small light aluminum blue fishing boat to bump against the dock.
“What are you fishing for, son?” a gravelly voice asked. Charlie turned to find an old man with a weathered face in overhauls and flannel shirt peering at him. Startled, Charlie dropped his gear and replied “Muskie!”
“Ah, the fish of 10,000 casts” the old man said, nodding his head. The old man’s eyes narrowed and he looked at Charlie. “I’ve been the handyman at the resort next door for 50 years and fished Muskie even longer. I can tell ya, right now, they ain’t biting. Why don’t you go on home?”
“No way.” Charlie said. “We’ll get em.”
“Tell me something, son, what is your name?”
“Charlie,” the old man repeated. “Well Charlie, you going out in that little fishing boat?”
Charlie nodded. The old man walked closer and leaned forward.
“Bit of advice Charlie,” he said. “This year, don’t fish too late for Muskie, and get off the lake by sundown.”
Just then the boat crashed hard into the dock and one of the ties came loose. Charlie turned and ran to get his father. As he dashed up the path, he heard the old man shout, “Remember, not past sundown!” Charlie turned back at the top of the path. The old man was gone.