"Walt LeStrange" Chapter One

You can find the next few chapters here: https://waltlestrange.wordpress.com

Chapter 1

Penelope June Salamander is in the 4th grade. She has light brown eyes and red hair that falls all the way to her elbows. She is the only one in her class that wears glasses and has the complete comic collection of “Era of the Undead.” Penelope’s love for reading developed from her mother, who is a librarian at the county library. Her mother studies literature and culture; sometimes she even cooks foods from India or France. Penelope doesn’t normally like the food very much…but she eats it anyway. Penelope’s mother has red hair too and glasses with thicker lenses. Her dad has glasses too but only wears them at work when he is painting. When she was younger Penelope asked her dad what his job was and he always said that he was an artist. He told her he was an embalmer and did make up for people who couldn’t do it themselves.

The Salamanders just moved to Sommerville, New Hampshire a month ago. It’s October and the weather has been cold and rainy. To keep busy, Penelope has been reading her latest comic book “Wolves from Outerspace!” and exploring their mysterious house. The houses in Sommerville are very old. Paint peels down from the ceilings and the floorboards strain with the weight of a guest strolling between rooms. Penelope records all of these spots in her journal, just in case she needs to make a quiet getaway from an imaginary monster, or her mom.

“Penelope, are you ready yet? It’s time to go,” her mother calls excitedly from downstairs. Penelope couldn’t understand why she would be so eager to take her to the grocery store- it was only a block away. She slipped on her boots and walked downstairs to the kitchen to see her mom standing readily, purse in hand with a huge smile on her face. Penelope forced a smile back. As her mother drove past the store, Penelope started to realize that she had another plan. Her mother was terrible at hiding her secret, with a huge smirk filling her face and her eyes fixed on the road. They pulled up to a plain white building decorated with faded posters of cats and dogs clinging to the worn walls, “We’re here! Your father and I have been talking, and we think it would be great if we got a dog for you to play with and maybe to help you, ya know, socialize more.”

Penelope stared at her in disbelief momentarily before darting out of the car toward the silver doors. She strolled along each row peering into the cages of dogs. There were all kinds of dogs, German shepherds, schnauzers, labs, many breeds Penelope recognized from the parks in her neighborhood. But she couldn’t make up her mind on the perfect dog. As they neared the end of the cages, her mom turned around to make a second loop, eyes glued to her notecard scratching down names of different puppies she thought may be a good fit. Just as Penelope was about to twirl around and follow she heard a sigh in the last cage. As she peered curiously through the bars, she could see him slumped in the corner: scrawny legs stretched out across the cement covered in dusty brown short hair all the way up his back to his head where a mop of gray locks drooped over his eyes to his nose. Through the dirty gray hairs, Penelope could see his eyes staring at her, then the cage’s lock, then back at her; his lanky tail wrapped around his body, revealing a smaller mop of gray locks, but it didn’t wag. Penelope held eye contact and grinned.

“Moommmmmm!”

“Yes honey! Oh did you find one you like? What kind of dog is—oh.”

“Yep! He is perfect! And he’s small enough he can easily stay in my room all the time!”

“Oh yes he is, what 20 pounds? But what about this dog over here, Daisy, she’s a golden lab! You sure you want…who is this..” -- snatching his ID card --“oh Walt… a mutt.”

“Yes he’s perfect!” Penelope gleamed.

Walt slept in the backseat the whole drive home, and Penelope watched. When they finally got home, Walt slept downstairs all afternoon, and Penelope watched. She eventually grabbed her comic book and plopped down next to him. His eyes cracked open, and he sighed loudly, causing his gray hairs to shoot up and flutter down onto his nose as he drifted back to sleep.

“Yes but that’s the dog she wanted.”

“Are you sure it was a good choice, I mean look, he is just lying there, we might as well have gotten a stuffed animal and called it a day.”

Penelope’s parents glanced concernedly from the kitchen into the living room, where Penelope looked content, squished up next to Walt, nose deep into her book.

Get up, mope to the food dish, lie down.

Get up, mope to the back yard, lie down.

A week passed, and Penelope started to think of ways to get him to play with her. Treats, toys, and even walks didn’t seem to wake him, so she went back to her old routine of reading, exploring, and recording notes of the old house.

Cshhhhhh. Cshhhhhh. Penelope ‘s eyes flashed open. In a house like this, how could her parents not hear-cshhhhhh- she sat up waiting for her eyes to adjust to the night, and listened to a noise that appeared to be coming from downstairs. As she climbed out of bed she tried to recall all of the floor boards that made noise. Tip toeing towards the door she drifted through the dark hallway, till she reached the top of the stairs. She could see a glowing light from below flickering on the walls. Penelope’s mind raced to justify what the light could be. “What if the original owners of the house were buried outside decades ago and their undead bodies dug out of the grave, dragged themselves across the dirt AND WERE TRYING TO GET IN?” Penelope’s thoughts raced, “but even if they had flash lights buried with them the batteries would be dead by now,” she reasoned. Before her mind went on a tangent about how aliens have high tech weapons with light beams used to suck the brains of victims through their ears and into the space ship, she tried to think practically. They had no TV, so that wasn’t it. No street lights that could cast their light into the living room. She could not think what it could be other than one option: the refrigerator. Walt doesn’t move much, but could he be raiding the fridge? Caught up in her thoughts, Penelope completely disregarded the squeaking stairs, and inched her way down to the first step. Creeeeaaak, POP the light flashed off. Frozen in her tracks she stiffened, straining her ears to hear anything else, submerged in the darkness of the hallway Penelope waited.

Slowly her eyes started to adjust to the blackness. She could see past the bottom of the stairs into the living room. Everything was still and quiet. While Penelope calculated how she could slide down the stairs without a sound she heard a distant buzzing- no crackling- smooth little fragments, on and off, and on and off again. She gripped the rails and took each step gently and quietly. Moving her eyes from the living room to the dining room, she struggled to find the source of the buzz. The sound grew louder and steadier as she glided to the kitchen. In the glow of the moonlight sat Walt, looking through the sliding glass door up to the sky. His shoulders fell as he exhaled his usual sigh. He lowered his ears and Penelope watched as two small silver hairs started protruding out from the rest of his dusty mop, reaching towards the moon, climbing up a few inches from his head. Cshhhhh- the noise started again. Penelope gasped. Before she could scream, Walt’s head swung around, his gray hair flew behind his face and for the first time she could clearly see his bright and golden eyes glaring at her before his feet scattered across the tile and he pounced onto Penelope, pushed her to the ground.

“SHHH quiet child! Joo mustn’t make a sound!”

One paw pressed on her red hair and one on Penelope’s mouth, she was too stunned to utter a word.

“Curses! I knew I waz not safe in this premises, but no, joo, joo had to capture me and drag me away from ze plan!”

You can find the next few chapters here: https://waltlestrange.wordpress.com