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A Slice of Jack’s Nightmare

Nightmare Before BedtimevbcrlfvbcrlfA Cautionary Talevbcrlf vbcrlfWith apologies to Tim BurtonvbcrlfvbcrlfMore than a month still remained until October 31st, the night when the citizens of Halloweentown got a chance to strut their stuff, rattle their bones and scare unsuspecting people like you and me out of our pants. Under the expert leadership of Jack Skellington, the head honcho of Halloweentown, all the preparations for the big night were well underway, and signs pointed toward another screaming success. In the pumpkin patch, this year’s crop of Jack’o’lanterns were bigger and better carved specimens than anyone could remember. The caramel and candied apple trees had also produced a bumper crop, stickier, sweeter and promising more loosened fillings, mangled dental devices and cavities than the output of the last 5 seasons. vbcrlfvbcrlfEverything was proceeding smoothly, and Jack was delighted. The elegant, eloquent leader of the community threw open the cracked and dirty tower windows of his rickety Victorian manse and leaned out on the perilously attached windowsill to survey the town square below. Three of the town’s gnarliest old crones were busy stirring a huge cauldron of vile brew, chanting spells and tossing in unspeakable ingreadiants. A couple of vampires, protected from the smoky haze of the late-autumn sun by dark glasses and a volumous black umbrella, were rating this year’s crop of black cat-kits for uniformity of color, whisker and tail length, volume of spittle and growl produced in a hiss, and sharpness of teeth. Dr.Finkelstein, the town’s resident Evil Scientist, was testing his latest creation, a fantastic 7 foot tall monster of a man which the economical doctor had made from spare parts lying around the lab. vbcrlfvbcrlf”That’s right, Frankie,” the doctor encouraged his shambling creation, “left foot forward, then the right. Left, right. Good boy!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Good afternoon, Doctor!” Jack shouted down into the square, “That fellow looks as though he’ll cause a few nightmares!” vbcrlfvbcrlfThe doctor gave Jack the half-sneering grimace that passed for a smile and instructed his man-monster, “Wave to Jack, Frankie! That’s it, just lift up that arm– no, just one arm…” vbcrlfvbcrlfJack waved back with one graceful boney hand and turned away from the window to go tell his wife, soul mate and best friend, Sally, how things were progressing. He found her in the kitchen, seated at the scarred executioner’s block table (a Marie Antoinette original) offering a soothing ear and cup of her special henbane and belladonna tea to Halloweentown’s second highest official, the Mayor. vbcrlfvbcrlfThe politician was typically of an excitable, anxious personality, and tending to be verbose, full of civic pride and a bit fickle. Naturally he was two-faced, and depending on his emotion at the moment, his pointed head swiveled to reveal a visage beaming with joy or drooping with despair. Right now, his unhappy countenance revealed to Jack that something was amiss. But what could possibly be wrong? He hurried to find out. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Mr.Mayor!” Jack exclaimed, “Good to see you old man! But why the long face? We’re right on schedule and from the looks of things, this will be the best Halloween yet! We’re really going to scare folks out of their wits!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Jack,” Sally began gently, her pretty if somewhat lopsidedly stitched mouth drawn into an expression of concern, “I don’t want you to go getting upset– why don’t you have some tea?” vbcrlfvbcrlf”What’s there to be upset about?” Jack asked, kissing his rag-doll helpmate on a soft, plush cheek. “Everything’s going along great! People are going to be terrified– really scared silly! And all the citizens are so enthusiastic–” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Some of them are a little bit too enthusiastic,” Sally interjected. At this point, the Mayor couldn’t keep still any longer and blurted in tones of despair, “Jack! You’ve got to do something! It’s that no-good Lock, Shock and Barrel!! They’re out of control!!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”I might have known,” Jack sighed. Lock, Shock and Barrel were a tiny trio of mischievous little imps whose chief delight was in causing trouble. The terrible threesome lived totally without rules or discipline in their delapidated treehouse, having no parents to make them mind. If Jack had a chocolate bar for every time the three delinquents had been dragged before the Halloweentown court, he would have been a rich man. vbcrlfvbcrlf”What have they done this time, and why hasn’t anyone put a stop to it?” Jack asked, steeling himself for the inevitable bad news. Everytime Lock, Shock and Barrel were brought up, Jack got a dull ache in the back of his skull. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Jack, you’ve got to stop them! They’ve locked themselves in the town hall and they’re threatening to destroy the entire candy supply for the whole town unless we give in to their demands!” vbcrlfvbcrlfJack gritted his teeth in anger. This was outrageous, even for those three little miscreants! “We haven’t got time to spare for their foolishness,” he exclaimed in exasperation, “Halloween is barely 4 weeks away! Where’s their sense of civic responsibilty?!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Jack, we have to talk some sense into them. They respect you,” Sally said, “can’t you reason with them?” vbcrlfvbcrlf”The only reasoning I’ll do with that trio will be on the seats of their pants,” Jack threatened, and leaped up from his seat. He punched on boney fist into his palm and declared, “don’t worry, Mr.Mayor, I’ll settle this once and for all.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Be careful, Jack,” Sally warned, “you know those nasty little brutes can play rough. Don’t get hurt.” She still shuddered when she remembered the time Lock, Shock and Barrel had pulled Jack’s head off and shot it out of their cannon. vbcrlfvbcrlf”I knew you’d have a plan, Jack,” the Mayor exclaimed, all smiles. “You’re the only man who can handle those three little monsters.” vbcrlfvbcrlfJack smiled in spite of himself, then set his jaw grimly and headed across the street to the town hall, rolling up his sleeves as he went. When he started climbing the steps to the crumbling, ancient civic building, he was instantly bomarded by a torrent of sticks, stones, rotten fruit and an anvil that only just missed crushing him and smashed through the rotting wood of the town hall steps. Mischievous giggles abounded from behind the clock of the crumbling ediface. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Lock, Shock and Barrel!” Jack shouted angrily, “Come down from there at once! This is your only warning!!” vbcrlfvbcrlfLock, his devil mask hanging around his neck, peered around the giant clock and launched an expertly aimed ball-bearing from his slingshot. It caught Jack right in the eye socket, causing him to yelp in surprise and ruined his dignified image somewhat when he had to remove his own skull and shake the rattling ball out. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Lock, that wasn’t funny! I’m not telling you again, if you don’t get down here right now–” vbcrlfvbcrlfShock’s pointed witches hat poked up from directly behind the clock, and she yelled down at Jack, “Get lost, Jack! We’re giving the orders now!!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah,” Lock chimed in, readying his slingshot with another deadly charge, “go home! We’re running this town from now on!” vbcrlfvbcrlfJack was astonded at the insolence of the trio. He had definitely been too easy on them for their past transgressions, but he’d change that, he thought grimly. vbcrlfvbcrlf”We have all the candy for the whole town in here, Jack,” Shock taunted, “and if you don’t give us our way, we’re gonna blow this joint sky high!!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah! We’ve rigged this stupid clock up with so much TNT that this crummy building’ll go up like a powderkeg!” Lock shouted gleefully. vbcrlfvbcrlf”So you better be nice to us, Jack,” Barrel warned, “’cause we’re the only ones who know how this thing works. One wrong move, and…” vbcrlfvbcrlfJack realised that the whole town was really in danger. The mischievous little pranksters were capable of doing some real damage, this time, and it was up to him to put a stop to it. He’d have to use strategy for now, and worry about punishing t
he delinquents later. vbcrlfvbcrlf”All right,” he shouted, “I’ll listen to your demands. But you have to come down here, first!” vbcrlfvbcrlfThe trio huddled briefly, had a murmered arguement, blows were exchanged and finally they agreed to descend to the ground and negotiate. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Don’t try anything funny, though, Jack,” Lock warned, “or we’ll blow the whole place up, and you with it!” Apparently the trio hadn’t considered that they’d have to blow themselves up, too, or maybe they’d decided the minor inconvenience of being blown to smithereens was worth it if they got to run Halloweentown. vbcrlfvbcrlf”I’m surprised at you,” Jack exclaimed when the little demons reached the ground, “don’t I always keep my word?” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah, Jack’s okay,” Shock agreed, giving him a winsome smile and shoving her cohort in the back of the head. Lock elbowed her in the stomach, and retaliated, “Well, we can’t be too careful, can we? It took almost the whole afternoon to come up with the bomb, and if he–” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Quit wasting time and tell him what we want!” Shock ordered, yanking the little devil’s tail to encourage him. He swung at her with his pitchfork, and Jack was beginning to think that they might not be such a threat after all. vbcrlfvbcrlf”I’ll tell him,” Barrel exclaimed, jumping up and down excitedly. “Jack, we want–” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Shut up, Barrel!” Lock yelled, slapping his compadre, “I’m doing the talking! Jack, we’re tired of working all year long for one lousy night.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”But you’re Halloweentown’s finest Trick or Treaters,” Jack protested, “I thought you liked causing mischief and playing your nasty pranks on Real world folks.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”We do, stupid,” Shock interrupted, annoyed, “we want to do it all year long! We want to have Halloween all the time, not just one stupid ole night!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah, we have lots more rotten tricks than we can pull off in one night!” Lock agreed, and Barrel nodded his head so enthusiasticly it threatened to fall off. vbcrlfvbcrlf”So, now that we’re in charge, we’ll have Halloween 375 days a year,” Lock concluded with finality and crossed his arms, pleased with himself. vbcrlfvbcrlf”365 days a year, dumbbell,” Shock shouted and punched him, disgusted by her cohort’s ignorance, “I told you to let me do the talking!” vbcrlfvbcrlfThey were upon each other again, wrestling, pulling hair, biting and cursing, on the steps of the town hall. Jack was struck with a brainstorm, a real inspiration for dealing with the three naughty children. vbcrlfvbcrlf”You know, kids, I think you’re absolutely right,” Jack announced. The trio were so taken aback by this that they actually stopped fighting for a moment and stared at him, openmouthed. vbcrlfvbcrlf”You do? I mean, good!” Shock exclaimed, suddenly beaming with pleasure at the prospect of getting their way. Lock and Barrel grinned too; although it was difficult for Barrel to grin with Lock’s pitchfork jammed in his mouth, he managed it. vbcrlfvbcrlf”We have more demands than that, ya know,” Lock warned, and Jack patted him on the head. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oh, I’m sure you do!” he exclaimed, “But let’s concentrate on this Halloween idea of yours. Gosh, the more I think about it, the more I like it! You three must be geniuses!” Jack gushed, laying it on thick for the thick-headed little demons who grinned at his estimation of their intelligence. vbcrlfvbcrlf”You really think so, Jack? We figured you’d like it– we can wage war on all the other holidays, and if they try to resist, we’ll enslave ’em!” Shock shouted eagerly. vbcrlfvbcrlf”No, better yet, we’ll kill ’em! Take that, easter bunny! Say yer prayers, Sandy Claws!!” Barrel chimed in, gleefully. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah, we could cut off their heads!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”I say hang ’em! String ’em up!!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Hanging’s too good for them! Boil them in oil!” vbcrlfvbcrlfThe trio were arguing again, and Jack was now confident in his plan. He had convinced them to trust him, and now he’d tighten the noose. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Well, kids, that’s sure a great idea, but you know, instead of taking the town’s candy supply hostage, a better way to convince the townspeople to go along with it would be to have a spokesman.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oh yeah? Seems like we’re doing a good job of convincing you” Shock pointed out. “If the townspeople don’t do what we say, BOOM!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”But they might revolt,” Jack warned her,”after all, there’s only three of you against a whole town. And you know what happens to tyrants once their dictatorships are overthrown.” The trio gulped involuntarily and exchanged nervous glances. There hadn’t been a public hanging or guillotining in a while… vbcrlfvbcrlf”Jack’s right,” Barrel interjected, “we need somebody to talk folks into taking our side. Somebody people like, as opposed to us.” vbcrlfvbcrlf” Oh yeah, smarty?” Lock said rudely, “Who’d be a spokesman for us? Everybody in this whole crummy town thinks we’re bad news.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Well, we are,” Barrel pointed out, and Lock and Shock twisted his ears for his insolence. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Hey! Jack could be our spokesman!” Shock shouted in sudden inspiration, “Everybody listens to him!!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah; it makes me wanna puke!” Lock agreed. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Jack, you could tell everybody that we were gonna wage war on the other holidays and have year round Halloween! And then when our other demands get carried out, like no school and no bedtime and never having to brush our teeth or comb our hair ever… you could enforce ’em!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah, you could be our henchman,” Barrel offered generously. Jack forced himself to grit his teeth in the parody of a grin. vbcrlfvbcrlf”I’ll tell you what, kids,” he suggested, “why don’t you just defuse that bomb and we’ll go over to my house and talk about this over some cookies and ice scream.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Ice scream and cookies? Oh boy!” the trio started to make a run for Jack’s house, but he collared them and dragged them back. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Wait a minute, aren’t you forgetting your bomb?” he asked, hoping that his suspicion would prove to be true. He was not disappointed. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Aw, that ole thing,” Shock grinned, “we never really built a bomb. It was just a trick.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah,” Lock agreed, “we don’t have enough TNT left to waste blowing up the stupid town hall.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oh, heh-heh, aren’t you the clever ones! My, I think that was your best prank yet! –You three never had a bomb at all?” Jack asked, just to be on the safe side. The little monsters were excellent liars. But they shook their heads no with such earnestness and pride in their clever deviousness that he was convinced. vbcrlfvbcrlf”We just took a couple of empty powderkegs and some barbed wire and this TNT plunger and some other stuff we had laying around the house and slapped it all together,” Barrel exclaimed with delight, “we sure fooled you, huh, Jack?” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah, you thought we were really gonna blow up the place,” Lock snickered. Jack just smiled broadly and kept a tight grip on the trio as he began to take them back to his house. vbcrlfvbcrlf”You sure did fool me, kids,” he agreed, cheerfully, “but I’m afraid I fooled you three, too.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Whaddaya mean?” Lock asked suspiciously as Jack quickly climbed the 37 narrow steps to the front door, his little wards firmly in hand. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah, you mean you were lying about the ice scream?” Shock demanded, “Aren’t we gonna get it?” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oh, you’ll get what’s coming to you, all right,” Jack assured them as he ushered them inside and shut the door tightly behind him. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oh, Sally,” he called, once inside the gloomy parlour, “we have three very special visitors… guess what? Lock, Shock and Barrel played a great joke on us!! They never had a bomb after all!” Jack’s tone was so jovial that the trio were beginning to get nervous. vbcrlfvbcrlf”I think maybe we better go home now,” Shock said, “and forget the cookies.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Yeah, uh, and maybe forget our plan to run Halloweentown too, maybe– what do you think, Barrel?” Lock said, nervously grinning. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oh, I wouldn’t dream of letting you clever little darlings go
home without giving you just what you deserve,” Jack assured them, “I mean, I want you to know how much I appreciated that great joke.” vbcrlfvbcrlfThe little demons weren’t quite sure what was in store for them, but they had an idea it wouldn’t be pleasant. They made a break for the door and were brought to an abrupt halt when they ran into Sally. She smilingly picked the children up from the floor and shoo-ed them over to Jack, keeping one hand behind her back as she did. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Lock, Shock and Barrel,” she smiled sweetly, “such a pleasant surprise. I was so amused by your little prank, and I’ve been so hoping that Jack would bring you over here. I have something special just for you.” She patted the wary children on the heads with her free hand, then put both hands behind her back and asked Jack coyly, “I have something special for you in one hand, Jack, and something for the children in the other. Can you guess what it is?” vbcrlfvbcrlfJack smiled at her and she gave him a satisfied nod. He sat down on the sagging velveteen loveseat and sat the little monsters next to him– Lock and Shock on either side, and Barrel in his lap. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oh, let me see…” he guessed, “is it something sweet?” vbcrlfvbcrlf”It sure is!” she exclaimed, smiling broadly, and from behind her back, she pulled an orange and black sucker. Jack tucked it in his shirt pocket as he rolled up his sleeves carefully. “Oh boy, Sally, a sucker! Well, we’ll just save this for later… but what about Lock, Shock and Barrel? You have something special for them, too… cookies? No? Ummm, popsicles? No?? Gee, what could it be… licorice? Chocolate bars? Saltwater taffy?” He shook his head in mock-puzzlement, the trio growing more and more anxious as the suspense built. Jack smiled and admitted defeat, saying, “Gosh, Sally, I give up. We’d better just give it to them.” vbcrlfvbcrlfThe trio’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when Sally pulled forth from behind her back an old-fashioned wooden hairbrush! vbcrlfvbcrlf”No, I think you can give it to them, Jack,” she smiled warmly, “after all, it’s your civic duty.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Well, if you insist,” he took the brush and grabbed Barrel, who had leaped up in a desparite attempt to make a break for it, by the collar. Pinning the hapless boy across his boney knees, Jack deftly yanked down the pants of his skeleton costume and began applying sound swats with the back of the brush to the little ghoul’s backside. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Ow! Jack, this isn’t funny!! Ow! OW! Oh, gosh, don’t! Ouch! You guys, don’t just sit there, help me!!” Barrel yelped as the stinging brush reddened his usually pallid backside. Sally kept a firm grip on Lock and Shock who were already starting to whimper and rub their own backsides in anticipation of what was in store for them. Jack spanked Barrel soundly, and when he’d finally decided the naughty little boy would remember this lesson for at least a little while, he released him, bawling and rubbing his smarting backside. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Now, you go and stand in that corner over there, Barrel, while I take care of your little friends,” Jack ordered. “Shock, come here.” vbcrlfvbcrlf”No,” she protested futilly, trying to back away, “you can’t spank girls! It’s not fair– little girls aren’t s’posed to get punished!! C’mon, Jack, I’ll be good, I’m sorry, I learned my lesson, honest!!” vbcrlfvbcrlfAs he dragged her, protesting, over his lap, Jack said, “I doubt that, but you may be right, Shock. You may have learned your lesson, but I think this’ll help you remember it.” He proceeded to lift her skirt, exposing her frilly petticoat and pantellettes, and she immeadiately began blubbering before she’d gotten the first swat. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oh, you’re a meanie, Jack! I can’t believe you’d hit a girl!! Oh, I hate you, Jack, just you wait! I’m gonna– no, Jack!!! Don’t take ’em down!!!” Jack had actually intended to spank her with her pantellettes up, but decided to go ahead and give her the spanking on the bare bottom when she called him a meanie. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Well, you said I was a meanie, and a real meanie would spank you on the bare bottom,” Jack said heartlessly as he swiftly spanked the little witch’s backside, ignoring her shrieks of indignation. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oww! Oh, Jack, I hate you!! Just you wait, you big– OW! OW! It wasn’t my fault, I tell you, it was the boys– OW! Owwww!!! Okay! Okay! I’m sorry– I’ll be good, pleeease, Jack, you’re killing me!!” vbcrlfvbcrlfHe continued to spank the little delinquent’s now thoroughly rosy backside until he was satisfied that in the future, if she wouldn’t stay out of trouble, she’d at least mind her manners. When he allowed the sniffling, red eyed and sobbing little girl up, he informed her, “Now you go and stand in that other corner while I finish up with Lock. And if I were you, I’d try to behave myself, since I haven’t quite decided whether you’ve learned your lesson or if you need another spanking.” The threat was sufficient to send Shock directly over to the corner where, aside from whimpering and rubbing her bottom, she didn’t make a peep. Lock set his face in a defiant scowl as Jack pulled him over the lap of justice, and announced beligerantly, “You might’ve made those sissies cry, but I’m not gonna! You’ll see, Jack, you’ll never make me say _I’m_ sorry!” vbcrlfvbcrlfJack took this as a challenge and immeadiately bared the little devil’s bottom and started earnestly applying the hairbrush. Lock reacted by kicking and howling, his tail thrashing in fury and his red forelock standing straight up, but he refused to show penitance. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oww! Oooh!! OWW! Gosh darn you, Jack, you big stinker!! OW! Owww!! I hope you burn in heck, you dirty, no-good, rotten, lousy son of a gun!!” Sally gasped at the torrent of profanity that spewed forth from the little demon’s mouth as he writhed under Jack’s enthusiastic spanking. Eventually, of course, the tears flowed and Lock, his bottom as firey red as his forelock, gave up his kicking and struggling and just lay there and bawled like a baby. vbcrlfvbcrlf”Do you think you might be just a little bit sorry now?” Jack asked him, “Because if you still don’t think you are–” Lock hastily interrupted, exclaiming earnestly, “NO! I mean, YES! I mean, I’m sorry!! Veryvery sorry!! Honest, Jack, you don’t have to spank me any more!” vbcrlfvbcrlfAt this, Jack let the last little recidivist up and sent him to stand in his own corner. Of course, the minute he was safely out of Jack’s reach, Lock muttered defiantly, “Didn’t hurt!” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oh, then I guess you’d better come back over here then,” Jack offered, raising the brush and patting his lap meaningfully. Lock’s eyes widened in horror, and he quickly apologized, “No, Jack, I was just kiddin’! I’ve had enough– I’ll be good!!” vbcrlfvbcrlfJack let the three little monsters stand in their corners long enough to compose themselves and allow their blistered bottoms to cool somewhat. Then, after a stern lecture, he sent them home to their treehouse, with orders to go straight to bed. vbcrlfvbcrlf”I’d mind, too, if I were you,” Jack warned, “because if I decide to come out there and find you aren’t in bed–” vbcrlfvbcrlf”Oh, we will be!” The children cut him off, earnestly, “And we’ll be good, Jack, from now on! So good, you won’t even recognize us!! You don’t need to come out to our treehouse, we’ll go straight to bed!!” vbcrlfvbcrlfJack smiled and gave the Halloweentown’s finest little Trick or Treaters a consilliatory hug. “That’s what I like to hear,” he exclaimed, “I almost believe that you three did learn your lesson, after all! And I bet that you’ll remember it too, won’t you– at least as long as you have to sleep on your tummies!!” vbcrlfvbcrlfWith that, he allowed the three sadder and wiser pranksters to leave, having kept his promise and given them what was coming to them. And once again, Halloweentown was safe for all the law-abiding witches, werewolves, zombies, vampires, demons, ghouls and creatures of the night. vbcrlfvbcrlfThe End

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