Thursday, September 19, 2013


Parts of this story are based on actual incidents. But THE PIT is not a history of those incidents, and the characters in this story are their own people, with different names and other aspects. Certain language and attitudes contained herein reflect the reality of the time that the actual incidents took place.


The smell of charred meat wafted up from the pit. The meat sat on a chunk of metal we found at the car graveyard which we had knocked clean with sticks there in the forest, and this piece of metal, roughly resembling something which could be used as a grille, was jammed into the clay wall of the pit over a small fire. Eddie had stolen the meat from his parents’ freezer, as well as some salt and pepper toted together in a plastic sandwich bag. We squatted on our haunches, shielding the meat with our hands from the bits of redwood duff and rotted log which sprinkled down from the makeshift thatch ceiling overhead.

I had introduced Eddie to the pit. No one knew exactly why it was there, although we generally concluded it used to be some sort of trap. The pit was about seven feet wide on all sides and six feet deep. A worn area in one corner, slightly sloped, and with a few roots for handholds was the only way of getting out. We left this spot uncovered by the thatch, and took turns gasping for fresh air near it, until we’d had as much as we could stand of the smoke and ate the burgers with our bare hands talking about our plan to scare Derik.
Eddie and Derik’s mothers were friends, so since Eddie and Derik were the same age, and Madrani was a small town, they more or less hung out. But Derik was a fat kid, and worse than that, he was pegged as a sissy. Eddie said frequently that Derik was a fairy and that he couldn’t stand having to hang out with him.

Eddie and I were friends with a kid named Paul who was a grade ahead of us, and we three had decided to spend a night in the pit. Then Derik found out through Eddie. I didn’t know Derik and didn’t need for him to come along. Introducing Eddie to the pit and indeed the forest was starting to feel like a bad idea. For all practical purposes the forest was mine. When rare interlopers visited, I was there to spy, feeling very territorial.

This was when each of the four members of Kiss had just released a solo album. None of us liked this idea, especially Paul, their number one fan, who always wore his Kiss belt buckle and was an official member of the Kiss Army. Gene Simmons had the best album. The best song on it was the first one, and the best part of that was Gene’s evil laugh at the beginning. Derik, Eddie said, just about crapped his pants when he heard it. Paul had a handheld tape recorder he said he could use. He could tape the laugh. Then, in the middle of the night, while we were all in the pit, the tape would come on, and we would all enjoy scaring Derik.

Spending the night in the forest seemed a wonderful plan in the dim pleasant light of the forest where all of the trees locked arms and leaned. The forest was like an amusement park when everyone else has gone home. There was the pit, and the car graveyard, a place on the side of a hill leading up behind an old service station. Someone shoved a lot of old cars down there over the years so that they were piled up among the trees in one neatly contained area from the top of the hill on down.

Ancient models that looked like the kind gangsters in pin-striped suits with fedoras would use teetered on top of each other, shot up, stripped, missing doors, tires, steering wheels and front seats. It was more fun than a merry-go-round rummaging for hidden old bottles to bust, whipping rocks bare-handed and with wrist rockets, shattering glass with pellets from air pistols and Daisy BB guns. If you lugged a steel-frayed tire packed with worms in rusty mud to the top of the hill, you could give it a shove and watch it crash and bounce and roll before tipping over, the way a guy slumps after getting electrocuted. There was the rope swing in the forest, two creeks, eight old-growth stumps ten feet high and hollowed out like castle turrets, and countless trees fallen at odd angles on which you could run to the end as fast as you wanted and overlook vast expanses of fern, clover, and the purple- and rust-colored duff of decaying redwood.

In this abandoned amusement park of the forest was also a haunted house.

It was a strange place to put a house, all by itself with nothing else around but trees. The house was old and gray and cracked and peeling, with soft spots in the roof dented by dead branches. When you passed by it on the trail coming down the hill, the house gave you an odd feeling. As though it was looking at you, with dead black eyes in the back of its head.

After we ate our burgers and put the fire out under a mound of damp clay stomped down, Eddie and I meandered back toward the trail and stopped off at the haunted house to chew tobacco on the roof. The roof was accessed by scrambling down an incline and leaping to a corner of it next to the slope. Mashed shingles and a busted gutter bore the evidence of this time-honored tradition. I had a pack of Beech-Nut in my sock. I unrolled the pack, took a big whiff of the sweet pungent smell, and offered some to Eddie. He folded a wad in his mouth. I selected a moist clump, sopping up the softer bits along the sides of the foil pouch. Then I sat down on the crown of the shingles and flicked old acorns, popping off with my thumb that little cap that looks like something Huckleberry Finn might wear. Eddie stood by the chimney so he could spit down inside. We talked about the school lockers we would soon have for the first time. No more school bus for us Madrani kids anymore. We would be able to walk. We talked about what it must be like to have a different teacher for every class, and reminisced on our Little League team that had just won the championships. Eddie dropped a stick down the chimney, then turned to me and froze.

“Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

We strained our ears. Treetops creaked.

Eddie whispered, “I heard something move in the house.” He had a weird way of being your best friend one moment and your worst enemy the next. At any given second, completely unannounced, he might decide to test you, as if looking for an excuse to suddenly turn on you. Which in fact he was. His brother was a couple years older than us, and my brother was a few years older than him. But Eddie’s brother, Lee, was at an age where he had to deal with his father, a sullen-eyed tough guy who seemed like something of a kid himself. On Eddie’s last birthday, I saw his father run him down in the street, and when he caught him he grabbed him on the crotch so hard that Eddie cried. “A pinch to grow an inch,” he said. Then he punched him on the arm and that sent Eddie down in the dirt road in front of all of us with his face beet-red and crying. “And a sock to grow a block,” said Eddie’s dad.

“It’s probably just a raccoon,” I said, thinking about the weirdo ex-bikers that hung out in Madrani who shot their guns in the air down the street at night. Anywhere you wandered might lead into a pot garden, rigged with booby-traps. There was a guy who had taken a bad fall on a motorcycle who always walked with his head tilted down to his shoulder, and when he spoke, spoke very slow. Our Little League coach ran a care home of sorts. Lots of guys like the one with the tilted head wandered around town, so that every day was like Night of the Living Dead. For all we knew, some nut was shacked up in there with an axe.

We leaped off the roof and raced up the hill.


My older brother knew about our plan to camp out down in the pit.

“You’re gonna freeze your butts off,” he said upstairs on his side of the room.

“No we won’t,” I said, rolling up my sleeping bag.

He put an Alice Cooper album on. The needle’s arm rode up and down, gently, like a docked boat. He tapped the top of one of the speakers to get it to work. Then he propped his pillow against the wall, sat down on his bed, stuffed a couple of big dripping pinches of Copenhagen in his lower lip, wiped his fingers on his outstretched legs and opened a paperback. After a while he chuckled with a mouthful of spit.

“What?” I said.

He spat in an empty Coke can and laughed. “I told you about that time Daryl took a wizz in the pit?”

“No way.”

“Sure. We all did. But that’s not the funny part. I was just thinking how this kid you probably don’t remember named Mike Watt was there. He saw Daryl taking his wizz and he said, ‘That’s nothing.’ Then he dropped his pants and took a big hairy. Right into the pit.”

I laughed, too. Then I thought about it. “No way!” I didn’t tell him we made burgers in there.

“That was years ago,” my older brother said. “It’s probably dried up by now.”

I picked up my sleeping bag. It was big and loose. “We’re gonna scare Derik,” I said.


“Derik Myers.”

“Is he that fat kid that you guys all say acts like a fairy?”


“What are you gonna do?”

I untied my sleeping bag, rolled it out, and tried again.

“We’re gonna play the start of that new Gene Simmons song right when he goes to sleep. He’s scared of it.”

My older brother looked fondly at an invisible movie screen somewhere near the ceiling, nodding with approval and a mouthful of spit. He dumped it in the can. “That could be funny, I guess.”

*     *     *

Over at Eddie's house with Paul waiting for Derik to show up for our camp-out in the pit, Eddie said, “Check it out, I’ll show you a trick.”

Oh no. Not a trick. I noticed Eddie was acting kind of funny. I looked at Paul to see if he was in on something.

“It’s cool,” Paul said. He took the egg.

“No!” Eddie said. “I want to…I want…” he trailed off, giggling as he went back into the kitchen.

“You faker,” Paul called out. Then he said to me, “He didn’t even have a whole beer. He thinks he’s drunk.”

Paul held the egg in the palm of his hand and tried to bring his fingers toward his wrist. “It won’t break,” he said. “You try.”

“Why? Is it hard-boiled?”

Paul laughed. “You can still break a hard-boiled egg. Just try."

I held it in my hand at arm’s length.  “Okay,” I said. “It’s gonna break.”

“You have to hold it in the palm of your hand. Just bring your fingers down.”

“It’s gonna crack all over.”

“Well, just don’t do it too hard.”

Eddie came back with two more eggs. “Hurry up, you guys. Lee’s here.”

I gave it a squeeze. Nothing happened.

“See?” Paul said. “It’s because all the pressure is evenly displaced.”

“I want to see Derik try this,” Eddie said. “He’ll freak out!”

“Why would he freak out?” I said.

“That’s just the way he is!”

Lee came into the living room. He looked pissed off.

“What are you guys doing?”

“Nothing,” Eddie said.

“Mom told you to take out the trash.”

“I did!”

“You liar. Mom’s gonna kick your ass. What are you doing with those eggs?”

“Watch. It won’t break.”

“That’s because you’re such a little fairy. You better put those eggs back before Mom catches you.”

“It’s not doing anything. Watch.” Eddie gave it a squeeze. Nothing happened. “See?”

“You dork.” Lee slapped underneath Eddie’s hand and bobbled the egg in mid-air, barely managing to catch it with both hands before it could hit the carpet.

“Smooth move!” Eddie said. “Mom would’ve killed you if you broke it.”

“Shut up.” Lee held the egg in the palm of his hand and gave it a squeeze. Nothing happened.

“See?” Eddie said. “I told you.”

Lee repositioned the egg.

“You have to hold it in your palm!”

“I said shut up.”

Lee squeezed the repositioned egg as hard as he could. It popped in his hand and dripped all over the carpet.

“You’re dead!” he screamed.

“I didn’t do it! You didn’t do it right!”

“Clean it up, you little turd!”

“You did it!”

Lee noticed that some eggshell had cut his hand.

“You better not get blood on the carpet,” Eddie said. “Oh man, you’re dead.”

A car honked outside. Derik was coming up the walk, waving to his mom in the headlights. It was time for us to go.

The four of us took a shortcut through a field, trying to keep up with each other and not step on horse patties. Everybody had a flashlight. We trained our beams on fresh piles and looked for rocks for throwing on top to see if they would sink in.

At the edge of the field a paved area behind the post office was bathed in the glow of a fluorescent light. Here our skin turned blue. Our lips looked purple. The acne on Paul’s forehead stood out in shiny purple mountains like a raised relief map. Blonde hair became green. We looked at our teeth and our tongues and our nails, twisting our hands in front of our eyes. We marveled at how we looked like dead guys. Then we crept across the street and quietly took the trail behind Madrani Market down into the forest.

We all squabbled as we jockeyed for position. The one in the lead was apt to find himself alone as the other three agreed with secret signs to ditch him. If the one in back lagged to readjust his pack, the same was done to him. Walking in pairs no one was satisfied, feeling left out of whatever transpired between the other two. If a flashlight was on, at least two complained that they could not see what they were stumbling into. Every step of the way, the jagged point of a fallen branch was jammed in someone’s shin or side, lighter branches whipcorded the faces of those following behind, knees were skinned on unsure footing amid desperate protests for the others to wait up.

Soon Eddie desperately determined that we had gone too far and passed the pit. I told him that we hadn’t. Paul suggested we give up and go back. Derik readily agreed. This was like asking to turn the rocket around right before reaching the moon. I was looking for my secret marker, an ancient splintered stump which pointed like the index finger of a giant hand directly toward the pit.

“Let’s just go back,” Paul said.

“You guys!” There was a shrill tone in Eddie’s voice, such as he fell into around his father.

“It’s right around here,” I said.

Eddie hustled over and paired up with me. “You guys can take off if you want.”

“You have to show me how to get back to the store,” Derik said.

We swung our beams on the trees and on each other as we spoke.

“Screw you,” Eddie said, “we’re not going back.”

“Have you got the tape?” I whispered.

“Paul has it,” he whispered back.

I saw my marker. It looked different in the dark.

“Eureka!" I said. "I found the pit."


Tracing the edges of the pit with the flashlight I said, “Watch out, we covered it up.”

We gave the perimeter a wide berth, and peered down the hole, giving the interior a sweep with the lights in case something had gotten inside while we were gone. A few thin rays escaped the thatch in an eerie glow.

One by one we piled in and began squabbling, calling dibs for where we would sleep, weighing the drawbacks and merits of each little spot until eventually everyone felt equally cheated.

With our flashlights propped in the corners we sat on our packs and divvied the rations. Paul brought some Hippie store trail mix with carob morsels (none of the rest of us had ever heard of carob) and a few rice cakes; Eddie brought an open bag of crushed Laura Scudder BBQ potato chips (“I’ll take them if you guys don’t want them,” he said); Derik brought caramel pieces, a $100,000 Bar and a Three Musketeers; and I brought a new bag of Beech-Nut and a canteen of plastic-tasting water.

We all agreed that it looked like a hobbit hole inside the pit. Also, that we’d rather be alone with Kathy Raymond in it.

Outside, the occasional snap of a branch and crunch of twigs caused immediate cessation of conversation. Deer, we said. Paul and I played along following Eddie’s cue to feign alarm for Derik’s benefit. This seemed to work the first few times, until Derik said he knew we were only pretending. As we laughed, the sound of something near the entrance of the pit caught our attention. Shadows moved overhead. We all turned in time to see a face peering down in the hole.

It was Lee, and his best buddy Terry behind him.

Lee and Terry jumped down in the pit with big smiles and a grocery bag. They had lifted some beers from their parents. Terry was a likable smartass who could shoot some decent hoops. I was terrible at basketball, but when I went down to the junior high court to practice, the echoing spring of the ball on the blacktop and the metal hum of the wavering backboard often sent Terry trotting over from his house.

Lee backed Eddie into a corner and punched him. Terry said to me that it was between the two of them. He offered me a beer but I declined.

Lee was more or less smothering Eddie. In his crouching posture, with Lee on top of him, Eddie tried to stand. His straining face and mussed-up hair appeared between Lee’s legs, just below the ass. Then Lee brought his legs together, locked his feet, and choked his little brother in front of us.

“If I let you up, are you gonna be good?” he eventually said. Eddie’s face was purple. He struggled, unable to respond. Lee repeated the question several times before springing away as fast as he could. Terry handed him a beer. Lee sat back and cracked it.

“You cryin’ over there?” he said.

Eddie lifted his beet-red face into the glare of the flashlight with snot smeared around his nose and screamed his hatred for his brother. Every fiber of his body was contorted with frustration. Lee maintained a blank look at the clay wall.

“Now now,” Terry said, pulling a can from the bag. Eddie caught the lob and brightened up.

Paul surveyed the damage to his pack received during the scuffle. “Oh, shit," he said, pulling out a silver-colored hand-held audio tape cassette recorder. “It’s my mom’s boyfriend’s. It better not be broken.” He hit the play button. The Gene Simmons laugh came on. It didn’t sound very good. Lee said it was the batteries.

We told Derik about our plan.

“You guys were always whispering,” he said. “I knew you were up to something.”

We all had a good laugh.

Then Derik reached into his pack. He withdrew from it a curious book.

“Have you ever heard of The History and Practice of Magic?” he said.

In fact, I had.

On Sundays when I was a kid we used to have to get dressed up and go to church. We had this priest called Father Hanley who used to do his sermon as a ventriloquist act. He called his dummy Rudy. My older brother and I always thought it was weird to see this stone-faced priest staring at everybody with a dummy in his lap lecturing and berating the paying audience. It was an abusive relationship, and creepy. Everybody else always acted like they loved it. They praised Father Hanley for his innovative approach.

The church didn't have an organist, just an electronic organ that played by itself like a player piano. "Did you listen to Rudy today?" the adults would say in lieu of anything better hanging around donuts and coffee after. They'd say this staring into space, not listening for any response, only trying to seem in charge and make us kids feel controlled with their big sneaky trick. All of the adults seemed to think we had no idea that Rudy was a ventriloquist's dummy.

They all acted like Father Hanley was an amazingly dashing fellow. A real doll-boy. We thought he looked like some kind of half-ass salesman. He had a big weird head of hair held hard by spray in a shiny shell and a waxy face that was unnaturally smooth. His eyes were cold beans and his soft folded hands looked like he kept them in small jars. Despite his doll-like outward priestly perfection, Father Hanley's breath smelled so rotten, it was as though he had never brushed his teeth in his life. But nobody ever acknowledged it.

This was because Father Hanley compensated for his quietly benign and loving charitable manner by allowing Rudy to deliver his Sunday sermon. Rudy was shrill, and Rudy was rude. The adults all loved Rudy's pious antics so much that none of them wanted for Rudy to publicly skewer them.

"I can smell a sinner," Rudy would say perched in Father Hanley's lap. You could see he was supposed to look like a mini-version of Father Hanley. Quite lifelike. More lifelike than the real thing. He'd rise up, Father Hanley floating behind, like he wasn't even there, and Rudy would float from pew to pew, sniffing..."I can smell a sinner . . . "

Then there would be screams as Rudy latched onto a sinner with a loud "A-HAAA!" and vigorous rubbing. All in good fun. To teach people about right and wrong. But if Rudy got the feeling that the sinner didn't like it, sometimes harsh denouncements happened. My brother and I always thought it was the strangest thing in the world to see this ventriloquist dummy shoved up into someone's face with this Father Hanley guy screaming and making the big loud jaw clack a mile a minute every time anybody resented getting groped, but everyone was terrorized into acting like they loved it.

Usually the hot chocolate was pretty good. Father Hanley loved whipped cream, and he made sure that even the reception room refrigerator was always fully stocked. He himself had a couple of houses. One for him, and one for Rudy, he'd smilingly say. He would appear after services while everyone was snacking, and during reception I used to wonder what exactly happened to Rudy when Father Hanley didn't have his hand up inside.


One morning, my brother and I sneaked away and investigated the back door of the church which we believed would take us into the secret room where Father Hanley kept Rudy. What Father Hanley didn't know, my brother had a buddy named Jamie who lived across the street, and Jamie had seen many times that not only did Father Hanley usually keep Rudy in the back room of the church, but on Sundays during reception, he always left the door unlocked.

The back room of the church was small and dark and smelled like Father Hanley's breath. Taking only a couple of cautious steps inside, we looked around and quickly found the suitcase where the priest kept his dummy. It was open on a chair. Inside the ventriloquist case the creepy priest's abusive and distorted miniature lay upon its side with its back to us as though it were taking a nap.

Seeing Rudy in this manner panicked me. Any moment I expected Father Hanley to appear. Sudden as a trapdoor spider his black-clad form would scuttle into the doorway. I couldn't stop staring at Rudy though because I knew that if I did, when I looked back I would see that he had changed position. He'd be sitting up, and looking at me with a horrible grin. We were in there for probably half a minute and it seemed like eternity, then it was daylight again with the door behind us. We ran right to the car so we wouldn't have to see anybody and waited for Mom and Dad to take us home.

There we scoured TV Guide for good shows coming up that week. "Trilogy of Terror" had just been on the Friday before, so we had in our funding the idea of a dangerous doll coming to life. Soon there would be holiday specials, too. On TV and in windows we could expect little dolls from The Nutcracker popping up everywhere looking like Rudy and hissing of smelling sinners.

That night my brother and I stayed up late talking about God. Under the white noise cover of a churning rock tumbler, my brother told me something that he never said before.

"You know what?" he said. "I don't think any of the people at church who claim to believe in God actually do."

"Why?" I said.

"Because, if I say I saw a peanut butter sandwich, nobody has a problem with that. But if I say I just saw God down the street and we had a conversation, nobody believes that at all. They might pretend to, if they know you're testing them. But you can always see that nobody really thinks all the supernatural stuff from religion stories happens. If you really thought that, they'd lock you up."

My brother's observation was a revelation to me. This was like being one of Dr. Moreau's beasts and finding we could get back at him. But my brother was already one step ahead. As it turned out, we had gone into the church back room to ascertain the whereabouts of Rudy so my brother could tell his friend Jamie across the street exactly what to look for.

"We're taking Rudy," he said. "Taking Rudy for a little ride."

This I knew meant by bicycle, but I didn't have to wait the full week to find out where it was that Rudy was going. Jamie found his moment early. I was later to learn that Jamie had an older sister and that Father Hanley had acted weird with her when no one else was there, so Jamie's interest in getting back at him was personal and active. Tuesday afternoon he called my brother and said he had Rudy hidden in the garage at his house. That was when I first learned about the pit.

The forest seemed so much bigger then. I followed my brother and his friend like a ghost down mythic trails with the priest's creepy dummy in Jamie's back pack. When we reached the pit, my brother and Jamie shared a chuckle over the time Mike Watt took a big hairy. They talked about what to do to the dummy. Then Jamie started laughing and said, "I'm gonna take a big hairy on it. I'm gonna put it down in the pit, hang out over the edge grabbing onto that branch, and I'm gonna take a big hairy all over Rudy. I hate that doll."

Slipping out of the straps of his pack, Jamie set it down on the ground and started to unzip the pack's biggest pocket. Suddenly though, he stopped halfway through. With eyes wide as fried eggs, Jamie jumped back like he'd seen a poisonous spider inside.

"It moved!" he screamed.

We all watched while something inside the back pack thrashed for a couple of seconds. All of the forest was quiet. The sound was muffled, but we all heard it: "I can smell a sinner," came the harsh little voice. "I can smell a bunch of sinners." Then the rest of the zipper was forced open and out popped Rudy with a savage snarl.

"You goddam little brats!" the priest's doll spat. "I'll kill you!"

*     *     *

"I remember we all started menacing Rudy with sticks," my older brother said. Hearing him corroborate my testimony in front of my friends as he stood at the edge of the pit wasn't a surprise, but earned him high my marks from me for not initially using the opportunity at my expense. Eddie, for example, was the just the sort of kid who would have said I was full of it for long time before admitting it was all true. "He was there in between all of us sort of staggering around."

"Father Hanley came up right behind you," I said. "You had your back turned to him, and with that stick cocked back."

My brother had aimed the blow at the doll's head like he was Reggie Jackson playing T-ball. He took a great big swing, not with one of those long skinny crackable claws you see scattered around in the redwoods, but with a gnarly, honkin'-on club. And I mean I've seen my brother swat a ball, but this time, he really took the cake. He bashed Rudy a wallop to the side of the head with a loud CRACK! that knocked the doll's head clean off its jerking body and sent it straight into the pit, hitting the dirt wall like a softball with a nauseating thud just as Father Hanley, The History and Practice of Magic open in one hand, his other hand a long outstretched claw, screamed a curse in an unknown tongue as he dove headlong down the trail full upon my brother with a face contorted by unbridled hate.

From where I stood, I could see it all. Nearly simultaneous to my brother removing the head of the doll with the blow, so too the head of the priest was removed as well, and collided into the dirt wall of the pit...still mouthing some evil spell! The headless body of the priest collided with my brother. There was a flurry of limbs, and both fell down. Then my brother got up and Father Hanley's decapitated body staggered off into the brush.

But I kicked the book into the pit. I saw it hit Father Hanley's head, mouth still moving, and when it did it was like his moving mouth moved wider and wider until you couldn't see his face at all, only dark, whirling rings, like the top of a tornado might look. The head of the ventriloquist dummy quivered, pulled by some unseen force. Clacking in protestation, Rudy's head fell into the dark void of the swaying funnel. The smell of something dirty burning came out after that.

"Then did you hear that laugh?" Derik asked.

"What laugh?" I said.

"You know know the one. The one that sounds like Gene Simmons. Except way more so."

My brother and I looked at each other.

"Yes," I said. "We did."

"I never really made that connection till now," my older brother said.

"My aunt got me a copy of that book for my birthday," Derik said. 

"We heard that laugh, and then the portal, or whatever it was, went away. All that was left," I said, "was the priest's evil book and a charred smell. Plus the headless bodies."

"Oh yeah," Paul said, "We shot arrows one time at that headless doll. So that was Rudy."

"Yep," I said. "Last I saw of Father Hanley's body, it was down in the bamboo." Turning to Derik I asked, "What did you summon when you heard that laugh?"

"I'm not sure," Derik said. "It looked kind of like an ape. I think it was some kind of demon."

The night crickets chirped. 

"You guys are crazy," Lee said. "Come on Terry, let's go."

Just like that, Lee and Terry got up and left.

"Holy crap," my older brother said after about a minute of silence, observing our stuff. "Are you guys drinking beers?"

"Those were Lee and Terry's," I said.

"Well, hand the rest over here."

"Hey, I want one," Eddie said.

"You're way too young," said my brother. "No way."

"Don't worry about it," said Paul. "It'll be more fun to use this book to get back at your brother."

"Yeah!" Immediately Eddie no longer cared about beer.

I picked up the tape recorder and rewound the song.

"I remember being afraid to touch the book down here for a long time," I said.

"Whatever happened to it?" said my brother.

"I don't know," I said. "You used to see it down here all the time. Then eventually it was gone. Maybe somebody found it, I don't know. For all we know, your aunt found it."

"My aunt didn't find some book in a pit and give it to me for a birthday present," Derik said.

Flipping through the pages of the esoteric tome, we looked for a good spell for Eddie to get back at Lee. 

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