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Illustrations by Victoria Assanelli
Guest art by Maaike Verwijs
Episode 6: Lizard Attack!
Hana picked up a dinosaur and turned it over in her hands. She rubbed the shiny silver Made in China sticker on its stomach with her finger, and then, after meditating on it, set the dinosaur back on the shelf amongst its family and friends. From the shelf the dinosaur stared at her with its beady black eyes while Hana looked at its price tag. She had never owned something made in China before and wondered if it was worth getting just for that.
‘What’re you looking at?’ Sara asked as she came up alongside her, holding a stuffed pig.
‘It’s a stegosaurus,’ Hana told her. ‘See how it has those two rows of plates going down its back? That’s what the cavemen used to hold onto while they rode them.’
‘Wow. Are you going to get it?’
Hana picked it up again and looked it over. ‘I’m not sure,’ she said. It somewhat reminded her of the giant dandruff lizard she had fought the previous day, but, then again, it was Made in China.
‘Mom says we can get anything we want as long as it’s under five dollars,’ her sister said. ‘That’s why I’m holding this awesome pig.’
‘Yeah? I guess I’ll get this guy, then, since he’s only three dollars,’ Hana said, waving the plastic dinosaur in the air.
They looked for their parents in the store so they could have their items judged and purchased for them. The store had opened recently and sold various knickknacks, toys, stuffed animals and sculptures, along with more random products such as postcards and pencils. It was the closest store to Hana’s house outside of the Very Convenience Variety Mart, so her family had decided to walk to it together to check it out. Hana and her sister found their parents looking at plates with fish designs on them.
‘Would you rather eat off the catfish plate or the koi plate?’ their father asked them, holding up both plates for their inspection.
‘The catfish looks like it’d try to eat my food,’ Sara said, squinting at it suspiciously.
‘In that case I’d like to use the catfish plate whenever we have spaghetti,’ Hana said.
‘Okay, so that’s two votes for the catfish plate,’ their father said as he happily returned the koi plate.
‘What did you guys find?’ their mother asked, bending down to look at Sara’s pig.
‘It’s a donkey,’ Sara said.
‘I thought this stegosaurus would look pretty cool on my dresser,’ Hana said, handing the dinosaur to her mother. Her mother also took the pig from Sara’s hands.
‘They’re both very nice,’ their mother said.
Hana and Sara continued to look around the store while their parents paid for everything at the counter. There was not a single object that Hana would not be able to make out of her dandruff, and she had the fleeting thought of opening a store to sell such creations. The thought was definitely fleeting, though, for as soon as the idea came to her she was absolutely disgusted by it. She also would never want to meet the type of person who would willingly buy something made out of dandruff.
Their parents collected them and they headed back home, the sun warm against their backs.
‘I’m going to make a saddle for your pig so my dinosaur can ride him,’ Hana told her sister. ‘That way he can get around the house more easily.’
‘No, I think we should make a saddle for the dinosaur so my pig can get around more easily,’ her sister suggested instead.
‘All this talk of pigs and dinosaurs is making me hungry,’ their father said, and his stomach growled in confirmation.
‘What are we having for dinner?’ Hana asked. Her father eyed her dinosaur and she hastily hid it in her pocket, and Sara tried to stuff her pig in Hana’s other pocket as her own pockets were too small.
‘I think barbecued shish kebab would look good on that catfish plate tonight,’ their father said thoughtfully.
The rest of the family nearly salivated in agreement. Food was all they could think about for the rest of the journey home, even for Hana, who up until then had mostly been thinking about the dandruff lizard she had defeated with James. When they got home they raided the fridge for meats and vegetables they could skewer, and then their father cooked the skewers over the barbecue. The smell of it all multiplied their anticipation with every whiff.
They ate their shish kebab on the back porch with a portable radio on. When a news bite about the scare at the park came up between advertisements, Hana knocked the radio off the table with the back of her hand and claimed it was an accident.
‘I was trying to pick something out of my teeth,’ she explained. She picked the radio up and set it back down on the table, switching to a different station as she did so. This station also had something to say about the park, however, so Hana simply sighed and ate her shish kebab silently while it played.
Thankfully the report was quick and light-hearted, only mentioning how witnesses claimed they were chased out of the park by a giant white lizard. The report stated that nobody was actually hurt and that no evidence of the white lizard’s existence had yet to surface, and then proceeded to imply that the lizard was either an elaborate prank or some kind of hallucination caused by the heat. No reference to Hana, James or dandruff was to be found anywhere in the report.
‘That must be why we heard those sirens,’ Hana’s mother said.
‘It’s peculiar,’ her father said. ‘Why would they think they were attacked by a giant lizard?’
‘Maybe it has something to do with that giant raisin that exploded at Hana’s school last year,’ her mother said between bites of her shish kebab. ‘Some people say it was a publicity stunt for raisins but I don’t think it was ever officially explained.’
Hana finished her shish kebab nervously. She did not like her parents talking about things she wished never existed.
‘That was delicious,’ she said after swallowing down the last bit of her meal. She then began picking her teeth with the wooden skewer. ‘Thanks for cooking, Dad.’
‘Thanks for putting them together,’ her father said to her and Sara.
Hana saw that everyone had finished dinner, so she began collecting their plates to bring inside. After depositing the dirty plates in the sink and throwing out the skewers, she fled to her room to avoid anymore talk of white lizards, giant raisins and other touchy subjects.
She grabbed her dinosaur from the top of her dresser and flopped down on her bed, holding the dinosaur up with both of her hands as she gazed at it against the light of her room. Something seemed to be missing, so she sat cross-legged in the middle of her bed to think about what that something could be. That was when she put together a little dandruff caveman to sit on top of the dinosaur.
After setting the dinosaur and its rider back onto her dresser, Hana watched them from her bed, expecting them to move under their own power. She had not purposefully created the dandruff caveman to do such a thing, however, and so it merely sat there.
She tried to think of all the times that her dandruff had come to life on its own. There were the dandruff slugs that had crawled out from under her bed the day that James had confessed he liked her, and those seemed to be about as dangerous as the giant lizard. Other than those, the only thing she could think of was the first thing she had ever made, a dandruff spaceship that flew across her room only to collide with the wall. But she imagined that some part of her must have wished it to do so, so the dandruffship did not particularly count.
The two things that the dandruff lizard and the dandruff slugs immediately had in common were that they were both made out of raw, unformed dandruff – dandruff that had either been disposed of or forgotten about –, and that they were both vaguely dangerous. That was all Hana could think of, anyway. So either they had both come to life on their own, or somebody must have made both of them, in which case the dandruff slugs would have to have been planted – and if that was the case then it meant someone had broken into her room. Her skin crawled just thinking about it.
She decided to call Henri to tell him about her new theories, for he was better at putting things together than both her and James. But then she realised that it must still be dinnertime for him, as her family had eaten early, so she decided to email him instead. This meant leaving her room and heading downstairs to use the family computer, which meant encountering her newly-inquisitive parents. She carefully opened her door and peered over the banister to see the flickering blue glow of the tv; from there she freely headed downstairs, for she knew that her parents would be too entranced by the television to think for themselves.
Hana sat at the computer desk in the living room and fired up the famicom while melodramatic detectives sought after leads in the background. She composed her email to Henri with an excessive amount of abbreviations and then sent it. While waiting for the computer to shut off, she heard the words ‘giant’, ‘white’ and ‘lizard’ come from the television set in the form of a news commercial, and sighed in frustration when her parents once again started talking about their own theories. She managed to retreat back to her room before her parents brought up the mysterious layer of dandruff that had covered the entire school when the gigantic raisin had appeared.
After doing homework on her bed for a while to help take her mind off things, Hana heard the phone ring and immediately dropped everything to go pick up the receiver in her parents’ room. Henri was on the other end.
‘I think you’re onto something,’ he said. ‘The idea of somebody making monsters out of discarded dandruff goes well with James’ theory.’
Hana smiled, happy to know her thoughts were not completely ludicrous. ‘Did you come up with anything?’ she asked.
‘Oh, no. I was just calling to remind you about the game tomorrow.’
Hana was bewildered. ‘I didn’t even know there was a game tomorrow!’
‘Yeah, that’s why I figured I should remind you about it,’ Henri said. ‘I called James as well and he said he’ll be there.’
‘I don’t get it,’ Hana said. ‘You don’t usually spring games on us like this.’
‘This time is a bit different,’ Henri said. ‘I found out which school we’ll be playing against.’
Hana immediately knew which school he was talking about. ‘You don’t mean—’
‘The green one,’ Henri finished for her. ‘I checked the roster and Kohlrabi isn’t on it, but you never know. It’s possible there’s some type of trap involved.’
‘So you’re inviting me and James to a trap?’
‘No, I’m inviting you to the game. If something happens then I’ll be glad to know you guys are around for support. Besides, my parents won’t be able to make it this time.’
‘Gotcha. I wonder if we should wear disguises – I could put together a dandruff beard for myself, and James could take off his hat for once.’
‘That might only attract more attention,’ Henri said. ‘Just go as yourselves.’
After confirming the time and location – 3 o’clock at their own school – they said goodbye to each other and hung up their phones. Sitting on her parents’ bed, Hana found that her heart was beating loud enough for her to hear it. She imagined that the baseball game would either be nothing or the biggest something of the year.
The next day Hana and James arrived at the school, sans disguises. They spotted Henri as he discussed plays with his team, all of them wearing the school’s blue and white baseball uniforms. James felt a pang of jealousy every time he saw them, especially Henri’s uniform: instead of a number, Henri’s uniform had a large star on it so that everyone knew he was the best player.
When Henri noticed that the pair had arrived he finished up whatever it was he was talking about and headed towards them. In his hand was the wooden bat that was standard for official school games, and when James saw it he felt his aluminum bat grow heavy. Henri touched the brim of his batting helmet in greeting.
‘I’m glad you guys could make it,’ he said.
James shrugged. ‘We wouldn’t be friends if we didn’t back you up.’
‘Yeah,’ Hana agreed. ‘I know it’s not much, but I brought my recorder just in case. I don’t think I’d want to break out my dandruff in front of so many people.’
‘I don’t know what you could do with your recorder, but hopefully it doesn’t come down to it,’ Henri said.
‘Any sign of the other team yet?’ James asked.
Henri shook his head. ‘It seems like they’re running late.’ A whistle then trilled in the background and all the members of their school’s baseball team regrouped by the coach. ‘Or maybe they’re right on time. Looks like I have to get ready, so I’ll see you guys after the game.’
‘Good luck!’ Hana said.
Henri tapped the side of his helmet’s brim with his bat and then turned around.
‘Knock a hundred out of the park or we’re no longer friends!’ James called to Henri as Henri sprinted back to the team. ‘Okay, let’s go find some seats,’ he then said to Hana.
The wooden stands were not particularly large and, because of that, were very much full on the home side. They looked to the visitor’s stands and saw that they were nearly empty.
‘Why don’t we just sit over there?’ James asked.
‘Are you kidding? That’s enemy territory! We can’t sit over there. Let’s just sit on the grass.’
‘If that’s what you want,’ James said, shrugging.
They sat on the grass to the right of the home stands, the closest spot to home plate that would not disrupt any playing. From there they were more visible to Henri and were thus more easily able to encourage him through hand signals such as clapping and thumbs-up, which they did even though Henri looked as confident as always.
The other team finally arrived on the field wearing green and yellow uniforms. They headed towards the visitor stands with expressions that were not quite blank, yet not very revealing, either; they reminded Hana of trained dogs that were still able to enjoy themselves despite being told what to do. The scattered families and friends of the team were far more unreserved in their enthusiasm, their exuberance showing through in welcoming claps and shouts.
‘Do you see Kohlrabi anywhere?’ asked Hana.
‘No, and there’s no sign of that Brussel guy, either,’ James said as he scanned the parade of strangers. He then looked over the visitor stands, full of other people he had never seen before. ‘Everyone in the stands seems to be too happy to be one of them.’
‘Maybe that’s why they’re so happy.’
The other team took to their positions and the game soon started. It did not take long for the home team to load the bases, at which point Henri was brought out. He did not appear to be at all fazed by the expectant looks of his teammates or those of the spectators on the home side. The air suddenly became very still. Everyone, including the pitcher, grew tense – that was, everyone except for Henri. He did not even seem to be looking at the pitcher; his eyes wandered over the field and even glanced up at the sun. That was when the pitcher threw a fastball, which was exactly what Henri wanted. In one swift, precise motion, Henri immediately looked forward and swung, and the ball was never seen again. Hana, James and everyone in the home stands stood up and cheered while Henri jogged modestly around the plates.
When he reached the home plate, the cheering turned to screams from all sides. The spectators poured out of the stands, the parents rushing to the diamond so they could gather up their children, and all the rushing adults made it impossible for Hana and James to see what had everyone so frightened. Henri made his way through the human traffic, effortlessly dodging the adults as he headed towards his friends.
‘Ah, here we go,’ he said to them as the field was vacated.
‘What is it?’ Hana asked, her eyes wide with fear and expectation.
‘That,’ Henri said, pointing towards the outfield. Now that the school had been emptied of baseball teams and spectators, Hana and James could clearly see what had got everyone so scared: the giant dandruff lizard from the park was stomping its way through the grass, and it looked even angrier than before.
‘This’ll be a piece of cake,’ James said, rubbing his nose and readying his bat.
‘This’ll be a piece of dandruff,’ Hana said as she pulled a dandruff bat out of her hair.
When the dandruff lizard focused on them and charged, Henri readied his wooden bat as well. The closer the lizard got to them, the more they could make out a splash of green on its otherwise white and yellow back. The trio tried to make out what it was, and once they figured it out, they felt their grips loosen on their weapons. They were too stunned to move.
On the lizard’s back, seemingly riding it, was Kohlrabi. He did not appear to be controlling it very well, for each bound the lizard made visibly caught him by surprise and nearly knocked him off, but he had an evil grin on his face all the same. As the lizard charged, Henri very dramatically called out Hana’s name.
‘Hanaaaaaa!’ Each bump broke up his cry but the intended effect was still there.
When the lizard finally reached them, it came to a sudden halt, nearly sending Kohlrabi flying. Kohlrabi kicked its side with his heel and the great lizard slowly began circling the trio, who had formed a protective triangle, their backs close together.
‘Do you like my steed?’ Kohlrabi asked as he patted the lizard’s neck.
‘It’s monstrous, gross and dumb,’ Hana said. ‘Just like you.’
Kohlrabi gave an acidic smile. ‘You’re more clever than that, Hana. After all, you’ve managed to hide your powers for so long.’
Hana felt her heart sink into her stomach. ‘What are you talking about?’ she asked.
‘Come on – you’re holding a dandruff bat as we speak. Surely you don’t expect me to believe you found it on the ground?’
‘I did!’ Hana lied. ‘I probably got it at the same place you got your lizard thing!’
‘Somehow I don’t believe that,’ Kohlrabi said, and then the lizard stopped again. ‘This was a gift from a good friend of mine. I think you know him.’
Everyone stood in awkward silence as the trio tried to think of who he was referring to.
‘Jack?’ James asked uncertainly.
‘No, you fool!’ he shouted at James. Then he refocused his attention on Hana. ‘Brussel. Yes, Brussel has told me a lot about you. At first I though the rivalry was over – after all, how could I top your dandruff creations when my hair is even cleaner than a new recorder? But then he showed me how he could make things out of your own dandruff. This lizard is proof that I’ll always be better than you, even when it comes to making things out of dandruff!’
‘But doesn’t that mean Brussel is better?’ James asked.
‘I don’t see how Brussel could be better than anybody,’ James continued.
‘The point is that Hana will never be able to make something like my lizard,’ Kohlrabi said. He then laughed mockingly at her. ‘Admit you’ve been defeated!’
‘Um, okay. If I admit that, will you stop bothering me?’
‘Do you mind telling us what it is you want?’ Henri asked.
‘I have what I want,’ Kohlrabi said. ‘Now en garde!’
The dandruff lizard bared its teeth but James immediately thumped it between the eyes with his bat. The lizard winced and then opened its eyes in a daze.
‘Your dandruff lizard doesn’t seem to be very fresh,’ Henri noted.
‘You’ll have to give it a moment to warm up,’ Kohlrabi said as he looked it over from his perch.
‘Okay, then while it’s warming up, I’m going to make this more of a fair fight,’ Hana said. She took several steps backwards and, once she was a few feet away, her friends quickly stood between her and the lizard. They held up their bats protectively while she crouched down and began shaking as much dandruff out of her hair as she could.
This ended up being a small hill. Hana pressed her tongue over her upper lip as she began molding the hill into something with four thick legs, similar to an elephant’s but a bit more stocky. Then she made the body, with a drooping belly and a long tail; from the nape of its neck all the way down to the tip of its tail she set thick plates shaped like spades. When it finally came down to giving her creation a face, she tried to make it as friendly-looking as possible.
While she was doing all of this, Kohlrabi had been hitting his lizard, trying to jolt it back into activity. By the time he had knocked some sense back into it, Hana had not only finished putting her stegosaurus together but had climbed on top of it, holding onto its plates for support. She rode it a few strides forward, and James and Henri stepped to its sides, gazing up at the majestic dandruff dinosaur with a mixture of awe and queasiness.
‘I’m ready if you are,’ Hana said to Kohlrabi. Both Kohlrabi and his lizard slowly looked up the stegosaurus until they reached Hana’s face. She waved down to them.
There was a fleeting look of fear on Kohlrabi’s face as he gulped, but he quickly regained his villainous composure and ground his heel into the lizard, forcing it forward. Hana patted the stegosaurus’ side and it kneeled down on its front legs, baring the plates on its neck. Kohlrabi’s lizard went crashing into the plates and crumpled into a pile of dandruff, this one much more unformed than the last time Hana had defeated it.
‘Had enough?’ Hana asked Kohlrabi, who was trying to climb out of the dandruff pile.
Kohlrabi managed to free himself in an angry fit and dusted off his uniform. When he looked up to yell insults at Hana, his face met the stegosaurus’ and his expression suddenly changed.
‘Yes,’ he said. He turned around and began limping hurriedly across the field.
Hana laughed and carefully climbed down from the dinosaur.
‘That certainly took care of him,’ Henri said, ‘but what are we going to do about your new friend?’
‘What do you mean?’ Hana asked.
‘He means the stegosaurus,’ James told her. ‘Where did you get the idea for it, anyway?’
Hana patted the stegosaurus’ leg and it slowly rested on the ground, exposing its stomach. On it were the words Made in China.
‘China?’ James asked.
‘I got a little stegosaurus at a store yesterday,’ Hana explained. ‘It was the first thing that came to mind.’
‘And now we have a dinosaur,’ Henri said.
‘It’s just made out of dandruff. It’s not real. Are you real, Mr. Dandruff Dinosaur?’
The dinosaur shook its head.
‘I think I know what Henri is getting around to,’ James said. ‘I’d feel guilty having to destroy it, even if it is only made out of dandruff.’
Hana looked at the stegosaurus’ face and suddenly felt sorry for it. ‘I guess you’re right,’ she said to James. Then she spoke to the dinosaur. ‘Do you think you could make it to the forest without being spotted? You could hang out with this giant red bear I know.’
The dandruff stegosaurus slowly nodded and then headed towards the row of trees at the end of the school’s field. If it followed the trees westward, it would eventually make it to the forest outside of the city where the red bear was. Hana, James and Henri all waved to it as it lumbered off on its long journey.
‘I hope Jack doesn’t find it and make it a member of his band,’ Hana said.
James and Henri were quick to agree. The trio began heading away from the diamond, hoping they would be able to leave before the sirens arrived.
To Be Continued In Episode Seven: For One Night Only