Welcome back to our third year of Goosebumps coverage in celebration of Halloween, everybody! Hope everybody is enjoying our first Goosebumps without Greg and his terrible decision-making skills vis a vis cameras with demonic powers. Hahaha, that Greg! What an idiot. [Ariel says: I miss that time you realized he was played by a young Ryan Gosling.]
Speaking of idiots, we rejoin our heroes Margaret and Casey, who has just run down into the basement to retrieve his shirt he somehow didn’t realize he wasn’t wearing for a couple hours. Suspense was high at the end of the last chapter, because Casey had to retrieve his shirt before their suspiciously-acting dad got back in the house. Naturally, this is a great time for Casey to slowly continue investigating the basement.
The tree seemed to lean toward the T-shirt, its long tendrils hanging down, loosely coiled on the soil around its trunk.
Casey took a timid step into the room.
Why am I so afraid? he wondered.
[Ariel says: I also just want to point out what an abrupt shift this is. This was very clearly in Margaret’s perspective before. It’s like they knew Matt was taking over for this chapter!] Casey discovers all is not as it seems with the kind of revelation that only R.L. Stine can write.
Hey — wait.
Casey begins to examine the strange mystery in the basement more thoughtfully, also in the way that only R.L. Stine can write.
There it was again. Steady breathing. Not too loud. Not too soft, either.
Who could be breathing? What could be breathing?
Was the big tree breathing?
Wait, guys, I forget. What’s the current mystery about the basement again? [Ariel says: Something to do with the ping pong table I think.]
Margaret shouts down from the top of the stairs for Casey to hurry up, and Casey grabs the shirt… AND GETS GRABBED HIMSELF.
Two snakelike tendrils swung out at him.
“Huh?” he cried out, paralyzed with fear. “What’s happening?”
The tendrils wrapped themselves around his waist. […] They didn’t squeeze him. They weren’t trying to strangle him. Or pull him back.
Casey is scared! The plant is… nonplussed?
The plant uttered a loud sigh.
Margaret has to run downstairs to help him escape from the clutches of the sighing plant – which is a sentence I’ve written on this blog – but don’t get back upstairs before…
Standing at the top was their father, glaring down at them, his hands balled into tight fists at his sides, his face rigid with anger.
Weirdly, their dad acts like a normal person by asking if they’re okay and then just saying he’s disappointed.
“Dad, what’s with those plants?” Casey asked.
“What do you mean?” Dr. Brewer asked.
“They’re — so weird,” Casey said.
“I’ll explain them to you some day,” he said flatly, still staring at the two of them.
He leaves to go back to work, not grounding them or explaining anything further. Casey summarizes how much the plot has developed in the first six chapters.
“I can’t believe that plant grabbed me,” Casey said thoughtfully
Even Margaret is bored with this book so far.
“Just don’t think about the basement,” Margaret advised. That’s really lame advice, she told herself.
The next day, Margaret calls her mom on the phone to have the exact same exposition scene from the beginning of the book, for some reason.
“How’s your father doing?” Mrs. Brewer asked. “I spoke to him last night, but he only grunted.”
“He doesn’t even grunt to us!” Margaret complained.
“Your dad has a lot to prove,” Mrs. Brewer said. “To himself, and to others. I think he’s working so hard because he wants to prove to Mr. Martinez and the others at the university that they were wrong to fire him.”
Margaret also tells her mom about new strange behavior from her father, even though she’s seen him exactly zero times where she could have learned this.
“He’s wearing a Dodgers cap. He never takes it off.”
“Really?” Mrs. Brewer sounded very surprised.
HOLY SHIT, A DODGERS CAP? GUYS, THIS IS HUGE.
Margaret sees her dad eating out of a bag. After a couple pages of her staring at him intently, wondering what he’s eating (because suspense?), he throws out the bag and leaves. She investigates and discovers that it’s a bag of plant food, much like how in Breaking Bad Hank finally discovered that Walt was the bad guy by finding his copy of How to Cook Meth.
She felt sick. She couldn’t get the disgusting picture out of her mind. How could her dad eat mud? […] As if he liked it.
As if he needed it.
[Ariel says: That sounds like it could be the start of a sexy R&B song. Not the mud part, but the last two lines.] Margaret tells Casey about this, weighs the evidence, and determines that maybe their father is turning into a plant, because I guess we’re just cutting right to the chase now.
“Watching him gulp down that disgusting plant food, I — I had this horrible thought that he’s turning into a plant!”
What’s weird is that this is actually one of the more rational jump to conclusions we’ve seen in a BBGT book.
Margaret and Casey go hang out with Diane, and have, uh, another infodump scene entirely with information we already know?
“The university told him he had to stop whatever it was he was doing, and he refused. He said he couldn’t stop. At least that’s what my dad heard”
Just in case we completely forgot what the book was about, I guess. Again.
“Hey, Dad!” Casey called. “Catch!” He tossed the Frisbee to his father.
Dr. Brewer turned around a little too slowly. The Frisbee glanced off his head, knocking the Dodgers cap off. […] In place of hair, Dr. Brewer had bright green leaves sprouting from his head.
Man, it’s a good thing we learned he was doing weird experiments just before learning this, otherwise this wouldn’t have made any sense!
Just like the last time Margaret and Casey discovered something weird and incriminating about their father, he responds to it by… sitting down with them and calmly reassuring them that everything’s alright.
“I spoke to your mom on the phone this morning. She told me you’re upset about my work. […] I guess you two think your dad has gotten pretty weird, huh?”
Somehow these scenes are right on the border between terrifying and like a tender The More You Know PSA.
He explains that the leaves are a side effect and he’ll have his normal hair again soon, and that he’s trying to build a new kind of plant.
“Let’s say we were able to isolate the […] gene that enabled [a] person to have such high intelligence. And then let’s say we were able to transmit it into other brains. And then this brain power could be passed along from generation to generation. And lots of people would have a high IQ. Do you understand?”
Wait, this explanation has absolutely nothing to do with plants. Why are we doing this.
“I’m doing something a little more unusual. I really don’t want to go into detail now. But I’ll
tell you that what I’m trying to do is build a kind of plant that has never existed and could never exist. I’m trying to build a plant that’s part animal.”
Why didn’t we just skip to that? Is… is the IQ thing important?
He explains that he’s doing this with “two glass booths connected by a powerful electron generator”, which is children’s book science for “because electricity”. After their talk, Margaret is happy their dad actually explained things to them, but realizes that they still don’t really know much about all the weird stuff going on.
Later, Margaret sees his father replacing a bandage on her hand and notices that his blood is green! Because plants!
Margaret lays awake, unable to sleep, the green blood revelation having thoroughly terrified her (apparently “there are leaves growing out of my father’s head” didn’t set off any serious alarms). She goes to the kitchen where she finds Casey, who couldn’t sleep either, when they suddenly hear a cry coming from the basement. So they each go back to bed, because I guess we’re not far enough in the book yet to bother just figuring out what’s going on.
The next morning, Margaret decides to ask her dad more questions, and discovers his bed is full of dirt and worms, which I guess is a more subtle way to learn he’s turning into a plant than finding him eating a bag labelled “PLANT FOOD”.
Question of the post! Do you think we’re actually in for a scare this year, or is Margaret’s dad going to continue to weirdly but not-particularly-villainously turn into a plant?