Margaret begins to suspect her father is turning into a plant, which is a major turning point for most girls that age. This really isn’t a tale of horror so much as a tale of growing up in an uncertain world where at some point we all must realize our fathers are plants. [Matthew says: Goosebumps was not only important as many a child’s introduction to the horror genre, but also in learning that their fathers are actually plants. Hard-hitting social analysis from Bad Books, Good Times.]
Margaret and Casey go into the backyard to have a serious talk over orange juice about their father. The frequent mentions of this glass of orange juice that Casey is too anguished to drink makes this scene feel more like brunch than a moment where children come to frightening terms with what’s going on in their house.
Finally, he set the orange juice down on the lawn and said, “What should we do?” in a voice just above a whisper.
Margaret shrugged. “I wish Mom would call.”
“Would you tell her everything?” Casey asked, shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his baggy shorts.
“I guess,” Margaret said. “I don’t know if she’d believe it, but — ”
“It’s so scary,” Casey said. “I mean, he’s our dad. We’ve known him our whole lives. I mean — ”
“I know,” Margaret said. “But he’s not the same. He’s — ”
“Maybe he can explain it all,” Casey said thoughtfully. “Maybe there’s a good reason for everything. You know. Like the leaves on his head.”
I am really struggling to come up with a scenario where the kids would be completely satisfied and not at all horrified by the father’s explanation for this. “Well, kids, I have a rare form of cancer that causes leaves to grow out of my head. I also must sleep on piles of dirt and bugs now.”
Margaret relays Diane’s advice which is to call the police because “there’s got to be some kind of law against being a mad scientist.” To tell you the truth, I’m kind of surprised there isn’t a law against this given the kinds of dumb laws there are out there.
The kids come back inside, and dad has a surprise – he’s made lunch! A green, goopy mess of a lunch.
Margaret and Casey are immediately suspicious not just because the “soup” looks and smells disgusting, but because dad never makes lunch. “I sure was suspicious about the way he was acting, the leaves growing out of his head, the dirt and the bugs in the bed, but making lunch for us? Something isn’t right.” [Matthew says: They don’t notice that something’s up because their plant-dad is impatiently demanding they eat something that is very transparently not safe to eat, but because he’s being rude about it. Goosebumps protagonists, folks.]
Dad starts getting more and more upset the longer it takes the kids to try his nasty soup. The chapter ends with Margaret and Casey lifting the spoons to their mouths…
The doorbell rings, and the kids are super relieved when their father leaves to answer it. Quicker than you can say, “My father is turning to a plant and possibly trying to poison me,” they dump the stuff into the trash and go to see who’s at the door. [Matthew says: Because when you’re trying to hide something from someone who really, really wants you to take it, putting it where you put every other unwanted item where it will stay for a couple days is a pretty good tactical decision.][Ariel says: One of the other titles for this book they considered using was Stay out of the Trashcan, but that just didn’t quite have the same effect.]
Turns out it’s Dad’s old boss coming to see how his work is coming along. Apparently this Mr. Martinez had always believed in Dad, and it wasn’t his decision to let him go.
Mr. Martinez and Dad head down the basement, and the kids decide that the next chance they get, they need to also go down to the basement. So no one can stay the fuck out of this basement at all.
Dad goes to help a neighbour “install a new sink” which is definitely a euphemism for “evil plant business.”
Margaret and Casey go to sneak down to the basement, but the door is locked! Luckily, Casey’s friend just taught him to pick a lock.
Margaret obediently found a paper clip on her desk and brought it to him. Casey straightened the clip out, then poked it into the lock. In a few seconds, he hummed a triumphant fanfare and pulled the door open.
“Now you’re an expert lock picker, huh? Your friend Kevin is a good guy to know,” Margaret said, shaking her head.
Kevin sounds like the sort of guy you’d want with you to go down into a basement that you were explicitly told to stay out of. It’s a shame Diane was the friend that showed up in this book, she’s totally useless.
There seem to be even more plants in the basement than before, and they hear more moaning and sighing from the plants who are definitely getting it on with each other. Oh, come on, we were all thinking it.
Casey is suddenly grabbed by a plant! Or is he fucking with us again?
Casey isn’t tricking Margaret, but he wasn’t grabbed by a plant.
“Casey, it’s a squirrel!”
“What?” His voice was several octaves higher than normal. “It — it grabbed my ankle and — ”
“Look,” Margaret said, pointing. “It’s a squirrel.
Look how scared it is. It must have run right into you.”
“Oh.” Casey sighed. The color began to return to his ash-gray face. “I thought it was a . . . plant.”
To be fair, I also would have assumed one of the creepy plants grabbed me rather than jumping to the conclusion that a squirrel had gotten into the basement.
For some reason, a couple pages are dedicated to the kids chasing the squirrel out of the basement. Once that very important piece of the story is resolved, [Matthew says: Thank God! Squirrels are usually always the first characters to die in a horror story.] they hear a loud thumping coming from the supply closet. Casey also finds something disturbing: Mr. Martinez’ suit jacket and tie. It soon dawns on them that they never actually saw him leave yesterday, but before they can say any more, they hear footsteps upstairs and decide to hide.
The kids escape out an open window in the basement, and go to talk to their dad. They try to pretend they were outside the whole time, but he points out that the basement door is wide open.
They come clean and ask about Mr. Martinez, and he explains the man got hot and took off his jacket and forgot it. Seems reasonable! Dad doesn’t really seem all that mad about the basement, but before he heads off again to finish helping the neighbour out (he just came back to get more tools), he’s like, “Seriously, don’t go in the basement you could get hurt.” He’s the most lovingly evil father ever.
My question of the week is, what do you think was in the soup dad made for the kids? And what would it have done to them if they’d eaten it?