Meet Jonathan “Merry” Meriwether, and some new youth and young adult fiction

by Craig Hartranft on October 22, 2015

in Fiction, Humor, Story Ideas, Youth/Young Adult

{ This attempt at Youth and/or Young Adult fiction began when my son, Ethan, who was beginning to read the same, some ten years ago. It may be set in the late Sixties or early Seventies as I draw much from my childhood for some of the set up. I like the characters, and their humorous names, and the first/third person narration and description from my lead protagonist,  Jonathan “Merry” Meriwether.  My penchant for dialogue driven writing swells in this story as well. Overall, I find the story fun. Now where will it go? }

From the film, Stand By Me, and a story by Stephen King

From the film, Stand By Me, and a story by Stephen King

[ Copyright © 1999 to present, Craig S Hartranft. All rights reserved, and everything it implies. You steal my stuff, I will hunt you down and kill you. You and your family, your dog, and your favorite teacher. Just kidding. ]

Two days after my twelfth birthday, somebody moved into the old Kendrick house down on the corner. My friend Booger was the first one to find out about it.

“Hey, Jon! Hey, Jon!” he yelled as he ran to my house.

Booger wasn’t running very fast. He really couldn’t because was too overweight from all the macaroni and cheese with a side of peanut butter he ate everyday. He sputtered to a stop at my porch, panting heavily. The unusual Spring weather didn’t help him either. It was an unusually warm Saturday in late April, nearly 75 degrees, for central Pennsylvania.

“Geez, Booger, you’re going to have a heart attack if you keep that up.” Booger just glared at me trying to catch his breath. “What’s wrong anyway?”

“Somebody’s moving into the old Kendrick house,” Booger said spitting and coughing between words. “Can you believe it?”

“No I can’t.” I watched Booger roll over and sit down on the porch steps.

“You want a drink of water or something?” I asked looking at his red face and the beads of sweat on his forehead.

“No, thanks,” he said. “Who would move into that place anyway? They would have to be as creepy as the house to live there.”

“Yeah, probably so,” I agreed chancing a glance down the street toward the house. There was Jeep and a rather large moving van in front of the house.

Nobody had lived in the house since old man Kendrick died five years ago. Everybody said that the old man used to keep live snakes in the basement and a horde of bats in the attic as pets. Tenspeed’s dad told us that Kendrick only came out at night. That’s when he would do his shopping at the all night grocery store across town. Jimmy the stock-boy said he bought lots of raw hamburger, sour cream, and gallons of apple cider. Now that was weird. But how he died was even weirder.

They found Kendrick sitting naked on the toilet with his head slumped on his chest. A newspaper was on the floor opened to an ad for Burton’s Tombstones and Small Engine Repair Shop. The oil delivery guy found him when he tried to give him his bill. He said it was the grossest thing he ever saw in his life, and he saw a lot of gross things I his life. Like the time Mrs. Bleecher’s cat got caught in his oil hose while it was rewinding into the truck. The coil just wrapped around his head and popped it right off. Mrs. Bleecher wasn’t very happy and changed oil companies the next day.

“You think we should check out?” asked Booger following my eyes toward the mysterious house.

“Yeah, but first let’s find Tenspeed and Earl. They’ll want to know too.”

“I think I saw Tenspeed in his backyard with his dad,” Booger said getting up slowly. He was looking better now and breathing normally. He reached into his left nostril with a finger and gave it a turn. Nothing. He tried the other nostril, still nothing. Booger was definitely back to normal.

I guess I should tell you about my friend Booger. Booger’s real name was James Jefferson Jackson. He was eleven years old like me, but that’s where the similarities ended. He was a little too round, and way too heavy for his short height. He had dirty blond hair that he combed back with something that shined like fresh motor oil. Booger always wore high top sneakers without shoelaces, too. But we could never figure out why they didn’t fall off his feet when he ran. They were always black and, even if they were a brand new pair, they always looked old.

I’m sure you’ve figured out how Booger got his nickname. He started picking his nose when he was 4 years old, and never stopped. My Mom says it’s some sort of emotional problem, but that it’s better than wetting the bed or starting fires in neighbor’s trashcans. But Booger’s all right. Besides, he has a cousin in South Carolina who can get us illegal fireworks in the summer time, and that’s very cool.

Tenspeed’s house was in the opposite direction from the old Kendrick house. Booger and I walked up to Mrs. Bleecher’s house, two doors down, where we ducked through the tall green hedge to see if she was lurking in the backyard. She didn’t like us cutting through her backyard, but we did it anyway because it faster than going around the block. The coast was clear. We sprinted (Booger sort of sprinted) past the persimmon patch, under the clothesline, and around the pear tree until we were on the other side of her backyard. Tenspeed’s house was just across a small stream that cut a shallow, five-foot wide path dividing our block. Last summer we conveniently placed a fallen log over the stream for quick passage to Tenspeed’s house. Booger used the log; I made a leap, but caught my left heel in the water.

Tenspeed and his sister, Jinx, were in their backyard kicking a soccer ball around. Jinx was a better soccer player than her brother was, but she often kicked the ball in places it didn’t belong. One of those places was their dog’s head. Charlie was a large and friendly German Shepherd who used to love to chase them when playing ball. Jinx hit him square between the eyes with a forward kick and sent him running down the block to hide. It took them three hours to find him under the Davenport’s car only two houses away. Now Charlie sits in the driveway and whines when they play. He started barking when he saw us coming.

“Hey, Tenspeed! Tenspeed!” Booger yelled loudly from behind me. He started to say more, but was beginning to get out of breath again.

“Hi, Jon,” Tenspeed said picking up the ball. “What’s Booger all excited about?”

“Wait,” gasped Booger, “let me tell them.” Booger was now bent over with his hands on his knees, huffing and puffing.

“Tell them, Booger,” I said, more than distraught at his exhaustion.

“Somebody’s moving in to the old Kendrick house,” Booger said quickly. “I saw the moving van and everything.”

Tenspeed and Jinx looked at each other in disbelief. They knew the story of the old house, too.

“You’re kidding?” Tenspeed replied. “Nobody would buy that house; it’s a wreck.”

“Yeah,” piped in Jinx, “it’s a total creep out.”

“Is it true, Jon?” asked Tenspeed.

“Yeah, it’s true. I saw the moving van, too,” I replied. “We were going to check it out. Do you want come along?”

“Sure!” Tenspeed said excitedly. “Do think we should get Earl, too? He thinks that place is haunted.”

“Definitely,” I answered. “He’s part of the plan and the gang.”

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