Sir Horace will soon come out of wher- ever he's hiding when he hears he's hav- ing a surprise party, " I told Wanda. We were on our way down to the third-kitchen-on- the-left-just-past-the-boiler-room to check out the party food situation. "It won't be a surprise if he hears about it, " said Wanda. She is what my Uncle Drac calls "pedantic. " I am not sure what that means, -13- but it sounds about right for Wanda, if you ask me. Plus you can add picky to that. "Anyway, we don't have to have a surprise party for him, " Wanda said. "Perhaps he would like to drive a race car or something. My mom did that when she turned forty. And Sir Horace already has his own crash helmet. " I wasn't so sure about that. Something told me that Sir Horace and racing cars would not go together well. "Or we could just get him a really good present, " said Wanda. "But it's no good buying him a pair of socks because he's got no feet. Or aftershave because he doesn't shave. Or handkerchiefs because he's got no nose, or boxer shorts because he's got no--" "Yeah, yeah, I know. There's no need to go on and on, Wanda, " I told her.


    Sometimes Wanda does not know when to stop. The party food was no problem. Brenda had a whole cupboard stuffed full of chips and candy. In fact, it was so full that when Wanda opened the door, a torrent of bags of gummi bears fell on our heads. One of them burst, so we had to eat all the bears, as Aunt Tabby always says, "If you make a mess, Araminta, you clean it up. " We had very nearly cleaned up all the bears when a massive THUD echoed through the walls of the kitchen. It rocked the cup- board, and another shower of gummi bears leaped out and hit Wanda on the head. "Ouch! Wharrerat?" she said. "I don't know, do I?" I told her. Wanda still thinks I know what's going on in this house, but I don't. Wanda gulped down the last of the bears. "It sounded like someone heaved a huge sack of potatoes out of a window right at the top of the house, " she said. "Don't be ridiculous, " I told her. "Who would want to throw a huge sack of potatoes out of the-- Uncle Drac!" Suddenly I just knew what had happened.

    I ran out the door and crashed straight into Aunt Tabby. Q "It's Drac!" yelled Aunt Tabby. "Come on, Araminta--quick!" Aunt Tabby picked herself up from the floor and zoomed off around the corner and along the long corridor that winds through the basement. I couldn't see her very well, as all the lights in the corridor burned out years ago and she always wears black, but that didn't matter. I knew exactly where she was headed--to the bat turret poo hatch. Wanda was close behind me. "Why, " she puffed, "would Uncle Drac want to throw a sack of potatoes out of a window? And what's the fuss, anyway? We can always pick them up. Potatoes don't break or anything. It's not like he threw a sack of eggs out of the--" "Oh, be quiet, Wanda, " I told her.

    Like I said before, Wanda is picky and does not know when to stop. She doesn't think, either, because if Wanda had stopped to think for one moment, she would have realized that the THUD we heard was Uncle Drac in his sleeping bag falling four floors down from the top of the bat turret. Which was not a good thing, particularly for Uncle Drac. Aunt Tabby skidded to a halt at the far end of the corridor. In front of her, at the base of Uncle Drac's bat turret, was the bat poo hatch. It was like a huge and very heavy cat flap. Aunt Tabby heaved it open and grabbed Uncle Drac's shovel, which was leaning up beside it. Then she started digging. Aunt Tabby was like a dog digging for its bone. Bat poo flew everywhere as she franti- cally heaved great shovel loads out of the hatch.

    I got out of the way quickly, but Wanda, who had not seen the hatch before, was not as fast. "Eeow!" she yelled as a large shovelful of bat poo splattered over her. "That's disgust- ing!" "Shh, Wanda, " said Aunt Tabby, "I thought I heard Drac. Araminta, can you hear some- thing?" I listened as more shovelfuls of bat poo flew through the air. "Errrgh . . . " A faint groaning came from inside the turret. "Drac, Drac, are you all right?" yelled Aunt Tabby. "Hold on, Drac, we're coming to get you. " "Errrgh . . . Arrgh . . . " "What's he doing in there?" asked Wanda.

    "I thought he was upstairs with the potatoes. " "What potatoes?" asked Aunt Tabby suspi- ciously. "Don't take any notice of Wanda, " I told Aunt Tabby. "Just keep digging. " "Why?" asked Wanda, who is very nosy. "Why doesn't anyone tell me what's going on?" "Done!" said Aunt Tabby. She had dug a tunnel up through the huge pile of bat poo. She took out her flashlight and shone it up through the tunnel. I could see the rafters right at the top of the turret, where Uncle Drac's sleeping bag usually hangs. It wasn't there. "Hold the shovel, Araminta, " said Aunt Tabby. "I'm going in. " So I held the shovel and watched Aunt Tabby scramble through the poo hatch and disappear.

    "Errgh, " said Wanda, holding her nose. "How can she stand going in there?" "Because Uncle Drac has just fallen four floors down from the top of the bat turret and she is going to save him, that's why. " Wanda looked surprised. "But I thought you said--" "And I'm going in to help her, " I said, deciding that crawling through a few tons of bat poo was better than trying to explain anything to Wanda. Actually, it was a lot worse than explaining anything to Wanda. It smelled revolting, and some of it was horribly soft and squidgy. But I climbed in, and soon I was standing on the floor of the turret. Well, not exactly on the floor--on the pile of bat poo that covers the floor. And lying there on the pile of poo was a large, flowery sleeping bag. "Errrgh . . . " groaned the sleeping bag. Aunt Tabby was kneeling beside it, and I could see Uncle Drac's white face peering out. He didn't look too good. "It's all right, Drac, " said Aunt Tabby, but she didn't look like it was all right at all. "No . . . It's not, " moaned Uncle Drac.

    "Something terrible has happened. " "Oh, Drac, dear. Tell me, what--what has happened? What have you done?" Aunt Tabby gasped. Uncle Drac slowly lifted his head, and Aunt Tabby and I leaned close to hear what he was going to say. We both thought it might be Uncle Drac's last words. "I--I've squashed Big Bat, " he groaned.

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