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<anon I1="BLANK" I2="BLANK">Skeleton Man Chapter One Footsteps on the Stair I'm not sure how to begin this story. For one thing, it's still going on. For another, you should never tell a story unless you're sure how it's going to end. At least that's what my sixth-grade teacher, Ms. Shabbas, says. And I'm not sure at all. I'm not sure that I even know the beginning. I'm not sure if I'm a minor character or the heroine. Heck, I'm not even sure I'll be around to tell the end of it. But I don't think anyone else is going to tell this story. Wait! What was that noise? I listen for the footsteps on the stairs, footsteps much heavier than those an elderly man should make. But it's quiet, just the usual spooky nighttime creaking of this old house. I don't hear anyone coming now. If I don't survive, maybe they'll all realize I should have been taken seriously and then warn the world! Warn the world. That's pretty melodramatic, isn't it? But that is one of the things I do well, melodrama. At least that is what Ms. Shabbas says. Her name is Maureen Shabbas. But Ms. Showbiz is what we all call her, because her main motive for living seems to be torturing our class with old Broadway show tunes. She starts every day by singing a few bars of one and then making it the theme for the day. It is so disgustingly awful that we all sort of like it. Imagine someone who loves to imitate Yul Brynner in The King and I, a woman with an Afro, no less, getting up and singing "Shall We Dance?" in front of a classroom of appalled adolescents. Ms. Showbiz. And she has the nerve to call me melodramatic! But I guess I am. Maybe this whole thing is a product of my overactive imagination. If that turns out to be so, all I can say is who wouldn't have an overactive imagination if they'd heard the kind of stories I used to hear from Mom and Dad? Dad had the best stories. They were ones his aunties told him when he was growing up on the Mohawk Reserve of Akwesasne on the Canadian side. One of my favorites was the one about the skeleton monster. He was just a human being at first, a lazy, greedy uncle who hung around the longhouse and let everyone else hunt for him. One day, alone in the lodge, waiting for the others to come home with food, Lazy Uncle burned his finger really badly in the fire and stuck it into his mouth to cool it. "Oooh," he said as he sucked the cooked flesh, "this tastes good!" (Isn't that gross? I love it. At least, I used to love it.)It tasted so good, in fact, that he ate all the flesh off his finger. "Ah," he said, "this is an easy way to get food, but I am still hungry." So he cooked another finger, and another, until he had eaten all his fingers. "Oooh," he said, "that was good, but I am still hungry." So he cooked his toes and ate them. He cooked his feet and ate them. He cooked his legs and ate them. He cooked his right arm and then his left. He kept on until he had cooked his whole body and eaten it, and all that was left was a skeleton. When he moved, his bones rubbed together: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick. "Ah," he said in a voice that was now just a dry whisper. "That was good, but I am still hungry. I hope that my relatives come home soon." And when his relatives came home, one by one, they found that the lodge was dark except for the glow of the cooking fire. They could see a shadowy shape beckoning to them from the other side of the fire. They could hear a sound like this: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick. "Come in, my relatives," Skeleton Man whispered. "I have been waiting for you."One by one all of his relatives came into the lodge. Skeleton Man caught them and ate them, all but one. She was his niece, and she had been playing in her favorite spot down by the river that flowed through the gorge. She was late coming home because she had seen a rabbit that had fallen into the river. She had rescued it from drowning and warmed it in her arms until it was able to run away. When the little girl came to the lodge, she was surprised at how quiet it was. She should have heard people talking and laughing, but she didn't hear anything. Something was wrong. Slowly, carefully, she approached the door of the lodge. A strange sound came from the shadows within: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick. Then a dry voice called out to her. "My niece," Skeleton Man whispered. "Come into the lodge. I have been waiting for you." That voice made her skin crawl. "Where are my parents?" she asked."They are here. They are here inside," Skeleton Man whispered. "Come in and be with them." "No," the girl said, "I will not come inside." "Ah," Skeleton Man replied in his dry, thin voice, "that is all right. I will come out for you." Then Lazy Uncle, the Skeleton Man, walked out of the lodge. His dry bones rubbed together as he walked toward the little girl: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick. The girl began to run, not sure where to go. Skeleton Man would have caught her and eaten her if it hadn't been for that rabbit she'd rescued from the river. It appeared on the path before her. "I will help you because you saved me," said the rabbit. "Follow me." Then the rabbit helped the little girl outwit Skeleton Man. It even showed her how to bring everyone Skeleton Man had eaten back to life. My mom and dad told me stories like that all the time. Before they vanished. Disappeared. Gone, just like that. I was on TV when they disappeared. You probably saw me on Unsolved Mysteries. The news reporter said into her microphone, "Child left alone in house for over three days, terrified, existing on cornflakes and canned food." Actually I went to school on Tuesday and called out for pizza once. Mom had left money on her dresser when they went out that Saturday evening and never returned. Skeleton Man . Copyright Â© by Joseph Bruchac . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac, Bruchac All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.</anon>
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Horn Book Review
When her parents disappear, Molly is handed over to a sinister, skeletal man claiming to be her great-uncle. Drawing on her Mohawk heritage, the sixth grader unravels much of the mystery of her parents' whereabouts and the stranger's identity, although his evil motivations are never fully explained--which makes the story even spookier. The plot sometimes strains credulity, but the narrative is fast paced and suspenseful. From HORN BOOK Spring 2002, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.