Quest of the Talking Bone
Quest of the Talking Bones is a short fiction about a kid who takes up the challenge to find bones hidden in the house. With the help of his faithful squire Theo, Stinker becomes a knight-errand and goes on the Quest of the Talking Bones.
The bones start to talk to me
Those bones started calling out to me five years after Mom and Dad moved us into this drafty old pink house. I suppose they always tried to talk to me, but I was too young to do much listening. I wish I would have left well enough alone. At first, they spoke in whispers like a buried treasure that didn’t want to be uncovered.
Now, they shout so loud at times I can’t even block them out when I cover my ears. Those bones got it into their heads they want to be found, and they picked me for the guy who is supposed to do the finding. I wish I’d never listened to Theo and became a knight-errant who took on the Quest of the Talking Bones.
Nobody in the family takes Stinker serious about the talking bones
My name is Mark, but my family calls me Stinker. The nickname goes back to a dirty diaper I had when I was a baby. I don’t remember a thing about it, but my family won’t let me live it down. My older brother, Kenny, is a teenager now. He doesn’t have much time for me because he’s into girls. Yuck! My sister, Mandy, graduated from high school and works at a store in the mall. I asked them to start calling me by my real name, but they laughed at me. They had the same reaction when I mention the bones. They refused to take me seriously until the night I uncovered what was buried in the basement.
I heard Kenny tell his friend Winston; he thought I was ‘certifiable’ when I started my search for the bones. I guess that means he thinks I’m crazy. Kenny is in high school, so he doesn’t pay much attention to me anymore, except when he thinks I’m doing something stupid. Who wouldn’t be ‘certifiable’ if they heard skeletons talking to them all day long?
It’s tough being the youngest kid in the Mulligan family
Mandy says I’m the runt of the litter because I come at the tail end of three kids. That’s why I developed mental issues. She’s taking psychology classes over at the university, so she thinks she knows everything. My opinion is she doesn’t understand a thing about talking bones.
They all treat me like I’m still a baby and that is my biggest problem. A person has to be tough when they are the youngest member of the Mulligan family. Over the years, I’ve grown a thick skin.
Some things you should know about Theo
There is only one person in the world who believes me about the talking bones. His name is Theo. Before I get started on explaining about the Quest, I should tell you a little about my friend. First off, he’s the perfect kid to know all about a phenomenon like talking bones.
Mom says he’s a genius, but I’m not so sure about that. He’s ten, and he’s one of those kids who likes to read a lot of books. Theo might be the smartest person I know, but the kid has his troubles.
His eyes are really bad, so he has to wear glasses with thick lenses that we can use as a magnifier to kill bugs on the sidewalk. Theo and I did it once when we were in a bad mood. It wasn’t much fun after we cooked our first cricket.
More stuff you should know about Theo
There are three older brothers in his family, so he has to wear their hand me down clothes that are faded and sometimes don’t fit him right.
Theo is real skinny and can peddle a bike faster than anyone I know. The other kids call him Booger because Theo picked his nose in the first grade. I call him Theo, and he calls me Mark. We both get bullied a lot. I told Kenny about it, hoping he’d stick up for me. All he said was I needed to learn how to fight my own battles. Theo was the perfect kid to dream up the idea for us to go on the quest of the talking bones.
Theo’s plan for the quest of the talking bones
Anyway, Theo said I was like a knight-errant who experienced supernatural phenomena, whatever that means. He claimed every knight he ever read about had to go on a quest when they had one of these weird encounters with the world beyond the living. Theo volunteered to be my squire when I went on my Quest for the talking bones.
He said a squire normally sort of helped a knight out on one of those adventures, but he’d be the one in charge because I didn’t know anything about being a knight. I had to agree to do everything he said to prepare myself for my mission concerning the quest of the talking bones.
I was a little worried about Theo giving me orders. He tends to take things a little too far. We picked the date of October 31 to find the bones. We figured if they were going to tell us why they were living in my house, Halloween would be the perfect time for them to start talking. Theo said there were tasks I had to do to get ready for my Quest.
Theo said I should start the quest of the talking bones
The place Theo said I needed to begin my journey was to make a thorough search of my house and find any items that might have belonged to the bones. There are a few things I should tell you about Theo. He can be overdramatic, prone to exaggeration, and bossy. A guy like me has to go along with him because I’m not as smart, and I don’t know all the secrets buried in the pages of those books he reads. I wish I would have asked more questions because I never would have gone on the Quest of the Talking Bones.
The place I started my quest for the talking bones. was in the attic over the stairway. I faked the flu so I could stay home from school. Climbing into the attic was something my Mom said I should never do, so the last thing I needed around was my big-mouthed sister Mandy. She’d squeal on me if she saw me climbing into the attic. Kenny might have helped out, but Mandy would be sure to tell Mom the second she noticed me on the chair.
Her bedroom door was near the hatch I’d have to crawl through to get to the stuff that belonged to the bones. Mandy had a part-time job at the mall while I was at school. I figured if I faked being sick, I’d have the house to myself. What I didn’t count on was Mom staying home from work to take care of me.
Dad’s red toolbox
The first thing I did was sneak out to the garage and steal a flashlight from Dad’s shiny red toolbox. I’d be in a lot of trouble if he found out, but it was the only one we had with a strap on it I could put around my neck when I climbed into the hole in the ceiling.
Mom worked at the Tecumseh police department as a dispatcher. I felt guilty about lying that I had the flu, but I don’t think she was upset about staying home from her job.
Mom got caught up in her stories
Once she figured out I didn’t have a fever, she popped a diet-coke and settled herself in front of the T.V. in the living room to catch up on her stories. It was almost like me getting sick was her version of a kid’s snow day, where she got a free pass from work.
Mom was so caught up in one of those stupid soap operas she didn’t notice the noise the chair made when it hit the wooden rungs as I drug it up the stairs. It was a hard job, but I managed to make it up the entire flight without her yelling at me. I placed the rickety chair under the attic door before I tried to open the hatch. Right away I could see I had a big problem on the quest of the talking bones.
Went into the attic on the quest of the talking bones
Even with the chair, I was only tall enough to push back the piece of wood and gaze into the black hole it left in the ceiling. I needed to get inside that attic if I was going to find what I needed. I climbed down to the floor and studied the ceiling. What I decided to do was add something to the chair to make it taller.
My brother Kenny had an old army trunk where he kept his stash of dirty magazines. He said Mom would ‘shit a brick’ if she ever found out he had them. I didn’t see how Mom could do that, but I knew better than to ask Kenny technical questions.
The metal trunk was wide enough for me to sit the chair on top of it. It only took a few minutes for me to drag the trunk out into the hall. Once I got it in place, I did my climb into the attic on my step in the quest of the talking bones.
I searched every nook and cranny
It was scary to be suspended in the air with the stairway behind me, and a wobbly old chair the only thing between me and the hardwood floor. I managed to get my arms far enough inside the hole in the ceiling to pull myself through the opening.
I searched every nook and cranny of that attic before I found an ancient Cub’s baseball hat and a pair of high heel shoes. A thick layer of dust covered them. I sneezed a couple of times when I picked them up off the floor. I looked around a little more before I found a woman’s hat with a large pink flower attached to the side and an old pair of men’s shoes. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind these things belonged to the voices.
I got caught
It was time for me to climb out of the attic. I’d already been looking around too long. I tossed the stuff I found to the floor below me. They landed with a loud thud. There was a big chance I was about to get caught.
I knew I was in trouble when I tried to lower myself onto the chair, and it fell over with a bang. I found myself dangling in the air with nothing under me but the metal trunk and the floor.
“What in the world have you done now, Stinker. I swear I’m going to blister your butt when I get you down from there.” I heard my mom yell from the bottom of the stairs.
Groundation is the pits
She didn’t blister my butt, but she did ground me for a week. My punishment caused a major drawback with the things Theo said I needed to do before I went on my Quest.
I couldn’t use the telephone to call him, and he couldn’t come to my house so we could make a plan. Our only line of communication was notes passed at school and debriefings over the lunch table.
Theo thought the stuff I found was interesting, but it would be good if I located more. You couldn’t go overboard on personal possessions when dealing with ghostly bones. I had to admit he had a valid point. Since I was committed to the cause, I decided to continue the search.
Two days later on the Quest of the Talking Bones
Two days later, I got caught moving my sister’s dresser. She screamed so loud I thought she was going to break out all the window glass in our drafty old house. Mandy grabbed me by the arm and forced me down the stairs. “Mom, I caught this little jerk in my room again. When are you going to do something about him sneaking around the house? It’s getting creepy,” she yelled so loud it made my ears hurt.
Mom was up to her elbows in soapy dishwater. She didn’t even look up from the sink when she said, “Stay out of your sister’s room. She’s right. The way your acting is creepy.”
I refused to end my search because of my bossy sister. A good knight wouldn’t give up his Quest after running into a little thing like a Screaming Banshee. I spent the next week exploring every spooky place in our old house.
Dad got involved
Dad got involved when I pried part of my bedroom floor up at the edges. I thought no one would notice a loose floorboard. I wouldn’t have got caught except plaster chips from the living room ceiling fell on his head.
He sat me down on my bed and ordered me to stop whatever I was up to before I did some real damage to the house. I overheard him tell Mom to make me an appointment with the school psychologist. There wasn’t a kid at Lincoln Elementary School who wanted to pay a visit to grouchy Mrs. Grady’s office. Her mouth always wore a frown, and her dentures made a whistling noise when she talked.
Our Quest of the Talking Bones reached a critical point
I told Theo our Quest of the Talking Bones had reached a critical point. I didn’t dare go around making a nuisance of myself any longer. We were going to need to use the stuff I’d already found. To my surprise, he agreed with me. Theo claimed Don Quixote had the same problem. People thought he was crazy because he went on quests and fought windmills. Theo pointed out things hadn’t changed much in the knight business since the man of La Mancha’s day.
Theo tells me about the ceremony on the Quest of the Talking Bones
Step two in the quest process was to wait for the next full moon night, which was supposed to happen on Halloween. Worry about the final hunt for the bones filled me with doubt.
I told Theo being a knight had brought me nothing but trouble, so some other kid could worry about finding those bones. I wasn’t up to the task. Theo said I shouldn’t lose heart. If the bones didn’t want me to find them, they wouldn’t have started talking.
We have to wait until the full moon night
Waiting for the full moon was the easy part of completing my mission. Getting the stuff together for the ceremony proved to be the challenge. Theo said we needed to get some tobacco to call the bones out of hiding, and we had to get new knight names to go on the quest.
“I will be Theo the Scribe because my job from this point forward will be to write our adventure down on paper. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a book out of this quest just like Sancho Panza did. You will be known as Sir Mark of the Talking Bones from this point forward,” Theo said.
The names sounded phony to me, but who was I to argue with a kid genius. He started carrying around a notebook and pen with him everywhere we went. In the journal was a list of items we would need to conduct the ceremony.
Tobacco needed for the quest of the talking bones
I knew where to get most of the stuff, but where was I going to find a cigarette? The only person I knew who smoked was our neighbor, Quirt. I made it a point to avoid the old man whenever possible. Theo said the cigarette was important because he thought our house was built on an ancient Indian burial ground. That was where the bones got their power, so an offering of tobacco was the most important item on his list. He’d read somewhere the Native Americans in this region always offered a sacrifice of tobacco to persuade the spirits to speak. If we didn’t perform the ceremony right, we’d be in a lot of trouble on our Quest of the Talking Bones.
Theo is bossy
I was starting to get a little irritated with how bossy Theo was getting about the ceremony when he came up with this speech I was supposed to say. I was expected to yell out with a deep voice, “Hear me, spirits of 601 N. Elm Street, I Sir Mark of the Talking Bones demand you reveal to me all your secrets. I command you to give me the location of the bones so I can help them rest in peace.” As soon as I was finished saying those fancy words, I was supposed to sprinkle tobacco in the fire Theo planned to build. The bones would tell me where they could be found after I made my little speech, and we burned the tobacco with some sage and other stuff.
Quirt is the solution to the tobacco problem
I could see a couple of flaws in Theo’s plan because I was still on groundation, and we needed to get a cigarette. I went into the kitchen to convince my Mom I’d learned my lesson while Theo sat on our front porch. By the time I was finished working my magic on Mom, Theo had managed to come up with a solution to the cigarette issue. Quirt smoked while he rode his riding lawnmower around his yard.
He wasn’t doing much mowing because his grass was always pretty high. Quirt just liked to ride his mower fast around his yard like he was some hotshot Indy car driver.
Theo noticed the man always tossed the butt of his cigarette on the ground when he was finished smoking. All we had to do was go pick them up once he went inside. I tried to tell Theo his suggestion was easier said than done. My Mom had a strict rule about trespassing on Quirt’s property. She’d ground me for a year if she found out I was stealing his cigarette butts.
Now we are ready to perform the ceremony of the Quest of the Talking Bone
We got lucky. Quirt rode his riding lawnmower like he did every day. Plus, the leaves started falling off the trees, so Quirt spent a lot of time raking. He didn’t mind high grass, but he hated those leaves. The entire time he worked in his yard, he had a cigarette dangling from his thick lips. When he was through inhaling smoke into his fat lungs, he’d toss the butt to the ground. After he went inside his house, Theo and I snuck over and picked up his nasty cigarette remnants. It took us a couple of days before we had enough loose tobacco in the plastic bag we kept the butts in to perform the ritual. Now, all we had left to do was wait for Halloween night and perform the ceremony of the Quest of the Talking Bones
(To be continued in the short fiction piece Bones in the Basement.)
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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