by C.S.E. CooneyFor Will Houlihan
Once a blue moon The Hooligan walks Ever alone, ever at dusk His antlers like branches, his beard of moss His long legs like — what? How do I know? Only impudent people interrupt, that's what grandma says And anyway, Mister Rudeypants, for your information I saw him just last month In the salt marsh The first to espy him (This is documented. You can Google it. All the most reputable cryptozoologists concur.) Were two young boys... No, I don't know their ages! How old are you? Like, one billion, you fossil? Now where was I? This was down Route 1 a ways An open field Where cows graze by day (yes we still have cows In these parts, jeez, may I continue please?) The boys had escaped their bedtimes Through the window — barefoot! I know! And in March too! Their moms would've been beside themselves If they knew. You can't see the Hooligan If you're a well-behaved child. Those are the rules. So down in the pasture Hopscotching the manure, they ran Each determined to track him This monster of Legend With his long legs like Shelob's Or maybe like tree roots Or pythons, or Doc Ock (On certain aspects they couldn't agree They were kids, it was dusk Don't snort at me! As if you could've seen any clearer!) And then he was there Before them Eyes like yellow lanterns Unblinking, maybe benign? Or was that by design To lure you in Thinking this big bone-gnashing gentleman To be kindly? How those great antlers burst From his brow like saplings from a tombstone And how — oh how! — He grinned. My brother dropped his stuffed bunny And I my flashlight He grabbed my hand We ran Hearts careening in our chests like Hideously uneven footsteps I remember my mouth was cellar-door dry My brother was laughing — That high, shrieking way he has When he's happy Don't give me that look. You think he should've been crying? Mister, you don't know my brother. So these two boys (Well, I guess my ploy is up I guess I gave myself away) We returned next day Found only footprints Like craters, these ginormous pockmarks As if meteors had walked here Nobody believed us We've seen him, oh Six or seven times since then It's gotten so we feel a tingle The day before a spotting We hear he's been lurking Near the Pawcatuck River Bridge (Though I don't see how He'd be too big to fit) My brother says next time? He's gonna Jump down from above Ride the Hooligan's humped shoulders Whooping like a cowboy And then, when they've galloped far and clear He'll lean down, whisper in the monster's ear: "Give me my bunny, you bad old Hooligan! It wasn't where I dropped it. I know you have it! You picked it up and put it in your giant pack With Billy's flashlight, and all the other toys You stole from kids you scared silly. So hand over my bunny now — Or I'll cut off your head With this Swiss Army Knife My daddy gave me for my birthday." He'll do it, my brother tells me Or die trying Some things are worth any risk One of them is this. Nevertheless I think I'll stay well back Pointing my Polaroid app In their direction.
C.S.E. Cooney lives and writes in a well-appointed Rhode Island garret, right across the street from a Victorian Strolling Park. She is the author of How To Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes and Jack o' the Hills. Her novella "Martyr's Gem" is live at GigaNotoSaurus, and a short story titled "10 Cigars" will appear in Strange Horizons later this summer.
She says, "if a Miller's Daughter pulled me from a pond, I'd make a pretty impressive bone-phantom-pipe-organ, I think. Or maybe a didgeridoo..."
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