Read an Excerpt
When Shakey heard the thump on the roof, he jerked his head up to stare at the ceiling. "What was that?"
His greedy little brother had already picked out the biggest bowl of rice. "It's just some old cat. Why are you such a coward?"
Shakey had gotten his nickname because every strange noise and shadow frightened him. Even so, he didn't seeit that way. "I'm not a coward. I'm just cautious."
"That's good," their mother said, "but you go too far sometimes." She opened the door. "I'm going to visit some friends, so your Auntie will come to baby-sit."
Shakey put a finger to his lips. "Shh, Momma. You never know who might be listening."
"I think you're safe enough, dear; but even so, don't open to anyone but Auntie." Mother closed the door.
Up on the roof the monster, dagger Clam, merely smiled and waited.
Meanwhile as Shakey lowered the crossbar across the door inside the house, his little brother mocked him. "Scaredy-cat, scaredy-cat."
Shakey sat down next to his little brother. ,if you listened to your head more than your belly, you'd be scared too.,*
The two brothers had finished their meals and were washing die dishes when their elderly Auntie come to the door Instantly Dagger Claws leaped down and killed the poor old woman with one swipe of her big claws.
When he heard the thud outside, Shakey was so scared that he dropped a rice bowl. It cracked on the floor, but he ignored the pieces. "Who's ... who's there?" he called.
"Just your Aunte," Dagger Claws said in a high voice.
Crunch, crunch, crunch. Her big jaws munched on poor Auntie's bones.
Although hehad already finished his dinner, the little brother was still hungry. one bowl of rice and a few vegetables were not enough for him. "Are you eating something good, Auntle?"
"Chestnuts," Dana Claws lied. "Luscious, crisp chestnuts."
"Let Me have some." The little brother ran to the door and lifted the bar.
Dagger Claws gobbled down the rest of poor old Auntie "Only if you go to bed right now and put out the candle,
Shakey threw himself at the door before his little brother could open it He was so scared that his teeth were chattering. "W-wh-y?"
"It hurts your poor old Auntie's eyes." Dagger Claws hurriedly put on Auntie's dress. She wanted two tasty little boys for her dessert.
The younger boy ran over to the big red candle to blow it out. Shakey darted after him and grabbed hold of his eager little brother. "But I don't like the dark, Auntie."
Dagger Claws scratched at the door. Her sharp claws left grooves in the wood. "Shame on you! You're a big boy now. Well, if you won't be nice to me, I won't be nice to you. No bedtime snacks."
"No, don't do that," the little brother said, and blew out the candle before Shakey could stop him.
The instant she saw the light go out underneath the door, Dagger Claws kicked it open with a bang. Shakey was so startled that he let go of his little brother.
For a moment, the moonlight silhouetted Dagger Claws. They saw nothing wrong because she looked like a round woman in a dress. Then she stepped in and shut the door so it was black inside the house. "Now, get in bed, boys."
Shakey tried to get hold of his little brother, but he was already groping his way through the dark over to his sleeping mat.
"I'm over here, Auntie," the little brother called.
Dagger Claws stumbled blindly through the house. "Where?"
"Here, Auntie. Right here," the little brother said eagerly.
Dagger Claws followed the voice right to- the sleeping mats. The next moment she had begun her own little snack. Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Shakey listened to Dagger Claws smack her lips and munch away happily. Shivering, he asked, "Little brother?"
Someone grunted in the darkness.
Shakey was so frightened that he could not move. "is that you, little brother?" Shakey asked.
"He's busy eating his chestnuts," Dagger Claws said.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
When Dagger Claws was almost finished, she called to Shakey, "Where are you? lbere's plenty of crisp, luscious chestnuts for ever' yone."
But Shakey was still so scared that he hunted for an excuse to stay where he was. "Aren't you thirsty?"
Both Auntie and the little brother had been rather salty, so Dagger Claws said, "I am a little thirsty."
"I'll get you a drink, Auntie," he offered.
Dagger Claws settled back. "What a sweet little boy." After a drink of water, she would have her third and last course.
Shakey forced himself to be calm. Hardly daring to breathe, he took a step. Then he took another and almost slipped on the wet floor. He tried not to think about why the floor was wet. He took a third step. The crunching began again. He looked neither to the right nor the left. instead, he kept his eyes right on the door.
When he was outside, Shakey lowered the bucket into the well. Then he backed away. "Auntie, the bucket is too heavy. Come and help me."
"Just a moment. The moonlight hurts my eyes too." Dagger Claws rummaged around blindly until she found a basket. She dumped out the rice that was inside and put it over her head. Then she hid her big paws inside the sleeves of the dress. When she stepped outside the house, she could still see through the sides of the basket.
Shakey could not see her fangs or her paws, but he could see the strange tail that stuck out from under the dress. it whipped around in excitement. Then he knew Auntie was really a monster. it was too late to save Auntie or his little brother. He would be lucky to save himself.
It was a funny thing, but now that Shakey's worst fears were real, he wasn't scared anymore. Waiting had been the hardest part.
"There, Auntie." He pointed at the well.
Dagger Claws bent over the well. With her paws still inside her sleeves, she began to pull at the bucket's rope. "A strong boy like you can't lift a little bucket like this?"
Shakey ran to the well and shoved Dagger Claws with all his strength. With a screech, the monster fell headfirst down the well.
She landed with a big splash. Water rose up the well and crashed around the sides.
"I'll fix you!" she shrieked. She sank her long, hard claws into the sides of the well. Thunk. Thunk. She pulled herself out of the water. "I'll start with your toes first so you can watch me eat you." Slowly she began to climb up the sides. "You can run. You can hide. But I'll find you."
Shakey knew he didn't have much time. He picked up a long bamboo pole that lay next to the well and tied a big block of stone to the pole.
Dagger Claws was almost out of the well when Shakey lifted the long, heavy pole and swung the free end.
Dagger Claws dodged but some of the blows struck her. That only made her even angrier. "Just for that, I'm going to take you to my cave," she growled. "And I'm going to eat you slowly. One piece a day."
But Shakey kept poking and swinging at her until Dagger Claws lifted one paw and caught the bamboo pole. Her claws sank deep into the wood. "Hah! I've got your little stick now."
As she yanked at the pole, Shakey let go so that the pole went into the well and the stone followed the pole. Dagger Claws stared at the stone that fell past her.
Then the stone was pulling the pole after it. Too late, Dagger Claws tried to let go of the pole, but her sharp claws were embedded in its sides. Still holding the pole, Dagger Claws was yanked from the wall of the well.
Stone, pole, and monster splashed into the water, but this time Dagger Claws followed the stone down through the water. Down, down, down to the bottom of the well where she drowned.
They buried Shakey's little brother and Auntie and capped the well. And after that, when Shakey's mother visited friends, Shakey always went along with her.