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The Adventures of Mrs. Almaletta Finks
And Her Brave Little Class

An excerpt from "The Adventures of Mrs. Almaletta Finks
And Her Brave Little Class

"The key to the secret door was his! Now just one little peek into the secret room, and he would return the key and be content thereafter. He hurried down the hall of doors until he came to the secret room. His hand trembled as he put the key in the lock and turned it. Then he lifted the latch and gently pulled the door open just a crack.

"The door flew open with a CRASH! and a dark, smoky mass of shadowy forms swirled out, knocking Wolfgang Rang onto his back! Screaming with the sound of a thousand dark nightmares, they rushed over him and around him and through him. They fled down the corridor, crashed through the windows, and were gone, leaving behind a terrible odor.

"The commotion had awakened the Queen, who ran from her chamber to see what had happened. When she saw Wolfgang Rang lying dazed before the open door, she cried in disbelief and anger, 'Wolfgang Rang, what have you done?' She looked from the empty room to the broken windows, and angry tears sprang into her eyes. 'You have unleashed the FEARS into the world to prey upon the sleeping children. You betrayed my sacred trust, and for that you must pay!'

"As she raised her hand, she cursed Wolfgang Rang with a magic chant.

'Skin to scales, hands to claws
Lips of pink to sharp green jaws.
Wolfgang Rang, I now decree,
A wandering dragon thou shalt be.'

"All the servants in the castle had gathered at the sound of commotion, and now they watched in horror as the Queen's curse took effect. Slowly, Wolfgang Rang began to change before their very eyes, and where there once had been a man, there now stood a pitiful looking green dragon. As he rose to his feet, he looked at the tip of his pointed tail and at the green talons that had once been his hands, and large tears rolled from his sad, yellow eyes and ran down his scaly cheeks.

"He opened his mouth to say, 'I'm sorry!' but what rose from his throat was a swirl of smoke and a strangled roar. The castle shook with the noise of the unhappy beast. Smoke continued to swirl about, and the servants began to choke as the tears rolled from their stinging eyes.

'Be gone, traitor!' shouted the Queen of Night, 'Henceforth you shall be known to all as the Wooferrang. You are a cursed creature, and it would take a miracle for my heart to soften enough for me to change you back into what you once were.'

"The Wooferrang whined pitifully. Then, slowly, with his head hanging low, he stumbled out of the Queen's castle and into the bright day. His new dragon eyes stung with tears as he faced the bright sunlight.

"The Queen closed the door and took the brass key. Worried tears stung her eyes. The servants wondered, Why couldn't the Queen just wave her hand and, with another magic chant, make things right again? But she sensed their thoughts and told them, 'What has happened is beyond my power to set right. That is why I kept the key to the forbidden room so close. Behind that door the very worst FEARS have been locked away for a hundred years. Now they will go out into the world to frighten all of the little children to whom I gave such happy dreams. They will lurk under beds and in closets, and they will shuffle down dark hallways, all to scare the little children who still believe that bumps in the night are made by monsters. Now they will think of my beautiful night domain with dread.'

"She was beyond comforting. Then Twilight asked, 'Your Majesty, is there no one who can capture the FEARS and bring them back to the secret room?' The sad Queen answered, 'The only ones who have the power to conquer the FEARS are the children themselves. But how can they conquer them when they don't understand that they have the power, and don't know that the most terrible FEARS are coming?' No one could answer the Queen's question, and indeed, many of them could remember being a child and asking to sleep with the light on because they were afraid of the darkness of night, just as the Queen said.

Sir Penpaint leaned toward Mrs. Finks and whispered, "Ever since Wolfgang Rang released the terrible FEARS into the world, people go about with dark shadows under their eyes because these FEARS are so much worse than the regular FEARS. They aren't afraid of a little night light, and they are quite noisy and smelly. The children lie awake and cry, and so their parents are awake most of the night as well. No one is getting enough sleep so everyone is quite cranky and there are more arguments and fights. Why, I myself have had a nasty FEAR keep me awake on more than one occasion."

He gave a heavy sigh, , and everyone realized that his story was over and that telling the story had made him sad. Mrs. Finks and the children were silent. Some of them wiped tears from their eyes. Finally, Mrs. Finks spoke.

"Thank you for telling us the Wooferrang's story, Sir Penpaint. Now that we understand his beginnings, perhaps we can reason with him. My class is a very smart and brave group of children, and if anyone can catch these FEARS, they can. I think we should first speak to the Wooferrang and make him understand that we are willing to try to help him, if he will cooperate. That is the only way out I can see. What do you say, children? Do you agree? Shall we try to help the Wooferrang?"

Well, as the children had listened to Sir Penpaint's telling of the Wooferrang's
story, their hearts had melted from fear to pity, and so they quickly agreed to help the poor beast.

"I shall help the Wooferrang," smiled little Lillian.

"Me too!" sang out Jeremy in a loud voice.

"And me! Me too! Yes, me!" chorused the children. "We will help the Wooferrang!"

Mrs. Finks smiled proudly at her brave little crew and hugged the nearest ones, saying, "Then let us get things started. Before we speak to the Wooferrang, we should have a plan of action. Firstly, do you know where we might find the FEARS, Sir Penpaint?"

The little man felt quite knowledgeable and important upon being consulted, and he thoughtfully replied, "They are all around at night, but in the daytime they come together and hide in the caverns of the Black Witch. If you went there," he shivered, "you would surely find them. I will gladly escort you as far as the Land of Lostandfound so I can get the spectacles I lost earlier this year, but I have no wish to encounter the Black Witch."

"The Black Witch? The Land of Lostandfound?" chorused the children. "Who is that? What is that? Where is that?" Everyone was asking questions at once. But Sir Penpaint paid no attention to them, for he was unused to the voices of children and he found they hurt his ears.

"I can't see anything or lead you anywhere without my glasses," he announced over the din. "The Land of Lostandfound is on your way, so let's get started."

"All right," said Mrs. Finks, "then the time has come to try to reason with the Wooferrang."

Sir Penpaint turned deathly pale. Even the children, who now felt sympathy for the poor beast, were afraid to open the door to confront him.

Mrs. Finks took a deep breath, and without another word, she strode to the door, quickly pulled it open, and stepped out to face the Wooferrang. A terrible roar shook the Blue Jar. Smoke came pouring through the open door, and the children coughed and wiped their eyes. Some were crying in fear for their brave little teacher, whom they were afraid they would never see again. But then they heard her speak sharply to the Wooferrang.

"Mr. Rang, please stop your noise and smoke! I have something to say to you, and I can't say it if I'm coughing!"

There was a long silence. The children and Sir Penpaint stared at one another. The Wooferrang was no longer roaring. It had been so long since someone had used his real name that he was stunned into silence.

Mrs. Finks took a moment to wipe her teary eyes, and then she said, "We are sympathetic to your plight. As it happens, we are planning to go to the caverns of the Black Witch to capture the FEARS. Since you were responsible for letting them escape in the first place, I thought you might want to help us. I don't know your Queen of Night, but I have found that if a person proves that he is truly sorry for something bad he has done, others will usually forgive him. So if you will stop being such a smoky, noisy nuisance and start to behave yourself, we may be able to help each other. What do you say, will you come with us and protect the children from any dangers? In return we will help you capture the FEARS so you can take them back to your Queen."

There was another long silence. The bravest of the children tiptoed to the door and peeked out. There stood Mrs. Finks with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Before her lay the Wooferrang, tears streaming down his green face as he quietly and gratefully rested his head before her shiny black shoes."


Almaletta Finks front cover