Sample text for Secrets of Dripping Fang. Book four, Fall of the House of Mandible / Dan Greenburg ; illustrations by Scott M. Fischer.

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The No Child Left Alive Program

"Let me tell you how much I hate human children," said Dagmar Mandible to her sister, Hedy.

Dagmar gazed down the row of waxy green cornstalks where the Shluffmuffin twins had vanished and cursed softly under her breath. Nourished by the gentle Cincinnati rains, this year’s cornstalks grew higher, bushier, and more lushly than those in the rain forest, assuming that corn grows in the rain forest, a shaky assumption at best.

"No, hate is too weak a word," said Dagmar, adjusting her wide-brimmed black hat above her sunglasses. "Let me tell you how much I loathe . . . despise . . . detest . . . abhor and . . . abominate human children."

"Oh, Dagmar, you’re just mad because Cheyenne and Wally got away from us again," said Hedy.

This was not untrue. Cheyenne and Wally Shluffmuffin were the snotty ten-year-old orphans that Dagmar and Hedy had found in the Jolly Days Orphanage and chosen for a trial adoption. On their first night at Mandible House in the hushed and lovely Dripping Fang Forest, Dagmar and Hedy got the twins settled in their cheery bedrooms and served them a nutritious all-chocolate welcome dinner. But after dinner the nosy kids began snooping about. And just because they discovered that Dagmar and Hedy were giant ants who were breeding a race of super-ants to replace mankind and end life on Earth as we know it, those ungrateful little brats ran away. Fortunately, Dagmar and Hedy were able to recapture them a scant few weeks later.

But on the cab ride back to Mandible House, the twins claimed to need a bathroom so badly they were about to poop their pants, and Dagmar had compassionately ordered the driver to stop at a gas station restroom. Cheyenne and Wally went in, locked the restroom doors, and escaped through the windows and into the cornfield before the Mandible sisters could catch them.

"Yes, I am mad that Cheyenne and Walter got away from us again," said Dagmar. "But that has little to do with how much I hate human children. Hate their soft spongy flesh. Hate their soft horrid hair. Hate their watery little eyes. Hate their moist pink mouths. Hate the revolting heat that radiates from their limp, flabby bodies with the skeletons on the inside instead of on the outside where skeletons belong."

From beyond the white concrete restrooms adjoining the cornfield, the horn of a car began beeping loudly, angrily, and unceasingly. Dagmar pretended not to notice.

"So, dearest one, how do we get the repulsive little wretches back?" asked Hedy. "Run down the corn rows and hope to catch up with them?"

"No, no, nothing as tiresome as that," said Dagmar. "We need to get the big picture. We need to fly up above the cornfield and see where they’re hiding."

"Unfortunately," said Hedy, "we’re not the flying variety of ants."

"No," said Dagmar, "we’re the hiring variety. Let’s go to the nearest airport and hire ourselves a pair of wings."

The beeping of the horn was now so loud and so insistent, it was impossible to ignore. Taking their own sweet time about it, Dagmar and Hedy circled the restrooms and returned to the taxicab that was waiting for them, its meter running.

"All right, driver," Dagmar announced, approaching the cab, "there’s been a slight change of plan. You will now drive us to the nearest airport that you know of where we can hire a pilot and a small crop-dusting plane."

"A pilot and a what?" shouted the driver, his face turning purple.

"I am certain you heard me," said Dagmar.

"First it’s ‘Drive us to Dripping Fang Forest,’" sputtered the driver. "Then it’s ‘No, drive us to a gas station.’ Then it’s ‘No, drive us to a police station.’ Then it’s ‘No, drive us to the FBI.’ Then it’s ‘No, drive us to the Natural History Museum.’ Now it’s ‘No, drive us to the nearest airport where we can hire a pilot and a small crop-dusting plane.’ Well, I won’t take any more of this, do you hear? I’ve had it with you people! I’m no longer driving you anywhere. Pay me the twenty-eight dollars and seventy-five cents that’s on the meter right now and then get the heck out of my face!"

Dagmar walked right up to the door of the cab and leaned down so that her face was uncomfortably close to that of the driver.

"Please watch closely now," she said in a quiet voice.

She peeled away the bottom of her flesh-colored rubber human mask, revealing her horrible ant head with her gigantic black eyes, and her horrible mouth that looked like a huge pair of horrible black pliers, only sharper.

"Now then," she continued in a reasonable tone, "you have two choices. Choice A is to drive us to the nearest airport that you know of where we can hire a pilot and a small crop-dusting plane. Choice B is to have me pluck out your eyeballs and suck your brains from your skull through your eyeholes. Drive or pluck-and-suck—this is your choice. Which do you prefer?"

The cab driver seemed unable to speak. He made barely audible clicking noises in the back of his throat.

"Choice A or choice B," Dagmar repeated. "Choose one before I count to three, or I shall be forced to choose for you. Frankly, I prefer choice B, the pluck-and-suck. Ready? One . . . Two . . ."

"A!" croaked the cab driver, "choice A!"

"Choice A, please, ma’am," coached Dagmar, leaning closer.

"Choice A, please, ma’am," croaked the cab driver.

"What a pity," said Dagmar. "I was so in the mood for a little teatime snack of brains with eyeballs."

Text copyright © 2006 by Dan Greenburg

Illustrations copyright © 2006 by Scott M. Fischer

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Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Brothers and sisters -- Fiction.
Twins -- Fiction.
Ants -- Fiction.
Vampires -- Fiction.
Cincinnati (Ohio) -- Fiction.