Capes, Cups, and Glittery Things @potionmistress95
Hospital Hijinks

7

Hospital Hijinks

Some days you pray for men in white coats to take YOU away!~ Loki

While Hunter slept and healed, Loki went and took a shower and dressed in some of his jeans and a blue and gold pullover that he kept at the mansion in case his costume got shredded during a battle. After that he went into the kitchen and drank three cups of coffee and JARVIS made him scrambled eggs, waffles, and bacon for breakfast. Accustomed to Thor's eating habits, he made enough for three normal people. Anxiety brought out Loki's appetite, and he devoured it hungrily. He was on his third waffle when Thor came into the kitchen, now fully alert and rested, in his red and blue rugby shirt and blue pants. "Good morning, Loki. Bruce tells me that Hunter awoke, but the boy seems to sleep still."

"Morning, Thor. Sit and eat," Loki waved at the remainder of the food.

His brother raised an eyebrow. "Is that all that's left?" he asked, dismayed.

Loki waved a hand and the food on the table replicated itself in triple the amount. "That good enough?"

"It'll do for now," the Thunder God replied and began to pile a plate with food. "So, how is my nephew?"

"He's sleeping now because I gave him a pain potion. But before that we talked about what happened."

"Those boys, did they kidnap him?" Thor asked. "The man-he was one who ran drugs."

"I know. Scumbag sold drugs to children," Loki growled, his mouth twisting. "I wish I'd bitten his hand off."

"Aye," Thor nodded. "Loki . . . Hunter wasn't using some substance, was he?"

"No. He was supposed to pay the guy off from Fenris. Apparently the other boys owed this dealer, Pete, $250 dollars and they coerced my son into stealing the money for them and bringing it there to give to him. But at the last minute Hunter refused and that's when Pete attacked him." Loki told Thor the rest of what Hunter had said, explaining what had gone on in the past, how he was blackmailed into stealing the two hundred dollars from Thor and that Hunter was sorry for it.

Thor looked shocked. "I never thought he would do such a thing. Why didn't he just tell me of these boys and their demands?"

"For the same reason he wouldn't come to me," Loki sighed. "He was ashamed and scared. He thought we wouldn't understand and kick him out of the family."

"That would never happen. We both know banishing someone doesn't work," Thor said.

Loki met Thor's cerulean gaze. "We do, don't we?" he said quietly in mutual understanding. "I told him he owes you an apology and you are free to punish him for his transgression. Within reason," he added.

"That is fair," Thor said, eating some more eggs with hot sauce. "I wouldn't hurt the boy, Loki."

"I know. I trust you. He's not a bad kid, just . . . misguided." Loki remarked. "Of course, any punishment we give will have to wait till his ribs mend. But this will give us time to think of something."

"I've already got something in mind. My goats," Thor smirked. "I believe a week or two of shoveling manure and taking care of them, plus doing some other chores around here will more than settle the debt between us. A little hard work is good for the soul."

"Yes." He stared at a piece of bacon in his hand mournfully. "If I had been watching more carefully this could have been avoided."

"Loki, you're too hard on yourself," Thor began.

"Not hard enough," his brother refuted. "I should have seen something wasn't right." The bacon fell unnoticed onto his plate. "By the Nine, that was me all those years ago! How in Hel did I miss it?"

"Brother, as the Man of Iron is wont to say-you cannot be everywhere and everything to everyone. Perhaps you didn't see because you were too close to the boy."

"Or I was blind," Loki muttered.

"We all were then. Stop punishing yourself for one mistake. 'Tis done. The important thing is that Hunter is safe and those who hurt him are locked up. You're a good father, Loki. You do things differently than our father, but they work for you and for them. You are there for your children, and I know so much of the time you felt that wasn't the case growing up."

"It wasn't. You were off with your warrior friends so you wouldn't remember, not the way I do. Father was gone half the time and Mother was busy running the kingdom. I learned a long time ago that if I wanted to be noticed and not brushed aside I created mischief. Because at least then I was seen and not told to run along and come back later," his brother said bitterly.

"I wish I had known sooner."

"As you say, what's done is done. I just have to make damn sure I don't repeat the mistakes they made." Loki concluded. "Which means that for part of his punishment, I will be having Hunter do community service-as Steve calls it-with my help. We will be cleaning part of Central Park up on the weekend. And the rest he can volunteer down at one of animal shelters. They always need volunteers to walk their dogs and clean their cat cages and perhaps he will meet new friends there."

"That's a good plan. It will teach humility and responsibility and also be something he may take pleasure in doing."

"You think?"

"Yes. Quit doubting yourself, little brother. You're doing a great job."

"Thanks, Thor." Loki said sincerely. He could tell his brother meant what he said and it made that gnawing kernel of self-doubt bury itself in the recesses of his mind.

"Are you going to eat that piece of bacon?" Thor asked plaintively.

"Here." Loki tossed it to him. Then he snatched the last waffle from the plate.

"Hey! I was gonna eat that."

"You snooze you lose," he grinned, then spread lingonberry jam and powdered sugar over it and ate it.

Hunter woke a few hours later, and apologized to his uncle, who scolded him gently and told him that Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr had their pen waiting for him to clean and manure the flower beds and garden around the mansion when Dr. Banner said he was healed enough. 'You want me to become a goat herd?" Hunter's eyes almost bugged out. "But Uncle Thor, I don't know anything about goats."

"You'll learn. My goats are friendly . . . unless you forget to feed them. Then they eat your clothes."

"I'm not wearing my jacket then," Hunter sighed. "How long will I be doing this?"

"Three weeks," Loki replied. "And in addition to that, you will be picking up litter in Central Park with me and volunteering at the local animal shelter three days a week."

"Am I gonna have time to sleep?"

"Yes. If you go to bed at nine."

"What? Dad, that's bedtime for Lucy!"

"Little nephew, after one day of such work you won't mind it at all," Thor told him.

Loki took a repentant Hunter home a few hours later, once Bruce had made certain the concussion was healing and told Loki to make sure the boy took it easy the next few days. That meant no school, for which Hunter was happy about, until he realized staying home involved helping with some housework, like folding the laundry. "All this?" he exclaimed in dismay as he saw the eight baskets, each labeled with the appropriate child's name, piled with clothing. "This is nuts!"

"Quit complaining. I do this every day. And I sorted it for you already," Loki pointed out.

"I think we need to hire a maid."

"I have. You."

"My ribs hurt sitting here."

"Here's a potion then," Loki said, holding a familiar blue phial.

"No, it's not that bad!"

"Then start folding."

Hunter groaned. Then he picked up a pair of Max's pajamas and began to fold them.

Twenty minutes later he had completed two baskets and Loki brought him some hot cocoa and crumpets with jam.

"Thanks, Dad," his son said gratefully.

"You can take a break after this. I need to re-tape you. How is your head?"

"Okay. It's not hurting anymore."

"Good."

Loki removed the old tape and applied warm cloths soaked in arnica to the livid purple and blue welts that covered his son's sides and chest before using new tape to rebind and support the healing ribs. As he did so, Max came into the den and saw.

The small boy's green eyes widened and he whimpered fearfully, "Daddy, did the Bad People do that to Hunter?"

"Yes, but they are in jail and can't hurt anyone ever again," Loki reassured him.

"Good! Or else I'd of blown them to the moon with your magic staff," Max cried angrily.

"Never you mind about my staff, little imp," Loki scolded. "That's not for little boys to play with." It was kept locked up in a cabinet only he could open but it never hurt to give a reminder.

"Does it hurt?" Max asked frankly.

"Yeah, some," Hunter replied honestly. "But Dad will fix it."

"Dad can fix anything," Max said confidently. "He fixed my knee after I fell down chasing Aleta yesterday." He showed Hunter his knee, which had a large colorful Band-Aid on it with moons and stars. "Is Dad gonna put a special Band-Aid on your ouch?"

Hunter chuckled. "They don't make 'em big enough, imp."

Max watched as Loki put tape around Hunter's ribs, then went and grabbed a marker from his art supplies and said, "I can make your Band-Aid like mine, Hunter! See?" And he began drawing and coloring stars and moons on the plastic strips.

"Max, what are you doing?" Loki asked, amused.

"I'm making Hunter a magic Band-Aid," the four-year-old answered. "So it makes the ouch go away faster."

"Max, there's no such thing as-" Hunter began, then stopped and ruffled the child's raven hair. "Thanks, buddy."

"There! All done. Do you feel better?"

"Lots," his older brother smiled.

"You were very helpful," Loki praised. "But you ought to be taking a nap like your sister."

"Wasn't tired," Max pouted.

Loki helped Hunter put his shirt on then said, "Why don't you lay here next to your big brother and tell him how to fold clothes?"

"Okay! I know how cause I watch Dad," Max said, and promptly dragged the green Got Mischief blanket over him and lay down with his head on his brother's lap.

Hunter rolled his eyes as Max prattled on about the correct way to fold socks and soon his curious brother's mischievous eyes shut and he fell asleep.

'I don't blame you, buddy," Hunter murmured. "This is the most boring job ever." Then he yawned too. Five minutes later he nodded off over Aleta's princess shirt, and that was how Loki found the pair of them some ten minutes later. He carefully rearranged his eldest with a pillow and then took a picture of the heartwarming scene with his phone. This would be one for the family album.

A few days later Hunter was growing restless from being stuck in the house, even though Loki kept him busy with small chores and he played his X-Box when he was sitting on the couch. He was currently doing a rerun of Asgardian Quest playing this time as a Lljosalfar magician, a character that started out weak but would grow to be one of the most powerful in the game. Or so said his father. "Dad, are you sure? I keep dying every time I fight the trolls and shamans on the bridge over the falls," Hunter grumbled.

"You can't confront them head on," Loki called from the kitchen. "You need to use your head and out think them. Magic isn't all about brute force. It's being cunning and tricky."

"I've only got three spells."

"You can defeat the trolls with what you have. You just need to think about where your enemy has weaknesses."

"Okay. Let's try this again," his son said, and rebooted from the last save he had.

The object of the game was to travel through the Nine Realms searching for nine keys that would free Loki from his prison in Jotunheim. In your travels you interacted with other gamers by using a special integrated VR helmet—which was shaped like Loki's own. Hunter had won the game before, but he usually played warriors and Aesir. This was his first time as a magic-using elf.

"Ooh! Can I play?" Max pleaded when he saw what his brother was doing.

"No. You're too little. You can't even read."

"I wanna play too," Aleta said. "I wanna be a princess."

"You can't either," Hunter said crossly.

"Why not?" his sister sulked.

"Listen imps, go away and quit bothering me, I need to concentrate," Hunter waved them away.

"We want to play!" Max cried. "Let us have a turn."

"Beat it, rugrats!"

"You're mean!" Aleta declared crossly. "Mean as spit and ashes!"

"And you're as annoying as a mosquito," Hunter returned. "Now buzz off!"

His sister made a face at him. "Make me!"

"Aleta, I swear—"

"That's enough," Loki said from the doorway. His voice was soft but implacable. "Aleta and Max, quit pestering your brother."

"But Daddy, we wanna play with Hunter," Max whined.

"Yeah, we asked nicely and Hunter's mean," Aleta sniffled.

"Dad, she's being annoying," his eldest son grouched.

"Aleta, why don't you draw me a picture? I need a new kitten for the art wall," her dad suggested.

"Okay. I'll make you a baby Lokitty," she said and went to get her art box.

"Max, you can make me one too," he told his small son.

"No. I don't feel like drawing. I wanna play outside."

At that moment, Serena, Lucy, Nate, and Belle came home from school. Samantha was at her debate club today. His three older children went to grab snacks from the fridge and took their bags into the dining room to do their homework.

All except Lucy, who was only in kindergarten and almost never had homework.

Max ran to her. "Lucy, you wanna play outside with me?"

Lucy was Loki's sunny child, both in looks—she had golden hair and sea-green eyes—and in temperament, she was rarely cross and usually agreeable to anything her siblings or dad wished to do. One of her favorite things was to have Loki read to her—because the Mischief Maker knew how to do voices for different characters and when he read it was like the story came to life.

"Sure, Max," she said to her younger brother. "But lemme get a snack first. Dad, do we have any Savannah Smiles left?"

"Look in the cabinet, sunshine. I think we have one package left." Loki called, he was busy mixing the macaroni shrimp salad for dinner that night.

Lucy stood up on the stepstool to peer inside the pantry where the snacks were kept along the wall. "Found 'em!" she cried, and pulled down the box of Girl Scout cookies. They were lemon cookies with powdered sugar over them.

"Can I have one?" Max wanted to know.

"Of course. I always share," Lucy grinned. "You want milk too?"

"Yes, please."

She got both of them small cups of milk, then gave Max three cookies and took the same for herself. "Mmm! I love these!"

"Me too!" Max agreed.

"Hey don't talk with your mouth full," Lucy reproved. "It's gross."

"Uncle Clint does it sometimes."

"That's 'cause men don't have any manners. Least that's what Miss Trudy says."

"I beg to differ. I have manners," Loki put in.

"I know, Dad. You taught us," Lucy remarked. She finished her cookies and milk and wiped her hands neatly with her napkin. "Let's play Rapunzel, Max. I'll be Rapunzel in the tower and you can be the prince that rescues me from the evil witch Goethal."

"Who's gonna be the witch?" Max asked.

"Umm . . . I'd ask Serena but she's busy with her homework. So we can pretend, okay?"

"Okay. Lemme get my sword n' shield." Max said, and ran to the toybox in the den and withdrew his small plastic sword, which looked very like his dad's, and a Viking buckler.

Lucy put on a purple dress like the one Rapunzel wore in Tangled, then grabbed the long blond wig and put it on her head. The braid was so long it trailed on the ground, so she tossed it over her arm as she ran out into the backyard after Max.

Loki's yard was not huge, but it did have enough room for the kids to run around in, was fenced, and sported a tree house in a large oak tree. The tree house had been there before the Laufeysons had bought the house and property, and it was a bit shabby and in need of a few repairs. Loki had planned to do that over the summer, as right now he was too busy ironing out the glitches in his new game before it launched, as well as assisting the Avengers.

The two children ran over to the tree house, which made the perfect tower for Rapunzel to get rescued from. Lucy scrambled up the ladder and sat on the platform and pretended to comb her long hair with a twig. "Oh I wish I could leave this tower and see the world," she called.

"I'll save you, Lady Rapunzel!" Max shouted, and he galloped over to the tower. "Quick! Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!"

Lucy threw her braid down and said, "Who are you?"

"I'm Prince Max of Asgard! And I'm gonna rescue you from the evil witch."

He waved his sword at the big rhododendron.

"Hurry, Max! Before the witch comes back!" Lucy urged, then she began to climb down the ladder.

Normally surefooted as a cat, Lucy forgot how her braid tended to get in the way. Her sneaker stepped on the braid and her foot slipped. She went to grab hold of the ladder but the old boards suddenly gave way and she plummeted out of the tree and landed on the ground with a sharp smack.

"Lucy!" Max screamed in horror. "Lucy, are you okay?"

The little girl moaned. "Max . . . Max . . . get Dad . . . my arm hurts . . ." Her wig dangled askew on her head, and her purple dress was full of dirt and leaves. She cradled her left arm and cried.

Max dropped his sword and shield and ran towards the house yelling, "Dad! Dad! Lucy fell outta the tree house!"

Loki nearly dropped the entire tray of stuffed clams on the floor when he heard Max screaming. "Nine Hells!" he swore and teleported out to the tree house where Lucy was still sitting on the ground, her sea green eyes full of fear and pain. "Lucy, where are you hurt, baby?" He knelt beside her, his heart slamming through his ribcage.

"M-My arm . . . Dad . . . it hurts r-real bad!" she sobbed.

"Okay, sunshine. Let me take a look—" he reached out to touch her.

"Nooo!" she howled, hysterical. "Don't touch it!" She tried to scramble away but she jarred her arm and cried out in pain.

"Shh . . .Shhh . . . it's okay, I promise I won't touch you," Loki crooned. "Let me take a look with my magic. You won't feel anything." He murmured a quick diagnostic spell and his hand lit up with blue energy. He ran his hand above Lucy's arm and the spell revealed to him that her arm was, as he had feared, broken.

By then the other kids had come out of the house and were gathered on the back steps, watching worriedly.

"Dad, will Lucy be okay?" called Nate.

"Lucy, you have a broken arm, hon. So I'm going to take you to the hospital to fix it," he explained to the terrified child.

"W-why can't we go to Uncle Bruce?"

"Because Uncle Bruce and the rest of your uncles are out of town at a convention," Loki told her. What a time to leave town! "So we need to visit the hospital and get you fixed up there."

"Dad, I'm scared!" she whimpered.

"I'm right here, sunshine. We're gonna make you better." He quickly summoned one of his potions. "Lucy, I need you to drink this. It'll make your arm quit hurting for awhile."

"Okay." Unlike Hunter and half his children, she didn't fight him when it came to taking medicine.

He held the phial to her lips and she swallowed obediently. "That's my good girl," he said, then gave her a spoonful of honey to wash away the taste. Then he formed a cast from the air and wrapped it around the injured arm so it would be still. He would need to remove it when they arrived at the hospital, but for now it served to keep the limb immobile.

By then the potion had taken effect and his daughter was nodding off. He gently slipped his arms about her and lifted her. Then cradling her securely, he walked towards the house.

"Hunter, you're in charge while I'm gone. Text Samantha and let her know what happened. I'm going to bring Lucy to the ER. She broke her arm."

Max stared up at him, tears filling his eyes. "Is she gonna die?"

"No, son. She'll be fine, just her arm is going to be in a cast for awhile. You and Aleta get your jackets on. You're coming with me."

"Thank the Nine!" Hunter muttered.

Aleta came back holding her art case. "Daddy, can I take this?"

"Yes. Max, pick out a book too. We might be there for awhile."

Max took Where the Wild Things Are down from the shelf. It was one of his favorite books and Loki had made him a white wolf suit like in the story that he wore quite a bit. In his other hand he clutched Trickster, which was a soft plush black wolf wearing a gold cape and green shirt and horned helmet. It was his security toy.

Aleta picked up her lokitty, a black kitten with a gold helmet, and a green bow around her neck. Her name was Minx. "I'm ready!" she announced, holding the cat in one hand and her art case in the other.

Loki carried the sleeping Lucy to the van and placed her carefully in the front seat, buckled her in, and then started the van.

Max and Aleta climbed in their car seats and Belle fastened them in. "Be good and don't drive Dad crazy," she told them. "Dad, text me about Lucy."

"I will, little raven," he said as he pulled away down the driveway. He prayed the traffic wasn't too bad getting to Columbia Presbyterian. He turned on the GPS to get the traffic pattern, carefully pulling out onto the main road.

He had just stopped at a red light when Max piped up with, "Dad, what does this button do?"

Out of the corner of his eye he saw his inquisitive imp start to touch a green button on the door console. "Maximus, don't you dare!"

"How come? I wanna make the van into a tank."

"I don't care what you want. Don't touch that."

"No fair! I never get to do what I want."

A red car darted into the lane in front of him, forcing Loki to slam on the brakes. "Learn how to drive you son of a blind serpent!" he swore.

"What's this do?"

Max tugged on a lever.

A small taser popped up on the roof.

"What the-? Maximus, what part of don't touch anything don't you understand?" Loki snapped, hitting a button on the dashboard that retracted the taser.

"You said not to push the green button."

"Okay . . ." Loki felt a headache bloom behind his eyes. He took a deep breath and counted slowly to ten. "Now don't touch anything. No buttons no levers nothing! You hear me?"

"Yes, Dad."

Five minutes went by as Loki navigated through an intersection.

"Oww! Daddy, Max poked me!"

"I didn't. Trickster did."

"Nuh-uh."

"Uh-huh."

Norns, I wish I had earplugs!

"Hey! Aleta scratched me!"

"Noo . . . Minx did. She's mad at you."

"Tell your dumb cat to bite me!"

"You tell your smelly wolf to eat dead fishheads."

He turned down the street leading to the hospital, struggling to hold onto his temper.

"You shut up!"

"Oww! Daddy, Max pulled my hair!"

"Well, you kicked me, so there!"

"Both of you knock it off!" a frazzled Loki growled. "Don't make me pull this car over!"

"Oooh, you're in trouble!" Aleta sang.

Max put his hands over his ears. "Not listening!"

"They're coming to take you away . . . they're coming to take you away . . . hee hee haa haa . . . to the funny farm . . ." warbled Aleta.

"I wish someone would take me away," Loki said feelingly. Right now that funny farm sounds like a resort!

Abruptly, Aleta began to cry. "Noo! I don't want you to get taken away!"

"I was kidding!" he said quickly. Mostly. They finally pulled into the emergency room parking lot.

He commandeered a wheelchair and put the still sleeping Lucy into it. Then he said to Max and Aleta, "I want you to walk quietly by me and stay there while I talk to some doctors."

"Is Lucy gonna be okay?" Aleta asked sadly.

"Yes, spark. We just have to find a doctor to look at her."

He carefully pushed the wheelchair into the lobby and stopped by the registration desk. "Can I help you, sir?"

"My daughter fell out of our treehouse and broke her arm."

"I'm so sorry to hear that. Can you fill out this form and then wait until we call you into a room?"

Loki wrote rapidly on the sheet, handed the receptionist Lucy's health insurance card and his own as well as ID cards. He signed agreements to let Lucy be treated, a privacy agreement, and then he went to sit in the waiting room.

"Dad, when are they gonna fix Lucy?" Max asked.

"As soon as they can. Now you and Aleta play quietly while we wait." He removed the air cast and gently stroked Lucy's golden hair back from her forehead. His heart felt like it had shattered into a million pieces and he longed to get up and pace around the room like a wild thing.

He pulled out his phone, it chimed with the Beauty and the Beast theme, which meant Belle was texting him.

How's Lucy? Are u at the hospital?

Yes. Waiting to see doc. Call you later.

OK. Everything fine. Love ya! XOXO

He put the phone back in his jacket, checked his watch, and wondered why the Hel it was taking so long to have someone come and look at his daughter? He understood about priorities, but still, this was his little girl and if not for his pain potion she would have been awake, frightened, and hurting. He reached out and took her hand in his, holding it gently.

If you had fixed the tree house, you wouldn't be here right now, Laufeyson, he berated himself.

If Thor were here he'd tell you to stop feeling guilty and just worry about Lucy getting well. But Thor's not here and I'm falling to pieces. The only good thing is Lucy's still asleep and Aleta and Max are finally listening and playing quietly.

But he knew all too well that never lasted long and someone better come soon or else he would ask why this was supposed to be an emergency room when no one seemed to worry that they had left a little girl unattended after ten minutes had gone by? Maybe he should have tried to set the arm himself? He did know how to field dress a wound.

No, Loki. You're not a doctor, you're not even a medic. Just be patient. In order to keep from going crazy, he opened up his ebook app on his phone and began to read Centennial again.

"Mr. Laufeyson? Come through this door, please. Nurse Berry will see you now."

Finally!

He wheeled Lucy into the room, with Aleta and Max following.

"Oh, what adorable children you have!" Nurse Berry, a slim woman of about thirty gushed.

"Thanks. That adorable part gets them out of trouble . . . sometimes."

"I'll bet. Let's see what happened to you, sweetie." Nurse Berry went to take Lucy's blood pressure and said, "Mr. Laufeyson, how long has she been asleep like this?"

"She fainted soon after I went and found her on the ground by the treehouse," Loki lied glibly.

"I told Dad to come cause Lucy fell," Max added.

"You're a smart boy to do that."

"Dad, she said I was smart!"

"You are. Too smart," Loki said, and tweaked his son's nose.

"Well, her vitals are all good, and except for the fact that she's asleep, she seems to have suffered no injury except to her arm. But if you'd like we can arrange to have an MRI done of her head and back."

"No. I'm sure she didn't hit her head. She was awake and aware when I came over to her. She was in a lot of pain though and I'm sure that's why she fainted."

"Poor thing!" Nurse Berry cooed. "She has such beautiful golden hair. Let's bring you in a room, Mr. Laufeyson. Our pediatrician on call, Dr. Chamberlain, will be with you shortly."

"How long will that be?" Loki demanded crisply. "I apologize for my abrupt tone but I don't want my daughter to wake up and be in pain while we wait another twenty minutes."

"I understand. He should be down soon, he was just doing rounds when we paged him. If she wakes, we can give her a shot for the pain."

Loki just nodded woodenly, thinking that by the time the doctor got there his potion would have worn off and he'd be forced to rely on Midgardian medicine instead of his magic. He was so concerned over Lucy that he didn't even realize Max and Aleta weren't beside him.

Back in the room with the odd black wire machine, Max said to Aleta, "Let's see what this does."

"The lady in the white coat put the black snake thing on Lucy's arm," Aleta frowned. "Minx thinks the snakey thing bit her."

"No. It hasn't got any teeth. Here, put your arm in there." Max ordered.

"It's too big."

"Put your arm and Minx in it."

Aleta did so and the cuff stayed on. Then Max began to squeeze the rubber ball like he'd seen the lady doing.

"Hey! We're being 'quished!" Aleta cried. "Max, stop! Minx and I don't like this snake machine."

She pushed the blood pressure monitor after yanking the cuff off her arm.

It crashed into the wall.

"Dumb snake machine!"

"Hey! I think you broke it," Max exclaimed. "Now you're in trouble!"

"Only if they know who did it," his sister reminded. She grabbed her art case. "C'mon, let's get outta here. We gotta find Daddy 'fore the men in the white coats come and take him away."

"The lady had a white coat," Max said worriedly. "And she took Lucy and Dad away."

"Hurry, Max! Minx says they're being kidnapped! I don't want them to go to the funny farm," Aleta whined.

"Where's the funny farm? And what's so funny about it?"

His sister shrugged. "I dunno. Hunter says it's where all the crazy people are."

"Dad ain't crazy! And neither is Lucy!"

"That's why we gotta save 'em!" she grabbed Max's hand and towed them out of the room.

They emerged into a short hallway with lots of doors on either side. They were just about to go into the room directly across from them when they heard loud footsteps.

"Hide!" Max yelped. "It's a crazy!"

"Where?"

"Trickster says this way!"

The two toddlers ran into a large room with vending machines and posters of anatomy on the walls.

Aleta scrunched up her face. "Eeeww! This art wall is 'sgusting, Max! Where's the unicorns? And hearts n'flowers? And kitties? How can you have an art wall with no kitties?"

"Maybe they like skulls and guts?" Max said.

"Yuck! Minx says they're nasty! Who wants to see that?"

"It doesn't have any glitter either," her brother observed. "And those colors are boring."

Aleta nodded. Then her gray eyes went wide. "Max! Look! They gots a picture of some man's naked butt!"

Max giggled. "How'd they get it?"

"Maybe they walked in on him in the shower," Aleta mused. "You did to Daddy."

"I couldn't help it! I had to use the potty real bad and Sam was in the other one," Max defended. "What didja want me to do, pee on the floor?"

"Why not? You did that already."

He glared at her. "I was sick. Least I didn't barf all over my bed and Dad like you."

"Daddy said it was okay, Maximus!" Aleta snapped. "An' I'm not gonna 'scuss it anymore, so there!" she crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. Minx seemed to frown too.

"You started it by talking about that guy's naked butt!"

"So? I'm not the one going around showing his butt to the world. He needs to put some clothes on." Aleta said primly.

"Uh huh. 'Fore they arrest him," Max said. "Like they did old Mr. Hooper when he ran down the street naked on Halloween last year."

"I don't 'member that!"

"You fell asleep and missed it. But I was lookin' out Sam's window and we saw the whole thing!" Max reported. "But Sam covered my eyes when he went by. Said I didn't need to see the old man's junk on display."

"Who cares? You see yours everyday."

Max shrugged. "Sam's weird sometimes. So . . . let's put some clothes on him."

Aleta opened the art case and passed out some glitter magic markers and stickers. "Shoulda brought the Bedazzler," she muttered.

Together the two children drew all over the wall with the anatomy posters. They put clothes over all the places where clothes should be, coloring pants, shorts, and shirts. Aleta put a dress on one poster then drew a unicorn and kitten next to it.

Max drew a wolf and then a frog. Then he made some Wild Things.

Aleta added some shiny butterfly stickers and hats.

"There! That looks much better!" she said, pleased. "Now nobody's butt's hanging out."

"I'm hungry." Max complained.

"Me too," Aleta sighed. "But all the food's locked up. How rude!"

"They must all starve in this place."

"Let's go see if they have a kitchen," Aleta announced.

They ran out into the hallway and spotted a large metal cart with wheels. On the bottom part were white sheets. But the top held some trays with plastic covers. Max stood on tiptoe. "What's in there?"

"Let's find out," Aleta said, and she climbed up the side and pushed a cover off. "It's food! Max, here's a hamburger!"

"Where? I want one!" He climbed up the other side and pushed off the other cover. "Gross! This one has something that looks like dog puke! Then he spotted something else. "Chocolate pudding!"

"Hey, can I have some?" Aleta asked, chewing on the hamburger, ketchup smearing her nose.

"Finders keepers, losers weepers," Max recited something that Vince always said.

"You're mean, Maximus! Sharing is caring!"

"Then why ain't you sharing your burger, Aleta?"

"Okay! You can have half . . . if you give me half the pudding. I only gots yucky lime JELLO."

Max made a gagging noise. "Gross! Dad never buys that."

"Cause Dad knows it makes us barf." She tore the hamburger in half. "Here."

Max took it and bit it. "Mmm!" Then he ripped off the top of the pudding container. "Take some."

"How? We need spoons, silly!"

"Why? Just eat it with your fingers."

"And get my dress dirty? Don't be dumb! Boys! So messy!"

Max stuck his tongue out. "Girls! So bossy!"

Aleta found a plastic spoon on the tray and began to eat the pudding.

When she had eaten half, she passed the container to Max who ate the rest by licking his fingers.

Aleta clucked at him. "You'd better wash your hands. Dad's gonna have a fit."

"Where's the bathroom?"

Aleta went down to another door and pushed it open. Luckily it was a bathroom.

Max ran inside.

Three minutes later he came back, his hands clean. "Uh oh."

"What do you mean, uh oh?"

"Umm . . . I kinda used too much soap . . . and now it's running all over the sink and the floor."

"Yikes! Let's get outta here!"

They ran into yet another room. This one had a strange machine in it with black drapes and lots of funny knobs.

"Whoa!" exclaimed Aleta. "What's that?"

"Looks like the 'lectric machine that Dr. Frankenstein used to bring his monster alive," Max said.

"Really? Let's bring Trickster and Minx alive!"

"All right!" Max studied the machine. "I think you gotta put them under the black drape on this clear thing."

Aleta dragged a chair over and pulled the drape back. She put her lokitty on the clear table thing and then Max did the same with his wolf. Then she threw the drape over the stuffed toys. "Now what? Nothing's working."

"I think we gotta turn some knobs." Max said.

"Hurry! Minx is scared of the dark."

"Huh? She's a cat. They can see in the dark."

"So? She's a baby."

Max turned some knobs and pushed a switch. The machine began to light up and flash glowing images on the wall.

"Ooh! Pretty!"

"It's al-i-ive!" Max yelled.

"Why are you screaming? I'm not deaf!"

"S'what you're supposed to do." Max said loftily. "Now we pull back the cover!"

He yanked off the drape.

Aleta scowled. "Liar! They ain't alive!"

"I never said it would work!" Max said indignantly. He picked up Trickster.

Aleta grabbed Minx. "Maybe the machine is broken?"

"Uh oh." Max said. "Let's go!"

The two intrepid explorers raced out of the X-Ray room. They were trying to decide where to go next when a door opened right down the hall and a rather irate Loki came out.

"Maximus! Aleta! Where have you two been?" he demanded.

"Looking for you," Max replied.

"Yeah the lady in the white coat took you away," Aleta cried.

"No one took me away. C'mere!" he knelt and held out his arms and the twin troublemakers ran into them. "You scared me to death! I thought I lost you!"

"We weren't lost, Daddy. We knew where we were the whole time," Aleta said sagely.

"Is Lucy fixed yet?" Max asked.

"No. The doctor is doing some X-rays."

"What's that?"

"Uh . . . it's when they use a machine to see your bones," Loki explained.

"Yuck! Daddy, the people who live here are weird," Aleta sniffed. "They hang pictures of men's naked butts on their walls!"

"W-What?" Loki gaped at her.

"Yeah, but we fixed them and gave them clothes so they wouldn't get arrested," Max said.

Loki put his face in his hands, laughing uncontrollably. "By the Nine, but you two are going to turn my hair white before you even go to school."

He carried them back inside the exam room. "Now . . . we have to wait here until the doctor comes back with Lucy."

"Dad, can you read the book to me?" Max asked, handing him Where the Wild Things Are.

Loki took a seat on the exam table and with a little one on each side, began to read.

"The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind . . . and another . . ."

"Yup! That's Max!" Aleta nodded to Minx.

"Who asked you, Aleta?"

"Hush! Do you want to hear the story or not?" their father asked.

They grew quiet and Loki continued, "His mother called him "WILD THING!" and Max said, "I'll eat you up!" . . ."

As Loki continued reading, a puzzled orderly said to a nurse in the hallway, "I don't understand it. I went to answer a phone call and when I came back I found the cart like this!"

"And there was a flood in the bathroom. I had to call the janitor," the nurse said.

Later a tech discovered strange pictures in the last X-Ray room—of a silhouette of a cat and a wolf. Then Dr. Braden went down to get some candy from the vending machine and nearly had a coronary because someone had defaced all the anatomy charts. But no one had seen or heard anything.

Finally a nurse decided the hospital must be haunted. For who but a poltergeist could play tricks like that without being seen?

A/N: So what did you think?

text quoted from Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

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