Behind the shimmering glow of the furnace lives a wild and dangerous creature. His horn faintly shines from the glimmer of light shining upstairs. This is the only part of him that you can distinguish without directly facing the beast. His thick, gray skin conveniently camouflages him as he lurks around in the depths of the basement.
I know this because recently, I had to face the beast. You see this particular rhino relentlessly torments me in my dreams. He slithers up to my bedroom in the middle of the night to infuse my dreams with images of his vicious teeth chopping off my arm. However, my little brother has something that the big, bad rhino desires. It’s odd, you see, however it suffices him. Pacifiers. There I said it. How do I know this, you ask? Well, it all started last Tuesday.
Splish! Splash! No, I was not taking a bath. The pounding rain startled my slumber. Confusion. The rhino did not visit my dreams last night. Relieved, I listened for my family stirring in other rooms. Freddy’s snores came up through the vent; he sleeps in the basement – yikes! Winston’s faint cries echoed through Mommy’s room while she quickly snuck in a shower.
Not ready to climb out of bed yet, I curled up in the snuggly blankets and reflected on my dream. The rhino had consistently been appearing for the past month, I shouldn’t even be wondering where he was, those dreams are terrifying, yet I can’t help but wonder.
“Hank! Time to pull yourself out of bed,” Mom whispered as she gently tousled my chestnut hair.
My arms stretched towards the foot of my bed as my body prepared to emerge out of my navy and black comforter. If only a superhero’s quest was to conquer the rhino I contemplated as I sat up.
“Good morning, Mom.”
“Morning,” she quickly replied, “Go ahead and get dressed, breakfast will be ready shortly.” Dashing out of the room, she went to alleviate Winston, who seemed unable to calm down after his morning feeding.
Hmm, that is odd. I wonder why Winston can’t pull it together. Hopefully he isn’t a cranky baby all day. Mom and I were planning to complete Batman’s Lego lair this afternoon during Winston’s nap. If this little knucklehead of a brother fusses all morning while Freddy and I are at school, Mom’s exhaustion will put a kibosh to that great idea.
Freddy was straggling upstairs as I perched like a hawk on the edge of my seat eager for scrambled eggs and diced pears. Once breakfast appeared, I could watch an episode on the count, or as most people call it, a tablet. Concentrating deeply on the arrival of my food helped me block out the persistent cries coming from my brother.
“Good morning, Fred. Have you seen any of Winston’s pacifiers?” Mom inquired while wearing wailing Winston in the baby sling.
“Haven’t seen any, Vanessa. Sorry,” he muttered as he collected his breakfast and trudged downstairs to watch TV.
*Side note: Freddy isn’t being disrespectful by calling my mom, Vanessa. We are lucky enough to have the same father, but his mom lives about an hour away.
“What about you, Hank? Any signs of a pacifier? I could’ve sworn I saw a bazillion lying around before putting Winston down last night.” Mom sighed as she placed my plate of slightly scalded eggs with a side of pears on the wicker table.
“Sorry, Mom. I haven’t seen any either,” I responded while questionably gazing at the charred edges of my breakfast. It must be difficult to prepare breakfast with a squawking baby attached to you. Best not to poke momma bear with a complaint.
No rhino. Missing pacifiers. Could it be? Nah, I’m sure the pacifiers are hiding like a pirate’s treasure. Mom will unlock the pirate’s code while scrubbing the house clean today, I confidently thought. The Batman Lego lair shall be built today, matey. Eggs flew out of my mouth as I snorted out a laugh. Sometimes, I crack myself up.
I quickly concealed the half chewed eggs that were strewn across the table as Mom sent me a bewildered glance from across the room. She had begun rummaging around the living room in search of a soothing pacifier.
Beep, beep! Beep, beep! Breakfast screen time was kaput. Time to make our teeth sparkly, gather our backpacks, and stride to the bus stop. If only the timer could put a kaput to Winston’s wails. I’ll have to share that witty comment with Freddy on our morning stroll. I’m on a roll this morning!
“Any luck? Did you find any pacifiers? I don’t hear Winston shrieking anymore.” Freddy commented as he ascended upstairs.
“I wish! He passed out while I was toting him around the house. After you boys leave, I’m going to turn this house upside down to find those pacifiers. Don’t be surprised if the house is disheveled when you return.” Mom replied with a grimace.
She despises a disordered household, so I thought I would brighten the chore of finding the missing pacifiers. “Mom, you will do a fantastic job finding the treasure!”
Freddy and her exchanged a glance and then burst into laughter.
“What do ya mean by that, Hank?” Fred asked.
Whoops, I forgot that they didn’t hear my internal conversation about the pacifiers being like a pirate’s treasure.
“Uh, never mind. Come on, Fred. Let’s hit the road,” I uttered while slinging my navy backpack over my shoulder.
“Okaaay, Hank,” he slyly grinned as he packed up his school gear. I just know he is going to have me elaborate on our walk to the bus stop.
Blur. School flew by today. I couldn’t believe I was already squished in the back of the canary colored bus. Man, I really hope Mom found that binky.
“To be disheveled or not to be disheveled, that is the question!” Freddy joked as we moseyed towards the house.
“I bet the house is spick and span, bro. Mom always finds Winston’s pacifiers. She probably just put it in a safe spot while ‘reorganizing’ yesterday,” I confidently commented. If I believe that the pacifiers were found, it’s bound to be true, right? Isn’t that how these things work?
I cracked open the door peering inside the house to check the status. Oh no! The house was a train wreck. I already knew the inevitable answer to my question, Mom most certainly did not find those stinkin’ pacifiers.
Mom slowly trudged downstairs with Winston clinging to her salmon blouse. “Boys, I desperately need your help. I’m sure you have already figured out that I was unsuccessful in my hunt for Winston’s pacifiers. Please, please, please help me!” she sighed with exasperation.
“I’ll hold Winston for a bit, Vanessa. Hank will search the house again. Hank check ALL the nooks and crannies. You’re bound to be the one to find those binkies,” Freddy said. “I bet you can even find them before Dad gets home!”
Though I was not particularly pleased with Freddy volunteering me to search, I knew he had a point. I was known for finding things the rest of the family overlooked. It was on!
I quickly scrawled down my POA aka plan of action: bedrooms, family areas, basement. It was inevitable that I check the basement but boy, was I not looking forward to that endeavor. As described earlier, that is where the rhino resides. Thinking of having to face my fears, I shuddered and began searching the bedrooms to provide a distraction for myself.
Inspecting each room, I explored every aspect of the bedroom. A systematic approach has helped me in the past, so in each room I started low and worked my way up. Hunting for the pacifiers was tough work. Quietly calculating my work to make sure I was thorough, I mentally ran through my checklist:
- Under the bed – check!
- Closet – check!
- Under dressers, night stands, desks, etc – check!
- Drawers – check!
- Toy bins – check!
Examining the bedrooms seemed futile. Feeling defeated, I rummaged through the family rooms leaving no stone unturned. Nothing. Absolutely NO pacifiers. Where the heck were those things?!
Vanished. They MUST have slipped out of the house. Logically speaking, there was no reason why the pacifiers would be in the depths of the creepy basement. Laundry, storage, and changing the cat litter are the only reasons why Mom or Dad ventures there. Perhaps the pacifiers were accidentally put in the laundry.
“Mom, I think I’ve cracked the case! You washed the pacifiers – just get them the next time you switch the laundry!”
“Are you sure, Hank? Well, please just head on down there and grab them – that would be so helpful!” Mom replied.
Tarter sauce. That was only my guess. I was sure Mom would just check the next time she switched the laundry. Now, I have to explore the pungent basement. I crept towards the stairs. Gaping at the silvery spider web in the stairwell, I mustered up all the courage I had and walked down two stairs. Nope, I thought while racing back to the safety of the main floor.
My breath was as heavy as a herd of elephants. Thoughts of the rhino swirled through my head. How would I escape his sharp teeth?
I must prepare for battle, just in case the rhino awakens. Scrambling up to my bedroom, I put on my crimson red and silver costume – complete with a helmet, to face the dungeon. Snatching up my blaster, I knew that I could now descend into the scariest place in our home.
Tiptoeing towards the stairs, I took three deep breaths. This is it. You can do this. Climbing down the stairs like a ninja, I headed towards the washer and dryer. My big, hazel eyes scoped out my surroundings. The coast seemed clear.
Like a dog searching for a bone, I dug through the piles of laundry. Nothing. NO pacifiers. Deciding it would be best to also check out the washer and dryer, I quickly searched the inside of the white, cleaning machines. Nothing.
Creak! What was that?! With my blaster pointed towards the unlighted end of the basement I slowly turned around. Cautiously, moving towards the dim storage area, stacked boxes of clothes and dusty toys silently sat in the corner. Nudging the boxes with my blaster, I distinctly heard a murmur over the scratchy patter of the sliding box. The feeble murmur was coming from the shimmering glow of the furnace five feet from my trembling body.
Silver spliced through the reflection of the hanging light. Creeping closer to the furnace, the outline of a monstrous, gray creature slept soundly on cement floor. Resisting the temptation to let fear consume my thoughts, I discreetly brought my eyes up off the rhino to inspect his self-made habitat
A gasp escaped my awe stricken mouth. Shelves upon shelves were filled with pacifiers. Organized by color, they faintly sparkled in the thin beam of light. It appeared as though the rhino made a rainbow out of Winston’s pacifiers: red, orange, yellow, blue, and green.
“Why in the world would he want these?!” I wondered aloud.
The grey body began to stir at the sound of my voice. Oops, talking in front of the monster was not a good plan of action. Swiftly running up the stairs, I found Freddy.
“Fred, the rhino, organized by color, found pacifiers,” I breathlessly sputtered.
“Whoa, whoa, Hank. Slow down. Let me give Winston back to Vanessa and you can explain whatever those words mean to me in a second,” Freddy replied.
“Alright, bro. What is this business about the rhino?” asked Freddy.
Talking a mile a minute, I answered, “He is hoarding Winston’s pacifiers! I thought it was odd that he wasn’t in my dreams last night. I had no idea he had stolen the pacifiers. Why in the world would he want those? What are we going to do, Fred? How are we gonna get the pacifiers without getting our arms bitten off with those vicious teeth? How, Fred? How?”
“Let’s think logically. We NEED the pacifiers returned, but we also need to make sure the rhino doesn’t relentlessly steal them every day. Hmmm…” Freddy contemplated while stroking his chin.
“I know! I know! Grab your blaster. Let’s blast him to pieces. Then he will NEVER torment me again,” I excitedly shared my plan.
“There has got to be another way, Hank. We’ll bring the blasters as a precaution, but I bet we can use our words to communicate peacefully with the beast,” Freddy slowly responded.
“Doubt it,” I angrily muttered. Blasting the rhino is the ONLY way, I was sure of it.
We set off on our quest by gathering two reusable grocery bags to store the colorful pacifier collection. Freddy geared up for battle, “just in case” the rhino did not negotiate peacefully. We were not going to take no for an answer, Winston wailing twenty-four seven was not an option.
Creeping into the pungent basement, we tiptoed towards the rhino’s sleeping quarters. It was hard to initially spot the beast, given his skin camouflaged with the cement floor.
“See, Freddy. I told you he was hoarding the pacifiers. Look! He even organized them,” I whispered while pointing to the vast collection behind the beast.
Freddy’s eyes grew wide as he glanced around, “I can’t believe it, Hank was telling the truth,” he murmured.
Catching a glimpse of the white teeth, I nudged my brother and tightly gripped my blaster. Please don’t let his eyes open, please don’t let his eyes open I silently prayed. As soon as Fred turned around, the rhino’s black whopper of an eyeball sprung open.
“And just what do you think you two are doing here?” snarled the rhino as he sprung onto his four hooves.
Paralyzed with fear, I tapped Freddy on the shoulder, “Uh…Fred…the rhino is talking…” I sputtered.
“Stay calm, Hank. I got this,” Freddy whispered.
It always amazes me how Fred has grace under pressure. This surreal experience absolutely terrifies me and yet there is my big brother focused on our mission, not giving into the fear that is consuming my bones. How? How is he able to stay so calm? I must learn his ninja like secret.
“Rhino, we’ve come for Winston’s pacifiers,” Freddy spoke with unwavering confidence.
What?! He was supposed to say, we’ve come to blast you and retrieve the pacifiers. Freddy sounds like he is going to try and negotiate with the vicious beast. Well, when it fails, I’ll remind him the blasters were the way to go, I thought to myself.
Tears instantly spilled out of the rhino’s dark black eyes. This is the vicious beast that has been haunting my dreams? This cowardly rhino sobbing behind the red glow of the furnace, surrounded by colorful pacifiers.
“Why are you crying?” I demanded. “You stole Winston’s pacifiers and you constantly snarl at me with those pearly white teeth in my dreams. Why have I been afraid of you?”
“Hush your mouth, Hank. We’ve still got to get the pacifiers back and he does have tremendously large teeth, remember?” Fred quickly muttered in my ear.
“Um, well I suppose you boys deserve the truth,” the rhino sniffled. “About a month ago, I wandered too far away from my mother. Unable to find our watering hole, I traipsed through the jungle hoping that I would eventually run into my herd. As I continued moving, the blazing sun brightly lit the way even though the lush green vines became impossible to travel over. I stumbled upon a mysterious rainbow pool of water. Without thinking twice, I took a big gulp out of the rainbow pond and fell sound asleep. When I awoke, I found myself here in your basement alongside a note that read – ‘To safely return you must obtain the missing pacifier.’ I’ve been hunting for it for what feels like ages. I tried to ask you in your dreams, Fred, but each morning you woke up completely oblivious that I had visited you. Hank, you always ran away from me. I never got the chance to ask you where the pacifier was. I grew tired of running each night so I devised a new plan, hence the collection of pacifiers. I’m keeping them ALL until I find the one that will reunite me with my mommy.”
My blaster dropped to the floor. Huh, the rhino hadn’t been trying to eat my face off. He just wanted to go home. I guess you really can’t judge a book by its cover. “Rhino, I’ve got a plan. We still NEED those pacifiers – Winston is going crazy, but Fred and I will help you. First things first though, why are the pacifiers organized by color?”
“The mysterious rainbow pool of water. The missing pacifier must be of a certain color.” the rhino replied. “Winston has quite the collection, which is making my job difficult. After collecting the pacifiers last night, I tried tossing the red, orange, and yellow pacifiers onto the note over there to unlock the portal. No luck.”
“What do you think we should do, Fred. How can we find the missing one?” I asked Fred, who was quietly scanning the pacifier collection.
“Rhino, lets first put all of the pacifiers that didn’t work into our reusable bags. We can narrow down our search that way first. Hank, you scope out the blue pacifiers, I’ll carefully examine the green ones.” Freddy replied.
Grabbing the blue pacifiers off the shelf, I made an array out of the fifteen pacifiers. Navy, indigo, denim, sky blue, I mentally assigned each pacifier a shade of blue. Not one of these pacifiers stands out. I wonder if Fred is having any luck with the green pacifiers.
Scanning the room once more, I took in my surroundings. The rhino busily dropped the pacifiers into the bag, Fred was intensely focused on analyzing the green pacifiers, and the shelves now bare blended into the cement wall. Wait. I scanned the shelves again. Yes! In the back of the highest shelf a sparkle caught my eye.
Brave, Hank. Be brave. I hustled over to the bottom shelf and hoisted myself up. Even if the shelves fall, I will prevail. I will capture that sparkle!
“What in the world?” Freddy gasped. He stared at me, his four foot two brother, scaling the shelves in the basement with my eyes on one thing. That faint sparkle would be mine.
“Go, Hank, go! You can do it! I believe in you!” Fred shouted. The rhino glanced up and began chanting with Fred. “Go, Hank, go!”
Almost there, I thought while wiping the sweat from my brow. Two more shelves to climb, I thought as I placed my right foot on the rickety shelf. My arm hurled up to where the sparkle reflected allowing my hand to latch onto the rainbow colored pacifier.
“I’ve got it!” I excitedly shouted. “Whoa, oh no, I’m going to fall. Help!”
I had a death grip on the pacifier – that was not going anywhere. My body, however, was rapidly falling towards the cold cement floor. This is not going to be pretty, I thought to myself. How am I ever going to explain this to Mom and Dad?
Plump! The velvety rhino skin rebounded me into the air like I was in cartoon. My feet forcefully found their place on the ground. Flustered, my hands separated, releasing the sparkly pacifier to the ground.
The pacifier lurched towards the note as if possessed. The ground began to tremble as the note transformed into a swirling pool of water. Light blazed through the pool of water. The rhino’s jaw dropped in awe as he speechlessly stared at Fred and I.
“I don’t know how I will ever repay you. You’ve found a way for me to return home. Thank you, thank you,” he blubbered while wrapping us into his arms.
“Quick, Rhino. Before it’s too late. Jump in!” Freddy bellowed.
Whoosh. He was gone. The terrible, vicious rhino, who was not really a monster at all was gone. Dumbstruck, Fred and I cheered while celebrating our victory!
“What is all this commotion?” a deep voice asked.
“Dad! We found the pacifiers. Fred was so brave, we faced the…” I eagerly began to share.
“…the furnace.” Freddy winked.
“Thank goodness, Mom is about to pull her hair out. I’ll carry this bag of pacifiers. You boys bring up the rest. Hurry up now, supper is already on the table,” Dad replied.
“Fred,” I whispered, “Why didn’t you tell Dad about the rhino?!”
“Hank, they’ll think we’re crazy! But don’t worry, this is an adventure that I’ll never forget!” Freddy smiled as we clambered upstairs.
And that my friends, is how my brother and I successfully found the pacifiers and conquered the vicious, yet friendly, rhino!