Most kids, Billy's Mum was apt to tell him, built sandcastles
at the beach. Not Billy; he was much happier digging a hole. Sometimes, if he dug deep enough, he would reach
the water level and all sorts of strange worms and insects would writhe out of the wet sand. To him, a deep hole
was just as rewarding as the tallest sandcastle you'd care to think of. Besides, sandcastles only get kicked over
Billy sat in the cool of his latest excavation with his head below beach-level. The noise of the waves and people
washed past, muffled by the sand around him. So did the sound of his parents: who were bickering. Again. He
threw out another spadeful of sand.
"Billy!" came a voice. "Come and look!"
Billy sighed. It was Fiona. He clambered out of the hole, being careful not to cave it in, and joined his little
sister at the high-tide mark. A collection of shells, driftwood, seaweed and whatnot stretched down the beach
in a wavy line. Fiona had found something interesting, and was poking it with a stick.
"What is it?" she asked, batting her wind-tousled hair out of her face.
Billy knelt down to get a better look. At first he thought it was a stranded sea-creature that had dried out
in the sun, but it turned out to be a sock -- no, a sock-puppet. Bits of it were covered in thin patches of sea-sponge.
One of its eyes was a broken yellow button, and the other was a `cat's-eye': the little eye-like trap-door from
a periwinkle shell.
"I think it's a sock-puppet," said Billy. "But a strange sort-of one. It's all grown over with
sea-sponge and things."
Billy picked it up. The sponge had filled holes and tears in the white material. It was as if it had been repaired
by some skilled sea-creature.
"It's yucky," said Fiona, screwing up her button nose. "Throw it away."
Billy made to do so, but found -- to his alarm -- that the sock-puppet had slipped itself over his hand. He tried
shaking it off, but only felt his hand go numb, and then-
"Hi there! I'm Mr. Sockforahead!" said Billy, but in a voice that didn't belong to him.
Fiona giggled; the puppet had lip-synched to the words. Billy's shocked expression turned to one of anger, and
he attempted to wrench the sock off with his other hand. Mr. Sockforahead evaded him, ducking this way and that.
"Hey, you don't wanna do that, Billy. We can have so much fun together."
Billy's eyes widened. The sock knows my name!
"How are you doing this?" Billy asked, looking around for someone suspicious with a remote-control.
"Magic? ESP? Take your pick. Who's this, your girlfriend?"
Mr. Sockforahead was `looking' at Fiona, who'd been watching the exchange with increasing confusion.
"No," said Billy. "She's my sister."
"Well, then. Shove off, sister, we've got guy things to be getting on with."
Fiona looked, dumbfounded, at Billy. Billy shrugged, then his right hand jerked down suddenly and he tipped forward.
Mr. Sockforahead scooped up a mouthful of sand, shot back up again, and dumped it down the front of Fiona's bathing-suit.
Fiona ran off, crying, to Mum.
"What'd you do that for?" said Billy, still trying to grasp that he was talking to a sock.
Dad rose from the sand like a wobbly meerkat. He glared through his glasses and called Billy over.
"Hey, are those your parents?" said Mr. Sockforahead. "Let's go meet 'em!"
Billy tried once more to get rid of his uninvited guest, but there was no budging him. He steeled himself and
trudged over for his reprimand.
"What did your sister do to deserve that, young man?" said Dad.
"Nothing... I, it wasn't--" Billy began.
"Cool it, Pops," said Mr. Sockforahead. "There's nothing wrong with a little sand in the pants.
Not that I'd know, being a sock and all."
"What in the world?"
"Where's a guy with a drum roll when you need him? Oh well."
"Drop the act, Billy, and get that horrible thing off your hand. Who knows where it's been?"
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For more, visit the Author's Web Site at: The Manitou's Lair