By Ella Spencer
Behind the sloping hill, the one with sandy patches of grass and rabbit holes, yellow dandelions and light purple wildflowers, there was a village. The tiny village was a merry place with colors everywhere: on kites sailing the sky, little toys that bounced and made noise, on the doors of small houses built into the ground. A stream gurgled under a sturdy wooden bridge.
The people of this little town were very unusual. They wore strange hats: propeller hats, beach umbrella hats, bowling pins, chef hats, and other headwear. Some wore hydrangeas or bowling pins on their heads. They spent all day outside, inventing games and activities, also going to school in the red schoolhouse on the other side of the creek.
“A lovely town,” said a resident in her Ferris wheel hat. “But that boy, Benjamin Potatohead…he’s no good.”
“I’ll live here forever!” said another, sporting a monkey hat, with arms that Velcroed around the neck. “But with Benjamin causing so much trouble, I don’t enjoy it as much.”
“I try to play with Benjamin,” said a child, “but he only steals my toys and laughs at me.”
Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead had lots to deal with. They loved Benjamin, but he caused all the trouble he could muster in the village and their house, a giant hollowed out potato.
Benjamin was light-ish brown with little holes for his rubbery arms, eyes, and other body parts. His parents looked almost identical to him, but they were larger. Mrs. Potatohead wore a white felt hat with a daisy, and Mr. Potatohead’s was a black top hat. Benjamin had an eraser hat and was so poorly behaved that you probably can’t imagine how misbehaved he was. He had a remarkable quality: when he lied, his nose popped off, and it only would fit back on once he told the truth.
One sunny morning, Benjamin woke up ready to cause trouble. The moment he awoke on his mushy potato peel bed, his fingers tingled and his eyes sparkled, ready for a day of utmost madness.
His mother ushered him off to the schoolhouse and watched him enter, but Benjamin snuck out the back when no one was looking. He stole ice cream and went swimming, plus peed in the stream. Then, he went to the gingerbread house and ate every gumdrop and peanut butter cup. Satisfied, he burped loudly and proceeded to rip flowers out of the ground.
“Oh, kibbets!” cried Benjamin, dropping several uprooted daffodils as he looked in the direction of the giant potato. Mrs. Potatohead was fetching the mail. Darnit, thought Benjamin. I forgot to bury the mail.
Mrs. Doodropping was walking by the Potatohead house, carrying a basket of strawberries. She stopped to chat with Mrs. Potatohead. Benjamin rubbed his rubbery hands together, an unmistakable sign of trouble ahead.
Benjamin bounced from house to house, hiding behind mailboxes. Finally, he reached his own and snuck up behind Mrs. Potatohead.
“…ashamed of Benjamin?” Mrs. Doodropping was asking. “My poor Charlie never has good things to say about him.”
“Benjamin is a troublemaker,” Mrs. Potatohead agreed, “but he is a child. That’s what kids do.”
“But he wreaks havoc in the village,” protested Mrs. Doodropping. “That is not alright. Charlie, for instance, never causes an ounce of trouble—”
Benjamin made his move. Quick as lightning, he ripped his mother’s heavily lip-sticked mouth from its hole and tore down the path, her muffled voice attempting to scream at him.
“Well, I never!” huffed Mrs. Doodropping as she wheeled and rushed down the path in the opposite direction. “What nerve! Stealing somebody’s mouth!”
Benjamin chuckled as he stuffed Mrs. Potatohead’s lips into his pear-shaped body. They rattled around as he gobbled Mrs. Doodropping’s stolen strawberries—even if potatoheads don’t eat.
Yes, Benjamin was naughty. Wherever he went, a surprising amount of trouble followed. Nothing would stop him.
One day, though, when Annie Fergusen’s house caught fire, people were glad Benjamin was there to help.
Annie was always a perfect girl. She did well in school and pleased everyone except Benjamin, who wasn’t fond of girls. Annie was cute, but like a little doll: rosy cheeks and lips, curly golden hair, and petite dresses with white stockings. Too clean for Benjamin; he was the muddy type.
Benjamin was yanking a girl’s hair when smoke started to drift over the village. He knew the smell of smoke from the time he set a teacher’s dress on fire. He began to rub his dirty hands together and even let go of the girl’s ponytail to see what was happening.
The little people of the town were fetching buckets of water and hoses to put out the Fergusen’s house. Benjamin ran to his mother, who had recently shaken her mouth out of his potato body.
“Linda Fergusen was cooking eggs and forgot the pan was on the stove,” said Mrs. Potatohead.
“Awesome!” cried Benjamin. Mrs. Potatohead gave him a stern look.
Out of the house stumbled a panting Linda Fergusen followed by her husband. Annie did not appear.
Moments later, Benjamin heard weeping. The townspeople ceased tossing water.
“We can’t find Annie,” explained Mr. Potatohead gravely.
Benjamin rubbed his hands together. This, though, was not a gesture for trouble. Instead, it was an idea.
“WAIT!” he screamed. “I think I can save Annie.” All eyes turned to him doubtfully, expecting his nose to pop off. Benjamin, the major troublemaker? Benjamin, save Annie Fergusen?
But his nose stayed put. Benjamin grabbed his eye and ripped it off his head, which is perfectly fine for a potatohead to do. Then, he threw it through a window.
“Annie is in her room!” he yelled as the eye landed on Annie’s carpet to see the girl unconscious. Her father climbed up and heaved her out the window, wheezing.
Benjamin Potatohead still remained a troublemaker of the worst kind, stealing and playing hooky. But from that day on, nobody forgot his cleverness, when he saved Annie Fergusen from what everyone thought was her finish.
This is a finalist in our Pinocchio Creative Response Contest in collaboration with Philadelphia Stories, Jr. From August 5-16, leave a comment on this post or like the link on our Facebook page to vote for this entry to win a prize!