In his rotten old tree, in a haunted forest far away from the Team RoJo fort, Gnomeanie watched his shadows swirl around and around. Usually the shadows made pictures for him, sort of like the fog in Grandma Crystal's crystal ball, but not today. What was going on, he wondered, grumpy and impatient. His shadows never failed to show him what was what.
He watched the shadows like most people watch TV, and he'd seen Princess Rosie and Kid Joey in the dark swirls right up until yesterday, but now he couldn't see much of anything. Just a lot of fuzzy darkness.
Oooh! They were using magic powers to block his shadows out! He would get even with them!
He stomped around inside his dingy tree trunk, stamping and grumbling, and looking perfectly ridiculous. And he looked even more ridiculous when he stubbed his toe on his chair (there was only one at his table because he was too mean for company) and had to hop.
The more he thought about the good magic protecting Ro and Jo, and that crazy old Gramps Blaze of theirs, the angrier he got until he stomped out of his tree and became so hot-headed that steam popped his hat right off of his head about twenty feet in the air! It got stuck on a tree branch, and he got even madder, shaking his fists at it hanging there, swinging back and forth like it was enjoying not being on his angry, mean little head. He snapped his fingers and a bird, sitting quietly in its nest on a nearby branch, sighed and flew to the hat, and grabbed it with its toes.
The hat landed on Gnomeanie's upturned face, which made him sneeze, which blew the hat back up in the air, but not so far as the branch this time.
Finally, he pulled it snug onto his head again, and stomped back into his grody little house.
In Gnomeanie's rotten tree trunk there was no love and no laughs. The mean little gnome squatted, royally ticked off at his shadows, that still blurred with static and couldn't even let him hear what was going on with Blaze Wizard, let alone see! He would have to go shadow shopping he supposed!
He was so mad he burned his macaroni and cheese blowing on the flame to make it higher. Ooh! He hated when that happened.
He hated a lot of things, Gnomeanie did!
But more than anything in the whole wide world, he hated being tiny, and had some very tall and very mean plans for getting even with the one who'd made him that way. The Blaze Wizard would be dealing with Gnomeanie very, very soon. He would be very, very sorry for messing with a Gnome as mean as Gnomeanie.
Who did that Blaze Wizard think he was, shrinking Gnomeanie down to almost nothing! He would fix that sorcerer! Wait and see!
Gnomeanie's shadows crouched in the corner, hoping he really would go shadow shopping at the magic store tomorrow. He was always yelling at them. And he never played shadow tag or shadow racing, or shadow hide-and-seek with them. He was boring and mean. But for the time-being they were stuck with him.
Little did the shadows know that Gnomeanie's mean thoughts about the Blaze Wizard had shown up within the crystal ball in the Team RoJo fort that very day, and caught Ro's attention.
Who was that mean little Gnome, and why was he so mad at Gramps Blaze? And how could he talk to his shadows? Ro hadn't known that shadows could even talk, let alone do favors for you. Why was the Gnome so mean to his shadows? At first, when she saw him in the crystal ball talking to his shadows, she thought they were his friends, keeping him company all alone in his grubby little house. But then he yelled at them, and they seemed to hide in the corners like they were afraid.
She looked around the room at all the shadows, and wondered if any of them could talk, or might like to play with her. She'd never thought about that before.
She would try talking to the shadows hanging out in her room later; it might be fun to make some new friends, but right now she stood up from the table in the fort, blew a kiss to the crystal ball, knowing that Poppy was in there somewhere, and took off into the house to find her brother Jo. He was probably using his magic power to build a castle with his blocks, just by waving his fingers.
She giggled, remembering the first time he'd tried that. He kept banging the blocks into the towers, sending them crashing to the floor in his room. But now, with a lot of practice, he built higher and higher towers, and when they crashed it was usually on purpose.
Inside the house, when Ro came to Jo's door, Kato greeted her with wagging tail and a big slurpy kiss on her hand – until she bends over, he thought, and then I'll slurp her right in the face. He loved Ro and Jo; they were his favorite humans in the whole world. He loved kissing their faces too, because there was always a little peanut butter in the corners of their mouths, or mac and cheese on their chins. They always missed spots when washing their faces– sometimes he wondered if they did that on purpose so kisses would taste good.
But right now, Ro seemed to be in Jo's room on Team RoJo business. She looked quite serious.
"Hi!" Ro said, sitting down next to her brother who was on his belly on the floor, drawing a picture. "Can I see?"
Jo finished coloring in the very bottom part of the picture, and handed it to his sister, as Kato licked his hand, mainly because there was a spot of syrup on his wrist from breakfast. Kato loved Jo who sometimes would sneak him a little piece of whatever he was eating, which was really cool, and he missed even more spots when washing his hands than he did on his face! That left Kato a lot of tasty slurps during the day, especially after meals.
"Oh my goodness!" Ro said, looking at Jo's drawing of the mean little Gnome she'd seen in the crystal ball in the fort earlier. The very gnome who talked to his shadows – or rather, yelled at his shadows - and the very gnome who was so mad at Gramps Blaze.
"How did you see this? I wasn't trying to send you the thoughts," Ro said to Jo.
"Well, you weren't trying very hard to keep them to yourself either. Sometimes when you get a little scared or mad, your thoughts leak into my head."
Ro's brows lifted in surprise. "Really?"
"Yeah. When you couldn't find your book-bag yesterday and you were running late for the bus, totally heard you say dammit."
Ro's eyes got wider. "Yeah? You think any grownups heard it?"
"As a matter of fact, I heard it, honey-bear, but it was meant to be inside your head, so I'll let it go," Dad said, peeking around the partly closed door, smiling, and winking at Ro. "What are you guys up to?"
"Just drawing pictures," Jo said, and Ro nodded, while Kato sat panting between them.
"Daddy," Ro said when her father started to continue down the hall to the kitchen. He leaned his head back into the room.
"'Sup?" he said to Ro.
"Dad, have you ever seen this Gnome before?"
Dad took the picture Ro offered him, and shook his head. "No. I don't think so. He doesn't look very happy, does he."
"He looks mean, and he's mad at Gramps Blaze about something," Ro said.
"Really? Maybe you should talk to Gramps Blaze about this, then. It's one thing for a gnome to be grumpy, but it's another if he's mad about something. Last thing we want is magical trouble on our hands."
Ro looked over at Jo and said, "Let's go find Gramps Blaze and see what this is all about."
The magical kids got up off the floor, and with Kato at their heels, took off through the house, out the back door (with a bang), across the yard, and into the fort. They would use the crystal ball to get in touch with Gramps Blaze. It was faster than using the phone – and more fun, too!
Ro gently rubbed the crystal ball with her hands the way Grandma Crystal had taught her, and concentrated really hard on Gramps Blaze. The fog swirled inside the crystal ball, making the children very happy because being able to bring the ball to life meant that they were getting better at using their powers every day.
Slowly Gramps Blaze's fuzzy face came into focus. "Hi guys! What's up?" he said, smiling.
"Hi Gramps Blaze!" Ro and Jo said together, and then Ro got right to the point because talking through the crystal ball still took a lot of energy from both her and Gramps Blaze. "Gramps Blaze, do you know this grumpy gnome?" Ro asked as Jo held his picture toward the crystal ball so Gramps Blaze could see.
Gramps Blaze laughed. "Oh yeah! I know him alright! That's Gnomeanie!"
Ro and Jo looked at one another, and Ro said, "Well, he seems like he's really mad at you, and I think he's trying to get his shadows together to play a trick on you."
Gramps Blaze laughed. "You think I should be afraid of that silly gnome, even if he is a mean little motor scooter?" (That was one of Gramps Blaze's little sayings – mean little motor scooter. That could mean that someone's mean, like Gnomeanie, or it could mean that a story or movie was scary. Ro and Jo thought Gramps Blaze was hilarious.)
"I was just giving you fair warning about what I saw in the crystal ball," Ro explained.
"Is that little twerp giving you problems?" Gramps Blaze asked Ro.
"Not exactly, I could see him in the crystal ball this morning, and thought he might be trying to bother you."
"Well, I know he's mad at me, because I'm the reason he's so tiny now."
"Really?" Jo asked, amused already at Gramps Blaze.
"Yeah. I was taking a walk the other week and he tripped me, the mean little bugger. So I told him if he was going to play little mousy games, he should be the right size, and I shrunk him down to the size of a mouse. He's ticked off because he doesn't have enough magical power to reverse my spell," Gramps Blaze said, a smug smirk on his face.
Ro and Jo rolled their eyes, laughing. "Oh Gramps Blaze, what are we going to do with you?"
"Take me fishing!" he suggested.
"We're still training for our scales."
"Well, you could earn some scales if we go fishing," Gramps Blaze said.
"How?" Ro and Jo asked at the same time, both enjoying fishing.
"Do you know how to use your powers to catch fish?" Gramps Blaze said, and Ro and Jo had to admit that they did not know how to use their powers to catch fish.
Seconds later they found themselves in The Kraken, the boat that Jo and Gramps Blaze had fixed up like new. Gramps Blaze had sucked them into the crystal ball, geared them up with fishing rods, a net, and sunscreen, then whisked them into the boat that he'd already plunked down into the middle of the Knight Island cove near where he and Nana Terri lived.
"I love your magic, Gramps Blaze!" Jo said, excited to be on the water in the little boat again.
"Me too!" said Ro, who gave her grandfather a hug.
Gramps Blaze hugged them back and then clapped his hand to his forehead. "Uh oh! I forgot my tackle box, and we don't have any bait."
A second later he said, "No biggie!" He wiggled his fingers at the hooks dangling from the fishing poles, and suddenly there were worms curled around them. A purple worm on Ro's hook and an orange worm on Jo's. They were making funny faces at the kids and Gramps Blaze. Kato barked at them, and wagged his tail.
"Settle down, Kato," Gramps Blaze said, planting his feet wide apart as he sat on the little bench seat, and grabbing the gunwales of the small, rocking boat. Kato sat down, never taking his eyes off the worms who now stuck their tongues out at the silly dog.
"Gramps Blaze! They are too funny!" Ro said. "We can't use them to catch fish!"
"They are special worms. When the fish come at them they climb up the line so they don't get eaten," Gramps Blaze told Ro, and everyone cast their lines into the water.
As they waited for fish to bite, Ro said to Gramps Blaze, "So how long are you going to keep Gnomeanie mouse-sized?"
"Until he straightens himself out and changes his attitude," Gramps Blaze answered, and then, wondering where all the fish were, began to wave his hand around a little. The kids knew what that meant, for sure. Soon there was a fish on Gramps Blaze's line, and he reeled it in until it dangled in mid-air, flapping and wiggling, mad that the worm that had made faces at it and teased it was now halfway up the line, wiggling and laughing at it.
Just then Jo had an idea. He wiggled his fingers, and soon there were fishes on his and Ro's lines too!
"I was wondering how long it would take you to realize you could use your powers to fish!" Gramps Blaze said, chuckling. "Okay, whose fish is biggest?"
"Mine! It's really big!" Ro said, excited that she could out-fish her magical grandfather.
"Want any of them for lunch?"
The kids said, "Nah, we just like saying hello."
"Okay, then, we'll toss 'em back in."
"Okay, Gramps Blaze, I get how Jo can use his powers to fish. But what about mine? How can I practice my powers by fishing?" Ro said, and then added, meaning to tease, "By telling him to bite my hook inside my head?" She laughed when she said that, but Gramps Blaze raised his eyebrows, and stared evenly at her, waiting for her to get it.
"Really?" she said, "I can do that?"
"Give it a try," Gramps Blaze answered, and the trio cast their lines into the water again.
Within a couple of minutes there were fish on all three lines, and different ones than the fish Gramps Blaze and Jo had hooked.
"Well done, sweetie!" Gramps Blaze said to Ro, and then all of a sudden all three of them were sitting at the table in the fort, staring into the crystal ball, the fishing gear nowhere in sight. Gramps Blaze must have stowed it away magically while they were traveling.
"Now about Gnomeanie. Ro, do you think you can call him up?" Gramps Blaze said.
Ro placed her hands on the crystal ball and rubbed them around a little, then the swirls of mist formed inside it. Soon they began to fade away, and Gnomeanie changed slowly from a blur into a grumpy gnome.
"Get out of my head!" he yelled at Ro, until he noticed Gramps Blaze standing behind her, and then he got even madder. "Who are you, little girl!"
"Look who's calling who little!" Ro giggled. She didn't usually tease people about how they looked, but Gnomeanie had been mean to Gramps Blaze, and she thought that Gramps Blaze's magically shrinking him was not only fair, but hilarious.
"Hey! You watch it, young lady, or I'll…I'll…"
"Bite my toes?" Ro said, having a hard time saying the words for the giggles.
"I demand you restore me to my normal size!" the angry gnome shouted at Gramps Blaze over Ro's laughter, now doubled by Jo's, and a couple of happy barks from Kato as well.
Gramps Blaze rolled his eyes, and gave a little snort of laughter himself, then said, very seriously to the mean little gnome, "you want the spell reversed? You know what you have to do."
"It was just a joke!" objected Gnomeanie.
"I skinned my knee, tore my sweatpants, and had the devil of a time getting back on my feet!" Gramps Blaze said, anger stirring in his eyes, remembering the pain.
"Why would you trip somebody with booboos inside their legs?" Ro said, putting her arm around Gramps Blaze's waist, her eyes sad that someone would hurt him.
"It was just a joke!" Gnomeanie would not back down.
"Well it was a mean joke!" Jo chimed in, a frown on his usually smiling face.
When Kato heard the unhappiness in the voices of all his favorite people, he gave a cranky little growl, to show his support. Gramps Blaze, Ro, and Jo all looked down at him, because he was such a sweet natured mutt, none of them ever pictured him angry.
Gnomeanie stared out of the crystal ball into Gramps Blaze's eyes, not budging, until finally Gramps Blaze lifted his arm as if to begin waving his hand over the ball to make Gnomeanie disappear.
"Wait!" Gnomeanie said, a touch of panic in his eyes and voice. "Okay, okay! I'm sorry I made you fall down. I just meant to see you trip a little, not really fall. I guess that wasn't too funny, after all."
"That's all I wanted to hear," Gramps Blaze said, and waved his hand over the ball. Instantly, Gnomeanie puffed up to his usual height and plumpness.
"No more picking on people," Jo said. "Because Gramps Blaze isn't the only one who can shrink you now."
"Agreed," Gnomeanie huffed, and then Ro placed her hands on the ball and the grumpy little Gnome disappeared into the fog.
"Are you sure you can shrink Gnomeanie down, Jo? Because you shouldn't say things you can't back up. Suppose he calls your bluff?"
Rather than using words, Jo raised his arm and began to wiggle his fingers. Suddenly, Ro began to shrink down, and down, until she was the size of a mouse. Kato sniffed her to be sure it was his dear Ro, and then barked at Jo.
"Hey!" Ro squeaked, sounding very much more like a little girl mouse, than a little girl human. "Alright! You made your point! Now make me big again!" she said to her brother, her arms crossed.
"Okay, you asked for it!" Jo said, wiggling his fingers again, and Ro began to grow…
…and grow, and grow until she bumped her head on the ceiling of the fort.
"Ouch!" she said, rubbing her head. "You better be careful! I could just step on you like a bug!"
Jo gasped and in two seconds Ro was all back to normal, and Kato barked again, wagging his tail and licking her hand.
"Well, I guess you earn a few scales after all today," said Gramps Blaze. "You each get your Magical Fishing scales," he winked at them. "Get it? Fishing scale?"
Ro and Jo groaned at the pun, and then Gramps Blaze continued. "And you also get a "Respect Your Elders" scale for understanding why Gnomeanie was wrong to trip an old fart like me, especially one with booboos inside. And since even Kato growled at Gnomeanie for that one, I guess all three of you get a scale. "Yay!" Ro and Jo said together, and Kato gave a little excited yip, his tail wagging frantically.
And, Jo, you did a great job earning your "Shrink A Meanie" scale.
"Thanks, Gramps Blaze!" Jo said as his grandfather waved his hands and attached the sparkly orange scales to Jo's vest, and Ro's himation, the long Greek cloak that had been given to her by the goddess Athena. Then he leaned forward and attached Kato's to his collar.
"I'm very proud of the progress you're making!" Gramps Blaze said, hugging his grandchildren, and scratching Kato under his collar just the way he loved it.
"Okay, Ro, you gotta send me back home before Nana Terri thinks I got lost."
Ro giggled. "Okay, Gramps Blaze. We don't want you to get in trouble."
"Oh trouble isn't so bad, I just don't want Nana Terri to worry. Love you guys!"
"Give Nana Terri hugs and kisses for us!" Ro called out as Gramps Blaze shrunk down and floated into the crystal ball, then disappeared into the swirls of fog.
"Will do!" was the last they heard from him that day.
"Can I have your picture of Gnomeanie?" Ro asked Jo.
"Sure, but why would you want a picture of that ugly old mean motor scooter?"
Ro giggled. "Well, maybe he learned his lesson and will be nice from now on. But either way, I want to put your picture in the family journal and write down what happened today."
"Okay," Jo said, handing her the picture.
"Hurry up and write it all down so we can find Sir WHIP and go for a ride!"