I asked Tommy again about the zombies in his basement. He snorted so hard I thought boogers would fly out of his short, ugly, freckled nose.
"They ain't so bad," he sneered, "Mostly they just shuffle around in circles, but sometimes Ma has 'em doing laundry." He wiped at his nose using the sleeve of his flannel shirt. "What you got?"
I gulped, unsure of why I started talking about furies because everyone who lived in Pandora's Subdivision had something really cool living in their basement-everyone but the McGradys. I rolled dirt clods under my flip-flops, slowly pulverizing them to dust. "Well," I stretched the word out as long as I could, ears turning purple already. I thought about lying, but there was no use. Except for ugly Tommy Baxter, the whole school knew what lurked in the basement of Hannah McGrady: "We got a black ooze."
"Huh." Tommy's face scrunched up like the empty lunch bags beneath the swings. "Black ooze," he repeated.
The swings creaked while I waited for the laughter, for the stupid dig. I grabbed the ends of my braids, the elastic ties and yellow-clear marbles suddenly the most interesting thing in the whole world. I pulled sandy hair over my eyes, already burning around the edges from tears held back.
"Black ooze, huh? What's that like?" Tommy kicked off against the dirt and flew backwards, chains rattling like the skeletons in Amanda Biedenbacher's cellar.
I was stunned, and didn't say anything as his swing passed through the cloud of dust he'd stirred up. No one had ever asked me a question about the ooze before, and so I thought, Maybe it's a trick. Maybe Tommy's fishing for more details so he can set me up for an epic smackdown. After all, everyone knew there were much better, much more interesting furies to have in your basement than a crummy old black ooze.
It hadn't always been that way. Before Kindergarten, I thought the ooze was as cool as pizza and soda pop on Mom and Dad's bowling night. Oh, the babysitter wrinkled her nose at the mention of our ooze, but I just chalked that up to her being a teenager. She didn't like anything, other than boys, lip gloss, and twisting her hair into curls. But then came elementary school, and I learned the truth--the hard way.
My teacher, old Mrs. Ruffleshirt, made us sit in a circle and tell what kind of fury we had. The other kids had oak trolls, strangling mossmen, thorn demons, shrieking shadowmares--fun stuff. When they heard that we had a black ooze in our basement, the others started giggling, confirming every one of the babysitter's eye rolls and long sighs. I even caught a smirk on Mrs. Ruffleshirt's wrinkled face.