“The Roach family will be arriving soon. Here’s their room key,” Beatrice the owl-monster said. Her glasses hung on the tip of her beak. “Just smile and ask if they need you to carry their bags.”
“We know what to do,” Monty said. He and Plonk stood behind the front desk with Beatrice, the Gristling Inn’s front desk clerk. “You can go to your eye appointment without any worry.”
“Yeah, Bea! We got this,” added Plonk, clicking his big hamster teeth as he spoke.
“Plus, Snort will have an eye on us. Even though he is busy making pies for the big party tonight,” Monty said. At that moment, Snort the warthog boss walked into the lobby.
“Beatrice,” Snort snorted, “I have to drive to WiggleWick’s™ right now. I must pick up special spices for my PumpkinPrickle pies. I need you to stay and keep an eye on things.”
“Oh, Snort. I have an eye doctor appointment. I can’t miss it,” Beatrice said, her orange feathers ruffling. “These boys will keep an eye on things.”
She pointed to Monty and Plonk. They both looked surprised. Snort grumbled and wiggled his moustache. “These two goofballs? Keeping an eye on the inn by themselves?”
“Don’t worry. We’ll do a great job.” Monty stood up straight as if to prove his point.
“Totally,” added Plonk. “And I’ll keep an eye on Monty while Monty keeps an eye on the inn!” Plonk tilted his hat. Snort rolled his eyes.
“I don’t like the idea,” said Snort. “But Mrs Roach paid extra to have my famous PumpkinPrickle pie at her party. So, I have to go get the spices.” Snort let out a big sigh. “If there’s even one speck of trouble while I’m away, I’ll use your fur to make table cloths!”
Snort and Beatrice walked out the front door of the Gristling Inn. Monty and Plonk sat quietly behind the front desk. But only for a moment.
“HA, HA, HA!!” The monster boys burst out laughing. They couldn’t believe they had the inn to themselves.
“Is there anything you wish you could do here that you’re not allowed to?” Plonk asked. His hamster eyes sparkled with joy.
“Oh, boy. I don’t know,” said Monty. He thought hard, then smiled. “I’ve always wanted to...sit in the rubbish bin!” Monty stuck his bum right into a small rubbish bin behind the front desk. *FLOINK* Monty stood up and did a little dance with the bin on his bum.
“Ha,ha,ha!” Plonk’s big, furry body shook as he laughed. “Do you know what I’ve always wanted to do?” Plonk asked. He galloped to the kitchen, then returned. In his arms was a large, hollowed-out pumpkin. He set it on the floor at the bottom of the main staircase, a metre from the bannister.
“What are you doing with Snort’s pumpkin?” Monty asked. “That’s for his pies.”
“I need it for a game,” Plonk said. He trotted to the top of the staircase and climbed onto the bannister. “But why the pumpkin?” Monty asked. But Plonk didn’t answer. The big hamster slid down the bannister on his belly.
“Weeeeeeee!” Plonk howled in delight. At the bottom of the bannister, Plonk bumped into a big round knob. It made him backflip in midair. “Woo-hoo-HOOey!” he cried.
And then— *SPLOONK!*
Plonk landed head-first into the hollowed-out pumpkin and tumbled backwards. He popped his head up above the edge of the desk. His eyes and nose were covered by the pumpkin.
“I’m Pumpkinhead Plonk!” he said.
“Ha-ha,ha,ha,HAA!” Monty fell over laughing.
“Ahem!” said a voice behind Monty. “Excuse me. We’re here to check in.”
“Oh, hello! Mrs Roach!” Monty jumped up, forgetting he had a rubbish bin on his bum. *POP!* The bin popped off and flew across the room. *CLANK!*
Monty pushed Plonk’s pumpkinhead underneath the desk to hide him.
“Eep!” Plonk squeaked. The family of shaggy cockroach monsters stood, waiting.
“So sorry. I’m just doing...a bit of cleaning for your party. Uh...here is your room key, Mrs Roach.” Monty put the key into her shaggy palm and smiled. “Um...can I help you with your bags?”
“No, thank you. Mr Roach will take them.” Mr Roach dragged the bags towards the lift. The two Roach children followed their dad. One child nudged the other. She pointed out the funny hamster with a pumpkinhead behind the desk. The Roach kids giggled quietly as the family entered the lift.
Just then, Monty and Plonk heard Snort’s pickup truck rumble into the drive out front.
“Plonk! Snort’s back! You gotta get the pumpkin off your head!”
Plonk pulled and pulled. “It’s stuck! Ugh. It won’t budge!”
Monty stood on a chair and tugged with all his might. But the chair toppled and Monty fell to the ground. He looked at Plonk. Then he looked through the front window at Snort walking with his groceries.
Monty thought hard about what to do. Then he went into the kitchen to see if he could find anything useful. He returned with a straw and a pepper shaker. “I think this should do the trick.”
“What is it?” Plonk asked. The pumpkin still covered his eyes.
“Hold still, Plonk.” Monty covered one end of the straw with his thumb. Then he poured black pepper into the straw.
“Sorry, pal. It’s the only way,” he said to Plonk.
Monty slid the straw into the pumpkin and blew the pepper inside. Then he stood back.
Plonk sat still at first. Then his foot started to twitch. His furry hamster chest began to heave, and then...he sneezed.
Large chunks of pumpkin flew in all directions. There were pieces all over the lobby. One pumpkin chunk hung from the chandelier.
“Agh!” Monty yelled. “That was one powerful sneeze!” He scurried to gather up the pumpkin pieces...just as Snort walked in the front door.
Snort saw Monty standing there with lots of pumpkin chunks.
“What in blazes are you doing?” Snort snorted.
“I— I— uh...I wanted to show you...we chopped the pumpkin...for your pies!”
Snort stood for a moment and looked at Monty. Then he looked at Plonk sitting behind the desk. Plonk had a single pumpkin seed stuck to his head fur.
*SHPFF!* Snort snorted. Then he headed to the kitchen, calling back, “Don’t just stand there. We have pies to make!”
Monty followed Snort. “I think I should rinse these pumpkin pieces in the sink,” he called to his boss. Then he turned and gave Plonk a wink.