Grace and the Troublesome T-Shirt Critter
by Kevin J. Doyle
“Hey Grace—are you still hanging up the clean laundry?” Grace’s daddy asked. “If so, would you please grab me your brother’s new orange shirt? You know the one with the funny little blue striped critter that looks kind of like a chubby dinosaur tadpole with feet?”
“Sure, Dad. I know which one.” Grace did not particularly enjoy sorting, folding, and hanging laundry. Especially when her dad did half of it and then she was asked to finish up the task. Which not only meant hanging up what was left, but also having to re-do most of his wacky work.
She bounded down the hall into her younger brother Simon’s room. As she entered, she thought for sure she saw something move in one of Simon’s dresser drawers. After watching it for a moment, Grace shrugged her suspicion off and hopped to the closet. She rifled through the hanging shirts until she found the new orange one. However, something about it was very peculiar.
Her dad must have been in an extra big hurry this time when he was dealing with the laundry because the shirt was on the hanger inside out with the left sleeve stuffed inside. When she flipped it right side out, her mouth flopped open and her eyes nearly popped off her face. The silly-looking, big-eyed creature with a two tooth under bite that had been sewn right on the front was missing!
Suddenly, Grace remembered she thought she’d seen something move in one of Simon’s dresser drawers. Clutching the orange shirt to her chest, she turned and carefully stepped to the dresser. She grasped the drawer handle, breathed deeply, and yanked it the rest of the way open. A burst of pants, shorts, and pajamas flew out at her! As she quickly pulled the clothes off her head, she heard something fall behind her. Spinning around to investigate, Grace saw a couple of books scattered on the floor, but everything else in the room was still.
Her thoughts raced. That little troublemaker had somehow come to life and was hiding in Simon’s room! And it had already made a mess. Grace was sure she’d have to clean it up unless she stopped the critter. But how was she supposed to get a t-shirt creature back onto its shirt? “I’m gonna need some help,” she said.
Keeping a firm grip on the orange shirt, she backed out of the room with her eyes peeled for any signs of movement. When she reached the door, she quickly pulled it open, slipped through and slammed it shut behind her. From back inside Simon’s room, she heard giggling noises followed by the sounds of toys crashing to the ground.
For a moment, she thought of calling her dad in to help, but she knew he was all the way downstairs giving Simon his lunch. And her mother was off running errands. More laughter and crashing noises from inside her brother’s room reminded her she needed to act quickly. Finally, Grace thought of someone who might know exactly what to do.
With Simon’s orange shirt still tightly in her grasp, she hurried into her bedroom and went straight to her closet. She sifted through her own clothes until finding the shirt she needed. It was a bit too small now and had been shoved to the far end of her closet. But back when it fit her, this shirt had been her most favorite in the whole wide world.
It had a white middle and long sleeves with red and pink stripes. On the front was a slightly faded ironed-on image of a sweet little girl with green eyes and bouncy brown curls. However, this t-shirt gal was no lovey-dovey cutey-pie. She also wore a black mask, a yellow jumpsuit, and a black cape. Grace had named her Lady Carina Von Waspington and had called her “Cool Carrie” for short. While wearing the shirt and playing pretend games, Grace had always imagined the girl on the front was an expert on wasps. That explained why she wore a black and yellow outfit. When she was littler, Grace had wanted to wear her Cool Carrie shirt every day. And now – she needed her superhero friend more than ever.
Remembering the weird way the orange t-shirt had been put on its hanger, Grace quickly flipped her old favorite shirt inside out, stuffed the left sleeve in, and hung it back up. Within seconds Lady Carina Von Waspington climbed out of the shirt’s neck hole and stood up on the closet shelf. The little superhero took one look around, squealed with delight, then leaped and threw her arms around Grace’s neck.
“I’m so happy to finally meet you!” she said excitedly.
Grace hugged her back. Lady Carina was the same size she’d been on the shirt but was no longer a flat iron-on picture. She was filled out and looked strong, tough, and feisty!
“I can’t believe you are really here!” Grace said.
“Well, I wish we could just play together,” Cool Carrie said. “But if my superhero senses are correct, then right now you have a pretty big problem in Simon’s room. If we don’t stop the t-shirt critter, he may figure out how to release the creatures from all of Simon’s other clothes! Obviously your little bro is a boy, so I’m guessing he has plenty of dinosaur, dragon, monster, and animal t-shirts, right?”
“He sure does!” Grace replied as she nervously clutched her little brother’s orange shirt to her chest.
“Is that the shirt it came from?” Cool Carrie asked.
“This is the one,” Grace said.
Cool Carrie explained what they’d need to do to get the t-shirt critter back on its orange shirt. The shirt needed to be inside out again but this time OFF the hanger and with the RIGHT sleeve stuffed in. They’d have to somehow get the monster to jump into the BOTTOM of the shirt.
Grace had an idea. She told Cool Carrie they could use her small round trash can as a trap. They could put the orange shirt in there upside down, inside out and right sleeve stuffed in—just as if it were a trash bag. But her plan lacked one final important detail. How would they get the creature into the trash can?
“That’s easy,” Cool Carrie said. “T-shirt critters love messes, right? Well, what’s messier than knocking over a trash can? Nothing!”
She told Grace to take the trap into Simon’s room and then pretend she was cleaning up. Cool Carrie was certain the t-shirt critter would not be able to resist the chance to create more chaos by dumping over the trash.
Grace flipped the orange shirt inside out, stuffed in the right sleeve, and put it into the can. The bottom of the shirt was wide open and ready to trap the troublesome creature. Cool Carrie hid inside the hood of Grace’s sweatshirt. Then the two of them crept up to Simon’s bedroom door with Grace carrying the trash can trap. The unmistakable sounds of mayhem continued to come from inside the room. Grace flung open the door, hurried in and quickly shut it behind her. Everything fell silent.
The pile of toys, books, games, and puzzles in the middle of the floor was up to Grace’s knees! Simon’s bed sheets and blankets were all wadded up in the corner and most of his clothes, shoes, and hats were flung everywhere. She quickly looked all over and saw no sign of the t-shirt critter. So Grace casually walked to the middle of the room and placed the can with Simon’s orange shirt in it on the floor. Then she began piling up some books and tossing toys into the toy chest.
“I see it!” Cool Carrie whispered into Grace’s ear. “Keep working, don’t stop. It’s under your little brother’s bed. If you move over toward the closet, I think you’ll be far enough away for it to make a run for the trash can.”
Grace did as Cool Carrie said. She worked her way over to the closet, cleaning up clutter as she went.
“It’s coming out!” whispered Cool Carrie.
Grace glanced over her shoulder and saw the funny looking little creature dash out from under Simon’s bed and head straight for the trash can. It leaped in the air, ready to splash right into their t-shirt trap. Then suddenly, the blue striped critter flung out its arms and legs to catch the rim of the trash can. It scrambled up on the edge, flashed a mischievous grin, and yanked out the orange shirt!
“Oh, no!” Cool Carrie said. “It recognizes its shirt! We have to stop it from destroying the shirt or that thing will be free forever!”
Cool Carrie leaped out of Grace’s sweatshirt hood onto the top of Simon’s bookshelf. Then she pulled a thumbtack off the wall, which had been holding down the corner of a soccer poster. Next, Cool Carrie grabbed a jump rope and flung one end of it up to lasso around the ceiling fan.
“Time to feel the sting of Cool Carrie!” she shouted.
She swung off the bookshelf, heading straight for the t-shirt critter. The little superhero used the thumbtack to sting the creature right on its behind—just like a real wasp would! Yowling with pain, the monster let go of Simon’s orange shirt and leaped into the air. Grace dove to the floor and grabbed the shirt. When she rolled on her back, the critter was falling straight down at her. So she reached up and snatched it with the bottom of the t-shirt. Expecting a big struggle, she clutched the wild thing to her stomach with all her might. But all was quiet when suddenly, the bedroom door opened and her dad stepped in with her little brother in his arms.
“Hey Grace, did you get Simon’s orange shirt?” he asked.
Grace opened one eye and peered down at the piece of clothing in her arms. A great smile crossed her face as she could see the troublesome t-shirt critter was stuck right on the front, exactly where he belonged!
“Yep, we got it!” she said.
“WE got it?” her dad said as he took the shirt.
“Uhhh…I mean, I got it,” said Grace. “Just playing pretend in here, having some fun.”
“Whoa, looks like lots of fun to me!” her dad jokingly said as he glanced around. “No worries though. I’ll help you clean up later. Right now, let’s go down and see your mom. She just got home.”
“Okay Daddy, be right down,” replied Grace.
She skipped into her room and whispered for Cool Carrie to come out. The little superhero popped out of her sweatshirt hood.
“Whew, that was a close one.” Cool Carrie said.
“Sure was,” Grace replied. “You were awesome!”
“We both were!” Cool Carrie said. “But I better get back on my shirt now. Be sure to let me off any other time you want to play!”
Grace hugged the little superhero and then fixed her pink and red striped shirt so Cool Carrie could jump in the bottom. After her friend was safely stuck on the front of it, Grace hung the shirt up and hustled downstairs.
“Hi, sweetie,” said her mom. “Look at this cute thing I found for Simon!”
Grace’s mom held up a green sweatshirt and on it, there must have been at least fifty different aliens. Some were in tiny flying saucers and some even had little laser guns!
Oh, dear, Grace thought to herself. That right there is trouble on a shirt!
She half-smiled at her mom and then said, “Hey Dad, I think I like helping with the laundry now. Mind if I hang up all the clean clothes from now on?”
1. What did Grace discover when she went into Simon’s room?
2. Who did Grace get to help her?
3. How did Grace and Cool Carrie trap the t-shirt critter?
4. What was Grace’s request at the end of the story?