Editor's note: This retelling of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" is set in the heart of a city where an enormous rat tries to keep three goats from crossing the street.
Once upon a time, in a big, big city, in a small open lot, lived the Three Cool Kids: Big, Middle, and Little.
The Three Cool Kids liked the lot that they lived on. They had been there for as long as any of them could remember.
But after many years of grazing, the grass and the weeds were getting sparse, and a great deal of construction was going on next door. They were taking down the tall buildings. The work was very noisy, dusty, and dirty. Soon they would be unprotected. They needed a change. They knew where they wanted to go.
But something held them back from moving. They had all heard tales about a huge rat that lived in the sewer under the street. Everyone in the neighborhood had talked about it for years. No one had actually seen him, but terrible stories were told about those who had tried to cross the street and had never come back.
One day, when they were down to their last weed, Big decided that the time had come to move on. "I don't believe in fairy tales," he snorted. "We will cross the street." Middle's and Little's stomachs were growling, so they were easily convinced.
Little was so excited, he could not stand still.
"I will go first," he offered, jumping off the curb. "I am not afraid," he muttered to himself. He started across the street. Squincha, squincha, squincha, went his sneakers. Suddenly, he stopped. He heard a terrible sound ... and smelled a terrible smell ...
"Who is making that horrible noise on my street?" screeched a gruesome voice. Something peered out of the sewer grate with nasty yellow eyes. Little stood, trembling in his sneakers. He looked into the murky dankness of the sewer. It was a rat! The biggest, ugliest rat he had ever seen!
"It is only me, Little Cool," he said.
Sniff, snuff, went the rat. "You smell delicious! I think I will have you for my lunch!" And he poked his greasy whiskers through the grate.
"Oh! How rude!" bleated Little. "I am not for your lunch! My big sister is coming, and she will tell you what's what!"
Kachinga, chinga, chinga. Middle's bracelets made a nice sound when she walked. Little felt better. He leapt onto the sidewalk. Squonch!
"Aiyeeeeeeeee!" shrieked the rat. "Who is making that frightful noise on my street?" Middle stopped. She smelled the rat's foul breath and shivered. "I-I-I am Middle Cool," she stammered.
Sniff, snuff, went the rat. "You smell sweet. I think I will have you for my lunch instead!"
"Oh! How rude!" shouted Middle. "I am not for your lunch! My big brother is coming, and he will tell you what's what!" She gave his slimy snout a wide berth and scrambled up on the curb.
Big approached the sewer grate. Kalomp, kalomp, kalomp. "Yaaaaaaaaargh!" groaned the rat. "Who is making that monstrous noise on my street?"
"It's me, Big Cool," Big snorted. "What is your problem?" Sniff, snuff. "No problem now," growled the rat, licking his crusty lips. "You look big enough for lunch and dinner!"
But Big was not afraid. "You are a rude and repulsive creature!" he boomed. "No one has Cool kids for lunch!"
Big tromped on those filthy mottled whiskers and stared into those nasty yellow eyes. "Are you going to let me cross?" he asked.
"But I'm hungry," whined the rat.
"Listen, and I will tell you what's what!" Big thundered. "You will have to go elsewhere for your meals, and that is that!" He rose up on his legs and came down hard.
Karashalangalangabang! went his great horns on the grate. Karonch! went his hooves on the street.
Splash! went the rat as he fell back into the sewer. "I guess I'm not so hungry anymore," he sniveled as he floated away with the rest of the debris. He was never heard from again.
Excerpt from THREE COOL KIDS by Rebecca Emberley. Copyright (c)1995 by Rebecca Emberley. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, (Inc.) All rights reserved.