Just Desserts Copyright ÂŠ 2011 by Stephen A Benjamin
All rights reserved. No part of this story (eBook) may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or book reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidences are either a product of the authorâ€™s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events, or locals is entirely coincidental.
Published by TWB Press Cover Art by Terry Wright Edited by Bobette Ames and Kayla and Lily Qualls
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STEPHEN A. BENJAMIN EXCERPT
It started Saturday night when Billy Thornborough’s dessert attacked him. I heard that strawberry Jell-O leaped from his bowl, stuck on Billy’s face, and tried to get to his brain by crawling in his nose and ears. His mom and dad rushed him to the emergency room where the doctors sucked out as much of the Jell-O as they could. After church next Sunday morning, I listened to my folks talking to Mr. Johnson. He owned the gas station out by the highway. “Don’t understand at all,” said Mr. Johnson. “Traffic on 666A just stopped comin’ in. Didn’t see a vehicle all night at the station, except locals. When the State Patrol come through this morning, they said there was no road closure.” My ma and pa nodded. Ma said, “No travelers stopped at the diner after 7:30 last night, either.” “Well, traffic’s flowin’ now, so I guess it don’t matter none,” Johnson concluded. “And what about the Thornborough boy?” Mrs. Johnson said. “Now that ain’t normal. What’s he doing playing with his food like that?” She shook her head, her face scrunched up like fruit leather.
My town, Snowy Gap, sat close to the top of Snowy Pass in Northwest Colorado, a place people drove through to get from somewhere to somewhere else. Town wasn’t very big: Population 2,592 the welcome sign said. The only ones who stopped were delivery trucks and those tourists and truckers who needed a potty break. They used Johnson’s gas station or my ma’s diner. “I’m going to go meet the gang,” I told Ma and Pa. As I got on my bike, Ma called, “Charlie, don’t forget you’re doing dishes at the diner tonight.” “Okay,” I yelled. First, I went to see Billy in the hospital. He stared out with bulging, strawberry-red eyes, and red tears coursed down his cheeks. His face was strawberry red, too. He said nothing, so I gave up trying to get an explanation out of him. I guessed the doctors didn’t get out all the JellO. I grabbed my bike and zipped over to the schoolyard where my gang usually met: me, Jenny Seymore, Clive Ratchet, and Roger Kaufman. “You shoulda seen him. Face all red, like . . . well, like strawberry Jell-O.” Clive asked, “Did he say anything, Charlie?” “No. It was like he didn’t even know I was there.” Clive shook his head. “Weird.” “Doesn’t make much sense,” said Jenny. Roger nodded and looked off into space. I said, “Nope, it doesn’t.” # Pa and I ate dinner watching the Broncos bury the Raiders, and then I pedaled off for the diner. Stacks of dishes waited for me in the kitchen. I was up to my elbows in dishwater when I heard a commotion out front. I moved to the door to the eating area. “Honest to God,” I heard someone say. “I watched them carry him in. Took four guys to lift him. Face the color of a blueberry crisp, it was.” I peered out. The entrance door opened and a gust of wind swept in Bob Seymore, Jenny’s dad. He spoke to Ma at the register. “Arlene sent me to pick up an apple pie.”
My pa owns the town bakery. “Be just a minute,” Ma replied. Mr. Kirby asked Bob, “You know anything about Simpson?” Bob Seymore’s brow wrinkled. “I heard he’s dead. Apparently, he tried to swallow a Milky Way bar whole and it got caught in his windpipe.” A chorus of gasps was punctuated by somebody’s snigger. Then Ma opened the door to the back and caught me eavesdropping. “Get back to work, young man. You’ll be here ‘til midnight at this rate.” She motioned with her chin at the pile of dishes. I went back to the sink. John Simpson was the town fatso. He inherited money and didn’t have to work. Instead, he ate. Man, did he eat. I heard he weighed over four hundred pounds. Not surprising that someone sniggered when Mr. Seymore said he tried to swallow a candy bar whole. I didn’t understand that. Fun in a candy bar was chewing it up and tasting it a long time. # Monday, after school, I ran deliveries for Pa’s bakery in a two-wheeled cart behind my bike. One stop was at the sheriff’s office where they kept a box of donuts available. I caught part of a conversation as I carried donuts into the break room. “That’s right, Lieutenant,” Sheriff Murphy said on the phone. “No traffic after about 8:00 last night again. And nothing like Saturday with the Thornborough kid. Well, we did have an accidental death. A man choked on a candy bar, for God’s sake.” Silence. “I understand. No roadblocks north or south that would have impeded traffic. But not having anyone come through all night for two nights running is unusual.” Silence. “Yeah. We’ll see what happens tonight. I’m going to have a patrol on 666A. Talk to you tomorrow.” No cars again last night. Wow. I hopped on my bike to finish my deliveries. I needed to talk to the gang. # “That’s what he said,” I told them. “No traffic last night, either.”
“That’s weird,” said Clive. Jenny shivered. Roger had that faraway look on his face again. He was the brains of our bunch, top student in the class. He didn’t make a big deal about that, but we listened to his ideas, whenever he got any. “We need more info,” he said. “I gotta do some research.” Jenny and I nodded. Clive asked, “What can I do?” “Keep an eye on the road tonight,” said Roger. Clive lived in the trailer park just off the highway. “Okay,” he replied. “Watch traffic. And look for the patrol cars.” Roger turned to me. “Charlie, see if you can get anything more from the sheriff tomorrow.” “Sure, and I can grill my ma for clues when she gets back from the diner.” “What about me?” Jenny asked. “Can you listen to the radio?” asked Roger. “Sure, but that won’t help much. All the stations are from out of town.” “My dad’s got a portable that’ll pick up the police band. You can borrow it,” Roger said. “And what are you gonna to be doin’?” challenged Clive. Roger scowled. “I’m going to research old newspaper stories on-line. See if anything like this has been reported before.” #
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Stephen A. Benjamin was born and raised in New York City. He received his A.B. degree from Brandeis University, and his D.V.M. and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell University, and is a board-certified veterinary pathologist. He has been a university teacher, researcher, and administrator, and is currently Professor Emeritus at Colorado State University. His interests in human and animal health are reflected in most of his short stories and novels. He lives in Colorado with his wife, and enjoys traveling, especially visiting his family, fishing, golf, skiing, cooking, and writing fiction.
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Published on Jan 27, 2011
Published on Jan 27, 2011
Written by Stephen A Benjamin and published by TWB Press In a small Colorado town, a teenager and his school friends investigate a series of...