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Dancing In The Banana Factory

Dancing In The Banana Factory

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Dancing In The Banana Factory

331 pages
4 hours
Jul 27, 2013


Doug's first collection of short stories - twenty five years in the making. These stories, all with a Midwestern point of view, explore the entire spectrum of the human condition.

Jul 27, 2013

About the author

Douglas was born and raised in Ohio. He writes fiction for fun as well as political and pop culture essays for several blogs. He spends his non-writing time watching movies, TV, listening to music, and watching films. He also dreams of gleaming the cube.

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Dancing In The Banana Factory - Douglas Berger

Dancing In The Banana Factory

Douglas L. Berger

Copyright © 2013 Douglas L. Berger

Smashwords Edition

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


To my Mom, Sandra, who worked really hard to make sure I didn't become a burden on society. I'm sorry I made it so hard sometimes.

To my Dad, Mike. He may not be able to read these stories but a small part of him is in each one.

To the World. You amaze me each and every day.




Dancing In The Banana Factory

The Ballad Of Bobby Spunk

Almost The Greatest Miniature Golf Incident of All Time

Social Idiot

An Evening on the Deck

Another Significance

Henry's Dilemma

Too Much In Common

Tragedy of Thoughts

Corky: A Rabbit's Tale

The Bet


Winds of Change

Exit 35 A

The Pizza Dude

Ann's Isolated Mind

Fantastic and Brilliant

Plexiglas Dreams

About the Author


Thanks to every one, everywhere, who gave me ideas I included in the stories in this collection. And no, these stories aren't about you.

Special Thanks to:

Linda Stout Gulley, whose red pen ripped open my words so they might be better.

Ernest Hemingway, who taught me I didn't need to empty a dictionary on the page to get my point across.

Professor Michelle Herman, who gave me the encouragement to write by giving me an 'A' in my undergraduate writing class at Ohio State.

Word processors with spell checks for learning me words real good.

Cover Design by JRS Designs: http://jrsdesigns.yolasite.com


The first time I made up stories was to pass the time at the house of a babysitter who, for some odd reason, hated to have kids running around her house. It was the summer after I had completed the 1st grade and I would be dropped off early in the morning. The woman paid to take care of me would basically kick me and her two sons out of the house during the day, only letting us in for lunch or to go to the bathroom.

Her sons were not sweet little boys. They would take every opportunity to pick on me and sometimes beat me up as young boys do, so I refused to hang out with them. They would run off to play with the other kids in the neighborhood and I would sit on the front stoop and wait for my Mom to pick me up. I spent hours on the stoop waiting.

Playing with toys, when I was kid, was another opportunity to make up stories. I can't remember how many times my Big Jim action figure saved Hoth Han Solo and my balding GI Joe from whatever danger my mind could come up with.

I didn't seriously start writing until I got to High School. I was a terrible speller and the school had just received some Apple IIe's and a word processor program with the needed spell check function. Hallelujah!

I initially wanted to be a playwright. I wrote a one act play I wanted to use as my theater project senior year, but my drama teacher Mrs. Gebhardt put the kibosh on that. I ended up adapting Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs instead.

At Ohio State, I liked my creative writing classes the most. One class, English 265, I took twice. Probably because the professor gave me what she said was a rare 'A' for my story Social Idiot, which is included in this collection.

Most of the stories collected here were written while I was in college, in the late 1980's or in the years just after college. I only had to make a change to one story that was too dated but left the rest, generally, as I originally wrote them. I've also included a few more recently completed stories.

The plots run the gamut from comedy to drama and a few with love stories in them. Why love stories? I have no idea.

I've had friends complain when I told them I was self-publishing these stories. I don't think, in the case of fiction, that self-publishing is a bad thing. I've had a story published before - Henry's Dilemma - but most of the stories here wouldn't be published otherwise and now I can cross that off my bucket list.

I continue to write, not as often as I should, but I do. Although most of my current writing is non-fiction essays for my personal blogs, I still throw in a short-short or YouTube video from time to time. I have also been teaching myself to write screenplays.

I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I have writing them.

Douglas L. Berger

July 2013

Dancing in the Banana Factory

Night began to fall as Biff Fishstick drove his yellow late model car into the city of Fenwyck.

Oh Fenwyck, I'm home, Biff said to himself.

After ten long years he was back in his hometown. As Biff admired the city limits, he failed to notice the red light at an intersection. Officer Brent Buckwald of the Fenwyck Police Department did notice Biff run the light as he sat in his cruiser at his reserved spot in the parking lot of the Fatboy Donut Shop. Brent stuffed a Boston creme into his mouth and sped after Biff with full lights and sirens.

It wasn't long before those flashing red lights drew Biff's interest and he saw the police car drawing closer.

Lovely, what did I do now?

Biff pulled his car over. The police car pulled in behind him and Brent lumbered out. As he walked toward Biff's car, he struggled to to pull his pants over his doughnut gut. At the driver's window he pointed the beam of his flashlight into the car nearly blinding Biff.

Sir, could I see your license and registration? Brent said.

Okay Biff said as he reached into his wallet and presented his papers. I don’t know why you stopped me. I don’t fit any profiles do I, unless there is one for a ruggedly handsome man.

Didn't you notice that red light back at the intersection of Route 23 and Main Street? Brent asked, looking at each document and proceeding to write a ticket.

What light? I'm sorry, I have been gone so long I was busy admiring the city limits.

Brent looked at the driver's license and then squinted at Biff’s face.

Don’t I know you? Did you graduate from Fenwyck High? Brent said.

Why yes I did.

I thought I knew you. Biff, it's me Brent Buckwald. Remember?

Who? Biff asked.

I was the one that beat you up all the time in high school.

Brent Buckwald? Oh yeah, so you're the ass… err… I mean guy that I didn't get along with too well. I remember you now.

I'm the one. It sure has been a long time hasn't it?

I still remember the time you decked me at the Spring Dance senior year, Biff said.

But you know why I did that. You tried to kiss my date right in front of me using the old mistletoe trick.

Yeah, those were the days, Biff said pausing in reflection.

The last time I heard, you were dead.

Who told you that?

Your mother. I saw her at the auction where she was selling all of your stuff a few years back.

I should have listened to those old phone commercials and called her, Biff said. Mom, I said, if you don't hear from me just assume that I'm fine. She never would listen to me.

Brent handed back the license and registration and the ticket.

Welcome home, Fishstick.

Gee Brent, you shouldn't have.

Biff continued on his way home. He turned on the radio and moved the dial until a station came in loud and clear.

Barry Manilow, Cool! WFEN 1390 AM. My favorite station.

He turned down Center Street as the song Mandy was hitting its peak.

That song instantly brought back memories of his senior year of high school. On Friday and Saturday nights, he would cruise Main Street in his car with his best friends, Carey and Tracy Zorrco and Dean Patch. Dean would whistle at any female that moved and the Zorrco brothers would argue about how much they could get if they sold Biff's car, the Yellow Bomb as it was affectionately known, even then.

It was called a bomb because of a pesky gas line leak Biff never had the money to fix. The brothers would bet on when the leak would cause the car to burst into flames.

On occasion, Tracy would reach over and throw the gearshift into park whether the car was still moving or not. The sound of the gears mashing together and abrupt stops would be a form of amusement for Tracy. Biff didn’t care too much for it.

Not much has changed in ten years, Biff said as he looked up at the white two-story house where he grew up. It was in serious need of a paint job.

Last time I was here, Mom wanted me to paint the house. If she really thought I was dead, the house would have been painted by now.

Biff walked up the steps and rang the doorbell. The chimes were still as off key, as Biff remembered. The door opened slowly and a short gray haired woman in her mid-fifties peered out from behind the dirty screen door.

Mom? Biff said.

Who wants to know? the older woman said in a rough voice. You a bill collector?

No I'm not, Biff said.

A Mormon?

No, Biff sang.

A Jehovah Witness?


Plumber? My sink has been backed up for two weeks...

I am not the plumber, Biff grew more impatient.

Okay, you have to be an IRS agent.

Look Mom, it's me, Biff, your son.

The woman squinted through the dirt, Biff? No you can't be Biff. He's dead. Has been for five or ten years. Son, I told him, call me and what does he do? He dies on me. If he were alive right now I would lay one big guilt trip on him. That's what I'd do...

Please... Biff tried to interject.

So, who are you?

Biff grabbed the screen door and flung it open. It's me, Biff!

Biff! She jumped into his arms, hugged, and kissed him. I thought you were dead. Come in, Come in. They went into the house and once inside, she let go of him. I have to get that screen cleaned. I once mistook a Girl Scout for a bill collector and I sent Victor after her. Boy was she scared.

Biff looked around and found Victor, his mother's toy poodle, sleeping on the couch.

That little dog scared a Girl Scout? he said, remembering the beatings he got from Girl Scouts back while growing up.

Victor may not look like much now but he has the makings of being a great pit bull. I have him on a workout plan with a trainer and a diet heavy on pasta and steroids.

Biff looked at the poodle. The dog in turn looked up at Biff, yawned and fell back to sleep. Biff could only imagine what else his mother lost besides her marbles.

Sit down His mother said. Tell me what you've been up to for all of these long painful years away from your loving caring mother, who would sacrifice her own wants and desires to provide you with a good home, three meals a day and a safe upbringing. Why it was only yesterday, I held this fat bundle of flesh – you were fat back then – in my arms and let you suck on my breast.

One thing Biff knew she hadn't lost was her art of over dramatics. The sucking sounds she made caused Biff to cringe, but undaunted his mother continued her Oscar-winning performance.

…Even though the sucking hurt like hell, I still provided a nipple to you every day 365 days a year until you were two. What, I ask, do I have to show for it? Nothing, except for the scars when you started teething, She paused, took a deep breath, and then continued You go off to college and I don't hear from you for ten long years. I think you are dead, but lo and behold, you arrive at my doorstep. A God send? I don't know. Well? Say something.

Let me start at the beginning, Biff said. I flunked out of college . . .

Biff noticed the terror spread on his mother's face as the words left his mouth. He knew he had made a serious error in his choice of words.

"You are NOT MY Biff!" she screamed.

Those were the words Biff had dreaded hearing ever since he could understand English. The conversations he tried to have when she started out with those words never seemed to end in a victory for him. In high school, the Zorrco brothers taught him how to deal with those kinds of arguments. They taught him to tune out his mother, ignore her completely. They told him to think about something pleasant and go off to dream land. Now Biff searched his mind for something pleasant. He landed at a local swimming hole, called Spring Lake.

While he was in dreamland, he kept an eye on his mother still ranting about him flunking out of college. She flailed her arms around in different directions and the same familiar veins popped out on her forehead. His eyes watched all of this but his mind was still at Spring Lake.

The first summer he went to Spring Lake he thought that he was something special. He had found an old transistor radio at one of the many garage sales his mother forced him to go to as a kid.

The radio only received the AM band and sometimes random CB Radio traffic. Biff didn't care if it was 20 years out of date. He loved to be able to hear big band music no matter where he was.

That summer he also met Kelly Bronz for the first time. Although he really didn't know it at the time, he fell completely in love with her. The Zorrco brothers and Dean teased him about how drippy he was getting. Their friendship might have ended then if it weren't for the arrival of Brent Buckwald; the world's first talking asshole. A picture of Brent flashed in Biff's mind and for a second, it scared the hell out of him.

He returned to the present and watched his mother's continuing tirade. She was now hitting her peak by blaming everything on his father's family.

Biff's father was killed in a freak accident involving the neighbor's wife and a large pair of hedge clippers. The Fishsticks always blamed mom for dad's untimely demise.

Even in the local papers, she was blamed. Not on the front page, but in the 'Letters to the Editor' section. Biff's grandma, Philly Fishstick began the letter writing campaign against her daughter-in-law and the rest of Fenwyck seemed to side with Philly. It almost caused a hasty move to Toledo. The editor finally put an end to the letters because the story hadn’t increased circulation as much as he had hoped. They went back to covering the usual crooks on city council.

Biff noticed that his mom was starting to sputter out so he tuned her back in.

… And that is why your grandmother is a whore. she said and stared blankly. So, what the hell happened?

I don't know. I just got sick of school, Biff said.

His mother was getting revved up for another rant but Biff was just too tired to listen.

Mom, just leave me alone. I'm tired and I just want to go to bed.

With that statement, Biff walked to his room to go to bed. It was then, he remembered his mother had sold all his belongings. Instead of a bed to sleep on, he was forced to use a surplus cot that smelled of spoiled coconut milk.

Figuring out the coconut milk mystery would have to wait for another time, as Biff finally drifted off to sleep.

* *

The next day, Biff drove down Main Street. He noticed some buildings were different and a couple were missing since the last time in was in town. Downtown Fenwyck looked like one of those old time photos where you park your car with the nose in toward the curb. It felt like he was cruising again back in high school, but it was daylight and there wasn’t as much traffic now.

He stopped to wait for a light and heard a familiar voice.

I’ll buy that bomb for $150 bucks!

Biff turned and saw Tracy Zorrco walking near the courthouse. He looked almost the same except for the unkempt Vandyke beard, receding hairline, and 40 pounds extra weight. Other than that he looked the same.

Hey! It's worth much more than that. Biff said. He pulled into a parking spot nearby and jumped out of the car. He then jumped back into the car, put it in park and turned it off. He then jumped back out as Tracy walked up to him.

How’s it going, Biff? Tracy said as they shook hands.

Not bad, and you?

Working. Long time no see. What’s it been? 15 years, right?

10 years, Biff said.

Whatever, Tracy said. We need to get together and talk over old times.

How about now? Are you busy?

Well I’m working right now, but what the hell, I haven’t seen you in 15 years.

10 years.


They both got in Biff’s car and continued the tour of downtown.

You look about the same, Tracy said.

Thanks, I guess.

No, seriously, Tracy said and laughed. I didn’t think you would look the same. I actually imagined you would be fat and have several kids by now.

I haven’t been gone THAT long.

It just seems like a long time when you are stuck in a town like this.

What’s been happening to you? Biff said. You said back there you were working. What do you do?

I work for a Bail bonds place and I was going to the court house to drop off some paperwork to bail out some people.

Won’t they get mad if you don’t show up?

Why? They aren’t going anywhere.

They both laughed.

As long as I get the paperwork there by five, they’ll get out tonight, Tracy said. No problem.

So, how’s your brother? Biff said.


You still call him that? Biff laughed.

He still looks like a rat. His ears are still big and he still has those beady eyes. I’m just glad we aren’t twins.

That would suck.

Carey’s working at the Banana Factory now.

Oh, man what a loser, Biff said.

Wasn’t he always?

The Benco Flavorings Factory was Fenwyck's largest employer. Most worked there or knew someone who worked there. The main product made in the factory was banana flavoring for the food industry, so everyone called it the Banana Factory. It was a good job if you could get one but that meant you would be in Fenwyck for the rest of your life. Biff had always felt that anyone who worked there got caught in the Fenwyck trap.

It's probably time for a break or lunch over there, Tracy said. Let's go over and I'll rescue the Ratman.

The Banana Factory was on the north end of town across the street from the children's home. Biff thought that was ironic for some reason.

Biff pulled into the factory parking lot and after dropping Tracy off at the employee entrance so he could get his brother, he pulled into the parking spot reserved for the President of the company. He watched groups of people coming back from lunch and others going to lunch. He looked for any other losers he might know from the old days. He needed a good laugh.

Then he saw someone that made his stomach twist. Kelly Bronz walked out toward the parking lot.

Wow, he thought. She is looking better than ever.

Kelly dug into her purse and walked past without noticing him even as he flailed his arms up and down. He tried to honk his horn but right at that same moment another car honked. He tried again and again it was drowned out by another car. He jumped out of the car.

"Hey! Kelly!" He yelled.

She stopped and turned toward her name. She saw Biff and her mouth dropped open. Biff waved and started walking toward her. She quickly got to her car, got in, and started it.

Kelly? Wait, Biff said and he started to jog to catch up.

She put the car into gear and tried to drive away. He ran after her and seeing he wouldn’t catch up, he decided to cut through the lot towards the exit in hopes of catching her there.

As he passed through one row of cars, he caught the glimpse of another car coming at him at a high speed. He stopped suddenly and the car hit its brakes locking them up. It squealed to a stop a little past Biff.

If he hadn’t stopped when he did, the car would have hit him. It was a Fenwyck Police Department cruiser.

You almost hit me, you idiot! Biff screamed.

Brent Buckwald got out of the car.

Fishstick, what the hell are you doing?

I was running here and you almost ran me over.

I'm a professional. If I wanted to hit you I would have, but I didn’t.

But you came close!

I asked you a question, Brent said. What are you doing? He pushed the brim of his hat up.

I was waiting for the Zorrco brothers and I thought I saw someone I knew and I was trying to catch them.

Brent smiled.

This person you saw wasn’t by any chance Kelly Bronz?

Is she still around? I didn’t know, Biff said avoiding eye contact.

Brent edged closer and made sure he was looking Biff in the eye.

Don’t fuck with me Fishstick. I’ve been watching you since you blew into town. I saw you chasing after Kelly like some lonesome puppy. You need to forget about her.

What are you talking about Brent?

Times have changed and so has Kelly. If I find you causing her any trouble, I will give you some trouble.

Is this what taxpayers pay for around here, harassment?

Brent got back into his cruiser and started it up.

If you’ve got a complaint, take it up with the Chief.

I might do that, Biff said.

If you do, tell Uncle Pete I said hi, Brent said and smiled.

Of course. As if you could get a job without some nepotism.

Just remember. Stay away from Kelly.

Brent squealed his tires and drove away.

* * *

Now it felt just like old times. Cruising Main Street in the yellow bomb with the Zorrco Brothers and Brent wanting to kick his ass.

You know what would complete this party? Biff said. We need Dean Patch. It would be cool to have the whole gang back together.

That would be a bad idea, Tracy said.


A couple of years ago there was an incident that sort of turned the town against him.

What, did he murder someone?

Nothing cool like that. He just refused to fly the flag on the Fourth of July.

You're kidding right?

I wish he was, Carey said. "The

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