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Cookies and Sunshine

“Mom! You’re crazy! What are you doing?” I fumbled with my cell while leaving the house. “They need me. Don’t worry, the roads aren’t that bad.” She had this mother-knows-best attitude, but I could tell that she would have rather stayed home. “Stay there, I’ll drive you.” I was opening my car door. “I’m already at the end of the street. Have a good day kiddo.” “Mom! Ughhhh!” Just another day living with the aproned crusader. When would she learn that she didn’t have to take care of everybody? I got into the car and said a quick prayer. I fumbled in my right pocket, and as my fingers touched the “thing”, I relaxed somewhat. I felt a little embarrassed, like a kid bringing his favorite toy car to school, but something inexplicable compelled me to take it with me. I pulled it out of my pocket and held it between my finger and my thumb. “Well, you’re gonna see what a day in the life of Mitchell Harrison is like. Hope you enjoy the show.” I carefully made my way through the unplowed winter wonderland. I passed by one or two cars that had slid off the road; fortunately no one was hurt. However, the owners of said cars were having very animated phone conversations – as if yelling would solve their problems faster. That’s the funny thing; people always expect that somehow their day will go alright; that problems will happen to someone else. By the time I got to the highway, all was quiet. Or so I thought. I noticed flashing lights up ahead. As I got closer, the picture became pretty ugly: two cars, bent up pretty badly, were in the middle of the left lane. There was an ambulance and rescue crews and flares and everything else that goes with bad accidents. The “thing” started to vibrate – ever so slightly. I pulled it out and it immediately flew out of my hand and stuck itself on my left window. It startled me so much, I almost got in an accident myself. I noticed more police cars up ahead, along with some officers directing people off the interstate. Oh boy…here comes the Grunge. The Grunge was the city’s neglected, orphaned, beat up and out of hope north side. I drove slowly through this urban wasteland, careful to avoid the many pot holes. As its grubby and aimless denizens slowly drifted past my windshield, I secretly wished that the city would

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just pave the whole place over and replace it with a parking lot. But even I had to admit, there were legitimate businesses in between the abandoned shops. There were even some memorials to crime victims here and there. I passed by the old church and the thrift store, as well as some hard working “entrepreneurs” on the corners. They wouldn’t put the Grunge on any post cards, but maybe it wasn’t a total write off either. I got into our parking lot and the “thing” fell off the window. I caught it before it could fall under my seat. I didn’t want to lose it – but why? As it lay in the palm of my hand, I remembered how good it felt to be eating cookies in the park on a sunny day. Why this memory came to me was a total mystery, but on a cold, miserable day like today, it was definitely welcome. I wish I could say that the rest of the day was uneventful, but that would be inaccurate. “Yes Mr. Johnson; that’s correct. I think you did the right thing; trust me – you never know what life is going to throw at you.” I hung up the phone and looked up. Kyle, our community college intern, was looking at me like a confused puppy dog. “I’m not sure if Mr. Johnson needed that rider on his policy. Are you sure he needs it?” Kyle did a great job of balancing confidence and respect, but he was tilting a little more towards respect at the moment. “He might need it – but he probably won’t. It’s going to cost him an extra $8.47 a month….I don’t think it will bankrupt him.” I paused. “Kyle, what’s best for the company isn’t always what’s best for the customer. It’s a balancing act: you try to do what’s best for the company and your customers. Just remember though – what’s best for the company is always what’s best for your wallet! Alright? Hey – it’s lunch already.” I let him go and sighed. I never really liked deflating someone’s idealism, but I’d rather do it now than when the stakes are really big. I took the “thing” out of my pocket and held it in my hand, careful not to let anyone else see it. I didn’t know if it was the weight, shape, color, or texture, but something about the artifact felt comfortable – it felt right. Again, a flood of happy childhood memories poured through my brain, as if they were uncorked from a dusty old wine bottle.

I had questions – of course I did. What was it? How did it get in my boot? What did the symbol mean? Did anyone own this curious little thing? And why did it stick to the car window this morning? I took off my coat and hung it up. I tossed the mail on the kitchen table; half of it was addressed to “Resident”, so I could throw it out anyways. As I held my talisman in my hand, I felt as if I was being talked out of asking all those questions. It was a very warm, syrupy sensation that went from the tips of the hairs on my head down to the bottom of my feet. My cell beeped. “Did you make it home OK?” “Yes, mom. Did you make it home OK?”

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“The roads were a little tricky, but I made it home in one piece.” “I hope Dad’s OK. You know how impatient he gets when the roads get bad.” There was a moment of silence. “Give my regards to your father.” OK. The Cold War hadn’t ended yet, but you couldn’t blame me for trying.

In the middle of the night, I opened my eyes. There was a blue light caressing my cheek. At first I thought it was from my alarm clock, but then I realized that the clock isn’t that bright. Instead of bolting upright in bed, I slowly touched the side of my head. Nothing felt amiss or strange. I slowly turned on my back and the little talisman was hovering above me, showering little dots of light on my body. Now I know – this is where I should have gasped or freaked out – but I didn’t. If this is what it naturally did, then that was OK with me. I suddenly realized the insanity of it all and wondered where all of this would lead, but again I felt like I was being talked out of my doubts. I reached up and held the “thing”. It lay there for a while and then resumed its former position, which was about 4 feet above me.

The next morning I got up and jumped out of bed. I was awake and feeling good. Old Man Winter wouldn’t get me down today – no sir. I got dressed and headed downstairs to the kitchen. I was ahead of schedule and decided it was time to shake up the morning routine. No cereal this morning. How about toast? And eggs? Yeah, why not eggs? So, I fired up the stove and had a good old fashioned breakfast. It was kind of odd really; I sat down in front my wonderful breakfast, but lost my appetite. Don’t get me wrong, I love eggs and toast. And, I had gotten sick of cereal. But although my head said yes, my heart and taste buds said “whatever”. I could taste it, but the pleasure wasn’t there. Maybe it was time to see the doctor. I finished up and walked out the door, my head a mix of happiness and sunshine. It seemed that all my problems were melting away before they could get near. I backed out of the driveway, put my day into drive, and promised to give the world my best shot. I put my talisman on the dashboard and hummed a happy tune. I know it sounds strange, but as it glinted in the winter sun, I felt like I had owned it all my life. Now I realize that I had only discovered it yesterday, but that was purely logical exercise. Deep inside of me, I felt that this artifact had been with me my whole life, through the good years and the bad years, an indestructible constant that had never let me down. I was still curious about my appetite, so I did a little experiment. I went out at lunch and ordered Sweet and Sour Chicken, which I absolutely adored. I ate but didn’t feel satisfied. I wasn’t

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hungry after, but I just had this feeling that I wanted something more. I looked down at my talisman and all I could think of were cookies; big, soft, warm chocolate chip cookies. When I got home, I decided to do something silly. If I was craving chocolate chip cookies, why not have a bunch for dinner? It was moments like these that I loved being a grown up. So I sat down and spread them before me, Killer Cookies, still soft and warm. I had to wait fifteen minutes in line at Darcy’s to get these, but it was well worth the wait. You may be wondering about the name; after one bite of these, you would kill to get them too. Nothing. Absolutely no thrill at all. I ate one after another, but every one of them failed to please me. I stopped when I realized that I was doing nothing more than chewing and swallowing. I don’t know why, but at that very moment I reached inside my pocket and pulled out the “thing”. As I looked at it, I really started to drool. This tiny metallic object gave off a scent more enticing than any cookie I ever smelled. I put it to my mouth and hesitated. Had I really lost my mind? Again, some unknown agent talked me out of my fears and doubts. I left my talisman on the kitchen table and went to watch the evening news. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Even if the end of the world had been playing across my TV screen, I would still be yearning for the little object. I walked back into the kitchen and, well, tasted it. It tasted so good it was absolutely disturbing. I would have sold my family to the gypsies to get another taste. What would happen if I actually put the alien artifact in my mouth? It was a totally insane idea, but then again….

Bfk

© 2014 Benjamin F. Kaye

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