Copyright (c) 2015 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Tim Fowler’s fake-smile was part of the McDonalds’ uniform. He opened the window to the drive-through and handed the fat woman driving the Mercedes her order: two Big Macs, large fries, a double-cheeseburger with extra pickles, an apple pie and a root-beer float. “Here you go; sorry about the delay,” he said. The woman had been in line less than five minutes. The lady took hold of the bag and then released her fingers the same time he did. The sack fell onto the concrete curbing but miraculously remained upright.
“Look what you did!” she bawled. “I’ve waited in line for hours and you throw my order on the ground!”
“I’m so sorry,” Tim said sticking his head out the window and looking down. “I don’t think anything spilled … I’ll get it for you …” He ran out the side-door. The woman was blasting her horn as he lifted the bag and peered inside. Nothing was amiss. The bag of fries hadn’t spilled and the root-beer float with a plastic-lid was intact. The woman slapped the bag out of his hand when he tried to give it to her. This time root-beer and ice-cream splattered against the side of the building. “You expect me to eat something that’s been on the ground?” the woman fumed. “You can do better than that!”
Norman Jackson, the assistant manager, opened the sliding window. “What’s the problem?” he asked the furious woman.
“The problem is your employee,” she said. “He expects me to eat something he spilled.” Norman stared at Tim and at the mess on the brick building. “We’ll make this right and at no charge’ he assured her. He told Tim to get a bucket of hot, soapy water, a sponge and to clean-up while they replaced her order.
Tim left work at two a.m. on his bicycle with his paycheck stuffed in his back pocket minus $28.75 for the two unpaid-for orders. “We’re not in business to lose money,” Norman had lectured. Working double-shifts for two week’s at minimum wage, Tim had just two-hundred ten dollars left after deductions and a child-support garnishment. Tim finished eating the ice-cream soaked cheeseburger and fries and decided to save the two Big Macs for tomorrow. The way he calculated, he’d have just $4.19 for groceries until his next paycheck. He pulled into the Cloverdale Dollar Store, the only store in Comanche County that stayed open all night, looking for milk and a real-cheap breakfast cereal.
The milk was a good deal at $1.00 a half-gallon even though it was a day old. The cheapest cereal on the shelf was a generic looking brand called Servings that also promised twelve of the same. You can’t expect Sugar Pops for a buck … If I eat small portions this should last two weeks Tim thought.
KNRN Channel 6 was showing The Bride of Frankenstein on their late- night Creature Feature. Tim had to bang on the side of the black and white TV set two times to get the picture to stop rolling. It was late, but an anxious energy kept Tim from falling asleep. He wondered what Julie was doing. Were any of his four children awake? Was his x-wife sleeping beside Greg Lewis the tattooed lead singer of Hard Roll … or were they busy doing something a little more pornographic? He hadn’t had a date since before he was married.
Frankenstein’s reincarnated monster had just discovered the blind hermit (played by O.P. Heggie) in a remote cabin in the woods when Tim fell asleep on his dusty sofa without pulling out the hide-a-bed.
An hour later, thunder rumbled in the distance outside a cracked and taped apartment window as Tim snored. A Kit-Cat wall-clock, with its swinging black-tail as a pendulum, ticked off the seconds to a background of TV static. A faucet dripped on a greasy frying pan. The thunder, closer this time, shivered the tiny apartment. Minute vibrations caused grains of sugar, stuck to the sides of a cut-crystal bowl, to sift from the pantry shelf like snow. A squad of cockroaches appeared from a crack in the wall foraging the sweet fragrance. Something rustled inside the box marked Servings followed by a scratching sound. The real-life cat Tim had adopted after his divorce woke from a pillow next to a heater-vent and padded out to investigate. Tiny black claws made ragged holes inside the cereal box.
An arched-backed Oreo spun like a mix-master trying to find traction on the vinyl kitchen-floor and streaked into the living room. The hissing feline hunched on a pile of dirty laundry behind the Schwinn bicycle. It began the rain. Water drops clinking on a rusted metal roof covered the sound of cardboard being torn. Tim did not wake up.
A door opened and then closed, whispered voices, muted giggles; he must be dreaming not quite awake. Tim rolled off the couch and rubbed his eyes. It was a little after eleven. He was scheduled to be at work at One P.M.
Norman Jackson was a tight wad. Most fast-food employees got at least one free meal each shift. Half price for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, a Coke and fries was still $2.90.
Oreo wasn’t pacing near the sink yowling to be fed like she usually was. Tim couldn’t remember letting her outside. The vinyl in the kitchen felt cold on his feet. He didn’t want to turn on the apartment heat. The gas company was still calling about the bill he hadn’t paid last month. Halfway to the refrigerator Tim noticed a smear of something that looked like blood on the floor. He couldn’t image what made the mark, unless Oreo caught a mouse and dragged its bleeding body … under the sink? Tim opened the door but there was nothing there except a half-empty bottle of Drano and a bloody tuft of fur? … He’d ended-up calling a plumber – twenty-two bucks down the drain.
He took the half-gallon of milk from the fridge and reached for the Servings cereal from the dollar store. It was empty? Impossible! He’d just bought it the night before. The bottom right corner had been torn away. What kind of mice eats that much cereal in one night? Tim shook the box. Nothing but a rustling noise came from inside. Tim poured out the contents anyway. He was sleepy … and he was hungry. Could he be dreaming? Tiny bits of chewed cardboard filled the bottom of the bowl. Whatever made the hole did it from the inside. No wonder Servings was only a buck. The box had probably been on the shelf for a couple of years and rodents had been living inside. He’d take the cereal back to the store and get a refund. A dollar was a dollar. Maybe not? He couldn’t remember seeing the hole in the store. He was tired but would have noticed the light box … or the sales-clerk would have … wouldn’t he?
Tim took one of the Big Macs removed it from the box and placed it in the microwave he’d picked up at the Salvation Army store for five bucks. The clerk said someone had heated a TV dinner without removing the aluminum foil. A quarter-sized hole was melted through one side of the plastic case, but it still heated. The escaping radiation couldn’t be much worse than using a cordless phone … that’s what Tim hoped. He turned the dial to one minute, ignoring the popping noises coming from inside and a clunk that seemed to echo from somewhere else in the room.
Stinging pain shot through his left foot and ran all the way to his buckled knee. He lurched and almost fell before he regained his balance. What the hell? Some kind of tiny exotic-looking Sushi fork was stuck, not in the bottom of his foot but, into the side. How could that have happened? Tim hopped over to a chair sat down cursing and began to remove the needle-like tines. A rapid scraping sound like claws on a smooth surface made him look up. He watched some kind of tiny dark creature dive into a square hole next to a heat register cover lying sideways on the floor. Then another skittered across the vinyl from behind the garbage can in the corner and did the same. Too small to be mice and they ran like little people! So that’s what was inside the box marked Servings! Not something to be eaten but something that eats. Wake up this has to be a nightmare! My God! Were there really twelve in the box?
Tim yelled. It wasn’t quite a scream but an unidentifiable loud garble intended to scare whatever it was he had seen and diminish his own fear. It worked for about thirty seconds. Tim stared at the open heat register stunned by the mental timeout humans feel when they see what shouldn’t be. He yanked the fork from his foot and brandished it in his hand. He felt like a fool. The fork was less than two inches long.
The microwave timer dinged. Tim didn’t want to take his eyes of the open register hole but he was hungry. What if this was his last meal? He backed toward the microwave holding the tiny fork like a weapon. The electric can-opener spun and whirled. Tim turned just in time to see another of the creatures leap from the disengaged lever and skitter across the counter top. It went behind the toaster. He thought he heard a squeak that sounded like faint muted laughter.
Tim dropped the fork on the table and picked up a broom leaning against the wall behind the garbage can. He held it close to the straw fiber end and then flipped it around … harder to miss. Tim limped toward the toaster; the pain in his foot forgotten. He extended the broom and pushed the toaster to one side. It was about three inches tall and covered with black bristly hair. The creature hissed and bared yellow-white teeth. Tim swung the broom and missed the first time knocking the toaster clattering to the floor. His second blow caught the Serving as it skittered across the floor. Take that Greg Lewis! Tim shook his head … he must be losing his mind! It was writhing and twisting on the floor when two of the Servings dropped from the overhead light fixture and landed on his shoulders.
One vicious urchin sunk jagged teeth into his ear-lob while another bit into his neck. Tim dropped the broom and beat at the creatures with his hands. He felt like he was inside a spider’s nest filled with fowl attacking arachnoids as he pulled one imp from his neck and slapped the other from his ear. Instinct made him stumble into the living room. His head was dizzy and spinning when he yanked open the front door. Cold morning air rushed over his falling body. The floor rose up to meet him as his head became a hive of buzzing bees. Divorce was hell … pure agonizing hell! Just before the descending darkness rode him toward unconsciousness, Oreo leaped over his crumpled form with her claws extended.
To be continued …