On a sunny July 1st, in the late afternoon , two young girls stand at the edge of a concrete driveway. One waits with indecision, while the other anxiously anticipates one more sale . . .
“Come on, we already have $290.00, and there is only one box of cookies left,” says Ashley, playfully pulling some loose strands of light blonde hair up over her ear. “That makes it $150.00 a piece!”
Her friend Jill continues to stare down the driveway with her arms folded and a look of concern on her rounded face. Her long brown neatly cut bangs, hide her down-turned eyebrows.“I don’t know, I just have a bad feeling about this one. I mean, when we started this whole thing, at least we had a good storyline . . . but like, school ended two weeks ago. Sooner or later, somebody is going to bring it up . . .and you know what they say: What goes around comes around.” The young girl winces at the sun, then turns and flashes a sarcastic smile at her friend.
Ashley puts both hands on her narrow hips and leans her torso off to one side. She then reminds her friend “Just think of all the new clothes we’re going to buy! I promise this will be the last house . . . pleeease!”“Fine then . . . But you do all of the talking this time around!” demands her friend. The girl picks up her backpack up off of the ground, then cautiously looks up and down the street for any potential witnesses. “Come on, let’s get it over with” says Jill half-heartedly, now slinging the backpack over her shoulder.
“Sweet! You should know by now, that I never take no for an answer!” says Ashley. With a noticed bounce in her walk, she starts down the driveway, as her friend Jill mopes along slowly behind her. “Come on, we don’t have all day!”
* * * *
“Let’s see now . . .” ( the old man adjusts his specs , as if to give him a better view of his mother’s instructions before him, then continues), “Add a dash of dehydrated onions . . .Yep, did that. Ah, a shake of garlic salt . . .Yes. And one cup of Parmesan cheese. Slowly stir to a boil, then cover for one hour . . .stirring occasionally.”Professor Jack Claussen stands over his stove, stirring away intently. Every few moments he inhales deeply, taking in the aroma of his favorite dish: spaghetti and Rosina meatballs, courtesy of his mom’s own recipe. Claussen lifts a large stirring spoon up to his eagerly awaiting lips, when suddenly . . .
Bing-Bong-Bing-Bong . . . . , Bing-Bing-Bing-Bong!
Claussen quickly singes his lower lip, causing him to jerk the spoon, spattering spaghetti sauce across the top of his stove “Dammit!.... Son-of a-bitch! Fricken’ pain in my ass!”The old man grabs a paper towel, and quickly wipes away his mess. He then heads toward the living room to answer the door, mumbling “Who the hell could this be?” Unfortunately, he forgets to cover the near boiling spaghetti . . .
Claussen begins untying his apron, as he peers through the small diamond shaped windows of the door, but sees nobody. The old man quickly scans over the front yard for tell-tale tracks of BMX bikes, but sees nothing. Not even the menacing sound of skateboards grinding their way across the concrete.“Those little brats . . .I’ll catch em’ in the act one of these days!” snorts the old timer.
The professor then turns to head back to the kitchen, but notices a touch of dust on his prized “reclining nude” hand blown glass sculpture. At 3" tall x 3" wide and 6" in length, it wasn’t the most expensive or desired item in his vast collection. But it was a souvenir that was purchased on a trip to Italy during his sophomore year. Claussen picks up the statue, gently wipes it off with his apron, then places it back on the display stand that is just inside the foyer of his house. He runs his finger across the display stand itself, then lifts it up to see the minor dust mound at the tip of his finger.“Hmm . . . I guess it has been over a week since Josephine and I last dusted!” Claussen smiles and briefly reflects on the Ornate Grandfather Clock that currently stands in the display room downstairs, or more importantly the contents within . . .
The aroma of boiling spaghetti sauce , soon snaps the old man out of his brief erotic day dream, and he goes back to the kitchen. As he stirs the sauce, he once again raises the smoldering spoon for a quick taste . . .
BING-BONG-BING- BONG . . . BING-BING-BING-BONG!
“That’s it...I swear I’ll KILL EM!” yells Claussen, as he turns and runs toward the door like a wild man. He yanks the door open violently and yells “I SWEAR I’M GONNA PUT A TWELVE INCH SHOE UP YOUR . . . OH, . . . OH MY. I’m so very, very sorry about that. Please forgive my poor choice in manners ladies!Ashley looks up at the old man, who appears to be fiftyish or so, wearing clothes that date back to the early 70's. She couldn’t quite figure out if he was just really hip, or just plain didn’t get out much. He was pretty much bald on top, except for that one big wisp of hair that would be hanging down over his nose, if it wasn’t for the sweat on his head holding it in place. His teeth were stained yellow from nicotine. His apron said “DON’T MESS WITH THE COOK, HE HAS ACCESS TO YOUR FOOD!” He kinda smelled too... and not in a particularly good way. She slowly backed away from the door, and pushed her friend Jill forward.
Jill gulped really hard, then said “Hi my name is Jill, and this is my friend Ashley, and she has something she wants to ask you.” She then took a step back, and waited for her friend to speak up. When nothing happened, she gave her the evil eye, and mumbled “Get your little ass. . . UP THERE!”Ashley stepped forward nervously. She takes the backpack from her friend, and takes out her last box of cookies, and hands Claussen the flyer. She then took a step backward, crossed her arms behind her back, flashed a fake smile, and began her rehearsed routine: “Hi. We . . . were just wondering, If you. . .if you would like to, could youpossiblybuyaboxofcookiesforourclasstrip? Theyarereallyreallygoodanditwillgotoareallygood cause.”
Jill gulped a little harder. Her friend just started talking faster and faster. She noticed Ashley starting to rock back and forth on her heels. She only did this when she was really nervous, . . . or when she was lying. Jill started picking at the fuzzy white strings on the edges of her cut-off shorts, and avoided eye contact.
“For a class trip? But didn’t school end almost a month ago for you two?” asks Claussen, rather suspicious.
Ashley bites her lower lip, and starts wrapping a spool of blonde hair around her index finger. All she manages is a “Ah, well um . . um, er. One box is only ten bucks.”“What, ten dollars? Are you kidding me?” The old man exclaims with a “bad taste in his mouth” look.
Her friend Jill quickly takes over from there.“You see Mister, we are taking a course as extra credit in summer school. We’re going to . . . Corning Glass Works to . . to see how, uh . . . blown glassware is made and figures like that one.” Jill points at the glass figure on the table just inside the door. Her friend beside her flashes her smile, which is a row of braces.
Claussen smiles back at the two girls, then reaches in the door, picking up the statue. “Corning huh . . . Yes been there a few times myself. They use a similar technique as was used on this one here. Only this one is from Italy.”
The professor is surprised and impressed at the same time. “WOW, SHE REFERRED TO IT AS A BEING, AND NOT JUST SOME RANDOM ARTWORK” thinks Claussen to himself. “Why yes, yes she does . . .Venus.”Jill puts her hands on her hips, then replies “But of course. Venus, the Roman goddess of natural productivity, and in later times of love and beauty.” She shakes her head slightly to the side to get her bangs out of her eyes, then beams with a smile.
Claussen is quite taken. “You know, I think I will buy some of those cookies! Wait right here, and I’ll grab my wallet.” Claussen turns around, and heads for the kitchen, as the girls high-five each other.
“Oh Shiiiiit!” he exclaims, as he scrambles to remove the pot without burning himself in the process. “Ah . . Er, AH . . . DAMMIT ALL!” Claussen grabs a handful of clean rags and runs them under water, attempting to clean up his unexpected mess.
“Ah . . .dammit. Ah yes I’ll be right there!” Claussen, now sweating like a pig, wipes his brow. . . “PHEEEW ! OK, get yourself together here. The professor reaches for his wallet that’s sitting on top of an antique bread box. Next to it, is his equally antique camera. The old man pauses momentarily. His hand aims instead, for the camera. He picks it up, and turns it over. “Batteries are charged up to full capacity . . . (a bead of sweat falls from his forehead, and hits the counter), they are adorable . . .(Claussen dabs the perspiration around his neck) , that Jill girl has the biggest eyelashes. . .Claussen slowly begins to put the camera back on the shelf. For God’s sakes , they are barely teenagers! The professor runs a washcloth under the sink and wipes his face once again, then the back of his neck. He grabs a twenty out of his wallet, and walks back out to the front porch.
The girls notice that the man looks as white as a ghost, and seem more eager than ever to leave.“Here . . . here is $20.00, you two deserve it, and I hope you enjoy your trip.” The professor extends out a sweaty hand holding a twenty.
As Jill excepts the money, her friend Ashley is already taking back steps, away from the porch. Jill turns away mumbling a quick “Thank You.” As the pair get farther from the porch, their walking speed picks up.
Claussen watches Jill walking hurriedly away, her little butt wagging from side to side. Ashley turns around and actually breaks into a run, her ponytail swinging wildly behind her. Claussen happens to look down at that moment, and notices that they were in such a hurry, that they left the backpack behind.
“Hey! HEY YOU TWO, YOU FORGOT YOUR BACKPACK!” Claussen laughs to himself out loud. Curiosity gets the best of him, and he opens it up. There are several flyers like the one that the blonde girl had shown him announcing “Support Your Local Youths” across the heading, and something about a field trip. However, there was one copy that was similar, but across the front it said “Support your local farms”, and the smaller print went into great detail about the plight of the local farmer. “Hmm . . .” the professor looked at the copy Ashley had shown him again. It was the same paper, just photo copied with a bogus heading! Claussen slowly cracked a smile, knowing he had been outfoxed by the young girls . . . “Well good for them!” he said laughing. He turned back to walk into the house. Closing the door behind him,
Claussen turned to head back to the kitchen, when he noticed a 6"X 3" clean Spot in the middle of the stand where his Venus statue had been!
* * * *
Meanwhile, two girls stand arguing back and forth just up the street . . .“Ashley, you were the idiot that had to take that stupid statue thing! Now your going back there to get my back pack and our money back! I knew this was a bad idea all along, and I can’t believe you got me involved . . .I mean, what if he calls the cops?”
Ashley: “Be serious, it’s our word against his! I mean look at us, who wouldn’t believe us over him? You know what, I think you feel sorry for the guy, that’s your problem.”Jill: “Well he was nice to us...You should have been happy with the money period, but you had to be greedy!”
Ashley: “You know what, screw it! I’ll go over there . . . I’ll just bat my eyes and play the innocent girl routine, and he will buy right into it, you’ll see! You were always such a baby!”
* * * *
BING-BONG -BING-BONG . . . BING-BING-BING-BONG.
Ever since he could remember, that damned annoying doorbell was in that house. That same doorbell, that played that same annoying song that his mother and father picked out so many decades ago. But today, at this very moment, it was music to his ears! Claussen opened the door with eager anticipation of who might be expected on the other side . . . . And there was one of the girls standing on his front porch. It was Ashley, the blonde one.
“Um . . .like, my friend Jill has this problem with taking things that don’t belong to her . . . and like, she has your statue thingy, but won’t give it back unless you promise that you won’t call the police. Um like, this was totally her whole idea... and stuff. Ashley pushed her hands deep into her pockets and attempted to thrust her chest, or lack of out at the man but he didn’t look like he was buying it . . .
“Hmm, you see I’m not so sure that it was Jill that took it. Are you sure there isn’t something you want to tell me?” asked Claussen, expecting to hear a confession.
Ashley just lowered her head slightly, and gave him the lost puppy dog look, (as Jill often referred to it), with her big blue eyes rolled up, and her chrome of her braces reflecting from the setting sun, she cracked her best smile.
“Well, I will give you your backpack, but I’m afraid that I will have to call the police.”
Ashley pleaded, “No PLEASE DON’T CALL THE POLICE! MY PARENTS WOULD KILL ME!! I mean, when they find out about Jill coming up with all of these crazy ideas . . .I mean, who knows what they will do?”
Claussen suggested, “WELL . . .I suppose . . . I suppose there is one thing I can do. I could take your picture and hold onto it, and If I ever hear of you two pulling a stunt like this again, the I will be forced to turn in the picture.
Ashley asked “Uh sure...um and we still get the backpack right?”
Claussen agreed, “That is correct.” (He starts winding his camera).
Ashley goes along, saying “Um . . like ok sure, it’s a deal.” She thinks to herself, “Whatever . . .you’ll never see the two of us ever again, creep!”
* * * * *
Jill stands at the edge of the driveway, watching from afar with caution. “ God what could she be possibly talking about up there . . .just get the damned backpack and get the hell outta there! Knowing her, she is saying that I came up with this entire idea.”
Suddenly, holding the backpack up in the air, the old man motions for her to come to the porch. “Come on, I want to talk to you for a minute.”
Jill thinks to herself: “Well that didn’t sound like come here, so I can chain you to the porch until the cops get here . . .”
The young girl slowly walks up the driveway, still looking over her shoulder for a possible witness . . only this time if something happens to her and her friend! As she gets about 10 feet she calls out “ASH . . .ARE YOU OK?” Her friend doesn’t reply, but Jill thinks “she can’t be all that bad or she wouldn’t be standing there like a dummy!” She looks at the old guy, his shirt looking like it is soaked, his one wisp of hair now in fact has fallen down over his face, a drip of sweat hangs from th tip of his crooked nose . . . “God, this guy is a train wreck!” She stops momentarily, as the old guy motions to her, to speed it up.
“I wanted you to see this! It is quite beautiful when it happens you know!” Claussen says with a sinister look. It looks as if he pulls something out of an old black case, and it could quite possibly be a doctors kit. There is a quick squirt of something in the air.
“Um Ash . .babe, Ashley, come on it’s time to get going here!” says Jill half terrified and yet, curious at the same time.
Claussen winks at Jill, then nods towards her friend as if to say “pay attention.”
Suddenly and for no obvious reason, other than the creep standing in front of her, Ashley begins to slowly rock back and forth on the edge of her heels . . .
Claussen: “That’s it my dear, don’t resist it, this is the first time, so just let it take you . . .
Ashley begins to sway a bit more erratically . . . Jill cautiously approaches her friend, but the professor warns “Don’t interrupt her . . . I’m quite sure she wouldn’t appreciate it!”
“Ashley . . .Ashley what is wrong? ASH!” Jill grabs her by the arm out of frustration, but quickly releases it when she feels how ice cold the skin is . . .
“DON’T TOUCH HER!” yells Claussen, now with a more serious tone . . .
Jill looks around to Ashley’s side profile, her eyes are wide and brilliant, despite their coldness, her cheeks are rosy red, her mouth slowly opens, and stays slack...
SUDDENLY, Ashley tenses up! Her fingertips extend fully out, inside the pockets of her grey sweat pants. She lifts up on her tip toes in her sandals, her butt seems to twitch violently two or three times, she lets out an audible gasp of air, jerks once really hard, and then her body seems to lose its balance and begins to fall backwards! Luckily, Jill is there to catch her, however there is a noticeable difference in the expression of Ashley’s face: it now possesses a mix of wonder and splendor.
“Wha . .what was that?” asks Jill, holding her paralyzed friend to keep her from falling . . .
“Well, you will get your chance to experience it for yourself soon enough, my darling!” says Claussen, aiming the camera at her.
Jill looks up just in time to get to get a full dose of the flash from Claussen’s camera. Things go black for a time for the young girl, but she momentarily feels Claussen’s leather-like skin, prying her friend Ashley, out of her stiff arms. A few seconds later, she can smell him briefly, then hears “Maybe we better get you inside, before you attract any unwanted attention.” She feels the man’s grip around her small waistline. She then faintly hears “Remember, what goes around, comes around kid,” just before she gives into the darkness . . .
After taking his latest acquisitions downstairs, he brings up a clipboard that he has been carrying around with him now, for quite sometime. He looks over a check list, and then writes a notation “need to find two more nighties: junior size, for new diorama.” The professor cracks a smile, as he leans back in his chair and speaks out loud:
“Ahhh, I just love it when a plan comes together!”