Fleas in the Freezer

Fleas in the Freezer

A Story by TwoMinuteStories-Kevin
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Old Bill learns from the office fridge and his younger self.

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There was a time when Bill went by Billy and hair grew on all parts of his scalp, not just the lower 2/3rds that could also stretch around his face and neck should he let it. Little Billy enjoyed Hot-Wheels cars and racing against anyone on his black and yellow Huffy; Big Bill recently bought an automatic Ford because he was tired of shifting and disrupting his morning coffee.



It was one day while washing his work mug and half-hearing Janine complain about George that our aging warrior first took notice of the old office fridge. Someone, no doubt on the management team, had tacked too many now-crooked motivational magnets that pointed out things like:


“The doors of wisdom are never shut”  "Benjamin Franklin



‘Not everyone can be like Ben’, thought Bill, which luckily didn’t last or we might be headed in a depressing direction. No, it was the top 1/3rd of this mold-preserving cold cube that jolted a memory in Bill’s stagnant mind. Janine droned on in the background.


Little Billy was so busy slathering his second packet of ranch on the pizza slice before him that he didn’t even notice the blumbering beefcake of a boy looming behind. This was a rare occasion when Billy found a hot meal ticket to the school cafeteria AND his mom had packed him a lunch; he was about to feast on the best offerings from both meals and throw the dreaded fruit right in the trash can.



“Whatcha doin’ there ya squeaky squirt?” came the half-raspy voice of a lad approaching a mustache.



Billy jumped, his butt nearly slipping off the bench. He craned his neck backwards and froze at the sight of Rufus Plopton, school bully extraordinaire, a crusted booger emerging slightly from left nostril.



“What’re you, some kinda CHEF?” came the wobbling cheeks, emphasis on the last word for high-brow comedic value. Two gangly cronies behind Professor Plopton cackled obediently.



Young Billy was the smallest in his grade, even smaller than the girls, though he had one beat last year until she moved away. Rufus preferred easy targets and dealt punishment to classmates on a sliding scale; for months Billy had suffered through every plural in the book including toilet swirlies, n****e twisties, Indian burns, stretchie wedgies, flat tires, wet willies, and many others you’re lucky to have never heard of.



Try as he might Billy had nothing witty or forceful to come back with, just dry desert air whistling through open mouth as he stared at Godzilla. Rufus raised a hammy hand and flicked Billy on the forehead; this was his special way of starting all torture sessions.



Our embattled hero trudged into the kitchen later that afternoon wriggling his empty right hand without thinking, used to producing the loud rattle of fork and spoon in his Superman lunchbox. Billy liked to make noise, as his mother apologetically told anyone who could hear over the racket. Today he was too quiet entering the house and she was onto him immediately, skipping all the pleasantries:



“Where’s your lunchbox?”



Billy had been rehearsing for this.



“Well Mom, you see, I was trying to throw my stuff in the trash and someone bumped into me, you see, and Mrs. Chugg didn’t know I dropped my lunchbox in the garbage and she yelled to keep moving and you-see-it’s-not-my-fault-Mom”. He’d said it all too fast.



Mom narrowed her eyes and Billy could see that it was indeed going to be his fault. She’d gotten harder on him in the couple years since Dad left for a pack of cigarettes, but he wasn’t sure if she expected more of him now as the man of the house or if she was just being less fair about stupid rules. She should be proud, Billy thought, as he was the only kid he knew who could make macaroni and cheese.



“Let me tell you something son. Whatever caused that lunchbox to disappear may bring punishment but lying to me” …she paused… “lying to me will bring something far worse. So spit out the truth”



Billy lapsed, mulling over his options. Mom’s sharp look contrasted with the limp nightgown she wore every night after work. Bowling, her favorite cat, twirled beneath and tried to chew on the hem; visible black fleas jumped off his back and onto her legs. She’d let herself go since Dad walked out but still put on a tough face for anyone who asked if she needed anything. ‘Not that she needed to’, thought Billy, as he was pretty much an adult by now. Mom crossed her arms and leaned against the rusted aerodynamic fridge from 1950.



“Rufus Plopton threw it all in the trash Mom”. Billy felt the sudden rush of potential tears, trying to be manly but knowing this might be his way out.



Something different happened this time. Instead of softening, asking for the whole story and then sympathizing about Rufus with anecdotes of Agatha, Mom’s expression hardened further and her next sentence came as a shock to our peaceful young protagonist.



“It’s time for you to stand up for yourself. I’ve always told you to never start a fight but there’s more to that saying: Never start a fight, always finish one”.



Billy had never fought anything bigger than a mosquito.



“Mom, I can’t beat him”



“Don’t ever tell me you can’t do something, I will not have a loser for a son. Figure out a way to win this fight once and for all Billy, make me proud”.



The poor boy was shocked. What about his cooking skills or the way he climbed all the way up the rope in gym class? Every child’s nightmare had came true for Billy in one day: a perfect piece of pizza chowed down by his nemesis, followed with a face-first dunk in the lunchtime trash can and loss of his all-time favorite lunchbox. Now his Mom hated him too.



“Bowling and the other cats need flea combing, you have five new fleas on your face since you walked in here. We’ll get this apartment fumigated next Friday when I get paid but for now grab a bucket of ice water and dump the fleas you comb in there”.



And so Billy sat, brooding and sorry for himself, wondering how he could ever take down Rufus and make his Mom proud again. Bowling purred like a freight train as hundreds of fleas were extracted and dunked. Barley, jealous of the attention, came up and used Billy’s leg as a scratching post, which caused Billy to yelp and knock the ice bucket all over the carpet.



Suddenly the fleas, seemingly drowned and motionless just moments before, began jumping in all directions like little black fireworks. Billy wailed in defeat, knowing Mom would really hate him now and life couldn’t possibly get worse. He’d probably have to go live at school and be tortured forever. Then suddenly it came to him, like a flash of blue lightning, like all great ideas: the perfect plan to beat Rufus Plopton.



You see, the only time Mr. Gorilla Pants backed off after flicking Billy on the forehead was during a previous round in the cafeteria months before. Our friendly fighter had been suffering through a rare peanut butter and jelly sandwich packed by Mom. Billy hated the brown goop and had to control his nausea whenever he flipped open Superman’s lid to the dreaded scent of mushy PB&J on white. Rufus had come up from behind and surprised Billy as he always did.



These were the days before restaurants trumpeted GLUTEN FREE or FAT FREE or LOW CALORIE trying to keep up with the latest health craze. Boring Bill in the office kitchen managed to survive a childhood spent playing outside unsupervised, where his only rule involved being home when the streetlights came on or if Mom shouted for dinner. Our grizzled veteran persevered through all those dangerous school lunches where bullies ran unchecked and there wasn’t a dedicated table for peanut allergy kids, chowing miserably on their gluten-sensitive broccoli quiche muffins.



Billy well-remembered Rufus’ look of horror at the PB&J paused halfway to gaping mouth, stuck and drooping from Billy’s fingers. Wrecking Ball Rufie muttered something about a “stupid peanut allergy” and miraculously walked away. Billy delighted in his freedom even after realizing he had to either finish the sandwich or possibly bang his hand against school trash can to unstick the glop.

Our intrepid youth bounced home that day clattering his lunchbox louder than usual, causing Mom to be suspicious about his good mood. Billy kept quiet about Rufus’ peanut allergy and had almost forgotten about it himself until this miserable evening of flea freezing.

Eureka!’ was all juvenile Billy could think, knowing he had the trick.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up” read the magnet, adult Bill gazing at it without seeing.

Up in the top cupboard sat a 5-pound jar of peanut butter, something else Mom had gotten mad about when Billy told her he didn’t like the gunky gak after she’d already bought it. The container was still mostly full and would’ve been forevermore if our picky star could’ve had everything go his way in life.

‘Desperate times call for desperate measures’, or so said the office fridge, and small Billy realized the mighty jar of peanut butter would have to be empty for a triumph over Wrecking Ball Rufie.

What if’, the youngster thought, ‘I filled that peanut butter jar with frozen fleas and dumped them into the pockets of Rufus’ jacket right before school ended? They’d come to life at his house and take it over, infecting him with peanuts! Rufus Plopton would have to move away and I’ll be king of the school!”

But how to empty the jar? Flushing 5 pounds of peanut butter might clog the toilet and Mom would surely end his life. Out of the blue, despite ‘Lightning never strikes twice’ -Proverb, young Billy was hit with another flash of inspiration.

‘I’ll have to eat all the horrible peanut butter myself and let the fleas suck my blood. Then I’ll bottle them up and they’ll be doubly infectious, ready to take down the mightiest bully who ever lived’

And so it was, the stupendous plan to beat Rufus Plopton.

That night Billy pretended to sleep as Mother kissed his forehead, unaware of the brilliance inside. He waited long after hearing her snores to slip from his bed and out of the room. It was almost 2 in the morning, the latest Billy had ever been up, but he’d never felt more awake in his entire life.

Our cunning marauder tiptoed and creaked into the kitchen for fifteen nerve-wracking minutes, finishing with a desperate stretch and fumble as the heavy container nearly fell through reaching fingers. Billy slid a spoon from the drawer with nary a clink and opened the jar. He held his nose and forced in a glob.

Dreadful. Disgusting. Deplorable. Billy took another mouthful, then another, and soon he wasn’t even plugging his nose anymore, just gutting it out like a true champion. Our lovable liberator could almost hear the cheers of his classmates and see the admiring look from Erika Trogswell beneath her blond bob haircut. Billy shoveled in peanut butter and planned what he’d write on his next valentine to Erika, about how he saved the school from Rufus Plopton and did it just for her. She didn’t know his name yet but she would.


Bowling jumped onto the counter, fleas flying in all directions, just as Billy gasped and sweated through his last spoonful of the brown sludge.

Surely this must be what death felt like. Billy could hardly breathe, stomach bloated and throat clogged, ready to blow in all directions. A strange prickly-pin sensation spread over his entire body, indicating something was not quite right. Liquid peanut butter seeped through every vein.

Comfortable old Bill shuddered at this memory, the fridge proclaiming “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever”.


Now for the easy part. Billy stroked Bowling, who thundered to life and perked his tail as they went for the chair with empty jar. Billy took off his shirt, sat down and invited Bowling up for a pet, fleas leaping all over his extraordinary exposed abdomen. There was hardly enough room on the boy’s lap for both Bowling and belly. As the nasty black nibblers chewed our gutsy superhero he gripped the chair to prevent himself from scratching.



This is where it gets a little gross. Fleas, when they suck enough blood, turn a nice plump reddish-brown and look ready to pop. Billy plucked these one by one and threw them into the jar.

Many stuck to the sides and were unable to escape. This made his job a little easier and caused Billy to smile as Bowling rumbled along. Billy didn’t know how he was going to shake the freezing fleas into Rufus’ pockets, but it was 3am by this point and the plan couldn’t stop now.

Billy eventually had a delightful collection of black and brown specks inside the JIF jar, his flaming red paunch itching something terrible. Somehow the flea supply never exhausted or even slowed, but Billy decided he’d had enough and capped his frightful tub. He carefully hid it in the freezer behind an enormous bag of vegetable medley, which ranked second only to peanut butter on Billy’s list of worst possible foods.

Our scrappy chap dragged himself to bed, much less quiet this time, and laid down scratching his flea-bitten front. Despite the long night it would be a quite while before he fell asleep, sometime after first morning light; for this was the day Billy would conquer Rufus Plopton.



“Get up Billy, it’s 7:33! This is the third time I’ve asked! What’s the matter with you this morning?”

He hadn’t heard the first two requests. Billy strained a response and attempted to raise the bowling ball attached to his pillow,  eyelids lifting almost to half-mast. He hadn’t even been this tired that one time he played tag with Phil and the guys for 8 hours straight, a feat they all agreed to be a world record.

With a FLUMPF Billy dropped face down into the embrace of well-molded pillow. His alarm blared, interrupting this sweet reunion for what seemed like the 12th time in 8 minutes. Billy reached over, deciding to crush the thing with one hand.


Suddenly the magnitude of the day slammed into our weighty contender’s mind. Had Mom noticed the flea filled container in her freezer? Surely she would’ve said something by now, possibly dumped it over his head. How would he smuggle the huge cylinder in his jacket without her noticing?

Normally by this time she was long gone to her job as a housemaid. Billy often walked himself to school without help from anyone. Today was different and this was bad.

Our fearful daredevil leapt from the bed with sudden energy, almost forgetting to put a shirt on over his boiling stomach. Billy galloped to the kitchen, knobby knees flying, looking frantically towards the freezer. It was closed.

“My goodness Billy, put on some pants. You’re running late but not that bad off”. Mom was standing over the sink washing some vegetables. She must not have work today or something.

“Mom…” trailed Billy, trying to think of a reason to get her out of the kitchen. That flea jar needed to be in a safe place and fast.

“What? Go get some pants on and comb your hair, then come eat some cereal”.

He didn’t need to be told what to do, he was only a few years away from being a teenager. White hot anger flushed up Billy’s neck, about to spill from his mouth. He wanted to take it all out on Mom, have her understand just how tired he was and that his insides felt ready to blow. She needed to realize he might die any minute. She couldn’t know anything.

Our lone ranger stalked into his room and did as he was told, fuming about the unfairness. He was getting sidetracked, this rage had to be directed towards #1 target: Rufus the Doofus. Today was the day Erika Trogswell might flutter her eyelashes at him just like the girls did in the movies.

Billy reentered the kitchen, more composed this time, and sat down to a waiting bowl of Froggy Flakes. A few hours before in this very spot he’d been in the fight of his life with 5 pounds of slop. He wasn’t hungry.

Mom strode away, wiping her hands on the ever-present gown. Billy kept his nose pointed at the cereal bowl while following her progress with his eyes. This might be it, his only chance alone in the kitchen with his frozen fleas. She was gone, time to act! Billy dropped his spoon with a clatter and dashed for the freezer.

“Bye Mom, see you later!” His backpack was still in the bedroom but no time for that now. Superman never consulted a textbook.

“Whaaaa?” was all Billy heard as he blasted out the door, shoe laces whipping everywhere, precious jar clutched in both hands.


He ran like that all the way to school, full steam, figuring if he went fast enough no one could tell what the incredible blur was carrying. Our harried hustler ground to a halt as he saw the last few kids with their backpacks tromping up the sidewalk to the front door.

He was late. It’d be impossible to sneak in this terrible tub without some suspicion. Also, he needed a freezer for the day. Fleas were coming to life inside the container, Billy could feel them bonking their heads against his hands. How would he pour them all into Rufus’ jacket without them hopping everywhere? The perfect plan was unraveling fast.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” and just then Billy noticed the back door of the cafeteria open. A lunch lady came out, carrying a trash bag towards the dumpster.

Billy never even hesitated, as if destiny were calling him through that door. From 0-60 he went, the fastest kid in the neighborhood, skidding through the side door just in time as the grub-slinging gremlin grunted with effort. He pulled the door all the way shut behind him. She was a mean lunch lady anyway.

Billy took stock of his surroundings, stainless steel everywhere and shelves tall enough to climb. He didn’t know anyone who’d been back here and would definitely brag about it to his friends, maybe even steal a cookie for them as proof. Wait, nevermind, he had a job to do and it didn’t involve food.

How the heck did he get out of here? Many muffled voices were nearby and Billy realized the cafeteria sounded very loud for a morning. Just as he stopped to ponder this oddity a flash of familiar blue pulled him towards a shelf in the corner.

His Superman lunchbox! Billy almost shouted for joy as he retrieved it, involuntarily hugging the lost treasure. Someone must’ve rescued it from the trash can! Rufus was losing in every way today. Erika would be his valentine. Superman was flying high.

It made sense to transfer the fleas to his lunchbox, as no one would suspect him carrying that around. Billy popped open Superman and nearly gagged at the smell of three day old banana peel.

He began unscrewing the lid of his deadly jar. Little buggers jumped around inside, pattering against the sides, all of them unfrozen and sensing the opportunity. Billy paused, the lid just one small turn from freeing all fleas. Maybe this was a bad idea.

“HEY KID WHAT ARE YOU DOING??”

The mean lunch lady was right behind him, looking like murder.

For the third time that morning Billy didn’t stop to think. He took off, holding the jar together with both hands, escaping death towards a set of swinging doors. Being a criminal was tough business, and just then Billy decided he might retire after this gig.

Our football superstar lowered his head and burst through the cafeteria doors at full speed, the voices he’d heard earlier suddenly becoming louder and then hushing all at once. Billy’s untied shoelaces finally caught up to him and he tripped, head over heels, flea container launching from his hands. The whole world went into slow motion as Billy soared through the air.

There, before him, sat the entire school. This morning they were announcing prize winners for the school fundraiser. Billy had forgotten. He hadn’t sold anything.

There was Mrs. Chugg standing in front of the students, finger to her lips, about to shush the crowd.

There was Erika Trogswell, first row, face scrunched in confusion at the sight of our flying superhero.

And there was Rufus Plopton, face widening into a horrible laugh. This was the best thing he’d ever seen. His smile stopped midway and turned into a silent scream as the five pound JIF jar flew right at him.


KABLAM went Billy, straight into the floor.

CLONG went the jar, right off Rufus’ head.

POP went the lid, fleas flinging everywhere.

It looked as if someone had thrown a bucket of black rice onto a wedding party. Shrieks went up as fleas landed into gaping mouths. Mass hysteria took hold as everyone itched and scratched and realized what the jumping black dots were. Stampeding students headed for the exits. Someone pulled the fire alarm.

“ORDER! ORDER!” shouted Mrs. Chugg, as if that would solve everything.

Billy looked up from the floor. He didn’t really see the big deal, as fleas don’t itch that bad.

Our small Superman was suspended, the first and last time in his life. School tried to continue the next day but fleas caused teachers to stop mid-lecture and slap themselves in the face, so the whole place shut down a week early for Christmas vacation.

Billy dreaded his return, expecting mass humiliation and ferocious new torture from Rufus and possibly other students. He might as well toilet swirlie himself at this point. By the time January rolled around, however, he was thrilled to get back to school and away from rampaging Mom with her endless chores. His hands were cramped and he might smell like a freshly cleaned bathroom for the rest of his life.

Something odd happened when Billy walked through those doors. People smiled at him, students as well as teachers; everyone except Mrs. Chugg thankful for the long holiday. Erika Trogswell stuck up her nose at him, but at least she knew who he was from that point forward. She turned out to be a mean girl anyway.

Rufus survived the flea fiasco without reaction but no longer intimidated anyone after his ear-piercing screams. Word got out about Billy’s original plan and Mr. Squealy Piggy’s allergy, and from then on every student carried a peanut in their pockets. Billy realized he should’ve told everyone this from the start and saved himself a lot of trouble. Rufus Plopton never bothered anyone again.

“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes” advised the magnet dead center on freezer door. Janine was still somehow rambling away in the background, a fresh pot of coffee just finishing its drip. Bill’s eyes crinkled into a smile as he turned away from the old office fridge.



© 2016 TwoMinuteStories-Kevin



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Author's Note

TwoMinuteStories-Kevin
Rough draft, as I'm sure everyone says, and I'm looking for feedback of any kind from people who don't share my last name. I can not get this thing to format properly.

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It is a interesting write that kept me entertained from start to finish. Thanks, for sharing. Look forward to reading more of your work. Eva

Posted 1 Year Ago



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Added on September 25, 2016
Last Updated on September 25, 2016
Tags: humor, reflections, office, modern workplace, memories, satire, childhood, bullies, peanut allergies

Author

TwoMinuteStories-Kevin
TwoMinuteStories-Kevin

Graham, NC



About
Maine-raised writer with little regard for himself and the modern workplace. more..