Goody-Goody Gum Drops!
“Ugh, Katie, you should brush your teeth, gross! And your eyes! Too bad Mom won’t let you put on makeup!”
“Delete that, right now, Matt! I hate it when you take my picture and use those stupid filters! Give it to me! Give, right now!”
“No, I’m keeping this one.”
“Stop calling me that, it’s a girl’s name.”
“Give me your phone so I can delete the photo and every other dumb one in your gallery, Mattie.”
“Mom says you can’t call me that, and I can keep them because they’re art!”
“Art? You took a photo of Dad’s nose hairs when he was sleeping and made them into octopus tentacles. Now give me your phone, or I’ll erase Minecraft from your tablet, forever!”
Matt looked like he’d seen a ghost. “You wouldn’t . . . I built an entire village on Survival mode!”
“Then, give it, now!” Katie grabbed the phone, but her younger brother tried to pull it away. The phone flew out of his hand and landed near the gumball machine at the front of the grocery store.
“You’re in big trouble! I’m telling Mom you broke my phone!”
“I hope it’s broken ‘cause you won’t get another. I’ll tell her that you’re making those stupid pictures again. You’re not supposed to take pictures of me, remember?”
Matt ran to get the phone and Katie went after him, but he got there first.
“You’re lucky it’s not broken,” Matt said. “What are you looking at? Oh . . . the purple gumballs.” He rolled his eyes.
Katie looked over her shoulder nervously. Wendy Grayson, the cashier, who was six years older than Katie, was busy ringing customers through. She turned back to Matt.
“Make you a deal. Get me a gumball and you can keep the photo.” She tried to sound nice, just like Stephanie Moore, who was mean, but could be nice when she wanted Katie to fix something on her phone.
Matt crossed his arms and frowned. “Got any money? I don’t, so how are we gonna get one?”
Katie smiled at him. “You’re smart, I know you can figure it out.”
Matt shook his head and yelled. “That’s stealing! You want me to steal a gumball for you! And not just any gumball, a purple one!”
“Shh! The store gets them for a penny each and sells them for a quarter! Who’s stealing?”
Matt looked uncertain, obviously he wanted the photo but didn’t want to steal. Mom was still somewhere in the store, probably looking at gross broccoli, eww! The car was too hot to sit in and Mom didn’t want to leave it running, so they had no choice but to come inside. They’d been told to wait by the cash.
Katie spotted Mrs. Perkins paying for her twenty cans of cat food. Nothing but Fancy Feast for her kitty’s. Honestly, the amount of money she spent on them, could have paid for a summer’s worth of coding bootcamp. She watched the old woman pay with cash, not even debit! Who uses cash anymore, except for, yes!
“Hey Matt, I’ve got an idea.”
Mrs. Perkins walked towards them, her reusable bag with the picture of a kitten hanging by its paws from the top of the bag. Kind of cute, just too much, thought Katie.
She whispered, “Okay, just look at her and smile, but kinda look sad, like someone just wiped Minecraft off your tablet. Matt! Get off your phone.” The brat didn’t answer so she gave him a swat across the back of his head.
“Shush! Smile, but look sad, remember?”
The cat lady smiled at them. “Well, I thought I saw your Mom, too far away to say ‘Hi’ to, though. I bet you’re glad school’s out for the summer. What are you guys up to, going to the cottage again?”
“Ya! Gonna rent a boat and hook a tube to the back and—ouch!” Matt rubbed his arm where Katie had pinched him. This kid had the memory of a goldfish.
Mrs. Perkins frowned. “Katie?”
“Um, sorry Matt. He had a mosquito on his arm, and well, I thought pinching would be better than slapping.”
Matt gave her an angry look but put on a smile and looked at Mrs. Perkins. “Um, I was wondering if I could, um, have a quarter for a gumball.”
Mrs. Perkins smiled at him. “Why don’t you ask your Mom?”
“She always pays with debit, never has any change,” Katie said quickly. It wasn’t lie.
The old woman gave him a wink. “Alright Matt,” she looked at Katie. “I’m sorry but this is my last one, are you okay with that? Maybe you could split it in half?”
Split a gumball in half? Have you ever tried that, Perkins? They squish! Katie thought, but said, “Oh no, I’m fine. Matt is the sweet tooth.”
Matt scowled at her but took the quarter and thanked Mrs. Perkins.
Once she left, Matt inserted the money and turned the handle. He gestured to the small door in the machine. “Your gumball, princess.”
Katie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Please be purple! She opened them and lifted the door. Pink!
“Oh brother.” Matt slapped his forehead. “Just take it, Katie, they all taste the same. Color is not a taste!”
“You want it?” She held the gumball out to him.
“Oh alright.” He grabbed it, stuffed it into his big mouth and chewed loudly.
Katie cringed at the sound but needed to be polite and remained silent. She looked at the cash but didn’t recognize anyone in line. Too weird to beg for change from strangers. She looked around for another idea and saw the deli section where you could get pre-made soups, salads, and sandwiches. None of those interested her, but the little kits of plastic utensils did. They didn’t cost anything you could just go up and grab one. After telling her cow chewing brother to stay put, she went over and quickly stuffed one into the pocket of her purple shorts.
When she got back to Matt, she handed the kit to him. “Use one of these. The knife will probably work best, try it first.”
“Really? No, Katie, this is bad, we’re gonna get caught, and—”
“What? Go to Candyland jail? They don’t put kids in jail. Just do it quickly, I see a purple one at the bottom.” She looked over her shoulder, then back to him. “No one’s watching, do it now.”
Matt sighed but bent over and stuck the knife into the dispenser.
Katie bent down and watched as the knife appeared in the plastic bubble. “That’s it, you see the purple one, just above the orange? Just keep wiggling the knife and push that one out of the way. You should be able to get the purple to drop. The blade moved farther up, the tip touched the desired gumball but then came a loud snap and the knife stopped moving.
“It broke! See, I told you this was a bad idea!” Matt whispered. “I’m done with this. I’m going to tell Mom.”
“Tell her what? You’re just as guilty. Now take the fork and use it.” Katie tried to control her voice. Her imagination began to show pictures of Candyland jail, but without the candy cane bars. They were into this too far now. How do you explain a plastic knife stuck in a gumball machine? It had to come out and it might as well take a gumball with it.
The fork snapped and became stuck in the evil machine, too.
Matt stepped away from the machine and looked really scared. Katie was also afraid but couldn’t show it. Just walk away. She couldn’t because the ends of those things stuck out from the gumball machine.
“Get them out of there, right now Matt!” She whispered. “No, don’t look around, whatever you do! No, don’t look at me like that, use your fingers.”
Matt puffed his reddening cheeks but grabbed the ends of the fork and knife. He tried to yank them out.
“What are you two doing?” Mom’s voice came from behind.
Matt froze and looked wide eyed over Katie’s shoulder.
Busted. Katie stepped away so Mom could get a clear view of Matt with his fingers in the gum machine.
“Wha- I mean what is that? Are those? Are you trying to steal?” Mom was angry. “Matt Jarvis, I raised you better than that! I’m extremely disappointed in you! And Katie, were you part of this?”
She couldn’t look at Mom, instead she caught Matt’s eye, but looked away and shook her head.
“Okay Matt, you’re in big trouble. We’re going to get those things out of the gum dispenser, then you’re going to tell Mr. Williams what you did and apologize. Oh, and one more thing, give me your phone. You’re going to lose it for a month.”
Matt gave his sister an angry look. “It was Katie’s idea!”
“I know, and she’s going to lose her tablet for a month. But just because someone tells you to do something bad, doesn’t mean you’re innocent. You’re phone, now.”
Matt handed his phone over. He squinted at Katie and mouthed, “I hate you.”
Katie had felt bad for him but that was gone. She was being punished and he’d said that awful thing. “I’m sorry, Mom, but Matt took photos of me, again.”
“Well, I’ll have a look and delete them. You’re going to apologize too, by the way.”
“Yes, Mom.” Her back was to her Mom and Matt was still staring at her, so she crossed her eyes and stuck her tongue out at him.
“Mom! She just—”
“Don’t want to hear it. Just do as I said.”
Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman’s childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He was also an avid reader of both fiction and non.
Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this “country boy” to life in the big cities.
Drawing on his many experiences as a private investigator and later a Correctional Officer, Mark combines his unique experiences and imagination to create his stories and characters.
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