Here's a game you can play anytime, if you're a big old writing nerd, or all the power in the whole world has suddenly gone out, and you're stuck in an elevator with two kids and four adults and no cell phone. Ok, it's a game that used to be popular, but since the invention of Pac Man, its popularity has gone down. It's a great exercise for learning how to stretch your mind to write about anything, on the fly. The idea is, you come up with a list of words of a theme. Since it's Easter weekend, I played it with Easter themed words. Then you write a short story using those words. But, the catch is, you don't want to use them in the obvious way. In fact, the less obvious way you can use them, the better. My list was:
- jelly beans
- hot cross buns
So, if you said the bunny brought you jelly beans and chocolate in your Easter basket, you would lose. (There's no prize here. Just bragging rights.) You have to use all the works in your list, and you have to tell a complete story, the more compelling, the better.
Chocolate Lab Tastes the Rainbow, Girls Taste Conviction
This is the story behind that odd headline.
"Two chicks made off with all the beans." Garza insisted, but Officer Peter wasn't buying it. He pressed for the details.
"You mean they took all the money in the daily deposits, but didn't take anything from the till, or the vault. Then they took the candy from the treat bowl, and just walked out, and you did nothing to stop them?"
"I did my job. I made sure I put one of them dye packs in the bag when she was having me stuff all the small bills in there."
"What were their names, these two mysterious chicks?"
"Bunny and Lily, they said when they came in. I think they were in the acting business, if you know what I mean." Jesus Garza laughed at his own joke and rubbed his enormous gut. "But no, really, that's what they said. I figured they was lying."
Peter knew he should just write it up and let the town's only detective handle it the way he usually did, by ignoring it until the victim had given up on it. But he had a real bee in his bonnet on this one, for some reason. It may have been the fact that the bank was right across the street from his own apartment building, or it may have been the fact that it was Easter, and he had to leave the company picnic to check out the robbery. Instead of sharing wieners and potato salad, he was eating a cold sausage egg roll from the 7-11. He asked the security guard for the video surveilance footage and was unsurprised when he was informed that the system did not work properly, and the only functioning camera was aimed at the teller, not the customers. Everything in this neighborhood was falling apart.
After an hour wasted, collecting what little evidence there was and taking statements from the only three employees present at the time of the robbery, Officer Peter called it a closed case as far as he was concerned, and headed out. He was too late for the picnic, and the wife was visiting family, so he would be on his own for dinner. He radioed dispatch to let them know he was going off the clock. Nobody cared. It was Easter Sunday and the world's most pitiful bank robbery had been the only crime reported that whole day. He swung into Piggly-Wiggly. He'd get a canned ham and a tub of potato salad. Sunday afternoon, on a holiday, meant the store was mostly deserted. He grabbed a basket and headed for the deli. Someone else was in the store, their cart squeaking as they rolled down the aisle the other side of the bread and crackers. Half the lights were off and the meat counter was closed, but the display cases held a cheery selection of amateurish Easter themed cakes, half off. He grabbed a plastic container of mustard potato salad and went in search of the canned hams. The squeaky cart had made its way around to the next aisle.
There on the floor was the cashier, a surrounded by petroleum jelly and baby wipes, aspirin and tampons. He squatted beside her, his heart thumping. She was breathing, but unconscious. "Are you alright Kelly?" He saw her name on her badge, but he would have known it anyway. He had known her for what seemed like forever. She had worked here for years, and in all that time, he had never known her to have fainting spells. She responded to a touch on her shoulder.
"Who hit me?" She said, groggily, while turning over.
"I don't know." Officer Peter kept his voice low and steady. "What's the last thing you remember?"
"Oh, some lady came in here with her dog, asking for help finding something. You know, those patches for aches and pains? He just got some in, Icy Hot. I tried one just last week and they work a charm for the menstrual cramps."
Officer Peter shushed her with his hands. Where had that squeaky wheeled customer gotten to? "A lady with a dog?"
"Oh yeah, one of them helper dogs for people with anxiety and such. Oh, it was a beautiful dog, a chocolate lab. Real sweet. I gave him a treat. I always give them a treat, if the owner don't mind. I never do if they say not to. You help me up, ok, Cotton?"
Officer Peter bristled at the childhood nickname, but gave her a hand getting up from the floor. "And, do you think she's the one that hit you?"
"What? Oh, no. She was a sweet girl, new in town. Tiny little waist. Said she strained a muscle, but I could tell it was the menstrual cramps."
"How's that?" Peter asked, straining to hear the sound of a squeaking wheel that seemed to be coming from a far corner of the store.
"Because she kept holding her belly and she was cross as anything. I think the hormones had her in a terrible state. I was gonna suggest some Pamprin too, but she said she just needed the patches, and something for her dog."
"Her dog had a sprained muscle too?" The squeaking had stopped.
"No." Kelly gave him a sarcastic look of the sort only older ladies who have known you their whole lives can cast. "He was having a bit of tummy troubles, she said. But you know, he seemed right chipper to me, tail wagging, head high, and he took that treat like he was starving for it. She wanted castor oil. I told her castor oil's no good for dogs. But she said she heard on the intertubes. They all hear things on the intertubes these days."
Peter walked her to the front of the store to have a sit down and suggested she go to the clinic for a check up, just to be sure she hadn't gotten a concussion, but she wasn't having it. That's when the fire alarms went off. "I better check on that." His hand naturally found the gun at his waist, but he resisted the urge to draw it.
"Oh, that's just the back door. If a customer opens it, the alarm sounds."
"Why would a customer be opening it?" He didn't wait for the answer. He skidded as he rounded the cold case where the beer was sold on any other day of the week, and pounded down the aisle toward the fire exit, with it's pulsing red light.
Two girls stood in the alley, the cart with the ill dog between them. He tried to spring on them and lost his footing, falling on his buns in the gravel. He looked up to see they weren't trying to run. One of them was bent over at the waist and groaning. The other clutched the harness of a chocolate lab who was cheerfully licking her face.
"Bunny and Lily?"
The standing girl shrugged. "What's it to you?"
"I need to talk to you. You were at the bank earlier."
"So what? That's not illegal. You can't prove we did anything wrong."
Officer Peter noticed the shopping bag, crumpled in the seat of the grocery cart. "May I see what's in your bag?
The girl shrugged. "It's empty, help yourself."
Peter checked it. Sure enough, empty. "Is your friend alright?"
"Lilly's fine. She gets a nervous stomach is all."
Peter decided he should take them all to the office. He would need help questioning them anyway. He suggested Bunny take the dog out of the cart.
"He's feeling poorly." She complained, but when he insisted, she complied. The dog promptly ran away. "See what you did! It's all your fault!"
Peter apologized, but was firm. "I'll call animal control. You two can come with me."
"No, we have to get him back right now!" Bunny shrieked, and took off after her dog.
Lily didn't look likely to take off on him, so he followed her friend in her pursuit of the dog. Down alleys and up streets, the dog gave no indication of feeling poorly, or being tired of the game. Having two humans chasing him seemed something he wanted to do all day. He had probably never had such fun. It wasn't until they found themselves in a narrow alcove between the back of the bank, and a fence behind Smitty's garage, that the cursed cur finally stopped, but it was only to do his doggy business.
And that was how Officer Peter sealed the case against Bunny and Lily in the case of the Easter Sunday bank heist.
Jesus Garza had put the dye packs in with the other cash, just as he had said. And the girls, being rather undisciplined girls, had been tempted to steal the jelly beans from the customer treat dish, which they tossed into the same bag.
Lily groaned as the doctor advised her that the dye, while nauseating, was not poisonous. She would live. Across town, an hour earlier, Bunny groaned as her beautiful chocolate lab dropped a pile of colorful dumplings, the remnants of the meal he had made of the bag's entire contents, dye, candy, and cash. Officer Peter just smiled and patted his head. "Good doggy." It was a good Easter, after all.