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Gregory burst into the bedroom he shared with his two brothers, Seth and Carl. He stooped over to catch his breath as they stared at him, surprised by his dramatic entrance.
“What’s up, Greg?” Carl asked, setting down his Xbox control.
Greg flopped over onto his bed and finally gasped, “People at Jim’s Market are going crazy! Word is that they aren’t going to sell Squid Soda anymore! There is a stampede over there to get the last of it in the store.”
Seth leaped to his feet, stunned. Squid Soda had been the most delicious combination of flavors in a can ever since Watermelon Wash went out of business! He couldn’t believe it! They were getting rid of his all-time favorite drink! He couldn’t let this happen. Thoughts raced in his head. Greg was still speaking, but Seth was now focused on being the owner of the last of the Squid Soda.
Quick as a moth to a light bulb, Seth hurdled over his chair, knocking it to the floor, and sprinted to the front door and onto the street. He could hear Greg and Carl calling after him, “Seth! Where are you going?”
Where do you think I’m going? he thought and rolled his eyes. I gotta get that soda!
Jim’s Market was four and a half miles away from their house, but Seth didn’t slow down for a second. He hopped fences and ran across busy streets. His shirt tore on a lamp post. He lost a sneaker on his second mile. He practically flew through the rosebushes in a neighbor’s backyard. But on he ran, ignoring the cuts and scrapes, tears and bruises. He had Squid Soda on his mind.
When he finally arrived, the parking lot was packed. There were even cars on the sidewalk or in the grass. Their little town of Larksville loved their Squid Soda. People were burrowing their way inside like fleas.
How can I get in to the soda first? Seth looked around for an idea. His eyes fell on the fire escape that snaked along the side of the building. He easily pulled himself up and slid through the half-open window. I’m in!
The room was unlit and Seth had to wait until his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He was in the storage room. I bet there is some Squid Soda in here! he thought with glee. He quickly, but carefully moved about the room, checking each shelf for the beverage. There! In the corner sat a crate with a cross-eyed squid on the side, stamped with the label: Squid Soda.
Seth glanced around to make sure no one had come inside, then he lifted the top of the crate, and beheld…… sawdust. Sawdust! He threw the lid to the floor angrily. Someone had gotten there before him!
Suddenly the light came on! Seth spun around to face the intruder. There in the doorway stood Jim Lorenz himself, the owner of the store. Seth gulped.
“Seth? What are you doing in here?” Jim demanded, startled to find someone in his storeroom.
“I-I…well, um…” Seth stammered as he tried to come up with an excuse. “I was looking for…” His eyes fell on some packages on a shelf. “Toilet paper…” he finished lamely.
Jim glanced behind Seth at the crate. “Yeah…” Seth lowered his eyes, hoping Jim wouldn’t notice that his cheeks were on fire.
As he shuffled toward the door, Jim spoke again, “Seth, were you looking for Squid Soda?” Seth turned around and nodded eagerly. Is Jim just gonna hand some to me?
Jim reached into the large pocket on his work apron and pulled out a beautiful bottle of pure, sparkling, green Squid Soda. Seth’s eyes gleamed with greed.
“This is the last bottle, Seth.” Seth nodded, more solemnly this time, then reached out his hand to take the sacred liquid. But Jim put the bottle back into his pocket.
“You came here to steal it, Seth, therefore you will never get it. I’m giving this to Josephine Crandall.”
Josephine Crandall? “But-but… she’s not even here! I ran all the way here! I earned that soda! Miss Crandall is too old and sick to even get out of bed!”
“It is mine to give to whomever I please. It is a gift, not a prize to be earned or,” he coughed, “stolen.”
“But… but…” Seth stood there, quivering, speechless. Jim turned around and walked back out, taking the liquefied heaven with him. He turned off the light, leaving Seth in the dark once more, alone and defeated.
Fighting back tears, Seth walked back home with his head down, dragging his feet on the sidewalk. He took no short cuts, waited for the walk-signal to turn green before crossing the street, and trekked through no backyards. He dreaded returning to his brothers empty-handed. He had wanted to burst into the bedroom, as Greg has done, hold up his Squid Soda triumphantly, and laugh at their pitiful pleads and begs for a share in his bounty.
He opened the front door with difficulty; his muscles no longer wanted to obey him, as if protesting the lack of Squid Soda in their system. Plodding wearily into the kitchen, he dropped his elbows onto the counter like a sack of dishes. Dishes? Something clanked.
Looking up, he beheld two bottles of Squid Soda!
His ecstatic joy was instantaneously replaced with bitter disappointment as he made the heart-wrenching observation. Then his eyes flashed angrily. He burst into the bedroom, where Greg and Carl sat playing a video game. Carl looked up just as he slurped down the last of the third bottle of Squid Soda.
Seth was surprisingly calm. His left eye twitched dangerously. Lifting his right hand to point at the bottle, he managed to squeak, “What is that?”
Carl was confused. “This is the soda Greg brought back for us…” he said slowly. “Remember? He told you that right before you booked outta here. We figured you just wanted to get some for yourself, so we shared your bottle.”
Seth fell to his knees before the empty bottle. He scooped it up and cradled it in his arms.
Without taking his eyes off the bottle, he said, “Hey, guys?”
Greg answered cautiously, “Yeah?”
“You might want to get out of here before I snap and hurt you beyond repair.”
Carl raised one eyebrow questioningly at Greg, who responded by motioning toward the door with his head. As one, the two brothers jumped up and fled the room, with Seth on their heels, hollering at them at the top of his lungs.