When I was a boy, my favorite store was Sterling’s 5 & 10 on Emma Avenue. It was located next to a Mom & Pop bakery with a screen door on the front. In the summer, the tempting aroma of fresh baked pies, yeast rolls, and donuts wafted out onto the street. My highly trained olfactory senses would pick up the scent two blocks away. Captivated by this magic spell, I would lumber down the sidewalk in zombie fashion, salivating like Pavlov’s dog.
After satisfying my tastebuds with a couple of donuts and a maple bar, I would wander into Sterling’s to fondle the toys and plastic trinkets (made in Japan–not China) with my glaze-coated fingers. Once all these prize objects had been thoroughly covered in sticky fingerprints, I would purchase four or five packs of baseball cards and a nickel’s worth of bubble gum and jawbreakers. Today’s kids don’t know what they’re missing.
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An invisible cloud of noxious gas eased out the back of Darryl’s denim jeans and cascaded down the aisle, expanding in mushroom-cloud-fashion like fallout from a nuclear bomb.
Oswald Pembrook, located closest to ground zero, was the first to notice the change in atmospheric conditions. He sniffed the air, then quickly covered his nose and mouth with a handkerchief, attempting to ward off the rising effluvium. Tears streamed down his cheeks.
A look of horror swept across Beulah McGillicutty’s face. All color drained from her complexion. She stood frozen, staring into space, as if turned to a pillar of salt.
*This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or people (i.e. – Cousin Jerry, Perry Block, Kent Bonham, etc.) is purely coincidental.
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