Sammy Crabtree threw a Red Bull out of the window of his big white van, punching the roof. “I’m rollin’ down the highway!” His head rocked, heart pumping. “Nothin’ is gonna get in my way!” Knuckles were starting to hurt now. He drummed the steering wheel instead.
All of it was surging inside his chest. He huffed, blowing it out slowly. Had to keep the buzz going. Can’t lose it now. Help him if he lost it now. He turned onto Pegleg Park.
“I’m burnin’ down the highway. . .”
He parked under the lamplight. Then rolled away from it. Then reversed back under the lamp. Then rolled forward again. He shook his leg, adjusting the mirror. They all swung and hopped and climbed and yelled around the tiny ship. Sammy was the only one watching.
He waited for them to make the first move. Twenty-minutes. No, fifteen-minutes, he thought. If they don’t come in fifteen-minutes, then I can’t. . . shit.
One boy hung by the jolly roger, pointing to the van. Sammy tilted the mirror away, but he still heard. “LOOK! IT’S THE CANDYMAN!”
Sammy cut the engine. “Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. . .” Crawled to the back, kicking the boxes, he opened the doors. He set up shop. They all came running for him. “Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. . .” He stopped because he didn’t want to swear in front of the children.
Remembering the boy’s blue watch from three weeks ago, he built customer rapport. “Hey Charlie, how are the monkey bars today?”
“Michael is a little tied up at the moment. But I’m keeping an eye on his turf for him. What can I do for you?”
“Got any Marshcups?” Charlie said.
“Of course.” Sammy threw them at the boy. He craned his neck over. The girl had pigtails. . . Eva? Yeah, it was Eva. “Hey Eva, would you like your pink lemonade Gopps, or do you want to try something new?”
“What do you got?”
“Well, if citrus is what you’re after, I have a roll of Orange Rope, but if you just want the quick rush I got Cinny Twists. You want the Cinny Twists? Yeah? Alright then.”
Sammy passed them along, candy surfing over their hands. Square glasses was next, George. He wanted Peanut Eggs.
Braces, Tina— Capin’ Salty’s Salt Water Taffy.
Awkward buzzcut, Jake— Sour Sauce.
Earring, Benny— Nuke ‘ems.
Earrings, Becky— Nutso bar.
Round glasses— Honey Swirls.
Spiked bracelet— Tropical Jelly Beans.
Light-up shoes— Mintos.
Elephant gumball ring— Loco Cocos.
Sammy tossed the empty box. “Wow, you guys really know how to clear them out,” he said, but they didn’t listen. They kept on chewing. He checked the clipboard, crossing through the quota:
- Giveaway (at least):
- X 1. Mintos
- X 2. Loco Cocos
- X 3. Marshcups
- X 4. Honey Swirls
Sammy’s hand hovered over the paper, neck sweaty. He flapped his hoodie. They all kept on chewing. He turned the page:
- Take (at least):
- One B (between 12 and 19)
Charlie was chewing, then he saw. “Hey? Where you goin’?”
Sammy shut one door. “Have a nice night. I’ll see you. . . Goodbye.” He shut the other.
He sped to the exit. The sweat leaked down, eyes stinging. Buzz was definitely dying now, but the heart kept going. He belched, acid in his throat. Punching the roof again, Sammy Crabtree was straight up not having a good time.
The van went down the avenues, neon letters passing over his eyes. His neck stretched in-and-out of the window. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. . .
He found the orange letters. Firewater.
The guy spun around, lifted his bottle. “Hey, Sammy! What’s up?”
He kept rolling, slowly. “Oh, not much. I was just doing my thing—well, I’m finished now, actually. I was just on my way home. You?”
“My thing.” He swished the bottle. “How’s the job treatin’ you?”
“Well.” Sammy giggled. “The job treats me just fine.” Cleared his throat and giggled at the same time. “Hey, I wouldn’t be taking you away from anything right now, would I?”
“Great, because I got some. . . the boss calls it ‘Grown up Candy,’ in the back. Want to give it a shot?”
Nathan wobbled around, crawled in. The box clinked when he ran his hands over it. “Man, you got the glasses and everything?”
“The boss only wants the best,” Sammy said.
“Yeah, you know it's good when it comes in a bag.” He pulled the string, struggled to twist the cap off. It got on his jeans at first, but Nathan managed to pour the caramel liquid into the glass. “Hey, don’t you want any?”
“I’ll have some when we get to my place. I gotta drive, you know?”
“Oh, Sammy, Sammy, Sammy, Sammy, always got to be the ‘sponsible one.” He finally swigged. “Don’t think I don’t remember the time you took me home after graduation.”
“But you don’t remember it.”
“I remember just fine. Most jerks would’ve done funny things to me while I was sleepin’. You didn’t. You—” He burped. “You are a kind man, sir.”
Sammy adjusted the mirror, held up an invisible glass in his hand. “Thanks, Nate. I’ll take a drink to that.”
Nate slurred on and on about the good old days until he snored. Sammy stopped to screw the cap back on, one-third gone. Ten more miles, then he parked in the garage at the edge of the field. He waited. At least, he won’t know. Better like this. He won’t know.
Light poured in when the door opened. Mr. B's yellow glove came around Nate’s shoulders, his head dropping, hitting the wall. Eyes twitched. Sammy gripped the wheel.
He saw. For a brief flash, Nate saw the black net hanging over Mr. B's face. Maybe he heard the buzzing, but he definitely saw. Flash of fear, his eyes flared at the syringe.
It pierced the neck. The eyes fluttered. Then limp. Mr. B dragged him out.
Eddy knocked on the window, lollipop hanging in his mouth. Sammy looked out the windshield but rolled it down.
“Buen trabajo,” Eddy said, “the boy looks muy fuerte.”
Eddy tugged on his blazer, swirly lollipops all over it. “Santi, I got to say that I amo your hair. Tell me, are you a rubio natural?”
“Walgreens closes in half an hour,” Sammy said, “and my mom’s immune system isn’t getting any less shitty. Hand it over.”
“¡Bien! ¡Bien! I was just asking a question.” Eddy stuck his hand out, and Mr. B put a box into it. The cash was stacked on top. “Here you go.”
Sammy ran his thumb through the twenties, weighed the box. “What’s this?”
“Consider it part of your promoción. Buenas noches, mi niño.”
Eddy wrapped his arm around Mr. B, whispering under the buzzing. Sammy sped out of there. Barely made it to the pharmacy in time. Took it slow on the way home since mom should be sleeping. He parked, stepped out, but saw the box in the passenger side. Bad idea, but it was best to get Eddy’s games over with as quickly as possible. He tore in.
A little suit with swirly lollipops lay in the box.