The trail of pickle juice dribbled away from the packed refrigerator, through the freshly scrubbed hallway and across the glittering foyer, stopping at the living room arch where it continued to drip from Charlie's elbow onto the floor. Charlie didn't notice; he was watching his cousin Leo vacuum the living room rug. The offending pickle, gripped in his small, grubby fist and poised for the next bite, had been entirely forgotten.
"Stupid vacuum cleaner," Leo yelled allowing himself to be pulled theatrically across the floor, "the brake doesn't work!"
It was Saturday morning, Mardi Gras day, and the whole family had converged upon Charlie's house to finish preparations for the evening's event. The downstairs was finished except for the vacuuming and everyone else was on the upper floors scrubbing bathrooms and changing sheets for the overnight guests.
"THUD!" Leo did a spectacular bellyflop and pulled the vacuum cleaner canister on top of himself.
"THUNK...Zzzzt!" He writhed under the roaring appliance whipping the suction tube in all directions. Charlie licked the pickle, spellbound.
All at once, Leo rolled onto his knees and gripped the hose right next to his face.
"No...NO! Aaaaaa! It's got my head!"
Leo lay on the floor shaking, the vacuum cleaner hose suctioned to his forehead. Charlie watched, every muscle poised to spring.
"Okay, my head is stuck in a vacuum – now what do I do? Think Sugarman. Think, think..."
"I'll help!" Charlie blurted, running to his side. Leo looked up in surprise then grabbed Charlie's arm desperately.
"Picklemuncher! Thank God you've come. What do we do?" Charlie thought hard.
"I know!" he said, holding the pickle in his mouth and reaching for a connection between two pieces of hose. Quickly, he twisted the hose apart, jammed the pickle in, and twisted the pieces back together again.
"BULGE-GURGLE-GLUG." Leo pulled the hose away from his forehead leaving a big, red circle above his nose.
"You've done it Picklemuncher! Sugarman's back in business!"
"Yesss!" Charlie crowed, jumping up and down.
Suddenly, the vacuum burped, then bellowed furiously, the motor screeching and the hose making a frantic Thp-Thp-Thp sound.
Charlie looked at Leo fearfully. Leo grabbed him and pulled him behind the couch.
"GULP! Be brave little cupcake," Leo whispered.
"What is it?" Charlie whispered back.
"It's a flock of 'em, a whole flock of vacuum cleaners..."
"What're we gonna do?" Charlie asked, eyes wide.
"Sugarman's got it under control. Stay right here..."
Leo collapsed onto his stomach and army-crawled laboriously across the floor, grunting and sweating while the vacuum roared. At last he reached the table by the wall and inched underneath. Finally, arm extended, writhing and straining to reach, he pulled the plug; the vacuum cleaner went dead. Leo flopped, exhausted, onto his back.
"Electricity, Picklemuncher. You can always pull the plug."
Charlie nodded solemnly and together they crawled to the vacuum to retrieve the pickle.
"Sugar rules," Leo said with satisfaction.
"Yeah,"Charlie agreed, "Sugar rules."
YOU ARE READING
Mad Tom Winter: Gray ManGeneral Fiction
Maurice Diggersby, the handyman at Mad Tom Farm, likes to see that things are done right, and keeping things up and running on an estate that houses four generations of one eccentric family is no small task. When odd things go missing and mysterious...