Friday Night Story

Project Kansas
  Ow. I rubbed my face, and when I tried to open my eyes, I realized there were poppies and blades of grass poking them. Where was I? How had I gotten here? And why did my ass hurt? Wait... my hand traced the candy curve of my hip, and my mouth fell open. There was a crack in my ass- and no, not that kind- although my fingers did come back brown and sticky. It was still early morning, and a thin fog still sat on the field- but by midday, when the sun was hottest, that crack was going to be a problem.

I heard the crinkling tin foil of movement around me. I hadn’t noticed before, but I was not alone in this field. In fact, two very large contingents were approaching from opposing sides, dressed in either red and white or red and blue. “Who be you?” I stared at the man blankly. I wanted to tell him my name was Mr. Orange, although it seemed like something I’d have stolen out of Tarantino- so I simply continued to stare. “No matter,” he said, waving his fingers through the air, “Come. Fight in the armed forces of President New Coke.” It was all very dramatically flourished until he added, “He’s still very popular with Samoans.”

From the other side, also in barrel-shaped metallic armor, the man at the head of the other group pressed forward. “Ignore that fool. The only true army is the resistance of Colonel Crystal Clear Pepsi.” I couldn’t explain it, but the mention of his leader made me thirsty.

“Where am I?” I asked, trying to point the question at both of them at once.

The New Cokesperson bent down, his can crinkling as he did so, and said, “You’re not in project Kansas anymore.”

“Leave the chocolate alone,” Commanded a man in a dark brown robe that hid all of his face save the bushy edges of thick muttonchops. None of us had seen his approach, and both drink leaders froze.

“But-” the Pepsi commander whimpered.

“He isn’t one of you, and you have no right to pressure him to fight in your ridiculous cola wars. Like most of these conflicts, it’s about the battles- and who they benefit- not about an outcome. I’m not interested in the least in your posturing. Step away from the candy. We may not organize beneath ridiculous banners, but you know well that our numbers far exceed your own. Come with me, away from here; these men are only interested in their mutual destruction.”

I took his hand and he pulled me to and then off my feet, and we were off, the mounting battle a memory sung in the ringing of clashing metals behind us. I didn’t look back, a part of me worried that by locking eyes with the combat, we’d be drawn back to it. We continued downward, out of the hills and into the deserts.

The noonday sun was beating down on me, and my feet and my shell became heavy when he turned sharply to me. “We have to hurry to shelter, before you melt out your own ass.” It was all he said, and he started again to march.

In a little more time we came to a cave, half-underground, and at least partially articulated by hand into a rudimentary home. He had set about making our supper, when light from the fire hit his face. “Wait, “I said, “I know you. I recognize you. Reese’s Peanut Butter and Banana Crème cups. Ew. No offense man, but what the hell were they thinking?”

“They were thinking,” he said, with the flair of a man who knows how to play to a crowd as well as meet criticism, “that it sounded like food fit for a king, uh-huh.”

My eyes narrowed on their own. “You’re not wearing a sequined white jumpsuit under that burlap robe, are you?”

He paused. “Uh-huh.” Hell. He was a nut- and remember, this is coming from a guy who used to pal around with a man who had a peanut for a brain- although, really, I think the only reason we hung out together was to try and get a piece of dark chocolate- or was she peanut butter? Maybe not knowing was part of the fun of the chase.

“What’re you cooking? It smells good.”

“It’s a candy shell. Slop some of that on your rear and it’ll heal up real nice.” He plopped himself down in the seat opposite me, let the hood of his robe fall back down his shoulders. “None of this is easy- but this is where all of us misfits end up. You probably had no idea you were being discontinued- no word from corporate, no press release. Now, in that other world, there are still people who swear by your brand, who’ll hoard them when they find them in outlet markets or the internet. But slowly, eventually, the last reserves of your candy will be eaten up, or spoiled by time. Old candies never die, we simply fade away.”

“So… is this some kind of Heaven?”

“If Heaven’s living next door with half-baked ideas, trying not to let them involve you in their petty squabbles, then yeah, it’s Heaven. If not, well, then I reckon it’s some other place.”

“Oh,” was all I could think to say.

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