And without further ado, "Meet Chuck."
A shiny, black beetle scuttled across the linoleum flooring at an alarming pace, flailing its legs as quickly as it could; it was in open territory and needed even the smallest amount of a refuge that it could find. Then, there it was. A shadow caused by an industrial sized metal shelf appeared ahead, so the beetle made a mad dash into hiding. Unfortunately for the beetle, however, Tilly Montreau, a precocious child of six, was watching its every move. Before the bug could escape from her gaze, she placed a plump little hand in its path. The bracelet that she wore clicked quietly against the floor. Its blue beading was scratched and the clasp was nearly broken from several years of constant wear, yet Tilly never took it off because it was a gift from her father before he left for the Vietnam War. He never returned.
Tilly picked up the beetle with her round fingers and held it in her palm while she stared at it with her intense green eyes. She had gotten those eyes from her father who was a good looking man, robust and healthy. His Irish descent had given him fire red hair and eyes that sparkled like the greenest emerald anyone had ever seen. Not only looks made him attractive, though. He was a loving man, unafraid to show his love for his family. Before he was killed in battle he had sent one letter every day to them. Sometimes, he had even sent two.
Just as Tilly was about to experiment with the insect’s anatomy, her mother called her.
“C’mon, Tilly, stop dawdlin’. We don’t have all day, y’know,” she chided. Tilly’s mother had always been beautiful. Indeed, she was much like wine; she improved with age. Every fine wrinkle that formed on her face added to her gracefully wise appearance, and every grey hair made her look as if a light halo surrounded her glorious face. When her family received the notice of her father’s untimely death, her mother became unattractive for nearly a year. There was no grace in her step, no cheerfulness in her demeanor. She appeared plain even to those who knew her previously. Her beauty returned, though, after a while.
Tilly stood up and carried the beetle over to her mother, “Meet Chuck,” she said while motioning to the insect.
The mother shrieked in disgust, “Put that thing down!”
Tilly’s bottom lip quivered. “But—" she objected. Her mother gawked at the repulsive insect in horror until Tilly carefully laid the bug on the ground. Once it was free, the bug joyfully disappeared under a shelf.
While Tilly mourned for the loss of her dear friend, Chuck the Beetle, her mother continued shopping and stopped at a shelf full of spices where she began muttering about cilantro and how to make some sort of sauce. Her fingers glanced over each bottle of spice, and she soon became so entranced by her shopping that she did not even notice that her daughter was gone.
Standing by the cart watching her mother shop for spice had bored Tilly, so she made her way to the adjacent aisle where the cookies were. Sweets were a much more enjoyable thing to shop for. Just as she was reaching to grab a pack of her favorite brand of cookies, a loud BANG echoed throughout the store followed by a bloodcurdling scream and several inaudibly harsh shouts. Tilly was too young to know for sure, but she could have sworn that the bang sounded like a gunshot.
Interested in the origin of the sound, Tilly made her way to the front of the store, but before she got there, she heard her mother calling out to her.
“Tilly? Tilly, where are ya?” she called. Her voice sounded strangely frightened.
Tilly nearly went to her mother, but her curiosity got the better of her and she made her way once again to the front of the store. As she walked up the aisle, she noticed that it was deserted. Where had everyone gone? It gave her an eerie feeling. She would have turned around and gone back to her mother, but she was much too intrigued at that point to turn back. Tilly was near the edge of the aisle
when another shot rang out, much closer this time, and a box of Cheerios exploded to her left. Tilly’s first reaction was to duck to the ground, her hands over her head.
The shot was immediately followed by “Get away from me, you dirty Jap!” The oddly familiar voice was old and worn but full of malice and rage. Tilly crawled forward and saw the man who was responsible for the disturbance. She was quite surprised to see her next door neighbor, Mr. Vetran, a bedraggled looking old man with a hatchet-like nose with a very sharp point at the end of it. His dark hair was matted to his forehead, and his eyes were small and beady despite their clear blue color. He was wearing a beat up pair of work boots, orange pants with several rips in them, and a dirty t-shirt that could have possibly been white at one time. He looked as if he had not showered in weeks.
A woman to his left attempted to calm him by speaking to him in a soothing fashion, but his mind was bent on war. He meant to kill. In his mind, everyone that approached him was a possible enemy.
“Mr. Vetran,” she said softly, “Put the gun down, Charles.”
Mr. Vetran’s eyes flared with terrifying hate as he shot the woman in the stomach. She collapsed to the floor in a heap; no one moved to help her. Fearfully, Tilly inched forward to hide behind a cardboard display of melons. Was this what father would have been like if he had returned from the war? Maybe it was better that he did not come back. Tilly hid without being seen by anyone and found a hole in the cardboard through which to spy safely on Mr. Vetran. She felt like a real secret agent.
Tilly’s imagination was permanently halted when her mother ran toward Mr. Vetran asking about her missing daughter.
“Mr. Vetran, have you seen Tilly? I can’t find her anywhere,” she cried. Her face had an expression that Tilly had never seen before. She was about to respond when Mr. Vetran whipped around to face her mother and delivered a blow to her mother’s temple hard enough to knock her unconscious. Like the previous woman, her mother fell to the ground. Mr. Vetran then opened fire on the whole store. It was not until the police arrived that he stopped shooting, and even then they were forced to shoot him in the thigh to force him to acquiesce to their requests to cease fire.
As the police began securing handcuffs around his wrists, Mr. Vetran seemed to be jerked back into reality. He was not overseas. He was not in danger. He did not need to defend himself. The scene in front of him was gruesome: several people, his friends and neighbors, were lying on the ground, some of them mortally wounded. Those wounds were his doing. All of the sudden, Charles Vetran fell to his knees with an uplifted head streaming with tears, “Lord, forgive me, for I know not what I have done!”
With that, the police picked him off the floor and dragged his limp body out of the grocery store, tears still falling from his eyes. People began to stir as he and the officers walked out through the door. Among those stirring was Tilly’s mother. She sat up, completely unaware of where she was. Then she remembered: Mr. Vetran had hit her with his gun. Tilly was missing.
The mother stood up and looked around the store. Tilly was not in sight among the bodies. Just as she heaved a sigh of relief, her eyes were directed to a damaged melon display with several bullet holes in it. She unleashed a horrified scream at the sight of a pudgy little hand with a worn bracelet around the wrist appearing on the floor behind the display.END
And that's that. Wahooey.
P.S. Today's exercise is going to be posted at 2pm. Come back for a visit! :)