News At Noon
By Perry Terrell
Chucky Granger’s mom and dad won enough money at the Golden Strike Casino to buy a house in the suburbs. It wasn’t the finest house out there, but it was a thousand percent better than the three room apartment they were living in on Mission Street in the city.
They moved next door to Mia August and her family who had been in the same house since her parents got married twenty-five years ago. Their house wasn’t the finest either, but it was par for the rest of the community.
At first glance, when Chucky saw Mia, he knew she was the girl for him. He had never had a girlfriend before, but Mia was so pretty and friendly, he felt she would be a perfect first.
The only thing was that Chucky had not been a really good boy and some of his past aggressions were still being talked about on the news.
Chucky and some of his friends had been going to different stores in the mall, grabbing merchandise and running out. Most of the Security Guards were senior citizens with no guns and could not run fast enough to catch them. But some of the cameras positioned in certain places caught their actions and pictures. Even though they had on hooded jackets and sweaters, he knew someone that really knew them would recognize their faces. But no one had come forward yet.
After he and Mia introduced themselves to each other, they started spending time together. They would meet around noon and Mia would walk him around the neighborhood and point out who lived where, and the best places to go and hang out. They would stop at the local mom and pop coffee shop and buy a snack that was enough to hold them until dinner at home.
At the mom and pop coffee shop, which was called Jim and Edna’s Coffee Café, patrons could come in and play games. They also had an area outside in the back where they had a ping pong table for their guests.
Chucky and Mia loved to play games together, so they made Jim and Edna’s Coffee Café their place everyday for the whole summer. It was a safe place to be as Jim was Mia’s mom’s brother. So her parents knew where she was everyday because Uncle Jim never failed to mention it when he visited which was nearly every day because they also lived next door to Mia.
Mia had a peanut allergy and unbeknownst to her, she had eaten some French Fries cooked in peanut oil at Jim and Edna’s. They had hired a new cook to help out for the summer because all the kids loved their place as a hang out because of the games. They were very busy and loved every minute of it.
While having to cook so much extra food during the day, especially fries for the kids, they ran out of cooking oil and sent the new employee to the grocery store to buy some more. The new employee, Jackie Baker, was not a real cook, so she just grabbed the first bottle of oil she saw on the shelf, which was peanut oil. She thought cooking oil was just cooking oil and didn’t notice what kind it was because it looked like all the rest of the cooking oil to her.
When she got back to the restaurant, she dumped the oil in the vat and cooked some more fries because there were five more orders on the rack and they were falling behind.
It was not until closing that Aunt Edna noticed the empty bottle of peanut oil on top of the trash when she was taking it outside. She told Uncle Jim that she hoped Mia hadn’t eaten any of the fries that were cooked in the peanut oil because she would need to be rushed to the hospital. Uncle Jim didn’t know what time Mia stopped eating fries during the day, but he also hoped she hadn’t had any of the fries cooked with the peanut oil.
When Jim and Edna closed the café for the evening and headed home, they passed the ambulance taking Mia to the hospital. Then they knew she had eaten some of those fries cooked in the peanut oil. They were devastated, but there was really nothing they could do. However, they did turn around and go back to the restaurant, dumped out all of the oil they had left and made sure no more peanut oil was on the premises. They then went to the corner store and bought all of the vegetable oil that was on the shelf.
Chucky didn’t know that Mia was rushed to the hospital because the ambulance did not put on their sirens. He was in his room which was on the side of their house that was not next to Mia’s house. Besides, he had his headphones on listening to music.
Bright and early Friday morning, he thought Mia would want to go to the coffee café early so they would not have to wait in line to play ping pong. When he went over to see if Mia wanted to go, her mom told him what had happened. He asked if he could see her for a minute and they let him in.
Mia’s face and lips was still swollen and it was obvious that she couldn’t go anywhere, so Chucky decided to stay and keep her company. He and Mia decided to listen to music while watching television. Time was passing slow at first, then started passing fast. Then he noticed it was noon and the news was on. The headliner showed some of his friends from the city still doing their grab and run routine in the downtown mall. Then they showed past incidents and was still asking people that recognized those kids to please come forward.
Chucky saw himself on the news and was hoping that Mia had not noticed. Her parents had seen the news, came into Mia’s room and asked him if he knew of any kids grabbing merchandise in the mall since he had lived near the mall in the city. They noticed that he and Mia were watching the news, so they asked him if he recognized any of those kids. He told them no he didn’t and asked if he could use the bathroom. They told him to hurry back because they were going to show it again on the news because they always do.
Instead of going to the bathroom, Chucky went to the laundry room and pulled down all the levers on the fuse box and cut the power to everything in the entire house. Instead of Mia’s parents running to the fuse box, they ran outside to see if the neighbors were having that same problem. A week before, the electric company had performed a rolling blackout because of the triple digit heat they were having. The company was trying to prevent fires because they had not had any rain since last year and everything was so dry.
When Mr. and Mrs. August, Mia’s parents found out no one else had loss power in their homes, they started wondering if their check to the electric company had either bounced or wasn’t received. They called the Power and Light Company to see what had happened to their power and no one else. Neither of them thought to check the fuse box.
An hour had passed and Chucky was certain the news was off. He told them that he didn’t get a chance to go to the bathroom because he heard the commotion, so he said he better hurry. They told him to go ahead because they were still on hold with the Power and Light Company while they were still trying to figure out what happened at their address.
Chucky sneaked back down the hall and into the laundry room and quietly flipped the switches for the power to the house back on. Then he eased in the bathroom and flushed the toilet. He could hear Mr. August tell the Power and Light Company people not to bother because their power was back on.
Very nervously, Chucky went home. He knew that it would be just a matter of time that he would be recognized as one of the merchandise grabbers, but so far, it wasn’t during the noon news broadcast this Friday.