We Bet on the Geringabobber and Lost

Submitted into Contest #90 in response to: Write a story in which an endangered species (of plant or animal) plays a central role.... view prompt

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Funny Kids Happy

“Please don’t tell me you listened to Hailey.”

“She apologised. And it was a good plan.” Rena winced as she said the words. She gripped her hands together tighter behind her back.

“Her plans in the past have included shooting you. Twice!”

“Three times now, actually, but that’s besides the point! She admitted that they were poor decisions!”

Their mother rubbed the bridge of her nose like she was trying to carve stone. “And what about that third time?”

“It was an even worse decision?”

“Tell me what happened.”

*

“We need to save the what now?”

Liza raised her chin. “The Geringabobber. It’s the last beetle of its kind.”

“Good riddance.” Hailey folded her arms with a snort, leaning on the back two legs of the chair.

Rena bit her lip. “What does it do?”

“Does it matter? I vote execution by crime of name.”

“The Geringabobber,” Liza forged on, “is infamous for its interaction with the trees in an ecosystem. It eats the dead bark.”

“Solution,” Hailey offered, kicking one of her own legs up instead of a hand.

“Great!”

“It involves fire.”

“Absolutely not.”

Rena stupidly raised her own hand as she spoke, “How are we even going to save the Garing- Geringer-“

“Geringabobber.”

“That.”

*

“Let me get this straight. My three smart, beautiful girls decided that to save this Garing- Geringer-“

“Geringabobber.”

“Thank you, Liza. They decided that to save a bug, they had to break into the waste management plant and shut it down?”

“In protest,” Liza jabbed a finger in the air.

“In the dark,” Hailey smirked.

“In full awareness I’d be the one explaining the failed attempt to you,” Rena sighed.

*

“Are you sure this is the right place?” The fabric of Rena’s mask rubbed uncomfortably against her lips as she spoke.

“Whaaat?” Liza leaned closer to Rena.

“Is this the right place?” Rena could feel the spit from the annunciated words collecting in her mask.

“Whaaat?” Liza cupped a hand around her ear.

“Yeah, it’s the right place.” Hailey rolled her shoulders back as she loaded her gun.

“Shh!” Liza said.

Hailey grinned, though it could barely be seen underneath her ski mask. “Ready?”

Rena swallowed. She nodded.

*

“And then you shot her,” their mother groaned and covered her eyes. “Where did I go wrong?”

“The second child,” Hailey answered.

“Hey! That’s me!” Liza’s face scrunched in anger.

“And the third.”

“Enough. Hailey shot Rena with the paintball gun-“

“And then I screamed!” Liza threw her hands up with a smile.

“Why did you scream and not Rena?”

Rena scuffed the floor with her shoe.

Hailey snickered. “She was too shy.”

*

“Do you think someone called the police?”

Rena grimaced. “Did we really think this through? We just alerted everyone that there’s something going on here.”

“There’s something going down here,” Hailey corrected, slinging the gun over her shoulder. “Besides, now they’re looking for a murderer instead of burglars.”

“I think we’re vandals, actually.”

*

Their mother sighed. “I should’ve sent you all to military camp.”

*

“Scale it faster!”

“Why is it called ‘scaling?’ I mean, not all fences have scales.”

Liza’s foot twitched, but she managed not to stomp it. “Just hurry up!”

“The walls to Atlantis could’ve had scales.”

“Hailey!”

“I’m climbing. I’m climbing . . .” She paused only three-quarters of the way up the fence.

Rena slowly turned as the rattling pop of the town’s old police cruiser came closer.

“Go! Go! Go!”

Hailey flung herself forward, up, and over. Rena grabbed Liza’s hand. They ran and crouched behind the bushes. The chain-link fence rattled like at a baseball game. Rena winced at the thump, the coarse leaves rubbing against her forehead.

The gas-ran tin can puttered to a stop. Old Jim stepped out, pulling up his suspendered pants with a sniffle and rubbing his hand below his nose. He leaned against the rust bucket and sniffed again, shaking out a lace hanky and blowing his airhorn nose. Hailey scuttled over to Rena and Liza, only the fence between them.

“What’s going on?” Rena murmured as Old Jim tucked the hanky away and checked his watch by the lingering interior light.

“Whaat?”

Hailey flicked Liza through the fence.

A minivan quietly pulled up beside Old Jim. All the doors slid open, and people piled out as if it were an afternoon soccer game. Old Jim greeted the men – all with gleaming white or pepper hair – and gestured for them to follow him.

“What’s with the wheels, Herald?”

“Truck’s in the shop again.”

A round of conciliatory groaning and back-slapping.

*

“Masculine commiseration.”

“What’s that?”

“Never mind, dear. Continue.”

*

“Are those new dentures?”

“You betcha! Best in the business!”

Old Jim unlocked the gate, and the grandpas filed in with boys-in-a-lunch-line pushing and shoving. The gate swung back into place, and the chain was thrown through a loop but not locked. They headed towards the plain box building.

“You won’t believe how angry Izzy got when I told her that I couldn’t mow the lawn until next week.”

“Weren’t you supposed to cut it last week?”

“Yeah, but it’s going to need mowing next week, too, so I’ll just wait till then.”

As soon as the door closed behind them, Liza sprang up. “It’s a conspiracy!”

“Don’t people normally bring snacks and red string to those things?”

Liza tried to flick Hailey back through the fence and failed.

“Come on,” Rena led Liza to the gates. The screeching and scraping of the metal echoed in the small valley. They crept to the building, but even on tiptoes, Hailey couldn’t reach the window.

“Maybe there’s a back entrance!” Liza brightly suggested.

“Shh!”

“Sorry.”

They circled the building twice before realising that there really wasn’t one. Liza went on one side of the door, Rena on the other, and Hailey rested a hand on the knob of the only door. They took a breath. She turned the knob.

Nothing. Hailey inched the door open. Bright light fell across the entranceway. Hailey stuck her head in. Liza gasped.

Hailey pulled back, shrugging and swinging the door wide open. “They’re not here.”

“Oh,” Liza frowned. “That’s disappointing.”

“Well, they didn’t just disappear.”

Hailey rolled her eyes, spotlights against the black full-face mask. “Can you get any more cliché? And there’s another door.”

A loud round of laughter and yelling swelled. It petered out. Quiet.

“Well,” Rena nodded, cocking her head at Hailey, “I wasn’t wrong.”

“Weeell?” Liza gestured towards the other door.

Hailey grinned, sliding the gun and its strap off her shoulder. “How about we do it a little differently this time?”

*

“You didn’t.”

Liza bobbed her head. “We did!”

*

“Police! Hands up!”

Rena pushed her back up, willing herself to be taller even as the bandana tied around her head started to slip down over her eyes.

Old Jim and the others stared at Hailey, camo cargo pants and paintball gun included. Rena glanced at Liza flanking the other side of Hailey.

Liza had her hands on her hips. “She said- Wait a minute. Are those Geringabobbers?”

*

“They were racing the bugs?”

“Yep!” Liza smiled brighter.

Their mother shook her head. “How is that even possible?”

“They’re diurnal animals,” Rena clasped her hands tightly behind her back, imagining the sweat dripping from them. “They get really tired at night, and don’t fly, so they race them on the ground.”

“But if they’re tired, then it’s not good to- Oh, for goodness’ sake,” their mother ran her hand down her face. “You do realise that the waste management plant is where the sewage goes, and that it’s been closed for years now. All that gets pumped to the next city.”

“Oh.” Rena shuffled her feet. “We thought it meant like toxic waste management.”

“I figured. Just tell it to me straight. Do I need to break into the bail money fund?”

“You have a bail money fund?”

“It was supposed to be for your college education, but I’m not placing any bets on that now.”

“They invited us to join them.” Rena swallowed heavily as she spoke. “We betted on credit, but didn’t win.”

“We didn’t lose either!” Liza jabbed her finger again.

Another sigh from their mother. “All right. What’s the lesson in all this?”

“Don’t let Hailey shoot Rena.”

“Always put the credit on Liza.”

“Get new sisters.”

“. . . Go to bed. We’ll talk more in the morning.”

“Yes, Mama.”

Their mother peered at them. “Whenever you say anything together, I get nervous.”

“Yes, Ma-“ They stopped.

She sighed again. “Just go.”

Rena breathed out slowly, filing up the stairs behind Hailey and Liza. They exchanged subtle nods in the hallway before separating. Rena lay still on top of her covers, listening and watching the clock. Their mother lay down to bed not long later. After another half hour, Rena slipped out of her bedroom and met Liza and Hailey. They exchanged subtle nods in the hallway. Hailey led the way down the stairs, the Tupperware container tucked under her arm instead of hidden in the ski mask. She wove through the kitchen, and Rena and Liza trailed behind.

“Really?” Hailey asked as they stepped outside on the porch, the door shutting gently behind them. “That’s the story you came up with?”

Rena shrugged, wrapping her arms around herself as a breeze kicked up. “I figured it was better than telling her we broke into school to rescue the bugs Ms. Jarelle brought to class.”

“Well, we survived!” Liza smiled, tapping at the container. “Let’s free the little buggers.”

Hailey cracked the container open, and the bugs crawled out.

Rena’s eyes widened. “Asian beetles!” she swore and slapped the lid over the container just as the last bug flew up and blended into the night. “Asian beetles!” she repeated in a higher pitched voice. “Those bugs weren’t native!”

April 23, 2021 11:53

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4 comments

Matthew Robles
18:00 Apr 30, 2021

That is true how some sisters just come after each other the way they did in the story. A funny part I remember is their reply to the lessons they learned. At times in the story was somewhat hard to follow, as it moved pretty fast at times, and in so many different directions (maybe a little too many, but that is my opinion). However, that can be like life at times. Also, great name for the bug, the "Geringabobber."

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Delphine Hintz
19:13 May 07, 2021

Thank you for your comment! One of my concerns was the different directions, the switching perspectives, you mentioned. While that is how life works, and switching perspectives could be used as a technique specifically to imitate that, I had been trying to avoid that in this piece. Evidently, unsuccessfully trying to avoid! Thank you for confirming that the clarity could be improved in that respect and for your encouraging remarks.

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Elizabeth Rose
15:42 Apr 30, 2021

this story is adorable I love the way you have them going in and out of telling the story. This deserves much more praise than what it was given.

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Delphine Hintz
19:15 May 07, 2021

Thank you for your comment, Elizabeth! Children are wonderfully fun to write.

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