"Scams and Rumors" - Your Story 53 Finalist

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"Scams and Rumors" - Your Story 53 Finalist

Postby TiffanyLuckey » Wed Oct 30, 2013 3:34 pm

Scams and Rumors

There was no prior experience in Jane Dwyer’s 10 years of life that would indicate that anything bad would happen by taking a quarter, putting it in the slot of the gumball machine and twisting the knob. Of course, there really isn’t anything anybody could do to prepare for a human tooth to come out instead of colorful candy ball. Janie held the tooth in her hand for 5.6 seconds before clamping her fingers around it tightly and screaming as loudly as she could.

She ran across the street and into the clothing store where her mother was buying a purple dress that was supposed to be fashionable but actually made Mrs. Dwyer look like an eggplant. It took quite a while for her to make out what Janie was saying, working through layers of irritation, disbelief and a slight amount of age-related hearing loss, combined with the pitch at which Janie was shrieking. When she did finally work out what the girl was saying and actually looked at what Janie was holding, she gave an appropriately horrified scream and raced across the street.

There was one person watching all this who was neither amused nor frightened, but rather irritated and unhappy. This person was the 10-year-old owner of the gumball machine, Peter Mulvany, because he’d put the tooth in the gumball machine for a reason that wasn’t to terrify the neighborhood, but rather to earn some money.

Peter was the youngest of 12 children, all blessed with healthy teeth and two parents who didn’t have enough money to spare for pocket change. Having good business sense, Peter decided to make good use of the discarded baby teeth of his older siblings by selling them to other neighborhood children as curiosities and as a means of defrauding others. The most common use of the teeth was to claim a lost tooth and put it under their pillow. The second most common use was in Halloween costumes and other such designs. In any case, this trade became his primary form of income from the time he became 6 onward.

When Peter turned 7, however, his parents caught on to the scheme and gave him a sound punishment for it. He was not the sort of child to accept defeat, though, and quickly came up with a way of disguising his actions. Peter was able to find and repair an old gumball machine and use it as a means of disguising the teeth. Now, however, it seemed that his scheme had backfired, and all he could do was watch in dismay as the police carried off his gumball machine as material evidence in what initially looked to them very much like a murder case.

Over the next week, the story grew to resemble nothing about what actually happened, probably because reality was far too simple to be interesting. The police gathered up evidence and came to the conclusion that it was a simple prank to terrify local children and promptly forgot about the whole thing. But the minds of children are not so easily swayed—and in spite of the fact that many of them were customers of Peter’s and thus could guess the truth, they readily believed the rumors.

According to those rumors, there was a mass-murderer operating out of the butcher’s department in the grocery store for years. This man, who was hunchbacked and stronger than a gorilla, took a tooth from each victim as a trophy and strung them into garlands and necklaces. When the police finally had enough evidence to take him down, the murderer grabbed a little girl and held her hostage, threatening to give her braces unless the police gave him an airplane to escape in. Naturally, the police buckled under such negotiating and the man flew away, cackling so loudly he could be heard all the way in Italy. According to rumor, that is.

That day in school, Peter was probably the glummest person in his whole class. He sat down at his desk and got out his books to study. What point was there in life if such wonderful, clever moneymaking schemes could get ruined so absolutely? He might as well become something respectable, like a lawyer or a salesman.

Janie turned around to rest her arms primly on the seat back. “My daddy will get the gumball machine out of the evidence locker for me if I ask.”

Checkmate. Peter groaned. “Fine. I’ll cut you in, Janie.”

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