Taylor’s Candy Shop would be an empty box in seven days.
“Not enough kids like candy anymore, I suppose,” Grandpa Herman lamented to Brandon after his mother dropped him off for the weekend. His parents were on vacation to somewhere he failed to recall — or forgot in the presence of free candy. “I’ve got a week to pack up, kiddo.”
Grandpa’s eyes looked over Brandon and his little sister, Angie. “I have no idea what to do with all this candy. You can’t just throw it away. I guess someone’s going to have to eat it, but I don’t know who? I wish I could think...”
Angie raised her voice: “What about us? — we can eat it, please Grandpa!”
“Calm down, Angie,” Brandon scolded. “He’s going to let us eat candy, you don’t have to beg. He’s putting us on.”
Grandpa Herman’s cane thumped against the floor. “I have some paperwork to finish in my office, kids. Brandon, you let your sister have what she wants — anything at all, and don’t be mean about it. You kids are welcome to anything in the store, really. Help yourself. Everything.”
Angie wrinkled her face at Brandon. She wanted licorice snaps last weekend — they visited every Saturday morning — and he ate as many as he could before she had a turn. Brandon underestimated her ability to cry. Her fits were a police siren, and like a police siren, it brought Grandpa out from his office. This was the first time Grandpa gave them full reign over the aisles and shelves stocked with glass bowls of penny candy.
“Take what you want kids,” he added before he closed the door. Brandon noticed him frown. “We’re closing it down for good.”
Brandon sprinted to the chocolate aisle. He stuffed his hands into the toffee and caramel covered truffles. Angie almost knocked the bowl from its perch when she gathered a handful of Pixie-sticks. She tore through them to coat her tongue in green sugar. “Good job, Angie. Why don’t you break everything?”
Angie groveled, but she was too engrossed in her take to throw a fit. “Meanie.”
The store was darkened, and he had trouble reading the labels. Grandpa’s office light was the only source spaced out across the store in a thin shaft. He stuffed jawbreakers into his coat pockets, gum balls into his jeans, and M&M’s inside his gloves. Brandon’s stride was a rub of candy shells.
“You’re stealing! Mom and Dad said you couldn’t do that. I’m telling.”
Brandon was frantic to quiet his sister: “Grandpa doesn’t care. Didn’t you see the out of business sign outside? It’s all for us, Angie.” Brandon realized what he should’ve done from the beginning and gathered plastic bags from the dispensers at the end of the aisles. “I’ll stock up with these.”
Angie pouted as he continued, this time taking from the boxes of Snickers, Butterfinger, and Hershey Bars. His sister moved on following his example and filling up a bag with gummy bears, but only the red ones. Grandma would’ve scolded them if she were still alive, even spanked them in front of customers: “That costs money, shame on you, shame on both of you! Your Grandpa works hard, and so do I, and we don’t need thieves to run us out of business, especially little thieves like you.”
Children stole from Taylor’s Candy Shop on a regular basis, but Grandpa didn’t have the heart to call their parents or the police. Grandma stayed at home, and Grandpa operated the shop six hours out of each day. Taylor’s Candy Shop became notorious for an easy steal, and Brandon heard the kids at school talk about it. If someone was caught pilfering from the aisles, an apology was enough for Grandpa to forgive them, Brandon learned. “Kids aren’t criminals, they just haven’t learned the right way of things. I can set them straight, even if it takes time and mistakes.”
Brandon discovered the soda fountain at the back of the store. He dropped his bag of candy in the aisle and raced to it. “Mom doesn’t let us drink soda, says it’s addictive, and it’ll rot our teeth out.”
Angie cried out: “Can I have a drink? I can’t reach.”
Brandon watched Grandpa’s office, the door still closed. He poured her a Dr. Pepper and a Coke for himself. As he slurped the fizz, Brandon marched to the office and checked on Grandpa. He didn’t stay inside long, maybe ten minutes to sign order forms and balance the register. Brandon looked at the door and discovered a slip of paper sticking out of the crack. He squinted to read the letters in the shadows: You kids can have anything in the store. I love you both very much. The place is yours.
Something crunched under his shoe. It was crushed into a powder, and he noticed yellow discs spread out on the tiles, what looked to be a sweet tart, except smaller. They came from the bottom of the office door. Brandon put one into his mouth, took a bite, and gagged at the offensive taste. It wasn’t candy. He spat it out and washed his mouth of the bitter taste with soda.
“Grandpa,” he yelled, hitting the door. “What are you doing in there? Are we going to the pet store across the street?”
Angie stepped behind him. “What’s Grandpa doing?”
“I don’t know,” Brandon answered. “Hey, get on my shoulders and look inside.”
Before she agreed, he lifted her up.
“What do you see?”
“The blinds are shut, but they’re open a little bit.”
She was fidgeting and about to fall backwards. Billy insisted: “Look harder, what is he doing?”
“He’s on the floor,” she finally answered. “Maybe he’s taking a nap. He’s not moving. He must be sleeping.”
Brandon let her back down. He read over the note again. “Yeah, Grandpa’s just taking a nap. We can have all the candy we want, and we won’t get in trouble.”
You kids can have anything in the store, the note’s message repeated to Brandon.
Angie crunched on a mouthful of Necco Wafers.
Brandon eyed the Fun-Dip at the register.
"Kids in a Candy Store"
Copyright: © 2009 Spencer Wendleton
Copyright: © 2009 Spencer Wendleton
----------------------------------Spencer Wendleton's work has appeared in the magazines Children, Churches, and Daddies, Camp Horror, Thirteen, Midnight Times, Blank Ink Horror, thaneros.com, necrology.com, Morpheus Tales #3, The Monsters Next Door #6, House of Horror Issue #3, and Sex and Murder Issue #2. My first novel, "The Body Cartel," will be released by Damnation Books next September under the penname "Alan Spencer."