Dabs couldn’t even gather enough air in his lungs to say anything more than a four letter word. Not that he cursed often, actually he tried to refrain. His mother always described those words as “something for the unimaginative”. An image of her popped up in Dabs’ mind, as it did, she sported the classic look of matching pearls while suffering a deep yawn. His chest had collapsed further into his shell, leaving his lungs little room to maneuver.
Dabs broke free of Noodle’s grip and gulped a few shallow breathes. “You need imagination to run this kind of business.”
“No you don’t, it’s just chili.” As if that reminded him of something he had forgotten, Noodle returned to the task of the chili preparations.
Egghead went to her station at the front window table and opened her composition book. Alone Dabs unraveled, “I could ruin things for that poor old lady.”
From the kitchen, both hands busy, Noodle said,” Edna’s not poor, believe me. Henry left her good and if you call her an old lady she’ll kick your ass.”
Egghead got up for a refill on coffee. “Yeah, I remember when she gave it to Noodle.”
“Shut up Egghead and did you pay for that coffee.”
“Of course I did. My mom always taught me to pay for my coffee.” Egghead whimpered all the way to her table. Her faucets turned off when she opened her notebook and doodled.
Dabs was not in the room to witness these dramatics. His body still sat there crumpled in the middle of café floor; however, his true self had retreated into his personal tally office.
“How many times must we rescue you, Robert Dabs?” His mother’s voice could always cut.
He counted each one. Some of them he counted twice because they were particularly stupid, like the time he bought into Dandy Candy (the only sugar-free, fat-free, candy that’s good for your teeth). The happy chunk on the website with his chocolate-substitute mustache and sparkling teeth, moved Dabs. Every kid deserves to be happy. So he wiped his tears and ordered the smallest package. In the end, Dabs had his sample set and twelve cases of gritty brown bars that left the mouth with an after-taste. Dabs had tried to explain himself to his mother, so he showed her the website and the picture.
“Dear that is not a smile on the child’s face. She lowered her glasses and squinted, “That’s a grimace, perhaps from gas.”