“Please state the nature of the medical emergency.”
“Ha. And I’ll thank you to take this seriously,” Trevor manages to say. He is currently bleeding out from a vicious stabbing, and it’s his friend Cade who’s in shock.
“I’m sorry,” Cade says. “This is not my forte. Also, this is probably a bad time to admit that my phone is dead. You used up the last of its power.”
“So use mine,” Trevor says.
“It’s, um,” Cade stammers, hovering a good five feet away, “it’s covered in blood.”
“So am I,” Trevor wheezes. “You don’t hear me complaining.”
“Yah I do,” Cade says. “You were crying bloody murder during the whole phone conversation.”
“That’s past tense,” Trevor says. He’s going to kill Cade once this is over. “Could you please try to keep this interesting.”
“You’re seriously freaking me out,” Cade says.
“And you’re ruining everything,” Trevor says.
“Okay. Remind me what I’m supposed to be doing.”
“Acting like it’s the end of the world, and figuring out the pertinent clues that will point us in the direction of the nefarious scoundrels who are hell-bent on some insane conspiracy, possibly involving the mechanical cat with the trapdoor and a valuable clue inside it.”
“Mom said no more swearing, Trevor.”
“It’s a legitimate word,” Trevor says, and then commences to spasm. “The light! It’s drawing closer! I need to tell you something!”
“No, it’s not! Mom was very clear about that the last time you used it. I’m not playing if you’re going to get us in trouble.”
“All this ketchup is already going to get us in trouble.”
“Well, at least one of us,” Cade says. Trevor often tries to claim that he’s the smarter one, but there are moments that suggest differently.
“Will you please just forget it and get back in the scenario? I stayed up all night working on that clue!”
“I heard a lot of snoring.”
“You’re gonna hear a lot worse if you don’t stop messing around,” Trevor says, and dutifully pretends to faint from blood loss.
Cade, who has seen Trevor suffer from actual medical emergencies, momentarily doesn’t know what to do. On the one hand, it seems perfectly obvious that Trevor is just playing. On the other, the curse word is not the only debacle he doesn’t want to repeat.
He elects to poke Trevor as a test. Trevor reacts by punching him.
Cade then decides that maybe he ought to leave Trevor alone for the moment and explore what his brother has just explained took him a lot of time to create. The latch on the cat is trickier than he expects, and so Cade spends a few minutes working on it, although most of it is just him making Trevor pay for being mean. He makes a few remarks about how hard it is just to make sure they both know what’s going on. Which is not at all what it seems, and as boys go, exactly what it looks like.
Finally he pulls free the scrap of notebook paper, the weird yellow kind, and unfolds it. For a moment, he stares at it in honest bewilderment.
“You really did have something to tell me,” he says. “Perhaps that you have some stupid code?”
“No, just bad penmanship,” Trevor whispers, trying hard to maintain the illusion of his impending death. There is ketchup touching the carpet now. What he is really trying to do is not freak out. They both know their mom really well. “Just try to make it out.”
“I’m reporting you to the principal,” Cade sighs. He squints, hoping that will make it better, but no luck. He turns it upside down. He looks at the back, to see if Trevor’s typically heavy-handed writing will have made the reverse easier to read. He thinks maybe his dad’s glasses might help. He ultimately decides not to leave the room because that will expose the ketchup to the outside world. The window doesn’t count because there’s been a tree steadily creeping past it for years.
“I’m gonna have to tell you, aren’t I?”
“No. I expect that the Rosetta Stone will help,” Cade says, desperately attempting to stifle his laughing fit, the one that always angers Trevor.
“You need to stop reading those encyclopedias. And please stop talking to me! You ruin everything!”
“Okay,” Cade says. He decides that if he can find a pencil, he will try and decipher Trevor’s handwriting by copying it. He begins to feel like a true investigator. The only problem is, there is not a decent pencil to be found. Oh, there are plenty of dull ones and others with broken tips, but he is terrible with a sharpener. He spies a crayon. With Trevor playing dead, he’ll never know. Trevor likes to judge Cade on a lot of things. In all fairness it is, again, Trevor’s bright idea to have used ketchup.
After a few minutes, longer than it took to find the clue, Cade emerges from his scholar’s pursuit with a phrase he still doesn’t understand. “What the heck does this mean? ‘Beneath the starry sky lies a fruit bat of sacred nature.’ You are so stupid.”
“It makes perfect sense! Now, will you please use this phone to call a doctor?”
“I guess it doesn’t make sense for me to have left you to figure that out.”
“Just make the call!”
“You’re a terrible editor,” Cade says, pulling the phone from his brother’s hand. It has ketchup on it. It is also a real phone, and it doesn’t belong to either of them. It is in fact their mom’s. This may be another reason for their inevitable indictment in family court.
Bewildered, he makes a real phone call. It is to their dad. “Do you know anything about fruit bats?”
“Cade, I appreciate a good imagination, but right now I’m a little busy,” a much older and deeper voice intones through the speaker. They are both seriously impressed with their dad’s voice. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what he says.
“Okay, bye!” Cade chirps, snapping the phone shut.
“We’ll pretend the paramedics are on their way,” Trevor says, thumping his head down in mock depression. He inadvertently mashes ketchup into the carpet.
“Fruit bats are horrible for you,” Cade says wistfully. “Dad said so.”
“Fruit bats are delicious! Best candy ever.”
“Still, I guess there’s only one place to look for them. Same place all the candy is kept.”
Both of them know exactly where that is, even though it’s supposed to be a secret, the way other households will place the cookie jar at the top of the refrigerator, to keep it out of the reach of those who will most appreciate it.
Cade skitters out of the room, and turns back to close the door when Trevor moans, seeping more ketchup, and incidentally making the mounting disaster on the carpet that much worse. Cade thinks about the ketchup far less than his brother. He steps cautiously for no reason down the hallway, pressing himself up against the wall and humming his own theme music, which is a badly disguised version of the melody from his favorite cartoon.
Mom is busy in the garden, or so they have both been assuming for the past few hours. If Cade checks, he may have to explain himself, because mom always needs answers.
In the kitchen, there’s a cabinet that for years has been decorated on the inside with a star map, necessitated by another adventure so far in the past that Cade believes it should no longer be on record, on the basis that he does not remember it. Suffice it to say, but their dad thought it would be easier to pretend that it was a star map, and so finished the job himself.
The candy has been kept in here for as long as Cade can remember, which to him seems like a really long time, but it is in fact only a handful of years. The first time he found it, Trevor told him that it was his fault that there was an inexplicable star map inside the cabinet. It’s funnier knowing that Trevor actually said “unprintable,” and believed he’d used the right word. He more or less did.
There’s a tin with the slogan “Moxie Makes It Better!” emblazoned across the top, and inside is all the candy in the house, which is more than enough, if you listen to their mom. It invariably has fruit bats, which are like any other gummy snack except in the shape of bats, in the mix. Cade and Trevor have never seen fruit bats in a store.
It was once rumored that they have been eating very old Halloween candy their whole life. Trevor started the rumor, naturally.
To determine which of the fruit bats Trevor referenced in his stupid clue, Cade decides that he must first eat a few. Because. They have noticeably become increasingly stale over the years, which is why Trevor came to his brilliant conclusion in the first place. They are presently crunchy.
Still, they’re candy. Cade almost chokes.
The very oldest one is stuck to the bottom of the tin, and Cade can’t get it loose with his fingers. He throws open a drawer and causes utensils to shift loudly enough that his mom shouts from outside. He hollers back that everything’s fine.
He grabs a fork and shoves it between the ancient fruit bat and the bottom of the tin. The fruit bat pops off and Cade is a little frightened to see that it has left a dark stain behind.
There doesn’t seem to be much point to his prize. Disappointed, Cade slaps the tin’s cover back on, closes the cabinet door softly, completely forgetting about the fork, and trots back to the room he has shared with Trevor since the dawn of man. Or something.
Trevor is propped up on his hands when Cade reenters. “You took forever. I died like twice.”
“Calm down. I found the sacred fruit bat.”
“If you’d eaten it when you had the chance, you would already have the ability to fly.”
“Don’t try to fool me, Trevor. The guy who eats the sacred fruit bat always explodes.”
“Well, that too.”
“It has some mystical significance I do not fully appreciate yet,” Cade admits, though he is still examining it closely. It is an odd and special piece of candy.
“It is going to get us all in really big trouble,” Trevor admits.
“Then why did you have me retrieve it?”
“The truth must stand revealed! Humanity will be better off with the knowledge of the encrusted fruit bat!”
“No, I’m covered in ketchup.”
“Mom is going to kill us.”
“Well, at least one of us.”