The Three?

By Lexi Anders

You’re running out of business old man . . .

“I know, I know, quit pesterin’ me.” the aged salesmen, Brock said. His Scottish accent along with his already dry mouth making the words thick. He smacked his lips then stretched with a groan and readjusted this morning’s paper over his face.

If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have nothing left for when you can’t work anymore. Voice insisted.

“An old man, like meself, deserves a break every once in a while.” then realizing he was actually saying this outloud took the newspaper off his face and looked out his sales truck window. He found, with relief, no one appeared to be nearby. Or perhaps his lack of business wasn’t such a good thing.

“Perhaps you’re right, I am going senile after all.” he cracked a smile.

“You can say that again, mister.” a young whippersnapper said popping up from the food truck’s pull down bench.

The boy slowly licked a lollipop and stared at the old man through his mess of brown hair. After the man, who had placed his hand over his chest to slow his pounding heart, recovered he glared at him.

“If you’re not goin’ to buy anythin’, get lost!” Brock shooed him away for the second time that week. The kid squinted at him as though trying to decide something then turned and strolled away. “Blimey, them kids ain’t got a lick of respect these days.”

I think it’s you who’s changed, old timer. Your acting like one of those grumpy old folks you always promised you wouldn’t be like. Voice chided.

“I’ve still got vigor! I’ll prove it.”

And thus the old man set out to sell some tacos.

 

“For the last time, sir, I’m not hungry. Since when do food trucks even drive up to people’s houses?!” Tammy repeated in agitation. She glanced back at her car stuck in the driveway. If he was an inch farther she would risk it.

It was enough to have come home from a long day of work and chase her son around the block. She was not going to waste her money on a half rotten, soggy piece of cardboard.

“I assure you, they’re the best in town!” the wizened old man said with his best attempt at a trustworthy smile through his false teeth.

“Like right.” said her son, Ben, peeking out the car door. He tried to whisper: “I smelled them earlier and I’d say it was worse than burnt onions. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had to put febreeze on them so people wouldn’t gag from a mile away.” Unfortunately, to whisper to someone who is a couple yards away one has to be rather loud and she was certain the salesman had heard as well.

The old man looked at the boy in dismay, clearly recognizing the troublemaker. She gave her son a look that said, “Put your head back in the car right now you little stinker or you don’t even want to know”.

Come on, give it a chance. What’s the harm? Voice urged.

The man looked hopeful, perhaps the voice had convinced her? No, what was she thinking? He couldn’t have heard it, he was simply reacting to her hesitation.

“Oh, fine, but only to get you to stop pestering us. You won’t get me to spend a single dime in the future.” she dug out a couple crumpled dollar bills and resisted the urge to fling them at his face.

He handed her wrapped taco and she got back in her car. The man yelled out a thickly accented thank you before starting his car to move it from her driveway. The engine to his truck groaned and she was afraid for a moment he wouldn’t be able to move. Thankfully, after it shuddered a moment it managed to roll away only slightly off kilter.

Her son took the taco from her hand as she backed out of the driveway looking down the road. She saw the old man speeding down directly towards her neighbor getting the mail. She heard a crunch and closed her eyes.

Her son continued to eat the taco and she realized the sound had originated from him. The salesman barely swerved around the lady, who now stood against her mailbox defensively. At least Tammy hadn’t had that sort of encounter with him. As she pulled away her irritation rose to see- the man was using the opportunity to sell a taco to her almost-runover neighbor.

“Thish tahcoh ish sho not asj good asj yoursh.” Ben said around a mouthful. Translation: “This taco is so not as good as yours”. Despite being able to understand his balderdash and feeling her frustration begin to melt, the half-chewed food dripping from his mouth was like a super repel in Pokemon.

“Don’t eat with food in your mouth-” Ben burst out laughing at her miswording and she could hear the voice laugh along with him. “I mean- don’t talk with food in your mouth. But, if you’re going to be so gross, then, ya, you really shouldn’t even eat food.”

When he continued laughing even when they got to the stop sign Tammy reached over and put him in a headlock. He thrashed and they had to stay at the stop sign until she had enacted her revenge by giving him a noogie. When she finally turned down the road she saw in the rearview mirror the taco man pulling up behind them.

Hey, I can see you sliding down in your seat. You think it’s clever, so he won’t see you, but I don’t think you’ll keep that perspective when you get pulled over by the Po-po for driving into a fire hydrant! Voice yelled.

As though also hearing the voice, her son pulled her arm worriedly.

“Listen, I promised I would get you to your birthday party and I will! Backseat drivers who tell you what to do are bad enough, if you nudge the steering wheel I could swerve into something! I don’t want to be like the taco salesmen back there.” she said, then like the multitasking mother she was asked if he got a present. He held up a mystery bag which she assumed held gift for his friend who was turning ten.

“It’s the big double digits, I hope you got him something nice.”

He pulled out the Nerf gun he’d picked out. “Nicer than that taco, at least.” he put the taco wrapper in the trash having devoured it, despite his how bad he claimed it was.

He’s a growing boy. Voice said.

“Be nice.” she gave him a withering glare (who needs a toy gun to shoot people when eyes shoot the scariest bullets?).

He rolled his eyes like a teen as they pulled in front of his friend’s house. “Alright positivity. Umm . . . the taco shell was just like dad’s.” he offered.

He says that like it’s a bad thing . . . Voice said as though offended.

She chuckled. “So, it was almost stronger than your teeth?”

He shrugged then opened his mouth to feel around as though making sure he hadn’t broken anything. “Anyways, they both offer protection. One shoots little foam darts and the other will make you reek the rest of the day.” he added before opening the car door to leave.

“Hey,” she stopped him and laid out her palm, “where do you think you’re going, buster?”

He looked confused,then gave her a quick high five.

“I love you, but you’re not getting away so fast. Speaking of double digits, I gave you double digits for the present, so do you have any change?”

He sighed and pulled out a five and a couple ones. “I thought you would have slightly more . . .” she said accusingly.

“I may have gotten a sucker.” he looked away guiltily.

“And when you day ‘may have’ you mean you most definitely did and your ‘sucker’ was a dollar worth giant lollipop?” Tammy asked deadpanned.

“Well, I gotta get going mom, I’m already a little late.” he said walking away.

“Ya? You’re lucky I love you, you little sucker!”

He groaned.

 

The birthday party was great, but Ben couldn’t stop thinking about the old guy who sold tacos. It seemed like he talked to a voice. Whether it was the voice was the same one Ben heard sometimes or the slicker was just crazy he didn’t know. Every time he had just about worked himself up to ask the cavalier fellow, he would be told to skedaddle.

He could hear some of the meaner kids whispering about his mom and couldn’t help but listen in. He wanted to defend himself, but they would say he was nosy for eavesdropping. Of course, he had been known to stick his nose in where it was unwanted . . . like that taco.

He pushed his thoughts away. The kids thought it was rough for him without a dad, but what they thought didn’t really matter to him. Especially since one of those kids still picked his nose. Anyways, at least his mom gave him the time of day when she was home, some people weren’t half as lucky.

When his mom came to pick him up the next morning she was acting newfangled (a word that he heard the taco guy say and figured it meant strange). She was acted overly nice on the way home. Nice as in: not teasing him incessantly for once and even offered to help him clean his room as she had asked him yesterday.

When he confronted her about acting peculiar she gave a high pitched laugh.

She’s totally guilty of something. Voice deduced as though Ben hadn’t been living with her for the past ten years.

“Did you eat all my candy again?” he looked at her almost pityingly.

“You didn’t notice I ate it three weeks ago?” Ben’s mouth fell open and his eyebrows twitched. She glanced at him away from the wheel. “I’m kidding! You should see your face! I’m just feeling generous is all. Can’t you accept that? Do I really never do that?” she asked as she pulled into their driveway.

“Mom, generosity isn’t the same as doing someone else’s work. You tell me that all the time.”  Ben unbuckled and got out.

“Well, then I’m not being generous I’m . . . uh, cleaning out your room to steal all your change because you didn’t do as I asked.” then she raced inside and locked him out of his room for a minute.

“You’re so weird mom.” he muttered when she finally let him in.

You said it. Voice agreed.

“Hey, I heard that.” mom glared at him.

At times like these he wasn’t sure whether she was responding to him or if she heard it too. When he had mentioned having seen her talking when no one was around she said it was to herself.

She really is an odd ducky, aye?

 

Brock clucked appreciatively. It was times like these he was glad he sold tacos.

After he had snuck into the laboratory earlier, he had run into a super scientist in a white protection suit. Of course, the scientist immediately ordered him to leave, but he wasn’t going anywhere without finding a way to make his food taste better. Already, about half the town had sworn they would never buy his food again, so he had to step up his game.

Now that he thought about it he never got the scientist’s name, but if the guy wanted his part in the money he would come out and ask. All he knew was that whatever was in that mixture that the scientist gave him made the tacos about fifty times better. That little kid couldn’t say they were bad now!

He almost considered driving to their house just to make him try one, but he didn’t think his mother would appreciate it. Incidentally, the kid showed up at his truck again anyways.

Brock sighed remembering what a pain meddlesome boys were. “Kid why’d ya keep comin’ to bother me?”

“Mom claims I’m seeking a good father figure. But, I like the idea that I’m just nosy.” the kid shrugged.

Weird kid, huh? Voice said amused.

The kid continued on, “So why did you come charging around forcing tacos on people the other day?”

“It’s none of your beeswax! Maybe, I . . . did it for fun.”

Sure, and my mom’s a vegetarian.” he rolled his eyes. “Why would you even force your cheap baloney tacos on people?”

“They’re not baloney! I’ll admit, the last batch tweren’t the best, but this batch you ’ave to admit are at least decent.” Brock said waving a ladle in the kids face.

The kid slowly wiped a drip of grease off his face and looked back at him. “Well, I’d love to test that, but I don’t have any more money.”

“Spent it all on lollipops, aye? Just like me son.” Brock harrumphed.

“You have a son?” the kid said disbelievingly.

“Went missin’. Doen’t matter nomore.” Brock took out his handkerchief and wiped his ladle. He held it up to the sun to examine it and went back to it without looking at the familiar boy.

“That’s two negatives making it a positive, so it actually does matter.” he said challenging him with an intense look.

“Listen ‘ere scoundrel,” Brock set down the ladle and leaned towards the boy.

“Actually my name is Ben.” the boy said unperturbed.

“Tomato potato-” he waved his hand.

“There is a difference. I would not want a potato in my taco. Is that why they tasted so bad last time?”

I know you’re frustrated old man, but calm down. He’s just a kid. Voice soothed.

Brock contained a broiling comment and through gritted teeth slowly said, “I am feelin’ generous. Since my day were pretty good (before you came along you any’ow) you may try my taco for free and I won’t ’urt you, despite your comments.”

Then he turned around and put a taco together as the kid jabbered. “I don’t know if I want to torture myself again. Maybe, your plan is to kill me with bad cooking. Also what are you? Like Scottish or something?”

“Just take it.” he shoved the taco in his hand “At least it will keep you quiet.”

“Do you know how ominous that sounds? People always say, ‘stranger danger’ and ‘don’t get in a random person’s van and most definitely don’t eat their candy’.”

Brock took a deep shuddering breath and said forcefully, “This ain’t candy, so it’s fine.”

“I really don’t think that’s how it works.” Ben said, but took a bite anyway. His mouth formed an “O” in surprised delight.

“I told you it was up to snuff.” Brock said smugly.

“What?!” the kid spit it out.

“Now why did you do that?” Brock looked away from the blob now sitting on his bench.

“You just said there were drugs in it! No wonder it tastes as good as my mom’s. I could almost ignore how ridiculously hard the crust was because it tasted good. I’m calling the police!” he said quickly.

“No, no! It’s just an expression that means it tastes good!” then he seemed to think about it and said a bit quieter. “Although I never asked what was in the jar . . .”

“So there could be drugs in it!” the kid cross examined him.

“I couldn’t ’ave known.” Brock said defensively.

“This is a big deal- uh, what’s your name?”

“Brock.”

“Brock! You could be put in jail! Who gave you your jar?”

There was a silent moment as the realization of how bad this could be hit him.

You didn’t really think this through, did you? Voice said exasperated. Brock could imagine him rubbing his eyes.

“I don’t know.” he admitted. “But, I can probably find ’im again. Get in the truck.”

 

“This is the place? This is where my mom works! Wow, to think my mom is working with a drug dealer!” Ben said excitedly.

“Are you sure about this laddie? Even if we do confront ’im, I don’t think either of us could take a drug dealer.” Brock said nervously rounding a corner.

“Which is why once we find where he is we’ll set up a trap- like in Scooby Doo.” Ben explained.

“A Scooba Doo? Do you mean scuba diver?”

“No, no. We just outsmart him.” Ben said patiently.

Old timers. Am I right? Voice said amused.

“You know I make tacos, right? If you’d asked me to hit ’im with a fryin’ pan I might be able to do somethin’. . .”

Ben punched his palm. “Zounds! You’re right, that would have been helpful. Oh well, we’ll figure something out.”

 

Tammy was relieved to be out of the biochemical area. It always made her feel nauseous, despite being in a suit. Besides, today she had the peculiar sensation that she was being watched by someone other than the workers in the observation room.

After going through the pressure room and taking the big yellow hazmat suit off she heard something fall down the hallway. She needed to change out of the white layer too, but if something had fallen on someone . . .

The company was already under financial strain since the last experiment fell through, if the company was sued for a workplace she could lose her job. Hopefully, the old taco salesmen would have good luck with her mix- oh no.

You didn give him your name so he might not believe your who you claim to be if you go ask for your money. 

“No, it will be fine, I’ll take the money by force if I have to.” she said to herself as she went around the corner struggling to walk in the baggy suit.

“I told you it was ’im.” she heard someone say from a supply closet.

“Sssh! It will be okay. Help!” someone yelled.

Tammy hurried to open the door, but it was like it was tied shut. The knob turned and the latch came free, but it still wouldn’t open.

“You should ’ave made it looser, I mean, ow, ow! Me leg!”

Was that who she thought it was? He couldn’t have snuck back in, right?

“One moment the door is jammed.” Tammy called out and taking a step back barreled into the door effectively opening it. She was, however, also instantly thrown down by a giant net.

“We caught the drug dealer! Great job, Brock!” her son held up his hand to high five the old taco salesman from the other day. Brock looked back at the hand confused, so Ben grabbed his hand and made him give him a high five.

“You can call me ‘Detective B’.” Ben said then seeing Brock’s puzzled look explained, “for Ben.”

“Hah! Then, you can call me ‘PI Florizel’.”

“Wait, Florizel? That’s our last name.” Tammy, who was apparently now a drug dealer, said struggling out of the net.

“Wait, Mom?” her son said realizing who they had caught. “You’ve been dealing drugs?! No wonder you were acting so suspicious.” Then to the old man who was apparently called Brock said, “I thought you said the dealer was a guy.”

“She was wearing this disguise-”

“No,” Tammy cut in, “ Ben, I was acting that way because I felt guilty for giving this man the secret mixture that makes my tacos taste so good.” the scientist shook her head as she took off the white hood.

“Which is drugs?! I’ve been lied to my whole life. You were trying to get me addicted to narcotics-!”

“Why is your kid so smart? He shouldn’t know all these big words.” Brock said out of the corner of his mouth.

“Did dad even exist?!” Ben ranted.

“Of course, he did. Stop being ridiculous. Anyways, why would a drug dealer care to save someone who was hurt in a supply closet?” Tammy tried to reason.

“So no one would suspect them.” Brock said and Ben nodded his agreement.

“Just be glad I’m not a drug dealer or . . . Nevermind, the real question is how do you” she pointed at Brock. “have the same last name as us?”

He paused realizing she was right but then shook his head and said, “Coincidences ’appen.” He stayed composed as though trying not to get his hopes up.

Not a very common last name . . . Voice pondered.

    “You didn’t happen to have a son named Jason did you?”

The old man blinked in shock. “Did the bugger get married after disappearing so long ago?”

Come on y’all! Speed things up. I’ve been waiting for you to figure it out for like ever now. It’s group hug time! Voice pleaded.

The three of them laughed, then stared at each other in surprise.

“Wait, you hear ’im too?” Brock asked.

“Umm, since I can remember when.” Tammy shrugged.

“Basically, forever.” Ben agreed.

Me too, isn’t that odd? I wonder who it is.

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