Welcome to Sucky Story Sunday, where my goal is to prove Ray Bradbury wrong and write 52 bad stories.
This week’s prompts:
A Shopping Mall Santa
Receives a strange inheritance
A tub of green goo
As a general rule, Danny Patterson did not wear hard pants on his days off. After a long work week in a branded polo and khaki pants, his days off were for baggy tee shirts, pajama pants, and D and D with his buddies on discord. If the shopping mall where he was the assistant manager would let him wear his gaming uniform to work, he would be all over that. But that was not the case. The problem was today was his day off, and he was wearing a polo and khakis and string in an attorney’s waiting room.
The receptionist, who could be the attorney’s grandma for all Danny knew, kept glancing up, as if Danny were about to run out with all of the backdated copies of People magazine if she didn’t keep watch. Maybe he should have worn a tie? People did take you more seriously if you wore a tie.
“Mr. Patterson?” One of the dark wooden doors had opened and a man in a navy suit stooped as if he would hit his head on the door jamb held out his hand. “Clark Gonzalez.”
Danny went over and shook his hand. He already could tell this guy was not to be trusted. For starters, his names didn’t really go together. And what was with the stoop, the door was at least two feet over both of their heads? Also, the combover did not hide his obvious balding head. Nope, this was not someone who told the truth.
“Please have a seat, Mr. Patterson,” Gonzalez said, “You are probably wondering why I asked you here.”
Danny sat on one of the leather chairs facing a large wooden desk. “Yes, sir, I am.”
Gonzalez pulled out a large brown envelope. “I believe you are an acquaintance of my client, Mr. Conrad Robertson?”
Conrad Robertson? Danny had no clue who that was. “I don’t know the name.”
The attorney sat up a bit in his chair. “Really? Interesting.” He pulled a paper from his desk. “You are Daniel Patterson, the mall Santa, correct?”
“Um, during Christmas I was hired to be the Santa. After the season ended, they hired me to be the assistant mall manager..” Danny shifted in his seat.
“Okay, you are the right person. Mr. Robertson was the Santa before you.”
“He had a stroke last summer? So he couldn’t be Santa this past Christmas?” Danny rubbed his chin. He probably should have shaved. “I don’t know if I ever met him, but I did hear his name. My boss said he was a great Santa.” Why in the world would the old Santa’s attorney want to talk to Danny?
“Mr. Robertson passed about a month ago. I am executing his last will and testament, and you are mentioned in the document. You are one of his heirs.”
Danny sat up straight. An heir? Was the old guy one of those secretly rich guys looking for a life to drastically change with a huge influx of cash? Danny was all in.
The attorney cleared his throat, “To Daniel Patterson, I leave my heart’s true joy.”
Heart’s true joy? Why did that not sound like enough money to replace his gaming computer?
Gonzalez pulled out a ziplock bag. An old box was inside, like something that has spent years on a Dollar General Shelf, dusted twice a year whether it needed it or not. He handed it to Danny. “There is this, and this sealed envelope that explains it. You are welcome to read the letter here.”
Danny took the bag. The box was for something called Lime-a-tin. It looked like a knock-off of green jello. Great, he was the heir of a bad jello salad. “Do I have to read it here?”
Gonzalez’s face fell. “No, of course, it is yours to do with as you wish.”
Danny tried to smile, “I guess you are curious why someone would leave an heir fake jello.”
Danny wasn’t going to give him that satisfaction. He stood up and held out his hand. “Thank you very much, sir. But I think I would rather read it in private.”
“That is your decision. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions after reading the letter.”
Danny left the downtown office. There was a small local coffee shop on the corner, so he headed toward it. As he walked he passed a trash can and tossed both the ziplock bag and the letter into it. He took a step, then spun around and pulled the objects out of the trash. He should at least read the damn letter, right? Maybe there was a check in the letter? It wasn’t very thick. Maybe there was some clue, a safety deposit box number? Yeah, that had to be it. His inheritance was in a safety deposit box and the key was hidden in this old jello box. Danny had a bit more spring in his step as he got to the counter and ordered a plain black coffee.
“Just, coffee?” The counter girl asked. Danny couldn’t bring himself to call her a barista. Such a braggy name for someone who just took your money and wrote your name on a paper cup. On busy days, she actually may pour coffee.
“Just coffee, don’t bother with room for cream.”
Cup in hand, he sat down at a table. He sighed and held the letter in front of him. His name was typed neatly on the front. What in the world did Conrad leave him, and why? One way to find out. He shifted in his chair to pull out his pocket knife. One quick slice and the envelope was open, revealing a folded sheet of yellow legal paper tacoed inside.
The handwriting was shaky cursive, definitely written by an old person. Danny’s grandmother had written letters in a similar way. Cursive was hard to read, his mother called it a secret code of baby boomers, but Danny was glad she made him learn.
I remember growing up, the biggest treat in my young life was green jello. The day my dog died, my mother made me green jello to cheer me up. And it did. But it wasn’t the official lime jello that comes pre-made in those little plastic cups, like you kids today think about jello. We were poor, so we had to eat Lime-a-tin. But even today, with plenty of money to buy what I wish, Lime-a-tin would be my choice. But they stopped making it in 1979. So, I bequeath to you what might be the only remaining box of Lime-a-tin left in the world.
The secret to its goodness though is to not follow the directions on the back of the box. Rules are for lemmings. You, Daniel, are a risk-taker and leader. No box directions for you. I could let you discover the secret recipe yourself, but with only one box left, you would soon run out, possibly before you discover its goodness.
No, I left you a YouTube video. My grandson helped me film it and upload it. So do a search, for Conrad’s secret Lime-a-ton recipe. Good luck!
A box of jello, no Lime-a-tin, from 1979 and a YouTube video? What the hell kind of inheritance was this? Danny crumbled up the letter, then changed his mind, smoothing it back out on the table top. He took a sip of coffee. The old man was probably senile and the video was going to be stories about eating the damn lime jello. Danny wasn’t a fan of jello before. Now he hated it.
He picked up the ziplock bag and opened it. The fragrance of imitation lime attacked his nose and he quickly zipped it back up and dropped it on the table. Yes, he should have left it in the trash.
“Excuse me, is that an old box of Lime-a-tin?”
Danny looked up at a curly-haired redhead standing next to his table. What in the world would this hottie want with this putrid box of jello? “Um, yeah. Pretty gross, right?”
She smiled. “Only if you eat it.”
“Yeah, well I have no plans to do that. I had never even heard of Lime-a-tin until an hour ago. Some demented old geezer left it to me.”
“Really?” She looked back at a dark-headed guy at another table. He had two coffee cups on the table, one of them was probably hers. “It was one of my grandfather’s favorite foods. Still is, I bet. He says Lime Jello could never compare to Lime-a-tin. I don’t suppose you would consider selling it to me, would you?”
“For your grandfather? I guess?” Danny hadn’t considered selling it. Maybe on eBay it would be worth it as a collector’s item, even if it looked to be opened.
“Of course, I understand if it means something to you, being an inheritance and all.” Her eyes were a bit teary.
“Told ya, some old guy left it. I never even met him. He said he saw me at work and thought I’d be the right person for it.”
The redhead nodded. “How about $200?”
Danny steadied himself. If she would just toss that number out there, maybe it was worth more. Should he take the sure thing money and go on his way, or maybe hold on to it. Check eBay, or maybe even watch YouTube for a clue of why it’s so valuable to old men. “Can I think about it? I only got it an hour ago.”
She sighed. “Of course, I understand. What if I meet you here at ten tomorrow. I can have cash for you. $300?”
Ah, the price was already going up. Danny was definitely going to check eBay. And Mercari, Craig’s list, and what did his sister shop on, Poshmark? Maybe the old man knew something, maybe there would be a fortune in this little bag. “Sure, 300. I’ll meet you here tomorrow.” He might be lying, but who knows what he would find on the internet about this foul-smelling little box.
“Tomorrow then. See you!” She turned and the guy carried the two cups and met her at the door. They walked out together.
Danny took a sip of his now cold coffee. What a weird day. He pulled out his phone and started to scroll Reddit. A shadow crossed the table and he looked up to see an older man standing next to the table. He had on a navy suit. Another lawyer?
“May I join you? I understand you have received quite a strange inheritance.”
“Suit yourself.” Danny closed the Reddit app. “News travels fast I guess.”
The man smiled. He unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat across from Danny. “Lime-a-tin is a valuable commodity.” He looked down at the ziplock bag on the table. “I can help you manage it.”
“Yes. My name is Arthur Kingston. It’s my business to help people with, um, shall we say, artifacts such as yours.”
Whoa. This was going to be worth way more than $300.