The great slovenly beast let out a low, pitiful moan. A rather sharp pain had been gradually building in his midsection over several minutes. He shifted his body in the worn, stained easy chair, and scowled when the movement did not produce instantaneous relief. A low, guttural grumble arose from deep within his belly. Still in discomfort, he shifted his weight around the chair once again, this time sucking in a deep breath – which he then held as he waited for relief to arrive. Another moment or two passed, but the discomfort only worsened. The internal pressure was definitely increasing. He sat up and readjusted himself in the chair once more, and this time, something was dislodged. He felt the painful gaseous bubble that had been trapped in his midsection begin to rise, ever so slowly, up through his system. It had started somewhere in his upper abdomen, then moved up to his ribcage and through his chest. From there, it inched toward his throat. Finally, to his great relief, it burst forth from his mouth with near gale-force velocity. He sustained a rather loud and impressive tone for several seconds as he unleashed upon the dingy basement in which he sat, an invisible, yet very real, cloud that was a near toxic mixture of last night’s leftover chili, this morning’s breakfast burrito and the Doritos that had been devoured as the unwitting victim of his mid-morning snack.
This expulsion of gas had finally brought the desired relief, if only for the time being. It also instantly buoyed the spirits of the large man. One of the great joys of consuming Mexican food, he thought to himself happily, was the ability to revisit the experience over and over again. With the Great Mexican Gas Crisis at least temporarily abated, his body, which had become momentarily tense and rigid with discomfort, became loose and relaxed as he collapsed back into his chair, exhausted from the effort and slightly out of breath. After a moment of recovery, however, he picked up the gaming controller and restarted Wizard Master. He was a Level 26 Grand Wizard and had been attempting a particularly tricky maneuver when the aforementioned discomfort had come upon him.
“Where is Mother with lunch?” he mumbled to himself, his mood switching suddenly. “She’s getting slower and slower. It’s a wonder I don’t just pack up and leave here all together.” He shook his head in disgust.
The basement he inhabited was old and musty. It was poorly lit, had a stained, moldy drop ceiling with several missing tiles, a sickeningly stained brown carpet and badly outdated wood paneling on the walls. In the back corner was the soiled, sagging bed in which he slept. Sheets and blankets were piled in a tangled heap near the foot of the bed. An assortment of crumbs were sprinkled throughout the bedding and several empty snack boxes lay sticking out from under the blankets. On the other side of the room, next to the stairs that led up to the main part of the house, was the “living” area. It consisted of two plaid, filthy and torn easy chairs, a twenty year-old television set propped up on two milk crates and a small desk, upon which sat an antiquated, beige computer and monitor that looked as though they belonged in a museum. There was a nauseating, slightly sweet smell that hung in the air and seemed to permeate every surface.
He tapped his stubby fingers impatiently on the arm rest of one of the chairs and struggled to turn his neck around far enough to catch a glimpse of the staircase. Nothing. This was intolerable. Finally, after pondering his dilemma for few moments and seeing no obvious alternatives, he made an uncharacteristic decision and opted for action. He gripped the arm rests of the chair firmly with both hands and with great effort, pushed the mass of his immensely large body up from the chair. He slowly rose and stood, swayed shakily for a moment, then steadied himself. He then lumbered over to the bottom of the basement stairs, grabbed hold of the railing and looked desperately up at the closed door at the top of the staircase. Where was she?
“Mother?” he called out weakly with his foot resting unsteadily on the first step. There was no answer. “Mother?” he pleaded louder. Nothing. “My lunch?” he called, his voice cracking slightly. Then he stood motionless, listening intently for any sign of a response. Still, there was nothing. What could be keeping her? The thought flashed through his head that perhaps he should venture up the stairs and find out what was causing the delay. He eyed the stairs critically, however, and considered them for a moment as he weighed the effort that would be required to scale them. Surely she would be around shortly he decided, turning away in disgust. He waddled back across the room and once again flopped into his chair.
“Probably on the phone with one of her inane friends again,” he mumbled to himself. “And all the while her only child sits – starving to death!” He scowled at the thought. “What does she care about my sustenance? I might really have to find other arrangements if this continues.”
“Mother?!?” he screamed out pathetically one last time, stamping his feet on the ground. He then listened intently once again for any response. And this time, after a moment of silence, there were quick footsteps and the door at the top of the stairs opened with a small squeak.
“I’m sorry, Honey,” the diminutive, frail looking woman who appeared at the top of the stairs said apologetically. “I was talking with your Aunt Gracie.”
“Oh, not that vile woman,” he snorted with disgust. His Aunt Gracie had never had a kind word to say about him in his entire life. She was utterly tactless as far as he was concerned and had even gone so far on several occasions as to call him a “fat, lazy slob” right to his face. And while even he would have been hard-pressed to argue the matter on the merits, he resented both the tone and the frequency with which she made the point.
“Now stop that, Cecil. She’s my sister,” his mother scolded as she cautiously made her way down the staircase carrying a tray laden with enough food to feed a small family.
“Please don’t remind me that we’re blood relatives,” he said turning his head away dramatically. “It raises my blood pressure and may trigger my spastic colon – which you know can be quite debilitating. “
“You don’t have a spastic colon,” his mother said reflexively, putting the tray down on a small, wooden table that sat next to his chair. “The doctors told you that years ago.”
“The doctors!?!” he scoffed. “What do they know? They also said that my rapid weight gain was due to severe inactivity and excessive overeating – when we all know that I have a glandular issue!” She nodded, not wanting to argue the point yet again. “What do we have today?” he asked, the smell of lunch catching his attention and suddenly brightening his mood.
“I made you some of those bacon sandwiches you like so much,” she started reluctantly, pointing to the biggest plate. He made a sour face. Sensing his disapproval, she quickly moved on. “And there’s some cream of broccoli soup – you like that don’t you? You like cream of broccoli, no?” she offered with a timid smile.
“It’s one of the less offensive of the cream soups, I suppose,” he said with a dismissive frown. He was busily inspecting the rest of the food on the tray.
“And there’s Jell-O,” she said hopefully, pointing at a heaping bowl of gelatinous, orange goop. “It’s even got the thick skin on top that you like,” she continued encouragingly.
“I would have preferred cherry,” Cecil responded coolly, poking at the elastic dessert with his fork and again frowning.
“And I got you that Chocolate milk you like. Mr. Moo? With the extra sugar and chocolate? I had to go to a separate store all the way across town just to get it.”
“Mr. Moo?” he said perking up considerably. “At least something will be edible.” He picked up one of the sandwiches and without another word, began to devour it. His mother watched it vanish with a sad expression on her face. He looked up at her and stopped chewing.
“What is it?” he asked as little bits of sandwich fell onto the front of his shirt.
“You could thank me,” she said softly. He rolled his eyes and took another bite.
“For what?” he asked, his mouth once again stuffed with bacon and bread.
“Cecil!” she said exasperated. “Every day I bring you your food and you never even say thank you.”
“Is this what it’s come to? I have to thank my own mother now for a little food?” he said bitterly as he took another large bite.
“It’s not a little bit,” she responded sadly. “That bacon doesn’t just fry itself and jump into that sandwich, you know. I spend hours every day . . . “
“Fine,” he barked cutting her off and dramatically tossing the crust back on to the plate. “I didn’t realize that cooking some bacon was such a difficult task for you,” he said with a sneer. “So thank you for the food. And the air. And the ground that we walk on! Is that good enough for you?”
“At least it’s something,” she responded meekly shaking her head. There was a moment of silence.
“Really mother,” he finally blurted. “I can’t take the constant nagging. It’s bad for my conditions. Now you’ve done it. I think my reflux is coming back.” He rubbed his chest vigorously.
“You don’t have reflux,” she responded mechanically.
“There you go again,” he said taking dramatic, slow deep breaths. “This simply isn’t good for my health. Unless things change for the better around here, I don’t see how I have much of a choice but to find alternative arrangements. Is that what you want?” He continued to rub his chest with one hand while he picked up the second sandwich with the other. He took a bite.
“No, of course not,” his mother answered calmly. “You can stay as long as you like here. You’ve been here a long time – and we’ve never said anything, have we?” she asked.
“What is that supposed to mean?” he responded aggressively. Another piece of bacon fell out of his mouth and onto his chest. He picked it up, inspected it and popped it back into his mouth.
“Nothing, Honey,” she said, shifting uncomfortably. “But it’s just - I did want to talk with you about something.”
“Oh please don’t,” he groaned. He flopped back into his chair, wounded by the mere thought. “What is it this time?”
“It’s just . . . your Dad and I think you should maybe take on some more responsibility,” she said gingerly.
“You and Dad have been talking about me behind my back?!?” he asked sitting forward, now suddenly both alarmed and offended.
“No! No,” she said defensively. “We were just talking and we think you just need to stand on your own two feet more.”
“What does that even mean?” he screeched.
“We just want you to take some responsibility around here – you know - if you’re going to continue to live here,” she answered gingerly.
“If?” he sputtered in clear shock. “So this is what it comes to. You two are plotting to move me out of my home!?!” he bellowed dropping the remnants of his second sandwich onto the plate. “This is a betrayal of the highest order! Are you seriously thinking about throwing your only offspring out to the wolves? My stress level,” he said clutching his chest. “My spastic colon is definitely kicking in.”
“Now no one is throwing you out,” she said calmly. “Cut that out. It’s just – we need some help around here. Things aren’t that good, you know,” she said quietly.
“What are you yammering about?” Cecil asked growing more annoyed with each word. “What have you done? What kind of misfortune is about to be visited upon us?”
“Nothing,” she answered meekly. “We have some problems, that’s all. But this is not about us. It’s about you.”
“Me? What about me?” Cecil asked, his head spinning from the conversation.
“You’re 29-years old, Cecil,” she answered in a weak voice.
“I know how old I am. Is this going anywhere?” he asked slowly recovering his composure enough to scoop some of the Jell-O into his mouth.
“It’s just, we’re not always going to be around to take care of you. So we worry. That’s all,” she answered.
“You worry about me?” he asked with a smirk. “Please. Is that what this is about? Then don’t concern yourself. My prospects are boundless. I could do anything. Live anywhere. I chose to live here with you and Dad for your benefit, but don’t think for a moment that I don’t have alternatives.” He snorted with pride as he spoke. “My social and professional prospects and opportunities have never been better.” He poked at the cream soup and inspected it distrustfully.
“That’s good to hear,” his mother said hopefully. “It’s just that we don’t see much of that. You spend almost all your time here in the basement in front of that computer or on the couch playing Wizard Man,” she said motioning to an old beige desktop computer that sat on a table across the room.
“Wizard Master,” he said shaking his head in disgust.
“And the only person we ever see you talk to is that weird Augie boy who’s always around,” she continued.
“Augie is not weird,” Cecil said protectively. “He’s a visionary. He’s the rare soul in all of Scranton that sees the world as it is, rather than as everyone wants you to see it.”
“He makes me nervous,” she said with a scowl. “He clogged the toilet last time he was here. The whole bathroom was flooded. I don’t know what he was doing in there. The plumber said he had never seen anything like it.”
“Whatever,” Cecil responded with a shrug. “A small price to pay for the company of someone with Augie’s vision. Now leave me with my lunch,” he said waving her off. She shook her head and turned, defeated. “And one other thing Mother,” he said between loud slurps of soup. “If you continue this offensive chatter, I will almost certainly get indigestion and my spastic colon will undoubtedly kick in. And as you know, that could mean several days of complete disability. Neither of us wants that. So please -- let me be.”
“Alright, Honey,” she said warmly. “We’ll talk about this later.”
“Oh God . . . I hope not,” he grunted as he watched her walk back up the stairs. “This is really getting to be intolerable,” he mumbled to himself as he pushed a large scoop of Jell-O into his mouth. “I don’t know why I put up with this. If this continues, I really will have to make alternative arrangements.” He then turned his attention back to Wizard Master.
The next morning Cecil’s father sat absent-mindedly stirring his morning coffee at the kitchen table. His wife was out shopping. She spent hours at the local market several times a week shopping for the groceries needed to sustain the bottomless pit that occupied their basement. It was still early and the house was quiet – except for the muffled moans and gastric eruptions that sporadically emanated from under the floorboards. Cecil’s father had grown accustom to them and, in truth, barely noticed them as he sat quietly waiting. After a few minutes, he heard movement, then labored footsteps on the staircase followed by the squeak of the basement door as it opened.
As Cecil emerged from his underground cocoon and ambled his way into the kitchen for breakfast, his father looked up from his coffee. The old man represented quite a contrast to his son. He was lean and somewhat frail. His thinning grey hair and leathery skin made him look even older than he was. He took a silent sip of his coffee as he watched his grotesquely outsized son collapse into a chair directly across the table from him, breathing heavily from the ascent out of the basement.
Cecil’s mother had left an oversized white bowl, a half-gallon of milk and an assortment of breakfast cereals on the table that her son now reviewed critically.
“Mr. Pops?” he huffed picking up one box. “I wouldn’t feed this to a dog.” He put it down and picked up another. “Granola?” he sneered shaking his head. “Really mother,” he said despite her absence. “She knows my body has a complete intolerance for fiber of any kind.” And on it went for each box until he picked up the very last one.
“I guess you will have to do,” he said speaking directly to the box, a yellow one with large red lettering. “Sugar Drops are certainly not my favorite, but will always do in a pinch.” He poured almost half the box into the bowl, covered it with milk and began ladling it into his mouth with a large spoon.
His father sat silently watching the entire cereal display unfold wondering where exactly they had gone wrong. Cecil had always been a difficult child. His mother babied him. Friends were hard to come by. But as he watched cereal disappear into the abyss, he struggled to remember when exactly Cecil had turned into - this.
“Good morning, Cecil,” his father finally said coolly.
“Hmmfff,” Cecil answered, bits of Sugar Drops and milk spilling from his lips. His father’s interruption had annoyed him as he was busy working through a word jumble he had found on the back of the Sugar Drops box.
“Cecil,” his father continued, “I want to talk with you.”
Not again, Cecil thought.
“Mother already talked to me yesterday – and ruined my lunch. Can’t a man even eat in peace around this house?” he asked.
“Cecil,” his father said ignoring the question. “We have a very serious situation that I need to discuss with you.”
“Yes, mother told me,” Cecil responded picking up another large scoop of Sugar Drops. “Can’t it at least wait until my breakfast is digested? Engaging in upsetting discussions while I’m eating always effects my digestion. You know that. My reflux is going to kick in and, well I don’t have to tell you, the entire day will be wasted.” He shoveled more cereal into his mouth.
Once again, however, his father ignored his son’s plea.
“My hours are being cut back at the plant,” he said after a short pause. Cecil’s father had worked at the local electric co-generation plant for almost thirty years. Cecil grunted, swallowed, then scooped up another heaping spoonful of Sugar Drops. His eyes wandered back to the cereal box. His father continued. “It means less money coming in from now on. We can’t keep going like this. We have over $35,000 in credit card debt – mostly from feeding and taking care of you.”
“Thirty-five thousand?” Cecil asked distractedly. His attention had returned back to the word jumble. “Is that all?”
“Is that all?” his father asked exasperated. “That’s big talk from someone who’s never earned a dime in his life.”
“You know that’s untrue, Father,” Cecil corrected defensively. “You will remember that in high school I worked as a bagger in Grossman’s Market. I quickly rose to top bagger and if not for Mr. Grossman’s sadistically high standard for hygiene, which you’ll remember I opposed mostly on principle, I would have been running the whole operation by now.”
“You only worked there for two weeks, eleven years ago,” his father said shaking his head.
“Yes,” Cecil acknowledged. “But it was sufficient time for me to realize that I was not made to function in that kind of cutthroat capitalist environment. I’m not particularly money-motivated. It was all very stressful and traumatic.”
“You don’t understand,” his father said flatly. “We don’t have a choice any more. If we don’t start paying off that thirty-five thousand – they’re threatening to take the house.”
“Ridiculous,” Cecil said with a scoff.
“Don’t you get it?” his father said getting upset. “They’re not fooling around. We could lose the house!”
“Unlikely,” Cecil responded with a wave of his hand.
“It’s time to stop the nonsense!” his father said banging his hand on the table. “You’re twenty-nine years old! We need you to start helping out around here. You need to get a job to help pay off that debt!” A cold silence filled the room.
“Don’t be absurd,” Cecil finally huffed slamming down his spoon. “You know very well that I’m far too busy to deal with your petty problems.”
“Busy?” his father replied bewildered.
“Yes, 6 Miles to Baltimore takes all my time,” Cecil responded. He picked up the spoon, scooped up some more Sugar Drops and sucked them into his mouth with a loud slurp.
“Not that again,” his father said with a derisive snort. “You’ve been sitting in the basement for the last eleven years pretending to work on that screenplay. No one has ever even seen it. I don’t believe it even exists.”
“As you know,” Cecil continued munching away on yet another heaping spoonful of Sugar Drops. “6 Miles to Baltimore is more than a screenplay, it is my all-consuming passion. In all modesty, it is a work of art on the scale of the Mona Lisa.” His father rolled his eyes. “Moreover, it’s almost complete. And once it’s finished, I will sell it to Hollywood and your petty $35,000 will be forgotten. Problem solved.” He scooped up yet another heaping mound of Sugar Drops and pushed it into his mouth.
“Listen, Cecil,” his father began in a calm, firm and steady tone. “I don’t want to hear any more nonsense. I don’t want to hear about some imaginary screenplay. You have three days to get a real job. One that pays actual money. Not some fantasy. Otherwise, you’re moving out of here, so help me. We can’t continue this way.”
“This is utterly i-i-intolerable,” Cecil stammered slamming down his spoon for a second time. “My stress levels can’t take this!”
“I don’t care about your stress or your nerves or your reflux, Cecil,” his father said coolly. “Or your state-of-mind, your vertigo, your heart, your asthma, your gout or anything else that’s wrong with you. For the love of God - just get a job. Any job.”
“One would think you might have some compassion for your own son!” Cecil cried indignantly.
“I do. And it’s for your own good - as well as ours,” his father replied.
“For my good?” Cecil recoiled in horror. “Do you even understand what you’re saying? This may mean that 6 Miles to Baltimore is never completed to its full potential. Can you live with the prospect of denying the world such a piece of art? It’s like taking the paint brush out of Michelangelo’s hand when he was almost finished with the Sistine Chapel or slamming the piano cover onto Beethoven’s hands while he was writing the 5th Symphony – are you prepared to have that be the way history judges you?”
“I’ll take my chances,” his father responded dryly. Cecil sat speechless, in stunned disbelief.
“And one more thing,” his father continued, unable to contain his frustration. “What the hell is with you and Baltimore anyway? Why are you writing a story about Baltimore?” his father asked. “You’ve never even been out of Scranton in your whole life.” Cecil’s eyes burned.
“Why Baltimore?!?” he repeated now even more shaken and offended. He slammed his hands on the table. “You might as well ask – why sunshine? Why roses? Why moonlight? Baltimore isn’t just a place, it’s an idea. A concept. Lord Baltimore founded the City, premised on peace and acceptance of all. Baltimore is a beacon of freedom. It’s integral to the story! How can you even ask – why Baltimore!” He was shouting.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” his father replied flatly shaking his head standing up. “In fact, I never know what you’re talking about. Just get a job. I mean it,” he said firmly as he walked over to the sink, put his cup in and then exited the room leaving Cecil alone with the soggy remains of his Sugar Drops.
“This is really too much,” Cecil grumbled to himself. “I may need to make other arrangements if this continues.” He rubbed his chest in attempt to ease some discomfort. “I am simply not made for this kind of conflict.” He felt a slight twinge in his chest. He shifted in his chair and a Sugar Drops-fueled burp escaped his lips. He slumped back into the chair, once again, exhausted from the effort.
Augie Terlick stood in the classics section of the only used record store in all of Scranton. He was tall and thin, with a long crooked nose, wiry dark hair and an odd angular face. He wore dirty jeans, a flannel shirt and boots that he had gotten from a used clothing store a few blocks away. He had a patchy black beard that looked as though it had never been trimmed and dark sunglasses that he wore indoors and out. Like Cecil, he was twenty-nine years old, lived with his parents, had never held a steady job and appeared to have neither the skills nor the inclination to attempt to support himself. As he thumbed through the collection of obscure old records, he occasionally paused, pulled one out, frowned and stuffed it back into the bin.
He was so engrossed in his search that he didn’t notice the door to the store open, or the ringing bell that indicated a new entrant. A familiar rotund figure dressed in an ill-fitting sweater and wool cap rolled in.
“Augie, dear friend!” Cecil called out. “There you are!”
“Cecil!” Augie replied, “It’s good to see you.” Augie turned, smiled and shook his friend’s hand. “How are you?”
“I was able to capture the Orb of Veritude on level 27 this morning,” he responded.
“Wow. That’s great!”
“Yes. It’s one of my proudest accomplishments,” Cecil agreed happily. “Find anything?” he asked motioning toward the records.
“Nothing but bland tripe,” Augie responded. Cecil nodded knowingly. Augie and Cecil were two of the last remaining aficionados of obscure 1980’s European metal hair bands in the greater Scranton area. “They have a new CD section over there that has a few interesting things,” he said pointing to the far end of the store.
“You know of my strong preference for vinyl,” Cecil snorted. “Any audiophile will tell you of its superior qualities.” Augie nodded in agreement. “CD’s and all other digital audio files are really made for the Becky Slaters of the world,” Cecil said with a satisfied sneer. Becky Slater was a girl who had been in Cecil and Augie’s high school class. She was pretty and smart - a cheerleader who had been the lead in all of the school plays. And although she barely knew that Cecil existed during high school and hadn’t seen him since they graduated almost eleven years ago, he still constantly held her out as an example of the vapid, empty culture that he believed engulfed the entire greater-Scranton metropolitan area.
“Ah - here’s something interesting,” Augie said removing an album from the bin and holding it up for Cecil to see. It was a Christmas album by a defunct German speed metal band called Fettsack whose lead singer sounded like a barking dog.
“I already have it,” Cecil responded coolly. “It’s quite excellent and of course under-appreciated.” Augie nodded in understanding. Cecil let out a low moan.
“Are you okay?” Augie asked.
“I’ll be fine,” Cecil responded dramatically. “There was some unpleasantness at my house this morning.”
“Is everything alright?” Augie asked now concerned.
“I’m not sure,” Cecil said. “It’s just that my parents have decided, in their great wisdom, after all these years that my existence is too burdensome for them. They brutally confronted me and tried to extort $35,000 from me this morning.”
“Wow, that’s awful,” Augie responded shocked. “They always seemed like such nice people.”
“I’m afraid that I was taken in by them too,” Cecil agreed sadly. “But it turns out that they may have had this devilish plan all along. I’m convinced now that the entirety of the previous twenty-nine years was nothing more than a ruse – designed to lull me into a false sense of security – so that they could then threaten to throw me into the street unless I hand over $35,000 to them. It’s outrageous!”
“That’s hard to believe,” Augie agreed sympathetically.
“I’m beside myself with grief over it,” Cecil admitted.
“Is it affecting your nerves?” Augie asked.
“So far not – miraculously,” Cecil answered. “I’m apparently stronger than even I realized.”
“That’s good,” Augie responded. The two stood silently looking through the record bin for a few moments. “So what are you going to do?” Augie finally asked.
“What choice do I have?” Cecil responded pathetically. “Either I bend to their demands – or I will be cast out into the street.”
“But – do you have $35,000?” Augie asked.
“Of course not,” Cecil responded as he rubbed his round belly. “I haven’t told you the worst of it. I’m afraid they want me to get a job.”
“Another job?” Augie said horrified.
“I know,” Cecil responded nodding. “It’s all very disheartening.”
“But what about your work on 6 Miles to Baltimore?”
“They don’t think it’s a real job. They simply don’t care about it. I’m afraid they’ve both gone quite insane,” Cecil said shaking his head.
“So they want you to get a regular job? Even after your experience at Grossman’s?” Augie asked appalled.
“Apparently. They both appear blinded by greed to all the ill effects this could have on my psyche and physical well-being,” Cecil answered sadly. As he spoke, he picked up a record, scanned its cover and shook his head at its obvious banality.
“Wow,” Augie said quietly. “I’m sorry man, that’s tough.”
“I know it,” Cecil agreed nodding. The two stood quietly for a few more moments.
“Maybe Bobby needs help here at the store?” Augie finally offered motioning toward the owner of the record store who was organizing some records in the aisle next to them.
“He hates me,” Cecil responded flatly. The store owner, like most people who knew him, did in fact, hate Cecil. “Ever since I bested him in the great Trivial Pursuit game of 2009, he has resented my intellect. It would never work.” Augie once again nodded in understanding.
“There’s nothing here,” Augie said with disgust, pushing away the last record in the bin.
“I’m famished,” Cecil announced despite the fact that he was only halfway through the day and already eaten three substantial meals. “Let’s go to Yogurt Trek.”
“Great,” Augie agreed happily.
The two men left the record store and walked very slowly (Cecil could only ever walk very slowly) around the corner and down to one of the main business avenues of downtown Scranton. They walked past an empty furniture store, a tired-looking pizza restaurant, a hair salon and a few other small shops, then crossed a sleepy square, past the courthouse until they reached one of the latest additions to the city’s culinary landscape – Yogurt Trek.
Yogurt Trek was the brain child of its owner and operator, Edward Hampton. Eddie, as he was commonly known, was not your typical business owner. He had long been a science fiction fan. Also, he had an unusually strong love of frozen yogurt. So when his father passed away leaving him a modest inheritance, he quit his job selling plumbing fixtures and sunk all of the money his father had left him into combining his two passions. Yogurt Trek, an off-beat science fiction themed frozen yogurt shop was born. Now every day, to his wife’s great dismay, he dressed up like a character from one of his favorite science-fiction television shows, drove to the store, got behind the counter and dispensed what he believed was the best frozen yogurt in the County.
Yogurt Trek was small shop with large glass windows in the front that overlooked a quiet square right in the middle of a downtown Scranton. It opened to deservedly little fanfare, but quickly became one of Cecil’s favorite spots because he shared Eddie’s passions for both campy science fiction and frozen dessert treats. As he and Augie walked in, Eddie waved to them. They were an odd pair to be sure, but were frequent customers and he felt some obligation to at least try to appear welcoming. There wasn’t a need for much interaction, however. Yogurt Trek was a self-service operation, which appealed to Cecil since it meant that the only limiting factors on the portion size was the capacity of the bowl and how much money one had.