(Jane parts 1-12; and now the exciting conclusion!)
Like approaching thunder, the noise grew from both sides. Iris looked from one horizon to the other, and gave Jane a curt nod.
“Go,” she said.
“But don’t you need some help?”
“Barry and I have this.” Iris cast her pimento eyes in Barry’s direction.
“What? Don’t look at me, I’m just an ice cream cone.”
“And the cause of this whole problem.”
‘I can’t be held responsible,” Barry said, “I’m low-fat.”
The Meatniks chanted as they came closer, the sound rhythmic and harsh. Primal. The Tofuratti raised their asparagus spears.
“It’s now or never, Jane,” Iris said.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. You don’t belong here. Next time you buy a vegetarian frozen dinner, think a fond thought of me.”
“I think I’m done with tofu,” said Jane. “And meat. And ice cream.”
“You can work out your diet later. Go!”
Iris was right, if she was going to make it to the drain, she would have to go now. Barry shuffled in the snow on the tip of its cone. “Bye Jane.”
“You have to admit this was more fun than going home and sitting in front of the TV and eating…well…me.”
The Meatniks crested the hill, all of them solid muscle, their march even and determined. The Tofuratti let out a battle cry.
“In the name of Soy!” they yelled together.
Giving Iris one final smile and Barry the finger, Jane wound herself up, and then sprinted, head down, through the soft, loose snow drifts. The yelling continued behind her as she ran toward the wall.
The drainage hole was higher than she thought. She eyed the ice covering it, tested an outcrop with a hand. It would hold.
Like scaling a freezing rock face, she made her way up slowly, right hand, left hand, right foot, left foot.
“Look out!” she heard and ducked instinctively as an asparagus spear splotched wetly against the wall. The crystal under her left foot gave way with her shifted weight, and she slid, the ice rough against her skin, but she caught herself.
She took a peek over her shoulder and saw a chunk of meat, hunkered and determined, heading in her direction. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and propelled herself upward.
Her hands landed inside the rounded bottom of the drainage hole and, using all the upper body strength she had — while wishing she’d done more pull-ups — she managed to get herself up and over the edge.
There was a screen. She curled up in the hole, trying to catch her breath, and caught sight of Iris mowing down and entire row of Meatniks, one bonking into the other and into the other.
Iris was probably going to be OK.
Barry was horizontal, trying to make itself as small as possible in the valley of two snowdrifts. Typical.
She rammed her shoulder into the screen. Nothing. She tried again. Nope. Turning, she gripped the edge of the drainage hole with both hands and boat-posed like she’d never boat-posed before, then kicked her legs as hard as she could. The screen fell.
And fell. And fell.
She hunched over, looking at the drop. She didn’t have a choice. She closed her eyes and jumped.
“You OK over there?” said Tim, the store’s owner.
“Huh?” said Jane. She was in a superhero kneeling position on the convenience store floor. She stood quickly, brushing off the dirt. The warm air prickled her numb skin. “Oh, I, um, dropped…something.”
“Find what you wanted in the freezer?” Tim stepped down from the rise behind the counter, and joined her over the clear case, where ice cream and frozen meat and frozen vegetarian meals lay willy-nilly. “Every time I turn around, this thing is a mess,” he said.
“Yeah,” said Jane, still dazed, vacillating between wondering if Iris made it or if she was crazy. Staring down into the freezer, she could have sworn she saw a pimento wink.
It didn’t answer her question.
“I, uh, I don’t think I want anything,” she said, heading for the door.
“I understand,” said Tim. “That seems to be happening a lot lately.”
“Sorry,” said Jane, giving him a wave as she gave the door’s handle yank.
“Why are you sorry? I blame Barry,” Tim said.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your adventure with Jane! Moral of the story: always read the ingredients.
Check out my full-length novels, Her Cousin Much Removed, The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!
And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!