The Smarts’ Big Adventure
Chapter Three : Out of the Flames and Into the Fire
“Come on, Zachary, think!” Max was laying on the couch, while Zach paced up and down the living room floor. “Now, when you said we made like a thousand calls, you had been joking, right?” Max asked. “I mean, really. How many calls do you think we made?”
Zach stopped his pacing and stared at his father.
“Nine hundred fifty.” He replied.
“I don’t believe this.” Max said, shaking his head. “Come to think of it, we always did get in trouble on snow days. I mean, we’re two grown men, but every time we’re with each other, we turn into little kids. How are we going to explain this to your mother!?”
“Come on, Dad, there’s gotta be something we can do!” Zach said.
“Zachary, it’s not as if we’re two little kids who use their parents’ phone line to talk to some woman named Bambi about how to do their math homework.”
“Dad, that’s it!” Zach shouted, snapping his fingers. Max looked at his son in confusion. Seeing the look on his face, Zach quickly went over and sat on the table in front of him.
“I read this article once where this little boy had called a 900 number and his parents called the phone company and they took the charges off the phone!” Max sat up and looked at his son. “Dad, it might work.”
“Hand me the phone.” Max replied, sitting up. He quickly dialed a number and waited for an answer. “Hello? Customer service please. Hello. I’m calling from 329-4123 and my grandson has something he wants to tell you.”
Max handed the phone to Zach, who replied in a small voice, “I’ve been a naughty boy.”
“It’s not here.”
Maxine had her head rested on the bar of the salad bar. She and 99 had frantically searched the salad bar containers of food for the black pearl Maxine had lost.
“It’s gone.” Maxine said, shaking her head.
“It has to be around here somewhere, Maxine.” 99 said. Both women were tired and covered in food. They only had twenty minutes to find that pearl before their driver would be coming back. “Look, just keep looking on your side, okay?”
Maxine stood up and continued looking. She looked at the three containers of salad dressing that stared up at her. She picked one and tried to shake it to where she could see if anything had fallen into it.
Nothing. She’d just have to do what she had to do. She put her hand in the bucket, just as one of the employees came by.
The two looked at each other.
“Excuse me, is this Thousand Island or Italian?” Maxine asked, pulling her hand out of the container and showing the young attendant.
“Thousand Island.” He said, meekly, wondering what these women were doing assaulting his nice and clean salad bar.
“Oh, well then,” Maxine said, shaking the dressing off her hand. “I don’t like Thousand Island.”
The man nodded, walking past Maxine very quickly and went over to clean up a table.
“Mom, this isn’t getting us anywhere.” Maxine said, cleaning her hand with a towel. “Let’s just get another plate and dump all this food on it. At least people will stop staring at us.”
The two got about five plates, set them on their table, and brought container after container of food and dumped them onto the plate. They each searched for the pearl and were slowly coming up empty.
99 turned the salad container upside down and started to shake its contents on the table, just as the same male attendant came back. He stared at 99, who desperately tried to think of some explanation.
“This is all you can eat, right?” she asked. The man nodded. “Cause you know we’re still hungry.”
“Mom, let’s just tell him the truth.” Maxine said, leaning back in the chair. “Listen, we’ve lost a very…very important jewel…somewhere in your salad bar. It’s a medium black pearl.”
“You haven’t found it by chance, have you?” 99 asked, pleadingly.
“Gosh, no.” the man replied, sounding very sympathetic with the girls. “I once found a retainer in the lettuce and a fingernail in the croutons. Does that do anything for you?”
“Yes,” 99 said, utterly disgusted by the confessions of a salad bar attendant. “It makes me never want to eat here again.”
“Look,” Maxine said, also trying to get the confession out of her head. “Do you still have some of the containers you took out earlier?”
“I think there’s a couple left. Do you want those?” the man asked.
“Yes, please.” 99 said.
The man hurried into the kitchen, while the girls waited for him. “This is really bad. I am so sorry, Mom.” Maxine said. “This is all my fault. I shouldn’t have put that pearl on my necklace.”
“No, Max,” 99 said, shaking her head. “I shouldn’t have opened that package.”
The attendant came back with five more containers, but after a quick search, the pearl was not to be found. “That’s it.” Maxine said, putting her head on the food covered table. “My life is over. Someone else probably found it or worse, ate it.”
The girls’ driver soon walked in and saw the place nearly deserted and his two passengers covered with food. “What happened here?” he asked, coming over to the table. “Were you guys that hungry?”
“We won’t be heading to the base after all.” 99 told him. The driver looked at her in confusion. “We lost something really important in the salad bar and we can not find it.” Maxine said.
“Oh, you mean this?” the driver put his hand in his pocket and pulled out the black pearl. Both girls jumped at the man.
“Where did you find that?” 99 insisted.
“You dropped it in the back seat.” The driver replied. “I went to get the car cleaned and I found it while vacuuming.” 99 kissed the man’s cheek.
“Let’s go. We’re going to be late.” She quickly left the building. Maxine took the man’s face in her hands and kissed him on the lips.
“If I wasn’t already in love, I’d marry you!” she declared, following her mother. The driver and the attendant exchanged glances.
The driver shrugged and replied, “I can’t help if woman fawn over me. When you got it, you got it.” With that, he left.