My Time in Chesterville, Chapter 2: The Double Brauman Bubble Beaker
Read the second installment of MeTV's first original fiction story. Make sure to catch up on chapter 1 if you haven't already!
My Time in Chesterville is a new MeTV original fiction serial told in the style of classic periodicals. Each week, a new chapter reveals more of the story created by author June Halbrook. Follow along as hilarious septuagenarian Dot Haywood reconnects with her teenage grandson, Ben, through stories of her smalltown childhood. She recounts charming mishaps, village oddballs and, of course, young love, all with her trademark wit and unfiltered style. Like any good storyteller, Dot blurs the line between fact and fiction — but never fails to entertain!
Ben opened his eyes.
He lifted his head groggily off the pillow. He felt better than he did two hours ago but was still glad he didn't go to school today.
His mom rushed off to work after he assured her that, at 15, he could take care of himself. She said she would be home early but he wasn't counting on it.
Ben, almost instinctively, picked up his phone. He mindlessly scrolled through endless posts when something occurred to him. Something he actually found interesting.
He made a call.
Dot, in her seventies but "just barely," as she liked to clarify, heard the phone ring from in the house. She looked around for a place to put down her paint palette. Her small screened-in porch was piled high with junk.
The canvas in front of her displayed the beginnings of a small-town main street, the facades of brick buildings unfinished but recognizable. She rested her palette on a heap of papers and maneuvered her way through the clutter into the house.
Dot picked up the phone in the kitchen.
"Hi Grandma, how's it going?" Ben asked.
"Who is this? Do I owe you money?" Dot joked.
Ben chuckled. "It’s me, it's Ben!"
"Oh yeah, I remember you. How ya doing, kiddo?"
"I'm home sick today."
"Uh oh, is something wrong?"
"No, I'm feeling a little better now."
"Oh, so you just called me for fun?"
"Well, I just thought, I mean…are you busy?"
"No! Not at all! I'm flattered. There are probably about a gazillion other things you could do besides talk to me."
"Yeah, I got kinda bored with all that. Actually, I was thinking about that story you told me the other day, about where you grew up."
"Chesterville," Dot said as she unwound the gnarled phone cord and sat down at the kitchen table.
"What did you mean by other 'unexplainable' things?" Ben asked, curiously.
"What?" Dot replied.
"You said you saw a giant sea turtle in a pond when you were a kid and that wasn't the only unexplainable thing that happened in Chesterville."
"I did say that, didn't I?"
There was a small pause before Ben eagerly asked, "So what else happened that you couldn’t explain?"
"Are you sitting down?"
"I'm in bed ahem ahem," Ben said mustering up a somewhat fake cough. "Sick, remember?"
"Oh, yes, that"s right. Actually, that does remind me of something that happened that's a little…," Dot trailed off.
"Weird?" Ben offered.
"Outside the normal laws of physics."
Ben’s eyes widened. Dot continued, "But I was never very good at physics."
Ben smiled, putting his phone on speaker. He laid his phone on the pillow beside him.
Dot cleared her throat and began to reminisce.
"I should start by saying that the weather in Chesterville was never extreme. No hurricanes, tornadoes and definitely no earthquakes. We had the occasional storm, but most days the breeze was just enough to sing through the oak trees. That's important to know because it makes what I’m about to tell you even more remarkable."
"The summer after first grade — this was back in… '56, I guess — I got sick. It wasn't anything serious, just a stomach bug, but it felt like my world had ended. That sounds dramatic but that's how it felt. It ate me up knowing the other kids were out playing from dawn 'til dusk while I was stuck in bed."
"I did find some comfort in the fact that my best friend, Bobbi-Ann, was sick, too. She's probably who I got it from! We met at the beginning of first grade. She and her parents had just moved to Chesterville. She was an only child, which was unfathomable to me. I thought she hit the family jackpot! She, of course, was jealous that I had three siblings. Although, we both agreed my sister Vickie was trouble."
"I remember she got teased for her glasses. I had a few choice words for those bullies. After that, we were inseparable all the way through high school. I wonder where she is now…"
Dot smiled wistfully.
Ben asked, "So, you were both sick?"
"Right, yes. When my mom told me Bobbi-Ann was sick, too, it made me feel better. She wasn't out having fun without me. Mom brought me a special concoction from Brauman's Drugstore to ease my stomach. Mr. Brauman could whip up just about anything into a drink and make it taste good. In this case, soda pop with fresh ginger. I don't remember having many fizzy drinks before that but from then on I was definitely hooked."
"After two or three days, Bobbi-Ann and I were finally better. She also got some of Mr. Brauman's Steadfast Stomach Steadier, the very same ginger drink I had. Brauman’s special mixes all had funny names like that. We both decided we needed to try as many as we could."
"Of course, drinking a carbonated beverage is especially fun when you're seven years old because it makes you burp. And burp we did!"
"Pretty soon we were having contests to see who could burp the loudest, the longest, or how many we could get in a row."
"Now, you're probably wondering how we managed to afford all this soda pop. Mr. Brauman recognized our particular enthusiasm for his bubbly beverages and offered us a deal. If we helped out around the store, we could get any soda we wanted at the end of every day."
"It helped that Mr. Brauman's grandson, Clyde, was visiting Chesterville for the summer. He gave us the lay of the land. Clyde was only a year older but he seemed to know everything about the world. He was from the big city and had all the sage wisdom that comes from completing the second grade."
"Clyde could burp as long and as loud as either of us, oftentimes even better. He said the drinks we were getting were okay, but if we truly wanted to put some brass in our burps, one drink stood out above the rest — the Brauman Bubble Beaker. Naturally, the drink we wanted most was the one drink we couldn't have. Mr. Brauman made it very clear that the Bubble Beaker was a specialty product made from a secret formula of expensive, unpronounceable ingredients. He wasn’t sure children our age could handle it."
“Clyde had always wanted to try it but even he had never been able to. He said most folks got the standard Brauman Bubble Beaker, half a beaker filled with secret proprietary liquid, leaving room for the gurgling foam to fill the rest of the bottle. But the truly courageous ordered the Double Brauman Bubble Beaker, filled all the way to the top, foam and bubbles gushing over the sides. We had to get our hands on it! So we hatched a plan."
"So, one summer day, Bobbi-Ann and I eagerly strolled down Main Street into Brauman’s Drugstore. We couldn't help sneaking a peak at the secret ingredients sitting behind the counter."
"When the moment was right, Clyde distracted his grandfather in the back room. Me and Bobbi-Ann immediately sprang into action. We mixed the ingredients but nothing happened. Then we remembered the soda fountain! We rushed over to the shiny, curved faucet. I climbed onto a stool, shoved our strange mixture under the spout and watched as glorious, fizzy soda flowed. I quickly turned the fountain off but couldn’t stop the eruption now gushing from the beaker."
Ben propped his head up with one hand, listening closely.
"I jumped down from the stool. We knew we had to get out of there, fast, before our volatile creation covered the entire counter in suds. We hightailed it down Main Street, the small beaker spewing a trail of foam behind us. We stopped to catch our breath on the bridge overlooking the river. We gulped down our bubbly brew and stared at each other, wondering what might happen."
"Then it hit us."
"It was a tornado in my insides. The sound that erupted from our tiny, seven-year-old mouths was thunderous. The bridge shook. Windows rattled. I saw, and I swear this is true, cracks forming down the middle of Main Street."
"No one knew exactly what happened in Chesterville the summer of '56. Most thought it was a freak earthquake. Some believed it was a military experiment gone wrong. No one suspected two soon-to-be second-graders and their soda pop."
"No one except Clyde, of course, who never got his share of the Bubble Beaker. Mr. Brauman saw the store covered in foam and was furious."
"Years later, Clyde visited Chesterville for another summer and I got to pay him back in my own way… with a kiss."
Dot paused, awaiting a response.
"What, no reaction? No 'Aw!' or even 'Ew!'?"
Ben snored softly into his pillow. Dot laughed to herself.
"Well, glad I could lull you to sleep, kiddo. Maybe I'll tell you about Clyde some other time."