Thursday, June 30, 2011

Potent Potable

Time for another Flash Fiction, sponsored by Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds. The prompt is confusing because you have to mix up given genres...I blended Steampunk with Superhero and a dash of Farce (I love farce). This time there was a prize of a critique so I tried a little harder. I'm sure there are better ones, and with the 1000 word limit I had to cut it down. Ah well, tis the challenge =)

ps - I am also offering the 1st two paragraphs for Aheila's drabble day, unwanted guest. Since I'm mixing, might as well combine challenges too, eh?

Potent Potable

“I, Professor Mathias J. Cornelius, do now reveal to you this magnificent, stupendous elixir, guar-on-TEED to make you stronger, wiser and extend the days of your life!”

The Professor had arrived that morning, attracting a crowd. They watched the large man set up a stage in front of his wagon with its patchwork cover and clanging decorations. Now that he had everyone’s attention, he used his charismatic personality to peddle his concoction.

“Get a load o’ this medicine man!” Jeb said to his friend and jabbed him in the ribs.

“Ow! Whadya do that for?” Nehemiah asked and elbowed him back causing him to stumble.

Jeb laughed. “Jest seein’ if you’re a-WAKE!” he said, emphasizing “wake” with a hard slap to Nehemiah’s back.

Nehemiah fell forward and bumped into Carl, the big, burly son of the blacksmith. Carl slowly turned around and gave Nehemiah the “You’re playin with your life” stare down.

Nehemiah tipped his hat and crept backwards to his spot. Jeb shook, ready to burst out laughing. When Carl turned back around, Nehemiah punched Jeb in the arm.

The Professor had continued his oration and was now asking for a volunteer. Jeb raised Nehemiah’s arm for him.

“Ah, it seems we do have a brave soul here in…”

“Possum Gulch,” whispered an invisible assistant.

“…Possum Glitch.”

The audience parted to reveal Jeb and Nehemiah about to come to blows. The young men froze when they noticed all eyes had turned to them.

“You, there. What is your name?”

“It’s Nehemiah!” Jeb shouted.

Nehemiah punched his friend in the arm again but Jeb was too giddy with his great joke to care.

“Strong name. It deserves a strong frame to go with it. Right folks?”

The crowd agreed with laughter and cheers. Carl showed a disturbing, gap-toothed smile as he helped/pulled Nehemiah to the front.

Nehemiah tripped up the stairs to the stage, drawing more laughter. When he righted himself, he noticed the strange metal gadgets hanging from the top of the wagon were not just wind chimes or pots. They had gears and points, maybe they were tools.

Nehemiah turned to face the audience and frowned at Jeb who was laughing hysterically and slapping his knee.

“Now tell me, son, what do you do?”

“I work at Two Diamonds.” After he said it, he noticed Josie Lynn, his boss’s daughter. She waved then giggled with her friends.

Nehemiah blushed until he remembered where he was and grimaced at Jeb.

“A ranch hand,” the Professor surmised. He pinched one of Nehemiah’s biceps, as if testing fruit for ripeness. Nehemiah jerked away. “My boy, this elixir could turn those flabby arms into firm muscle. Why, you would get your work done in half the time with a little help from my Wonder Punch!” He held up the square, green bottle. “Not to mention, twice the attention of the ladies!” he added with a wink. The audience loved that.

“So, Nehemiah, are you ready to try it?”

Nehemiah considered. He looked at Jeb, almost falling over, pretending to drink with his thumb. Carl still wore that frightening grin. He would test the potion by beating Nehemiah senseless. Then he saw Josie Lynn again. She looked hopeful. He guessed the worst that could happen was he’d keel over and die.

“Sure. What the heck.”


Nehemiah took a long swig.

Everyone hushed and waited for something to happen.

Nothing did.

The crowd started to murmur.

“Did it work?” Jeb yelled.

“Let’s see, shall we?” The professor directed their attention to a large black dumbbell marked 1000 lbs.

“You, sir. Would you mind coming up and demonstrating the truth of the weight?” he asked Carl.

Carl joined them on the stage. He got a good grip on the handle and heaved. The weight didn’t budge. He tried a few more times. Still nothing.

“Thank you, sir. You may step down.” Carl scratched his head and left the stage.

“Now, Nehemiah, it’s your turn.”

Nehemiah turned to the weight with a doubtful expression. If Carl couldn’t lift it, he surely couldn’t. He put both hands on it and pulled up.

It moved. He lifted some more and it rose higher. It wasn’t even heavy! He couldn’t believe it!

And neither could the crowd. They cheered and hollered. Jeb stared with his jaw hanging.

Nehemiah raised the weight higher and higher. Like a feather it floated up. He let go with one hand and the crowd went nuts.

“Amazing! Wonderful! Thank you, my boy! You may set it down now. Easy does it.”

As Nehemiah lowered the weight, he felt resistance. He realized he had been fooled. He let go of it completely and it lowered gently to the stage.

The crowd gasped then quickly turned into an angry mob. Nehemiah threw open the cover of the wagon revealing a complicated contraption controlled by the Professor’s assistant with a massive magnet for lifting the weight.

The crowd stormed the stage. “Help!” the Professor squeaked.

Nehemiah saw no need for lynching. The hooligan hadn’t taken their money. He picked up the Professor and held him over his head.

The crowd halted in amazement. Nehemiah had actually gotten stronger. The Professor was a good 250 pounds.

“Hey, look! That stuff actually works!” Jeb shouted. “I want some!” The rest of the people chimed in clamoring to buy the elixir.

Nehemiah looked confused, still holding the fat Professor over his head.

“Thanks, son. You can put me down now,” he said. Then he turned to the crowd. “See? Of course it works! If you would all form an orderly line I will gladly sell one to each of you at $2 a bottle.”

Josie Lynn ran over to Nehemiah coming off the stage, still dumbfounded that it worked. She squeezed his arm and swooned, “My hero!”


As they rode out of town, a gaunt Professor Cornelius counted his money and commented to his assistant, “Next time we should use bigger balloons under my coat.”


Cathy said...

Oh, very gooood! Now I can go to work smiling! ;)

Dana said...

Wonderful! I loved this, Tara. You kept my interest all the way through, and the ending is fun. :)

MISH said...

The end was hilarious ! I had good laugh (as usual) ... !
I loved your smart , business-minded professor !

Anonymous said...

Very cute--a con within a con.

Anonymous said...

Oh I like how you use the vernacular in the dialogue :O)

Heather M. Gardner said...

That was really funny. Didn't know where you were heading and that was even better!
Great job.

Ellie Garratt said...

I loved it! So funny.

Ellie Garratt

Theresa Milstein said...

Oh my goodness, what a mix of genres! And yet you pulled it off. What a fun read!

Tara Tyler said...

thank you!
i wanted to have the town tar and feather the professor and that night nehemiah and jeb sneak in and find the "good stuff" and become super villain and super hero then save josie lynn...not enough word count. i may have to revisit possum gulch =)

Michael Trimmer said...

Nice work. I particually liked how you could not be entirely sure if it was a hoax untill the end.

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