A Talented Diversion
by Joseph Leskey
“It should be easy,” thought Lloyd Sneeze, looking doubtfully at the purse two meters away from his hiding place in the cereal isle. He quickly turned back to looking at cereal as a person came behind him.
“Mmmmmm!!” He exclaimed. “Nothing like shredded wheat. Yum, yum, yum.” He turned to the lady behind him. “What do you think? Nothing like a bowl of shredded wheat and Cheerios with a nice cold glass of grape juice. Pure… where’d yo’ go?” He turned happily back to the purse, only to see the lady taking it.
“Hey!” he shouted. “What are you doing with that bag thing?” The lady heeded him not and walked off with loud footsteps.
“Bother. I’m done in here.” He walked off with a box of shredded wheat, cautiously approaching the nearest emergency exit. As it was, some ingenious person had equipped the crash bar with a fire alarm and soon the entire place was in an uproar. And the crash bar stuck.
“FIIIIIRE!!!!” wailed somebody.
“EVACUATE THE BABES!!!!”
“I don’t see any fire.”
“THE WORLD IS BURNING!!!!!”
Lloyd grabbed a mop from a hyperventilating employee and prepared to charge the exit. A couple of ancient times reached it first and he politely waited as an old man who looked like he could have been a grandfather for at least three generations inspected the hinge. The man jumped back as his wife—presumably—struck the bar with her handbag. Something cracked and the door was easily shoved open. In the mad rush that followed, the cereal box was lost, as was Lloyd’s favorite jacket. He kept his hat, though. It was a very fine top hat that he had won in a fraudulent sweepstake.
“Yo, man,” said a voice, “what’s with the speed?” A man popped out from behind a trashcan.
“Can’t stop, Bluethigh!” yelled Lloyd. “There’s a fire on my trail.”
“Chill out, man.” George Bluethigh patted Lloyd’s back expertly. “Fire doesn’t burn blacktop. How’d your enterprise go?”
Lloyd shrugged. “I lost my jacket.”
“THERE THEY ARE!” shrieked a voice. “MOW DOWN THE MURDERERS!!!!!”
“ARSONISTS!!!!!” contributed another voice shrilly.
“Run!” George Bluethigh took off. He had trained for the Olympics but that didn’t quite go well, though it left him with desirable amounts of speed. Lloyd followed him, far slower, fumbling in his pockets.
“What you doing?” yelled George.
“I’m trying to find a cigarette, so I can be less conspicuous.”
“There’s no time for that,” said George incredulously. “Run!”
“I am running!” said Lloyd. “But only so many feet can be hitting the ground at once. Hey look, teenagers with guitars. They look miserable. Won’t somebody notice us running?” Lloyd merely was confirming a fact that he had observed. Many people abandoned what they were doing and began chasing the runners. “There’s a guy with no shirt and he’s about to catch us.”
“No, he won’t.” George chuckled. Suddenly, he turned a bend and leaped on a motorcycle. “Distract them!” he yelled, speeding away.
Lloyd coughed as the foremost pursuers caught up. “Hey, assembly. Today I would like to direct your attention to a fine piece, which I have myself composed.
“If to a caterpillar you state,
“A butterfly next month you’ll be,
“Would it up and give you debate,
“Would it dispute what say thee?”
“No taste for good poetry, these people.” His audience was gone. George rushed in and picked up Lloyd, throwing him on the cycle.
“You know how much dough I well earned today?” asked George.
“Two dollars?” suggested Lloyd.
“Close. Two million cents.”
“Two million dollars is easier to figure.”
“No, uh… how much does that come out to? What would that be? Two million, divided by ten or twelve?”
“Let’s see. A dollar is to a cent as a man is to centuria, which would be one hundred. And two million divided by one hundred… where’s the next geek?”
“It’s a nerd when its Math,” yelled George. “But there’s one.” He slowed down. “Hey you! What’s two million divided by one hundred?”
“Who?” asked the youth he questioned.
“Wrong type of nerd,” hissed Lloyd. “Let’s move.” They sped on. “Say, it’s a thousand.”
“A thousand? It’s ten thousand, dunce.”
“Oh. Cool. Motorcycle sure couldn’t go slower.”
George set his jaw. “Abandon ship!” The both leaped as the cycle exploded.
“Run!” George again took to his heels. Lloyd wearily followed him, phone ringing loudly.
“What’s ringing?” yelled George.
“Well, stop it.”
Lloyd seized his phone and answered the call, to a groan from George. “Hello? Oi, bro, what’s with? Oh… don’t we all. Hey…you did? Awesome. Hey…what? No, man, do it backwards. Right. Give Moms my lasting gratitude… yeah. Hey, I’ve gotta be goin’. Right. Bye, bye, bye.” He threw the phone in a wide arc into the road, where it was promptly run over by a truck.
George did not question this and continued running. “Okay. Time for being unsuspicious.” He inverted his jacket and put his baseball cap on backwards, walking with a slow, long gait. His head was bobbing like that of a turkey. Lloyd did the same, disregarding the fact that a top hat being rotated does not necessarily make a difference. Thusly, on the streets were two men with inside-out jackets, taking long steps and jerking their heads like birds.
“I bet we blend in like two birds on a telephone line,” whispered Lloyd.
“Sure! I’ve some cool dudes you should meet.” George turned aside to an ancient, crumbling house. “You first, man.”
“No way. There might be bats!”
“Look, we are about to realize our dreams. We have ten thousand dollars and me buddies in there have twenty thousand each. I’ll become the greatest assassin in the world! You?”
Lloyd eagerly stepped through the wall of the building. “Make way for the next smuggler.”
George yelled at him, “I didn’t say anything.”
“Yes you did.”
The room dully lit up to reveal three more people, sitting crosslegged about an electric lantern. George grinned widely.
“Meet my cousin, Felicity Bluethigh; my aunt, Georgina Bluethigh; and my evil kid nephew, Theodore Thompson.”
“Hi!” said Lloyd, to which he received a curt nod from Georgina, a wave from Felicity, and a blank stare from Theodore.
George sat down beside them, beckoning Lloyd to do the same. He handed Aunt Georgina something. She swallowed and said sternly, “After many years of hard work and planning, we now have seventy thousand dollars. And now we must decide what to do with it.”
This announcement quickly animated the assembly.
“I’ll be an assassin!” screeched George.
Theodore laughed maniacally. “The world will be mine.”
Lloyd jumped and down, shouting, “SMUGGLING!!!!”
Aunt Georgina produced a quaint little smile. “I wish to be one in many corrupt government officials.”
Everybody turned to Felicity, who yawned. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just starve along roadsides and survive on charity.” Shock was on the faces of her audience. She shrugged. “I guess I could be a spy.” She was cheered.
“Well, what do we do first?” asked Lloyd.
“Worry not,” said Aunt Georgina. “I have a plan. Meanwhile, let us take counsel at the center of our ways.”
Lloyd, though it had been a thing imminent, had never before seen, let alone taken counsel with, George’s extended family. Their headquarters were underneath a small cottage, which was the main attraction of the carefully tended parcel of land it was positioned in. This was the lair of one Gordon Thompson, George’s great uncle, whose purpose in life was to be a stereotypical mad scientist.
It was here that Lloyd sat comfortably at a large rustic table, slurping a root beer float loudly. He listened to the scheming, feeling happily remote from it.
For being so young—actually, perhaps because he was so young—Theodore could loudly express an opinion. “I say we bombard the nearest city until it is ours!”
George shook his head enthusiastically. “No, we assassinate the government officials.”
Great Uncle Gordon burst out laughing. “You’re a cruel one and no mistake.”
Aunt Georgina did not find the situation amusing. “Assassination is no easy thing.”
“I’m good at it,” said George sulkily.
“My mom always did say to use your talents,” contributed Lloyd helpfully.
Aunt Georgina chewed her lip. “I would much rather manipulate politicians.”
Felicity yawned. “It would be far better just to take our seventy thousand dollars and live until we run out.” Uncle Gordon found this hilarious, growing red in the face, and guffawing uproariously. He blew his nose every couple seconds.
“Seventy thousand dollars would not last.” Aunt Georgina shook her head and everybody lapsed into silence.
Suddenly, Uncle Gordon broke it. “I have it!” Everybody jumped. “All you have to do is divide and do whatever you do best! What can you all do, eh?”
George bounced. “Anything you can name!” he exclaimed. Felicity snorted.
“I can spy, but that doesn’t really matter,” she said.
“I can do anything George can do and a bit more,” muttered Lloyd, staring dejectedly at his empty cup. Nobody noticed him speak.
Theodore yelled, “I can take over the world!”
“No you can’t,” grumped Lloyd. “You’re a kid.” He wisely shut his mouth as he found that Theodore was a kid with a gun.
“Good,” said Gordon excitedly, “it’s decided. We’re taking over the world and I’m helping.” Everybody, forgetting such a thing as planning, roared their approval.
In the short traverse from Gordon’s Lair to the hub of the city, plans for each person’s first action was laid out—or, rather, outlined. Lloyd found himself with George—a distraction.
George sulked as they approached an important looking place in the city, “I don’t think they think I could pull anything off, I think. I can think for myself, for their information.”
“Yeah,” said Lloyd sympathetically. “Looks like you and me is in direct cahoots.” Aunt Georgina popped out of an alley. She was frowning.
“You should have said, It looks as though you and I are in direct cahoots. Incidentally, you should be distracting by now.” She strode away.
“She’s as hard as a bootlace,” announced Lloyd, “that one is.”
“I’m with you there. Fire cracker away!” George placed a lit match into a paper bag and threw it. “Run!”
After they had been running for some minutes, Lloyd said, “When are we going to stop?”
“When it explodes!” panted George.
“I don’t hear nothing.”
“Me either.” George performed a running u-turn. Lloyd abruptly followed him. When they came back to the spot, there were charred remains of a paper bag and no other change. A car drove by.
“Dude,” groaned George.
“I wasn’t talking to you. That was an exclamation.”
“You should exclaim exclamations,” said Lloyd pityingly. “Like this. DUDE!!!!!!”
“It was an interjection, then.”
“Okay, I can live with that. Say, look at all those people.” He pointed at a small group of people who were staring at him questioningly. “Time to move fast. Come one come all!” he roared. “Be entertained by the lunatic Lloyd and grouch George, eh!” When the few people drew nearer, he began speaking even louder.
“You know, when I looked at how miserable you all look, I said to my self, old lunatic, old thing, these people have their fluids all unbalanced. I guess you might say they are humorous.” Everybody looked puzzled, including George. “Really? You don’t know your history? Well, my teacher once explained why. It’s because history doesn’t know you! Ha ha!” His small audience dispersed.
“Sad,” commented George. Then the screaming started. Lloyd cocked his head.
“Must be a ballgame somewhere.”
“No,” said George thoughtfully, “I think it’s a concert.”
Lloyd, considering himself of an artistic nature, thought he noticed a hidden depth in the sound. “I think I hear fear.”
“Whew,” said George, “don’t say things like that. Creeps me out. Let’s go…” Then the sirens started.
“We’re surrounded!” boomed George. “Run like fast.” They had just started when Lloyd noticed something.
“Will you look at that,” he said wonderingly, pointing to the sky, where Uncle Gordon was walking along in a very businesslike manner.
“How’s that work?” moaned George. Lloyd shrugged.
“Search me. Oh, look—one, two, three… eight dollars.” He bent to pick it up.
“No, you ‘oh, look,’” said George icily. “It’s a bank. Guess what we are?”
“Two happy-go-lucky bank robbers?”
They both entered the building casually, finding themselves unexpectedly facing a receptionist.
“Ugh,” moaned George aloud. “Hi!”
“Hello,” she said, “can I help you?”
“Oh yes,” said Lloyd, “where is the vault, please?”
The lady smiled. “I am sorry. As a credit union, we do not have a vault at this time.”
“Oh, okay,” said George quickly. “We were just conducting a survey on how many credit unions have vaults.” He quickly exited the building with Lloyd, who had a suggestion.
“How about that building? It says, ‘come see the ruby of…’ something I can’t pronounce.”
George was still huffing from his ill treatment in the credit union. He glanced idly at the building Lloyd indicated. “Sure, whatever you want.”
“Including bagels and donuts…oh, and cheerios, and…?…maybe even angel food cake?” Lloyd’s mouth was loudly watering.
“No. Will you shut?”
Both men walked cautiously into the museum, where nobody was.
“Where do you suppose It is?” pondered Lloyd.
George pointed. “In that other room.”
“The door is closed.”
“Exactly.” George walked over and shot a hole in the door knob.
“Oh, what an excellent day’s work,” remarked Lloyd. “Now it’s stuck.” George growled and shot it thrice more before smashing the door open.
“Easy,” he said. Lloyd immediately dived into the room, George after him. Just as immediately, an alarm rang out.
“Confounded motion detectors!” shouted Lloyd, continuing his charge.
“Escape!” yelled George, twirling around to see a large metal door slide down over the entrance. “Drat.”
“Don’t say such wicked things!” yowled Lloyd, utterly shocked.
“I meant it too!” growled George. His temper was far from not being ill.
“Well,” said Lloyd, “might as well get the ruby.” The door suddenly swung open, revealing police officers who looked like they meant business.
“Uh oh,” George whimpered.
“And oh no,” agreed Lloyd.
Several minutes later, Lloyd, George, and George’s relatives—excluding Gordon—stood before stern officials. A door swung open and in strode Great Uncle Gordon, an insane smirk on his face. He immediately began a lecture.
“You are foolish, incompetent, vile, inhumane excuses for relatives. Look how easily I lured you into the city, observe how quickly you were apprehended, and soon you shall notice how quickly you’ll be imprisoned. For life, maybe.” A police officer shook his head, but Gordon continued.
“You really ought to be ashamed, you delinquent miscreants. Terrorizing society, attempting to bribe a politician, and trying to steal a ruby. What has my family come to, eh?”
“I’m not part of your family,” said Lloyd disdainfully. “It’s very rude, what you’ve just done. An utter treacherous disgrace be thou. Fie on thee, sirrah. Wow, look at me speaking in old English!”
“That is not old English,” stated Aunt Georgina sourly.
Great Uncle George grinned nicely. “Into the prison with you. Perhaps I’ll secure you some cake if you’re good.”
Lloyd found himself in a decently sized room with various useful furnishings. He smiled. “Hey, this isn’t so bad. I’ve got a toilet and a little sink and that looks like a comfortable bed.”
“You need not say ‘got’ after you have already said ‘I have,’” reprimanded Aunt Georgina.
“Oh, perfect,” grouched George, “we’ll be getting grammar lessons our whole destroyed lifes.”
“Lives,” Aunt Georgina corrected.
“THAT WAS INFORMAL FUN!!!!!” boomed George, then changed the subject. “You know, if all of us were a distraction and somebody else was actually doing something, our plans went well.”
“My apologies. And, yes, you might say we were rather a talented diversion if not gifted in any other form.”
“You know,” came Felicity’s voice, “I wonder where Theodore got to.”
Aunt Georgina said dully, “Probably your Great Uncle Gordon took him home.”
“Funny. He’s probably the evillest of us all and he gets to live with his great-great uncle for eternity. When the Apocalypse happens, I’ll make sure he knows how much we suffered—if he didn’t cause it. Though, Floyd’s right. This isn’t too bad. What do you figure I have to do to stay here indefinitely?”
“Murder somebody,” replied George.
“Rats. Too bad life sentences aren’t transferrable. Still, I guess I’ll get some shuteye. Might as well enjoy the life, free from work and duty.”
The painfully ancient voice of a man spoke. “Wor–k?” The voice laughed, then coughed. “Oh, aye, there’s work. Is there not work, Rebekah?”
The voice of a woman, ancient, but not painfully so, stated drily, “Oh, yes. There’s work, young one.”
Felicity squeaked out, “I’m twenty-six, for your information. I’m not all that young.”
Both voices harshly laughed, then coughed uproariously, and became still.
“Um, dear friends and comrades, all,” gulped Felicity. “Let’s get out of here.”
copyright 2017 by Joseph Leskey
copyright 2017 by Joseph Leskey