Mrs. Fatuma’s magical sweet shop appeared on the quaint cobbled setting of 14th street Lickity Lane once every year. All the children of Wooloon heard the distinct ringing of the confectionery shop’s bell as Mrs. Fatuma opened her doors for all the children in town. Then when all the candy was gone, the bell would ring again and the shop would disappear for an entire year.
Baraza sat expectantly, trying to drown out Mrs. Farashuu’s incessant going on about primary and secondary colors. He wished she would shut up about it. What did he care about colors? There were more important things in life, like the fact that he had exactly three minutes before every single child in Wooloon crammed into the magic sweet shop and snagged all the good candy.
Two minutes left…
He pretended to take notes as he recalled how he’d filled his basket last year with every single piece of candy he could find on his way to the back of the shop. There were coconut cream coins, lemon licker lollies, tangy tongue tazers, and blueberry blasters. Though even with all the yellow yonkers and acid apple gum drops, he still hadn’t gotten what he’d wanted.
1 minute left…
The chairs groaned, scraping against the cement floor as a low murmur arose.
The final countdown.
Frustrated, Baraza frantically colored the grinning monkey in his textbook blue. He’d almost had it, the white chocolate whistling wafer wands. They had called to him past the sound of the cash register, the crackling of wrapping paper, and giggling children. That was of course until Baryan had tripped him and he’d missed them, just as the sweet shop disappeared.
Baraza cast a disgusted look at the older boy seated across from him. Similarly, Baryan acknowledged Baraza’s distaste with a devilish grin. The lines had been drawn. This time, there would be war. No one was getting between him and his whistling wafer wands. Especially not Baryan.
Like clockwork, the ringing echoed in the air like tiny little miniature bells. Immediately, Mrs. Farashuu froze, stunned in the magic of the sweet shop’s enchantment. Then before the children’s eyes, the classroom door transformed into glass and opened. A plump licorice-haired, chocolate-skinned witch smiled from the entrance.
Pandemonium broke out.
Desks were cast asunder as children stampeded towards the door. Baraza did not care for the state of his blue-teethed monkey anymore as he grabbed his bag and nearly flattened poor Anita on his way to the door. In no time, he’d zoomed into the sweet shop, drowning in the scent of sugar, color dye, and toothaches.
Baryan followed, blocking a wave of students at the door. Their eyes met, then they shot to the back of the store. They could both hear it, the familiar siren call of the whispering wafer wands.
Baraza was the first to react. Allowing himself a large whiff of the shop’s intoxicating scents, he zoomed past the cooing coconut cream coins. Against himself, he ignored the laughter of the lemon licker lollies and the talk of the tangy tongue tazers. Even the burping blueberry blasters could not hold his attention this time.
The yellow yonkers yelled and the acid apple gumdrops did a lovely acapella number. Still, it was the whistling that drew Baraza on.
“Oh no you don’t!” Baryan shouted as he tripped Baraza and ran on, chortling like a madman. “Those wafers are mine!”
Baraza swore under his breath, grabbed an acid apple gum drop right in the middle of a bass solo, and chewed. Then he spit the acrid acid on Baryan’s back.
The older boy squealed, fell to the ground, and rolled in pain.
Baraza took his chance and ran.
The older boy was not going to give up without a fight. He grabbed Baraza by the foot, sending him careening to the floor. His head bashed against the jello floor as the remaining acid flowed from his mouth.
Baryan took his chance and crawled away from the fight, but Baraza clung to his shirt, pulling. The boy screamed and threw a punch, but Baraza ducked. Anita met the full weight of Baryan’s blow and fell back crying.
In the crescendo of pained screaming, Baraza shot up and dashed forward, shoving and pushing as he went. Snaking past groaning children, he made his way towards his prize, looking back to take in Baryan’s form as the older boy roared in a wake of kicked, pinched and shoved children.
Baraza laid his eyes on the prize. The wands gleamed in snow-white glory, like candlesticks from one of his mom’s fancy dinners. It had to be coated in white chocolate, he thought. Could it be coconut, or milk; perhaps glaze? The whistling wafers swayed as they whistled and Baraza had to wipe off the drool from his gaping mouth.
He made a grab at them, the only packet in the store, and dashed in the opposite direction to avoid Baryan. As he ran, his sweaty hands ripped the wrapping, crackling under the frantic movements of his hands.
When he was successful, the creamy scent of white chocolate assaulted his nostrils. Satisfied by his discovery, Baraza pulled all five of the wands from the packet and they almost melted at his touch. They felt sleek and smooth, like polished wood.
Just when he was about to shove all of them into his mouth, he met resistance. “Give me those!” Baryan growled as he grabbed at them.
Baraza pulled back, not letting go. “Make me!”
The older boy obliged and kicked. Baraza whimpered, but held on, resolute. He pulled again. Baryan did the same.
In the tug of war, the wands could not take it anymore and broke in half. Instinctively, both boys shoved the broken pieces into their mouths. The feel of them against their tongues was like melted butter. The taste was like birthday cakes, salt, and fizzy drinks.
How odd, they both thought.
As they chewed on, there was the taste of grass, ice lollies, and spinach.
Both boys grimaced. It was a strange awful taste.
For a moment, Baraza was sure he tasted boogers and collard greens and Baryan was certain he detected a spoonful of cod liver oil. Both boys spit out the contents of their mouths disgusted.
“Yuck! Look what you did. You made them disgusting with your stupid fat hands!” Baraza screamed.
“Me? You’re the one who made them taste like raw fish with your dirty stinky hands!” Baryan added.
“You both made the sweets putrid with your foul tempers and nasty attitudes!” Mrs. Fatuma huffed towering over them.
She had always been a sweet smiling witch with her lips like burnt sausages. It was therefore quite frightening to see her plumped up like a ferocious chicken, looking about to peck them both. Her eyes glared like polished jawbreakers and she gnashed her dainty teeth packed in her mouth like a set of mints.
“Look what damage both of you have done to my sweet shop!” Mrs. Fatuma screeched as the boys looked back at the carnage they had caused.
Acid bubbled on the floor beside a wailing Anita and a sea of trodden, bitten, scratched, kicked, stepped on, grumpy children. Baraza and Baryan seemed to shrink under the weight of guilt.
Mrs. Fatuma seemed to double in size, her bubblegum-colored dress fluttering with her every move. “The sweet shop is a place for laughter and sweet treats, not where little brats get to misbehave and act like a bunch of half-wits!” The witch bellowed.
Then she took them by the ear and stuffed them in a corner, where they could behold the entire kingdom of sweets.
Her bulbous potato nose twitched as her nostrils flared. “You will sit here and think about what you’ve done, and when everyone is finished, you will take a mop and broom and clean up all this mess you’ve caused or I will turn you into rats and feed you to my cat!” Mrs. Fatuma warned.
There was no need for her to repeat herself. None of the boys cared to be cat food.
It was bitter agony to sit and watch. Baraza shut his eyes behind his hands, but no amount of hiding could undo the witch’s enchantment. Whether the boys closed their eyes, turned around, or held their hands over their eyes, they could not unsee all the children enjoying their delicious confectioneries.
All around them, their classmates blew blue buster bubbles and giggled as the tickling tangy tums fizzed down their throats. They slurped stinging soda shots and chewed checkered cherry chunks till their tongues turned color. All the while time passed as Baraza and Baryan sat in their corner, appalled at the foul aftertaste of their whistling wafer wands.
“I wish I’d never eaten those stupid things!” Baraza said finally.
“I should have just gone for the blue busters in the first place,” Baryan added.
The two boys looked at each other crestfallen. Baraza massaged his knee.
“Uh… does that still hurt?” Baryan mumbled.
Baraza whipped back a cold look at the boy. “Of course it does! It’s your fault we’re in this mess. You should have just let me eat them!” Baraza went on defiantly. After a while, he sighed and drooped his shoulders. “I could do with a stinging soda right now.”
“I know, even the licorice lizards look good compared to the taste in my mouth.” Baryan joked.
The two boys shared a laugh.
Baraza fidgeted in his seat. “She could still change her mind, right?”
Baryan gave a weak smile. “I doubt it. It’s one minute to closing time.” He said dejectedly.
The laughter subsided and after a while, there was quiet. The witch reappeared with a scowl. She considered them for a while, watching from one to another. “Well? Anything to say?”
Baryan scratched his head and Baraza’s eyes went to his shoes.
“Absolutely nasty little goblins you are. Don’t they teach proper manners nowadays?” She said as she handed Baraza a mop and Baryan a broom. “Go on then! Get to cleaning! And no sneaking any sweets or into Midnight’s mouth you’ll go!”
If sitting and watching the other children stuff their faces with sweets was torture, it was nothing compared to cleaning up the aisles, taunted by tons upon tons of sweets.
“Isn’t the shop supposed to have disappeared by now?” Baraza asked scowling as he mopped up a pool of stinging soda. He resisted the urge to go on all fours and lick the floor clean.
Baryan shrugged, his stomach grumbling.
After a while, the whole shop was spotless, and no sooner had the boys realized this than they were back in their chairs, listening to Mrs. Farashuu’s boring lecture on coloring within the lines. They exchanged defeated glances, resigning themselves to their fate.
The sweet shop had gone, for a whole year and all they had to remember it by was the foul taste in their mouths and blisters in their hands.
Soon the class was over and the door that had once morphed into glass had now returned its normal mahogany sheen. Mrs. Farashuu gave them homework and the children slowly bustled out of class. Only Baraza and Baryan remained.
“Aren’t you going home?” Baryan asked slinging on his backpack.
Baraza shrugged. “In a minute.” He said as he opened his bag and began the seemingly arduous task of stuffing his bag with books.
It was then that something crackled under his touch, deep inside the bag. Baryan heard it too and stopped still. Both of them thought it, though none of them dared say it out loud.
As if frightened that looking inside might alter things, Baraza stuck his hand in his bag and pulled out a single wrapped stick of, he couldn’t believe it, a snow-white whistling wafer.
The wafer, as if awoken by the sunlight, yawned and began to whistle its melodious tune. Baraza dropped it, as if fearing it would detonate. Baryan neared, though he did not dare touch it.
“Do you think it’s a trick?” Baryan asked as both boys looked around as if half expecting to see Mrs. Fatuma leering at them, daring them to try it or be turned into rats.
“I dunno, what do you think?” Baraza asked staring at the whistling wafer, whistling away oblivious of their internal conflict.
“Should I eat it and find out?” Baraza asked going for it.
Baryan grabbed it quickly. “How come you get to eat it? Let me try it and then I’ll let you know how it tastes.”
“What if it’s still nasty?” Baraza asked as Baryan willingly gave it back.
“On second thought, maybe you should try it first,” Baryan said as Baraza took it, exasperated.
He quickly unwrapped the packet and broke it in two. Then he gave the bigger half to Baryan.
“I’m not sure I want it anymore,” Baryan said, eyeing the wafer suspiciously.
Baraza sighed. “Just take it before I change my mind!”
Baryan obliged as the two boys brought the wafers to their mouths, albeit apprehensively.
For a moment, nothing happened, and then, everything. With each bite, every movement of their teeth rippled with a different sweet deliciousness in their mouths. The taste of every single candy they had come across on every aisle of every inch of the sweet shop exploded in their mouths.
Baryan shed tears of happiness as he chewed, eyes shut in pleasured groans. Baraza just stared at the tiny piece of whistling wafer in his hand. All he could manage was, “It’s a miracle.”
“Either that or Mrs. Fatuma felt bad for us missing out on eating sweets. She ain’t so bad you know, a little weird, but she’s okay I guess.” Baryan said as he bit into his wafer, sniffling.
If that was not gift enough, from that day onward, a single piece of whistling wafer appeared alternately in each of those boys’ bags at the end of each day and though they did try to eat it themselves on occasions, to very nasty ends, when they did share, it was the most glorious thing they had ever tasted. So good in fact that they never needed to go back to the sweet shop.
I imagine a part of them was glad of this, and perhaps Mrs. Fatuma as well.