How Bob got Busted for a Chocolate Chip

by Anna Sykora

Bob tiptoed into the living area and stuck his plump hand behind the flat-screen Teev. He felt for the last of the foil-wrapped, bootleg cookies--there! When he pulled it out, a wire came too and all the lights blazed on, and the Teev filled with Dr. Hubert Godley’s lean and earnest disapproval:

“Food is medicine for your body, folks. Unauthorized snacking wrecks your health.” (Everyone should know by heart this first lesson from Godley’s Manual.)

From behind the drapes stepped a balding cop and pointed a dazer at Bob’s paunch: “Drop that cookie, Hershey! I’ve caught you in the act again.” Trim as the famous guru, Inspector Bone wore the dreaded, grey uniform of the DP. Slowly Bob set his precious cookie down on the sanka table.

Now skinny old Mrs. Hershey flapped in, wearing a faded bathrobe, and flipped off the Teev with a blue-veined finger. “How many times have I told you, honey? When you snack you’re inviting diabetes or a heart attack.”

“Fran,” he complained, “you set me up for Bone.”

“It’s for your own good,” Bone scolded shrilly. “I’ll let you off with a fine and a warning, but this makes your ninth offense. Just one more, Hershey, and I’ll have to take you in. You understand?”

“But officer, I get so hungry…”

“I’ll take that for consent.” Bone printed out a ticket from his CopBerry and handed it to Fran. “And I have to confiscate this, of course.” He snatched up the foil-wrapped Luscious Delight and tucked it into his bulging backpack.

Mrs. Hershey escorted him to the chute of the pod and wished him a pleasant evening. Turning to Bob then, she asked wistfully, “What kind of cookie was it, honey?”

“What do you care? You never eat cookies. You’ve got Godley’s self-control.”

“I can dream, can’t I?” Her eyes, nested in wrinkles, filled with tears. Bob gazed at her with disgust, and then squeezed past down the hall. “Where are you going, Bob? Everything’s closed; it’s after midnight. Please come back to our sleep-shelf.” 

“I need a walk out on the sidewalk. I need a breath of fresh-baked smog.”

“Oh don’t you go driving to that sneakeasy,” she wailed as he slid down the exit chute.

Bob drove the electro without its lights through Suburba’s deserted streets. He knew the best shortcut in his sleep:  a left at the megastore, a right at the pornoplex, and a left at Dr. Godley’s crumbling monument… Here uncollected recyclables clogged the decaying streets. A tall hooker with a hookah under her arm waved at him, but he ignored her. 

Here it was: the turn-off to Brownie’s… He nosed the electro into the last space outside the peeling warehouse. Gathering his nerve he marched up to the heavy steel door and pressed the buzzer. Soon a small window in the door slid open and a pair of bloodshot eyes peered out.

“Sara Lee sent me,” Bob declared, and the bouncer grunted and hauled the door open. His muscular biceps sported piercings the size of knitting-needles. Bob dogged him down the dingy hall, his stomach groaning with anticipation.

“Here ya go, Hershey.” The bouncer threw open another door. “Bon Appétit!” As Bob stepped inside, the heavenly aroma of fresh-baked goodies brought a smile to his lived-in face.

As usual, Brownie’s was packed with folks from every walk of life, who’d gathered to feast at the all-you-can-stuff buffet:  a luscious assortment of glistening cakes, crunchy cookies and chewy bars, varied every night of the week and voluptuously enticing. Standing up cheek to jowl, or hunched together at the crowded tables, the guests munched and gobbled with famished glee. None looked as if they’d devoted much effort to Godley’s Manual of Sufficiency. 

Bob loaded his plate with a hillock of mouth-watering cookies. He sat down at a tippy corner table with a pair of nodding sugar addicts, whose glassy eyes reminded him of old-fashioned Jello.

All of a sudden the lights went out, and a woman shrieked:  “The Diet Police! It’s a raid!”

Panicking snackers pushed over tables, crowding towards the exit in the dark. The lights came back on as a grey wave of cops with dazers surged into the room. “Freeze!” cried one, and Bob recognized Inspector Bone. “Drop your contraband and lie face down and nobody will get hurt here.”

Sighing, Bob stretched his bulk out into a mess of cookie crumbs. While waiting to be ID’d he gobbled all the luscious fragments within reach.

“Hershey, you’re shameless.” Bone glared down, his Adam’s apple bouncing in his sinewy neck. “What am I supposed to tell your wife? That she’s married to a hopeless recidivist?” Defiantly Bob stuffed a last cookie into his mouth. Bone grabbed the bit sticking out.

“Chocolate chip,” he said with disgust.

From the corner of his eye Bob noticed DP men stuffing their pockets from the buffet. “Why are they taking all that food?” 

“They’re collecting the evidence, of course.” 

But as Bone prodded him towards the waiting school bus, Bob caught a distinct whiff of chocolate on the officer’s breath.