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Stories

Nerdly and Bruno

Part One – Sleep, Precious Sleep

Nerdly wrapped his skinny pale arms around his pillow and clamped it to his ears. The drunken revelry from downstairs drifted through the pillow and the thin young man tossed and turned angrily.

“Damn those fools!” he grumbled.

Uncle Joe’s shrill laughter pierced the loud din that was disrupting Nerdly’s precious sleep. His own brother could be heard muttering drunkenly about “Nerdly’s precious sleep.”

Oh how he hated those cretins!

Nerdly lived in a pleasant but aging two-story house in the suburbs with his older brother Bruno, their late parents having left their two boys the house several years ago. Nerdly’s high IQ had steered him toward a career in science, but his antisocial personality made it difficult for him to succeed in his chosen profession. As a result, he had constructed a state of the art laboratory in the basement of the house, preferring to conduct his highly-specialized DNA research away from the prying eyes at the university. Bruno understood none of his brother’s interests and had given him the nickname “Nerdly” long ago. The name stuck.

Bruno couldn’t have been more different from his brother. A large hulking figure, Bruno had barely graduated high school and now drove a garbage truck for a living. It paid quite well, however, and much to Nerdly’s chagrin provided the bulk of the household income. Bruno spent most of his time drinking, watching sporting events on TV, and bullying his younger, smarter brother.

There were different in other ways as well. Whereas Bruno almost never got sick, Nerdly suffered from a variety of ailments, including allergies to almost everything, perpetually draining sinuses  and a nervous stomach. Worst of all were the headaches. Nerdly suffered from migraines since childhood; the pain was often disabling.

Falling asleep had long been an adventure for Nerdly. Conditions had to be perfect, and they rarely were. Each night at nine thirty he began the long ritual of preparing for bed. First he put on his favorite pajamas, the one with Albert Einstein’s picture all over them. Then he swallowed a variety of prescription and over-the-counter medication. Next he swabbed his ears, flossed and brushed his teeth, and washed with special hypo-allergenic soap (his skin was very sensitive). Finally he donned his sleep aids: the ear plugs and eye shades. Of course he always made sure to leave the night light on, having never gotten over his childhood fear of the dark. His brother Bruno, on the other hand, could fall asleep anywhere and frequently did in a drunken stupor.

Uncle Joe had been visiting for a few days. The boys’ uncle on their father’s side, Uncle Joe was a carbon copy of Bruno. It was no surprise to Nerdly that the two had spent the last two evenings getting loudly drunk. Nerdly tried to avoid them as best he could, spending most of his time in the lab. Uncle Joe had shown an interest in the lab on the first night of his visit. He and Bruno, having gulped down several beers, drunkenly tried to jimmy the locked door open, but Nerdly had appeared just in time to stop them. “Aw c’mon Nerdly, show Uncle Joe your shtupid lab,” slurred Bruno.

“I’m only going to say this once so pay attention,” Nerdly had told them officiously. “The laboratory is off limits.”

The two drunken men laughed at Nerdly’s attempt at authority, and amused themselves for an hour with alcohol-fueled Nerdly imitations. Nerdly had seethed with rage.

Just as he seethed with rage now as he tried unsuccessfully to fall asleep. Those two drunks would be the death of him yet. He tossed and turned for a while longer, then finally kicked the blankets off the bed angrily. “Damn them!” he swore. “Now I have to go downstairs and ask them to be quiet.” Nerdly was uncomfortable with conflict and had dreaded this moment.

He put on his robe and slippers, careful to remove the excess fuzz from the inside of the slippers, then stormed down the stairs.

Bruno and Uncle Joe had been sitting in the living room drinking beer and watching pay-for-view porn on cable television. The volume on the TV was louder than it needed to be, and the sounds of sex and bad music assaulted Nerdly as he stormed down the stairs.

He immediately walked to the cocktail table and picked the remote control out of the litter and turned off the television.

“Hey what the fuck!” demanded Bruno, standing up.

“Turn it back on Nerdly,” said Uncle Joe from the sofa, barely diverting his rapt attention from the empty TV screen.

“I’m trying to sleep and you two neanderthals are disturbing me! Please be quiet!” Nerdly stated as firmly as he could. He was quite angry.

Bruno made an exaggerated sad face. “Aw, does the poor widdew nerd need his baby sweep?”

Both he and Uncle Joe snickered at the joke. Nerdly’s face turned bright red.

“Bruno, why can’t you respect my wishes?”

Bruno mocked his brother. “Bruno, why can’t you respect my wishes?”

“Haw,” said Uncle Joe, picking his nose.

“Because you’re a NERD! That’s why!” shouted Bruno. He turned to Uncle Joe. “Uncle Joe, look at the brother I get! A friggin’ nerd.”

“Huh?” said Uncle Joe. He took a swallow of Budweiser.

Nerdly felt himself losing control. Bruno always knew which buttons to push. He was getting frustrated. “If by nerd you mean superior intellect, then yes. I suppose I am a nerd.”

Bruno shoved Nerdly’s shoulder, knocking the smaller man back a step. “Fuckin’ think you’re so smart, huh nerd?”

Nerdly backed up a step. “Mustn’t anger the beast when it’s drunk,” he thought. “I’m going back to sleep,” he said, backing toward the stairs. “Try to keep it down.” He retreated angrily up the stairs.

Bruno slapped Uncle Joe’s beefy arm and laughed. “Uncle Joe, what a fuckin’ nerd, huh?”

“Turn the TV back on,” said Uncle Joe.

Part Two – A Dish Best Served Cold

Bruno and Uncle Joe did indeed keep the noise level down, but it was mostly because they were too drunk to move. They cared nothing about Nerdly’s sleep. They watched some more pay-per-view porn on the TV and drank more beer until Uncle Joe finally got up with a loud belch and staggered to the guest room. Bruno ate some cold pizza and drank another beer, then vomited in the bathroom and finally retired to his own room.

Upstairs, Nerdly still tossed and turned. His anger at his brother Bruno was keeping him awake. “The nerve of that oaf! How dare he lay his hands on me!” He fumed at the memory.

The two had fought for years. Bruno bullied Nerdly regularly, ordering him around under the threat of violence. He even humiliated him in public, especially when they were children. As Nerdly remembered these other occasions he grew angrier still.

There was the time in elementary school when Nerdly was harrassed in the playground by a younger boy and Bruno stood around and laughed as his brother got beat up. The other children watched and chanted “Get the nerd!”, Bruno joining in as well. Nerdly had always thought his hatred for his brother stemmed from that incident.

Then there was the time when Nerdly was in high school conducting an important experiment for a science competition and Bruno was at the start of his drinking career. Bruno had been fired from his job at the local factory for coming to work drunk and consoled himself by getting drunk and wrecking Nerdly’s carefully arranged experiment and presentation. Nerdly couldn’t put it back together in time for the competition, and even though Bruno later apologized, the damage had been done. Nerdly installed dead bolts on his laboratory door after that.

Now, when Nerdly was working on perhaps the most important work of his life, the ground-breaking DNA research that would surely make him famous and demonstrate his genius to the world, his brother’s drinking was getting out of hand. After tonight, it was clear to Nerdly that Bruno’s drinking might somehow threaten his research.

Yes, something must be done about the situation. He mustn’t let his inferior brother get the better of him, not anymore. It was time to take a stand, to make a statement that even stupid Bruno would understand.

“But how?” Nerdly asked himself. “How do I strike at the dullard?” Physical confrontation was out of the question, of course. Bruno was much stronger than Nerdly and had been in numerous fights over the years. “Intellect, I must use my intellect. Brain over brawn, that’s where I’ll find the solution.”

Was it Bruno’s stupidity or his drinking that annoyed Nerdly more? Well, there was nothing even a genius like Nerdly could do about his brother’s low intelligence, but perhaps he could do something about the drinking. “Alcohol, yes. That’s the answer! I must find a way to neutralize the alcohol.”

The spirit of revenge drove Nerdly. He excitedly weighed the options in his mind. He could put something in the alcohol itself, but that was too risky. Bruno paid attention to few details in life, but he did care about his beer. He would know if his beer cans had been tampered with. Nerdly had to be able to do it without Bruno knowing about it. That meant that the beer itself was off limits.

That left Bruno. “Yes, I could put something in his food that might negate the effects of any alcohol.” But he rejected that idea, realizing that Bruno would notice if he kept drinking and didn’t get drunk.

Nerdly smiled as the solution burst into his head suddenly. He could develop something that would make Bruno allergic to alcohol. Every time Bruno drank alcohol he could get violently ill. He immediately thought of several substances in his lab that might serve as a base for such a serum. Nerdly’s skills in this area were quite advanced and he was certain that he could develop something that was undetectable. “Yes,” he thought, “that is perfect.”

He was far too excited to sleep now. He got up and donned his robe and after grabbing a keychain from somewhere under the bed, went downstairs to his lab. There was a lot of work to be done. The sooner he got to it, the sooner he would be able to get his revenge on Bruno.

Part Three – Important Work

Confident that Bruno would not wake up before noon, Nerdly planned to work straight through the night and into the morning. It should be a reasonably simply task to create the anti-alcohol serum, and Nerdly was far too excited to sleep now. He stopped in the living room and grabbed a half-empty beer can, scowling momentarily at the mess.

Nerdly descended the basement stairs and unlocked the heavy door to his laboratory. It was a long and narrow room, the door opening into one end. The walls of the lab were lined with large sturdy tables on and under which a variety of scientific equipment and laboratory supplies were neatly kept. In the middle of the left side of the lab, the table was dominated by a large microscope sitting next to a sophisticated computer system. At the end of the room sat a tall storage container that resembled a refrigerator with a glass front. Nerdly kept all his samples locked up in the container. In the far corner a large cage was home to Jonas, Nerdly’s rat and subject of his most recent experiments. Jonas scurried from one end of his cage to the other as soon as Nerdly turned on the fluorescent lights.

“Calm yourself Jonas, I’ll get to you later,” said Nerdly. “Right now, I have more important work to do.” He sat in front of the flat-screen computer monitor and typed a password on the keyboard. The screen lit up and Nerdly began talking to himself as he used advanced software of his own creation to design the genetic structure of the anti-alcohol serum.

He extracted a sample of beer from the half-empty can of Budweiser he’d taken from the kitchen unseen, then performed genetic and molecular analyses of the sample. He then retrieved a small petri dish from the storage container and extracted a sample of that, then recalled the analysis files for the sample to the computer screen.

“Bruno, I am about to put an end to your drinking career,” he sung happily as he worked to create his serum from the base sample. Jonas scurried about his cage at the sound of his master’s voice. “Yes Jonas, soon I shall exact my revenge for years of abuse at the hands of that clod.”

For the next several hours, Nerdly was a man obsessed. He typed, he measured, he poured, he adjusted, he calculated. Occasionally he would wipe his brow with the sleeve of his lab coat. He recorded everything dutifully in a fresh experiment logbook. He shifted from the computer to the samples to the microscope and back again, muttering angrily to himself at every new obstacle and breathing oohs and aahs whenever he made a breakthrough.

Finally, as the morning sun peeked through the one small window in the lab, Nerdly stood up and stretched. “Jonas, I think we’ve done it!” he exclaimed. Jonas scratched at the glass walls of his cage.

“Oh stop it Jonas, I haven’t forgotten you.” He removed the final serum sample from the microscope sample holder and poured it carefully into a small sterile sample dish. “You sit there and cook, my lovely,” said Nerdly.

Jonas’ renewed antics were right on schedule of course. It was time for Nerdly to administer the rat’s daily dose of the scientist’s experimental growth and immune system booster hormone. Each day, Nerdly mixed some of the hormone into Jonas’s water. He had tried it in solid food, but it worked faster and more efficiently in liquid. The effects of the hormone were readily apparent in the rat. Jonas had increased his muscle mass and size by nearly 50 percent and his immune system seemed to be operating at peak efficiency. And the rat’s appetite soared; Jonas was always hungry now. Soon it would be time to test the hormone on a human subject.

Nerdly removed the hormone from cold storage and placed it on the table next to the anti-alcohol serum. “My genius is unparalleled,” he said, admiring the two identical sample dishes. He lifted the lid off the hormone sample and breathed in the cool peppermint aroma. He extracted a small amount in a sterile dropper.

As he stood up, however, he began to feel dizzy. “Oh no, not now!” he complained, rubbing his temple. The dizziness passed quickly into a familiar but unwanted dull throbbing in his head. Nerdly frowned as he felt the beginning of a migraine headache.

“Curse these headaches, I don’t have time for this, Jonas.” Nerdly’s head was now on fire, and he stumbled into his chair, groaning and clutching his head. This was a bad one, he knew. He had suffered from migraines since he was a teenager, and once it started, all he could do is lay his head down and let it pass. He sat for a moment, clutching his face with one hand and the eyedropper with the other.

“Oww, must.. lay… down,” he mumbled, the pain blurring his vision. He felt faint and his head and the dropper with the hormone in it fell onto the table. Nerdly did not see the dropper bounce off the edge of the sample dish containing the anti-alcohol serum, and did not see the several small drops of hormone spill from the dropper into the serum. And he certainly did not see the tiny droplets of serum jump from its open dish into the hormone dish that Nerdly had placed next to it.

Nerdly raised his head after several minutes. Ah, the pain was finally subsiding. He could get back to work. He glanced at his watch – it almost 10:30! The migraine had put him out for three hours. Jonas was running wildly inside his cage; it was way past feeding time.

Nerdly spotted the eyedropper; it had fallen on the table. Ruined, he thought, and he filled another eyedropper with hormone from the sample dish. Still a little wobbly from the migraine headache, Nerdly fetched a sack of rat pellets from beneath the table where Jonas’ cage sat, and prepared the food for the rat. He dropped several drops of hormone into the food and placed it in Jonas’ cage. The rat was ravenously hungry and kept at his pleasant task until the entire ratplate of food was gone.

“Good Jonas, eat. It will make you big and strong,” Nerdly laughed.

He made some measurements of the rat for later comparison, recorded it in his experiment logbook, and cleaned up after himself. He covered the anti-alcohol sample dish and tidied up the table.

“Bruno, you’ll be getting something extra in your coffee this morning,” chuckled Nerdly as he turned off the lights and exited the laboratory.

“What a day this shall be!” he said happily, walking upstairs to the kitchen.

Part Four – Hair of the Dog

While Nerdly made a fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen, Bruno began to stir. He awoke slowly, stretching his large body this way and that, working out the kinks. He was fully-clothed having passed out on his bed in a drunken stupor the night before. The noon sun pushed through the half-open blinds, laying uneven stripes across Bruno’s room.

Bruno had never been a morning person, unlike his brother. He found it difficult to tear himself away from the comfort of the bed, and the drinking had only made it worse. After several minutes, he finally got himself upright and sat on the edge of the bed. His mouth felt like an army had marched through it and his head throbbed from the usual hangover.

“Oh man, do I feel like crap,” he muttered, his voice raspy from too many cigarettes. He glanced over at the table next to his bed. The alarm clock, which he made a rule of never setting on the weekend, read 12:30. Next to the clock sat a half-full bottle of Bud.

Bruno absently reached for the beer and took a swallow. It was warm and he grimaced at the bitter taste. He believed in the hair-of-the-dog theory of hangovers, which stated that if a person drank alcohol the morning after a good drunk, any hangover would be cured. Of course Nerdly berated Bruno for his belief in the theory. He was always pointing out that there was no evidence at all supporting the theory. Bruno didn’t care; he would continue to cling to the theory, if only to annoy his nerd brother.

“Geez, did I get into a fight with him last night? I don’t remember,” thought Bruno, taking another swallow of warm beer.

Bruno chuckled at the thought. He had gotten used to the memory lapses as he had been drinking for years now. “Fuckin’ nerd always thinks he’s so smart,” Bruno growled. In truth, Bruno hated his brother’s genius IQ. Bruno had never been booksmart like Nerdly, being a more physically inclined person. Bruno had tried for years to get his little brother to hang out with him, to play sports and party. Nerdly would have none of it, instead insulting Bruno for being a dumb jock who would never amount to anything. Bruno would get angry, they would fight, and so on throughout their lives. Although he didn’t know it and couldn’t articulate it, Bruno had grown to despise his brother for years of rejection.

Right now, Bruno needed coffee. After quickly draining the remainder of the warm half-beer, the rumpled and hungover man stumbled in the direction of the kitchen. As he shuffled past the guest room, he noticed that Uncle Joe’s stuff was all gone. “Musta left this morning,” thought Bruno. “Man that old guy can drink.”

Nerdly was whistling a nameless tune in the kitchen, which smelled of strong Colombian coffee. One thing Bruno could say about his brother, he sure made great coffee.

“Why hello brother dear, do we have a headache this morning?” asked Nerdly.

Bruno headed in the direction of the coffee and ignored his brother’s sarcasm. “Gotta have coffee,” he grumbled.

“I’m not surprised,” said Nerdly cheerfully. “You and Uncle Joe really tied one on last night.”

“Shut up and gimme a cup. I need coffee.” Bruno rubbed his eyes and leaned on the kitchen counter. “Uncle Joe leave?”

“Oh yes, Uncle Joe is gone with the wind.” Nerdly grabbed a clean coffee mug from a cabinet and handed it to Bruno. Nerdly smiled at his brother, who frowned in response. “Yes, have your coffee you mindless goon, “he thought. “Soon my serum will be coursing through your veins, making you allergic to alcohol.”

He watched eagerly as his hungover brother filled the mug with the tainted coffee. The stuff was nearly undetectable to the average human nose, and in Bruno’s condition, he would never be able to tell the difference.

Bruno sat in his usual chair at the kitchen table and poured a liberal amount of sugar into his coffee. A small glass vase in the middle of the table held clean teaspoons; Bruno grabbed one, stirred his coffee and took a sip.

Nerdly’s eyes grew wide. “Yes, drink up you fool,” he thought. “I will enjoy seeing you suffer when you try to get drunk later.”

Bruno closed his eyes and sipped. The coffee tasted good. While he sipped, Nerdly’s concoction, the serum accidentally mixed with experimental growth hormone, began doing its work inside Bruno’s body. The alcohol in Bruno’s bloodstream attracted the clinging cells of Nerdly’s serum, which had bonded with the cells of the growth hormone. The hormone cells were quite aggressive however, and bonded themselves to Bruno’s bloodcells, duplicating themselves rapidly in the process.

Bruno had drunk half the coffee when his stomach started to feel queasy. His face grew pale.

Nerdly watched his brother. He didn’t look particularly well. “Why, whatever is the matter, dear brother?” he inquired sweetly.

Bruno started to rise. “Ugh, I don’t feel so good,” he said, and stumbled, knocking over the chair. He felt weak suddenly, as if he had no strength in his arms or legs. “What the hell did you put in this coffee, Nerdly? You tryin’ to poison me or something?”

“Be serious, Bruno. Why would I waste my genius on the likes of you? I think perhaps you had too much to drink last night, and now you’re feeling the aftereffects.” In fact, Nerdly had concluded that the serum was reacting to the alcohol already in Bruno’s bloodstream. It was a bit unexpected. Nerdly had designed the serum to interact only with a higher level of alcohol.

Bruno leaned on the counter for support. He was feeling dizzy. He smelled peppermint. Suddenly, his face felt flush with hot flashes. “What the hell is wrong with me,” he muttered. He put his hand up to rub his hot face, and his flesh felt soft to the touch. And sticky.

Nerdly turned around and puttered around the coffee pot, wiping up a few stray coffee stains. When he turned around, his jaw dropped.

Bruno’s face appeared to be melting.

Part Five –“Mumph!”

Nerdly watched open-mouthed as the tips of Bruno’s nose, earlobes and chin began to slowly elongate. Bruno did not appear to realize what was happening. He had a sick look on his face and was holding his stomach as if he was suffering from gas. He tried to speak but his top lip was melting into his bottom lip, and his voice came out muffled.

“Nuhmla wha’s huppnuh t’muh?” Bruno asked, not feeling well at all and beginning to panic. He’d never felt this bad before.

“Fascinating,” thought Nerdly.

Bruno’s shoulders were slumping now, and he tried to raise his hands to feel the strange sensations but found his arms stuck fast to his sides, the flesh melding together through the fabric of Bruno’s clothes. He cried out, but the noise that came out of the fleshy slit that used to be his mouth was a muffled yelp. “Better get to the bathroom,” thought Bruno, thinking that he was suffering from a particularly bad hangover. The smell of peppermint was overpowering.

His butt was sticking to the kitchen counter and it stung when he pulled away from it. He tried to walk but his legs crumpled slowly under him. He found himself slogging through thick muck. He looked down in horror to discover that the muck was his own lower body!

“Oh this is just too perfect,” said Nerdly gleefully. True, it was obvious that something had gone wrong with the anti-alcohol serum. Nerdly was not pleased with that, but his scientific curiosity ruled the moment. He was witnessing a dramatic physical transformation. A transformation, a mutation that he had created! This was incredible. And best of all, he had found a way to neutralize his annoying brutish brother.

Bruno was now undulating, desperately trying to move but unable to. “He must be transforming on the inside as well,” Nerdly thought, making a mental note.

Indeed, Bruno’s musculo-skeletal system was mutating, losing its molecular structure, replaced by formless masses of tissues the consistency of cookie dough. His cries for help were now simply low guttural moans. His eyes had become two narrow dark folds of flesh. His nose had become a tiny hole. His face had melted into a pile of thick lined muck with dark hair on the top. His legs had already melted into a stout base, the rest of him forming a mild cone shape. His arms could no longer be discerned as two separate appendages; they had melted into the mass of Bruno’s thick form. His clothes were being absorbed by his new body, the colors running through his lumpy flesh as if painted on. Desperately trying to move, all the Bruno-blob could do is undulate in place.

Nerdly pondered for a moment. He grabbed a broom from the corner of the kitchen and approached the blob-like creature that had been his brother Bruno. It was time to analyze.

“Now hold still, brother dear. Let’s just see what you’re made of,” he commented, pushed the broom handle toward the bottom of his brother. The substance that was Bruno’s flesh gave instantly and the broom handle disappeared into the blob. Bruno moaned loudly and shook, and Nerdly quickly pulled the broom handle out and stepped backward. “Who knows what this creature is capable of?” he thought.

Nerdly watched Bruno moan and shake for a few minutes. “My my, we don’t like being poked, do we?”

Bruno’s slit-eyes seemed to move in Nerdly’s direction.

“Incredible! You can still see me and hear me, can’t you? I wonder what you’re thinking, brother of mine. That this is a horrible nightmare and you’ll wake up soon?” He laughed. “I don’t think so,” he growled, and poked Bruno with the broom handle once and twice. Both attacks caused Bruno to moan and shake angrily.

“Oh I’m sorry, does that hurt?” asked Nerdly, and he slammed the end of the broom handle as deep into Bruno-blob as it could go.

The blob seemed to expand at this latest attack, and slid along the kitchen floor toward Nerdly.

“Heh heh, oh no you don’t.” Nerdly danced away and giggled, enjoying his newfound power over his mutated brother. Bruno tried to follow his brother around the kitchen table, but could not move very quickly, and seemed to be having difficulty navigating around objects.

Nerdly giggled and danced, poked Bruno viciously, then danced away. He began to sing as he continued his assault on the slow-moving blob that used to be Bruno.

“Who’s afraid of the big bad blob? The big bad blob, the bad blob!”

Nerdly was beside himself with joy. At last he had the upper hand on his stupid bullying brother. At last he was physically superior! Oh he would enjoy this. Yes, he would definitely enjoy this.

Bruno’s moaning took on a plaintive character. Nerdly was unmoved. “Oh are we in pain brother dear?” he asked sweetly.

His face darkened suddenly. “Well too bad! I’ve suffered under your yoke long enough! The worm has finally turned Bruno, and YOU appear to be the worm! Ha hah!” He started batting Bruno with the broom, years of pent-up frustration and anger rising to the surface.

Each strike with the broom would cause the blob-flesh to retreat in on itself, then slowly roll back to its original mound shape. Bruno’s flesh seemed to be quite pliable. And yet, when he’d been poked deeply, no damage seemed to occur. Nerdly was fascinated even as he gleefully got his revenge on his brother.

Finally Nerdly tired of his assault and let the broom fall to the floor, exhausted. He looked at Bruno, who’s shape was settling into the familiar mound.

Finally Nerdly stood up. “Well, I’ve got to get you down to my laboratory Bruno. I want to find out exactly what I’ve created, heh heh.”

Bruno let out a thick low moan.

“Oh don’t worry Bruno, you’ve always been curious about my lab and now is your big chance!”

Nerdly thought for a moment as his brother the blob tried to move to other end of the kitchen, where the wall opened up to the dining room. He was moving faster now, sliding along the floor, leaving wet sticky brown stains in his wake.

“I need to restrain you somehow Bruno,” said Nerdly, thinking aloud. In a few seconds, he snapped his fingers and smiled. “Yes, that would do nicely. Very nicely.”

Bruno was now entering the dining room, staining the carpet with his blob goo. Nerdly ran past him to the side door, which exited into garage. He flicked the light switch on as he ran past it and began rummaging in the back of the garage where piles of boxes, garbage bags and other assorted household items made a disheveled wall.

“Ah, here you are,” said Nerdly.

He grimaced as he pulled a new green plastic trash can out from behind the pile. He wiped his brow, fatigued from the small amount of exertion. “Yes, this will do quite nicely.”

Part Six – Pie Day

It took Nerdly the better part of two hours to herd his brother’s blob form into the plastic trash can. At first he tried to use the broom, but the cookie-dough consistency of Bruno’s new physique kept slipping through the bristles. Finally he grew frustrated, and beat on the peppermint-odored mound in the living room, eliciting thick moans and groans.

“This isn’t working at all,” complained Nerdly, wiping sweat from his eyeglasses. He leaned on the broom breathing heavily, thinking. Bruno’s eye-slits watched warily, then he uttered a low moaning sound.

“Quiet Bruno, I’m trying to think,” said Nerdly.

Suddenly Nerdly snapped his fingers. “Yes, that’s precisely what I need for this job!” He put the broom away and went back to the garage, grabbed a snowshovel and returned.

The snowshovel proved effective and Nerdly was finally able to corral the Bruno-blob into the trash can. Nerdly frowned as he saw the large brown stain on the living room carpet. “Damn you Bruno, you’re a slob in any form.”

“Mumph,” said Bruno, his thick moaning muffled by the confines of the trash can.

Nerdly managed to roll the trash can down to his laboratory, but it took all of his meager strength to accomplish the task. Out of breath, he huffed and puffed for several minutes. Finally recovered, Nerdly took samples from Bruno’s blob-flesh, to which Bruno reacted by groaning loudly from within his plastic cage.

While Nerdly studied Bruno’s new physical form, the next-door neighbor was busy baking pies, today being pie day.

Ethel and Bill Butterfield were a retired couple who had been close friends with Nerdly and Bruno’s parents. When they passed away, Mrs. Butterfield took it upon herself to watch over the boys. As the years passed, her watchfulness had been reduced to the baking and delivery of home-made pies. She had frankly become a nuisance and Bruno largely ignored her, but Nerdly had always felt an obligation to at least sit and have a piece of pie and a cup of coffee with the old woman.

Today, Saturday, was pie day. Nerdly had forgotten all about it in all the excitement over Bruno’s accidental transformation. Mrs. Butterfield had not. In fact, she looked forward to pie day as she and Mr. Butterfield had never had children of their own. Mr. Butterfield was off on his monthly fishing trip, which was fine with Mrs. Butterfield. Bill was constantly in her way in the kitchen, retirement having left the man with little to do with his time. So she had spent the morning baking pies. On this particular day she had baked a peach pie and a boysenberry pie. That nice Nerdly always made time for her and her pies. Such a nice young man. His brother was a little standoffish she felt, but she excused his behavior, saying to Bill on several occasions, “Boys will be boys.”

As the pies cooled, Mrs. Butterfield opened the far left cabinet in her kitchen and reached into the dark recesses for a faded box of corn starch, shooing a large brown cat off the counter. “Fuzzy, I think we’ll have the peppermint today.” Fuzzy the cat had begun cleaning himself and ignored the old woman.

She opened the box of corn starch and pulled out a small bottle of peppermint schnapps. She had to hide her bottles; if Mr. Butterfield ever found out well, he wouldn’t understand. She unscrewed the cap from the bottle, raised it to her lips and drank several swallows of the liquor. “Ahh, that’s much better, Fuzz” she said to the cat, who looked up for a moment at the sound of his name.

The sink was filled with dirty pots, pans and other baking utensils. Mrs. Butterfield picked up a dirty bowl then shook her head. “No Fuzzy, I think I’ll just leave these till later. It’s time to visit the boys.”

She went upstairs to apply a fresh coat of makeup, which did nothing to hide her aging wrinkled features and sprayed her thin gray hair, which she’d put up in her usual bun. Then she changed from her housedress into her good visiting dress and headed downstairs. She placed the cooled boysenberry pie into a bag (Mr. Butterfield enjoyed peach pie; she’d save that one for him) and put her coat on.

Fuzzy the cat jumped down to follow the woman, but she shooed him away from the door. “No Fuzzy, you stay here and keep an eye on things.” Of course the cat snuck out through the old woman’s legs as she opened the door. She didn’t see him dart into the bushes. She hummed a nameless tune to herself as she happily trudged over to Nerdly and Bruno’s house.

Part Seven – In the Interest of Science

Nerdly worked in his laboratory like a man obsessed. He took a sample from Bruno’s cookie-dough flesh, which elicited loud moans from within the trash can, and exposed it to a variety of tests and analyses. He rolled his wheeled chair from one end of the lab to the other, peering momentarily into the microscope, then wheeling to the computer terminal to type some formula or theorem, then back to Bruno’s trash can, then back to some gleaming piece of technology to run a test, then back to the microscope again.

He oohed and aahed while he worked, occasionally sharing his thoughts aloud with Jonas the super-rat and his blob brother. Jonas’ cage sat in close proximity to Bruno’s trash can and he scurried desperately from one of the cage to the other, disturbed at the presence of the strange large smelly blob next to him. “Jonas, calm yourself. It’s only Bruno,” Nerdly said more than once.

After some time, he finally leaned back in his chair and admired the molecular diagram on the computer screen. He had figured out what had happened to Bruno. Apparently when he’d suffered from his headache earlier, the anti-alcohol serum and the experimental growth and immune system hormone had been mixed and had created a new, wholly original serum. When the serum, which Nerdly had secretly mixed into the morning coffee, entered Bruno’s alcohol-drenched system, the alcohol triggered the new serum and Bruno mutated on a cellular level. He Nerdly had created a new species!

“Bruno, you and I have made history,” he crowed.

“Mmph,” said Bruno.

“Now now brother dear, sacrifices must be made in the interest of science.” Nerdly’s analysis had led to one inescapable conclusion: Bruno could not be changed back to his original form. Not that he wanted to turn his brother back of course. In his current form, Bruno was no longer a thorn in Nerdly’s side. He was free of the oaf at last.

Nerdly peered down into the plastic trash can. “I always thought you were a big lump, Bruno,” he said, giggling at his own joke.

Some tests still had to be performed. Nerdly was fascinated at his brother’s physical form and was intensely curious to find out how the creature ate, stored energy and ridded itself of waste products.

Nerdly glanced at the clock displayed in the corner of the computer screen. “Oh I’m sorry Jonas, I completely forgot your breakfast.” Jonas became excited as Nerdly approached his cage, beginning the familiar ritual of feeding time. Bruno’s eyeslits shifted to the top of his form and peered out at the rat in his cage. He jiggled within the trash can momentarily.

DING DONG!

The front doorbell rang, filling the house with its loud chime. Nerdly looked up at the video monitor which he’d installed as a security measure. There was the neighbor Mrs. Butterfield, looking clownlike in her flowered dress, caked on makeup and horn-rimmed glasses.

“Nerdly! Bruno!” she called, her voice sounding tinny coming through the security system’s small speaker.

“Oh, it’s that meddlesome old bat, Mrs. Butterfield,” he complained. “I totally forgot today is pie day.”

“Mmmph,” groaned Bruno.

“Quiet Bruno,” said Nerdly.

He turned to Jonas. “Patience Jonas, I’ll feed you first, then I’ll get rid of old Mrs. Butterfield.” Jonas complained by frantically hurling himself around his cage.

Mrs. Butterfield tapped her foot impatiently. The pie was going to get cold if she stood out here too long! “Boys?” she called? She knew there were home; Bruno’s truck was sitting in the driveway.

Well, it was pie day after all. The boys wouldn’t mind if she let herself in. She fished into her purse and pulled out some keys. Nerdly and Bruno’s parents had given the Butterfields a copy of the house key years ago, intending for their long-time neighbors and friends to look after the house while they were away on vacation. Ethel Butterfield has kept the key.

She unlocked the door and opened it slowly, peering around to see if either of the boys were in the room. Fuzzy the cat had darted from bush to bush and had hidden himself from Mrs. Butterfield's view. She felt something on her leg and looked down to see Fuzzy run inside Nerdly and Bruno’s house.

“Oh Fuzzy, I told you to stay home!” she scolded, but the cat was already in the house. “You know Nerdly’s allergic to you.” She sighed, then walked through the living room to the kitchen. The remains of Bruno’s and Uncle Joe’s previous evening were everywhere. And there was a large brown stain on the carpet.

“My my, these boys really should clean up after themselves,” she said. She bent down to inspect the stain. The familiar odor of peppermint greeted her senses. “Peppermint,” she said, sniffing. “How curious.”

Where were those boys? Surely they hadn’t forgotten pie day. Well, at least Nerdly wouldn’t have forgotten. Mrs. Butterfield had been coming over for pie day for a few years now and  Nerdly really enjoyed her pies. “Oh well, I’m sure they’re around somewhere, I’ll just get the pie ready.”

She entered the kitchen and smelled coffee. Nerdly had forgotten to clean the pot of coffee from earlier that morning and Mrs. Butterfield detected its peppermint aroma by sniffing. “Mmm, smells nice but it’s luke warm. I’ll just have to reheat it.” She pressed the button on the coffee-maker and opened a cabinet to get cups, saucers and plates. She sang as she worked, setting the pie on the table, cutting two generous pieces and placing them on the plates, pouring two cups of coffee, retrieving clean spoons and forks as well as sugar and milk.

Nerdly hurriedly prepared Jonas’ food, taking care to add just the right amount of the growth hormone, then jotting down a few notes in the lab notebook. Bruno shook and moaned in his plastic confinement, but Nerdly happily tsk-tsked his mutated brother as he went about his work.

“That blasted Mrs. Butterfield and her tasteless pies,” thought Nerdly. He looked into the trash can containing Bruno. “I’ll have to get rid of her quickly, we wouldn’t want Mr. Butterfield nosing around now would we?” he said.

“Mmmph,” said Bruno.

“Nerdly! Bruno! Where are you?” called Mrs. Butterfield in her loud singsong voice from upstairs. Nerdly finished feeding Jonas and hurried upstairs, leaving the laboratory door ajar. He certainly wasn’t worried about Bruno invading the privacy of his lab; Bruno had become his latest experiment!

Nerdly raced upstairs, eager to get rid of the unwanted visitor. “Coming Mrs. Butterfield, I’m coming,” he called.

Mrs. Butterfield was sitting at the kitchen table, which had two places set for pie and coffee. She put down her own coffee cup and smiled when Nerdly entered the kitchen.

“There you are Nerdly, where’s Bruno?” said Mrs. Butterfield cheerily. I hope you didn’t forget our pie day. I brought boysenberry today.”

“Ah yes, pie day,” replied Nerdly, thinking of a way to get rid of her quickly. He sat down, intending to put the woman at ease. It wouldn’t do for the nosy neighbors to get wind of Bruno’s transformation. “Poor Bruno had a rough night I’m afraid. He’s sleeping in.”

Nerdly noticed Mrs. Butterfield’s lipstick stain on her coffee cup. “Fresh coffee, Mrs. Butterfield?” he asked.

“Oh my no,” she said, lifting her cup. “I don’t know what kind of coffee this is that you made this morning, but it’s very tasty.”

Nerdly’s face sank momentarily. The coffee with the mutating serum! He rose from the table and tried to snatch Mrs. Butterfield’s cup away from her. “Oh that stuff’s no good, Mrs. Butterfield. Let me make a fresh pot.”

Mrs. Butterfield pulled her cup away from him and frowned. “I like this coffee, Nerdly. Why are you grabbing at it?” She gave Nerdly a suspicious look.

Nerdly put on his best fake smile. “Ah, it’s been sitting there since last night and I wouldn’t want you to-“

“Nonsense, it’s perfectly fine once you reheat it. Now try the pie.” She sipped the coffee.

Nerdly sat back down, defeated. “The damn woman,” he thought. But then his spirits lifted. The serum was harmless without alcohol in the subject’s system.

“By the way Nerdly, your living room is a mess! Don’t you boys ever clean?” asked Mrs. Butterfield. “And there’s a big ugly stain on the rug. You didn’t get sick again, did you?”

Nerdly was getting impatient. “No no, that was Bruno. I have to keep after him all the time.” He looked at his watch, then at the open door leading to his laboratory. Fuzzy the cat slipped downstairs just as Nerdly looked.

“Mrs. Butterfield, is that your cat?” he asked, getting up in a hurry. “Can’t let the stupid beast into the laboratory,” he thought.

“Oh that Fuzz. He just loves to follow me around,” said Mrs. Butterfield.

Nerdly became angry. He hated cats and he hated unwanted visitors in his laboratory. Damn that woman and her stupid pies and her stupid cat! “Excuse me Mrs. Butterfield, but I have to get your little Fuzz out of my lab. I have some important experiments underway and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to him.”

Mrs. Butterfield nodded, now shoveling forkfuls of boysenberry pie into her mouth. She spoke through mouthfuls of pie. “Okay Nerdly, be careful. Fuzz can get skittish.”

Nerdly groaned as he practically ran down the stairs after the cat. “You stay there Mrs. Butterfield, I’ll be right back,” he called.

Mrs. Butterfield mumbled something unintelligible, her mouth filled with pie and coffee. When she heard Nerdly’s footsteps, she reached into her purse and pulled out the bottle of peppermint schnapps. “Just a little bit to flavor the coffee,” she said to herself, and poured a liberal amount of the liquor into the coffee. She lifted the cup to her lips and drank.

“Mm-mm, that is good!” She drank another, and her face felt hot. She smelled peppermint.

Part Eight – Nerdly’s Bad Day

Nerdly heard a crash as he raced down the basement stairs to his laboratory. “What now?” he thought. He went back up the stairs and grabbed the broom from the kitchen before descending the stairs again. He did not see Mrs. Butterfield melting in her chair.

As he pushed the lab door open, an agitated and hissing Fuzzy the cat ran past his feet. Nerdly started to curse the beast but several sneezes came out instead. He looked up to see Bruno’s trash can container knocked over and Bruno spread over Jonas cage and the sterile containment unit which held the experimental growth serum.

“Bruno, what have you done you fool?” he shouted, alarmed. Bruno’s cookie dough form had grown in mass and now began to ooze in Nerdly’s direction. Jonas was nowhere in sight. “My experiment! My growth serum! Oh no!”

Nerdly felt his pulse quicken and wiped nervous perspiration from his forehead. Bruno growled thickly from the other end of the lab. “You’ll ruin everything, damn you!” Nerdly held the broom out in front of him, brandishing it like a spear.

“Mmmphh,” growled Bruno, who kept sliding his formless bulk toward his brother.

Nerdly heard a tiny squeaking coming from Bruno’s lumpy flesh. “Jonas? Jonas, is that you, where are you?” Nerdly took one small step closer to his brother, his broom-spear out in front of him. “Now, you stay away from me Bruno. If you’ve done anything to harm Jonas.” There was no threat to follow. In truth, Nerdly was no longer so sure of his physical superiority over his transformed brother. Bruno had obviously increased his mobility, and Nerdly had no idea how quickly the blob could move. Once again, his brother had succeeded in frightening him.

“Damn you Bruno, give me back my Jonas!” cried Nerdly, enraged at his brother yet again. He thrust the broom forward at Bruno once, twice, thrice, but each time Bruno retreated his blob-flesh in on himself to avoid the crude weapon.

SQUEAK!

Jonas appeared from behind Bruno’s expanding bulk looking confused. Nerdly swung the broom clumsily from side to side to keep Bruno at bay and shouted encouragement to the subject of his now ruined experiment. “Come to me Jonas, to me!” Jonas twitched nervously then bolted past Bruno.

Just as Jonas appeared to be out of harm’s way, a clay-like tentacle burst out of Bruno and snatched the unsuspecting rat, wrapping its pliable flesh around the horrified animal. Nerdly slammed the broom into Bruno, trying to dislodge his rat, shouting “Let him go you freak! You’re ruining everything!”

Bruno’s flesh wrapped itself around the broom end and tried to pull it in. The poor rat squeaked and squeaked but the tentacle snapped back and Jonas disappeared into Bruno with a loud sucking noise.

“NO!” cried Nerdly, who tried with all his meager strength to pull his broom back. Bruno sent another tentacle out at his brother, knocking off his glasses. “Ow!” yelped Nerdly. “My glasses! You fool, you know I’m nearly blind without them!”

Bruno’s tentacle retreated but not completely; it hung in the air with a life of its own, bobbing and weaving like a boxer waiting to land a knockout blow. Nerdly stumbled backwards and fell, banging his knee on the cold basement floor.

The broom handle was stuck fast and protruded from Bruno’s blob-flesh, waving back and forth with each oozing movement forward. Abandoning all thought of attack, Nerdly quickly got up clutching his knee. “I’ll get you yet!” he swore, and raced back up the stairs.

His experiment ruined and his revenge spoiled, Nerdly became concerned only with his own survival. Just as he had many many times in the past, Nerdly was running away from his bullying brother. He limped halfway up the stairs before realizing he could lock Bruno in the lab, and turned to slam the door shut.

A thick arm-like tentacle snuck into the doorway and stiffened, effectively keeping the door open. Nerdly tried to close the door on the thing, but it was too strong! Even in his freakishly transformed state, Bruno was still stronger than Nerdly.

Bruno was bringing all his bulk, still expanding due to his ingesting all of Nerdly’s experimental growth hormone, against the door. “Mmmph, mmmph,” he repeated, pushing the door open little by little. Nerdly was forced to back up and finally gave up entirely and limped up the stairs.

He slammed the basement door shut behind and leaned against it, breathing heavily.

“Mrs. Butterfield, I think—“ He stopped in midsentence. Mrs. Butterfield was gone. He squinted to to try to see the details of the kitchen. It was then that he saw that Mrs. Butterfield had also been transformed and sat undulating quietly on top of the kitchen table, her horn-rimmed glasses perched obscenely on top of her pale flesh-colored bulk.

“Oh no,” groaned Nerdly.

Part Nine – Nerdly Versus The Blob

Mrs. Butterfield had obviously drunk the tainted coffee, and had obviously had alcohol. The alcohol in her system triggered the mutating hormone in the coffee and the nosy neighbor was now a hideous mound of cookie-dough flesh.

Nerdly looked around at the kitchen. He couldn’t help but frown at the mess. Chairs were tipped over, half the contents of the kitchen table had been knocked onto the floor by Mrs. Butterfield’s bulk. Coffee and pie stained the floor and cabinets next to the table. An empty bottle of liquor sat in the corner. “Damn you Mrs. Butterfield!” he said angrily. “Damn you and your damned pie day! Who’s going to clean up this mess?”

There was a groaning from behind the basement door, which Nerdly had had the presence of mind to close and lock. Bruno appeared to be quite strong, however, and Nerdly doubted the door would hold for long.

He searched the messy kitchen for something, anything to use as a weapon against the angry and rapidly mutating blob that used to be his brother. He saw nothing and began to panic.

“No no I must think of something! I won’t let him get the best of me!”

The basement door started to creak as the Bruno-blob pressed against it. Slivers of blob-flesh crept tentatively under the door.

“Ack!” shouted Nerdly, and he stomped his foot on the thin tentacles reaching under the door. They retreated instantly and Nerdly’s foot missed.

From behind Nerdly, Mrs. Butterfield was becoming agitated. She started to undulate, which shook the kitchen table. “Not you too, Mrs. Butterfield,” Nerdly said, holding his face in his hands.

“Unhh,” groaned Mrs. Butterfield. The shaking kitchen table started to topple over, and the old woman’s mutated bulk slid slowly over the table’s edge, forcing it down. Nerdly jumped back as it fell completely and most of Mrs. Butterfield slid onto the stove.

At that moment, the basement door burst open and Bruno oozed into the kitchen, several tentacles sliding along the floor in Nerdly’s direction.

“Stay back you fool!” shouted Nerdly, and he ran around the fallen table and around the undulating moaning Mrs. Butterfield to stand heaving in the entrance to the living room.

Bruno had shifted his attention to Mrs. Butterfield and sent his tentacles in her direction. The darker flesh of Bruno’s grasping tentacles contrasted with the lighter color of Mrs. Butterfield’s blob flesh. The tentacles held fast and pulled rest of Bruno, now grown larger, toward the moaning neighbor. Bruno seemed to growl as he fastened himself to the smaller blob and began to stretch his form over it.

Nerdly squinted and watched in horror as the Bruno blob began to absorb the smaller Mrs. Butterfield blob. “You stupid clod, what are you doing?!” he cried, but Bruno ignored him.

The sounds of Mrs. Butterfield’s moans were fading as most of the blob flesh on the stove was Bruno’s. The former old woman wasn’t  giving up without a fight, however. Parts of Mrs. Butterfield had siezed the front of the stove and were holding fast to the gas controls. Bruno could not budge the smaller blob. He groaned loudly and several tentacles shot out of him to grab hold of the ceiling and wall, giving him better leverage.

Nerdly was frightened now. Bruno would eventually win the struggle of the blobs and devour poor Mrs. Butterfield. It wasn’t his fault, Nerdly reasoned. The old bat should have minded her own business. This was all Bruno’s fault. He raised his face to the ceiling and made two fists. “This is all your fault, Bruno. ALL YOUR FAULT!!” he shouted, shaking his fist.

An idea came to him suddenly. What he needed was in the garage.

He ran to the garage, leaving Mrs. Butterfield to her fate. Frantically he picked over the tools and other items in the garage until with a desperate “Ah-hah!” he pulled out the torch Bruno used to tinker with auto body repair. The weapon gave Nerdly hope and with hope, confidence. He gripped the torch and smiled. “Let’s see if you can withstand fire, Bruno,” he said, grimly determined.

Racing back to the house, Nerdly stopped in the living room. Bruno had all but completely swallowed Mrs. Butterfield. His bulk now filled half the kitchen and was still expanding. The smaller blob stubbornly clung to the stove control knobs, her flesh stretched to its limits by Bruno’s assault.

Nerdly smiled and adjusted the torch, then started it. A small but strong flame appeared. “Oh Bruno!” he called to his mutated brother in a mocking voice. “I have something for you!”

The Bruno blob turned its eyeslits toward this new sound. Not quite done absorbing Mrs. Butterfield, Bruno growled “Mmmph!” A tentacle appeared out of nowhere in front of Nerdly, and he quickly adjusted the flame higher. The tentacle hissed and crumpled to the floor.

“MMMMPPHH!!!” groaned Bruno.

“Ah-hah! So we don’t like getting burned, do we?” taunted Nerdly. Emboldened, he increased the flame yet again, and stepped forward on the attack. “Take THAT!” he shouted, and aimed the flame for Bruno’s hefty flank.

Bruno snatched his injured flesh away with a hissing sound. Bits of flame fell to the floor and took root in one of the legs of a fallen chair.

Nerdly charged again, this time swiping Bruno with the flame. “Hah!” he shouted, dancing clumsily back after the attack. Smoke began to rise from the burning chair leg, its highly flammable finish feeding the little fire. Nerdly ignored the small blaze and danced back and forth, threatening Bruno with the flame.

The blob shook back and forth trying to avoid the awful flame. It hadn’t even finished with Mrs. Butterfield yet. The smaller blob had been reduced to several thick strands, each wrapped around the knobs that controlled the gas stove.

Nerdly turned the flame way up and with a loud “Yah!” struck Bruno’s middle, if he could be said to have a middle.

Smoke filled the room as the part of Bruno’s flesh touched with the flame turned black and crumpled. The flesh hissed as it burned. Bruno shook wildly from side to side, still holding onto what was left of Mrs. Butterfield’s blob form. The thick strands of Mrs. Butterfield held fast to the knob, but gave way a little. The knobs began to turn, and gas began to flow.

Nerdly didn’t see the knobs turning, he was a man possessed. All the years of abuse at the hands of his brutish brother came to the surface and Nerdly had only one objective – revenge. He was thrusting the large flame forward with regularity now, laughing as more and more of Bruno’s mutated flesh burnt and hissed and crumpled into ashes.  Bruno retreated as much as he could, and moaned constantly.

“Now we see who is superior!” cried Nerdly dancing and thrusting with the torch. “NOW WE SEE!” He thrust one more time and just as the flame was about to scorch more of the blob-flesh, he smelled the gas. “Oh no,” he murmured.

The kitchen exploded.

Part Ten – The Return of Bill Butterfield

As Nerdly and Bruno’s burning house attracted the usual complement of police cruisers and fire trucks and a growing crowd of ogling neighbors, Bill Butterfield was in his Dodge Ram truck a few streets away, a package of fresh fish on the empty seat next to him.

Bill had no idea what was about to hit him. He was busy thinking. Rehearsing actually. You see, Bill had not been on a fishing trip at all. Bill had never gone on any weekend fishing trips. Bill Butterfield had been spending weekends with his mistress in the city, buying fresh fish at a fish market to support his cover story. He agonized over his adultery only when he was coming home from seeing his girlfriend. He knew he couldn’t keep this up indefinitely.

Bill Butterfield was not a bad man; he hadn’t intended to cheat on Ethel, his loyal wife of many years. But something had gone out of the marriage years ago and Bill was left with a gnawing feeling of simply going through the motions of life. Bill was a youthful and vigorous man; he liked to keep both his mind and body active. Ethel had simply gotten too old for him.

He heard sirens as he made the last turn into his neighborhood. Several police cars were parked haphazardly in front of Nerdly and Bruno’s house, which he could clearly see was ablaze. “Oh no,” said Bill. “I hope the boys are alright.” Fire trucks and other emergency vehicles blocked part of the road. Bill slowed his car as a cop approached. The part of the house where the kitchen had been collapsed and was a smoking ruin. The rest of the house still burning, but it looked like the firemen were getting the flames under control.

After telling the stern-faced cop that he was the next-door neighbor, he was allowed to pass and pulled into his own driveway. The cop didn’t tell him anything; apparently the cause of the fire was still unknown. He quickly grabbed the fish and ran into the house yelling “Ethel! Ethel!” There was no answer.

The kitchen was a mess, which was strange because Ethel was a neat-freak. Bill recognized the various pots and pans and spilled ingredients. She’d been baking pies.

Suddenly Bill gasped and put his hand over his mouth. “Pie day! Today is pie day, the day Ethel goes over to the boys’ house with a pie!”

He dropped the fish on the table and ran outside.


Bill Butterfield reacted calmly when told of his wife’s death in the fire. The fire chief had found her glasses and had given them over to Bill with a heavy heart and a supportive pat on the shoulder. Bill was in shock but only until he remembered the insurance policy he had taken out on Ethel several years earlier.

Authorities were only able to find Nerdly’s remains. The other bodies were never discovered and police and fire investigators concluded after several weeks of poking around in the ruined house that the other two had simply been burnt. The large amount of a strange clay-like substance, now black and charred, in the kitchen and the presence of the high-tech lab in the basement led the investigators to conclude that some scientific experiment had gone bad. The police lab couldn’t make heads or tails out of the clay-like substance or any of the other items found in the lab. No matter, the investigation was ultimately closed. Bruno and Mrs. Butterfield were declared dead in spite of the fact that their bodies were never actually found.

Bill Butterfield made out like a bandit. The insurance money insured a comfortable life. Seeking  a fresh start, Bill sold his house and moved to the city to be with his girlfriend. He had never been happier.

Uncle Joe and his wife took charge of disposing of Nerdly and Bruno’s house. They removed all of the furniture and belongings and made a great deal of money selling Nerdly’s laboratory equipment to the local university, an idea pushed on an apathetic Uncle Joe by his greedy wife. Uncle Joe was satisfied with that but his wife insisted on having a series of tag sales to get rid of the other “junk” as she put it. She was all too quick to pocket the profit from the sale of this “junk.”

One day, after the house had been on the real estate market for several weeks, a serious buyer came to look. The buyer was a young yuppie couple with a little girl about five years old. They were looking for a fixer-upper and they fell in love with the former home of Nerdly and Bruno.

As they were poking around the grounds, the little girl grew bored and ran off to explore. There were various piles of unsold household items and she picked through the pile in spite of her mother’s constant warnings to “stay away from that junk.” Finally the couple was ready to leave. The little girl came running, her little fist holding something gray and squishy, an excited grin on her face.

“Look Mommy, I found some clay!”

THE END.

© 2006 Michael S. Cohen

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