Kyle and the Licorice Vine

Two weeks before school was out, Kyle’s class went to a puppet show at the library. Afterward, they ate lunch in the nearby park. The teachers ignored the usual strict rules about lunchtime trades. The students gleefully set up their own wall street trading floor of lunches.

Kyle was happy with his lunch. So he sat on the sidelines and watched as Katie masterfully traded her carrot sticks for Joe’s apple slices, and the apple slices for Susan’s chips, and the chips for Amy’s second brownie.

Somehow she managed to trade the brownie for Horace’s jelly doughnut.   Kyle cheered as Katie bit into her doughnut. Maybe she could help Chris figure out how to effectively trade his baloney sandwich for a piece of pizza?

“Hey, Kyle,” Jack said. He sat down next to Kyle on the park bench. “I noticed that you have chocolate milk.”

“Yes, I do,” Kyle said. “I love chocolate milk.”

“So do I,” Jack said. “But I never get any. My mom is eating healthy now.” He frowned.   “She made us homemade organic jelly beans, but they look a little strange.” Jack held out a baggie of oddly shaped pellets of various muddy hues.

“Do they taste all right?” Kyle asked. They didn’t look all right.

“I haven’t tried any of them. I saved them to trade, and you have chocolate milk. I really love chocolate milk,” Jack said.

Kyle scooted his unopened chocolate milk a little further away from Jack.   “I love chocolate milk too,” he said.

“Please trade with me,” Jack said. He opened his eyes a little wider and frowned. “I never get chocolate milk and dinner last night was salad and I think tonight we’re having beets and eggplant. Please Kyle!”

Kyle sighed. “Fine,” he said, and scooted the milk towards Jack. “Thank you!” Jack yelled. He dumped the baggie of organic homemade jellybeans in Kyle’s lap and snatched up the chocolate milk. He nuzzled his cheek against the carton then grinned. “Do you think I could trade my sprout sandwich for something with meat in it?”

“I already ate my sandwich,” Kyle said. He was so glad he had. “You’ll have to ask someone else.” Jack ran off and Kyle looked down at the jellybeans.   “I don’t think I want to eat those right now,” he thought, and he shoved them in his backpack and forgot them.

A few weeks later, school was out and Kyle’s mom sent him to his room to empty out his backpack. A nice breeze blew in through the window, carrying with it the happy sounds of summertime. Kyle dumped everything on his bed and scooped most of the papers into the trash. He shoved the leftover school supplies into his desk.

That left the friendship bracelet from Mark (he threw it on his dresser), the class picture from the field trip (he threw it on his dresser), and the bag of jellybeans. Oddly, the jellybeans looked the same as they did when he got them. Pretty suspicious for something homemade and organic.

Jack opened the baggie and tossed the beans up and down, testing their weight.   He threw them one at a time out the window. He congratulated himself on his perfect aim and tossed the empty baggie in the trash. Then he went out to play.

In the morning, there was an enormous licorice vine growing out of the ground right outside his window. It was dark black and smelled delicious. What did Jack’s mom put in those jellybeans?

Kyle got dressed and ran outside.   He looked up. It grew all the way up into the clouds. Knowing that his mom would say no if he asked, Kyle did not ask if he could climb the vine. He just started climbing.

At the top of the vine, there was an enormous gingerbread house. It was covered in candies and icing and smelled like honey and spices. A giant gingerbread boy ran past. “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” The gingerbread boy yelled.

“Aren’t you supposed to say, “Fee fie fo fum?” Kyle asked.

“That’s a different story,” the gingerbread boy said.

“So, you don’t eat children?” Kyle asked.

“Of course not.” The gingerbread boy frowned. “I told you that’s a different story.”

“But the candy house…” Kyle said.

“Oh, that’s where I keep my treasures,” the gingerbread boy said.   “Come inside and see.”

Kyle made sure to stay out of snatching distance and followed the gingerbread boy into the house. “First, see my hen that lays candy eggs,” the gingerbread boy said. He pulled a little plastic chicken off a shelf and loaded candy eggs into the back and wound it up. It walked along the table and occasionally paused to drop a candy egg.

“I saw those in the store around Easter,” Kyle said.

“Look at my talking rocks!” The gingerbread boy said. He dropped some pop rocks in a cup of soda. They crackled and fizzled. “They’re whispering,” he said. “But what do they say?”

“Uh huh,” Kyle said.

“And look at my pot of gold,” the gingerbread boy said, pointing to a plastic cauldron full of gold coins.

“Those are chocolate coins,” Kyle said.

“Aren’t they great?” The gingerbread boy said. “I also have a cow that gives chocolate milk, but she keeps wandering off.”

“I know where there’s a rope made of licorice. You can have it if you share your chocolate milk,” Kyle said.

They made their agreement, and soon Kyle was sliding down the licorice vine.   He used a large kitchen knife to chop it down. He tugged on it, and the gingerbread boy pulled the vine up into the clouds.

Once a week, all summer, there was a gingerbread cup of chocolate milk on his windowsill in the morning. “Should I tell Jack?” He wondered. “Would he believe me?”