“You get the candy?”
“No, better,” I said, showing him the feather.
Tom's eyes went wide. Even though he was the one who played the joke in the first place, he still didn’t want to face a furious Chester Bickes.
“What’re you going to do with that?”
“I’m going to watch the movie.” I nodded in Phil’s direction. “When I get his attention, you drop this in his seat.”
Tom smiled as he understood what I was up to. As I’ve said, there were few things Tom liked better than a prank.
I handed him the feather and leaned over Phil’s seat. “Hey, I’m out of candy. You got any Good & Plentys?”
Phil turned around, smiling the wicked smile that only little brothers can smile. “Oh, so now you want something? Too bad-go buy it yourself. Besides, I hate licorice. I got something else.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tom lean back and give me the thumbs up.
“Well, if that’s the way you feel about it...”
Phil turned back to the screen. “Yep, sucks to be you.”
I relaxed. Only a matter of time now.
Just as the chimps were about to be trucked onto a military base, the movie froze and the lights flashed on. A chorus of groans and shower of empty popcorn boxes greeted an agitated Mr. Bickes as he stormed to the front of the theater. An angry vein pulsed in his forehead and he regarded the audience with a deep scowl.
“Something terrible has happened.”
If I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn he was about to tell us we were at war.
“Something terrible has happened,” he repeated. “Someone has defiled Mr. DeKova’s stall.”
He glared at us. “Does anyone know anything about this? Speak up!”
“Surely there were witnesses to this unspeakable act?”
He scanned the room. I began to worry I’d gone too far.
But, before I could retrieve the planted evidence, Bickes took a sharp intake of breath. Fixing his gaze on the feather sitting next to Phil, he raised his hand and jabbed a pudgy finger at my brother.
Phil bolted upright.
Bickes snatched the quill from beside Phil’s leg and held it aloft. “So,” he snarled, “do you think it’s great fun to vandalize a place of honor?”
“Hey, I didn’t do nothing! I’ve just been sitting here watching your crappy movie.”
That was the last straw. To Bickes, the arts were sacred and any insult to them was an insult to him.
His voice rising to a shriek, the apoplectic little man flung his arm toward the exit. “Get out! I never want to see your face in here ever again! Go!”
Thinking better of protesting, Phil rose from his seat and followed Bickes’ finger to the door. He looked over his shoulder and shot me a withering look. I’m sure I’d be blamed for not taking better care of my little brother.
Waiting until the door closed behind the sullen Phil, Mr. Bickes finally turned back to us. Still a little upset, he eked out a small smile. He looked down at the floor and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to make a small correction to our promotional contest.”
Tom and I perked up. A small correction? Maybe there were more tickets to be had!
“It appears there has been a mistake. Instead of two free tickets...”
Here we go, four free tickets!
“...in a box of Good & Plenty, there will be two free tickets in one box of Good & Fruity...which has already been sold. Funny,” he said, almost to himself, “it was the only one we sold all afternoon. Well, I hope this hasn’t inconvenienced anyone. Thank you. Enjoy the rest of the show.”
With that, the lights dimmed. The movie kicked in with soldiers chasing the simian heroes around a derelict ship.
As Cornelius slumped lifelessly to the deck, Tom turned to me.
“Hey, Al, you happen to notice the box Phil was holding when he was thrown out?”
“What was it?”
“Good & Fruity.”
Plenty good, Charlie.