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The Candy Man This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The dry heat of the fluorescent lamps beat down on Tim's neck as he wiped the sweat from his brow. Even the sight of his warm, faded dixie bandana which had lost most of its original majestic fire engine red was a delightful respite from the tile green sea the bubble gum packaging plant was usually bathed in.

Tim Reading was manager of production and packaging at the Magnibubble packing plant two minutes outside his home-town. His uncle was a friend of the owner and he had conveniently gotten Tim this job straight out of high school. Sixteen years later, he was still here. Every day, Tim watched and regulated the giant, lifeless machines which made Magnibubble possible. He was the last one to see each morsel before it hit the stores and the hordes of sweet-toothed young children. He had to make sure that each piece had a wrapper, each wrapper had a comic, and that each box had fifteen pieces and one baseball card. If a machine jammed, Tim was the man to fix it. Tim hated his job with a passion, but more than anything else, he despised those disgusting little gumballs. He couldn't stand the syrupy smell in the air and felt as if he always had a humongous wad of gum in his mouth.

Tim had been working today on the latest jam in the boxing machine since noon. He had checked every detail of the machinery but could not find the source. Sam Reggie, the head of the control room came down with a cheery, "What's happening, Tim?"

"Ah, still can't figure out this damn plug up."

"Don't sweat it, guy. We're about to close anyhow."

Tim had completely lost track of the time. He broke away from the dull hum of the factory into the crisp October air. Tim hopped into his pickup and lit out for home, angry at himself for coming back to this job day after day. Halfway home, Tim remembered the milk and bread for dinner and he headed back to Fred's Mini-Mart where he walked straight past the gum display without a second glance. As he strolled back to the truck, it occurred to Tim that he hadn't seen the park across the street in ages and so he jogged over to the huge Smithfield Park.

Tim loved the outdoors - the leaves on the ground, the autumn sky bluer than any ocean, and the chilled, clear air in his chest. Suddenly, Tim envisioned each tiny leaf as a piece of pink bubble gum. Disgusted with himself, he turned to go when he noticed several small boys clamoring over a gigantic pile of baseball cards. He started over, but stopped short to watch in awe. The boys had thousands. They must have every player in baseball, Tim reflected. Each miniature pink explosion from the boys' mouths sent a new wave of joy over them. As they raced off to have batting practice, each clutched his precious box of Magnibubble. The sweet, sugary scent left in the air did not seem quite so bad to Tim anymore. He had forgotten what a box of bubblegum could mean to a kid. Feeling strangely refreshed, Tim hurried back to Fred's Mini-Mart and bought a super size box of Magnibubble. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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