Oliver and the Ketchup Heist
Author's note: Watching the news people who take things that aren't theirs are always portrayed as selfish, and... Show full author's note »
Oliver and the Ketchup HeistOliver and the Ketchup Heist
Drip...Drip...drip Oliver’s weary eyes followed the mucky water all the way down from the wooden rafters of the ceiling to the worn tea cup sitting on the night stand where the water had been landing for the past month. Oliver didn’t know the actual time since the house’s only clock had been stripped of its parts for one of his father’s gadgets he was always building. But Oliver took an educated guess and assumed it must’ve been close to midnight
Gazing around his family’s rickety three room shack Oliver was engulfed by the detail of the home. The cracks and breaches in the surfaces of the stone wall leaving room for the eye to gaze out into the world without straying from the safety of home. The water from the thawing of the winter snow leaked in from the holes in the ceiling and rafters creating a symphony of splashes as the water spiraled downward into rusted out pots, pans and tea cups. . Oliver’s mum and sister were lying next to him on the singles mattress with holes breaking the surface in the corners, and a gaping one at the foot of the bed. Oliver’s father had found the mattress one day on the outskirts of town and even though it was somewhat filthy it beat the cold bare dirt floor that they had been accustomed to. Lucy was a spitting image of their mum, thin build due to famine, pale with dark curly hair down to their backs and hazel eyes that glistened in the light. Chuck swaying in his hammock suspended from the rotten two by fours in the corner of their hut, rough patches of facial hair sprouting from the corners of his cheeks, Chuck was well built with broad shoulders, and wide arms. The shortage of food had been especially hard on Chuck, him being on the verge of manhood and holding an appetite next to none. The missing shingles and insulation in the ceiling allowed the moonlight to illuminate the room so that nothing went unseen in Oliver’s home, which was good in the sense that it was virtually impossible to be frightened by figures in the dark, but after nights of laying wide awake Oliver wished he hadn’t been able to see some of the things scurrying around across their dirt floors.
Oliver’s father was outside plotting for tomorrow. Restless, Oliver sat up, shook off the itchy sheets, unbuckled his harness, cautiously stood and grabbed hold of the rope that lead from the back of the house at waist level to the door leading outside. Saying that Oliver’s family’s home was on a slope was an understatement. The incline was so dramatic that everything had to be nailed or tied down to keep it from sliding and crashing into the other side of the hut. The dining table was nailed to the floor and the bed had ropes tied from the bottom of the posts to the pillars in the corner of the house, Lucy, Oliver, and their mother wore seat belts that were rigged to the bed to keep them from falling out in their sleep. In the middle of the house a long thick rope was wedged in a hole in the back of a house leading to a tree just outside the shack that the family used to steady themselves when moving through their home. As Oliver carefully moved down the slope he glanced down at his feet to see a mouse looking up at him. Oliver saw resemblance between himself and the rodent. Both were feeble, hungry, and uncertain. As quickly as the mouse had appeared it was gone.
Once outside Oliver found his father, a thin-framed man, with a mop of jet black hair matching his five o’clock shadow, his arms wiry and trim from hard manual labor in his earlier years. His father looked worn down, old, stress and worry lines creased his forehead and dark shadows accumulated under his eyes. He was the brains of their operation, coming up with new ideas to help his family survive. Oliver had a great deal of admiration for his father. No matter the situation once his dad was there he always thought things would work out. He had a remarkable knack for making everyone around him feel safe. He sat in the lawn chair under the maple tree smoking his cigarette, sipping from a bottle wrapped in a brown bag, talking to himself and jotting things down furiously on his notepad. Feeling Oliver’s eyes on him he looked up; Oliver froze in his tracks.
“What are you doing up lad, can’t sleep?”
“Nah, Lucy’s talking in her sleep again,” Oliver replied.
“Yeah she does that, come and sit with me.”
Oliver’s father pulled up a stool next to him gesturing for Oliver to sit down. The October wind swirled and Oliver suddenly became overwhelmed with chills.
“So, how are you holding up, my boy?” Oliver’s father asked.
“Oh, I’m good. Everything is good,” Oliver replied, hoping his father hadn’t picked up on falsehood of the statement. Truthfully Oliver wanted things to be like they used to, when his family was normal, before his parents jobs had been taken. It wasn’t just them though. When the factory closed down everyone in the neighborhood was out of jobs, Oliver’s family was fortunate for what they had and he felt guilty and selfish for not being grateful.
“The winter is coming you know, we need to make some more money to hold us over,” Oliver’s father said, staring up at the stars, telling himself just as much as he was telling Oliver.
“Best get some rest then hadn’t ya, boy? I won’t be too much longer.”
The next morning Oliver rose to find his tooth with swirls of dried blood formed in the creases under his pillow. The tooth fairy must’ve come while he was talking to his father. Chuck and their father were already up sipping from tin mugs at the dining table. Hopping up Oliver quickly licked his hand and attempted to put down his wild bed head, then scurried to the bathroom where Lucy was brushing her teeth. Once she was done she passed the brush to Oliver who scraped tooth paste from the corner of the sink and began brushing his own. Chuck got in line behind him and once Oliver was done he passed the brush on to Chuck and joined the rest of his family at the dining table for the briefing. Once everyone was buckled down to their chairs the meeting began. Oliver’s father stood at the head of the table sipping from his mug, in mass concentration drawing a complex diagram on the chalkboard behind him. Lucy sitting on her mother’s lap was still wiping the crust from her eyes and yawning profusely. Finally after a dead silence as everyone attempted to wake up and focus, Oliver’s father turned and spoke.
“How are we all this morning?” he said with a sinister grin like one on a child who’d just seen their unwrapped Christmas presents.
“Tired,” mumbled Chuck.
“Well everyone, it’s time,” said their father gleaming with pride in his diabolical scheme.
“Oliver my boy, can you tell me what one thing this god forsaken town has to offer?”
“uhhh…I don’t know,” Oliver replied dumbfounded.
“Think about it, what does Casey’s kitchen possess that has any value?”
Oliver began to feel his face turning shades of red as he felt his family’s eyes on him, his palms began to moisten. A cold and clammy sensation began to overwhelm him while his father’s stare burned holes through Oliver. Oliver thought back to the times when they could afford to eat at Casey’s, the burger joint down on Davidson. Casey’s was a small pricey diner started up by the owner Casey himself when he was just eighteen. Oliver’s family spend many afternoons sitting in the diner joking amongst themselves, things were so simple then. Oliver’s parents had both still had their jobs at the factory. They were by no means rich, but lived comfortably none the less. Casey was known for its enormous burgers, grease dripping off the bun. Everyone was weighed before served, nothing under a pound was handed to a customer. But what made Casey’s food so good, was the ketchup. Casey’s ketchup was homemade from a secret family recipe held dear to Casey’s family. Many people had offered Casey money, tons of it for the recipe but he never gave it up. that’s when it hit him.
“Ketchup!” Oliver shouted with maybe a little too much enthusiasm.
“That’s right, good” his father said with a hint of admiration.
“Casey’s has ketchup. Not just any ketchup but ketchup made from a secret recipe. It’s practically known Nationwide, but Casey only serves it to locals to keep the tradition.
“Yeah, and people would pay tons to get their hands on some of that stuff,” Chuck chimed in pleased with himself for piecing the plot together.
“Now, I know a guy working at the harbor. Who says he’d be willing to ship it off for a small cut, but we have to act fast. He ships off tonight. My family, our fate, lies within the ketchup, now let’s gets started.”
The plan was sketchy to say the least. Each person had their own job, and Oliver’s was arguably the most vital. Oliver was just as surprised as the rest of the family when his role was assigned. In previous jobs he had played minor rolls but ultimately did nothing. Oliver sat in absolute horror as he watched his father run through the scheme step by step. He had lost all feeling in his legs and put his hands over his mouth to hide his quivering lip. Oliver, finding strength in his legs got up and went to the bathroom, turned on the faucet and waited for the muddy slush to drain before running his face under the vaguely clean water. Looking into the cracked mirror Oliver saw his pale face smudged with dirt on his cheeks covering his orange freckles. His shaggy red hair nearly past his brown eyes, realizing now how much he truly resembled the rat he’d encountered the night before. Oliver was scared and worried about what was going to happen. More than anything Oliver was just tired. Once the family had stuffed their clothing with wadded up newspaper for insulation, they began their journey to Casey’s kitchen. Oliver carrying a lighter in his hand; dragging his modified wagon behind with a lasso, two sticks of butter, and an egg in the back.
Looking around at his family Oliver wondered how they all stayed so calm or at least looked like it. Lucy especially, her being the baby of the family hadn’t so much as a hint of doubt on her face. She looked determined and confident in her tattered pajamas, heavy blue coat, and rain boots, carrying her stuffed teddy bear that was missing one eye and half a leg. Oliver’s father looked the most confident though. He had complete faith in this plan, he had to, and failure wasn’t an option.
It was still early, and the garbage truck had just begun making its rounds. As the truck drove by a stale scent hung over Oliver making him gasp for breath. He didn’t know whether it was the garbage or the predicament he was in that was making him nocuous but something was eating at Oliver’s stomach from the inside and making his hands tremble. Cold sweat began to bead across Oliver’s forehead dripping into his eyes. Suddenly it didn’t feel like fall anymore. As the family turned the corner Oliver stared up at the huge hill that Casey’s sat on. Oliver felt like he was staring up at a castle that he was preparing to invade. Oliver’s father turned to the rest of them.
“Everyone remember what they’re supposed to do?” more of a statement than a question. Relief flowed across his face after each member stated their job.
“Alright, this is it.” Oliver’s father said with satisfaction.
Chuck and his dad headed to the lot to the left of the hill while Oliver, Lucy and their mother began the climb, Oliver a few paces behind to show no relation to the girls. Walking up the hill Oliver tried not to think about the situation and found himself concentrating on the squeaking of the tires on his wagon. The wagon was no ordinary wagon though. Chuck had extended it by three feet in both directions with welding tools back before the family had lost its money. He’d modified the wheels to give it more suspension all for Oliver’s sixth birthday. Dragging the wagon up the hill Oliver felt the muscles in his arms burning from the weight of the wagon.
Once they got to the top, the girls walked inside the diner where there must’ve been fifteen people standing around waiting for their meals. At the front of the line was an overweight policeman, with a chubby face, and curly hair sticking out from the sides of his hat. Lucy and her mother stood in the back of the line as Oliver casually watched from outside. Oliver went into a panic as his brain took off in a million different directions. All sorts of doubts and second thoughts came poring in. Again he felt his stomach churn and began to get dizzy. This time he really was going to get sick. He turned, stumbled two feet and opened his mouth, but nothing came out. The most he could come up with were a few pools of saliva. Wiping his mouth Oliver turned to see Lucy and their mother in the heart of the line. It was time. Oliver went to his wagon grabbed the egg, put it in his pocket, wrapped the lasso over his shoulder and began warming the already half melted butter with the lighter. Once the sticks were mush in his hand Oliver quietly opened the door. Crouching he tossed the sticks of butter at the foot of the enormous ketchup dispenser. The container stood about four feet tall and two feet wide. Sprouting from the top was a long nozzle to deliver the heavenly goodness of the secret ketchup. The Container had just been refilled no doubt a part of Oliver’s fathers plan. Oliver was surprised at how smooth he had been through the process so far. Now it was time for the girls to do their job. Oliver pulled the egg out of his pocket and in one fluid motion lobbed it perfectly into the crowd and onto Lucy’s head who gasped and then began to cry.
“Who threw that?” Lucy’s mom yelled.
“Who threw that egg at my daughter!” Their mother shouted her face beat red.
“It was him!” shouted Lucy through fake sobs who was pointing to a middle aged man in the back of the line. The diner erupted in arguments and shouting. The poor man in the back who had been minding his own business looked completely lost as he realized what he was being accused of. With the diner in complete havoc Oliver sprung into action. He’d already backed the wagon into the restaurant and propped the door open with one of his torn sneakers. Oliver lassoed the big ketchup bottle by the nozzle and pulled with everything he had. The dispenser came down into the back of the wagon with a crash. The diner got quieter as people turned to see what was going on. The cop who’d been trying to handle the situation in the diner was now waddling towards the door as Oliver began to push the wagon down the handicap ramp.
“Stop!” bellowed the officer but was interrupted as Lucy stuck out her rain boot and tripped him. The officer went tumbling into the pool of butter and slid into the glass window.
“Go Oliver!” Lucy screamed.
Lucy and her mother now finished with their jobs slipped out the back door in the confusion and started their journey back home where they would pray the rest of the heist went as successful. Once the wagon picked up speed and was rolling down the hill full force Oliver jumped in the front and began steering with the handle. Oliver was grinning from ear to ear as the wind whipped him in the face. He’d done his job, and done it well. Oliver was enjoying the adrenaline rush that had hit swept over him. He was an accomplice to the jacking of a giant ketchup bottle and it felt great. Caught up in his celebration Oliver didn’t notice the short stocky man with patches of grey hair around the bald spot on his head wearing sweat pants and an apron with pit stains showing was gaining on the wagon. Oliver turned in horror as Casey himself came sprinting down the hill.
“Get back here with my ketchup!”
Oliver tried desperately to gain speed but the old man was undoubtedly catching up. Just as Casey got in arms length of the wagon and Oliver could smell the grease and sweat poring off the man Chuck completed his mission swinging a large truck with hay in the back into the middle of the street. Oliver ducked and gritted his teeth as he neared the side of the truck. With an inch of clearance Oliver and the ketchup made it through the other side and Casey unable to stop went flying into a huge stack of hay. Oliver was home free as he and his wagon flew down the rugged hill. Nearing the bottom his father swung a truck out in front of him with ramps dragging behind leading up into the bed. Just as planned Oliver coasted the wagon straight up into the truck bed. Once up, Oliver smacked the side of the truck signaling his father to drive as Oliver, out of breath struggled to pull up ramps and slide the door shut. Finally being able to relax, joy overwhelmed Oliver as he could see his dad’s face gleaming with pride through the rearview mirror. As the truck drove away from the town, each second promising their safety, Oliver felt relieved. Oliver’s family was going to be alright. They’d survive the winter.