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August 15, 2022

Troop #66613: Part 1

By Holly Jahangiri

Starr Darkside pulled up to the curb in front of Sammy's 24-Hour Grocery Emporium. Eight little girls, from Adventure Scout Troop #66613 hopped out of the van, ready to unload and set up shop on the brightly-lighted sidewalk in front of Sammy's. They had landed prime curbside space at an hour guaranteed to bring them customers with a case of the munchies. Their troop leader, Starr, opened the rear doors and helped the girls pull out a large, folding table and chairs. Two girls started unloading cartons of cookie boxes.

"Let's set them up in a pyramid shape!" cried Elvia, the youngest. She collected pyramids of all shapes and sizes, and despite her tender age, could be considered something of an expert in Egyptian funerary arts.

"They'll topple over, silly," chided Moira. "Line them up just like the headstones at Arlington." Moira, the oldest, had just gone on a field trip with her class to Virginia, and was enthralled with the orderly white rows of markers. Math being her best subject, she had even insisted on counting them and determining the percentages of the dead buried there by decade.

The girls finally decided on a neat row of smaller pyramids, organized by cookie type and aligned under the direction of Moira, who insisted that each pyramid must be constructed out of the same number of cookie boxes.

Bella and Donna offered to take the first shift, selling the cookies. They were twins, and almost impossible to tell apart. Bella had a little dark purple fleck in the topaz-blue iris of her left eye; Donna had a golden speck on her right eye, and a habit of biting the nail on her left index finger.

"It still needs something," mused Lily. Lily was very big on "presentation," and had decided that she wanted to be a chef or an interior designer when she grew up, despite her limited diet and a personal penchant for pine and crimson silk. "I know!" Lily reached into her purse and grabbed some dried and blackened rose petals, which she artfully tossed between the boxes and around the table. "A wreath would have been so much prettier," she said ruefully. "I wish I'd thought of it earlier."

"Very nice, girls," said Starr, proud that her girls were cooperating so well. She emptied a few cookies from her own stash into a bowl so the girls could give out samples, if their engagingly toothy grins weren't enough to convince potential buyers. "Now we just sit back and wait for some customers. Elspeth, stop chewing your lower lip!"

Starr sighed. Elspeth had a habit of biting and sucking the inside of her lip until her mouth was red with blood. She had even bitten down so hard, once, that she broke a tooth. Elspeth's mother had had a fit. It had taken weeks to find a doctor who understood that her child needed nice, pointy crown to match the corresponding tooth on the other side, and did not want the other ground down to match the broken one.

"Sorry, Mrs. Darkside."

"Oh, look," said Starr, pointing across the nearly deserted parking lot. "A customer!"

The girls perked up a bit and smiled invitingly. It was an old man wearing a worn, plaid flannel shirt and blue twill pants. He walked slowly, his back slightly bent with the weight of his many years. His eyes were clear and bright, and missed nothing. He nodded curtly, and looked as if he would walk right by their table without buying, given half a chance.

"Would you like to buy some Adventure Scout cookies, sir?" asked Rowan. The little girl clutched a ragtag wax doll in one hand beneath the table, and surreptitiously dug her fingernail into its tummy. Be hungry, she thought, smiling sweetly at the old man.

He stopped abruptly and turned like a puppet on a stick. "How much?" he asked, blinking. He looked less sure of himself than he had when he walked up to the curb.

"Three dollars a box," said Bella and Donna in unison.

Sam Raven's wife had him on a strict diet, but cookies would go so nicely with the milk she'd asked him to pick up from Sam's. He studied the interesting arrangement of boxes on the table, considered his choices, and decided that he could counter Elsie's disapproval by buying the low-fat Raspberry Puff Pastry Creme cookies. She might even let him have two or three of them before bed.

"I'll take a box," he said, digging three rumpled dollar bills from his pants pocket. "Thank you, ladies."

"Thank you, sir," the girls said politely.

"Ooooh! Would you look at that?" said Elvia, pointing towards Always Best 24-Hour Food Mart across the street. "Troop #317's brought a -- a unicorn!"

"What?" cried Starr, staring at their rivals. "What kind of stunt is that?"

"Betcha they're all working on their Marketing badges," grumbled Moira.

"Or their Care of Mythological Creatures badge," sneered Rowan. "Only I think they're going to fail that one -- they've painted the poor thing green."

Starr cringed. She had no love of unicorns, but she could almost feel sorry for this one. The girls in Troop #317 had indeed painted the horny horse a bilious green, and sprinkled it liberally with shimmer dust, the latest teenage fad. Her girls wouldn't be caught alive wearing the sparkly cosmetic they'd dubbed "fairy dust."

"Oh, gross," said Linda. Even rosy-cheeked, sunshine-blonde Linda, whose taste for pastels and romance novels the other girls tolerated only because they adored her, had no tolerance for the perky, cute, giggly, innocent, sickly-sweet dispositions of the girls from Troop #317. "Isn't that against some rule or something, Mrs. Darkside?"

"I'm afraid not, girls," sighed Starr. Discouraged, she watched a crowd of curiosity-seekers gather around the unicorn. It quickly became obvious that in order to pet the unicorn, customers had to buy a box of cookies.

"That's just underhanded," growled Lily. "Maybe we should've brought Dudley along."

Starr ruffled the girl's hair and smiled sadly. "Most people don't want to pet a bat, honey. Remember how long it took us to get Linda to hold Dudley?"

Rowan laughed at that, remembering Linda's fear and revulsion when they'd first caught Dudley and made him the Troop Mascot.

Linda blushed. "Well, I like him now!"

"I know, sweetie. But I don't think Dudley would help us sell cookies." Poor little Linda. She would never grow nice, sharp, pointy incisors. Linda belonged to the world of cookie eaters. Already she harbored a secret passion for vegetables and chocolate. Much to Starr's chagrin, the girl even ordered her burgers well done. When the rest of the girls drank nice, healthy, warm blood, Linda drank cherry-flavored Kool-Aid. Starr considered it a small miracle that Linda wasn't in Troop #317, herself.

"I'm hungry," whined Elvia.

"Well, kids, we have to sell at least ten more boxes to buy a pint. Split eight ways, that's hardly even a snack. And with a puke-colored unicorn prancing around over there, it's not likely we'll sell any more tonight." Starr sighed. Why did it always have to be so hard to do things the right way, the Adventure Scout Way? She longed to fold up their table, ditch the cookies in the dumpster behind the store, and take the girls on a nice nocturnal hunt.

"Why'd they paint the poor thing green?" asked Bella.

"Because it's almost St. Patrick's Day," answered Donna, wrinkling her nose with disgust.

Just then, three beefy teenaged boys, members of the local high school football team, stumbled up to the table. It was clear that they had been drinking beer; Starr could smell it on their breath. She steeled herself for trouble.

"Hey, ladies, wassup?"

"Would you like to buy some Adventure Scout cookies?" asked Lily.

Rowan pressed her thumb into the doll's softened wax belly and bent it slowly at the waist. One boy spun away from the table and vomited in the parking lot.

"Oh, Joel, man, that's sick." The other two giggled at him, then remembered they were trying to look cool for the girls.

"Hey, baby, I don't have any money, see, or I'd buy some of those cookies from you sweet things. How about givin' us some, anyways, jus' to be nice?"

Rowan looked at the boy with wide eyes and suddenly pinched off a bit of the doll's tummy wax, making it look a little like an anorexic Austin Powers. The boy's eyes flew open wide with shock as he doubled over and howled in pain.

"Are you boys okay?" asked Starr, flashing a quick look of disapproval at Rowan.

"Maybe some cookies would help settle your stomachs!" added Linda brightly.

"I think maybe I have some Pepto-Bismol in the van, if you think that'd help," said Starr. "We were just finishing up here, anyway. If you could help us carry these things back to the van, I'll see what I can do for that stomach ache."

"Uhh, sure, lady. Yeah," said the tall one, called Ronnie. He pointedly let his eyes travel slowly up, then slowly down, Starr's generous curves. Meanwhile, Jake was flirting with Bella and Donna, licking his lips as he indiscreetly fantasized about the under aged twins.

"And maybe then you could, um, drop us off at our friend's house?" added Joel, pointing at his friend Jake, who was still clutching his stomach, playing the sympathy card with the girls.

"Sure, we'd be happy to do that, wouldn't we, ladies?" Starr sighed. All too happy to do that, she thought. "C'mon, girls, let's pack it in for the night."

They loaded up the back of the van and piled in. With the boys, there were no spare seats, so Elvia, Lily, and Linda sat on the floor in the back.

"Mrs. Darkside?"

"Yes, Moira?"

"We're all very hungry, you know. I was wondering," said Moira, looking pensive, "if we were willing to take full responsibility for our actions, wouldn't we -- I mean, you know, if we -- you know -- wouldn't we be 'using resources wisely' and 'making the world a better place'?"

"Moira, darling, you're starting to sound like a lawyer. Linda, sweetie? Close your eyes a moment, will you?"

"Oh, it's okay," said Linda cheerfully. "I've watched before."

Starr sighed and nodded. "Okay, then. Help yourself to some of the cookies in the back, if you like." Starr pulled over to the side of the road.

As Moira climbed astride Joel's lap, he thought he'd suddenly died and gone to heaven. He wasn't too far off; he had it half right. Elvia smacked her lips loudly as she finished him off.

Bella and Donna took Jake from in front and behind, sinking their teeth into carotid and jugular simultaneously. The thrill alone nearly caused his heart to burst before they drained it dry.

Little Lily sweetly laid her head on Ronnie's shoulder. He couldn't believe his luck. Just as he was about to try to cop a feel on the sleeping girl, she sank her fangs deep and began to suck the blood from his veins, giving him one last lesson in "be careful what you wish for." Each girl took a turn, and felt pleasantly full for the first time in days.

By the time they were done, Linda had eaten five Raspberry Puff Pastry Creme cookies, six ChocoMints, three Shamrock Shorties, and ten Zoodles.

Starr slurped up leftovers as she hauled the boys out of the van and left them in an old cemetery under a pile of plastic flowers.

"Mrs. Darkside?"

"Yes, Elspeth?" Starr looked over her shoulder as she climbed back into the driver's seat.

"We tried so hard to do the right thing."

"I know, dear. Buying food at the Blood Bank is proving a bit harder than we'd thought, but -- well, we need to eat. We'll just have to think of a different strategy. Something those obnoxiously cheerful girls from Troop #317 can't spoil for us. Now, wipe the blood off your chin and stop chewing on your lip."

"Sorry, Mrs. Darkside." Elspeth stopped for a moment, then resumed chewing. Her own blood dribbled from the corner of her mouth.

Article © Holly Jahangiri. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-04-16
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