Funny stories in under 500 words.

Gumball

What's the cost of a gumball these days? Don't worry, Patrick Bernhard's got you covered. This funny story was written by Patrick Bernhard, a native of the Chicago suburbs. Patrick received his BA from Oberlin College and his MFA from Northwestern University. His work has appeared in Wilder Voice. He currently teaches English at College of Lake County.

Jonas “Gumball” Peters froze in front of the refrigerator, unable to proceed; fishing around in his pocket, he produced a quarter and swallowed it, allowing him to tug the fridge handle. Gumball groaned as he looked inside, subtracting another quarter from the roll in his robe and sending it tumbling down his throat before grabbing the cup of plain yogurt. Yogurt retrieval cost him a dime only a week ago. He recalled his youth, when ten minutes on roller blades meant a reasonably clean penny.

This wasn’t the only recent upcharge: taking a shower, formerly a twenty-five cent affair – dandruff shampoo included – was a whopping six-seventy-five as of last night, with everything from soap bar deterioration percentage to teaspoon spills of conditioner to adjusting the temperature of the water a mere three degrees requiring payment. After gulping down the triple dime charge for thirty seconds’ worth of towel drying the previous evening, Gumball decided to restrict his showering to once every two days, to combat the effects of inflation. However, due to how pricey breakfast was already looking, Gumball considered amending his personal shower edict to once every four days.

Gumball palmed the yogurt and smacked his lips but avoided licking them, figuring he’d rather put that two penny charge towards spoon selection. Gosh, he thought, even the formerly rock-bottom saliva rates would have him feeling like a tollbooth in no time. Perhaps he would avoid using a spoon and take discount slurps from the yogurt container. The quarter that it cost to open the yogurt down his gullet, Gumball then lowered his lips to the container and took long slurps in order to avoid the dreaded slurp repeater tax. One he allowed to go on for too long, which led to a plain yogurt-lined windpipe and a spasm of coughing, which he would have to purchase on cough credit. Dropping the yogurt during the coughing was thankfully free.

When Gumball opened his eyes to the mess of the yogurt spill on the linoleum, he wanted to swear but knew profanity fares alone would send him to the poorhouse. He angrily reached for his roll, but it too had found the floor during his coughing fit, and bending down was fifty cents. Gumball pictured his trusty coin change maker belt, slung over the headboard of the bed he learned this morning would be too expensive to use for more than a couple hours a night, unless he could start swallowing rubies.

He had just enough quarters in the roll to make it to his belt, though leaps and vaults were several bits down the hatch and sprinting was a lavish expenditure. Gumball used his complimentary daily “Yes!” when remembering the emergency fifty-cent piece still in his pocket, but after choking it down and squatting to retrieve the roll of quarters, he froze. Reaching for salvation was now costing thirty-five cents a pop, which he did not have.

Still squatting, Gumball decided not to worry. That was too expensive.




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