I saw this group of words on a Facebook post and felt compelled to write a short story using all of them. Following is the result. 😉
It happened every year. Old Bess McGillicuddy, known for her extraordinary pumpernickel bread, had to resort to covert tactics to gather the closely-held list of ingredients for her secret concoction, as she readied the perfect loaf for her annual entry in the county fair.
Why covert? Because that old codger, Ned Jenkins, fancied himself a baker, too. Ever since his wife, Periwinkle, had died, years ago, God rest her soul, he’d taken to shenanigans in the kitchen – tomfoolery of the highest order, to Bess’s mind. When she’d won the blue ribbon for her bread, that long-ago year, he’d tried to cozy up to her, in an attempt at camaraderie which she saw as so much malarkey. She knew what he was after and wasn’t about to be bamboozled into divulging her family recipe. The audacity of some people! She’d put the kibosh on his bogus balderdash and left that baloney in her rear view.
However, Ned was not easily flummoxed. So what if Bess had lambasted him, year in and year out? It was a new year – HIS year – and he was no knucklehead. She could go about her caterwauling all she liked, but he was using a different approach this time. He’d spent a lot of time pondering it as he drove his old jalopy over hill and dale, where he did his very best thinking. What he needed, he decided, was a team of ragamuffins to help him, and he knew just where to find them.
Excited with his new plan of skullduggery, he skedaddled ondown the road to the decrepid farm of Sam and Sadie Whitlow. It seemed like a new little toe-headed kid was born about every year, over there, and Ned figured some of the older ones might be grateful of a couple of coins for some on-the-sly hullabaloo.
When he got to the edge of the Whitlow property, he stopped fast, gobsmacked, yet again, by what he saw. The state of things always left him flabbergasted that they were able to manage to keep britches on a single child, with the fence posts skewiff, falling cattywumpus one to another, and the cattle left to roam willy-nilly. Everything about the place was discombobulated.
“Thunderation!” he said as he pulled his hat off and scratched his head. “That ol’ Whitlow must be a numb-skull. Only a nincompoop would allow his place to fall into a heap of poppycock like this.”
Suddenly, two of those little rug rats came out from behind a beleaguered cow.
“Whatcha want, Mister?” asked the younger one, nothing more than a flibberty-jibbet.
“You boys want to make a little money? I have a little thingamabob I need done, that might be just right for the two of you’ns.”
The older one stood quietly, sizing up Ned with a confuzzled eye.
“What kind of whatsit you got in mind, Mister? We ain’t lookin’ to be hoodwinked by some kind o’ flim-flam.”
“You boys know Ol’ Bess McGillicuddy?”
“She the one who makes that bread ever’one goes on about?”
Before Ned could answer, the little fella yanked on his brother’s dirty shirt, causing a cloud of dust to rise as if the boy had just been in a kerfuffle, and said, “I have a hankerin’ for some bread.”
Ned said, “Well, that’s just it. I’d be happy to bake you some of that bread – LOAVES of it – but she’s a persnickety ol’ bitty and uses secret ingredients. I’ve tried everything I know, for years, to find out what they are and have come up with nary a doohicky to show for it. That’s where you’ns come in. I want to beat her in the county fair, and I need to know every whatchamacallit and thingamajig she uses.”
“Whatcha aimin’ to have us do, Mister? I ain’t sure I want to get into no big rigamarole.” the older boy said, as his stomach growled, meaning it.
“Well, the fair is day after tomorrow. If Ol’ Bess keeps with her habits of years past, she’ll be heading to the store this afternoon. If you’ns don’t lollygag, you can be there waitin’ for her and follow her around, keepin’ back-like – you don’t want to scare the bejeebers out of her – and tell me what she buys, see? She’ll be lookin’ for me so she won’t even notice you. You fellers up for it? I don’t need no wishy-washy fuddy-duddys, so tell me now if you ain’t.”
The brothers looked at each other, and after another round of stomach growling, the older boy spoke up for them both.
“We’ll do it, but instead of money, we want to go to the fair and ride some rides!”
Another yank on his shirt from below and a quiet “and some bread, brother. If’n he wins, I want some BREAD.”
Ned agreed to both with a shake of a hand that left him wiping his own on his pants as he left the farm.
Bess McGillicuddy wore her biggest hat to the store. She never wore a hat, except to church, but this one obscured her face and she was determined to throw that ridiculous old humbug, Ned Jenkins, off at the pass. He had driven her berserk for YEARS over her recipe, so now was the time to take the bull by the horns.
She peered around the end of the baking aisle and saw the coast was clear. Pulling the rim of the bodacious hat down a little further, she set about checking the items off her list, stopping every few minutes to look behind her, as she had the eery feeling she was being followed.
“Fiddle-dee-dee, Bess! That Ned Jenkins has you about to lose your whosemagadget over a loaf of bread!”
Finishing her shopping as fast as she could, she tucked her basket tightly under her arm and made haste toward her little house at the edge of town. Unbeknownst to her, two stealthy toe-headed Whitlows fled quietly the other direction, toward the Jenkins place, with nary a bit of brouhaha.
The big day finally arrived. Early in the day, the boys met Ned at the gate where he handed over tickets and watched as the dust kicked up under their worn soles as they ran toward the midway. Nervously, he turned toward the big tent where the baked-goods were filing in for the heated competition.
After tucking a starched gingham napkin under her perfect loaf of pumpernickel, Bess turned to see Ned entering the tent with his own wrapped parcel. “Fiddlesticks!” she all but spat under her breath, as she’d hoped against hope that he’d given up since he hadn’t been lurking around this year. Ah well. No one had ever beat her before. Why would this year be any different?
The contestants were gathered, together, shifting from one foot to another, as they nervously awaited the judge’s decision. From under the side of the tent, two toe-heads, with dirty faces, popped in to see if their work would pay off.
A large man, who looked like he’d eaten every loaf in the place, stepped forward and bellowed, “The bread competition was MIGHTY stiff this year, but we have finally come to declare some winners. In the pumpernickel category, Bess McGillicuddy maintains her long-standing as first place winner!”
Beaming, Bess stepped forward to receive her blue ribbon, as she looked smugly back at Ned Jenkins, who looked more at a loss than he ever had. But before Ned could utter a word, the judge spoke up again.
“In the pumpkin bread category, we have a first-time winner in Ned Jenkins!”
“EGADS!” cried Ned, truly at a loss.
“Ned, your pumpkin bread was unlike any we’ve ever tasted. Well done, sir! WELL DONE!”
Scratching his head in disbelief, Ned accepted his ribbon and turned to see the two boys ducking out from under the tent.
Running out, he managed to catch the older boy by his overall strap, with Bess on his heels, calling out.
“Ned Jenkins! What made you decide to leave your pumpernickel pursuit for pumpkin? I simply MUST know!”
“Well, Bess, that’s what I aim to find out from these two hooligans. Boys, what do you have to say for yourselves?”
Trying to wriggle loose of Ned’s grip, the boy said, “I don’t know, sir. We follered Miss McGillicuddy around the store, like you told us, and there was one thing I couldn’t see real well ‘cause of her big ol’ hat. I guess what she got was pumpernickel, but I thought it was pumpkin spice.”
Just then, both boys stomachs growled real loud and the little one yanked on his brother’s shirt again. “Since he won, do we get some bread?”
Bess stepped up and said, “Seems to me we BOTH owe you some bread!”
And, right there, in front of the baked-good tent, two dirty toe-headed boys, threw a hootenanny as they filled their empty bellies to bursting, and the TWO reigning champions looked on.