Fred Shoulda Stayed In Bed

by George Beckerman

Frederica woke up on Sunday looking forward to spending the perfect morning alone with some mindless tv, a cup of coffee, and a bowl of crispy cereal. The tv is set on “Friends” reruns, the coffee is black, aromatic and comforting and the cereal is on the bottom of the bowl itching to float. Fred grabs the milk container, opens the spout and starts to pour. Nothing. Zero. Empty. Damn! The cereal flakes look up at her in a panic. Fred releases a sigh of annoyance, tosses on her jacket and heads out the door.

On her way to the market Frederica notices a little girl standing on the curb, tears squirting from her eyes like windshield washer fluid. When asked what the problem is, the child points to  a doll lying face-down on the thoroughfare. As Fred starts to step off of the curb and into the street, the corner of her eye catches a bus barreling toward her, air horn in deafening thunder mode. She jumps back just in time, aborting the rescue and witnessing the bus pancaking the doll into the blacktop as it roars by. Thankfully still among us, Fred tries to pacify her pounding pulse. When her hearing returns, she realizes she’s being screamed at by the little girl for failing to save her doll. A crowd has gathered, cellphones out, videos in production. Trying to calm the child, Fred inquires as to the whereabouts of her parents. Two people in the crowd raise hands without interrupting their shoot. Gobsmacked, Frederica starts to vacate the area, while the bawling girl and throng of amateur filmmakers continue to track her.

In the rear of the mom and pop market, Fred opens the glass door of the milk display. Before she could pull out a container, she hears a commotion up front. Peeking through the shelves, Fred spies a robbery in progress. A masked guy has a gun on the store owner, who is being forced to open his cash register. Freddie’ll be damned if she chickens out this time.

Noticing a light bulb display on the shelf behind her, Frederica grabs a handful and forcefully flings them to the floor touchdown celebration-style, which produces loud popping sounds. Spooked, the thief exits the establishment in a hurry. Elated, the proprietor announces that Fred is a hero. Customers inside have already hit their phone camera recorders. Our girl exits the store where more amateur directors are in action. Overwhelmed by the onslaught of attention, Fred nervously waves goodbye and quickly starts home.

About a block from her house, Frederica finds a crowd looking up at an old oak tree. A kitten is stranded on one of the branches. Entranced cellphone camera operators circle the wooden giant, none with any intention of aiding the tabby. Perplexed, Freddie decides to spring into action.

Digging this hero thing, Fred pulls herself up to a first branch perch. But the bough beneath her breaks and gravity starts to do its thing. As the photographers below concertedly gasp, Fred desperately reaches out for an adjacent limb, then deftly swings herself Orangutan-style over to the kitten’s branch. While hanging on with one hand she snatches the little cutie with the other, places it on her shoulder, and makes her way down the oak.

As Fred reached solid ground, the breathless, documentarians react with applause. When inquiring “Who belongs to this kitten?”, out of the gathering steps a little girl cradling a soiled, pancaked doll. That’s right. Her again.  A prolonged, but silent wtf? forms on Fred’s lips as she hands the cat to the kid, whose cellphone camera-wielding parents prompt their progeny with “What do say to the nice lady?” All the tiny brat can come up with is a displeased “Juju had a bandana. Where is Juju’s bandana?” Fred considers an unprintable retort, but doesn’t care to be a victim of cancellation by cellphone. So she heads home.

Once in her apartment, Freddie observes the bowl of anxiously-waiting dry cereal.  Oh crap, in all the excitement, she forgot the milk. The frowns of disappointment on the flakes could tear even a compassionless dolt’s heart out. Fred reaches for the doorknob, but then thinks better of it.  She opens the fridge, surveys its contents, pulls out a can of Coke and snaps open the tab. After the jolting hiss, she pours the soda into the waiting cereal bowl, and treats the flakes to the bubbly time of their lives. Fred shrugs, grabs a spoon, and digs in. Surprisingly, it doesn’t taste as weird as she’d imagined.

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