Ballad of Pemberton Mall #02

Episode 2: War on Treats

Tags: #pemberton #comedy #shortstory

The work was never done at Pemberton Mall.

Alex Taylor sighed heavily, leaning back in his creaky office chair as he finished signing the last of the paperwork. His office in the Pemberton Mall was a tiny, cluttered space, more reminiscent of a storage closet than a managerial hub. Today’s visitor had been Hana Mizuki, a petite young woman dressed like a character from a Japanese magical girl anime. Her bright pink wig, space girl outfit, and magical star topped wand seemed hilariously out of place against the drab backdrop of his office.

“Thank you so much, Taylor-san!” Hana beamed, bouncing slightly in her chair. “The mini convention is going to be great! So many people are excited to come!”

Alex forced a smile, trying to match her enthusiasm. “Glad to hear it, Hana. I’ll make sure the empty store front is ready for your event.”

Hana’s expression shifted from joy to concern as she leaned in conspiratorially. “By the way, I heard that Lucia-Chan and Omar-san are at it again. Something about an insult to their foods?”

Alex groaned inwardly. Lucia Martinez, the eccentric owner of a gourmet cupcake shop, and Omar Aziz, the passionate proprietor of the wannabe trendy smoothie bar, had a long-standing feud that often erupted into ridiculous pranks. It seemed they had found new reasons to escalate their antics.

“Great,” Alex muttered, rubbing his temples. “Thanks for the heads up.”

As Hana skipped out of his office, her wand trailing glitter in her wake which seemed like a surprisingly authentic prop, Alex shook himself. He steeled himself for the impending chaos. He took a deep breath and headed towards the main corridor, already dreading the confrontation.

The mall, a run-down relic shaped like a double H, was home to some of the strangest store owners Alex had ever encountered. Lucia’s cupcake shop, “Cupcake Dreams,” was directly across from Omar’s smoothie bar, “Smoothie Bliss.” Their proximity only seemed to fuel their rivalry. There shop names weren't clever so why did they get into fights like this?

As Alex approached, he noticed a suspiciously placed “Free Sample” table set up between the two stores. Lucia and Omar were nowhere in sight, but the table was laden with brightly colored cupcakes. Warily, Alex reached for one of the cupcakes, a neon green monstrosity labeled “Mystery Flavor.”

‘Well, she does like putting out free samples. Maybe we're safe.’

The moment his fingers touched the cupcake, a hidden mechanism activated, and a cloud of glitter exploded in his face. Coughing and blinking through the sparkling haze, Alex stumbled backwards, only to trip over a strategically placed smoothie cup, splattering its contents all over his shoes.

Lucia appeared from behind her counter, giggling uncontrollably. “How do you like my glitter bomb cupcake you smooth drinking—-Oh. Mister Alex.”

Alex tried to sweep the glitter off his face and knew that he was failing at it.

Omar emerged from his smoothie bar, arms crossed and a smug smile on his face. “I can’t believe you’d think I’d fall for something so obvious as that one.”

Alex, now covered in glitter and frosting, glared at the two instigators. “Really? Can’t you two just talk things out like normal people?”

Lucia pouted, crossing her arms defensively. “He started it! He said my new avocado-lime cupcake was ‘an affront to desserts everywhere.’”

Omar rolled his eyes. “Only because you called my super kale smoothie ‘a liquid insult to taste buds.’”

Alex held up his hands, trying to placate them. “Enough! We can’t have exploding cupcakes in the middle of the mall…even if it is just glitter.”

Lucia’s eyes narrowed, and she stepped closer to Omar. “Oh, come on, Alex. He deserves it for the insults he’s given me. Oh! You should try my new bacon-maple-olive cupcake while you’re here. It’s revolutionary.”

Omar snorted. “Revolutionary? More like revolting. What you need is a ‘Harmony Smoothie’ to cleanse your palate after that disaster.”

Lucia bristled. “Oh, really? Maybe I’ll cleanse your palate with my ‘Wasabi Surprise’ cupcake!”

Alex’s patience snapped. “Both of you. If I have to clean up one more mess, I’m shutting down both your stores for a week.”

Lucia and Omar fell silent, exchanging venomous glances. Alex sighed, feeling a twinge of guilt for his outburst. “Look, I get that you’re both passionate about your creations. But these pranks are getting out of hand. Can’t you find a way to coexist peacefully?”

Lucia bit her lip, her eyes still fixed on Omar. “I suppose we could try a truce. For now.”

Omar nodded, though he looked less convinced. “Fine. A truce. But if she so much as looks at my blenders wrong, all bets are off.”

Alex rubbed his forehead, feeling a headache coming on. “Just… keep it civil, okay? And clean up this mess.”

As he turned to leave, Lucia called after him. “Wait, Alex! You forgot to take a cupcake!”

Alex groaned, but he couldn’t help but smile at her persistence. “Fine, give me one of the least experimental ones.”

Lucia handed him a cupcake with a flourish. “Here you go. Vanilla bean with a hint of lavender and cayenne pepper!”

Omar offered him a smoothie in return. “And here’s a ‘Stress Buster’ smoothie. You look like you could use it.”

“What’s in it?” Alex asked suspiciously.

“It’s a new secret recipe.”

Alex accepted both offers with unease. Maybe, just maybe, he could survive another day at Pemberton Mall.

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?