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The Asphalt Bungle
About the Author: Jon Wesick has published hundreds of poems and stories in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, I-70 Review, Lowestoft Chronicle, New Verse News, Paterson Literary Review, Pearl, Pirene’s Fountain, Slipstream, Space and Time, and Underside Stories. His most recent books are The Shaman in the Library and The Prague Deception.

Tony Grisbi slid his history book aside to read the Mad Magazine hidden underneath. Anything other than studying in detention broke the rules but he resented being stuck in a classroom after school just because Mrs. Endicott couldn’t take a joke. Besides, this issue had a parody of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. with Napoleon Polo and Illya Nutcrackin. The two agents had entered the secret entrance to headquarters disguised as a dry cleaner, when someone ripped the magazine out of Grisbi’s hands.

“You’ll get this back at the end of the school year!” Principal Hornyak said. He was a stout man who wore a shoe, the size of a football, on his right foot. The kids speculated about what was inside. Some said he’d stepped on a landmine in Korea. Others thought it corrected a birth defect or even contained a nuclear bomb to retaliate against the Russians if they wiped out our Minuteman missiles. Whatever it hid, the oversized shoe wasn’t giving up its secret. “And it’s another week of detention for you.”

Grisbi turned to the page on the Emancipation Proclamation as Hornyak thumped to the front of the room.

After a needless hour of tedium, Grisbi knelt by his stingray bike and dialed the combination into his padlock. Before he could remove the chain, someone grabbed his shoulder.

“Where you going?” Dick Clavelli asked.


“No, you’re not.” Clavelli dragged Grisbi to his feet. “Mark Riedenschneider wants to see you.”

“I’m late for dinner.”

“He’s not asking.” Clavelli shoved Grisbi toward the sidewalk.

“My bike,” Grisbi said.

“No one will touch it.”

“Ah, Mr. Grisbi, so good of you to join us.” Riedenschneider stuffed a handful of snacks into his mouth. “I took the liberty of having my mom call yours to say we invited you to dinner so we could have a little chat. Care for some Bugles?”

Grisbi took a handful of tornado-shaped corn snacks from a bowl on the table.

“Odile,” Riedenschneider said to his little sister who was practicing baton twirling. “Please fetch Mr. Grisbi a Mountain Dew and then leave us.”

Riedenschneider’s girth almost popped the buttons of his crest blazer. He was the only kid exempt from gym class, which showed he had a lot of pull in Dassin Elementary School.

“You already know Clavelli. I believe you’ve met the Shiherles twins, Ed and Ted.” Riedenschneider pointed to the blond identical twins. “And Don Minda.”

“I know them.” Grisbi unwrapped a piece of Bazooka bubble gum, stuck it in his mouth, and let the wrapper drop to the floor.

“What do you know about BB guns?” Riedenschneider tossed one to Grisbi.

“Daisy Red Ryder.” Grisbi worked the lever. “Fires a .177 caliber ball bearing at 350 feet per second.”

“Very good,” Riedenschneider said, “Now shoot Mr. Minda.”

“You crazy? You could put an eye out with this thing.”

“Mr. Minda has been reporting our activities to Principal Hornyak for weeks,” Riedenschneider said. “He must be punished.”

“Maybe you’re a snitch too.” Clavelli grabbed Grisbi by the collar.

“All right.” Grisbi aimed and shot.

Minda laughed when no BB emerged.

“Well done.” Riedenschneider clapped Grisbi on the back. “How did you know the Red Ryder was unloaded?”

“Weight was wrong.” Grisbi handed Riedenschneider the BB gun.

“I apologize for that infantile test.” Riedenschneider cracked an RC Cola and tore open a bag of party mix. “I needed to be sure you weren’t a tattletale before telling you of our plan. What did Hornyak say when he took your Mad Magazine?”

“That I’d get it back at the end of the school year.” Grisbi took a healthy gulp of his Mountain Dew.

“I have it on good authority that Principal Hornyak has never returned a copy of Mad Magazine and that he has issues going back fifteen years,” Riedenschneider said.

“We propose to liberate them,” Ed Shiherles said. Or was it Ted?

This story appears in our MAY 2024 Issue
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