Short Story: The Possum and the Plum by Joshua Packard

The 1st Day

One day in late May, there lay a plum tree in an orchard beside a small knick-knack shop. Suddenly, a plum fell from that tree, and the events that followed would go down in history as the greatest mistake ever made. You see, there was a small possum below that tree, and, with the plum in his mouth, he scurried to the deck of the shop, ate the flesh, and left the pit above the stairs.

Directly after this, a young man of an unknown name, walked out of the door with a handful of cheap wines and slipped on the pit, fell, and broke his leg. Now, beside the pit just happened to be a broken floorboard, and noticing that instead, the man blamed the floorboard and the store owners therewith. Having no money to pay for his hospital bills, and filled with anger that all his wine bottles had broken and that he would miss his son’s graduation that night, the man decided to sue the owners. When he got a lawyer, who incidentally happened to be a past carpenter and floor specialist, the lawyer grew very vexed that a store would not be up to code. Going along with coincidences, that afternoon, the lawyer noticed in his office that there were no fire exits. Filled with wrath that the city was lacking in safety regulations, he then decided to visit more stores and shops and they too, strengthened his spite, for half had broken floorboards. Knowing that something had to be done, the lawyer went to the mayor in city hall and demanded that the mayor send inspectors to every store in the small town and hand out fines. A lawful man, the mayor agreed.

Now, as it was, the town’s people were exceedingly poor and but humble farmer folk. They had no money to pay fines, and barely made it by themselves on their meager salaries. One store owner in particular, threatened with a $5,000 fine which he could not pay lest he went bankrupt, decided to speak up in the streets and rile up the other store owners. Very quickly, they began to form a de facto coalition and attended regular meetings with one another, discussing their concerns with the city’s codes and conducts. After many talks and deliberations, the owners decided that they would all go on strike and threaten the city with closing all of their stores at once if the mayor didn’t stop sending inspectors.

 

The 2nd Day

Hearing the demands of the people, yet being an ardent follower of rules and a former judge, the mayor refused to give into the demands of the people and insisted that city officials continued to hand out fines. Immediately after this, the store owners, keeping their word, closed all of their stores within one hour. Naturally, the town’s people worried and quickly began to panic.

Seeing that the owners were serious and concerned of the lay people, the mayor grew worried and pleaded with the owners that he would lower the fines. The owners, however, seeing their impact and power to influence politics and the town overall, decided that they would demand lower taxes while they striked. Knowing not what to do, but that they and all their families were starving for food, the city council grew furious and threatened to send in the national guard and bring in government assistance if the stores were not opened. One must understand that the town was situated in a small valley surrounded by large mountains and at least a hundred miles from the nearest town. There was no option to leave and get food somewhere else close.

Meanwhile, the citizens began to rally and riot in the streets that night. Some stores were burned to the ground during this and this only fueled the anger of the store owners, enticing them to stand their ground and refuse service in spite. The meetings became more and more regular, to the point where the owners began to form their own society called the “Society of Store Men”. For the violence against them and their stores, the Society of Store Men declared the lay people terrorists. In retaliation, and believing themselves to be fighters of freedom and choice, Society members sporadically burned down barns to send a message. They wished to be feared and honored for giving the people food and resources.

Angry as well, the common people formed their own group bent on fighting the Society and named themselves the “Commonwealth Crusaders”. During their meetings, they proclaimed members of the Society of Store Men terrorists, as they had done. 

At one point, attending a meeting at a local Buymart, the leader of the Society was assassinated through the window by a Crusader while giving a speech. Directly after this, a horde of Crusaders ambushed the store and made war with the Store Men. This would go down as the first battle in the town, forever called the “Battle of Buymart”.

 

The 3rd Day

The following day, desperate and hungry, the mayor sent in the National Guard to restore order. They enforced martial law and set a curfew for the citizens. Seeing the violence, the guards attempted to arrest as many people as possible, but this only enraged them further and fighting continued.

Now, rather peculiarly, at the height of the starvation and discord, a small politician who owned a closed-down fast-food joint called the “French Fry Kingdom”, defected from the Society of Store Men and gave a speech in front of city hall. He called himself “Fred” and made a deal with the people: that if he gave them endless amounts of food for free, they should pronounce him mayor instead. Desperate, and thinking it was a good deal, the people agreed and dubbed him “French Fry Fred”. 

Eventually seeing his power and how dependent the people were on him, French Fry Fred began to slowly ask for more power, and the small politician and owner he used to be began to grow very large. Crazed with his might, he began to show signs of psychosis. He would dress up in a large french fry costume with ketchup on top and wear it every second of the day and night, even as he slept. He vowed to eat only french fries at every meal and created his own food lingo that he’d speak in his grand orations. 

The National Guardsmen couldn’t help but take notice of the godlike figure of Fred. They saw how easily he could mollify the people and cease the violence. For this reason, they eliminated the curfews and allowed congregations and large gatherings which had for a while been banned. That night, while the people (and even guardsmen and policemen) awed and wondered at the speaking french fry that was Fred, Fred stood upon a large podium and gave a fantastic and flamboyant speech. In his crazed state, he threw cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets into the cheering crowd. Suddenly, for no reason at all during this, save perhaps coincidence alone, as Fred lifted up his hands while saying, “I am the savior sent from the French Fry Kingdom in Heaven!”, a lightning bolt from a storm which had been raging all day, struck the microphone in front of him. The people grew silent, their jaws dropped, they began to cry, they bowed, and they wailed in praise of their newfound Christ.

 

The 4th Day

On the next day, the people quickly converted Fred’s restaurant into a church and sanctuary. It was the haven and holy spot of the food saviour who had come down to bring peace and appetites to the world. All were required to pray before entering the establishment and all food that came out of it was blessed beforehand. In the heart of the city, a large throne was built and erected on which Fred sat and said, “Salvation lies with me. All who follow the way of the french fry will earn everlasting food and happiness in the French Fry Kingdom above!”.

The National Guard about this time, sat around and ate cheeseburgers from him. Already somewhat on his side, they began to wholeheartedly give themselves over to him after seeing his charisma and charm. Nearly all swore their allegiance to him and vowed to protect him with their weapons. Meanwhile, Fred chose ten of the most gluttonous people in town (one for each of his chicken nuggets in his to-go boxes) and appointed them to be his disciples. With their mouths agape, they were instructed to write the manifesto of French Fry Fred and the doctrine of Fredism. It was soon the norm that any who spoke out against Fredism or fast food in general, would be drowned in a vat of mustard or be tortured with seasonings sprinkled in their eyes.

Later that evening, Fred stood from his throne and declared to the people that a new order should be set up–a crusade of sorts. He demanded that the “Republic of Fredists” be established throughout the Pacific Northwest in which they dwelt. To get the remaining guardsmen and policemen on his side, he offered them seven-figure salaries in the new Republic. Before the clock struck midnight, they were all converted and religionized.

 

The 5th Day

On the fifth day after the plum fell from the dastard tree, the Fredists and their guards gathered up a convoy with all the town’s vehicles and drove and marched towards Portland, Oregon. On the way, Fred tied himself to a pole atop one of the trucks and sang and danced–still in his costume, of course. After a few hours, singing hymns and raising his hands as though he was in an opera, a bee flew into Fred’s mouth. Quickly, Fred choked and suffocated to death. From that point onwards, one would assume, the era of the holy French Fry and Fredists all around would disappear and slowly evaporate. One would be sorely incorrect.

When the convoy finally made it to Portland, they discovered Fred’s lifeless body. Needless to say, all broke down before him, wailing, sobbing, lamenting of their God. Shortly thereafter, the Fredists gathered round, buried and martyred him, and vowed to forever spread his message. This didn’t come without disagreement, however. Some thought Fred preferred cheeseburgers over fries and would have wanted only burgers in churches, while others believed that Fred was not some saviour, but God himself manifested in the flesh. These disputes resulted in the splitting up of the group into factions, and many versions of Fredism were formed.

It was about this time, that an extremely wealthy magician in the city began to take notice of Fred after being visited at his home by a Fredist missionary. Seeing the amazement of his influence, he contemplated becoming a saviour himself. He fashioned for himself a large burger costume, walked out into the streets, and proclaimed himself the great and most merciful “Burger Boy”.

Burger Boy then, as the Fredists had done, visited people’s homes and performed magic tricks (which people took as miracles). In no time at all, he began to garner a significant quantity of followers, and they began to be called the “Burger Boy Children”; their father, St. Burger Boy. It was obviously inevitable that two major religions could not coexist in the city, so war eventually broke out between the Burger Boy Children and Fredists. Great and violent fighting ensued in the heart of the city, until something even stranger occurred. As this all happened, a small hippy with a bullhorn held up a walnut and said, “I have seen the truth!” The hippy explained that, while eating some wild mushroom in the woods, he saw a walnut and it began to speak with him. The walnut “spoke” to the man and explained its name was “Fred”. The hippy, being a Fredists himself, knew that the only explanation was that the walnut itself was the incarnation of French Fry Fred.

The violence instantly halted and all the people surrounded the nut, marveling and drooling over it. The hippy then handed out more wild mushrooms he found. When the people began hearing the voice too, they fell to their knees and prayed.

“Hail the walnut! Praise Fred!” They cried.

In no time, all sects of Fredism were reunited, and even Burger Boy and his Children started to take notice. Eventually, even they turned into Fredists.

 

The 6th Day

As the story of the walnut swept across the country (and later, the world), the new religion, that of post-Fredism, called Walnutism, was established. The sacred nut was painted gold, and a large cathedral was constructed around it. The religion did not come without skepticism, however. There were many who did not have faith in the nut and stuck with their own anti-nutist beliefs.

The old disciples of Fred, along with the new priests of Walnutism, began to rile up the people of Portland and swiftly, they vowed to abolish all other religions in the West and form their Republic. Not too long afterwards, part of the National Guard reserves conquered the major cities and capitals of the Western states and the empire of Walnutism was erected. 

It was about then that the U.S. President started to take notice of the strange phenomenon and civil unrest. Curious of it, he made the decision to visit the Walnut in person. When he entered the cathedral and stared upon the nut, the clouds above incidentally departed from beneath the sun, and the golden nut glowed and radiated with the sun’s light. He, like the others, kneeled before it in penance and cried. He made an oath with himself that he would give his life over to Walnutism and make it the official religion of the nation. As he prayed, a small boy came up to him, also praying, and told the story of how the nut cured his common cold. This only strengthened the President’s newfound faith.

From there, the President chose to live in Portland and appointed Walnut priests as his head advisors and cabinet. They too, instructed him to make Walnutism the official religion and have it be taught in every school. The President, then wearing a headdress of walnut leaves and twigs and necklace of french fries, stood up with his chest high, and declared the order that the consumption of all walnuts from thereon would be illegal, and the plants only the priests could grow.

The lay people and nonbelievers of the nut grew angrier and angrier as every hour passed. Many began to eat only walnuts as their meals in spite, and dozens of them died of potassium poisoning as a result. A new war started to kick off between the two sides, and very, very suddenly, a walnut revolution commenced.

 

The 7th Day

The shrine of the Fredian nut started to become increasingly guarded by soldiers and policemen about this time, but the cathedral still remained vulnerable because of the fighting. In an act of desperation, the President, as Commander-and-Chief, ordered that every last member of the National Guard be sent to protect the shrine. Unable to argue, they agreed. Congress, by this time, was very angry at the President and reluctantly started impeachment proceedings against him.

The previous night, the President had a dream about the nut in which it spoke and gave revelations unto him. He came to see that all nuts were a part of one great nut-monarchy, with Fred, the holy Walnut, as the king. Moved by this, he swore to protect and continue to build up the Walnut kingdom.

In an act of sanity and retaliation, Congress and the lay people teamed up and established the “Brave Entente Against Nuts” organization, or “B.E.A.N.” for short. The Vice President was appointed its leader. That day, the V.P. held a rally and, with grand speeches and hand gestures, the BEAN people began to even worship him. Soon, all unions across the East coast and South joined the BEAN coalition and encouraged all employees to make BEAN propaganda with Lima beans as their symbol. Even news stations and media outlets began changing their names to things like, “The Daily Bean”, “The New York Beans”, “US Beans Today”. Flags of Lima beans were strung and hung up on every street corner outside of the Western Walnut kingdom.

Of course, a civil war erupted eventually when a Walnutist accidentally ran over a BEANist spokesman. This civil war was at least a hundred times as terrible as the first American civil war, and, seeing a chance to strike and take over the West while they were preoccupied with fighting, Eastern countries launched nuclear weapons against the U.S. They would walk through the ashes and take over afterward. The President, however, having the Nuclear Football on his side, and not going down without a fight, put his codes in and sent the U.S.  arsenal of nuclear weapons across the world and to the rest of the U.S.

Indeed, as the bombs roared and flashed above and across the planet, there lay the possum in his hole beneath the ground, quietly sleeping with a half-eaten plum beside him.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Joshua (J.R.) Packard is currently an undergraduate at Central Washington University majoring in journalism and creative writing. He has one novel, three novellas, and various short stories in magazines published. He is fond of literary and dystopian books, and light-heartedness and absurdity on the children’s books side.

Find him on: 

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/3zURk4V

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JRPackard16

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20784570.J_R_Packard

 


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