It is mid-November in Cuba, Missouri. All but the last stubborn leaves have fallen from the trees. In a small wooden shack along Highway 44, an enormous man is reading a ridiculously small newspaper. The Cuba Constant averaged four articles a week, one of which was the "Letters to the Editor" section. All fifteen faithful Constant readers wrote in on a regular basis to voice concerns about the water supply, the latest overseas conflict, and the way things ought to be.
While Harold Jennings, Jr poured over his newspaper he puffed on a grandfatherly pipe. Tendrils of cherry smoke wafted about his balding head and Harold sighed. It was the sigh of a man who's used to having his entire morning to read a newspaper, yet can still wake up every morning and be glad about it. But on this particular autumn morning, Harold Jennings, Jr's life is about to change. He sniffs at Claudy Beckett's letter on the sinful use of cough drops in our schools and, just as he finishes the thirty-word lecture, hears a great commotion outside.
All God's Flowers, owned by enterprising florist and Sunday school teacher Marybeth Holcomb, was exactly .73 miles from where Harold Jennings, Jr sat smoking his pipe. She too had read the article about cough drops as Satan's drug of choice and had smiled to herself. Claudy Beckett was the oldest member of the First Baptist Church of Cuba and, despite her brilliant snickerdoodles, was simply too feeble to understand the Lord's work. Still, Claudy's letters meant plenty of good discussion during Bible study, and Lord knows Cuba needed something lively. Marybeth Holcomb was the kind of woman who believed all creatures have their purpose on this Earth. That was Claudy's.
Marybeth was hydrating some delicious American Beauties in the patient, devotional manner Sunday school teachers seem to possess. As she sliced the stems underwater, she thought about the upcoming Vacation Bible School and whether or not they'd have to remove cough drops from their list of permissible items. Either way, Marybeth welcomed a change. The Bible School hadn't changed much since she'd gone as a little girl, except for the new policy of serving both creamy and chunky peanut butter at lunch.
A loud crash, something like glass and metal skidding to a stop against the gates of Hell, sent Marybeth out of her peanut butter daydream. She ran out the front door of her flower shop, roses still in hand. The bell on the door tinkled.
In the very center of Highway 44, just outside Cuba, Missouri, something terrifyingly interesting was happening. A large MACK truck had just jack-knifed and, as the driver ran away from it screaming, arms flailing in a cartoonish style, a mysterious green goo oozed from the truck's cargo area.
Had Harold Jennings, Jr not been so entranced by the green stuff leaking from the truck, he might have heard the series of loud ticking noises, might have smelled the rupture in the fuel line, might have taken a cue from the driver and ran for his life. As it happens, he broke his gaze from the rapidly-solidifying emerald liquid just in time to register the impending explosion. Two seconds later he heard a woman screech, one last soft tick, and the deafening boom of a mushroom cloud appearing in the middle of the road. H.J. was knocked into a ditch behind his shack, only milliseconds after he thought, "Marybeth."
Marybeth, on the other hand, had the God-given sense to hide behind her Lincoln Continental. She'd tried to catch that old fool's attention but it looked like he was in a trance, running straight for the truck. She hugged the rear bumper of her Lincoln and screamed at him to take cover. Didn't he see the darn thing was about to blow? Then the back end of her car rocked with the explosion, tires absorbing the shock rather nicely. Marybeth thanked Jesus, though she conceded that the folks at Goodyear might have helped, too.
When Marybeth pushed herself from the asphalt and found H.J., he was lying face-up in the ditch, staring at the heavens. She pulled him to her, painfully aware of his chest against her own, and asked if he was okay. Without a word he cupped her face in his hands and kissed her, full on the mouth.
The people of Cuba were not in agreement about how best to handle the mysterious green goo. Some proposed fear and righteous indignation, casting stones at the goo, and/or insulting the goo until it was shamed off the road. Others proposed greeting the goo with open arms, offering it a place to stay and letting it borrow some spending money for the movies. The sheriff, a Don Knotts type of about twenty-five years, swore that he'd dealt with such a goo before and that, while fascinating and mysterious, it would dry up within a matter of days. The people were not convinced.
Claudy Beckett led a coalition of Church Ladies' League members and Elks who insisted the goo had already played a hand in the unfortunate lack of rain, the traffic jam along Highway 44, and the corruption of today's youth. They went door to door preaching the horrors of the goo, begging housewives and children to lock their doors and pray. "Armaggedon," they said, "is at hand." And while this may sound horribly morbid, Claudy and her crew were having the most fun they'd had in decades.
The more progressive townspeople decided to celebrate the coming of the goo, as if it were a new Burger Barn or alien life form. They made signs, danced, threw parties, and toasted the goo at every occasion. Mrs. Jacobssen's third-grade class made welcome notes for the goo. Al's House of Pork offered a two-for-one special in honor of its arrival. These folks, too, were having their version of fun.
Meanwhile, H.J. and Marybeth hadn't been seen or heard from since the crash. It was assumed that they'd died in the massive explosion on the highway, mostly because no one had actually checked. It seemed easier to react to the goo from afar, rather than actually meeting it head on and going from there. But for curiosity's sake, know that H.J. and Marybeth somehow made their way back to All God's Flowers, where they ferverantly practiced the acts of the birds and the bees. The thrill, danger, and altogether incredible rush from the crash had them both in a state of perpetual excitement relieved only in brief interludes between release and renewal.
Now. If you were a deity, or a clever prankster, or just a concerned party who'd had an eye on the folks of Cuba, Missouri for oh, say, two hundred years, you might take this moment to chuckle. Go ahead.
Because right now, you've effectively ended one hundred ninety nine years of routine and boredom. You've taken existence and transformed it to real living. You've made a spark using a big rig and what is essentially a science teacher's most valuable lesson. That is this: add some cornstarch, water, and green food coloring together and you've got 48 hours of fun on your hands.
This writeup is entry for the Talent Show of the Everything Noder Pageant 2003. Please, let's save the children, the whales, the African jub-jub, the manatees, and fluffy bunnies everywhere that need saving.