Having filled her fifth bag of jelly beans, Mrs. Fang cautiously looked around before stowing the unsealed bag away with the others beneath her jacket. She placed the scoop back in its holder and whistled as she walked down the aisle, feigning interest in several other candies, before heading toward the entrance of the store. Just as she stepped outside, she felt a hand on her arm and heard a man's voice say, "Excuse me, lady, but I think we've got a small problem here." Though she would be disappointed later, she let the faint hint of a smile creep across her face.
Mr. Fang watched as his wife shook her head and wore a look of disbelief as the manager pointed at the ridiculous bulges in her clothes, the contraband hidden so poorly that it added a wonderful absurdity to the proceedings. His wife then shouted, "I'm a diabetic, for crying out loud; I can't even eat candy." At this point, several people in the store turned toward the commotion. Mr. Fang moved as close as he could to the action just as his wife screamed, "This is unconstitutional! My father plays golf with the governor. I'll just - " and that was when, with a slight adjustment in Mrs. Fang's posture, the bags of candy spilled open.
Buster ran past his father and watched as hundreds of jelly beans fell like hailstones from his mother's clothes and click-clacked against the floor of the shop. He knelt at his mother's feet and yelled, "Free candy!" as he shoved giant handfuls of the jelly beans, which were still spilling out of his mother, into his mouth. Two other children took up residence beside him, as if his mother was a piñata just broken open, and scrabbled for their own claim on the candy as Buster laughed with a scratchiness in his voice that made him sound like a much older person. By now, a crowd of about twenty people had gathered around the scene and his mother began to sob. "I can't go back to jail," she shouted, and Buster stood up from the mess of jelly beans on the floor and ran away. He realized that he had forgotten to throw the candy into the air and knew it would not go unmentioned when the family gathered to discuss the success of the event.
Thirty minutes later, the Fang children met up at the fountains and waited for their mother to extricate herself from the consequences of her ridiculous actions. She was probably being held by mall security until their father could convince them to let her off with a warning. He would show them their résumés, the clippings from the New York Times and ArtForum. He would say things like public performance art and choreographed spontaneity and real life squared. They would pay for the candy and most likely be banned from the mall. That night, they would go home and eat dinner and imagine all the people at the mall telling their friends and family about this strange and beautiful thing that happened that afternoon.
"What if they have to go to jail?" Buster asked his sister. She seemed to consider the possibility and then shrugged. "We'll just hitchhike back home and wait for them to escape." Buster agreed that this was a sound plan. "Or," he offered, "we could live here in the mall and Mom and Dad wouldn't know where to find us." Annie shook her head. "They need us," she said. "Nothing works without you and me."
Buster emptied his pockets of the pennies he had taken earlier and lined them up in two equal stacks. He and his sister then took turns tossing them back into the fountains, each making wishes that they hoped were simple enough to come true.
Excerpted from The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. Copyright © 2011 by Kevin Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare set in Savannah
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