Scientists Eleven Countries Work to Uncover Butterworth Formula
Professor Bernhardt Zinfinlander read the headline aloud, folded the Washita Valley Gazette in half and slapped it to the table. “Ho-ho. Hee-hee. They can work as hard and as long as they want: they won’t discover my secret.”
“Er, don’t you mean her secret?” His companion, Doctor A. Luptenhauer, seldom missed an opportunity to goad his associate.
Bernie caressed the jar-shaped lump in his vest pocket. “Not any more. Mine now. All mine.”
“But… you must admit to means for a person not too particular about ways? Alfred’s fingers toyed with his mustache.
Professor Z. rose to his feet. “What do you mean?”
The doctor was as good at action as wordplay. He shifted his weight and tensed the muscles in his right arm. “I mean ways.”
“What ways?” Bernie’s voice was low.
Alfred spread his feet; his arm came up and a wicked-looking, dark object flipped into his hand.
Professor Z. backed away. “I never meant to be mean.”
To Alfred this sounded petty, childish. “Did too.” He motioned with the gun. “Let’s have it.”
“Unh-unh. Never. You’ll just keep it for yourself.”
“Wrong. Give it here.”
“You can’t make me.”
Someplace in the house a door slammed. Hollow footsteps rang from the hallway. “Bobby? Luke? Where are you?”
“In here, Mom.” The chorus of boyish tones was partly muffled as Bobby, eleven, and Luke, nine, struggled to rid themselves of fake mustaches and beards, realistic-looking toy guns, and down-sized men’s clothing.
The click of heels changed to soft footfalls as Nora Butterworth stepped through the door onto heavily carpeted flooring.
Only in the nick of time did Bobby spot the phony Gazette he and his brother had made out of construction paper. He quickly stuffed it under a couch cushion. The rest Luke had managed to kick under his dad’s desk, out of sight.
“What are you two doing in your father’s office when he’s not here? You know how he feels about that.” Though Nora’s tone was short her eyes never lost their sparkle.
“Nothing much, Mom. We were just sort of… playing.”
“Well, it’s time you got washed up. Make it quick; you know your father dislikes eating cold food.”
Luke beamed. “Mm-m-m-m. Smells good, Mom. Hope its liver and onions. And spinach.”
Later, with parents out of earshot, Luke followed Bobby into the kitchen. “Did you put Mom’s lotion back?”
“Forget lotion - my business.”
“Not your bizness. What if Mom really does need that stuff to look young?”
“Stop being such a baby.”
“I’m not a baby, you… toe jam.”
“Ba-be-ee Lukey, Ba-be-ee Lukey.”
After dinner, Nora motioned her husband into the study and closed the door. She showed him the evidence. Richard shook his head. “At it again, huh?”
She put her lips to his ear. “I think it’s mostly Bobby influencing Luke. But both of them need a reality check. Are you willing?”
“I do believe I am.”
Next morning Bobby and Luke overslept. Luke was first to open his eyes and notice the quiet. He climbed up and shook Bobby. “Wake up. It’s super late and Mom didn’t call us to breakfast.”
Still in their pj’s the boys traipsed through every room in the house, except their parents’ bedroom. Unless invited in they weren’t allowed. Bobby placed an ear to the door. “I don’t hear nothin’.”
Lying on his stomach, Luke peered underneath. “I don’t see anything.”
Bobby looked thoughtful. “Both cars… so they’ve gotta’ be here.”
“How about outside?”
“Nope. I checked.”
“Mom. Dad?" Bobby called softly. "You in there?” Silence. He cracked the door an inch. “They’re still asleep.”
Curious, Luke poked his head through his brother’s arm. He jerked back. “That’s not Mom and Dad.”
“You’re crazy.” Bobby opened the door wider. Two grizzled heads lay on the pillows.
“Maybe it's Gramma’ and Gramps.” Luke felt Bobby tremble.
“But what would they be doing here? And where’s Mom and Dad?”
About that time the two figures sat up and faced them. The man was Dad, but not Dad. He had a full, gray beard and the lady, yellowish hair and a wrinkled face. “The lotion...,” the pair croaked in unison, stretching forth pleading hands, “... the rejuvenating lotion, before it’s too late.”
Luke blanched white as a sheet. “I tried to tell you, Bernie, but you refused to listen.”
“I’m going for it NOW,” Professor Z. threw over his shoulder as he sprinted out the door.
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