melvin the destroyer

first place, worldwide flash fiction competition 2016

All of this because of a wrapper. It wasn’t as though there weren’t a million other shiny candy wrappers sprinkled around Mr. Crocker’s lawn. It was because Melvin got caught leaving this one from the chocolate bar he had finished a few minutes earlier. He was done with the wrapper. What did Mr. Crocker think he should do with it?

It was clear Mr. Crocker didn’t think it belonged with the other wrappers, that was for sure. Standing there in his shorts with his knobbly knees and his face turning red, he made Melvin pick up the wrapper. That wasn’t enough for Mr. Crocker, though. He had to lecture.

“It’s the easiest thing in the world to destroy, boy. You come along and let loose with all of those things that make us animals --greed, sloth, ...whatever. And you take and you pull down. It takes no effort at all. Gravity and entropy do most of the work.”

Melvin was going to have to ask his Mom what some of those words meant, if he could remember them. Veins bulged from Mr. Crocker’s neck, making him look like a turtle stretching. Whatever entropy was, it was making Mr. Crocker angry.  

“But building? Creating something from nothing? Or even harder, making something from what’s left after destruction? That’s where the meaningful work is. It’s hard. It takes time. It takes effort, day after day.”

Melvin wished he knew what Mr. Crocker was talking about. It sounded serious and grown-up. He was pretty sure this was something he would need to know when he was old like Mr. Crocker.

“You a builder, boy?”

“Yessir.” Since he wasn’t sure what to say, Melvin figured he should at least be polite so Mr. Crocker wouldn’t tell his Mom.

“Or are you a destroyer?” Mr. Crocker was now eyeing Melvin with suspicion. Maybe “yessir” had been the wrong answer. “Did you leave these other wrappers?”

“No, sir!” Melvin thought of the other wrappers he had left --which wasn’t hard since they were laying in the grass not three feet away.

“Good,” said Mr. Crocker, looking doubtful. “But here’s what you’re going to do: pick up the rest of these wrappers. Make it right. You want to be a builder? Time to build.”

Melvin picked up wrapper after wrapper and stuffed them into a plastic grocery bag Mr. Crocker had given him. More and more of the green grass revealed itself. It did look better, Melvin admitted.

Mr. Crocker, who had gone into his house, came back out the front door as Melvin put the last wrapper in the bag. He had a candy bar in his hand.

“Building is hungry work. You made the right choice.” Mr. Crocker smiled, took the plastic bag and walked back in the house.

The chocolate and caramel of the candy bar oozed sweetly between Melvin’s teeth. When he was done, Melvin dropped his wrapper and watched it float toward the grass.

Stupid old man, he thought.