Still or Sparkling

by  Greg Roensch

The still water bottles were happiest when the sparkling stayed on the opposite side of the shelf. In truth, both sides preferred to keep any interaction to a minimum.

The way the still water bottles saw it, their fizzy counterparts were carbonated showoffs who only came around for special occasions, like holidays or birthdays or when Aldo and Janet threw swank parties for people from their firm. Whenever the sparkling turned up, the still bottles showed their disdain by huddling together at the back of the fridge, their glass bodies tinkling against one another when the door opened and closed.

Last Sunday was the perfect example of everything the still bottles loathed about the sparkling. It was the night before the memorial service for grandma Mavis, a two-pack-a-day smoker who died in a freak hailstorm. As the still water bottles stood front and center ready for the next day’s deployment, Janet returned from a last-minute trip to the store with two cases of sparkling water.

Arrogance personified is how the still water bottles described it when the sparkling took their place at the front, their fresh bubbles rushing up their necks like neon signs flashing “drink me, drink me” to anyone who opened the refrigerator door. Relegated to a dark corner far back on the shelf, where a leaf of withered kale kept company with an expired box of Arm & Hammer baking soda, the still bottles checked their anger out of respect for grandma Mavis. But deep down their resentment festered.

“Who do they think they are?” one of the still bottles asked on the day after the event. “It’s not like they even knew the woman.”

“Gassy bastards,” another old-timer muttered. “Their fizz won’t last forever. And they know it.”

As for the sparkling bottles, theirs had traditionally been an attitude of hushed superiority. Typically placed in the best position in the fridge, they mostly kept to themselves – as if conversing with the still water was beneath their station. They were elite, or so they felt. And it was with a sense of casual disregard that they thumbed their noses, so to speak, at the still bottles. That said, if you asked around, you’d find that many sparkling bottles had a grudging appreciation for their hardworking blue-collar colleagues.

“They’re the real workhorses around here,” a sparkling bottle admitted during a chat with some of his bubbly buddies.

“You’re exactly right about that,” another replied.

“If you think about it long enough,” a third sparkling bottle said, “you realize that we’re not so different from one another.”

“You know what they say?” added the sparkling who’d started the conversation. “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

The sparkling bottles stopped talking when, Chad, Aldo and Janet’s pimply faced sixteen-year-old high-school sophomore, opened the refrigerator and began loading the shelves with bottles of an all-new CBD-infused, lemon-lime-flavored drink. The yellow-green concoction, which looked like something you might see in a mad scientist’s laboratory, was labelled with an image of a creature with bulging eyes and razor fangs that looked like it could eat glass for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Chad shoved the new bottles into the fridge without any regard for the orderly placement of the others. And, after a harrowing period of noisy jostling, the still and sparkling bottles were all clustered together at the back of the shelf.

“Well, this is awkward,” one of the sparkling bottles said when the door slammed shut and the light went out.

From the moment of their arrival, the monster bottles let it be known that there was a new lemon-lime-flavored sheriff in town. They glowered with their protruding eyes, growled in unintelligible guttural tones, and bared their fangs like ravenous hounds. They even knocked against the still and sparkling bottles on purpose, seemingly without any fear whatsoever of the damage they might do to themselves or anyone else. Neither the still nor sparkling bottles knew what to make of these intruders. No one in the fridge did. Not the fat-free yogurt. Not the skim milk. Not the leftover Brie in the vacuum-sealed Tupperware. Even the sliced cucumbers were agitated.

Before this chaotic new order could take hold for good, the still and sparkling bottles met in secret to discuss ways of getting rid of the monster bottles.

“Here’s what we’ll do,” the leader of the still bottles whispered. “Tonight, when they’re fast asleep, we’ll nudge those wild-eyed demons even further toward the front of the shelf.” She stopped to make sure the monsters weren’t listening. “Once they’re gone, we can get things back to normal around here.”

“They won’t know what hit them,” a sparkling bottle exclaimed.

As it turned out, the CBD-infused monsters slept so soundly they didn’t notice that they were being bumped forward. And it only took two days for the refrigerator to return to what it was like before the monsters arrived on the scene.

“You guys are alright,” a young sparkling bottle said to a nearby still.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” the still replied and cozied up to her new fizzy friend.

As the still and sparkling bottles celebrated their victory, Aldo and Janet’s pimply faced son was wrapping up his Saturday morning chores. Chad had mowed the lawn, swept the garage, and taken out the trash. All that remained was to roll the recycling to the curb. While wheeling the blue container down the driveway, Chad was surprised that it was so heavy, and, when he flipped open the lid, he was shocked to see empty bottle after empty bottle of the CBD-infused monster drink. Continuing to the curb after a brief rest, the teen made a mental note to drive to the store later that day to load up on his new favorite lemon-lime flavored beverage.

 

Artist: Unknown 

Greg is the author of “Breakfast with the Alien and Other Short, Short Stories,” a collection of quirky flash fiction. He’s written books for young adults, including biographies of Bruce Lee, Vince Lombardi, and Rickey Henderson. And his travel articles have appeared on GoNomad.com and CemeteryTravel.com.

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