THE FRUIT VANDAL
“Have you heard about the Fruit Vandal?” Jonathan asks, fiddling with the alarm clock on the kitchen table.
Mary shrugs and whirls her warm coffee with her spoon. “Nope. No idea what you are talking about.”
Heavy breathing in a dark alley. Shops closed, people nowhere to be found.
“They say it’s a calling card, like a gang killer or something,” he says in a hushed tone as if someone could overhear them in the house. “A tagger.”
“What’s it like?” She sips the scalding top layer of the coffee.
Metallic bead rattling in the spray can. Heavy footsteps towards the wall.
“Just some fruit graffiti,” he says. “It’s kinda ugly to be honest, there’s one right around the corner by the butcher’s. Go around there next time you go shopping for steaks, you can’t miss it.”
Hesitation. Biting of the lip. Eyes darting around.
She picks up a towel and wipes the table. There were no breadcrumbs but she does it anyway.
“I can’t open this. George must have a screwdriver somewhere in his room, I’ll go check,” he says.
The hood is getting in the way. Pull it back.
Jonathan is rattling around the bedroom. Mary stops and leans on her extended arm, then sighs.
Tia walks in the kitchen and starts looking around the cupboards for something to munch on.
A noise! What was that?
“Cookies are up there,” Mary says and points without turning around.
“Oh, thanks mom,” Tia says and grabs the whole cookie jar. “Why so glum?”
Hide in a shadowy place. Behind the dumpster! Quick.
Mary smiles at her daughter. It’s the fake smile she carries every day.
“Aren’t you going to your pilates class anymore?” Tia asks.
Chocked breath. Ears pricked up.
“No, there were too many people all together. It was hard to breathe,” Mary lies.
“Oh, alright,” Tia shrugs and bites on her cookie.
A glimmer! Something close.
Jonathan comes out of the room holding a bandana. “Mary? What’s this?”
Mary shrugs. “It’s George’s. For when it’s chilly on his bicycle.”
A meow. Deep sigh. Cat lands on the dumpster, ignores me.
“No no… This looks fishy,” Jonathan says and looks around. “Where’s my tablet honey?”
Mary points at the couch through the door without looking, and sips some more of her coffee.
Back on the wall. Unsling the backpack.
Jonathan taps and frowns at the monitor. “Here, it says ‘How to figure out if your kid is a tagger,’ I knew I’ve seen this before.”
“What?” Tia asks and leans over to look.
Hand searching in the dark. Feeling around the backpack.
“Oh my God Mary! Tia! George is the Fruit Vandal!” Jonathan says.
Tia puts her hand over her wide open mouth, “Oh! George is so screwed!”
Grab the spray can. Wait! Get the mask on first.
Dust mask on face. Hand looking for the can again in the dark.
Tia goes back to her brother’s room, looks around. Jonathan reads on, “Listen to this: A monetary fine, community service for graffiti removal, juvenile record. This is serious!”
Right. How to start this. Hand hovers, holding the spray can.
Mary nods. “Yeah, seems so.”
What should I paint? A banana. Can’t. Only got the red can.
Tia goes through the laundry, and comes back with a grey hoodie. “Isn’t this George’s?”
A strawberry then. Start with the outline, black. Oval pointy thing.
Jonathan pats the sleeves. “There’s paint here! Honey, look.”
Finger squeezes. Wet hand. Damn! Paint all over my palm.
“Oof, that will take plenty of scrubbing to come off,” Mary says.
Flick the black paint off palm. Wipe on the wall.
Tia mouths an ‘O’ and puts her phone on her ear.
Twist the nozzle the other way. Squeeze, form a shape with black.
“Where’s your brother Tia? Tell’im to get over here now.” Jonathan says firmly.
Right, the leafy things now on top. Pointy.
Jonathan huffs and puffs over his tablet.
Is it right? Too dark, can’t see.
“Yeah, George. Come back now. No now, we’re all in the kitchen. Hurry up then,” Tia says.
Breath noisily passing through the dust mask. Itchy nose.
Jonathan goes looking around the house, under the stairs. A metallic ball rattles in a canister.
Fish into the backpack again, for green. Is this green? Too dark to see.
George comes back from his friend’s house. He walks in the kitchen, arms extended. “Wha’? Couldn’t it wait? We were about to beat the final boss and shit.”
It’s green. Shake the canister. Do the leaves. Right.
Backpack again for the red. Did I bring the red?
“Whateva,” George says.
Yes. This is red. Point at strawberry. Wait, check the nozzle. It’s fine.
“What’s this,” Jonathan asks and plops the spray can on the table.
Spray the red all over the fruit. Spray too thin! Isn’t this supposed to spread?
George shrugs. “A can of red paint, apparently.”
Go over the shape many times, red is like a doodle. Never mind.
“This is the tool of a tagger!”
Put spray can in the backpack. Slips! Falls on the pavement and makes a loud noise!
“I’m not a tagger.”
Look around, kneel down. Try to find the can in the dark. Kick it accidentally, rolls away.
“Oh you’re really screwed this time,” Tia says.
Hand is sticky, wipe it on the dirt. Mask is choking me, pull it off.
“Language! George, this is serious. Do you have any idea what they are saying about the Fruit Vandal?”
People talking! A blue flicker of light. Then red. Police!
“I’m not a faggy fruity vandal!”
Sweating. Sprint at corner. Hood! Put it on.
“That’s beside the point. I have a can of paint and your hoodie, soaked in black paint.”
No. Pull the hood back. Act normal. Start walking. Hesitate.
“No. That’s mine yeah, but I gave it to m-”
Walk normal. Just going home. Model citizen here. Heart pounding. Lights flickering. One foot in front of the other.
“Listen to me young man! You can get a juvenile record for this. Mary tell him.”
Don’t run. Walk.
George has his head low, glances at his mother. “Yeah, alright, it was me. Stupid, I know. I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.
Around the corner. Glance back. No pursuit.
Mary smiles at her son. He winks at her.
“Good,” Jonathan says. “I hope you’ve learnt your lesson. Or next time we are taking you to the police station to admit it.”
Smile. Ha hah! Excitement! What a rush!
“Yeah. I’m sorry pa. Sorry ma. It won’t happen again.
What’s this? Raise foot. Oh. Black paint all over my shoe. Oof, that will take plenty of scrubbing to come off.
Did you enjoy the story?
Make sure you leave a review where you got this or on Goodreads, whichever you prefer.
Independent publishing houses need all the help they can get, and the best way to get that is through a reader’s honest review. A few words will suffice.
Want to get more books like this?
Then get on the mailing list and become a Mythographer!
Click the following link to sign up, and get freebies, exclusive content and a sneak preview of our upcoming projects:
Is Your Child A Tagger? A cozy family mystery set in the God Complex Universe. A menace is tagging the neighbourhood. They call him the Fruit Vandal. Mary is living the boring old-life of the housewife. One day, the husband comes up with evidence that their son might be the one drawing the graffiti. What will they do, give him up to the police? A short story that paints a different view of the God Complex Universe. Contemporary, ordinary family life in Athens.