Author's Notes: Written as a response to the ee-fanfic mailing list's newbie challenge, but if things seem positive I may try to expand it into a fuller story. This is my first EE fic. Please tell me what you think!
Disclaimer: Early Edition is a trademarked property of Columbia TriStar Pictures. I am not affiliated with Columbia TriStar or Sony Pictures Entertainment. This is fan fiction written for entertainment, not profit. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: The paper sends Gary on another in a series of apparently unimportant errands.
Archive: Tales from the Tavern go ahead (archive under the name Lady Firebird); all others please ask first.
Formatted Version: http://lfvoy.100megsfree.com/earlyedition/eefic/fleabites.htm
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by Lady Firebird
Fleabite (FLEE-bite) n. minor pain; trifle
His life had certainly had more than its share of strange twists and turns ever since he'd started receiving the paper. But this one, thought Gary, had to be one of the stranger ones.
He'd had to read the headline three times before he'd believed it. Child Chokes on Jelly Bean in Candy Shop; Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Follows.
Over a jelly bean? Just how much damage could something so small cause, anyway?
To make matters worse, the paper had seemed to be in a capricious mood lately, sending him all over town on simple rescues, many of which were almost mundane. While Gary appreciated the relief that came from not facing a life-or-death situation every time he turned around, he couldn't help but wonder if there was something - or someone - being left out.
Was anyone dying because he didn't know he was needed? Was the paper all of a sudden making value judgments about the importance of one person's life versus another's convenience?
Gary considered that thought as he rounded the corner. In a way, the paper had always made value judgments. There were simply too many people in Chicago for him to know about every single critical situation. He'd simply assumed that the paper - or, more properly, the mysterious force behind it - chose the most important situations.
Perhaps it was time to start questioning that assumption.
He skidded to a stop in front of Pop's Candy Store, trying to see inside despite the bright pink flamingoes painted on the plate-glass window. Was the kid already in there?
Sighing, he opened the door, bracing himself for what was coming.
And he was right. There were, in fact, kids in the candy shop. Everywhere. He had no idea where to start. Gary began scanning the displays along both sides of the store, hoping to find the situation before it was too late.
A knot of ten-year-old boys standing near the checkout counter caught his attention. They were all laughing at one's attempt to swallow a whole gummy eel without chewing. To Gary's adult eyes, the scene was more than slightly disgusting, but apparently the boys thought it was extremely amusing. One of the spectators reached a hand into his own bag of candy and began to bring a handful of jelly beans to his mouth...
A handful of jelly beans...
"Hey!" yelled Gary, jumping toward the kid. "Don't do that!"
He stumbled over some other kid's feet and, trying to break his fall, knocked the bag of jelly beans out of the boy's hand. Candy spilled everywhere. But Gary breathed a silent sigh of relief; the kid had dropped the candy, which meant he certainly wouldn't be choking on it.
The owner, though, didn't quite see it that way. Before Gary had a chance to get up off the floor, a pair of worn work boots appeared in front of him. "In this store, stealing candy from kids is a crime."
"Look, I wasn't trying to steal the candy. The kid...he was going to choke on the jelly beans."
"Choke? On jelly beans?" A bark of ironic laughter came from somewhere above. "You're going to have to come up with a better story than that, mister."
Scrambling to his feet, he tried to look the owner in the eye...and failed. The man had to have at least a foot and a half of height on him, and Gary was a fairly tall man. Still, he insisted, "It's not a story. It's the truth!"
There was another laugh. "What, do you have some sort of a hero complex or something? Forget it. No one here needed saving today."
That's exactly what's wrong, thought Gary. Even the newspaper story indicated that the choking hadn't been fatal; it had simply been the motivation behind a huge legal action.
Sighing, he fished a five out of his pocket and handed it to the kid. "Here. That should more than cover the cost of the candy."
The owner snorted and returned to his place behind the counter. "That's more like it. Now get out of here, Superman. Go find someone whose life is in danger or something."
Not even a thank-you. Gary strode out the front door, disgusted.
Why in the world had the paper sent him on such a minor assignment?
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