AUTHOR’S NOTE: The draws for this month’s Flash Fiction Draw Challenge (Thank you, Jeffrey Ricker!) were a comedy set in a car trunk involving a vacuum cleaner. I’ve used a lot of song titles as story titles but I never thought I’d use this one (changing one word!)—jsb 7/7/21
My Old Man’s The Dustman
by Jeff Baker
I adjusted my mask, pushed my helmet down on my head and ran down the row of parked cars in the mall parking lot.
“Pop!” I called out. “Pop!” I wished the noises from the highway weren’t so loud. Then I thought I heard it: a muffled noise.
“Pop?” I moved closer to the sound, a beat-up looking Chevy. I looked in the window. Nope. I caught a glance of myself in the reflection in the car window. Striped trunks, green cape, a stylized letter “D” on my shirt. Pop was the superhero with the powers. Me, I was an unwilling sidekick. Besides I had a business degree. I only helped Pop, a.k.a. The Dustman out when I was between jobs.
And now, he needed my help. Being able to turn into a stream of sentient dust wasn’t much of a power but it meant that he could filter himself anywhere. Last I heard, he was following some bad guy who called himself Kettleman. As long as nobody called me Dustboy. I was 27 and had my own portfolio with an IRA.
This time I heard it clearly; a thump from the rear of the Chevy.
“Pop?” I called.
“In here,” came the faint voice.
“Well, dust out of there,” I said. “Maybe you can’t fit through the lid but there’s got to be a little opening somewhere.”
“I’m already dust,” came the voice. “I’m stuck in here, pop the trunk and get me out!”
I didn’t know how Pop could talk when he was dust, but I was just glad his super outfit dusted with him so he wasn’t naked all the time.
“Captain Kettle or whatever he called himself had a vacuum cleaner,” the voice said. “I’m in that.”
My Pop was trapped. Inside a car trunk. Inside a vacuum cleaner. And this was a guy who’d saved the world with the Crisis Squad. I started laughing. I couldn’t help myself. I got a hold of myself.
“Okay, Pop, what do I do?” I asked.
“Break in the trunk and get me out!” Pop said.
“With what?” I asked. “I don’t carry a crowbar on this silly outfit!”
“Then, break into the car!”
“Hey, I don’t want to get a criminal record!” I protested. “You need a burglar, not an accountant! Hey, wait…”
I was looking through the car window, wondering if I could use a coat hanger. It was an old car, but then I had a hunch.
I tried the door handle.
Bingo! It opened. A minute’s fumbling under the dashboard and I found the lever that popped open the trunk. I was amazed this genius hadn’t left his keys in the ignition. I grabbed the hand vac out of the trunk and pulled it open. A cascade of greenish dust spewed out over me and the ground. I sneezed.
Another moment and the dust whirled itself into my Pop.
“Just like ‘I Dream of Jeannie,’” I said. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” my Pop, Dustman said. “How ‘bout you?”
“Fine.” I said. “Where’s this Kettledrum bozo?”
“In the mall paying a bill. Wanna help me get him?”
“Sure!” I said.
Pop grinned. “Okay, Dustboy, let’s get to it!”
My Pop and I ran towards the entrance, and I didn’t feel ridiculous at all.