Lesser of Two Parasites
Chowder approached Gazpacho's stand, grinning ear to ear.
"I just got my allowance, and I'm spending it here on something good to eat!" he said merrily.
"Well, then, you've come to the right place," said Gazpacho, gesturing around him.
"Hmm…. uh… let's see…. Oh! I just got in some really fresh potatoes. And these have eyes!"
Chowder frowned. "Don't all potatoes have eyes?"
"Yeah, but look at these." Gazpacho held up a potato with plastic googly eyes pasted on. He shook it, causing the pupils to bounce around. "That's cool, right?"
Chowder hesitated. "Umm… what else you got?"
Gazpacho glanced around. "Uh…. oh, yeah. I got these too." He held up some carrots. "They're called Snowman-Nose Carrots."
"Why are they called that?"
"Well, to be honest, that's all they're good for: to be used as noses for snowmen. They actually taste pretty lousy."
"Don't you have any good food?" whined Chowder.
"What, you don't like vegetables? Okay, Mr. Picky. How about these?" Gazpacho held up a platter of tiny meats. "Go ahead. Smell them."
Chowder leaned in for a big whiff. "Mmmm, yummy! What are they?"
"Mother made them. She calls 'em Mutton Buttons."
Grinning widely, Chowder held up a sack. "Fill it up, please!"
Chowder walked home, stuffing his face with the Mutton Buttons. "So… good…" he said in between bites.
Suddenly he felt someone following a little too close behind him. He turned away to see, and jumped with a startle.
"Hiiiiii, Chowder," said Panini with a smirk.
"GAHH! I'm not your boyfriend!"
"Whatcha eating, Chowder?"
He pulled the bag close to him. "Mutton Buttons."
She sniffed the air, and quickly covered her nose. "They smell terrible!"
"Are you kidding?! They're great!"
Her eyes glanced over the tightly held bag. "Eeew, there's blood dripping through! Is that stuff raw?!"
Chowder looked down. "That's not blood, that's barbeque sauce!" For a moment, he hesitated. "… I think."
She was still walking with him. "That's gross, Chowder. Don't you know you shouldn't eat raw meat? Ms. Endive taught me that. You could get sick, and then I couldn't kiss you!"
His eyes widened. "Kiss me?! GROSS! I'm not up to date on my cootie shots! AAHHH!" Throwing his arms up, Chowder ran all the way home screaming.
Huffing and puffing, Chowder slammed the door behind him.
"Whoa, there!" said Mung. "I didn't say it was time to eat. And that's the only time you ever run, so what's going on?"
"Girl… wants… to… kiss me…." he replied, panting.
"What's wrong with that?"
"Duh! Girls have cooties!"
"Rada rada," said Schnitzel with a grin, walking past as he mopped.
"I don't think that's what Chowder meant, Schnitzel."
"Mung, how can I get a girl to stop liking me?"
"Well, Chowder, you're asking the wrong person. I am quite the ladies' man," he said, putting his hands on his hips. "If you had the opposite problem, I could be of more help."
"Opposite? You mean how to get a boy to stop liking me?"
"Rada rada!" laughed Schnitzel.
"You be quiet." Mung turned back to Chowder. "The best advice on how to take the spark out of a relationship…. well, I'd say get married."
"I heard that!" said Truffles from the other room.
"I swear… that woman—well, um, anyway, don't worry about cooties. They don't exist."
Chowder reopened the bag from before as Mung was talking. He picked up another Mutton Button and started to chow down as he listened.
"What's that you're eating?"
"Is that raw meat? Chowder! You can't eat raw meat!"
"If I do, then I'll get sick and Panini won't want to kiss me!"
Mung grabbed the bag. "You're gonna get salmonella or E coli. Or worse!"
"I like salmon!" said Chowder happily.
"It's different! Now go brush your teeth or something…. that's disgusting."
Chowder hung his head. "Okay…." he said in a dejected tone.
Nothing of particular interest—at least none to write about—happened for a couple days. But soon Chowder's loud wails of pain broke the monotony.
He came into the kitchen, gripping his stomach. "Ohhh…. My tummy hurts so bad…." he whined.
"Then you shouldn't have had fifths at dinner," said Mung.
"But I always do! It's gotta be something different…"
"I have a recipe for stomachaches." Mung approached a bookcase and took down one of them. "Let's see…. ah, here it is. Carbonated water, ginger, pickled chili…"
Chowder gagged at the last one and ran away.
Later that night, Chowder was in the bathroom. Doing what one does when nature calls.
At this point, the author shirked her duties and let the readers use their own imagination. In fact, she skipped to the part where Chowder ran out of the bathroom, screaming his chubby head off.
"WOOOORMS!" he screeched, running down the hall. "I'VE GOT WORMS!" Then he froze. "Why am I shouting it? I've gotta keep this a secret…. if anyone finds out, they'll be so grossed out they'll never want to talk to me again!"
Gritting his teeth and nervously darting his eyes around, he cautiously made his way to bed.
The next morning, Chowder was determined not to let his worms impede his daily activities. It would be like any other day.
"Are you almost finished with those Swedish Fish Meatballs yet, Schnitzel?" asked Mung in the kitchen. "Because the pasta is nearly done!"
"How can you tell?" asked Chowder.
"This is the test." Mung fished through the pot and pulled out one noodle. Aiming at the wall, he tossed it and it slid to the ground. "Nope, not ready yet."
"That looked like fun!" said Chowder cheerfully. "I wanna try!" He grabbed a noodle and tossed it at the wall like Mung had. But as he watched it slowly slip to the floor, he had a sinking feeling in his stomach. And the rest of his bowels too.
"What's wrong, Chowder?"
"The noodles remind me of…. oh, um, nevermind."
"Remind you of what?"
"Rada rada!" interrupted Schnitzel as he approached with the meatballs.
"Oh, good, they're done. Finally."
"I gotta go!" Chowder called out as he dashed for the door.
"Where are you going?"
SLAM! went the door.
Chowder slowly shuffled up to Gazpacho's stand, hands in his pockets.
"What's wrong, kiddo?"
He didn't look up. "I can't tell you."
"Ah, come on. You can tell me anything! I told you about that surgery I had. That was personal, don't you think?"
"Yeah…. well, okay, I guess I can trust you not to abandon me." He took a deep breath. "… I got worms."
Gazpacho stared back for a moment, then he pulled a drawstring. A large curtain fell between them. "We're closed to you!"
"Hey! You said I could tell you anything!"
"Yeah, but I didn't think you had worms! That's disgusting!" said Gazpacho's voice from the other side. "This is a banned stand for you until you get rid of them!"
Chowder grinned. "It's a bandstand for me?"
"No. Banned stand."
He frowned. "Oh."
"Now get out of here!"
"But I got them from you!"
"I said vamoose!"
Chowder sighed and walked away.
Chowder walked down the street, worrying over his worms. "What am I going to do?" he wondered out loud.
Just then he came to an alley. Looking down it, he decided this was the best place for him now. "No one cares if you have worms in a dirty alley..."
The alley was littered with trash and a sleeping hobo. Chowder sat down against a trashcan and held his head in his hands. "This is my life now…"
He looked up to see Panini, grinning down at him. "I'M NOT YOUR BOYFRIEND!"
"Whatcha doing in an alley?"
"Being sad!" said Chowder as he got up and started to back away from her.
"Don't be sad, Chowder. It's a beautiful day!" As she spoke, she came closer to him, cornering him in the back of the alley.
Chowder pressed himself against the fence. "D-d-don't come any closer!"
"A little kiss is nothing to be afraid of, Chowder…"
"Yes, it is! You have cooties!"
Panini gestured toward herself. "Do you see any cooties on me?"
He hesitated. "… then they must be INSIDE you! Like my worms!"
She froze in her tracks. "Worms?"
"Yeah! I got them from eating uncooked Mutton Buttons!"
Panini grimaced and took a step backwards. "That's so gross!"
He blinked, and then grinned slyly. "And if you try to kiss me, I'll give them to you!"
She threw her arms up and ran away, shrieking.
Chowder was proud of himself. "Wow, that was easy! I should have gotten worms a long time ago!"
Chowder skipped merrily down the street, singing. He was no longer ashamed of his worms. In fact, he was now quite proud of them.
And he expressed these feelings through song: "I've got wooooorms! I've got woooooorms!" he sung in the tune of "I'm Not Your Boyfriend."
People on the street stopped to stare and whisper. Soon he was the talk of the town.
"Hey, did you see that chubby kid singing about having worms?"
"Of course! Everyone has!"
It was even on the evening news. Yes, it was a slow news day.
Chowder pranced inside. "I've got woooooorms! I've got wor—hey, what's going on?"
He surveyed the scene: Mung Daal, Truffles, Schnitzel, and even his pet Kimchi were all sitting at the table, looking at him.
"Ooh!" said Chowder. "Are we gonna play Majhongg?"
"Nooo…." said Truffles. "That game's for me and the ladies!"
"Chowder…" began Mung, clasping his hands together. "… this is an intervention."
"Cool! What did you invent?"
"I said intervention!"
"We all heard about your…. parasites," said Truffles.
Chowder was confused. "You did? How?"
"Everyone in Marzipan City knows, Chowder!"
"And you've got to get rid of them," said Mung.
Chowder put his hands on his stomach defensively. "But…. I have to keep them! They keep Panini away!"
"That doesn't matter," said Mung. "We're taking you to the vet—er, doctor, right now to get you de-wormed!" He turned to Schnitzel. "Now, Schnitzel!"
Schnitzel grabbed the now-flailing Chowder. "Rada rada!"
"No! I will NOT stop fidgeting!" said Chowder, struggling in Schnitzel's grasp.
"Let's go," said Mung, walking towards the door. "Truffles, go turn the snail-car on."
"NOOOOOOO!" screamed Chowder.
Chowder was still fighting to get away: he did in the car, he did in the waiting room, he did when they went in the doctor's office, and he did when the doctor finally came in.
"Please!" he begged. "Don't do this! I want to keep them!"
"You can't keep worms, Chowder! Not in my house! Don't you realize how disgusting that is?" asked Truffles.
He gave her a tearful, puppy-dog look. "Haven't you ever had a special pet?"
"They are NOT pets!"
"She's right, Chowder," said the doctor. "They will eventually kill you."
"Well…." He hesitated. "…how long is eventually?"
"Rada rada!" complained Schnitzel, tired of holding Chowder.
"We're almost done," said Mung.
"Just gotta give him these." The doctor held up three blue pills.
"NOOOOOO—ACK!" Chowder choked as they stuffed the pills in his mouth. Then they rubbed his throat, and Schnitzel released him.
He fell to the floor. "I'm gotta get cooties now!" cried Chowder, rubbing his eyes.
"There's no such thing as cooties," said the doctor.
"Heeey…." Chowder perked up, oblivious. "You're a doctor! You can give me a cootie shot!"
"Umm… didn't you listen to me, kid?"
"Just play along," whispered Mung, looking at his watch. "And make it snappy, I left my oven on. With food in it."
"Okay…" The doctor turned to Chowder. "Circle circle, dot dot. Now you have your cootie shot."
Chowder cocked an eyebrow. "I do? That's it?"
He beamed. "YAY!"
Chowder rounded the corner and glanced up. His eyes locked with Panini's, who sat smirking on the wall.
She opened her mouth to speak, but Chowder interrupted her. "Before you 'hiiiiiii' at me…. listen up! I'm not afraid of you anymore! I may have lost my worms, but now I have my cootie shot!"
Her face brightened. "You lost your worms, huh?"
He was cut off as she hopped off the wall and kissed him on the cheek.
"BLECHH!" he exclaimed, frantically wiping his face. "Why didn't my cootie shot work?!" Chowder started to run circles around Panini. "That was still sooooo gross!"
"Well, duh, Chowder. Cooties don't exist."