The Battery Lickers

by Jay HOLLEY
 

Emily hugged onto the back legs of the yellow ladder, straddling two of its galvanized feet with her size four ballet slippers.

“Hold tighter,” barked her slightly-older brother Brandon from a few rungs above. Brandon was quite scared as he climbed to the rickety summit, stood on sneakered tip-toes, and unhinged the plastic casing of the smoke detector.

“I’m holding as tight as a girl can hold,” Emily assured him, “but maybe if you weren’t such a fatty I could hold a little stronger.”

Brandon pulled a fudgesickle stick from his jeans pocket and wiggled it under the battery. The battery popped from the plastic housing and fell to the green carpet between Emily’s toes. Both siblings looked at the gleaming silver 9-volt and smiled at their conspiracy.

“Shut it back and come down here,” Emily instructed her slightly-older brother, “shut it back.” Brandon’s legs were wobbly but he stretched back to his tiptoes, snapped shut the smoke detector and eased down the paint-splattered ladder.

Brandon and Emily closed the folding ladder and together leaned it against the herringbone wallpaper. They sat in front of their much-older brother Aaron’s room triumphant, taking turns pressing the battery’s terminals against their tongues.

“What if there’s a fire,” wondered Brandon, “and Aaron dies for lack of warning.” Emily frowned, then motioned for her brother to pass the battery.

“I’m prepared to take that risk,” she answered, her response mumbled because of the electric current scrambling across her mouth.

“Yeah,” agreed Brandon, stretching out his fingers and motioning for the battery’s return, “what did he ever do for us?”

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