Alex was running late. He had been staying up in his basement chemistry laboratory, which was complete with a ton of materials and concoctions he loved to mess around with. He liked to watch science fiction shows on TV, wondering if somehow he could invent some novel solution, such as a potion that could make someone invisible, or cause a rupture in the space-time continuum. At the moment, though, he had to get to school fast. One more tardy slip, and he would probably get a detention. The only fast way was down Pleasant Street, which Alex usually tried to avoid. He struggled to think of a different route, one that would allow him to avoid Mr. Hiram’s house.
Pleasant Street was really a misnomer. The street was pleasant enough with trees and brightly colored houses lining each side of the avenue. Every single man, woman, and dog who lived there, however, were most unpleasant. But Mr. Hiram was the meanest of them all, and he was an early riser, making him even harder to avoid. Making matters worse, he was often seen walking his dog at the same time Alex was running to school.
Alex sprinted down the sidewalk, hoping Mr. Hiram wouldn’t be home. He kept his head down, concentrating on his feet. He heard the creaking sound of a door being slowly opened. The door slammed, and Mr. Hiram stepped out of his bungalow.
“Hey, boy, whatcha doing here!”
Alex pretended not to notice.
“Stop! Stop right now! Hey, you, you stinky rotten little boy, you come back here! Dang! Dang you!” His grey eyebrows moved comically up and down. He pointed accusingly with his gnarled fingers at the retreating boy. “Get out! Leave and don’t come back! Yeah, that’s right, go on! LEAVE!”
Alex sighed. Just another encounter with Mr. Hiram. He dashed up the steps to Ann Arbor High School. He remembered many times throughout his life when Mr. Hiram pestered him. He had no idea why the old man was always angry and yelling. That’s just how he is, Alex thought. The bell rang, signifying his tardiness. Drat, he thought.
By the end of the day, Alex was in a foul mood. He scored poorly on his history exam, and the thought of his encounter with Mr. Hiram in the morning rankled him. He felt that Mr. Hiram had ruined his whole day. It was Mr. Hiram’s fault he had failed the test. He needed revenge. Retaliation. Reprisal.
He picked up a dozen eggs from the grocery. As he walked back home, he hoped that Mr. Hiram wouldn’t be there when he arrived. Alex was relieved to find that his blue sedan was nowhere to be seen. He must have driven off somewhere, Alex thought. He checked to see that no other neighbors were watching. Spotting nobody, he cracked an egg and poured the contents into Mr. Hiram’s mailbox. Those better have been important documents, Alex hoped as he spilled the gooey substance between envelopes. He then dropped the eggshell on the doormat, while he chucked another egg at the doorknob. He hid the rest under a bush in case he needed them later.
The next day Alex was running late again. He dreaded encountering Mr. Hiram again on Pleasant Street, but he knew that if he was late to class one more time Mrs. O’Leary would send him to the principal's office.
This time Mr. Hiram was walking his dog on the opposite side of the street. “You!” he snapped. “Are you deaf or something? Mentally retarded? I know somebody put an egg in my mailbox.” The man’s raucous voice throbbed in the boy’s ears. “It better not have been you, or you’re in big trouble. You hear that? Leave! And don’t come back, mind you!” he thundered. “And if anything happens when I am on my vacation in Florida, well, I’ll hold you responsible!”
By the end of the day, Alex’s resentment toward Mr. Hiram had festered until it seemed it could not be more intense. He wished Mr. Hiram would go to Florida and never come back. Remembering his prank from the day before, he tried to find the remainder of his eggs, but they were gone! Plus, the grocery was closed on Tuesday. Alex turned back home.
Finding no eggs in his mother’s refrigerator, Alex was dismayed at the thought that he wouldn’t have any ammunition to further punish Mr. Hiram. He tried to think of something else gooey and sticky like an egg yolk but found no plausible solution. So he set to work developing his own slime. He mixed glue and borax in a large bowl. He added some milk to make it more liquidy and sardines to made it stink. It was wet, slimy, sticky, and disgusting, but Alex felt it was lacking in one aspect.
He stayed up late that night examining the substances in his chemistry supplies shelf, much of which he had gotten as gifts from his parents and grandparents. Most of his materials were mild compounds, however. Nothing that would hurt anybody. But because his mom was a chemist, she had access to many compounds and mixtures which Alex raided. He added a bit of corrosive acid, stinky sulphur, and sticky acrylate to his mixture. But as he was putting back his compounds, he noticed a strange packet that he had never seen before. It read, “EXPANDER. VOLATILE: USE NO MORE THAN 1.5 GRAMS.”
Alex didn’t know what it would do, so he tested it out by pouring exactly one and a half grams into a beaker. As he was pouring it into his slime, he slipped and accidentally dropped the rest of the packet into his mixture! Hearing footsteps on the stairs outside, he quickly moved his slime to his own lab and put his mother’s materials carefully away. Just then, his mom entered the house.
Expecting Alex to be asleep, she was startled to see the light from his workshop. “What’s that? Boy, it sure stinks! Get that out of my house right now! It's time for bed, young man!”
Alex quickly put the slime in the backyard, brushed his teeth, and went to sleep, trying to clear his head. As he was sleeping, he had no idea of the events taking place outside his house. The ooze he had made slowly tipped out of its bowl and started bouncing. Each time it bounced, it rose higher and higher. And when it came down again, it suddenly grew by small increments until it was 15 meters tall!
The slime bounced silently over the backyard fence and down the street. It bounced east to Pleasant and turned left. After bouncing up and down the street, it careened straight toward the sky and came hurtling down like a meteor - right on Mr. Hiram’s house! The old structure creaked, groaned, and finally sank to the ground, crushed by the slime.
By the time morning dawned the slime had melted and only a trace of stinky puddle remained. All the news media reported the strange phenomenon by television, radio, and newspaper. Notified by telephone, Mr. Hiram curtailed his vacation. As his ruined house was unfit to live in, he decided to stay with his brother in Ohio.
That same morning, Alex was again late for school and forced to walk down Pleasant. When he discovered that Mr. Hiram’s house was in ruins, he could find no explanation for it. It was unbelievable. And the slime was gone too. He had no idea what happened, but the next time he needed to walk down Pleasant, he actually enjoyed the walk. He remarked that it was pleasant for once and started taking the shortcut every day.
One day he saw a group of men surrounding the ruined house, filling out a copious amount of paperwork. Their coats read USAA Home Insurance. As Alex walked past, he heard their conversation. “What was the name of the policyholder again?” asked one.
“US Army Major Sergeant Hiram,” the other responded.
Alex never knew that the old Mr. Hiram had been a soldier. He never really had thought about it before. All he knew was that he was a nasty old man. Alex wondered if he was always like that, or if something changed him. Alex suddenly felt sorry for the man. He felt bad that Mr. Hiram, who had risked his life in service for his country, lost his home and possessions because of some unexplainable accident.
Alex was glad it wasn’t his fault that the house was wrecked. He wondered what had happened to Mr. Hiram’s house - and his slime. Perhaps, he thought, science fiction stories were real. It was completely unexplainable.
Alex wrote a letter to Mr. Hiram, apologizing for the mean things he did. And thanks to the home insurance, Mr. Hiram was able to rebuild and move back.
The next time Alex walked to school, Mr. Hiram was reading a newspaper on his porch. “Good morning!” greeted Alex. “Glad to see you back!”
“Good morning to you, too,” said Mr. Hiram, in a kind voice. That afternoon as Alex walked back along the same route, he offered to rake Mr. Hiram’s leaves for him. When he was done, Mr. Hiram offered him five dollars.
“I don’t need that, sir.”
“Ah, I insist. Gratuity.”
Soon, the incident with the slime was forgotten. Neither knew what had happened, but they both put it behind them and became friends.