Omaha, Nebraska –
The front half of a chopped-up, orange Volkswagen beetle sat on the front porch of the Hollywood Candy shop. Protruding from the wall across from it, a five-foot tall nose inhaled the delicate fragrance of the flowers filling both sides of the path. Keagan and I stepped up to the door, careful to steer clear of the giant nostrils, lest a sneeze might be forthcoming.
Outside, the red brick building, cobblestone road, and vibrant plant life created a vague country charm that beckoned passersby. But inside, oh, yes, inside the store eclectic collections of pop culture, novelties, and antique toys transformed the old industrial building into a fun-house, a maze of pathways, little rooms, and hidden passages. The candy was merely an added bonus in the midst of the wondrous world.
Keagan snaked around bodies and chairs in the crowded, vintage dinner before sliding through a narrow opening and darting around the left. He halted just around the corner. I nearly bumped into him before noticing he had gone still, staring wide-eyed at a large, spinning candy cane. It was a portal to the North Pole.
“There isn’t time, Keagan. We must find the hippo.” He bowed his head, turned, and shuffled down the corridor, deeper into the heart of the shop. I trailed behind.
We continued to search the store, past the PEZ dispensers playing pin-ball, winding around piles of furniture, and peaking in each alcove before finally discovering the hippo. It was now a severed head hanging on the wall, a shadow of its former glory.
“It looks like we are too late. The ringmaster has had his revenge and left the hippo here for all to see.”
“But don’t you see, mom,” Keagan said, reaching out to touch my hand. “This is exactly where the hippo should be. Everything needed to save him is here.”
“The other half of him is missing. He can’t be saved.”
“Yes, he can. We’ll fill him up with sugar. Sugar makes everything better.”