This story takes place before DBZ begins. Also, please have some sympathy for the obvious misspellings. At this point, the only WP program I have on my computer is Wordpad and it doesn't have a spell checker. And, my sweet, wonderful, husband hasn't found the disc for Word, that he "borrowed" from me about three weeks ago, so until we dig it up, I'm screwed.
Goku looked up from what he was doing, which happened to be lifting the sofa so he could get some of Gohan's toys out. The boy had been playing on the floor just before his bed time and had somehow managed to get several of his blocks and other toys under the sofa. While they weren't visible, Goku knew that ChiChi would be able to just "sense" disorder in the room when she entered. That was the kind of woman ChiChi was at times. Like he could sense a person's ki, ChiChi could sense a misplaced object or a renegade dust ball just by being in the room. It was her gift, and since it had proven to be correct so many times, Goku didn't question it anymore.
However, right now, ChiChi was in the kitchen, and Goku was kicking out the last of the toys from under the couch. Two blocks, a crayon that was covered with some sticky substance, and a stuffed monkey were pushed out of their prision to the relative freedom of the open livingroom floor. The crayon, he suspected, had spent part of its evening up Gohan's nose. Earlier at dinner, Goku had shoved two string beans up his nose, and pretended to be a walrus, much to Gohan's delight and ChiChi's dismay. "Goku, this isn't a barn, and you're setting a bad example for the boy!" As to be expected, Gohan didn't remember the lesson, ("Just because your Daddy does foolish things, doesn't mean you should!") but he sure remembered the walrus trick and was doing it with crayons, drinking straws, pencils, or any other appropriate object he could find. Part of Goku knew he'd better start looking for the matching booger covered crayon to go with this one before ChiChi found it instead. But the "Oh dear" made him pause.
He debated if he should ask what was wrong, then decided instead just to wait. He lifted the couch higher and looked for the second crayon. Nope, under the sofa was clean. He placed the sofa down and bent over to start picking up the wayward toys.
Two "Oh dears" in the span of two minutes. This wasn't good. "Is something wrong?" he called.
"We're out of milk!"
Goku pondered this dilema for a bit, as he finished scooping up the toys, and tossing them into the toybox. The toybox itself was a gift from ChiChi's father, the Ox King. It was made of thick, hard wood, and upper part of it looked like a bench seat, while under it, was a nice, fairly deep box. It appealed to ChiChi, because it served a purpose for adults (extra seating) while providing a storage area for Gohan's toys. Goku liked it because if you filled the bottom with all Gohan's toys, it got pretty heavy, and was good for weight lifting, when the weather was bad and ChiChi forbade him to go outside to train.
As he loaded the toys, and closed the lid with a satisfying "thud" (the sticky crayon was lying on a tissue on the coffee table, Goku planned on washing that off before he returned it to the crayon box) he pondered the situation with the milk. I wonder if ChiChi made cookies! Cookies go great with milk, and maybe that's why she's upset. Cause we can't have cookies with milk! He sniffed the air, but there was no sign of baking. Disappointed, he padded into the kitchen, his bare feet making no noise at all.
ChiChi's back was to him, staring into the refrigerator, as if by sheer force of will, she could make a gallon of milk appear. Actually, if she did manage to do this, she would have been a lot more surprised than Goku. Goku believed ChiChi had powers she hadn't yet explored and making milk appear out of thin air would have been proof of his theory.
Slipping up behind her, Goku stared into the refrigerator, thinking maybe he could stare too. Maybe the power of both of them would make the milk appear, or, maybe he'd just see something good to eat.
ChiChi reached out to move a jar of pickles, as if a gallon of milk might be able to hide behind a small pickle jar. As she reached for the jar, her fingers just reaching around the cold, slippery, glass, she felt hot air on her neck. Before her brain could register the sensation and figure out what it was, the hot breath was followed by a very cheerful noise.
"Did you find any milk?"
"Augh!" Startled and unable to stop herself, ChiChi knocked the pickle jar out of the refrigerator. It fell to the floor with a resounding crash, shattering and scattering pickles and broken glass, and filling the air with the unmistakable smell of pickle juice. She whirled around. "Goku, don't do that?"
"Do what?" Goku asked sniffing the air. "Mmm, pickles. Now I'm hungry for a sandwich!"
"Sneak up on me like that!" ChiChi scolded, more out of fear than anger and totally ignoring her husband's desire for a sandwich. If she knew one thing about Goku, it was that if she indulged him by feeding him whenever he complained of hunger, he'd be enormous and she'd be exhausted. "Look what you made me do!"
"I didn't do it, you did," Goku pointed out.
"Oh you!" She reached out and tapped him on the nose. Some pickle juice had splashed onto her fingers, and her semi-gentle nose tap left a greenish tinged blob of liquid on his nose. "Now I have to clean up this mess!"
"I'll do it," Goku offered, as he reached up, wiping off the drop of pickle juice on his nose then licked it off his finger.
"No," ChiChi shook her head. "I'd rather you went and got some milk."
"Gosh," Goku looked out the window. "It's a little late. Do you want me to go now?"
"Yes, Goku," ChiChi said with a tired patience that can only come to a woman who often has to explain things to her husband that most people would grasp immedietly. "Gohan will need milk for breakfast tomorrow."
"Aw, we have orange juice," Goku said, pointing into the refrigerator where a carton of orange juice sat. "He can go without milk for one breakfast."
ChiChi had already been expecting that answer and had her comeback. "But, Goku, if I don't have milk, I can't make brownies and I was going to make some brownies this evening," she said, her voice sweet.
"Brownies?" His brows raised and expression of extreme interest coming to his face.
"Yes, Goku. Warm, fudgy, chewy, brownies!"
"With chocolate chips and walnuts?" He could feel himself beginning to salivate.
"Of course! They wouldn't be brownies without chocolate chips and walnuts!"
"And.. I can have some, still warm from the oven?" He was starting to drool.
"I was going to make a separate two dozen, just for you to do that!" ChiChi looked at him, her eyes round, fluttering her lashes slightly. "But, as everyone knows, you can't wash down thick, chewy, fudgy, brownies without a nice, cold, frothy glass of milk. But..." She paused, changing her expression to a calculated one of disinterest. "If you really don't want to go out this late, to get milk..." Another pause, this one to sigh, as if the idea of being unable to spend her free time, slaving over a hot stove, cooking brownies was a great sacrifice, but one she was willing to make for the comfort of her husband. "If you'd rather not..."
"I'll go, I'll go!" Goku said, eagerly.
"Good." ChiChi's expression flickered again, this time becoming an honest one of satisfaction and pleasure. "Why don't you just fly off to the store and get the milk. While you're gone, I'll clean up this mess and start on those brownies."
"Sounds good to me!"
Goku turned to go. As he did, ChiChi looked down at his feet. "Goku! Be careful, there's glass all over the floor and you don't have any shoes on!"
"Oops, I forgot! I should put on my shoes before I go anyway, right?"
"That sounds like a good idea. And change your clothes too, you got pickle juice on yourself."
Gingerly, Goku picked his way across the floor, until he got to the livingroom. As he stepped over the threashold, he stepped onto something that felt both long, hard, and sticky. Must be a wayward pickle from when the jar broke! he thought as he reached down to grab the object.
It wasn't a pickle. It was another sticky crayon. This one must have spent a long time up Gohan's nose, because even though the boy had gone to bed almost two hours ago, it was still sticky and damp. Goku smile, shifting the crayon so he could hold it pinched between the tips of two fingers. "Heh, so that's where you are!" he said, as he gently put it down next to the other one.
Five minutes later, he was walking outside the house, shoes on this time, wearing a clean gi, crayons washed safely in the bathroom and put back into the crayon box. He could see ChiChi through the kitchen window, squeezing out the mop, as she cleaned up the pickle mess.
Milk, Gokou thought, tipping his head to one side. Where can I get milk? There was a small village nearby, where they often ran to pick up last minute things, but at this hour of the night, the small general merchandile would likely be closed. I guess it's the city for me. I'd better fly. The sky was an even blanket of inky black tonight, a pale, wanning moon the only source of light, as if the stars had wanted to take a little holiday. He waved into the kitchen window at ChiChi, even though he knew she probably couldn't see him, and flew off into the night.
One of the many advantages of flying was that it enabled someone to cover distances the shortest way, in a straight line. So, even if Goku had a drivers licenes, a car, and had driven it to the city, it would have taken him at least 45 minutes. Flying, it took him less than 20. It shouldn't have even taken him that long, but he was distracted along the way, by a sweet cherry tree, who's branches were overloaded with fruit.
Popping the last handful of sweet cherrys into his mouth, Goku landed in the city. No one noticed him land. At first he thought that might be because of the extremely dark sky, but then he realized it was because no one was around. Spitting out several cherry pits at almost bullet speeds, Goku scratched his head. Hm... we haven't been to the city often at night, but I know it's not usually this quiet!
The sky might have had something to do with the lack of people, but Goku wasn't sure. It wasn't raining, just very dark out. A little too dark, to be honest. Maybe that's because of the lack of stars
Barely did the thought enter his head, when a shift of clouds, practically invisible in the dark sky, rolled across the moon, temporarily blocking out the waxy yellowish light. Goku shivered and frowned. Normally, the streetlights should have been spreading enough light to make things seem more cheerful, but tonight the light from them was casting strange shadows, as if protesting the lack of help from it's natural counterparts in the sky.
This is strange, Goku thought. But, it's not helping me get any milk. And if I want brownies tonight, I'd better return with milk soon! Not to mention Gohan needs milk for breakfast!
He looked around, trying to locate a store that could help. The street he was on was lined with stores and restaurants, but none of them seemed to be open. Frowning, he started walking down the street, knowing somewhere there had to be an all-night convenient store around.
As he turned the corner at the end of the street, he felt the breeze shifting and changing. Up until now, it had been a normal, lazy, night breeze. Now it was picking up speed, trying to work itself into a wind, and doing a darned good job of it. But unlike a normal wind, this one was hot, too hot. as if the sky was breathing down on him. It drove past him, scattering about bits of newspaper, and rattling discarded soda cans, that danced after it, as if it were some magical pied piper of city trash. Although Goku wasn't the most superstitious individual, he still got a bad feeling from this wind. He thought about turning and going down another street, one with a few more buildings, where the wind might have a little more trouble getting to him, but then he saw a bright light coming from the end of the street. If it's not a store, it's at least some place where people must be up and around, maybe they can tell me where I can buy milk!
As he hurried up the street, the wind blew past him more, again reminding him of hot, breath on his neck. Far off in the distance, he could hear a dog howl. The dog doesn't like this either, Goku thought. That dog wants someone to let him into the house where he'll be safe with his family
Despite the wind that reminded him of heavy breathing, Goku felt his luck might be doing pretty good, because the light he saw turned out to be a small convenient store. There was a display window that featured a variety of merchandise, haphazardly arranged, their boxes fadded into washed out colors that didn't really have a name, and were surrounded by dead, bloated, flies. A moth fluttered around the display lazily, as if trying to decide if it should keep living, or just join the flies. Above the display were one of those signs that lit up, that you could put up plastic letters and create your own message. In large print at the top, it said:
OPEN 24 HOURS!
Below that, in even bigger letters, it said:
BEER! CIGARETTES! LOTTERY TICKETS!
And then, below that, on the last line, in much smaller print it said:
milk, rice, bread, eggs, and more
Feeling a lot more cheerful than he had since arriving, Goku pushed open the door. Above his head, on the doorway, a bell jangled brightly. Inside the store it was a lot brighter and more cheerful than the window display hinted it would be. The place was small with several metal shelves that were crowded with brightly colored merchandise that all looked clean and fresh, as if it were just unpacked that morning.
To the left of the door was a small counter with an ancient cash register. Behind the counter sat a very old woman, her grey hair tied in a neat bun, balanced above a very wrinkled, but generally plesant looking face. She had been sitting on a stool, but when Goku came in she rose from it, watching him with dark eyes that seemed to see everything.
"Hello, Grandmother," Goku said, smiling.
"Hello, young man," The woman said, smiling at Goku's address of her. "What can I help you with this night?" Automatically, she started moving towards the rack of cigarettes, that being 90% of the reason people came to her store so late at night.
"Well, I don't need beer or cigarettes or lottery tickets," Goku begain. The woman pulled her hand back from the cigarette display, her smile deepening. Too many young people smoked these days, it was nice to see one, so healthy looking, who hadn't picked up the nasty habbit. "And I know whe have rice, bread, and eggs at home," Goku continued, "but we do seem to be short of milk!"
"Milk is in the cooler in the back," the woman said, pointing Goku in the general direction.
It took him less than a minute to reach the milk and grab a gallon of it. But it took him longer to get back to the counter, because he paused before a display of prepackaged pastries, debating if he should pick one up and eat them on the way home. On the one hand, it would give the woman in this store another sale, but on the other hand, ChiChi was going to make brownies. And there were still plenty of cherries on that tree he'd passed on the way here. No, I'd better just get the milk he finally decided and made his way to the counter.
"Can I get you anything else?" The woman said, when he put down the gallon jug on the counter.
Goku thought for a moment, then shook his head. "Nope, ChiChi told me just to get milk..." His voice trailed off as he remembered something. "Oh, wait, she knocked over the jar of pickles, maybe I should pick up a jar of those?"
"Why not?" the woman said, agreeably. "Better to have them, then to be sent again, right?"
"Well, I don't think she'd send me out for just pickles, again tonight. She's making brownies and brownies and pickles just don't mix."
"Not unless you're expecting another mouth to feed." The woman's eyes twinkled mischeviously.
Goku had to think about that for a moment, then the meaning clicked into his head. His first reaction was to smile, that he'd caught onto her joke, his second was to blush slightly. "No, I don't think so. Our son Gohan isn't even two yet, and ChiChi wants to wait until he's in school before she has another one... then again, babies don't always decide to be made when it's convenient for people... you don't think..."
"No, just an old woman, making a joke," The woman quickly interrupted, not wanting to cause this young man any grief. He's sweet as a summer day is long she thought to herself, But I don't think we're going to give this one any nobel prizes any time soon. No matter, a good heart is a lot harder to find than a good brain. "Pickles are in the second isle."
A moment later, Goku returned with a jar of garlic half-sour pickles and placed them on the counter, next to the milk. "So," the woman said, "That will do you tonight?"
"Yep, that should be it," Goku said, cheerfully.
The woman rang them up. Goku handed her the money ChiChi had given him. She handed him his change, then reached under the counter for a bag. "Paper or plastic?"
Goku frowned. On the one hand, paper bags were better for the environment, but in order to make them, you had to kill trees, which were plentiful where he lived, but not everywhere. On the other hand, plastic lasted too long and clogged up landfills. He never knew which one was the right one to use. He scratched his head, trying to remember what ChiChi usually got. As he looked around, he spotted a peg of canvis bags behind the woman, with a faded sign, written in red magic marker stuck to them. Reusuable shopping bags. 4 zennies each. That will work! Goku thought. "I'll take one of those too!" He pointed to the bags.
The old woman got one and put the pickles and milk into them. "Four zennies."
He was just a bit short on money for the bag. Oh shoot! he thought, as he fished in his pockets and found them surprisingly empty.
The woman looked at the assortment of bills and change he'd dumped on the counter and smiled. "Don't worry about it, young man, this is fine." She scooped up the money and put it in the cash register. As Goku watched, she reached into her apron pocket, pulled out a coin, and put it into the drawer. "There. Now no one will ever be the wiser."
"Wow, thanks!" Goku said. "That was really nice of you. The next time I come into the city, I'll bring you the money."
"Don't worry yourself about it," The woman said. "A bit of pocket change isn't going to make a difference when it comes time to pay the rent. You don't live in the city?" She added the last almost as an after thought.
"No, Grandmother. I live a ways away from here. I would have gone to the village for milk, but it's late and everything is closed."
The woman nodded. "I was thinking about closing up early tonight myself. There's an ill wind blowing, and my grandfather used to tell me an ill wind never blows good."
Goku's eyes widened. "I felt that wind when I was walking here. It felt nasty, like the sky was breathing down my neck or something."
Even as the words were coming out of his mouth, Goku half expected the old womans reaction to be either one of puzzlement, or one of mild amusement. Instead, she became serious and nodded. "Yes, an ill wind indeed. This time of year, the wind should be cooler."
"Yeah, and the sky is black as pitch," Goku continued, glad this woman understood exactly what he meant. "Do you think there's a storm coming?"
The woman stopped for a moment, thinking about this. "Perhaps," she said, almost reluctantly. "But a hot wind doesn't usually herald a storm. Well, no matter the reason, it can't be good. I'd suggest you get yourself home soon as possible. Your wife is probably worried about you and your boy is going to need that milk for breakfast."
"You're right," Goku said, nodding. "Thanks again!"
As the door jingled behind him, announcing his exit the same way it had announced his arrival, the old woman smiled. Sure, most of the time she had to deal with idiots and losers working the graveyard shift, but once in awhile, someone came along that made the job worth it. The young man leaving the shop was one of the rare ones that made her enjoy her job and keep at it, even though her children kept begging her to retire.