Andrew Bradshaw Conquers the Fountain of Youth (Part 2)
The Steam Town Shopping Center had seen its finer days. It was a massive, indoor structure and sad reminder of the 1980s—bookended with giant, failing department stores and littered with tinier ones in between, a third of which were empty, dark caverns caged up tightly in chain mail. Roaming its hallways were flocks of burnt-out teenagers, aimlessly wandering gray-hairs, and the occasional fast-walking suburban mom looking like she’d rather be anywhere else.
Andrew Bradshaw emerged from one of the mall’s ill-maintained public bathrooms, shirtless and in baggy swimming trunks. He clutched his bouquet of astilbe blossoms and made way to the center of the mall, which was where he met his fabled friend: the Fountain of Youth.
It was a rather unexceptional structure—a circular, concrete pond about 20 feet in diameter, tucked inside a raised garden bed of lava rock nurturing thick bushes of ersatz, dusty foliage. The water was clear, but it had the occasional bit of floating trash it. In the center emerged a spire shooting chunks of water about two feet in the air, which emitted enough of a trickle to reverberate off the structure's glass ceiling that was mottled in yellow. The floor was painted in baby blue and lined with a mosaic of coins—mostly pennies encrusted with green and white.
He dipped his toe into the pond and then retreated. It was cold. He shivered. He then made brief eye contact with a passing-by mother dragging a whimpering three-year-old daughter by the arm. Her eyebrows immediately shot up, but then she quickly retracted her gaze. She frowned, having trouble keeping herself from looking a second time.
“Why is that man—?” squeaked the child, but the mother yanked her away before she could complete the thought.
Andrew got used to the temperature of the fountain after wading in it awhile. The water went up to his knees. He even got so comfortable that he cupped his hands and scooped up water to wet his hair with. He let out a refreshed exhale.
He knelt down and, one by one, took each flower and gently laid it into the placid water. Each one, he pushed solemnly in all directions.
Then suddenly, he heard someone yell.
"Hey look! This kid thinks he's in a bath tub!"
Kid? thought Andrew. He harrumphed. But then he caught a glimpse of his arm. It was tiny and scrawny. Its skin was tight and its flesh springy. He looked at his thin, delicate fingers and his fingernails, which were pink and smooth as silk. He put his hands to his head to discover an entire helmet of straight hair, soft, and still wet from the water. Why, his head hadn't felt his head like this in…
Then he heard the sound of laughter. People were beginning to accumulate around the fountain, gawking. Mainly teenagers who donned black T-shirts and pins that accented every nook and cranny of their faces. But it wasn’t long before anyone else seemed to get in on the act.
“Get a load of the naked kid!” one of them yelled.
Andrew quickly glanced down at himself. It was true. There was nothing there except for his manhood. Or boyhood, rather. The water now came up to his bellybutton. His felt his heart pound with uncontrollable panic. Sweat accumulated at the back of his neck. His breathing became more and more labored as his eyes scanned frantically over the ever-thickening crowd. He blindly pawed at the water behind him, desperately trying to recover his lost swimming trunks. But all he could feel was wetness. He ducked into the pool in a vain attempt at hiding. But the laugher only got louder.
Then, there was the crack of a commanding voice.
“Hey kid,” it screamed. It was a security guard, quite young. “What do you think you're doing?”
Andrew gasped and once again got to his feet. The laughter grew even stronger. He felt something wet and soft sticking to his back. It was part of the nylon fabric of the swimming trunks. They were hula-hooped around his body, wafting dead in the water.
“Kid!” the security guard hollered, his voice cracking to a falsetto. “Get out of there! And take those flowers with you!”
Andrew gasped. He ducked again into the water, kicking and splashing, vying to free himself of the swimming trunks that were writhed about his ankles like wiry weeds. But once free, his next immediate aim was to agilely flee the scene. However, trying to run through waist-high water was like having bowling balls tied to his ankles. He felt his boyhood jiggle upon the insides of this thighs upon each lumbered step.
Once he climbed out, though, he'd managed to slip past the security guard, jolting in between people, crawling underneath legs, disappearing from sight.
“Code Red, I repeat, Code Red,” screamed the security guard into his radio. “We have a streaker! We have a streaker!”