The Predicament, a short story by Dawn DeBraal at
Hennie Stander

The Predicament

The Predicament

written by: Dawn DeBraal


Darryl didn’t want to sit in the commons with no one to talk to. Should he grab a candy bar or something salty like chips? He punched G16, chips. The wire in the machine spun around stopping short of dropping the bag down to the drawer below.
Darryl swore as he used a little muscle. All it needed was the smallest bit of movement and the chips would fall into the tray. But something stopped it from moving forward.
He wasn’t about to spend any more money. Besides, he didn’t have three more quarters to waste. It was so close to falling he could taste those chips. He rocked the machine as much as he could. The bag teetered but remained behind the wire guide.
He looked left and right, no one else was in the vending room of the cafeteria. Darryl squatted down on his haunches. Perhaps he could get the door to open enough to snake his arm up into the machine forcing the chips to fall. He wasn’t stealing, he reasoned with himself, he’d paid his money.
His hand went through the spring door that clamped down on his arm like a steel trap. Darryl pushed his arm even further. His hand touched the bottom of the foil bag.
“Come on,” he encouraged the little bag to drop. He pushed his arm in further turning his head away, felt the bag fall with a satisfied “plouch.”
“Yes,” elated, Darryl pulled his arm out realizing the cuff of his jacket had caught on the wire, and the spring-loaded door had cut off his circulation.
“Dammit,” he cursed again. Darryl tried to turn his body enough to force the door open. Maybe he would have enough room to loosen his arm. The frustrated man punched through the delivery door with his other hand. He felt the chips in the tray, taking them out, Darryl put them on the floor in front of him. He couldn’t get his hand up high enough to unstick his coat from the wire spooling thing. Darryl tried to take his jacket off letting the other arm out first, but he couldn’t get his other hand out. He hoped to get enough slack on the garment to push the sleeve above the wire to release it. The coat was too tight, and his hand was stuck in the machine.
“Hey,” another student called to him. “What are you doing? That’s theft.”
“No, I paid for the chips, but they wouldn’t come out. I put my arm up to knock them off the shelf and my coat sleeve got stuck. I need help.”
The young guy walked around the machine taking in the sight. He saw the chips on the floor.
“I don’t know, man, you look pretty stuck. Maybe I can get the janitor to open the door, and they can unhook your sleeve.” Darryl sighed. Just what he needed, to be caught with his hand in the machine. Adding to his embarrassment, he was still longing for the chips.
“Great, get the janitor. But please, can you open the chips for me? I’m starving.” The guy pulled the bag open by pulling the sides away from one another, the right way. He handed Darryl the chips.
“Thanks, man.” Darryl put the bag on the floor. With his free hand he took a chip out of the bag. His arm was starting to hurt. And he couldn’t help but notice, was his hand swelling? “Please get a janitor right away!”
The kid took off, Darryl continued to eat the chips finishing off the bag. Fifteen minutes had passed. Where was the kid, with the janitor? Darryl wondered. Did he start calling out for help? He rummaged around in his coat pocket which was halfway up the machine, finding his cell phone. He looked up the number of the college, asked for the building staff.
“Clayton, here.” The call answered on the fourth ring.
“Hello! My name is Darryl Weims. I got my arm stuck up a vending machine when it didn’t dispense my chips.”
“Is this some kind of a joke?” Clayton didn’t sound amused.
“No, it’s not a joke. Another student was supposed to get you, but never came back.”
“I was on my lunchbreak. So, you are in the cafeteria in the vending room portion?”
“Alright I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Please hurry, my hand is swelled up and my jacket is caught on the little wire thing.”
“How the hell did you get your hand up that far?” When Darryl started to cry, true snot bleeding snuffing cry, the guy’s attitude changed.
“I’ll be right there with the keys.” When Clayton walked into the little room off the cafeteria he bent over laughing, seeing Darryl on the floor with his hand inside the machine and the cuff of his jacket caught on the dispensing spool.
“Let me guess, you punched G16.”
“Those chips will kill you,” Clayton liked his joke. The janitor rummaged for the key fob on his belt noting the number on the machine he stepped over Darryl and turned the key. The door opened slightly, putting Darryl’s arm at a more peculiar angle.
“Ow, ow, ow!” Darryl shouted. Clayton tried to separate the front from the vending machine so he could get his hand in to remove the jacket impaled on the spoke. He tugged a few times, to no avail. He pushed his hand in further and his sleeve caught on G17.
“I’ll be damned.” Clayton tried to move his wrist up and down, but he was stuck. “Move toward the other machine,” he said quietly. Darryl scooched himself backward, the pain in his arm was excruciating.
“This can’t be happening.” Darryl’s voice took on a flavor of panic.
“Hold still, you are crushing my hand.” Clayton reprimanded. A young female student walked into the vending room.
“Oh sorry,” she said as she turned around to leave.
“No, don’t go!” Darryl called out, “We need help.”
“What’s your name?” Clayton asked her.
“Lena do you have any money? I need you to purchase a candy bar and some chips. We are stuck in the machine.”
“Oh, I don’t eat that junk. I have just enough for a healthy snack.”
“Lena I will pay you back. Just put in your money and buy G16 and G17, we are stuck in the machine. Lena reached into her purse and shook it. She found the quarters she needed.
Awkwardly she stepped over Darryl and stood in between them. She put three quarters in punching G16. The spool spun the opposite direction releasing Darryl’s jacket cuff. He pulled it out massaging his hand. Lena then put in another seventy-five cents pushing G17, freeing Clayton’s hand. Darryl and Lena stepped away from the hand eating monster, they watched Clayton lock it back up.
“Wow, thank you.” Darryl said to the janitor, who thanked Lena.
“What about my dollar fifty?” Lena asked.
“Your lunch is on me,” Darryl told her. “Er, I mean would you like to have lunch with me?” Darryl offered his arm, the one with the torn jacket sleeve to Lena.
“I’d love to!” Lena took his arm and they walked into the main cafeteria. Today he made two new friends, it was only his first day of college.


The End

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