'Ten Minutes Late for Reality' by Lou Morris (c) 1988, 1989, 1991, 2002, 2015. Twenty-two:

Twenty-two:

   "Don't!... Get up!... Until the bus stops!"

                                 - Ludy Very, a Cassville
bus driver dropping off a
couple of summer school
kids while driving her
school bus, coincidentally
numbered twenty-two.


   "And we'll be right back to 'Bugs, Daffy, Woody and
Dummy' right after these commercial messages!" the T.V.
blared.
   Mongo sat and watched from his seat in the waiting room
of the Sears automotive center.  His feet hurt from running
around the mall, avoiding cops, so he didn't mind sitting
down for a few minutes, watching some cartoons.
   A dirty mechanic strolled in, wiped his grubby hands on
his equally grubby shirt and asked, "Can I help you?"
   Since Mongo was the only person in the waiting room (not
including his bookbag) he turned to look at the dirty man.  
"Hi," he chirped.
   The mechanic frowned at him.  "Can I help you?" he asked
again.
   "Yeah!" Mongo smiled.  "We'd like two lemonades, please."
   The mechanic shook his head, then silently walked away
from the strange idiot sitting in the waiting room.
   Mongo turned his attention back to the television set
hung up on the wall.
   "Hey everybody!" the T.V. blared, "Listen up!  Now you
too can call up and waste your money on gigantic phone bills
all while talking to real live prerecorded messages from IRS
agents!  And if you're really lucky, you could be one of our
two daily winners!  This week's daily prize is a ticket to
Generic Corporation's Death Adventure!"
   "Wow," Mongo marveled.
   "So call 666-Audit right now!  ...Thirty dollars for the
first minute, twenty cents each additional minute.  Kid's!  
Be sure to ask someone for permission after you call."
   Click!
   Mongo shut the television off and ran to the nearest
telephone, his precious bookbag in tow.
   He came to an abrupt halt--someone was already using the
pay phone.
   "Well, Margie said that's what would happen if you kept
on using that silly stuff..." a fat lady in a balloon-like
green dress chattered into the pay phone.
   "Can I use the phone?" Mongo asked quietly.
   "No!"  She waved him away.  "Go away!"  She resumed her
discussion on the phone, "No, not you!  Just some stupid
skinny kid wanting to use the phone..."
   Mongo reached inside his bookbag, looking for a certain
something.  He didn't find it; he remembered that the nasty
policeman took his gun away.  What a jerk, Mongo thought; he
took my daddy's gun--I hope they don't throw him off the
police force for losing another one of his guns.
   "I'm telling you, Margie, that stuff doesn't work!  I
tried it last week and look at me now.  I didn't lose an
ounce!"
   Mongo trotted over to some other part of Sears, looking
for something that could prove useful.
   "I don't care what your doctor says... He's a nitwit!...
I'm telling--Now look!"
   Mongo found something useful in the sporting goods
section.  He walked casually back to the fat lady on the
phone.
   "Listen to me, Margie!... I know what I'm talking about!  
Those mushroom diets don't work all that good--I don't care
what your doctor..."  She shuddered to a halt, letting the
phone drop to the floor.  "Get away from me with that!"
   Mongo inched closer, adjusting the flame on his propane
torch a bit higher.
   "Aaaa!  Get away, you!"  She grabbed her purse and
squirmed away from Mongo's reach.  She ran down the isle,
screaming nonsense.
   Mongo put out the propane torch and placed it on the
nearest shelf.
   "Hello?" the phone said, "Alice, are you still there?"
   Mongo picked up the phone.  "Hello," he said.
   "Who is this?" the phone asked.
   Beep!  Bi--Beet--Ba--Baa...
   Mongo continued to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the
touch tones until she hung up, a minute later.
   He hung up then dialed "666-Audit"--collect.
   Bring!  Brrinng!
   Click!
   "Hi, welcome to IRS Phone!" the message blared.
   "Will you accept the charges for this call?" the operator
asked.
   "Glad you called IRS Phone..." the message continued.
   "Sounds like a yes to me."  The operator hung up, leaving
Mongo to chat with the message.
   "We have a special surprise for you!  Please hold for a
few moments..."
   "Sure!" Mongo chirped.
   A moment passed...
   "Hello?" a new voice asked.
   "Hi!" Mongo responded.
   "Who is this?" the voice asked.
   "It's me, Mongo!"
   "Well, guess what, Mongo?"
   "What?"  Mongo jittered with excitement.
   "You've just won a free pass to Generic Corporation's
Death Adventure!"
   "Yea!" Mongo cheered.
   "So what's your favorite call-in phone show?" asked the
voice, on the edge of hysteria.
   "Why, it's IRS Phone, of course!"


   Meanwhile, a disheveled mechanic trudged into the small
waiting room with two lemonades, only to find, to his
annoyance, that Mongo wasn't there anymore.