Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | March 12, 2008

Cod Liver Oil

Pokrovka, Kyrgyzstan. July 29, 2005.

Paper Mache Creature

It all started with a cherry flavored lollipop at the dentists’ office. Betsy Sue had sat quietly all through her cleaning, even when Dr. Mortenberg used the long shiny thing with spikes, just so she could enjoy this one treat. The wrapper came off in a flourish, and Betsy Sue stuck her tongue out. Then she stopped.

Her lower lip started to quiver.

Something was terribly wrong. The lollipop was gray. Like the color of the bathtub water as it drains out.

She tugged her mother’s arm, “My lollipop is bad! I need a new one! Mom? Mommmm?!” But they were already halfway out to the car and there was no turning back.

Her mother shook her head no and switched her cell phone to the other shoulder.

Betsy Sue stuck out her tongue again. Maybe it was a new flavor. She touched the tip to the gray lollipop.

Betsy Sue’s scream was so loud her mother dropped the cell phone on the pavement and squeezed her hands against her ears.

“Betsy Sue, what in the world is the matter?!”

But the five-year-old had no words to describe the utter disappointment and anguish of discovering that the cherry lollipop she had endured torture to earn was not only a morbid shade of gray, but tasted like cod liver oil. Betsy Sue didn’t even know what cod liver oil was, but she knew that whatever she’d just tasted was the most horrible taste in the whole universe. So Betsy Sue kept screaming.

Just one town away, a sixth grader named Fredrick opened a bag of Peanut M&Ms. Every single one was bathtub-water-gray. Lucky for Fredrick, he didn’t try to eat any. But two towns away, little Isaac McMansfield wasn’t so cautious. He bit off a whole chunk of his gray colored twizzler and tasted cod liver oil on his tongue for a whole week!

It was an epidemic of historical proportions. By the end of the month, all the candy in the whole world was infected. The newspapers ran photos of crying kids, while distraught mothers and fathers frantically opened all the candy in the grocery story aisles, hoping for red or pink or green, or any color other than gray. Store managers pointed fingers at the candy factories, the candy factories accused the sugar farmers, and the sugar farmers blamed global warming.

Meanwhile, forgotten in a ball of dust underneath Isaac McMansfield’s bed, was an abandoned lime flavored Runt named Nurt. He’d once belonged to a whole family of runts. He remembered bumping down the assembly line at the factory, falling into a large orange box, and then being carried home in Isaac’s grubby hands. The boy ate all the strawberry flavored runts in one mouthful, then the cherry ones, then the orange, then the banana, but he threw the lime ones on the floor, and his puppy ate all of them except for Nurt, who’d bounced all the way under the bed. This was a whole year ago.

Nurt didn’t see Isaac bite into the gray cod liver oil twizzler, but he heard his screams. And the rest of the gray twizzler landed on the floor near where Nurt’s lime friends had been eaten. But not even a puppy would touch that terrible twizzler. Nurt shook of the dust and inched his way around gum wrappers and legos and race cars to the half-eaten candy.

He sniffed it.

It was unmistakable. It was unthinkable. It was unbearable. And most of all, it was evil.

The cod liver oil ghosts were creatures of legend in the candy factory. They were tiny, vicious, and invisible to humans. Once given even the tiniest taste of sugar, they’d multiply until the factory was swarming with hungry ghosts and the gut-wrenching stench of cod livers. Usually the runts kept them at bay, but something had gone wrong. Terribly wrong.

And now not a single living candy was left to stop the chaos.

Except for Nurt.

He took one long look at the twizzler and opened up his lime mouth as far as it would go.

“BOOOOO!” He screamed.

Five tiny ghosts scuttled of the twizzler and bounced away faster than fleas, but Nurt was faster still. And he was lucky he was lime, not banana or strawberry. He squeezed his mouth into a circle and spat out five pellets of the sourest sour flavoring in his tiny runt stomach. Cod liver oil ghosts love sugar, but they hate sour. In fact, it destroys them.

The twizzler burned with a happy red color.

Nurt looked up at the open window. Out there was a world full of candy waiting to be cured. Could one lime flavored runt save the day?



  1. hehe, I love this! I think it’s my new favorite. 🙂

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