“Once upon a time has been put upon once too often,” said eighth grade English teacher Mr. Henderson. “Let’s see if we can give it some new life. Any suggestions, class?”
“Once upon a big pair of shoes!” said Margaret.
“Yes!” said Mr. Henderson. “I like it. Once upon a big pair of shoes what?”
“There stood a stout man!” said Joey.
“All right, guys!” said Mr. Henderson. “You’re getting the idea. “So what’s this stout man doing besides standing around in his big shoes?”
“He’s searching for clues!” said Sydney.
“Ah!” said the teacher. “A detective story. This is getting interesting. What sort of clues is our detective looking for?”
“Fingerprints!” said Ellen. “Big chocolate fingerprints!”
“Why chocolate?” said Mr. Henderson.
”So he can see the fingerprints better,” said Ellen. “That‘s how my mom nows when my little brother has been in her box of chocolates. He leaves chocolate fingerprints all over the house. And sometimes on the dog.”
“I like the way you think, Ellen,” said Mr. Henderson. “Chocolate fingerprints it is. But whose chocolate fingerprints is the detective looking for?”
“The door knob robber!” said Jack.
“A door knob robber?” said Mr. Henderson. “That’s great, Jack. This is turning into quite a story. But why is he stealing door knobs?”
”Because they‘re made out of chocolate!” said Ben.
”Chocolate door knobs?” said Mr. Henderson.
“Yes," said Ben. “He’s stealing chocolate door knobs so they can’t find his fingerprints.”
“I get it!” said Jack. “He steals the door knobs, then he takes them home and eats the evidence!”
“Ha, ha,” laughed Mr. Henderson. “Excellent! This chocolate door knob robber is going to be pretty hard to catch. It’s the perfect crime! Or is it?”
The stout detective stood in his big shoes and stared at the hole in the door.
"It was there when I went to bed last night,” said Mrs. Tuttle.
The stout detective held his magnifying glass up to the hole where the door knob used to be and sighed.
"No finger prints,” he said. “Pretty clever thief to be stealing chocolate doorknobs and only chocolate doorknobs.”
This was the stout detectives twelfth visit to a gingerbread house this morning. And all were missing their chocolate doorknobs. Nothing like this has ever happened in Gingerbread Village. It was a tranquil and pretty little community. Crime of any sort was unknown.
The stout detective headed the lost and found department. He was only ever called on to detect things that were lost: dogs, shoes, mittens, kites and balloons etc.
But stolen goods? Never.
The stout detective absentmindedly toyed with the gummy bear door knocker and asked Mrs. Tuttle if she noticed anyone different in the neighborhood.
“Well,” she said, “there’s the Graham Cracker family. They moved in down the street a month or so ago. They seem nice, considering they’re not gingerbread people. We had them over for milk the other night. They were dull as horse shoes, but harmless enough.
“Their little dog Marshmallow was a handful, though. Very feisty. Nipping at the pretzel stick logs in the fireplace and chewing on Grampa’s sugar cane pipe.”
“The Graham Crackers and Marshmallow, you say,” said the stout detective. “I’d like to pay them a visit. What do these Graham Crackers look like?”
“Oh,” said Mrs. Tuttle, “they don’t look like gingerbread people. They’re brown like us, but not as decorated. Plain is a word that comes to mind. I guess you could say they were rectangular. Though, I thought they were quite the squares."
Mrs. Tuttle laughed so hard at her little joke that gingerbread crumbs sprayed out of her nose.
“Quite amusing,” said the stout detective. Though he didn’t so much as smile at the joke.
“I’ll go have a talk with these Graham Crackers,” he said. “ Thank you for your time.”
When the stout detective approached the Graham Cracker home he was overcome with the unmistakable smell of a campfire and the yapping of a dog.
The stout detective got down on all fours and approached a nearby dog house.
The first thing he noticed was the snarling yellow teeth of Marshmallow as he lay atop a pile of chocolate doorknobs.
“Gotcha!” said the stout detective. “Come out slow and no one gets hurt!”
Marshmallow thought for a moment, then grabbed as many chocolate doorknobs as he could manage and dashed out the back door on his hind legs, with the stout detective giving chase.
“Stop! Thief!” he said.
His shouting so startled Marshmallow that the dog stumbled and fell into the campfire that was roaring in the backyard.
Mrs. Graham Cracker shrieked at the mishap and plucked her gooey mess of a dog out of the fire, holding him tight in her arms.
After comforting the dog, she then bent over to place him in his favorite seat around the campfire. But when she stood up, the dog came up with her. It being stuck to her flat and crumby chest like hot tar on a tin roof.
And the harder she tried to dislodge Marshmallow, and his load of chocolate, the more distorted he became.
Mr. Graham Cracker, who had been napping in the hammock, was unaware of her predicament. And, upon waking and seeing his Marshmallow in the loving arms of his wife, decided to run in for a group hug.
The tight, loving embrace caused Mr. Graham Cracker to bond with his wife and dog in a way he had not anticipated and they promptly suffocated.
The rest, you could say, is campfire history.
The stout detective, wishing to avoid a lot of paperwork, and, having already missed breakfast and lunch, decided to eat the evidence.
No one’s going to believe this stuff, anyway, he said to himself. The Graham Crackers and a dog named Marshmallow? Ha!
After a few bites, the stout detective leaned back in the camping chair and licked at the gooey mess on his finger tips.
“These Graham Crackers may be plain,” he said, “but damn are they tasty when you put something in ‘em!”