The day was clear and beautiful. There were clouds in the sky but the clouds were fluffy and pretty, not menacing at all. Original, Honey, Cherry, and Terry walked together over a cobblestone street. They all felt pretty good. O-rig, of course, was very happy because Honey was right next to him. She actually held his hand and there was something thrilling about that. He also loved the incredible aroma of the South that made her so special to him. The smokiness was delightful. He wondered how different his life might be if Honey, the best honey BBQ beef jerky on Earth, hadn’t shown up at his door a few weeks before. He’d been searching for others like him, and though he wasn’t barbecue flavored at all, there was no doubt that Honey and he were soulmates. 100% quality American USDA beef. They were clearly a world apart from other beef jerky imposters.
Of course, Terry was the best tasting teriyaki beef jerky on the planet. He was different from Honey and Original but there was no doubt he was struck from the same mold. He looked pretty happy as they walked because he had his hand in Cherry’s. Apart from Cherry being the absolute best cherry maple beef jerky anyone would ever taste, she was the sweetest thing O-rig had ever met. O-rig thought Terry fell in love with her the moment they met, and that was fine because she sure seemed to like Terry a lot.
Original’s thoughts were interrupted by Cherry’s voice. “Are you sure this is the right place, Terry? I only see… well, not us.” O-rig looked around. She was right. There were a great many walking around and they called themselves beef jerky but they certainly didn’t look tender. They didn’t look like beef at all. Some of them looked like twisted gray twigs. Some of them looked like chunks of dry cardboard. None of them looked meaty and succulent like Terry, Honey, and Cherry. And me, Original though. Me too. They also didn’t look happy at all. O-rig could understand that. After all, how in the world could someone be happy if he was all dried up? How could someone find joy with a run of the mill recipe?
“Well,” Terry said. “This is the little town, and the clown with the polka dots said we’d find someone special here.”
Cherry shrugged. “I guess we’ll just keep looking.”
“Y’all got to realize that sometimes we need to go slow,” Honey said. “I mean, it you throw something on a barbecue and you cook it fast it gets all dry and tough. You got to be patient. You got to be like a raccoon waiting for a hound to get bored.” Terry and Cherry looked at Honey in confusion. Original was proud of himself, though. He was starting to understand all of the quirky southern things Honey would say.
There was suddenly a loud commotion up ahead. None of the folks in the town seemed to even notice but Original hurried forward. The others followed. They crested a little hill and Original sighed. There wasn’t anything bad happening, just a game of kickball with a number of spectators. The four friends moved closer and watched. “I haven’t played kickball since I was in school,” Original said. “I never thought I would miss it but I guess I—”
He stopped talking because someone walked up to home base. There was no question about it. He was just like the four of them. The guy had a nice, deep, reddish beefy color. He was speckled with black and brown. “I think it’s Peppered from your list,” he whispered to Honey. He heard Honey whisper that she agreed. He glanced at his friends. They all watched the game intently. A moment later the ball was pitched or rather rolled. Seeing Peppered move was like watching athletic poetry in motion. His foot connected with the red rubber ball and it seemed like a rocket launched it. It went right over the heads of all of the players. It went right over the crowd. It just kept going. It sailed through the hair until it landed on a cute little white cottage, bounced off and rolled back.
The crowd went wild. They watched as the guy rounded the basis and heard an announcer over a loudspeaker say, “Well, that’s the game, folks. Let’s give the players a big round of applause.” The crowd went wild again and the four friends made their way down the hill. It wasn’t hard to find their target. He stood in the midst of a bunch of little cocktail wieners, signing autographs. The four friends waited patiently until he was done and then Original stepped forward.
“You’ve got some kick, man,” he said.
The guy nodded. “Yeah. I was marinated in a special pepper sauce for twenty-four hours before I was smoked for four hours. It’s the peppercorns that give me such a nice kick.”
Honey sighed. “Yep. He’s one of us.”
O-rig introduced himself and his friends and the guy with kick said, “I’m Pep. I’ve got lots of pep. I mean, my full name is Classic Peppered Beef Jerky but who wants to say all that. You can call me Pep. I didn’t know there were others like me!”
Cherry smiled. “That’s why we’re here. We’re on a quest to find others like us! Do you want to join us?”
“Will there be kicking involved? I have a nice pepper kick.”
Original smiled. He really liked this guy. “Well, Pep,” he said. “We just don’t know but we’ve come across a lot of situations and I’m sure a good kick could come in handy. What do you say?”
Pep smiled. “I say we’re wasting daylight! Let’s get going!”
And so the four friends became five. O-rig took Honey’s hand again. Terry took Cherry’s hand again. As for Pep, he moved slightly ahead of the rest of them, darting from left to right and looking around and just being peppy in general. Original felt great and it took him just a few minutes to realize he felt so great because he’d forgotten what loneliness felt like. He just wasn’t alone anymore and it was a wonderful feeling.