It was a lovely day on Harvey Street, and the Harvey Girls - Audrey, Dot and Lotta - were in the kitchen of their trailer. The three of them had promised all of their friends that they would prepare a big lunch for everybody. This meal would consist of ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, with apple slices as the side dish. That was Dot's idea, of course; Audrey and Lotta appreciated the fact that she wanted everybody to have a healthy diet.
"Alright, girls," Dot said with a sigh of satisfaction. She reached over and picked up the pepper shaker. It was a black container with the word "Pepper" in white on it, and sealing it shut was a gray lid covered with tiny holes. "Now that all of the ingredients are in the right orders, all these sandwiches need now is a sprinkle of black pepper."
"Sounds good," said Audrey in agreement.
Dot began to shake the pepper up and down onto one of the sandwiches, and the spicy black particles fell onto the sandwich in front of her. That being said, a small amount of the pepper made its way onto Dot's nose, causing it to twitch quite a bit. She slowed down her shaking, tilted her head up as her eyelids lowered.
"Hehh... Haaah..." Dot tilted her head backward a few times, but then finally sent it as far back as it could go. She was about to sneeze - but unbeknownst to her, one of her friends knew this wasn't the time for her to explode. "HAAAAHHHHH-!"
Before she could sneeze, Lotta reached over and placed her forefinger directly underneath Dot's nose. Dot opened her eyes halfway as her urge to sneeze hung where it was, then faded away. She gave a sigh of relief, letting Lotta know that her attempt had worked.
"Phew. Thank you, Lotta," said Dot.
"Oh, you're welcome," Lotta replied with a smile. "That was close - too close."
"It certainly was." Dot placed a piece of bread over the small pile of bread, lettuce, ham, cheese, and pepper-dusted slice of tomato, completing the sandwich. She then placed it in a clean plastic bag, zipped it up and put it aside. "Why don't you season the next sandwich, Lotta?"
"I'd love to. How hard could it be?" Lotta didn't realize that her question was about to be answered.
Dot moved away from the counter and handed the next incomplete sandwich to Lotta. She handed her the pepper shaker, and she began to sprinkle it over the sandwich. It did seem easy enough for her. But after a few seconds, Audrey heard Lotta give a rather loud sniffle.
"My goodness. This stuff does smell kinda funny..." Lotta commented. Her nose was wiggling around in irritation - was some of the pepper tickling her nose, too? Her eyelids lowered, and her breath began to hitch.
"Aaah... Haaah..." Lotta tilted her upper body back a couple of times, and Audrey realized exactly what was going to happen. Lotta needed to sneeze, too. "Aaaaah-"
Before she could sneeze or even inhale any more, Audrey reached up on her toes and shoved her forefinger right underneath her nose. Lotta stood there for a moment, still looking like she had to sneeze, but then she didn't. She breathed out, then rubbed her nose once with her arm. It still tickled mildly, but her sneeze had gone away.
"Thanks, Audrey," Lotta said, smiling at her friend.
"Don't mention it, Lotta," Audrey replied, also giving her a smile. "How about I pepper the rest of the sandwiches for you?"
"Sounds like a good idea." Lotta handed the pepper pot to Audrey and walked away from the counter.
Audrey placed another piece of bread over the sandwich to complete it, then placed it in a plastic bag that was also zipped up and placed aside. She then moved another unfinished sandwich close to her and began to apply a few slow sprinkles of pepper.
"Easy..." Audrey said to herself. "Eeeasy..."
She was trying to be as careful as she could - if she shook it too hard, the same thing that almost happened to Dot and Lotta would happen to her, too. But the smell of the pepper was unbearably strong, too strong for her to handle. She could feel her nostrils growing to almost twice their normal size, the spicy aroma tickling them quite badly.
"Ughh..." Audrey's eyelids lowered slightly as she sniffled quite audibly, trying to get rid of the tickle. Unfortunately for her, her nose only tickled even more. Her eyes widened and pupils shrunk for a split second before her eyelids snapped shut, and her breath began to hitch.
"Huuuh...! Haaah... Aaaaah..." Audrey sent her neck backward each time she inhaled, her nose quivering. She was going to sneeze. And it was going to be a big one, she could sense it... "AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH...!"
But as Audrey tilted her upper body as far back as it could go, Dot reached over and placed her forefinger right underneath Audrey's flaring nostrils, whilst covering her eyes with the other hand. The sneeze didn't follow, even after almost five seconds had gone by. Dot pulled her hand from her eyes and looked over at Audrey. Her eyelids had opened halfway again, but her nose wasn't twitching. The urge to sneeze must have gone away from her nose. With a smile of satisfaction, Dot pulled her forefinger away from her nose, and Audrey wiped her forehead with her hand.
"Phew! Thanks, Dot," said Audrey. "I almost sneezed like the whale from the Pinocchio movie." She gave a brief sniff, but her sneeze didn't come back. But she rubbed her nose once with her forefinger, just to be sure.
Dot chuckled at her comparison. "Well, I know how much pepper makes you sneeze..."
She reached behind her back and put on a little flu mask - or perhaps it was a surgical mask. Either way, it covered her nose and mouth.
"I'll season the rest of the sandwiches for you," Dot stated, her voice slightly muffled, but still easy to understand. "Trust me, we absolutely do NOT want to ruin these..."
Audrey and Lotta nodded in agreement, then watched as Dot placed a piece of bread over the sandwich Audrey had seasoned, and placed it in a plastic bag. A couple of minutes later, every one of the sandwiches had been seasoned and stored. Dot took off her mask and sighed in satisfaction.
"I'm sure the kids will enjoy these sandwiches just as much as we will," Dot mentioned. "Now let's go wash our hands before we serve them to everyone."
"Good idea," Lotta said.
Before the Harvey Girls could even approach the sink, however, Lotta's hand knocked something over. A light thud was heard, followed by a more metallic one - and Audrey, Dot and Lotta could feel nigh indescribable tickles flowing through their nostrils. They stopped in their tracks and looked over at what had fallen. Their eyes all widened and pupils shrunk in dawning comprehension.
The pepper had been knocked over, and the lid had fallen off, and a large cloud of every bit of pepper that had been inside was now spilling out and engulfing all three the Girls.
"Haaaaah-!" Audrey quickly inhaled as her nostrils flared widely. She tried to stop the sneeze by pinching and holding her nose with one hand, but it was no use; the pepper was already bothering her nose beyond resistance. "Aaaaaah, haaaaah..." She pulled her hand away from her nose, gave a final inhale as she sent her upper back, and then exploded massively - indeed, similarly to the whale from the Pinocchio movie.
"Huuuh... Heeehhhh..." Dot, meanwhile, was about to sneeze, too. Unlike Audrey, she didn't try and stop it - most likely because of how strong her urge to sneeze was. Her eyelids slid shut as she tilted her neck back, and then released a whopping five sneezes.
"HAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH-TCHYEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH-CHEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWW! NNNNNTCHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! HEEEEEEEEEHHHHHH-TCHEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWW! Aaaah... AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH-SHYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWW!"
"Aaaaaaah... AHHHHH-TCHYU!" Lotta doubled over as she sneezed loudly but briefly. And hearing her friends sneeze made her need to sneeze even more. "HAAAH-CHEW! AH-CHEW! HAH-CHU! TCHU! AAAAHHHHH-TCHYEW! HHHHH-TCHEWWW!"
"HAAAAAAAAAAH-CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH-SHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHH-TCHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!" Audrey, meanwhile, had entered a fit of incredibly loud and strong sneezes. She could feel saliva rushing from her mouth, and mucus escaping from her nose. "HaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH-NNNNNNNNNTTTTTTTTSHIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
"HuuuUUUUUUHHHHHHH-TCHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!" Dot gave another loud sneeze, throwing her arm over her mouth. That was a bit of a mistake, as it quickly became soaked with her spit, but she kept it in front of her face as she sneezed over and over. "AAAAAAAAHHHHHH-CHEEEEEEEEWWWWWW! HAAAAAAAAAAH-TCHYEEEEEEEWWWWWW! NNNNNNNSHEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWW! HEEEEEEEEEHHHHHH- TSHEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW!"
"AH-CHEW! HAH-TCHEW! TCHEE! HEH-CHYU!" Lotta shot her upper body forward again and again, then reached her hand up to her mouth as a rapidfire triple escaped. "AH-CHOO, AH-CHU, HAH-CHEWW!"
For the next minute or so, the Harvey Girls were sneezing, and sneezing, and sneezing some more. A loud "AH-CHEW!" or a messy "HUH-SHU!" here, a long-lasting "HAH-CHOO!" or a forceful "HEH-SHYEW!" there. Their eyes were stinging with tears, both from being sneezy and being burned from the pepper; their noses were turning bright red and leaking with clear mucus; and every sneeze they felt had never felt more painful or forceful, nor sounded louder.
By the time the pepper had settled to the floor, the Harvey Girls needed to release one last, good sneeze, in unison. It was the only way their noses could get the relief they so desperately cried out for. They all pulled their arms and hands away from their noses and let their eyes squeeze shut. They inhaled at the same time, their noses rumbling like a volcano about to erupt, and their nostrils growing and shrinking over and over. This was going to be one of the biggest, loudest and most throat-achingly forceful sneezes they would ever release...
...and as a matter of fact, that was exactly what it was. Gigantic amounts of spit and mucus - the latter of which was fortunately clear with black specks - came rushing out of their mouths and noses, hitting the pepper-covered floor.
After what felt like ten straight seconds, the Harvey Girls' sneeze finally concluded as they lost their breath, opened their eyes slightly and sulked. They all sniffled audibly and rubbed their blood-red noses; Audrey used her forefinger, Dot used her arm, and Lotta used the back of her hand. Their noses all felt runny and stuffy at the same time, and their throats had begun to hurt quite badly, like they'd come down with terrible colds.
"Oh, by gosh..." Audrey said, her voice sounding a bit stuffy due to her now-congested nose. "That was wud crazy sdeeze attack..."
"Crazy is right," Dot replied. She sniffled wetly. "I thidk I deed to blow by dose."
"Be too," Lotta agreed. She looked over at Audrey and Dot. "Got a hanky?"
Dot reached into the pockets of her pants, but couldn't find anything. "Sorry, I dod't have ady."
"Well, at least there's sobe tissues id the bathroob," Audrey said. She then turned to Dot, who was rubbing her red nose some more. "Ad by the way, Gesundheit."
"Thadk you," Dot replied. She looked up at Lotta. "Ad Gesundheit, Lotta."
"Thadks." Lotta sniffled rather loudly before she pulled her hand away from her nose, and then she and Dot blessed Audrey, who still had her forefinger underneath her nose.
Audrey replied with a sniffle and some more nose-rubbing, but she smiled at her friends to thank them. Then she made her way to the bathroom, with Dot and Lotta following her from behind. The trip there was mostly quiet, except for the occasional sniffle.
When they got there, Audrey pulled out a tissue from the box marked Kleenex and blew her nose loudly, holding the tissue in both of her hands. She then walked away from the box as she wiped her nose, holding her tissue in one hand. Dot and Lotta each pulled out a tissue and blew their noses as well; Dot had to do it twice in order to stop her nose from running. It took them and Audrey a few minutes of audible blowing, but soon their noses began to lose their red tinge.
The Harvey Girls stood where they were, wiping their noses with their tissues and sniffling loudly.
"We really deed to be bore careful with that pepper," Dot pointed out.
"Yeah," Audrey agreed. "To thidk I thought that odly happened id cartoods, whed it's true as heck..."
"I'b so sorry, guys," Lotta apologized. She knew it was her fault they'd sneezed so much. "I wish I could've been bore careful, too, so we wouldn't have sdeezed."
"It's alright, Lotta," Dot replied.
"Yeah. At least we didn't ruin the lunch we bade for our friends," said Audrey. "That would've been the odly thidg worse thad how buch we sdeezed."
Dot nodded in agreement, giving another sniffle. "Let's just wash our hands and take sobe tibe to feel better first."
Audrey and Lotta's expressions told her they agreed. About a couple of minutes later, they threw out their used tissues, and took turns washing their hands at the sink. Their hands now rinsed off and dried, Dot handed some of her sanitary masks to Audrey and Lotta so they could help clean up the mess of pepper and mucus that they'd made in the kitchen.
They were feeling a bit better now, but they could only hope none of the other kids on Harvey Street had heard them sneeze as much - and especially as hard - as they did. It was incredibly unlikely - almost as unlikely as finding a shooting star or a four-leaf clover - but if one of them had heard it all, at least they would probably bless them or offer them some tissues. Because that sneezing fit that the pepper had thrown Audrey, Dot and Lotta into had been something to sneeze at, in every sense of the word.