Andy Lock's Pop Tops Blast off

The quiet street of a sleepy town was suddenly awoken by a loud explosion. Smoke began wafting through the fly screen of an open alleyway window and a tall lean figure emerged from the side door coughing and spluttering.

"Too hot," gasped Andy Lock leaning against the fence to get back his breath.

He turned and saw the large wide eyes of Mrs Sanders who had been passing.

"It's all right Mrs Sanders, a little cooking accident is all," he said between coughing fits. Mrs Sanders pulled her bags higher onto her pudgy arms and walked off in the direction of the Chemist. Andy smiled as he realised he would be the subject of gossip for he next few days at least.

As soon as the smoke cleared he braved the smell to take a look at the damage to his shop's back room kitchen. There would be no more Pop Tops today that was for certain. There was toffee dripping from the ceiling, toffee running down the walls and a large sauce pan with a hole in the bottom on the stove.

The melt in the mouth sweet was his Lolly shop's biggest seller. No one else in Nimballa sold them because they were Andy's own invention. Before the Pop Tops, had come; the cream filled lollipops, the caramel centred liquorice and the sherbet covered popcorn. Though none of those earlier inventions had sold quite like the Pop Tops.

They were about the size and thickness of a bottle top and not quite as hard as a butterscotch. Once they had been melting slowly in the mouth for long enough to break open the thin outer shell, a delicious burst of soft honey and tiny honey comb balls spilled out onto the tongue. The children of Nimballa loved them and even the adults couldn't get enough of them. He sold them almost as fast as he could make them.

Now with today's setback there would be barely enough for the afternoon rush when the school buses pulled into town.

Andy thought about the machine he had been building that would make the Pop Tops ten times faster than he could do it on the stove of the back kitchen. It was nearly ready. He had managed to cobble an engine together from spare parts and he was sure it would work. If only there had been money for a brand new engine.

But Andy lock was not a wealthy man and there was no money for an engine. As it was, Andy slept in a small room above his shop where he also made a little space for the machines he tinkered away with at night.

"No time to daydream now," laughed the young man. He bent his back to the task of cleaning his kitchen. He finished in time to refill the empty shelf where the Pop Tops usually sat. Then just as he was putting the last box on the shelf, Andy remembered his special friend Casey and put one box of the popular treat under the counter.

As he stood up he heard the bell over the door ring and one glance at the clock told Andy he had missed the deep growl of the ancient buses labouring into the main street. The afternoon rush was here.

And so was Casey.

Casey helped Andy in the shop on the busiest afternoons. And although Andy had no money to pay his young friend, Casey was happy to take his wages in Pop Tops once a week. Together they counted the coins that eager school children handed them and stuffed lollies into little white paper bags.

"Those ones are 20 cents each, you only have 5 cents left," Casey said patiently to a six year old girl.

Andy smiled and took the handful of 5 cent pieces that made up a dollar.

"Have you opened your money box today?"

"It's my pocket money," said the child proudly around the lollipop she had already begun to suck.

As the last customers left and it was nearly time to close, Andy brought out the box of Pop tops he had saved for Casey.

"Are you sick of them yet?" Andy asked the freckled boy.

"No way! Anyway, I'm giving this box to my uncle for his birthday. He loves all your inventions. His favourite is the sherbet popcorn."

"Ah if only everyone was as keen as your uncle. I'd have enough money for that engine," sighed the candy man.

"I bet if more people knew about your caramel liquorice they would buy it. Why don't you put an add in the paper?"

"Well its money again Casey. I've never borrowed from a bank and I'm not going to start now," said Andy

Casey thought this over for a while as he watched Andy filling the lollipop jar.

"Then we just have to tell lots of people," decided Casey.

Andy laughed and nodded his head. "You tell as many people as you can".

That night, Andy decided to give his Pop Top machine its first trial run.

It didn't go well.

The room smelled of smoke all the next day.

There was a new batch of Pop Tops on the shelf by the time Casey came to help the next afternoon. At least I still have my kitchen in the back room, Andy thought. He would need to cook everyday to keep up with the demand. There were only three boxes left after today's afternoon rush.

"I sent my uncle his birthday present in the mail yesterday," commented Casey.

"I hope you asked him to tell everyone he can about Andy Lock's Pop Tops," laughed Andy.

"Oh I did. I'm sure he will tell everyone about Andy Lock's Sweet Shop".

Casey seemed very pleased with himself. If only it was that simple, thought Andy. He knew that even if his uncle had lots of friend's, Nimballa was such a small town. How would anyone know where Andy Lock's Sweet shop was?

It was weeks before Andy thought about it again. He had tinkered and hammered and done everything he could to get his Pop Top machine working. But without the new engine, he would have to keep cooking them on his old back room stove until he had sold enough to save up for the much needed part.

Casey helped whenever he could and was always there for the afternoon rush.

One afternoon he came in very excited.

"Turn on your TV Andy, there is something I want you to see".

The shop was still full of school children but Casey insisted Andy go and watch his small set.

"I can deal with this lot. Just watch channel four," he said sternly.

Andy was so surprised, he had no choice but to do what his friend told him to.

It was the news. Andy wasn't sure what he was supposed to see, so he kept watching and listened to the reporters.

"So now we cross live to the NASA ground control where we will witness the first American shuttle to blast off in several years. I believe we are going to be able to talk to the Australian Astronaut Captain Casey Whitman who grew up in a tiny town called Nimballa"

Andy sat up straight, suddenly very interested.

"Captain Whitman do you have anything to say to your friend's and family back in Australia?"

"I sure do Tracey. I want to tell everyone that they should visit Andy Lock's Sweet shop for some of his original inventions. I'm taking some of his Pop Tops for my flight," grinned the astronaut, flashing a box in front of the camera.

Andy nearly fell off his chair.

"And where is this tiny town of Nimballa?" laughed reporter Tracey, obviously enjoying the joke.

"Out past Bathurst and keep driving," smiled Captain Casey Whitman, with a big thumbs up.

Andy stumbled white faced back down the stairs.

"Did I mention that I'm named after my Uncle Casey the astronaut?" laughed his freckled friend.

After the broadcast, Andy's shop was the talk of the town. And soon visitors from other nearby towns who had seen the news came to check out the sweet shop as well. Within a month, Andy had enough money for the Pop Top machine engine, and a new TV.

Casey had to come and work in the shop every Saturday and Andy was able to pay him $10 an hour.

Soon there was a big painted sign above the shop that read;

"Andy Lock's Pop Tops, the Lolly that blasts Off".