January 13, 2006
South Bend - Fame is a double edge sword. When firefighters got the call of a fire at the South Side Grocery they didn't know they would find yet another victim cut the cruel bite of success.
Arriving on scene, firefighters found flames licking up the front wall of the grocery behind several pop machines. Although the fire was doused quickly, a gaping hole in the roof marked the toll the conflagration took on the building.
Sounds like a normal fire for South Bend's Bravest, deserving nothing more than a few lines in the metro briefs? This is where the normalcy ends.
(From here on out is my fictional interpretation. This is the story I wish had happened.)
"I could not believe what the first responders were telling me what they saw when they got on scene," a fire chief says just minutes into his investigation of the fire. "It appears right now the fire started behind these pop machines here," he points behind the Pepsi, 7-up, and Coke machines which were pulled away from the building to fight the fire.
"There's no hope, the damage is too much," a fire fighter playing his flashlight across the charred shell of the 7-up machine.
"I told them this would happen," Joe Wolb says jabbing his stumpy thumb back to the scorch marks on the wall. "I knew he was bad news when he came in with that cocky attitude thinking he was the best pop on the block."
Investigators think the fire was started by the Pepsi machine. The outlet shorted causing the siding to flare up and race up the wall.
It seems Pepsi machine has been despondent as of late. "He's never been the same since his cousin got that TV deal," Pepsi machine's friend Dr. Pepper machine.
The commercial features Diet Pepsi Machine getting drafted by the NFL's New England Patriots. The ads started airing at the beginning of the football season in September.
According to Dr. Pepper machine, Pepsi Machine had been seeing a toaster for counselling. "Every time he saw that ad, he would turn the channel and grumble. He would say, 'That should have been me. I told him everything he knows about acting.'"
Wolb, who lives near the store, says Pepsi Machine had been flickering "more than normal" lately, "I walked in and told the owner he better keep an eye on that machine. He at least needed to unplug him at night."
When reached by phone before his playoff game in Denver, Diet Pepsi Machine didn't have much to say about his cousin.
"He's never been happy with my accomplishments. I think he's just trying to cover up for his shortcomings. He's just one of many regular pop machines. It takes something special to dispense diet pop."
This possible arson could just be another bad decision in a long descent into a life of crime and destitution.
"I've been worrying about him since he went off and had that fling with the Ciggarette Vending Machine," Diet Pepsi Machine offers as a possible explanation of Pepsi's recent run-in with police.
"Last I heard, he was hanging outside a 'Gentleman's Club' in some town out in the midwest. I knew he would betray his brand name. I just hope he can turn his life around."
After surveying the damage inside the store, investigators exited to find that Pepsi Machine had pushed past the gawkers and fled the scene. Police searched the area and only found an extension several blocks away. Police consider Pepsi Machine dangerous and mentally ill. They are asking that if you see Pepsi Machine, do not approach him, but call the police.
UPDATE: January 17, 2006
Police in LaCrosse, Indiana say they were tipped off about the missing Pepsi Machine when they received a tip that someone got a can of Pepsi that had a smoky bitter taste.
The Machine was found hiding next to a Faygo Machine in the local garage. Police moved in and Pepsi Machine was taken into custody. He was last seen being loaded by dolly onto a flatbed truck to be incarcerated in the police department breakroom.