It was the long weekend of July 4th, and everyone was putting the final flourishes on their cookout plans, doing stuff like mobbing the grocery stores, frosting the cupcakes, and setting out the patriotic napkins. But we decided to spend the day visiting one of the local historical main streets–a cobbled old street with odd shops and antiques, a street that conjures up the lyrics of Penny Lane.
This street is small, only 4 or 5 blocks with shops, but I’m always up for a stroll. I’ve been in each of the shops a hundred times, but I never tire of looking in them. There’s always something new, something odd to see, and this day would be no different. From afar, I saw it–a brand new store. The sign read Candles.
“Candles!” I exclaimed. I don’t even care about some country-ass grandmother candles, but it was a new store. A new adventure. I could smell them all, and make clever comments about what they really smelled like. Lilacs. Smells like a funeral home. Vanilla. Smells like cheap perfume from the pharmacy store. It would be so fun, and I would be so clever.
“It doesn’t say candles. It says candies,” the girlfriend said. Oh, a new candy store.
And so, these were the events that led up to…
I floated across the cobble street to enter CandIes with the I that looked like an L. Like all the stores on Penny Lane, it was humid and crampy inside the store, like entering a cave. Instantly, I began picking candy up. Rock Candy. Cowtails. Something called Zoygs. Any candy beginning with Z has to be worthy. I could buy all of this and we could have a candy buffet! A tray of fudge. Perhaps that was overdoing it. I put the tray of fudge back.
Then I picked up a bowl of dog kibble.
“Look, they even have candy for dogs here!”
But wait. Though it looked exactly like kibble, it wasn’t candy for dogs. It was candy for kids.
See? It goes out of the way by putting it in bold that it’s FOR kids.
I’ve always wanted to eat dog food. Not like, literally or actually eat it, but just figuratively hypothetically pretendedly eat it.
I have a history with dog food. I was always pretending to eat milkbones in front of the dog, pretending they were delicious. The dog would cock her head at me, worriedly, as though I’d actually eat it. Then there were Pluto’s bones in the cartoons, which always looked tasty. And the fact that my first word spoken was not “mama” or “dada”, but “bone”.
And now, a small part of that dream could come true, with Kooky Chew.
The kookies were graham cracker tasting, and not bad. But there is something unsatisfying in eating cookies in kibble form, bit by bit. Cookies are meant to be devoured in 1 or 2 gulping bites–much like dogs scarf their own food–but I wasn’t about to eat the Kooky Chew like a dog, diving in face first. I thought about it, yes. But the one time I had done that with my bowl of cereal, it ended badly.
And then of course, there were the Zoygs.
There were many awesome things here: candy beginning with a Z; candy in the formation of aliens. Add in the line “an invasion of sour taste,” and now the candies have taken their own orbit path in greatness.
However awesome as they look–and however much hyperbole I just threw into that last paragraph–these things were freaking gross. They were more like an invasion in the flavors of potpourri.
Much like milkbones, potpourri was another childhood fascination of mine, if only because my mother treated the potpourri burner like the Ark of Covenant–an item that could not be touched, gone near, or breathed upon.
“Get away from potpourri burner,” I’d hear anytime I’d try to deeply inhale the fragrances of lilac and vanilla. Whatever, Mom. It smells like a funeral home anyway.
But there is still another candy that I bought that day at Penny Lane. In the corner of the store, I saw a bargain bin. The sign advertised “Holiday Candy! STILL GOOD. Only $1.” Not deterred by the sign’s overeager emphasis on the candy being still good, I dug through. And that’s when I saw her. I raised her above the other candies in the bin gently, holding her up to be closer to God, the white chocolate lamb.
What a beauty. A massive, one-pound, hunk of white chocolate, in the shape of a goddamn lamb. A lamb of white chocolate. Only for one dollar. And STILL GOOD.
There were unavoidable questions. When do you eat such a thing? What holiday tradition is there for partaking in a lamb of white chocolate? And what age group is this appropriate for?
I guess I felt a connection with it.
I had to get her home, get her out of here. This bargain bin was no place for her. I was worried. The day was hot as hell. Humid. Thick. Sweltering. We booked it back up the cobbled streets and to the car, but was it enough? I held her carefully in my hands. She was soft; her chocolate fleece was pliable. If I handled her too roughly with my boorish thumbs, I could have indented her.
“We have to hurry,” I said. “She’s melting.”
Upon getting her home, I put her in the fridge. She was still perfect. STILL GOOD. I felt relief. But the next day presented another drama when I’d still have to transport her to my house from the girlfriend’s house. And there was one big problem. We were planning to stop at the grocery store in between houses.
“But, we have the lamb! We can’t shop in the store for long. She’ll melt in the car.”
I packed her in an insulated lunchbag, between two cold Coors lights cans, and a box of frozen veggie burgers. I didn’t give this much plan-ahead to what college I went to.
Again, upon getting her home, I put her in the fridge. Still perfect. STILL GOOD.
Later, it was her time in the spot light, her centerstage. She would have to look her best, and at the perfect angles. I took too many pictures. About 36. It just had to be right.
This was just one of her many closeups. I was enchanted with her expression–her sunken, strange and creepy eyes, her smooth dome head, her knowingness, her queer smile.
And then, it came time to eat her. Blessed though she may be by the Easter Bunny and eternal gods of Freshness, STILL GOOD all these months later, I had to eat this thing. That’s what lambs of white chocolate are for. Saving the earth, curing the disabled, and eating.
I discovered in my overzealousness to preserve her, the fridge made her too hard to cut.
Now she was hard as cast iron, and I could barely cut through her white chocolate neck. I chopped and sawed and sweated, until the girlfriend warned me I would cut a finger off.
So then I set the knife down, sighing. I picked her up in my hands, the same hands that had so gently held her earlier, and broke her head off.
And then I ate the head. I wish I hadn’t. Contrary to the sign, she was not STILL GOOD.