Seven days ago I never thought I’d make it. I made it through a week of school. I was meltdown-free for Mandatory Family Game Night. I even made it through church this morning sans incident, despite sitting next to an old woman whose hand was more scab than skin. No idea how I did it. I suppose I was just focused on my goal. I didn’t rub myself or lick anything on a dare. And I held my tongue; I didn’t whine, complain, or make fart noises.
Yes, without hesitation, Mother, I can assert that I deserve to be bought Twinkies today.
We’re almost there. This is the post-church grocery store trip and it’s where most of our family’s fights begin. Inevitably, this trip shatters the high we’re all feeling after leaving church. No, we’re not at all spiritual, we all just detest every bit of the ninety boring minutes we spend in God’s house each week and are near-euphoric when it’s finally over. Between the singing, the clothes, and the old women with perfume that smells like dirty rabbit cages, church is the single toughest event to tolerate each week. With Twinkies on the line today though, I zoned in. My little brother, Martin, couldn’t take it; throughout the whole service he squirmed and writhed all around the pews before chewing a hole in his clip-on tie out of anger.
We’ve just cleared the Fruits and Vegetables section and I haven’t said a word. I don’t care that Mom’s only thrown four moldy bananas, a large plastic bag of creamed cauliflower, and a rotten apricot in the cart so far; none of that matters. There’s a light at the end of this darkness, and that light is a tasty, golden Twinkie. I’ll stomach all frustratingly tragic culinary atrocities she makes in that kitchen so long as I know there’s an authentic, pre-packaged Twinkie to cleanse my palate afterwards.
She’s testing me. Mom’s piling cans of salted herring and free-range smelt into the cart, not just because it’s in the already-expired clearance race but because she’s passive-aggressively trying to get me to snap so she can justify not buying Twinkies. She’s looking for a fight and she’s not going to find it. Doesn’t matter how many embarrassing personal anecdotes she broadcasts to everyone within earshot or how many strangers she insists on showing that wallet picture of three-year-old me, naked on the toilet in a pirate hat with a caption that reads “Pirate’s Booty.” History will remember me with the man who was crushed in Tiananmen Square and the Vietnamese monk who set himself on fire in protest. The three of us: a trifecta of visionaries who never let their pain distract them from their goal.
The bait isn’t for Martin, but he’s taking it all. He’s protesting everything entering the cart and sobbing like a war widow when he invariably loses every argument. My brother reaches his breaking point in the Dairy section and whips a discounted cup of sesame chicken flavored Yoplait out of the cart and square into a lazy-eyed teenage girl’s crotch. Chaos ensues; spilled yogurt, tears, and screaming fill the aisle almost instantly. I bite my tongue—there’s Twinkies on the line and I’m not doing anything to jeopardize those.
The Dairy section incident has literally thrown off Mom’s game. She’s flustered as we pass through Frozen Foods, Cereal, and Condiments, no doubt trying not to succumb to a stress ulcer or the desire to beat Martin in public. By contrast, I can do no wrong. I’m not going to get cocky, but at this point I could probably pee all over that cardboard display filled with fair-trade coffee and still be walking out of here with Twinkies.
I maintain the quiet, respectful course. We’re nearly done and Mom’s pushing the cart down the aisle of sweets. Calm, composed, and reverent, I can nearly taste that lukewarm, room-temperature cream permeating every nook in my tight, wet mouth.
As we approach the Twinkies, Martin, that impulsive fuck, blurts, “Aww, Twinkies! Mom, get them!”
In a knee-jerk reaction, Mom snaps a quick, “No, you’ve been nothing but horrible today, Martin.”
“What if,” I cut in, “You just got them for me, Mom?”
“I see what you’re doing. You know if we have them in the house Martin will still have Twinkies. That’s nice of you to try to help your brother, but Martin hasn’t been good and he is not getting Twinkies today. End of story.”
“No, you didn’t hear—”
“I’m sorry, end of story,” she stated as she heads for the checkout.
It’s hits me. Martin is in for the leg beating of a lifetime this afternoon. I’ll bide my time and methodically ensnare him when no one else is around and let my fists of Twinkie-less fury rain down on his tiny legs with the force of ten-thousand gorillas. In the end I’ll be fine; vengeance will taste much sweeter than any prepackaged snack cakes.
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