Fact or fiction ... you decide.
Truth, fiction? You decide.
It was the evening when the crap shoot of life had rolled snake eyes. I was a newly minted college grad vigorously promoting my political science degree to employers vigorously rejecting it. My bookie was turning up the heat to pay up on my bet that Nixon wouldn’t resign. To add icing to the cake, the girl of my dreams who had expressed her undying love for me had left for a job on the west coast without asking me to join her. Bored, bothered, bewildered and nearly broke I decided to drown my sorrows at the local establishment’s happy hour.
I was sipping on my second draft when she walked by, claiming the bar stool two seats away. “Rum and coke, please. Keep the change.”
I sipped again, admiring the waft of her perfume. “Keep the change?!” I thought. “Now here’s a girl with some lettuce in her garden.”
I sipped and glanced her way. She returned the favor.
She was quite attractive with auburn hair to her shoulders and emerald eyes I hoped would say yes.
“Nice night, isn’t it?” The weather’s always a good opening line, you know.
“Sure is, especially if you love humidity.”
“That’s really something, isn’t it? I mean Nixon resigning and all that.”
She nodded. “Can’t argue. Of course, you’d have to be an idiot to think he wouldn’t.”
“Spike … another draft.”
“You know, the only thing between the two of us and a really good time is that bar stool.”
“You know, you’re right.” She gave me the once-over. “That and about a million other things.”
… yeeerrr out!
“Spike, get her a rum and coke.”
He delivered. “Here you go, young lady, on the house.”
She glared at me as if she was about to leave for an AA meeting.
Then it happened: The song I slow-danced to with any date in my high school years.
“I love this song. Are the Vogues great or what? How about a dance?”
“The Vogues? Did anyone ever tell you it’s 1974. You know, you’re probably the guy who thought Nixon wouldn’t resign.”
She downed the last of her drink. “Thanks Spike, have a good weekend.”
She brushed past me as if I’d evaporated.
“Spike, can I get my money back for that drink she didn’t touch?”
He shook his noggin. “And you wonder why you can’t get a job.”
Loaded with courage and a whole lot more I decided to take one last try.
I proceeded to the parking lot as she approached her ’71 Ford Pinto.
“The heartstrings”, I thought, “always go for the heartstrings. It gets ‘em every time.”
“Stop! There is someone watching your footsteps. Turn around, look at me.”
Like I said, it works every time.
She turned around and looked at me and then let loose the most hysterical laugh I’d ever heard.
Then she uttered a statement I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
“YOU ... CAN’T … POSSIBLY … BE … SERIOUS!
Then she turned around and never looked back.
I was crestfallen. I knew it was over. “I wouldn’t be in this mess if I’d listened to my pop”, I reminisced. “I’ll never forget when I told him I was going to major in PoliSci. He just looked at me and said ‘four years shot in the ass?’” (It wasn’t any better with my mother. On the way home from the hospital after I was born, she made my father stop at the post office so she could stick a “Return to Sender” label on my forehead).
There was no longer any point to living and if that wasn’t bad enough Gerald Ford was the president.
I stumbled to my ’62 Plymouth Fury that emitted more smoke than a steel mill. A trusted friend had sold it to me for the fifty bucks my cheap relatives gave me at my graduation party (thankfully, the day before, my father handed me a hundred bucks, telling me “Take it. It’ll be years before you get a job”).
Depressed, despondent, downtrodden and disheartened I maneuvered the potholes of a country road to a bridge that stood high above the mighty Sweetwater River that intersected adjacent townships.
I stood before it. “So this is how those Wild West bad guys felt as they walked to the scaffold.” I wiped the sweat from my brow, undeterred by the darkening skies and wind gusts from an approaching rain. “Hell, if Evel Knievel can jump over the Snake River Canyon the least I can do is jump off a bridge. Nobody’ll miss me, anyway. Won’t be many flowers at my wake. The relatives’ll be too cheap to buy any.”
“Well, this is it. Goodbye cruel world, I’m off to join the circus.” About to hoist myself onto the railing, I heard the sound of an approaching car.
It was a ’71 Ford Pinto.
“Great. Now I have an audience. Maybe I should have sold tickets”, I mumbled. “This chick really doesn’t dig me.”
She came to me. “I saw you in my rear view mirror. You were standing there with that ‘I’m going to jump off a bridge’ look on your face. I followed you here. I … I don’t want it to end this way.”
Her hands cradled a Zagnut candy bar.
“Zagnut! That’s my favorite candy bar”, I responded.
She hesitated and then gave it to me.
I unwrapped it and took a bite. The luscious taste enveloped my very being. Suddenly, it felt like the sun was shining. I was a somebody, after all. It won’t take me years to get a job and maybe Gerald Ford will be a good president, too.
I took another bite, savoring every chew … and then I took another bite. I was going to ask her if she wanted a bite and then I thought “Hell, I’ll eat the whole damn thing myself.” My mouth screamed for more but I stopped. “At least thank the girl, willya.”
I turned just in time to see her standing on the railing.
“HEY … WAI … !”
It was over.
I took another bite and watched as her body floated down the river, for all I know, to the Gulf of Mexico.
I ate the rest of the bar.
“Why would she do this? Was Zagnut her favorite candy bar, too? Did I just eat the last candy bar she would have ever eaten? Was she heartbroken because I took the bar? Was she hurt because I didn’t offer her a bite before she jumped? Or was her self-image so shattered because I hit on her she just had to end it all?”
A gentle rain brought me back to my senses …
A lot of sand has passed through the hourglass since that evening. Believe me when I tell you it can be tough traveling the highway of life haunted by questions that can never be answered.
Zagnut is still my favorite candy bar. I eat one every day. Every time I bite into that luscious amalgam of crunchy peanut butter and toasted coconut flakes I think of that girl and her body floating down the river to the Gulf of Mexico.
I think she’d like that.