On Friday, Mrs. C announced that she had ordered the staff a chocolate mousse cake from a local bakery.
"Who's birthday?" I asked, for we'd ordered a similar cake for Ms. M's birthday not long ago.
"No one's," Mrs. C said. She explained that she just wanted some and thought the rest of us would too and it was cheaper to order a whole cake than individual slices.
The cake arrived and was a dark, rich-looking, frozen disc of beauty. That is, it would have been if I cared at all for chocolate. I've actually come a long way over the years to get beyond my former hatred of chocolate. As a kid, I used to shun most anything to do with chocolate, but have mellowed as time has gone on. Chocolate and I don't get along too well, but we have mutual friends, such as peanut butter and caramel. I can tolerate the presence of chocolate when either of the other two are around. Or, if chocolate is mixed into other things, such as cake, milk, ice cream or Oreo cookies. Generally speaking, though, I just don't seek it out in its purest form. A Hershey's Kiss is about the most I care to eat in a sitting. And while I had to admit that the chocolate mousse, still frozen in its box, was very nice-looking, I really didn't want to break my recently restarted shunning of sugar unless it was for something sweet I truly loved. I decided to take my piece home to the wife.
"WhaaAAAAt? You don't LOOOOOVE chocolate?!" Ms. M stammered between bites of her own mousse. Her tone suggested that psychological counseling might be in order.
"WhAAAAAt?!" Ms. S said, astounded at what she'd overheard from her fellow former newbie greenhorn.
These were typical, yet actually restrained, reactions of "chocolate" people to my non-chocolate-loving status. Usually once "chocolate" people calm down from the shock of having their world-view jostled, they begin to try and convince you that you are delusional and wrong to dislike chocolate. They say things like, "That's only because you've never tried good chocolate before," and, "Oh, I know some chocolate that would make you love it." The greenhorns refrained, but I could tell they were thinkin' it.
After a few minutes of dedicated chewing, Ms. S, her face alight with a chocolate-rush, took her still not quite empty plate over to the trash can and dropped it in. Ms. M started to scream, then caught herself, at the wasted three bites of mousse now in the bin.
"What are you doing?!" Ms. M said, accusations of traitorous behavior clearly dancing behind her eyes.
"I'm full," Ms. S said. "I couldn't eat any more chocolate."
"You know, we have a fridge," I said. "You could have saved it for later."
A look of regret crossed Ms. S's face. Clearly she'd not considered this and was probably now debating how much shit she would have to take from us if she fished her dessert out of the trash can. After a few seconds, she shrugged and said, "No, I'm done."
"Thank God she didn't get it out of the trash," Ms. M said, still working on her own mousse. "I would have died!"
"Hell, I would have eaten it," I said.
Ms. M laughed, as though I were kidding.
"I'm serious. I've eaten worse."
I then told them a story...
When I was a lad of five, my father and I temporarily lived on my Papaw's farm in south Mississippi for a few months, before moving away to Starkville. One day, while in town, a friend of my dad's, who ran a gas station in Waynesboro, gave me a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket full of Super Bubble Bubble gum. It was one of the greatest gifts a kid could be given and I was in gum chewing heaven for weeks, going through multiple pieces in a day. Around this time, I learned how to blow bubbles with my gum and tried to practice this skill on a near constant basis. I wasn't great at it, though, and would occasionally drop my gum on the floor, or launch it across the room, in my attempts to learn. Still, I had so many pieces I could always get a fresh one, so it didn't really matter.
After several weeks, I was finally down to my very last piece of Super Bubble. I was determined to make it last. I started chewing it after breakfast, took it out for lunch, and was prepared to continue chewing on into the afternoon and hopefully beyond supper. That afternoon, while following Papaw around on his late afternoon chores, I attempted to blow a bubble and the gum shot out of my mouth and landed on the ground inside the barn. I don't know how much you know about barns, but this particular one housed cows and its dirt floor was actually composed of dried, powdered cow manure. Not wanting to give up on my final piece of gum for the foreseeable future, I picked it up, examined the grains of dried cow poop attached to it, brushed them off as best I could and popped that gum back in my mouth.
When I finished my tale, Ms. M was staring back at me with a look of pure revulsion on her face.
"Enjoy that chocolate," I told her.