The Chocolate Chronicles
by Judy Lee Green
My hands gripped the steering wheel as I drove along Old Coast Road. Beads of sweat lay along my upper lip like dime store pearls with the paint scratched off. The sun bore through the windshield and bit into my thighs like fire ants at a church picnic.
Despite my air-conditioned car I was burning up. My nerves were on edge and I wondered why I had ever agreed to this journey. The road was long and the trip would not be easy. I knew this but I had set out alone. Why didn't I bring a friend along for companionship and encouragement? What made me think I should take this trip by myself?
The narrow road wound along the edge of the bluff over the ocean. Waves crashed against the rocks and boomeranged back to sea. Though afraid to take my eyes from the crooked road, I could smell the briny ocean tang, could feel the wind rattle my car like a tin cup with a pebble in it, and could hear the anger of the ocean as it battered the mountainside over and over again.
What will I do if I meet a car on this road, I thought. There is not enough room to pass and there's no way that I could ever back up. I can barely back out of my own driveway. I thought of my Aunt Essell. She hated backing up too. Of course, she was eighty-seven years old.
Aunt Essell came out of the post office one day, started her car and began to back out of her parking place but decided there was too much traffic. It made her nervous so she sat there with the motor running, the car in gear and her foot on the brake.
A man in a pickup saw her taillights on and thought that she wanted out. He gave a slight toot on the horn and made a motion with his hand that said come on out. Aunt Essell ignored him. He tooted twice and motioned with his arm, come on out. I want your parking place.
My aunt picked up the Bible that always lay on her front seat and began searching for the passage in Ecclesiastes that read, "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven." She knew it was not time to back out yet.
Irate now, the man in the pickup truck set down on his horn. Not only did he want my aunt's parking place but traffic had backed up for half-a-block behind him. He was embarrassed and he was mad. He set down on the horn and didn't let up. It sounded as though his horn had stuck.
My Aunt Essell put her car in park, opened the door and got out. She slowly and very deliberately walked back to the man who still had his hand on the horn, and said, "Mister, if you'll back my car out, I'll blow your horn."
Aunt Essell said that he almost blew her hat off, he peeled away so fast. She got back in her car and by the time she had read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 the traffic had thinned out. The season for backing out had arrived. She gradually inched her way backward and crept away, her foot on the brake.
Well, there's just no way. If I meet a car, it will be the one that will have to back up, I thought. But why would anyone, I asked myself, venture upon this seldom-used, poorly maintained and very dangerous road?
No one would be on this road unless they were on a mission and I was. I was carrying a trunk load of double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts, and my mission was to see that they did not melt even if I had to eat them.
I was worried that the sun beating down on my car would cause my precious cargo to melt and I was looking for a place that I could pull off the road and check it. I had been watching for miles but the road was too narrow and the shoulder had crumbled into the ocean.
I rounded a curve and an old sign from the 1950s appeared: Scenic Overlook 1 mile. My heart skipped a beat. Finally, I thought. I crept along and eventually pulled onto an overlook big enough for only one car. I turned off the motor, jumped out and opened the trunk of my big 98 Olds.
My entire trunk, which was big enough for six Girl Scouts to camp in, was filled to the brim with double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts. They were not in bags or boxes. They were loose. My trunk looked as though it had been filled by a dump truck. I trembled with delirium, inhaled deeply and no longer smelled the ocean.
I saw no melted chocolate at first glance but stirred my hand through the candy as though I were testing a baby's bath water. Satisfied that it was not melting, was not even sticky, I grabbed a handful and threw it into my mouth like popcorn at a movie theater then slammed the trunk and took off again.
Back on the road, my peace of mind lasted only briefly. Old Coast Road became even more perilous. I hugged the mountain wall on my left side and rode my brake in and out of pot holes as big as bathtubs and as deep as dish pans.
What if I get stuck, I worried. What if I meet a car? What if I get stuck and another car never comes? How would I ever get off of this road? Could I eat all those double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts before they melted?
Rocking and rolling from pot hole to pot hole and worrying about my cargo melting, I resolved to stop again as soon as possible. Almost immediately a scenic area appeared, though I had not seen a sign. Perhaps the sign had been blown away or had fallen into the ocean years ago.
This scenic area was slightly larger than the first one and had a rock wall about two feet high built as a barrier between the pull-off area and the wild blue yonder. The rock wall looked as though it had been built in the 1930s by the CCC. If I had not been so distracted I would have admired the wall and enjoyed the view, but instead, I was out of the car like a greyhound out of the gate at the dog races. I threw open my trunk and staggered slightly at the intoxicating smell of chocolate.
I stirred the double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts with my hand. They were not melting. Better be sure though, I thought, and I sank both my arms up to my elbows into my luscious cargo and began to stir it around. I reasoned that I should be sure that the peanuts on the bottom were not melting. They were not.
I pulled out my arms. Each hand was full of double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts. I threw a handful into my mouth, rolled them between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, mashed them, squeezed them, sucked them. Slowly, sensuously I savored the mouthful of chocolate, then I crushed the nuts with my teeth like ice in a blender. I threw the other handful of double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts into my mouth and slammed the trunk.
On the road again I was haunted by the lingering taste of chocolate in my mouth. I sucked my teeth and tongue and wished for more of the sinful pleasure. My desire became an obsession, so much so that I was hardly aware of the precarious road that I traveled. I floated in and out of pot holes and kissed the mountain wall and flirted with the crumbling shoulder, drunk with forbidden pleasure.
Suddenly overcome by desire, I slammed on my brake in the middle of the narrow road, popped my trunk, and left my motor running.
"Give me death by chocolate!" I screamed above the sound of the wind and the surf. I inhaled deeply then buried my head into the trunk of double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts and started eating.
I was choking. I woke up gasping for breath and chewing on my blanket like a rat in a corncrib. When my confusion had cleared I reached for my dream journal. Under a section that I had entitled The Chocolate Chronicles, I recorded the date and the details of my dream. Previously I had dreamed about a big metal garbage can full of peanut butter M&Ms, about warm cookie crumbs scattered over my bed like rose petals, about Hershey Bars laid solid beneath the carpet in my house, and about bathing in a tub of melted chocolate, a GooGoo as my loofah.
This one is easy to interpret, I thought, another chocolate deprivation dream. The long, seemingly never-ending journey is my diet. The narrow road is my resolve not to back up. The crumbling shoulder is a sign that my good intentions often crumble, however, and the cliff is a warning that I could fall off my diet. I am alone in the car because no one can lose weight for me. The intense heat is actually the anxiety that I feel over being on a diet and fearing failure. The double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts represent everything sweet that I crave but can not have. They are the temptation that follows me everywhere I go.
I removed my wet and clinging nightgown. In the dim glow of the night-light I caught sight of my new slimmer self since giving up chocolate.
Girlfriend, you're looking good, I told myself as I slipped into a tee shirt and crawled back into bed. Don't give up and keep dreaming. Dream dream dream. You'll soon have your schoolgirl figure back and The Chocolate Chronicles just might show up on the New York Times bestseller list.
Judy Lee Green is currently compiling a collection of creative non-fiction. A writer since the age of nine, she has published in numerous magazines and newspapers. She reads her own work and presents programs on Life Stories: The Art of Memoir. The Tennesse Mountain Writers recently awarded her second place in their 2004 essay competition. In 2003 she received the Wilma Dykeman Award for Essay from the Appalachian Writers Association. She is a member of the Tennessee Writers Alliance, the Appalachian Writers Association and the Amen Southern Revelation Sisterhood, a group dedicated to writing memoir/creative non-fiction. Email Judy.