The sun had gone from pink to hot white as I pulled up in front of the confectionary shop. I thought about letting the car run so the air conditioning would keep the interior cool for the ride home with the delicious chocolate I was about to purchase. Then saw the lizard green ford truck parked next to me with a gnarly looking guy at the wheel. His baseball cap was sitting sideways on a dirty long-haired huge head with a toothpick sticking out of his mouth. Visions of car jackings went round in my head so I thought better of it.
Geeze! It felt like a sauna getting out of the car. There was absolutely no breeze whatsoever! Stepping into the chocolate shop felt cool and refreshing again. It was mostly white in the lobby. White walls, white cabinets framing immaculate and pristine glass where the candy was displayed. Even a white old-fashioned register with a clerk dressed in a white uniform where she mostly blended in except for her golden hair. The contrast of mainly brown chocolates was the only other color to be seen which made it all the more desirable.
Valentines’ day was Sunday and I wanted to get my grandpa his favorite chocolate sticks. California brittle. Grandpa loved this candy! He was a wonderful storyteller and had repeated his story to me more times than I could count on how the California brittle was better than then any of the chocolates he had ever had in his hometown of Palermo Sicily where the greatest chocolates in the world were created. He would coo and caw sitting in his leather lazy boy on a hot summer’s day in his thin white cotton shirt with legs stretched out and reclined, savoring each delectable piece. His wide sideways grin made me happy. I loved it when my grandpa smiled, and his eyes glistened with glee towards me. Sometimes a chunk of brittle would fall out on his clean white shirt when he laughed with me after telling some silly joke and making funny sounds as the whacky narrator and grandma would shhhh him and shake her head because she would have to clean the stain out afterward. She couldn’t help but laugh with us too though.
The lady behind the counter was a lovely green-eyed blonde biting the inside of her cheek as she addressed the large bear like customer standing in front of me. I noticed him shuffling his feet side to side, his body moving like a teeter totter. Seemingly nervous. He seemed to be giving her a hard time about being out of something he desired. I figured the weather was moody and contagious apparently. There was a ticket taker pedestal in the middle of the space for long lines. There weren’t any other customers but I noticed the digital box up on the white wall with the red polka dotted number 9 displayed for next in line so I pulled the number 10 out of the teeth of the ticket taker just in case.
Looking out the large front glass window, I noticed that ugly green truck was still out there and the man at the wheel looked even gnarlier from the front view. He stared right at me swishing his toothpick back and forth in between his snaggle toothed mouth so I looked away.
The man at the counter in front of me begin shouting at the clerk lady. He had far too warm of a jacket on for this weather. Brown leather with a hole dead center in the back. His pants were drooping so far down low that his stained and dirty underwear showed. I felt a little throw up in my mouth at the sight and combination of nerves running through my veins.
Lately, I had lost trust in the worlds order. The chocolate shop had been the one constant in my life and today it felt a little stressful.
Apparently, the slob in front of me thought I was standing to close to him. He swung around quite suddenly with this repugnant face that looked like a slab of veal just pounded with a kitchen mallet and shouted, “Back off!”
Well, I was startled but also had some ferocious adrenaline pumping through me stimulated from the atmosphere in and around this shop in the last bits of time triggering a ready for battle response. I was pissed that he was talking to me now just like the sweet girl behind the counter who had no choice but to serve him. So I shouted back “Why are you such an asshole?”
His pocked face started turning devil red and I saw and smelt his sweat as he moved toward me. Towering over me. I raised my knee and dug the heel of my wedged clog into his exposed toe saddled in barely there flip flops. He yelped like a whiny dog and the girl behind the counter screamed. I ran behind the behind the counter and joined her.
The man from the lizard truck entered the shop now holding a rifle on his shoulder. He resembled the slob customer. I thought they might be brothers, and this is how I would die.
He pointed the gun at his assumed brother and ordered him out of the store in a long southern drawl “No need to cause such a ruckus Melvin. Now let’s get! Sorry for the trouble ladies.” And with that, he tipped his baseball hat in a disparity of politeness as they made their exit. It felt like going to heaven. The girl and I dropped to the floor in solace next to the open case of chocolates. The rich scent consumed me in my hyper awareness of all senses, and it was comforting. I thought of my grandpa. The girl and I embraced and hugged each other with all our might. We cried a little in joy as the fear escaped us.
Later, I had two dozen boxes of the California brittle that was gifted to me in grandma and grandpa’s freezer where they usually kept extra meat. My grandpa kissed me on the cheek where I felt the bristles of his chin sweep my face when I handed over a box of his favorites. I told the story about the scary day in the confectioners’ shop to my grandpa and watched his face as he beamed at me with his twinkly eyes and sideways grin in pride and let those chocolates melt in his mouth nodding his approval for his Italian granddaughter’s prowess and storytelling talent. He winked at me like perhaps I was making it up like many of the stories he told and I let him rest with that.