As the Flavor Runs Out
By Benjamin Chadwick
He studies the Bazooka jar longer than society would call normal, in his thirty-third year. Inside, a pile of rock-hard bubblegum slabs, individually sheathed in red and blue wax paper. Still only five cents apiece. They've waited untouched at this Amoco for decades, surviving a million families in the interstate wasteland, kids begging Mothers for change to blow on petrified pink; —no, she said, always no It'll rot your teeth and it'll rot your brain. Now his hand dives in, grabs a fistful, drops twenty-four on the instant-lotto countertop. It's his decision, as an adult. Off he goes smiling, breathing the earthy fumes of gasoline before climbing into his Lexus.
Bazooka Shaking fingers strip one down as the car climbs the on-ramp. Three parallel ridges. A faintly sexual pink. The wrapper floats against the windshield, buffeted airborne by the heater. An advertisement beneath the cartoon: Amazing Binoculars; send $4.95 and 38 comics. He’d done so in 1985... The sun is melting on distant western mountains. He roots through his gum-choked pocket and floors the accelerator.
One cannot chew Bazooka immediately; one must first soften it or risk shattering teeth, mandible, skull. His tongue roams the arid surface; flavor floods his mouth, wholesome, then nostril-widening, buzzing, cloying, excessive. It burns the gateway to his throat, but then, at last, salivary saturation– his eyes blissfully swirling, the gum and spit in equilibrium. Shamefully, he proceeds to chew. His molars fold the gum into a torpedo; he tosses it from left side to right. As he pops a second slab, he unwraps a third, steering with his knees.