I was plunking down a twenty for gasoline at the convenience store when I spotted my buddy Alner surveying the rack of candy bars.
“Decisions, decisions,” he muttered. “I’ve been in a state of confusion ever since they abolished the Mars bar and then said they’d bring it back.”
“I hear you,” I said. “These fakes just don’t cut it. But you know what you looked like just now?”
“Ah…is this going to be another trip back to your old days?” he said.
I hardly had time to grin before — thanks to my power of metaphysical travel — we were making our way down a Wyoming Valley street of some 60 or so years ago.
“I knew it,” Alner said. “I should have just grabbed an Almond Joy and kept my mouth shut. How long are we going to be here?”
“Long enough to show you one of the lost treasures of western civilization,” I replied. “I said you reminded me of something – a kid making a nickel’s worth of choices at the penny candy counter in an early 20th-century neighborhood grocery store.”
“This I’ve got to see,” he nodded. “I think you also have the power of – what did you call it – theoretical invisibility so nobody can actually see us?”
“You got it, buddy,” I said, ushering Alner into a little corner emporium.
“Boy, they’ve sure got a lot of stuff in here,” he said. “A magazine rack – and look at those comic books. Shelves from floor to ceiling full of canned goods, bags of sugar and tea. A bread rack. You could feed your family here.”
“Actually this is the kind of place where most folks did their shopping. You told the guy at the counter you wanted a can of beans, and he reached up with a grabber stick and snared it for you. Maybe he even put it on credit. But step over here and take a gander at what I really brought you here for.”
Alner’s jaw dropped when he saw the glass-enclosed counter full of boxes of little pieces of candy.
“Wow, a kid’s paradise,” he whistled.
“I hear you,” I said. “If you’d been a proper little boy or girl all week, your mom would hand you a nickel and down to the store you’d trot, dreaming of sweet delights.”
“I like those tiny little brown bags,” he laughed.
“Hey, put five candies in there and you’re king,” I said.
“Neat stuff,” said Alner, leaning close up to the glass. “I recognize some of those chocolate goodies, the ones with peanut butter inside or with sprinkles all over them.”
“I never knew why those little black hard candies were called “ben hurs,” I said, but darn they were good.”
“You can still get those Squirrel Nut Zippers,” he said, his eyes widening. “Turkish Taffy – whatever happened to it? Did everybody chew bubble gum? Look at all the different kinds. Wow – licorice pipes. Omigosh, I can’t believe those big red wax lips or the enormous teeth. I’d love them. Got a nickel?”
“Sorry,” I laughed. “The storekeeper would call the cops over our 2013 coins. Anyway, I have to go pump my gas.”
Within seconds we were back at the convenience store and I was heading for the pumps when Alner laughed and flashed a mouthful of huge wax teeth.
“You didn’t,” I moaned.
“I left my smartphone in exchange,” he said. “You’ve got to have some values in life.”