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Choosing one's chews

I have never cared particularly one way or the other about chewing gum, per se. It has never occupied my thoughts for more than a second or two at any time. On a list of 10,000 important items in my life, chewing gum would be absent from my list. If somebody said I could have a railroad car full of chewing gum if I walked across the street to get it, I probably would not go, because I would not know what to do with that much chewing gum, let alone a boxcar.

So, for some obscure reason that I cannot now remember, I happened to be chewing a stick of Juicy Fruit on a Tuesday afternoon when I was offered a piece of my favorite candy, English toffee. The Tuesday is enshrined in my memory -- my gum Armageddon. With the English toffee between my thumb and fingers and gum in my mouth, I was thrust upon the horns of a dilemma.An experienced gum-chewer would have known exactly what to do; but being the novice that I was, I didn't. The English toffee melted on my fingers and dripped on my shirt while I quickly sifted alternatives.

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It occurred to me to try to find the wrapper that the gum had come in, there being no other paper to put the gum in and nothing to set it on or drop it into, or so it seemed at that inelegant juncture in my history. Clearly, I had to do something very soon. But what? It would have been unseemly of me, then, to have simply propelled the Juicy Fruit out of my mouth, although that idea had been carefully reflected on, circumspectly weighed. It did not seem possible that I could be in so barren a room at the instant when my need was so great; but that indeed was the circumstance in which I found myself.

And then I remembered! Like a faint, poignant gong from the past, waltzing through the promenades of my eager cerebrum, came the answer.People used to say you could put gum behind your ear when you wanted to save it. You've heard that , everybody has; so simple yet so profound. I removed the gum from my mouth with the free hand and stuck it behind an ear, or tried to. It became hopelessly fused with my hair. Yes, people used to say that when men wore crew cuts and Princetons and the like! The harder I worked to remove the Juicy Fruit, the more firmly it united with my hair.

And so I left the silent, puzzled faces, carefully and solemnly watching me, with whatever dignity I could muster, with a dignity born of adversity, of the inauspicious and intransigent intricacies of a lamentable chagrin. But I made the best of my situation. On the way out, I reached deeply into the candy jar and obtained a fistful of English toffee.

As I walked home in the quiet, starstrewn summer night, I ruminated on the twists and turns a life can take, only occasionally thinking about all the gum in my hair. But mainly, I munched the English toffee.

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