The Dope and the silver-tongued devil

Late Saturday morning I was walking my dogs, when suddenly I heard an ungodly rumble, followed by a shock wave that sent me stumbling.

An earthquake? A gas main explosion? A plane crash? Thankfully, it was none of those. In fact, it wasn’t anything external. Instead, it was the onion/garlic/habanero omelet I’d had for breakfast coming back to haunt me. Or more precisely, coming up to haunt me.

Every internal nook, cranny, and wrinkle between my neck and navel was roiling, boiling and aflame with the Wrath of God.

I herded the curs into the car and tore home. Ultimately, it’d be no big deal — heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux and every other manner of intestinal distress have raised hell with me since I was hatched. All I had to do was get home and chug a quart or two of antacid and everything’d be pukka.

The only problem was when I got home I found I had no antacids of any sort. So I grabbed a quart of milk from the fridge, swilled a bunch, and then took off to Kinney’s.

When I pulled into the parking lot, the milk had dampened the fires enough so I could walk almost upright, and as I got near the entrance I saw someone was selling something.

Now there’s the thing: I’m a Saranac Lake native and while I’ve no idea how the world works, I understand My Home Town perfectly. Tag days and the like have been a fact of life as long as I could remember. As a result, if someone’s collecting for or selling something, I’ll support it. I don’t even pay attention to what it is anymore.

VFW? Sure. Pee Wee Hockey? Here’s a couple bucks. Bake sale for Al Qaeda? Gimme a bag of those date bars (Note, I did not mention the Women’s Civic Chamber. That’s because Liz Scammell Murray says I never do, and I didn’t wanna disappoint her).

But at Kinney’s I was in Gastricgeddon. I had no time to even think about supporting whoever was there, let alone stopping and handing over some moolah. I just shouted, “Catch ya on my way out,” and steamed into the store to the gut-rot rack. There, I grabbed a bottle of antacid, snapped off the cap, and downed about half of it before I got to the cash register.

My innards sufficiently becalmed, my account with Kinney’s settled, I walked out to see who was selling what. But once there, I found out who was selling whom.

The “who” was a Boy Scout. He was small, squared away and bedecked with as much chest bling as a North Korean general (the big diff being the kid earned his).

The “whom” that got sold was li’l ole me.

Unprepared for the over-prepared

Once the kid opened his mouth, I was a goner. He was the Muhammad Ali of sidewalk selling, hitting me first with one shtick, then another, then another, no two the same, and no break between them.

“You see we’re here selling popcorn,” he said. “Now, seventy-three percent of all our profits go to the Boy Scouts, 50 percent directly to the local troop. The prices vary, as do the types of popcorn. We’ve got something for everyone, all price ranges, starting with …”

I was in over my head — way over it. This kid could sell Sorels in Sudan. If I didn’t just grab something and split, he was gonna sell me his entire stock — table included.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the first bag I saw.

“Excellent selection,” he said. “Caramel popcorn.”

“How much is it?”

“Ten dollars a bag,” he said.

“Deal,” I said, handing him a sawbuck, grabbing the bag and taking off before he made me name him and his troop my beneficiaries.

Once out of his deadly orbit, I assessed the damages.

I’d just paid ten bucks for a bag of what was essentially Cracker Jacks. I didn’t mind spending the money, since it was going to Our Boys, God Love ‘Em. But Cracker Jacks? Aside from not having had any for 60 years, I never liked them Way Back When anyway. No matter. I now had a king size bag of the damned things.

I looked closely at the bag. The description said it was “gourmet caramel popcorn.” Gourmet, eh? No one ever pretended Cracker Jacks were anything but sugar-coated dreck, so I thought the gourmet stuff might be a world apart. Certainly, it should be, given its price.

The last time I bought Cracker Jacks, they cost a dime a box, and 10 bucks was a full day’s wage. So a $10 bag of caramel corn seemed less a snack than an outrage.

But then I did some homework. Today a box of Cracker Jacks cost a buck for a one-ounce box. My gourmet stuff came in an 11-oz bag. So in reality, this high-end premium treat was even cheaper than Cracker Jacks!

All that was left was to taste it. If it was as dee-lish as it promised, I’d just scored The Deal of the Century.

The proof is in the popping

I opened the bag, took out one big kernel, popped it in my mouth and chomped away. This was followed by a second kernel, then a third, till I could eat no more.

And now the moment you’ve been waiting for — my verdict.

I’ll put it to you as simply as possible:

If anyone wants an almost-full bag of gourmet caramel corn (the exact measure being 11 ounces, minus four kernels), give me a shout.

And if transportation’s a problem, don’t worry. I’ll deliver.