Lunch cost 50 cents at Topeka Drive Elementary in 1983. Dad fixed my hair and gave me two quarters every morning as I fell out of the van, messy half-done homework spilling out of my blue Trapper Keeper. And every lunchtime, I begged and glared for Twinkie pieces from Rupee, sandwich halves from Eric, and, on Tuesdays, pepperoni bits from all of the Jewish kids who ordered folded cafeteria pizzas.
And the bell rang at 2:25. I ran out of the front gate and crossed the street. I dropped my two quarters on the ice cream truck’s counter and, out of breath, huffed, “One box of Rubble, please!”
I grabbed the box. It smelled like Bazooka Joe and sounded like Nerds. I tore the top of the box open and started pouring the hard, small candies in my mouth. I put a quarter of the box in and started chewing. The hardness gave way to sugar, gum base, Yellow#5, Red #40 and goodness. The quarter box softened and I poured another quarter in, trying to crunch the hard pieces as it combined with the gum already in my mouth. Some bits of gum and copious amounts of drool escaped as I poured in the third quarter of the box. I split the gum in two, and symmetrically chewed a piece on each side of my mouth. I poured in the last quarter of the box and labored to chew the re-combined wad of gum. I could barely close my mouth. I tried my best, in vain, to swallow the excess sweet, sugary drool. I grunted an unintelligable, ‘Thank you,’ to the ice cream truck man, and walked back to school.
It happened one Tuesday when I was quasi-stuffed with pepperoni bits. I chewed on my Rubble for five minutes, but had three large, stubborn pieces, stuck in the wad of gum, that wouldn’t soften. I pulled the gum out of my mouth and dug through it. “Rats!” I thought as I pulled out three teeth and tried to scrape the gum off of them. “I hope the tooth fairy doesn’t pay less for gummy teeth.”
Days passed by and I got $1.50 for the three teeth, full price for the early 80s. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I got some new teeth. The new teeth had ridges. I could run my fingernail along the front of them to make a nice grinding sound, like a file on balsa wood. The new teeth were better cutters and chewers. I used the tooth fairy money to have three glorious days of two boxes of Rubble!
Zach got his fifth tooth this week and he got a new hobby, grinding his teeth by rubbing his teeth against each other. The sound gave me chills and brought me back to Rubble. I rubbed my teeth with my fingernail. The ridges had flattened out a bit. I turned my fingernail on its side and got the sound of my youth.
Apparently, the ridges migrated to my fingernails.