Miriam held a Twinkie up to the light. She hailed it "The Supreme
Miracle Cake," since — according to her — it would
never go bad. I told her that everything has an expiration date. Na uh,
she said, maintaining that as long as it stayed in its vacuum-sealed
pouch the Twinkie would remain as fresh and delicious as the day it was
baked, and that was why you always saw Twinkies in bomb shelters and
space shuttles in the movies — though I'd never seen a Twinkie in a
bomb shelter or space shuttle. Maybe I didn't watch enough movies. I
challenged her to leave it on the counter, until it began to rot, which
I was certain it would, sooner or later. She agreed to this. And for
several years the Twinkie sat on the counter. We chopped vegetables
around it, set down shopping, hoisted our kids and bandaged their
knees. They spilled milk on the floor, dragged crayons along the walls,
but knew better than to touch the Twinkie. When we were hungry, and
there was nothing in the house, we talked down our grumbling stomachs,
or went out to eat. The children grew and we grayed, and when finally a
mephitic odor did fan out from the small desert, she ignored it. Within
the clouded plastic, green spots decorated the pastry. I waited for her
concession, either written or verbal. The smell spread and clung to
every surface, ingraining itself in the farthest niches of the house.
The dogs cowered by the vents. The children spent most of their time
outdoors, with a mature understanding — of which we couldn't
have been prouder — that whatever was going on was bigger than them.
Friends and family made excuses to stay away, to blame the couriers for
the absence of invitations in our own mailbox. The stench carried with
us, wherever we went. We were old and stubborn, and I knew she wouldn't
concede. I knew that as much as we scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed, we
wouldn't be clean of it.
Ravi Mangla lives in Fairport, NY. His fiction has appeared recently in
elimae, Dogzplot, Pequin, McSweeney's Internet Tendency and others.