Sunday, May 2, 2010


Before getting on the highway toward home this afternoon, I stopped at a gas station to fill up the fuel tank. It was already half-full, but I saw "Unleaded $2.60" on the sign and lost my head. Unfortunately, the sticker on the pump that said "Price on Sign for Cash Only" didn't catch my eye until I was already pumping fuel. Somehow it had escaped my notice that, after I swiped my credit card on the fuel pump, the price of 87 Octane jumped to $2.65.

Huh. So the privilege of paying with plastic is worth 5 cents a gallon. Go figure. From here, it seems more like a 5-cent-per-gallon "Up Yours" note to all credit-card customers. But maybe that's the Chinese food I ate for lunch talking. The god of fortune cookies (who seems to be right almost as often as a stopped clock) gave me this advice today: "Do not hide your feelings. Let others know where you stand." So don't blame me!

Maybe it was my forgiving frame of mind, or maybe it was my foreknowledge (based on experience) that I was going to be fighting to stay awake at the wheel for the next several hours, but I decided to give the same filling station a bit more of my custom today. I went inside to use the bathroom, wash my hands, and buy some food and drink that I reckoned would help me stay awake. Today's haul included two diet colas (thank you, Lord, for caffeine), a bag of super-hot-and-spicy Chex Mix, and a candy bar.

Now, my favorite candy bar used to be Butterfinger. I just loved that crunchety, peanut-buttery stuff inside the electro-plated coating of chocolate. As a teenager, I was one of those fat slobs who liked to take the "Butterfinger Challenge" and compare the three rivals, the holy trinity of junk food: Butterfinger, 5th Avenue, and Clark bars. Only as a grown-up, while traveling far from home, did I have my first spiritual encounter with the Chick-O-Stick: basically, a Butterfinger with the chocolate replaced by a dusting of dried, shredded coconut. What a revelation! The bar was even better without chocolate!

So, for the last decade or so, Chick-O-Stick has been my poison of choice. Luckily for my waist size, I haven't had much access to it. I can only seem to find it in about one out of six convenience stores that I visit, and I only visit convenience stores when I'm traveling out of town and need a place to pee, wash up, and buy staying-awake food for the road. So I've only enjoyed my favorite candy bar a couple times a year. And the last few times I ate one, I was a little disappointed. I didn't know if it was a bad batch, or perhaps the candy had been on the shelf too long, but I just had a feeling that Chick-O-Stick wasn't quite as good as it ought to be, that it would be perfect if only.... I didn't know what came after "if only" until today.

Today, I was about to grab a Chick-O-Stick off the shelf at the "Cash Customers Preferred" truck stop off the highway when I spotted something unusual on the shelf below it. It was a candy bar in a red wrapper with the name "ZAGNUT" on it. I had only seen this confection once before in real life, and before that I had thought it was only a gag made up for the movie Beetlejuice. Yet there it was, displayed for sale before my wondering eyes. And the desciption on the package -- "Crunchy Peanut Butter with a Coconut Twist" -- sounded provocative.

So I bought it. As soon as my tires hit the highway, I ripped the package open and munched on that Zagnut bar. And my taste buds said: "Now we can die happy." While the Chick-O-Stick is roughly cigar-shaped, the Zagnut bar has the look of a Butterfinger that has decided to go naked except for a sexy fuzz of golden, toasted coconut flakes. It has the texture and flavor that I've always thought Chick-O-Stick should have. This was what the ideal Chick-O-Stick would be like. Oh, Zagnut! Where have you been all my life!

I suppose it's a blessing that I only know one place in creation that sells Zagnut, and several hours' worth of tiresome highway lie between us -- highway that I won't be traveling on for another couple of weeks. God is merciful and does not let us be tempted beyond resistance. But for now, this is just a note: Zagnut is hereby promoted to My Favorite Candy Bar.

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