Big Delilah ran the candy store at the far end of Elm Street. All the kids went there, their pockets jingly from nickels and pennies. You could fill a small paper bag with bubble gum, licorice whips, licorice pipes, peppermint sticks, jawbreakers, jelly beans, gumdrops, jujubes, SweeTarts, wax bottles, Popeye cigarettes, caramels, and candy necklaces. Some were four for a penny!
She was very tall and sturdy. Her eyes were peppermint green, and her lipstick was the same shade as the licorice twists. Her hair was as dark and frothy as a root beer float. How could I not love her? Big Delilah was my first crush. I don’t know how old she was (maybe thirty!), but it didn’t matter. Give a boy a pocketful of chocolate coins, and he’s yours forever. Give him a bag of bubble gum cigars, and he’ll rule the world!
She always wore the same cotton-candy-pink blouse and stained white apron. It was a butcher’s apron, but smeared with colored sugar rather than blood. She didn’t smile at any of the kids, but she was tolerant of them. She expected ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ during each transaction, and listened patiently to all the garbled allowance-day excitement. Her hands were large but shapely, and I was fascinated by their delicate movement behind the sliding glass counter. She plucked each piece of candy like it was a blade of grass. The precision of her motion was a joy to behold. I only saw her come from behind the counter once, and that was when she saw me walk in, bleeding from the elbows and with a big gash on my forehead. My eyes were red from crying, and my parchment white face was written with road ink. I looked like Evel Knievel.
“Oh honey, are you all right?”
And, being a boy, I worked hard to look even more tragic.