“I wish I had some fudge,” Mama announced one day.
Since Mama’s staying home more so than usual – she never really went anywhere – she is sitting at home thinking of all the things she’s possibly missing out on, mainly food. As she put it, it’s one thing when you are choosing to be a geriatric hermit and a totally different story when it’s a necessity because you fall under a high-risk category.
“What kind of fudge?” I asked her.
“The kind Pop used to get,” she said. “Trouble is, I can’t remember what kind he got.”
I chuckled. How could she forget the kind of fudge my grandfather requested every time we went to the mall?
Back in the ‘80’s, Georgia Square Mall was my personal mecca and I made regular weekly pilgrimages.
My grandfather, however, hated going to the mall.
He didn’t understand why malls were necessary. We had the Sears catalog we could order from and if it wasn’t in that, he wasn’t so sure we needed it.
Until my grandfather found out about The Peanut Shack.
The Peanut Shack was more than just peanuts.
It was pretty much the whole olfactory sensation of Georgia Square.
The sweet, salty fragrance of roasted nuts and candy filtered throughout the whole mall.
As a chubby kid, just the appeal of nuts alone was not enough to lure me, but when I saw there was some glass cases inside, I was curious as to what confections they held.
Mama agreed to take me in, and I found all kinds of delectable items.
Popcorn coated in caramel or chocolate, candies, and fudge you could get by the pound.
To me, the mall was an amazing place where a pudgy, nerdy kid could get candy and books. I was sure I was in heaven.
I didn’t even know fudge came in a flavor other than chocolate and could be bought somewhere.
Granny always said it had to be homemade and that was the one thing she couldn’t make.
She blamed the humidity, which is why she only made us her prized divinity once every blue moon.
But here was a case loaded with all kinds of fudge.
On the way home, I had nibbled on just about all of the fudge but found the peanut butter one to be my favorite.
My crazy redhead lived on coffee and nicotine back then, and her tall, lithe frame was not one that ate fudge.
“Don’t you want to share that?” she asked.
But I knew that was her gentle way of encouraging me to share.
Granny thought a bunch of heathens had conspired with the devil to make fudge in the middle of summer when it was 200 degrees outside, and the humidity was higher.
Bobby said it was “alright” which is his way of saying it was good.
And my grandfather probably would have sold the house to get a truck load of it.
“Where did you get this?” he immediately wanted to know.
“At The Peanut Shack,” I said.
“Where’s that?” he asked.
He promptly ran down the hall and into his bedroom, where he pulled some cash out of his top dresser drawer and returned quickly.
“You go now and get me some more of this,” he told my mother. “Get me as much as $20 will buy.”
“That’ll get a lot,” Mama said.
“Get me $20 worth!”
“Don’t you do no such of a thing,” the Redhead Prime hollered from the kitchen. “Your daddy is supposed to be on a diet for his heart. He don’t need to candy.”
My grandfather frowned. He knew, like the rest of us, Granny thought if he was going to have another heart attack, she wanted it to be because her cooking was to blame because it was so good. Not some mall candy.
“Can you wait until I go back to work?” Mama asked, her voice a low conspiratorial whisper.
Pop eyed my box. “Can I have some of yours, Lil Un?”
Since my grandfather pretty much was my world, I was even willing to give up fudge for him. Plus, I was feeling a little queasy.
“Make sure it doesn’t have any nuts though,” he said. “I don’t like the nuts. Just a pure block of chocolate.”
From then on out, my Mama had to make regular trips to The Peanut Shack and get my grandfather fudge, like she was running ‘shine to Atlanta.
His request was always the same – just a pure chunk of nut-free chocolate.
He would savor each little piece he carved out of the little box, stretching it out until Mama could get him some more.
Then one day, by some uncertain circumstances, Pop and Granny went with us to the mall.
“Where’s The Peanut Shack?” he asked when we walked through the doors.
“Right there, Pop,” I said, pointing to the right.
Pop was ready for it, too. He had just finished a big job, put back his tithe, paid the bills, and put back enough fudge money to be stocked up on fudge for months.
He took a deep breath and walked in, Granny hot on his heels to make sure no fun or joy were had.
Mama and I went off in search of whatever I was needing and when we came back, we found Granny and Pop sitting on a bench outside of the Peanut Shack.
For someone who should have been giddied up on a sugar high, my grandfather looked almost solemn.
“What’s wrong, PawPaw?” I asked.
“They only had fudge with nuts,” he said quietly. “No plain chocolate – they were out.”
Granny looked quite pleased with herself as if this was some kind of karmic fudge justice.
“He shoulda gone ahead and got that dadblamed fudge,” she began. “I told him fudge was a lot like life. Sometimes you gotta put up with a bunch of nuts.”