A Piece of White Chocolate

A Piece of White Chocolate

By: Matthew Dube

Mr. Perry and Mr. Vandercamp brought me, Keith, and Gabe, all fatherless sons, to the town dump to sell chocolate as a summer camp fundraiser. Technically it was a landfill, and standing at the lip I saw bulldozers scraping away dirt to make room for bags of garbage. It smelled terrible. Taking the trash to the landfill was mostly men’s work in my town, and they all knew my scout leaders. Mr. Perry and Mr. Vandercamp grinned and punched shoulders and gossiped about what people were throwing away while we sold pouches of York Peppermint Patties, trying to keep them out of the sun so they didn’t melt in their silver sleeves. We worked three hours, and then Mr. Perry brought a half-dozen sub sandwiches and cokes. We ate our lunches on the bench seat of his truck. “This is the same as any job site,” he said. “You’re doing great.” We ate and goofed off and watched gulls riding thermal drafts coming off the decaying trash. . . . I was living in Kalamazoo when Luna put out the Penthouse CD. Track eight was named “Kalamazoo,” and I listened to it again and again, trying to see my life through its alchemical “green green bottles.” The cd cover was a black and white photo of skyscraper at night, towering vertically while taxi lights blurred below.  It was NYC, it had to be, but that summer I stumbled out of the bar and walked home looking for that exact view. Maybe it was the bank where I weighed myself in the lobby, or the hotel where I skipped a drug test required for employment. It could have been here, I thought, standing in front of another tall gray monolith. . . .Most people dropped off their garbage in the first half of the day. After lunch, it was us and the gulls. Then, someone came back, a bearded man we recognized from earlier in the morning. “Back for more chocolate,” I joked, and he grinned but squinted his eyes. “Where’s your troop leader, kids?” We pointed to Mr. Vandercamp, sitting in his Pontiac back a little from the landfill’s open edge. He walked over there, the silver foil of a peppermint patty visible in his pants pocket. He talked with Mr. Vandercamp, and then they called over Mr. Perry. A little later, they called us over, too. “Boys, you need to see this,” Mr. Perry said, and peeled back the wrapper on a peppermint patty. The chocolate shell was white, not snowy but cloudy. Gull white. “I seen this when I was in the Sea Bees,” Mr. Vandercamp said. “The chocolate dries out and the chocolate color leaches out.” He spit on the patty and rubbed it with his finger like a fairy lamp. The patty got darker, but still wasn’t the rich brown you’d want to pay for. “It’s still good.” For something you’d buy at the dump. “Go ahead. Taste it.”

Matt Dube was a boy scout until suddenly he wasn’t. He tried to be prepared, until he didn’t want to know what was around the next corner. He’s found himself here and there, but for the last little while, he’s been teaching at a small mid-Missouri university.

%d bloggers like this: