Volume 1, Number 4 -- November, 1996

High Spirits!

fiction by Amelia James

 I remember Candy very well. She was a remarkable young lady, who never fully appreciated her own unique personality. To me and many other friends and acquaintances, Candy's laughter was infectious. She was silly and often times nonsensical, but always sincere. Even after all these years that have passed, her memory still drifts in when I least expect it! How unfair that her life was taken so swiftly and tragically. Why, I asked continuously. To what purpose? What greater form of existence needed her more? Is there truly a "God" who protects us from harm? Candy, that bubbly and full spirited child had so much to give in hopes of receiving nothing more than love and acceptance in return.

 Candy and I worked at a place called "Dan's High Spirits." It was a small country beer and wine store. We also sold submarine sandwiches from the deli, condiments, soda and various household necessities. Dan's was as old as the small Vermont town from where it originated. It's worn original hardwood floors and ancient glass coolers gave it a warm and homey feeling. Candy worked there, for as she quoted once, "what else is there for me?" I worked there out of necessity as well as convenience. I lived across the street. We made a great team, although we had distinct differences in personality! A young man, the "soda man" as we called him at Dan's , caught her fancy. He was our regular distributor of Pepsi products and made deliveries on a weekly basis. Totally absorbed in her own fantasies of him wanting her, Candy created an obsessive infatuation for him. (For the life of me, I can't remember his name, we always referred to him as "soda man.") Even though she knew down deep inside his feelings couldn't possibly match her own, Candy persisted. He rarely gave her attention, except in jest, even then he didn't take her seriously. It was her way of defying her low self-esteem. If she caught him in her web, well then she was worth something!

 Candy was extremely happy when he made his deliveries, anticipating his arrival each week, like dry soil anticipates a torrential rain. She lived, breathed and dressed for the occasion. She infected everyone at Dan's with her laughter. I thought,"maybe Candy, really needs this man. Maybe he's the one for her." "Perhaps, I'm wrong about him, just look at her glow".

 The week before Candy's life was forever changed, the "soda man" made his usual scheduled delivery, however, he arrived early and Candy wasn't due in until later. So, I took the opportunity to express Candy's infatuation towards him. Being an arrogant young man, his reaction was a little cocky. Surely he thought to himself that most woman were allured by him. Momentarily, I regretted sharing Candy's secret with him, but then her best interests were at heart. "Why would I want to take that dizzy gal out?" he asked, then laughed as if I were insane to suggest. Finally, after convincing him that he should get to know people before passing judgments, he agreed to ask her out the following week.

 Candy arrived later, "Gee, I hope I didn't miss the "soda man", "she said while glancing out the front window, as if she expected him any moment. I explained he was here and gone, never mentioning our conversation. Candy's moods swayed like a light swing in a gentle breeze. She remained quiet and aloof for the remainder of our shift. Disappointment was clearly written on her face and admitted by her slow, nearly lifeless actions. Then, like Candy, she bounced back to her bubbly self the very next day.

 Surprisingly true to his word, the "soda man" arrived the following week. After fussing around with the delivery, exchanging hand receipts and listening to Candy's babbling about nonsensical things, he asked her out. I couldn't get a word in edgewise the remainder of the day and into the night. Candy had dinner with my son David and I (although, she didn't eat as she didn't know where she was going on this date and kept insisting she was too fat, anyway), never did her thoughts stray far from the "soda man." She painted many scenarios in her head and played each one to the hilt.... "Acceptance? Rejection? Too fat? Too thin? Talk too much? Not enough? An entire myriad of emotions, mostly bordering negativism, self-doubt and low esteem. She played with her emotions like a professional gambler, only Candy chose the most destructive cards for her hand. "What made you like this Candy?" I wondered, as I had so often.

 She borrowed my black silk shirt for the occasion. Candy always loved that shirt. She promised to take good care of it and was eternally grateful. You'd think I gave her the key to this man's heart. We bade farewell, never knowing it would be forever. It must have been around midnight when I awoke in my quiet apartment. My toddler son, David was sound asleep in silent slumber. Tip-toeing out to the kitchen so the floors wouldn't creek, with my blanket securely wrapped around me, I grabbed something to eat and curled up on the couch in the living room. It was very quiet, I remember not wanting to turn on the T.V., for I felt a strange premonition surrounding the silence. I remember moving towards the sliding glass doors, then peering through the windows, not a soul nor vehicle in sight. Dan's neon sign flashed and the roads appeared slick around the intersection from the softly falling rain. I remember thinking "it's too quiet." An eery almost omen like feeling came over me and I wondered how Candy was doing.

 Suddenly I heard a crash, like mangled metal or the swift crushing of a can. I waited, fear glued me to the floor. I had been half way to the kitchen, and I couldn't move. I felt as if I stood there for hours. There was total silence suddenly. What was that? I forced myself to think. It came from outside, should I look? yet I couldn't avert my eyes. I was petrified! Suddenly there were sirens, many, from all directions and lights were flashing everywhere. I ran to the window and peered out, clutching my throat. I couldn't make out what was going on. The mist and the commotion and people from out of nowhere blocked my vision! It was an accident. Is that a small car I see? I couldn't quite discern. It's not big enough to be a car, is it part of the bridge those people are so frantically trying to get at? Should I run down? I can't leave David alone. What if I know the person? Can I handle it? Did they have a family? Was there a kid in the car? Overcome by exhaustion, I felt dizzy and weak. I had to lay down and rid myself of these thoughts, this picture, and drift away into a safe place for reality was too scary.

 I awoke the next morning by the ring of the phone, my head throbbed... Dan said, "Candy's dead...car accident...you know she likes to drink...slick roads...misjudged the curve...bridges are always worse than roads...I don't expect you to show up for work...down at the junkyard...you know the place...she was your friend."

 I ventured down to the junkyard, the only one in town and I knew, just as I knew last night that my friend was