The other day, I had a hankering for a vanilla shake. I don’t know why it was in my head, but I have a hunch that some mug of vanilla ice cream with whip cream popped up on some commercial, in between some mindless show I was watching, then got stuck in my subconscious only to begin knocking gently on the walls of my mind. Once something’s in my head, and that’s very rare, I can’t get it out; and somehow, I must appease the beast. I was now on a mission from God. The next time I left the house, I was going to get a milkshake, come hell or high water.
The next day, I ventured out with that pesky milkshake dancing in my mind. It would be my treat for making it through all the mindless errands that should’ve been completed weeks ago. As I drove around, I thought about how good that vanilla shake was going to taste. It had been a while since I nuzzled up to a yummy ice cream treat. I thought about that cool, smooth body, and that long flowing whipped cream, doused with a cherry that would be winking at me. Yeah, this date was long overdue.
Then, something caught my eye. It was my bulging belly peeking out through a button in my shirt. That flabby lump, sleepily resting on my legs, concealing what might be a belt buckle underneath. Today, it appeared bigger than usual. I wondered if that beefy troll had somehow been feasting while I was asleep at night, sneaking a few unsavory pounds into his house when nobody was looking. I didn’t like the looks of things. I did my best to bury the thoughts of a selfish, expanding gut who only cared about itself. My priority, for now, was getting that milkshake.
As I drove around, debating which place would serve the best shake, my mind seemed to have caught on to what I was up to. I could feel uncertainty, doubt, and guilt creeping into the depths of my cerebral cortex. I didn’t understand it. It was crazy. I hadn’t done anything to warrant these feelings. I recalled the words of a priest I once heard, “It’s okay if you entertain sin as long as sin doesn’t entertain you.” Sin? What’s going on here? I just want a frickin’ milkshake. There’s not ONE thing in the bible about the evil of a milkshake.
“Whatcha doing?” my mind asked.
“What? Nothing. Don’t worry about it. Go back to sleep,” I said.
“I know you,” my mind pried. “You’re up to something.”
“It’s none of your business what I do in my life,” I fought back.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Take it easy,” my mind uttered. “We’re a team, you and me. We’ve been through thick and thin together.”
“Well, this is something I need to do on my own,” I continued. “Really, it doesn’t concern you.”
“Look, I’m not here to judge. We’re friends,” he chimed. “You’re your own man.”
“Damn straight,” I emphatically stated. “You’re not the boss of me.”
“No, no of course not,” my mind assured. “Soooo, what’s going on, big fella?”
“Okay.” (heavy sigh) “I’ve decided that I’m going to… well, I’m gonna get a milkshake today,” I declared.
“Like hell you are!” my mind snapped. “Have you looked in the mirror lately, champ? You’re sporting a belly the size of Idaho.”
“You said you wouldn’t judge!” I cried.
“You disgust me,” my mind sneered, then stormed off.
My head was now spinning. I jerked my minivan into an empty parking lot. I sat there quietly for what seemed like several lifetimes. Suddenly, I remembered what I typically did when I was confronted with a major decision in life, like moving to another state to take a new job or having to pull the respirator plug on a close family member who had become comatose. I pulled out a pad of paper and wrote MILKSHAKE at the top; and then, on one side of the page, I wrote PROS and on the other side I put the word CONS. Under PROS I scribbled: YUMMY, SATISFYIING, COLD, MILKY, HAPPY, VANILLA-RY. I moved on to CONS. I began jotting: FAT, BLOATED, SUGAR, PERSERVATIVES, CALORIES, DIET, UNHEALTHY, DIABETES, DEATH. To my dismay, I had more words in the CONS column. It left me no choice, but to rip up the list.
I pulled out of the parking lot, my ears ringing, while I did my best to fight off the dizziness. Up ahead, I could make out the golden arches of a McDonalds through my blurred vision. It wasn’t my first milkshake choice, but I just wanted to put an end to the inner turmoil. In the McD’s parking lot, I did my best to fight my anxiety and skin crawling. “Do you really want this shake?” I asked myself, knowing full well the ramifications. “Hell ya!” I responded back at me. “Do you? Do you really?” I pleaded to myself. “You bet your sweet ass I do!” I sternly answered, puffing out my chest while my other half cowered.
I reached for the door handle, but couldn’t do it. I convinced myself it just wasn’t worth the extra pounds or guilt. I was selling my soul for a moment of ecstasy. I put myself back together then drove aimlessly for a while. My thoughts drifted back to my first milkshake in some Stucky’s off Interstate 95. I remembered how good it tasted and the slurping sound it made as I drained the last remnants at the bottom of the glass. Suddenly, thoughts began to bombard the milkshake wall I had erected in my mind. I began telling myself. What is the big deal about getting a milkshake? It’s not like you’re throwing these things down every day? Hell, when was the last time you had one? Plus, you’ve only had a bagel today… and a cheesesteak sub. You work hard all week. Dammit, you’re almost fifty years old and you can’t commit to drinking a milkshake? Son, you need to get it together.
Right then, I knew what I had to do. I pulled into the parking lot of a nearby church and went inside; it had been a while since I had been inside a Catholic Church. I found myself sitting across from the priest.
“You seem troubled, my child,” Father McDuggan inquired in his Irish brogue.
I released a long sigh, “You have no idea the pain I’ve been feeling, Father.”
“That’s what I’m here for, lad” the priest said with a comforting smile. “To help lift the burdens of God’s sheep. Tell me about your struggles, my son.”
“Well, I’ve been contemplating doing something all day, and I’m not sure if it’s right thing to do Father,” I said with my head hung low and my puppy dog eyes peering up to the padre.
“What is your conscious telling you to do?” the father asked. “You must listen to The Holy Spirit.”
“That’s the thing,” I stumbled. “One minute the Holy Spirit’s telling me to do it and the next he’s like you better not. I’m so confused.”
The priest leaned in and grinned. “What is it? You looking to get a little laisse into bed for a few kicks and giggles, ya horny tiger?”
“Oh no, Father. It’s nothing like that,” I bashfully responded.
“Ya wondering if you should take a little something that isn’t yours, ya thieving punk?” snapped the priest.
“Oh no, Father. I never take anything that doesn’t belong to me,” I quickly stated.
“Then you’re probably thinking, is it wrong for me to slip on some girl’s panties and throw on a blue dress, and then prance around in public like some princess in fairy land?” the priest sneered. “Am I getting warmer, ya perverted little freak?”
“No Father, it’s nothing like that,” I exclaimed.
“Then spit it out, boy. I don’t have all day here. I need to set up for the Senior Bingo and check my Facebook page” said the priest.
“Okay Father,” I stammered. “Today I had the urge to, well…”
“Touch yourself, ya sneaky monster?” the priest jumped in.
“What? No Father! I had the urge to buy a milkshake,” I blurted out. “A vanilla milkshake, dammit!”
“Excuse me?” Father questioned with a baffled look.
“I know. I know. It’s not good for me, but I figured it’s okay to treat yourself sometimes. Life’s hard. I don’t think God will be mad. Do you?
“You mean to tell me you just wasted 15 minutes of my time over a silly milkshake?” Father McDuggan huffed.
“Well, what’d you think? Do you think I should get one?” I sheepishly asked.
“Get the hell outta my church. I don’t have time for this. The truth is, you can stand to lose about twenty or thirty pounds, ya pudgy little pig,” he snapped.
“So, you’re saying maybe I shouldn’t get one… or, it’s okay, because I’m not really hurting anyone and it’s not a sin?” I hopefully questioned.
“I don’t care what you do!” the priest yelled. “Get six milkshakes if you want, then shove ‘em up your…”
Right then the church bells rang and I didn’t hear what he had said. He clomped away, then turned around and held up his middle finger, which I took to mean, you can get a milkshake, but just one. I think I finally had my answer and the priest’s blessings. I went over to the collection basket and put five dollars in, then took two dollars out for change. I didn’t want to go overboard, not to mention, I wanted to ensure I had enough money for my milkshake.
I found myself in a Denny’s, eyeing up a luscious milkshake on the menu. The waitress came over to take my order.
“What can I getcha, hun?” she asked.
I gleefully sat up and smiled, “May I please have a big vanilla milkshake.”
“Ummm, now that sounds yummy, hun. You can’t go wrong with a milkshake,” she nodded.
“I put a lot of thought into it and, you’re right. You can’t go wrong with a milkshake,” I agreed.
“So true, sweetie. But unfortunately, our little blender is on the fritz. I’m sorry. Can I get you some Moon Over My Hammies?”
My face morphed into stone. I clenched my jaw and squeezed out some words between my teeth, “Do I look like I want Moon Over My Hammies? Cause I’m not really feeling Moon Over My Hammies.”
“Well, there’s no need for that attitude,” she articulated. “People come miles around for our Moon Over My Hammies.”
I slammed my fist on the table, “I just want a God damn milkshake!”
She leaned over the table, her bad breath frying my cheeks, “You oughta be thanking me, sugar buns. Them things ain’t good for your health.”
I don’t remember how I got there, but I found myself in a grocery store in the ice cream aisle. I grabbed tub of vanilla and made my way to the check out. I think someone said “hi” to me on my way there, but I just stared straight ahead with a “get outta my way” look. The cashier asked me how my day was going and I think I muttered “peachy.” At first, the ice cream didn’t scan. She tried it a few times. Still nothing. I noticed my nails digging into the counter as my knuckles turned white. My teeth were pushing up towards my brain. Suddenly, there was a beep and the ice cream scanned. I receded back into relax mode.
“Wow, there are so many calories in these things,” the cashier exclaimed.
“Is there really? I’ll try and remember that next time,” I dryly responded.
“I would balloon up if I ate this,” she remarked.
“I have no doubt,” I concluded.
“That’ll be $3.59,” she said.
I ran my card through the machine.
“It’s not taking the card,” the cashier stated.
I ran it again. She shook her head. I tried it several more times. Nothing.
“Well, looks like somebody’s gonna have to wait on their ice cream,” she declared.
“Like hell I am,” I spoke in a low, demonic tone I’d never heard before.
I frantically reached in my pocket and found two dollars. I wasn’t giving up,
Upon arriving home, I fumbled with key in the lock, but finally got in the door. Things were bad. I had begun trembling and sweating, as my heart raced like a greyhound on a Florida racetrack. I rested my head on the counter for a minute. Maybe I passed out for a few minutes, but was awoken with the cat licking my nose. I looked at her. My blurry vision made her head look big, like a sea monster with long whiskers. I screamed.
I began piling ice cream in the blender then quickly added some milk. When I turned it on it was completely quiet. Whaaaa? Before panic could set in I quickly realized that machines ran on electricity and plugging it in would most likely solve the problem. It did. The sound was music to my ears… like Freddie Blender. After pouring the rich, smooth milk shake into a tall glass, I admired it for a brief second, my mouth watering like a Pavlov dog. As I raised it to my lips, my fingers slipped and the milky substance fell down the front of my shirt. Noooo. Yes. No lie. Blanked faced with no emotion, I made another one. This time I held the glass like a winning lotto ticket. The frothy shake landed in my mouth and, in one breath, I drank it all down. Consumatum est! It is finished.
An hour later, I sat balled up in a corner, crying uncontrollably, with milkshake all over my mouth and shirt. Through the sniveling, I kept muttering “You disgust me,” which progressed to “You’re a dirty little boy” and then to “Don’t look at me.” I hated every molecule in myself, feeling I had sold my soul for a milkshake. Calories from hell, for a taste of heaven. I kept asking myself “Why?” and the answer kept coming back to selfish weakness. Days would pass before I was finally able to look at myself in the mirror. I vowed never to be pulled down to that animal level again. Then, I saw a Cheetos commercial and my ears began to ring. A new mission would begin.
by Jeff Charlebois