Monday, November 9, 2015

When Story Is Like an Egg Cream

Down at the secular level of definitions available for the word epiphany, you are pleased to find the one most suitable to you, a moment of sudden awareness or insight.  You first encountered the word, which in itself was a sudden insight, from your sister, who had a habit of telling you things that did not seem to relate to anything until you realize, often well after the fact, that insights, whenever they came, brought a chemical sense of tingle.  

At the time, you associated that with a word you'd learned on your own, effervescence, which you learned after watching your father plunk two wafer like tablets into a glass of water.The tablets were a then popular anti-acid, over-the-counbter remedy called Alka-Seltzer.  

Indigestion was a rare event among your family, thus some considerable time elapsed between the discovery of your father, immersing the two-tablet dose in a glass of water, and the need of either of your parents or your sister for the long, satisfying burp after ingestion signaling the tablets had done their job well.

You were the immediate suspect for the missing Alka-Seltzer tablets, and properly so.  Watching an ordinary glass of water become transformed into a cornucopia of fizzing was almost as much pleasure as you could bear.  Perhaps in the interests of economy, your sister showed you a trick that was a one-up on the fizzing tablets.  One heaping teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a glass, followed by a half cup of vinegar.

Your on-the-spot epiphany after being introduced to this formula was how, in fact, epiphany trumped effervescence.  In time, your interests caught up with your education, at least in the sense that you came to conclude how nice it would be if the stories you were writing had epiphanies.  And yes, you were soon brought to the family tribunal yet another time.  "Someone," your mother said, "has been using the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar."  

While you were in and about that age, you heard a number of sentences begin with the word "someone."  They could as well have begun the sentence with the more specific use of your name.  You were that someone, who learned to enjoy the greater visual of epiphany rather than effervescence.

So far as you are concerned, stories should effervesce into epiphany.  Your own significant variation on the theme of story is the subtext of nothing ever being what it seems.  For the longest time, this brought you difficulty among teachers and such others as you were able to wheedle or torment into reading your material.  Your intentions were not to be dreary.  Although a bored younger person, well imbued with impatience, you were not dreary at all.  You were in many ways the living enactment of the effects of bicarbonate of soda into which a quantity of vinegar had been introduced.

Your belief that nothing is what it seems does not mean you are suspicious or, indeed, cynical, rather that you hadn't expected much from those two Alka-Seltzer tablets or the combination of bicarbonate of soda with vinegar, and yet, look what happened.  You had another sort of epiphany when handed a drink of mythical proportions, the so-called egg cream, which, contrary to its name, contains neither egg nor cream.  When you first heard what the ingredients to this remarkable beverage were, you could not believe the information.  

Then someone showed you with great specificity.  An inch of Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup at the bottom of a tall glass, followed by three and-a-half inches of milk, the rest of the glass filled with seltzer water from a siphon bottle as opposed to being poured from an ordinary bottle of soda .  You might get passable results from Bosco or Hersey's chocolate syrup, but you would never experience the true transformation of the mystical periodical table of elements.

In similar fashion, any bicarbonate of soda and any vinegar will oblige, but for your needs, a greater specificity calls out.  The bicarbonate of soda must be Arm and Hammer backing soda.  The vinegar must be Heinz's distilled white vinegar.

In such matters, particularity as they relate to story, science becomes replaced with a combination of magic, sentiment, and the child-like amazement at the kinds of chemistry where things mix not according to their atomic numbers or valence or any other explanation related to science.  Story needs to have its elements combine as Fox's U-Bet syrup combines with cold whole milk and seltzer water.   

Even were you to secure a bona fide seltzer siphon bottle, Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup, and cold whole milk, you would need to combine these elements with the same sense of their being something of magic or myth or some secret code necessary as the attending ritual to produce a viable result.

Creation comes from technique, a child-like sense of wonderment, an inherent faith that nothing is what it seems, and a curiosity to plumb the dark corners of human awareness.

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