The Twinkie


I was going to enjoy that little piece of sponge cake almost as much as the sound of my little sister pounding on the door. Or was I?

The Twinkie

“There’s never anything in this house to eat!” I complained as I surveyed our half-empty refrigerator. in desperation I opened the meat keeper and then pulled out the vegetable drawer. There I saw it. Between the folds of the plastic bags containing the asparagus and the cabbage, someone had attempted to hide a cream-filled, golden yellow sponge cake, a Twinkie.

“It’s my lucky day,” I said for the benefit of that someone—my nine-year-old sister, Valarie. There was little doubt in my mind that she was the one who had hidden the Twinkie because she is the sneakiest member of our family and had been hiding things ever since I started my growth spurt.

Just as I expected, she immediately swooshed over, jumping and screaming, “That’s my Twinkie!”

“Yours?” I said. “Who says?”

“You know you ate yours,” my sister shouted. “Now give me that!”

Technically speaking, of course, she was right. Mom had bought six packages of Twinkies and had given each of us a package. I had done away with my two Twinkies in a matter of seconds. Valarie had apparently eaten one and then saved this other one. Yes, technically, I had eaten my portion. But why should a kid who is barely over four feet tall receive the same food allotment as someone who is destined to play varsity basketball? I needed nourishment. I walked casually, though swiftly, down the stairs and to my room.

I knew what would come next. Within six seconds Valarie was pounding on my locked door. “You’ll be grounded! I’ll tell Mom and Dad! You won’t be able to drive until you’re 18! I’ll take your tapes! I’ll … I’ll tell everybody you like Becky Fitzgerald!”

Now I knew I was pretty safe when it came to the first few threats. I could plead innocence. How was I to know that the Twinkie belonged to Valarie? It was just right there in the vegetable bin. The mention of Becky, however, did bother me slightly. But then I realized that since Becky already knew I liked her, it wouldn’t matter if Valarie blabbed. No, nothing Valarie said or did could affect me. Nothing.

So, as she pounded on the door, I opened the wrapper slightly and squeezed the Twinkie. Sure enough, it was perfect. Along the seam line, I could see the slightest hint of the cream filling.

To me, there is no greater treat than a Twinkie for your everyday, put-it-in-your-mouth variety of junk food. And this particular Twinkie would be especially satisfying because my sister was pounding on my door.

In fact, the sheer delight of the moment made me grin. I knew I was grinning because I could see my reflection in the mirror on the medicine chest in the bathroom adjacent to my room. The reflection of myself with that Twinkie poised near my mouth and ready to go in would normally have been a fine sight if at that moment my eyes hadn’t shifted to the picture in the corner of my mirror. It’s the picture of Christ that Sister Engright gave me. I can’t even remember the exact circumstances, except that there had been an article of faith involved and that CTR song.

Something was causing me to hesitate before stuffing the Twinkie into my mouth. I looked back at myself in the mirror again. It was always startling to see that I didn’t look the way I pictured myself. The rash that had developed when I’d started shaving hadn’t disappeared yet like Dad had said it would after my skin toughened up. Just looking at myself made me want to stuff a hundred Twinkies in my mouth out of sheer discouragement. What a contrast this adolescent face was to the face of the Savior’s in the picture. The Savior had always been my idea of a true hero. Here was someone who hadn’t buckled under when the going got tough. That’s why I’d put his picture on my mirror and not on my wall between the sports and car posters.

My sister was hitting the door so hard now that I was afraid she’d bang a hole through it. Dad had talked about that recently when he and Mom were discussing the possibility of getting some new doors. “Let’s wait until Chuck is out of the terrible teasing stage,” I’d heard him say.

“You mean when he’s 43,” Mom had answered.

“Yes, or on his mission,” Dad had said. “Let’s get new doors when he’s gone and no one feels a need to tear after him and pound on his door.”

I looked at the picture of the Savior again. It wouldn’t be that long before I’d be out there somewhere trying to convert people to the gospel of truth and light and peace.

Peace? What was peace? I didn’t feel peaceful these days with my body changing and all kinds of forces exploding in me, making my insides feel like they were going to pop right out. Take this Twinkie, for instance. I wanted it so badly I could hardly stand it. Sometimes I wanted to eat and eat and eat and never stop. And why shouldn’t I have this Twinkie? It wasn’t as if I was about to take drugs or commit a felony. I wasn’t doing half the stuff I knew some of the kids at my school did. Hey, I’m your basically good guy, and Mom and Dad had every reason to feel fortunate that my only vice was teasing my sister once in a while.

But now looking at the serene and peaceful expression on the face in the picture, I could see a contrast. “Ah, I don’t care,” I thought as I lifted the Twinkie again. “I’ve got to have this. I’m a growing boy.” I could again smell the sponge cake and I was pretty sure I could even smell the cream filling. “I’ll get her another one sometime. I’ll give her the whole package the next time I get to a store.”

But I knew that wouldn’t do it. I knew that the issue came down to right now and this minute. Anybody could repent later, but it takes a big man to make the correct decision at the very moment that temptation is beckoning him.

Good grief, it’s only a Twinkie, I thought. But I also knew that life is a combination of all kinds of small decisions and acts. Yes, it was just a Twinkie, but it wasn’t mine.

I moved the Twinkie a little further away from me where I couldn’t smell it quite so well, and then I found myself pulling the wrapper back around it.

The next part I knew would be the most difficult because it involved the swallowing of pride. Besides, if I opened the door, my sister would rush me. Oh well, it had to be done.

“Here,” I said, opening the door a crack and pushing the wrapped Twinkie through it. The look of astonishment on her face deserved to be put on film. Then her eyes narrowed.

“All right, what did you do to it? What did you put in it?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “It’s yours, isn’t it?”

My sister examined the Twinkie carefully. “I know you did something to it.”

I was finally able to convince her that the Twinkie hadn’t been tampered with, and she scrambled from the door.

I sat down on my bed and felt the pang of withdrawal. The Twinkie was gone. This particular Twinkie would never be mine. But something funny was happening. As much as I could almost taste that Twinkie, I was glad—glad I hadn’t eaten it. In fact, as I went back to the mirror to check my smile, I was feeling satisfaction of a different, more substantial kind. The truth is, I was feeling pretty good.

I turned on the tap, patted down my hair, checked my teeth one more time, stretched my neck to see if there were any whiskers I’d missed, and glanced again at the picture of the Savior. Then, whistling, I left my room to go out into the world—a better man.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Paul Mann