Darryl loved to think of himself as an innovator. The thrill of it came from the knowledge that innovation was the only really true form of uniqueness that still existed in this world. The only way to step out of the crowd, to experience the full glare of the spotlight before the next fashionable trend stole it away again. This was the Age of Lightning. Nothing lasted. Never had the phrase “30 seconds of fame” held more poignancy than it did today.
Darryl understood all of this perfectly well, but what was conspicuous by its absence from his train of thought was malice. He bore no ill will to this whimsical crowd, this fickle audience that he co-populated the Earth with. There was no resentment, no grumbling, no flicker of jealousy when his moment of inspiration, of sweat, blood and toil, was cast into the ocean of has-beens along with a billion others, as the masses moved on to something passing, superficial, un-sublime. He bore the fact with some grace that, to get a foothold of any kind, one must constantly innovate.
And so, innovation became life to Darryl. He could not take two steps down any road without coming up with an incredible, naïve and fantastical idea about how to radically change this or revolutionize that, and how the principles of the idea were simple, and the execution only required the power of will. When he was with company, they were usually sane enough to bring his flight of imagination back safely down to Earth. But when he was alone, his imagination ran riot like an Australian bush fire, brushing aside the obstacles that reality puts in its path with all the disdain of a Dickensian Nobleman.
It was during one of these phantasmic reveries that he hit upon what he was certain would be the mother lode. His train of thought began from a judgement that he had silently passed on a friend of his. His friend, munching on a bar of Snickers, had grimaced and then unceremoniously dumped the rest of the candy bar, less than half eaten, into the nearest bin. On espying Darryl’s outraged expression, he shrugged and said, “Too sweet.”
Too sweet. How can that be a bad thing.
But Darryl had heard this same refrain many times before, and from many different people. It always boggled his mind to hear phrases like “Too much cheese,” “too much chocolate,” or “too much meat.” He could not understand what they meant when they said it was too much of a good thing. The idea, like Quantum Physics, lay outside the boundaries of his understanding.
Well, if I can’t fix it, I sure as hell can cater to it.
And so thinking, he stumbled upon his masterpiece. He resolved to create a candy bar that lost none of its original sweetness, but was tinged and accented by a contrasting flavour, so as to avoid offending the tongues of those who could not handle too much of a single flavour. Now that it had occurred to him, he marvelled that no one had thought of it before.
Never the type of guy who procrastinates, Darryl immediately set off to his little laboratory, armed with a carton of snickers bars and a whole arsenal of different flavours to test on them.
Many weeks passed without event. But we must not allow ourselves to be misled by this. ‘Twas but the temporary withdrawal of the ocean before the onset of the tsunami.
On that fateful day, Darryl resurfaced, triumphant, holding a box aloft in his arms a la Lion King.
His eyes strayed ne’er a moment from his path as he resolutely traipsed on toward the friend who had set this ball rolling.
His friend, having not heard from Darryl in weeks, neither in person, nor through digital media, looked on bemused as he spotted his quirky friend walking towards him, face aglow with the radiance of elation, holding a box of what appeared to be candy bars towards him.
“I’ve done it,” he exclaimed. Every syllable quivering with the weight of achievement.
“Lime flavoured Snickers.”
“Don’t question me, just give this a try first. We can talk later.”
So saying, he handed his friend the candy bar.
“You know, I have eaten Snickers bef…” his voice trailed off as Darryl impatiently held his hand up and gestured enthusiastically at the box.
“Shut up and eat up.”
And so he did. The first burst of flavour surprised him, it being nothing near what he had expected. And the shock of it caused him to choke on the morsel. An expression of doubt and dismay crept across Darryl’s face. But that quickly changed as his friend recovered and began to chew in earnest.
The obsession of parents with announcing every little achievement of their kids to the world at large, with no regard for whether that information was required or relevant in any way, is somewhat an indication of the thrill a creator feels at watching his creation flourish. Darryl partook of this thrill, albeit in a slightly less glamorous manner. He watched with glee as his friend stared at the candy bar in astonishment, as if close inspection would reveal the source of this new pleasure that had been bestowed upon him.
For the next two minutes, Darryl enjoyed the intermittent animalistic groans and sounds emanating from his friend. Finally, three candy bars later, his friend managed to gather his breath and speak.
“This is fucking good stuff, Darryl! I could eat this forever.”
“So, this isn’t… too sweet?” asked Darryl, in an almost menacing way.
“Heck naw, man. Oh, my God, this is… Oh, God,” he groaned, grabbing a fourth candy bar from the box.
Darryl gave a smile, which, to a close observer may have looked like a smile constructed more of condescension and patronizing emotion than genuine joy. It was the smile of the victor who was delighted with the fact that he won, but had not been given enough of a challenge to be able to respect his enemy.
“Hold on,” his friend cried at Darryl’s receding figure, “D’you got any more of those?”
Darryl walked on.
The manager at Frosty Fares Supermarket sat on a plastic chair, fanning himself with insurance forms, staring out at the dusty street into which, it seemed to him, humanity itself was forbidden to wander. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and business was about as slow as it had ever been. His mind, however, was a million miles from his petty financial concerns. His thoughts flew along with the gulls, on a distant beach a long time ago. The lingering touch of that feminine hand was still to him as vivid as it had been all those years ago. It was his fondest memory. The last remaining memory of life when it had been worth living to him. He could almost feel the breeze, and taste the salty tinge of the sea. It tasted like lemons to him. Strange, he thought to himself, that in all these years, it was only today that he realized it had tasted like lemons. It had always been a vague, pleasant sensation for him, but today it was tangible and substantial.
“Good morning, sir, and a good day to you.”
Jeremy, the manager, shaken from his reminiscing, assumed his customary expression of perpetual suspicion and regarded the man standing before him.
“Well, whatchu gonna be wantin’ then?”
Darryl extended his treasure till the box lay right under Mr. Jeremy’s nose. A look of understanding crossed the elderly man’s face as he realized he had found the source of lemon scent.
“I wondered if I could promote my candy bars at your supermarket, sir. I will, of course be giving you a commission. They’re a new kind of candy bar, sir, and I’m sure they’re gonna be the next big thing.”
Jeremy, struggling to recover from the nostalgic effect of the scent, acquiesced before he had a chance to properly consider what it was that he was agreeing to. However, it did not seem a bad deal to him. After all, it would be nice to have some company around the shop.
And so, Darryl set up his stall just inside the main entrance to the supermarket, hands trembling nervously. His confidence had taken a severe blow this morning. His efforts in creating the perfect candy bar had taken a toll on his performance at his real daytime job, and today he had been asked to vacate the premises, besides which he was behind on his rent.
He was aware that if he did not make it big with the candy sales, he was in fairly deep water. And he had also learnt the hard way that he was not a particularly good swimmer in deep waters.
The passage of the next few hours did nothing to ease his anxiety. A total of two people had crossed the threshold in the past three hours. One of them, diabetic, had scurried away with a squeal of petrification when Darryl had magnanimously offered her a free sample. The other had simply ignored him as if he were a Christmas tree decoration.
With half the day gone and not even a glimmer of an opportunity, Darryl began to fidget nervously, as sweat beads began to crystallize on his forehead. Every tick of the second hand sounded like the footstep of the Grand Inquisitor, approaching him to smear him with the filthy garb of a failure.
Cutting through the damning, self-indicting daydream came the floating, singing voice of a child. Darryl snapped out of it in a millisecond, training his eyes and ears towards the entrance. In walked a mother and daughter. The mother, about 30, seemed to emanate exhaustion. She seemed to have had the life sucked out of her and went about her task like an automaton, unseeing, unfeeling, out of force of habit. The child, on the other hand, seemed lively, sprightly, full of gumption and energy. It seemed obvious to Darryl that it was she that was the cause of her mother’s threadbare state of anatomy.
Darryl watched closely as the mother wearily, but systematically, worked through the list of items that she needed to purchase. She had barely finished scouring the first isle, when her child began to show the first signs of boredom. Soon enough, she abandoned her mother to the mundane existence of practicality, and set off on her private exploratory adventure.
That was when she spotted Darryl, a handsome man with a pleasant face, beckoning to her. She also detected a faint, but pleasant, scent from about his person. Being a child, this double sensory bait was overwhelming for her, and she positively ran down to his stall.
Darryl, sensing his first sale, knelt to speak face to face with the child, but before he could say a word, she had run past him and snatched the box with his candy in it. Taking a moment to savour the scent, she exposed the chasm that was her oral orifice and consumed half the candy bar in her first bite.
Darryl watched closely as her eyes shut in delight. Her mouth worked slowly and leisurely and her entire body seemed to shake with pleasure.
“Djis Kvntvn pbnjts?” she asked Darryl, still shaking.
“Djis Kvntvn pbnjts?” she asked, louder, petulance now creeping into her voice. She looked strangely blue to Darryl, and the frothing at her mouth certainly did not make her any prettier to look at. Darryl shuddered at the predicament the weary lady must be in, being given a child as terrible as this by providence.
“I’m sorry, I can’t understand you,” Darryl pleaded, seeing his chance of making a sale slip away.
The child began to positively throw a fit. She lay on the ground, screaming, writhing, her mouth frothing, her body convulsing, thrashing about.
The din brought her mother flying out of the aisles.
“WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT’S WRONG?” she screamed.
“I… I don’t know. She seemed to be trying to say something, I cannot understand what she is saying.”
He looked up to see the mother had not been listening to him at all. She had a look of the most sickening horror plastered upon her face. Darryl followed her eyeline and his eyes hit upon his box of candy bars.
“D… D…. Does that contain p-p-p-peanuts?” the lady whispered.
The blood drained from Darryl’s face.
Darryl walked along the bridge, morosely gazing out onto the river. Homeless, unemployed and hungry, he had lost all he had to lose in life.
But the fact that took stomaching, and that he had not yet been able to stomach, was the failure of his enterprise. The fact that the idiocy of one petulant girl had robbed him of his life’s calling, of fulfilling his role in society as that of an innovator extraordinaire. That he had been allowed his 30 seconds in the spotlight, but not for a feat of intellect, but for the corpse of a child, that was a particularly bitter pill to swallow. It was tougher for him to digest that than it had been for the girl to digest peanuts.
The news in the following weeks had been characteristically ruthless, killing off any chance Darryl had of starting his life over. The furore the child’s death had created had caused collateral damage as well, Mr. Jeremy being forced to shut down his beloved “Frosty Fares Supermarket” under severe pressure from activists.
Stepping over the railing of the bridge, Darryl gazed into the cold, grey expanse below him, and, taking a deep breath, he plunged.
Hours later, the screams of a few children alerted the neighbourhood to the fact that something was not quite right down by the riverbank. On investigation, two bodies were found, lying side by side.
Forensics later confirmed that the first body belonged to Mr. Darryl Johnson, aged 24. Time of death was approximated at 2 PM.
The second body was identified as Mr. Jeremy Sachs, aged 49. Time of death was approximated at 11 AM.
This was the tale of lemony snickers and a series of unfortunate events.