Sunday, July 30, 2017

HAWTHORNE HIGH SCHOOL STORIES: THE SODA MACHINE

by William Snyder 
© 2008 William Snyder

It’s a gorgeous Southern California afternoon at Hawthorne High School. The morning haze has lifted and the sun shines majestically as a cool breeze drifts in from the Pacific.  I find myself in line for an ice-cold soda. The soda machines of 1974 are really quite an event, like something out of Disneyland’s Carousel of Progress. You drop a quarter the slot, the motor begins to purr, the machine shakes back and forth like the San Andreas is throwing a fit, a plastic cup drops into an opening the size of a shoebox, a pile of crushed ice falls into the cup, and streams of crystal clear liquid and syrupy Dr. Pepper, Coca Cola, or Orange Crush fill the cup to the brim. You lift the cup to your mouth as bubbles spit against your face and take a healthy swig. Man, the soda machine is a production.
It becomes evident that I am in line behind the one and only Annie Duncan.
The lovely Annie is a freshman like me, but she operates in the higher realms of ninth grade society. Her cascading dishwater blonde hair reflects the afternoon sun. A turquoise t-shirt stops above her soft, perfectly curved brown hips. Faded blue Levis cutoffs hang loosely on those perfect hips, riding high on the back of her shapely thighs and calves.  The truth is I have no idea of what to do about with the fact that I am sharing space with this sublime creature, but here we are. The situation becomes more interesting when an upper classman snatches his cup of soda and heads toward the gym.  We are unabashedly alone. Just Annie Duncan, her cascading dishwater blonde hair, those perfect bare hips, thighs, and calves, and yours truly: six feet-two inches, and one-hundred twenty-six pounds of pure OP and Hang Ten wearing dork.  What would a cool guy do in a situation like this? I guess a cool guy might make a joke or talk about the waves at the beach. Of course I am probably the only kid in Hawthorne who doesn’t know how to surf, and no one, not a single soul, has ever accused me of being a cool guy. So I just stand there, nervously enjoying Annie’s seductive allure, doing my best to remain invisible. She smells good, like lemons and coconuts. I watch as she drops a quarter in the slot. The motor rattles, the machine rocks back and forth, the cup drops, the machine hisses, screeches, spits, and burps.
Nothing. No ice. No soda. Just that empty paper cup.
The SoCal beach goddess speaks.
“What the heck?”
She pushes the button again.
Nothing.
Slowly, she turns to look right at me.
Norms crisis.
What the heck is the appropriate response? Should I kick the machine? Curse the machine? Give her a quarter? Console her with a hug?
I do none of those things.
What I do is look at her stupidly and say, “Did you put the quarter in?”
Her response? She looks at me as the idiot that I am. The look on her face says What are you talking about? What planet are you on? Did I put the quarter in? You were standing right behind me. You watched me put the quarter in, you blithering idiot. While Annie Duncan would never use the words “blithering idiot,” I’m pretty sure you get the idea.  She releases a quiet hiss and walks away. I watch her walk away. This girl really knows how to walk away in style. She disappears behind the science building. The machine suddenly rattles, shakes, hisses, belches, drops a pile of ice, and fills the cup to the brim with Orange Crush. I pick up the cup, lift it to my mouth, droplets spitting gloriously against the roof of my mouth, and drink. I drink it all.

Best Orange Crush I ever had.

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