Leaside’s very own gum shoe

I dragged my left foot along the ground as I headed toward Lit Coffee shop at Millwood. It was deliberate. I was cursing, internally of course. People were staring. Step. Drag. Step. Drag. The object of my silent vitriol was a wad of beige gum stuck under the front toe of my shoe. And all my foot-dragging served to do was smear the glob of mouth rubber so that it took up more real estate there. But I’d be damned if I was going to pick it off by hand and then inadvertently cover my lips in a herpes chancre blanket from some discourteous cud-muncher. I would have to deal with it when I got home, with rubber gloves and bleach.

I stopped dragging my foot and I could feel the slight tug from the gum every time I lifted my left foot. Step. Tug. Step. Tug. I tried to ignore it. I had to get to Lit and begin writing my next story. Yeah, this very one. I arrive. Thankfully, no window hog is in “my” spot. Things might be looking up after all. I take notice of Cud Muncher’s gift now that my shoe is contacting the café’s tile floor. Schtick. Step. Schtick. Step. Schtick.

One Americano and oatmeal cookie later, I head to my seat in the window. Schtick. Step. Schtick. Step. I sit down, unpack my computer, pad of paper, pen. Sip of coffee. Bite of cookie. Aaaaand, think about what to write. Still feeling that nagging aggravation in the back of my brain about my shoe-goo as I force myself to focus. But I can feel it down there. Half an ounce of fuzz-covered disgust with a 300 lb. mocking energy.

It’s then that I notice, outside, the number of black spots on the sidewalk. Not many people know what these spots are. I do. Gum. Lots of it. I start counting the spots within eyeshot. As I’m counting, I remember how my mother used to keep gum in her purse. It always smelled like a glorious bouquet of leather, perfume and Juicy Fruit. “Take a sniff.… Pull it out…The taste is gonna move you when you pop it in your mouth.…”

Finding a stick among the empty tin foil wrappers, loose change and lipsticks was like finding the prize at the bottom of a Pink Elephant popcorn box. Better, actually. Because it was so off-limits. If caught, punishment was swift, typically meted out with a hairbrush that was also in the purse. But the danger made the stale prize all the more valuable. There was the usual interrogation: “Did you go into my purse?” followed by the hiding of the evidence. I had developed a technique of being able to half swallow it, so any visual check evaded her scrutiny. However, the smell was my giveaway. I could never pass the sniff test. “Don’t swallow it!” Mom would admonish. “It’ll stick to your insides!”

I wondered if all these black dots on the sidewalk were a reaction to similarly induced fear from motherly medical misinformation. It certainly worked on me.

Twenty-three black dots. That’s how many I counted. Twenty-three wads of gum. Twenty-three people just horking away. And because gum is made of polyethylene vinyl – aka plastic – it doesn’t even start breaking down for at least 200 years. These wads could have been made 30 years ago. Heck, they may still be around when my great, great, great grandkids are walking on Bayview.

What could be more gross? Somehow, looking out Lit’s window at all of this had fired up my olfactory senses. I could smell spearmint. Just like Mom’s purse. How, the? A sniff of my fingers raised more questions. Gum? From what? It was then I realized I had been absent-mindedly picking at a bolt or knob under my table, while daydreaming about gum. No. Please, no. I looked under the table. Not a bolt. But definitely a knob. A gum knob. It was green, with teeth marks and as hard as a rock. This was definitely more gross. Wait. And what was that? A tingle? On my lip? Oh no…

“The taste is gonna, gonna, gonna moo-oove ya!”

Along with being co-founder of advertising agency Grip Limited, and partner in ManleyUnderwear.com, David Crichton has won numerous awards for his writing, including a Kitchener-Waterloo Kiwanis Club Silver Trophy, in Grade 7.