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Poisoned Peeps
by Zach Smith

“Do you have peeps flavored Italian ice?” I asked.

It was a strange question of course. Peeps are marshmallow for the most part, coated with granulated sugar. It’s not so much the taste, but the shape and texture that draws people to eat them. They’re shaped kind of like rubber ducky’s, meant to look like baby chicks, dyed yellow, sold in rows of ten. Everyone’s favorite Easter candy around here… well, almost everyone.

Dad loves peeps, and since I don’t eat them we’ve formed a symbiotic relationship around the Easter basket. Of course he likes all the other candies too, and we’re not all that religious either, so… anyways he tries not to eat too much candy throughout the year, but he can’t help (as he says) “doing a line of peeps” every Easter Sunday.

Many years ago, I did eat them, and enjoyed them, soft and chewy but crunchy at the same time. Like a fine wine they would get better with age, though they never got very old in our house.  

Then one Easter, Mom thought it would be funny if she made noises while I was… trying to eating them.

“Oh no Zach no,” she said, as though they were sentient. “Please don’t eat me, no.”

And you just know she was affecting a high pitched cartoonish voice all the while.

After that, every time I tried to eat them, that voice was stuck in my head.

Mom still bought them of course. Looking back, it might have been a plot between her and Dad, so that I wouldn’t have to share my peeps with him (or him with me). If that was the case, it worked, because I never ate them again, the guilt is just too overwhelming. I can’t even eat the modern tombstone and snowmen varieties.

Twenty years later, in the spring I stopped by an Italian ice stand, selling (of all things) peeps flavored Italian ice. I couldn’t eat the cute little peeps in their standard form, but I wasn’t above eating them as an Italian ice flavor. Of course I didn’t see that the peeps flavor was available until the Swedish Fish flavored Italian ice was already in my hand.

Which brings us up to date.

Just about a year later, I stopped by the Italian ice stand again and this time asked the hostess if she had peeps flavor.

She looked at me like I was crazy, and didn’t say anything.

“I’ll take a Swedish Fish one then,” I said.

The hostess scooped a cup full of the deep red Italian ice, and put it on the counter. A small clump of ice fell off. She cleaned it up with a spray bottle and rag. Then she put my spoon on the same counter. After paying she handed me my cup of Italian ice and spoon.

I wiped the spoon off first but it was not enough and the Italian ice tasted like bleach. At home I got a new spoon, but the ice had already been contaminated. She may have just made an honest mistake. But that look she gave me. I think she tried to poison me, for asking about such a strange flavor. I don’t know.