#54 Saltwater Taffy

by Tina Mortimer

“You look like a girl who’d appreciate some nice saltwater taffy,” he said.

I was playing with our cat, Sprinkles, pulling one of those feathers attached to a string on the end of a stick up and down the hallway when he made this observation. I was the perfect target, a latchkey kid hungry for attention and obsessed with candy. The fact that sugar was forbidden in our house – Mom blamed it for every ailment from cavities to obesity to autism – made it all the more desirable.

Although I’d never met my Uncle Salvador before that summer, he seemed harmless enough. I didn’t know much about him other than the tidbits I gleaned from eavesdropping on my parents’ late-night conversations. What I knew consisted of two facts: He had money, but was too cheap to rent a place while he searched for a new house, and he had a wife and son in Grand Rapids who hated him.

“Is it candy, Uncle Salvador?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” he said. “And call me Sal.”

I got my first cavity that summer. After I started wetting the bed, Mom and Uncle Salvador got in a big fight. Then as quickly as he came into our lives, he was gone. I don’t remember much about what happened in the spare bedroom that day or any of the other days. All I recall are flashes of fleshy arms and legs and words that 37 years later I still can’t muster the courage to repeat.

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