the lost man chronicles
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all-I-ever-wanted (one-act play)

Scene: Old fashioned sweet shop, replete with lots of glass jars of various sizes and colors with shiny silver tops that shimmer in the sunlight that passes between the slots of the shaded storefront windows.

Candi-man: white-clad, old man with an apron and soda fountain cap.
Lil’ girl: all dimples and bare knees.
Big girl: smug smile and heart-shaped sunglasses, polka-dot skirt

(Ring, ring, the brass bell hanging above the door chimes, Lil’ girl steps up to the counter, rises upon her toes looking for the Candi-man. Camera angle changes to other side for view of her inflated smile and wide-eyed ogle through the spectrum of glass)

Lil’ girl: Hi. I’d like an all-I-ever-wanted please.

Candi-man: Ah, another girl wants an everything, huh?

Lil’ girl: No, I just want an all-I-ever-wanted.

Candi-man: Sweetie, they’re the same thing. Just a different name for a different day. Back when I was your age that’s what we called them.

Lil’ girl: Well, can I have one then, whatever-you-want-to-call-it?

Candi-man: Oh, we don’t carry those. "Lick them and you’ll like them," I think that’s how that jingle goes…How about a long-term sucker or a necklace of short-and-sweets instead? Or maybe a “must-have” or the ever-popular “you-need-this”?

Lil’ girl: Mister, I really just want an all-I-ever-wanted.

Candi-man: Well, honey, I’m sorry but were all out. (pausing with a sympathetic look on his face)

In fact, (sigh) to be honest, we never had any. They’re much too hard to come by these days.

Lil’ girl: You never had any? But the big poster in the window says you do…

Candi-man: Oh, that’s just to get you to come in here and buy something else. Usually, little girls like you are so worked up by the time they’ve saved up enough to buy this what-cha-ma-call-it…

Lil’ girl: All-I-ever-wanted.

Candi-man: …Right, all-I-ever-wanted, that by the time you get in here you’re so desperate that you’ll take whatever we offer instead.

You see, its been long known that little girls mix their emotions quite readily, and men like me have learned to take advantage.

So, sorry sweetie, but you’ll find all the shops do the same thing. It’s a commercial conspiracy to make you believe in the make-believe, to convince you that one candy can satisfy all your cravings, for a lifetime no less—ha!

It’s nothing but a crafty sales pitch.

(door bell chimes, shadow of someone else who just came in passes them)

Lil’ girl: A sales pitch?

Candi-man: Yeah, marketing, the ol’ merchants’ bait and tackle, and in this case, the switch-a-roo, that certain angle that reels the innocent like you in. The tactics range from the subliminal to the mostly not-so-subtle. All-I-ever-wanteds being a case in point.

Either way, the message is the same all around. Ultimately, they are trying to convince you that what they offer is “sublime.”

Lil’ girl: Sublime?

Candi-man: Yeah, All-you-ever-wanted.

Lil’ girl: Oh.

Candi-man: Soon enough you’ll realize that practically everything is sold as such, its not just candy that promises to be a cure-all; practically everything nowadays promises to be an elixir, a fix-er-up of all your woes.

Heck, they even bottle air these days touting—“Siphoned straight from the highest mountains,” and “Enjoy wafts of sea breeze, to put you at ease.”

My favorites though are the woeful scare campaigns that proclaim that “studies show” that we are going to run out of air one day—“So, stock up! Tanks of the purest, concentrated air are on sale now at your local 7th-Heaven and Air-mart stores!”

Lil’ girl: Mister, I just wanted to buy a what-cha-ma-call it, uh, I mean an All-i-ever-wanted.

(Big girl turns around, eyes peering above heart-shaped shades drooping on the bridge of her nose)

Big girl: Did you say All-i -ever-wanted?

Let me tell you sugar, it’s all a waste of time. I actually found one once, or at least the wrapper said it was, and wheh-boy was I ever disappointed!

Lil’ girl: Why is that?

Big girl: Well, I savored mine long enough, but as soon as I decided to give it a little chew, just to see what was in that mystical center they’re always saying is the best thing ever, well, my teeth just sunk right through—because lo and behold, it was empty, hollow, a void. So, darling, take my advice and AVOID.

I couldn’t believe it, I had dreamed for so long otherwise, but ultimately the All-i -ever-wanted was a big let-down, and ended up amounting to little more than experience.

Sure, I liked it while I licked it, enjoyed every minute of it while it lasted, but after a while it actually turned sour, and in the end was utterly bitter.

I have friends who found one too and likewise were shocked for various reasons—one bit in and broke her tooth, another got to a gooey substance which never seemed to get any less stickier and eventually had to have the dentist remove it. One just unwrapped hers and suddenly she was irreversibly repulsed, so she dropped it and ran away, never to return.

Lil’ girl: Really?

Big girl: Yeah, really. Although I have heard that in far away places that little girls are given All-i-ever-wanteds before they even realize what they really want. They are instructed to lick or suck them all but once a year, so that ultimately these things last a lifetime.

Lil’ girl: Maybe, its because they never get to the middle to discover its either empty, too sour or too hard?

Big girl: Yeah, maybe. I suppose the mystery as to what’s in the middle was part of the mystique that made me want mine in the first place too.

Lil’ girl: Maybe the wrappers should have instructions on the inside of them.

Big girl: Well, then they wouldn’t be much of a mystery then would they?

Lil’ girl: Well, how about just “a word to the wise” then? Like, “lick slowly?”

Big girl: …or “lower your expectations,” “compromise,” or don’t believe everything they sell you.”

Lil’ girl: Huh?

Big girl: Oh, nothing honey. Oh, nothing.

Ultimately, we really never truly understand anything anyway until we’ve experienced it ourselves. It’s the same old story, which remains somewhat meaningless until we have to tell it on our own. Then it’s the same old story, but different.

It’s kind of like those interactive plays with record runs, which night-after-night perform the exact same production, but somehow each night ends up being totally different, if only because the audience and interactions with the actors vary extemporaneously. And that’s what makes it special, that’s why people keep coming to watch it. Even though they’ve all heard all about it, they still are all compelled to experience it for themselves.

Candi-man: So, what would you gals like after all?

Big girl: Oh, I’ll just have a “happy-for-now.” (turning to the lil’ girl) They’re pretty good you know. You should try one, at least until something better comes along…because darling that’s how it happens. All-i -ever-wanteds find you, you can’t go out looking for them.

Lil’ girl: (smiling, resigned and little bemused) Okay then, why not?

Candi-man: Okay girls, here you go. This time these are on me.

Big girl: Thank you Candi-man.

Lil’ girl: Thank you (shyly).

Candi-man: You’re both quite welcome.

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