It was somewhere along Mabry Street in Selma, Alabama, that the incident occurred. My sister, three years older than my six- or seven-year-old self and infinitely tough and brave in my view, stood her ground as a fellow Byrd Elementary student approached.
“Give me your Twinkies,” the girl ordered. I started to panic. Sometimes Johanna and I managed to save the treats in our packed lunches until after school as a snack. The other girl had figured this out, and she eyed our lunchboxes hungrily. But we’d already devoured them that particular day, and we told her as much. She didn’t believe us, required proof.
We obliged, opening up our respective lunchboxes for inspection. Johanna’s metal one featured an image from the Annie movie, where the orphan is caught in a tug-of-war between Miss Hannigan and Grace, Daddy Warbucks’s assistant. My white plastic one was, more predictably, dotted with teddy bears dressed in pink ballerina attire.
I don’t remember what this small but menacing bully did next, but whatever it was, she made it very clear that our paths would cross again—and that Twinkie tribute would be expected, or else. And as brave as my sister had been, while I cowered at her side that afternoon, we were both frightened sufficiently enough to talk to Mom and Dad about it.
The next day, Dad met us outside Byrd to accompany us on the walk home. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. There was no way the girl would mess with us now.
But then, when we pointed said girl out to Dad, something unexpected happened. Not only did Dad introduce himself to her, but he went on to tell her he was so glad his daughters had a friend like her, to walk home with them. He told her he’d appreciate it if we could all look out for each other. I think they shook hands, maybe, and we all walked together, with Dad, that day.
I was horrified. The Twinkie thief would now be a staple of my elementary existence, already so fraught with gargantuan (i.e., miniscule) trials. What kind of solution was this?
It worked, though, quite brilliantly. The girl became something of a pal for a while, though I don’t remember her name, and she never threatened us again.
These days, I wonder if she was actually going pretty hungry as a kid, and why I didn’t think to voluntarily give up my precious Twinkies now and then. Or maybe she was just mean.