Helms Bakery Truck
Christmas Vacation 1967
Suggested listening: With a Little Help from My Friends – single, by The Beatles
One thing’s for sure, the munchies are hell; especially for me ‘cause I hate to eat anything. Food makes my stomach ache and feel all stuffy and puffy. But I always make an exception for the Helm’s Bakery truck.
It’s 10:15 and the truck’s late. It’s usually here by 9. Shirley and I have the HELM’S sign in the bedroom window so the driver can’t miss it. But we can’t take the chance of him not stopping; we smoked a whole joint each right after dad and Muzzie left for work. We really need jelly donuts.
We sit on the edge of the bed looking out the bedroom window, watching and watching and not even talking.
There! Shirley points at the yellow hood with the blue stripe as it glides past the big hedge that runs between our house and the neighbors. She’s out the bedroom door before I can stand up.
I run down the hall and find the front door open and no Shirley. By the time I get down the driveway the truck has stopped and the driver is blowing the whistle. Whoop Whoop fills the whole street.
The driver tips his hat at us and steps down onto the street and walks around the front of his truck. He looks around and when no one else comes out of their houses he heads towards the back. He looks over his shoulder. Let me guess. Donuts today?
We both nod and hope he hasn’t sold out already; sometimes that’s happened and it’s ruined our entire day.
Well, let’s see what we have left, he says and opens the double doors. We look hopefully at all the long wooden drawers that run from the roof to the floor. The donuts are at waist level, the jellies and glazed in the right-hand side drawer.
Been a busy morning, he says and sighs. Shirley gasps and I think I might cry. But, I just might have a couple of jellies tucked way back … He slides out the wide drawer. The whole right side section is empty and I feel the tears starting.
He pulls the drawer out further than he ever has before and there in the very, very back are four jellies and four glazed. I can’t help it; I jump up and down and clap my hands. Shirley slaps my arm and I realize I’m acting totally stoned. I try to maintain, but can’t keep from bouncing up and down; though I make sure to keep my feet on the ground.
So… the driver looks at us and back at the donuts. Would you girls happen to be interested in the last jellies and glazes? His smile stretches across his narrow face and his eyes sparkle. I tucked them away just in case you might.
Yes, please. Thank you. Shirley holds out the change we found in the bottom of Muzzie’s turquoise purse last night.
Shirley spreads out the change for the driver to see. He leans over and shifts the coins around a bit and looks up at Shirley, who’s looking past him at the donuts.
You have enough there for all eight; if you want that many.
Yes! we both almost scream at the same time.
He smiles again and tells us to just hold our horses and chuckles.
I stand on my tip-toes to see over his shoulder as he puts the glazes in a brown paper bag, wishing he’d bagged the jellies first just in case any of the neighbors show up, and being adults get to choose first. Be patient, I tell myself as he turns and hands the bag to Shirley. Now she’s bouncing a little waiting for the jellies.
He snaps open another bag and packs all four jellies. I take a deep breath and grab the bag from the driver. He raises an eyebrow and I apologize before Shirley can slap my arm again.
That’s alright, he tells me. I know how much you like your jellies. Just remember that manners never go out of style. He looks us both up and down, and I can tell he doesn’t approve of our hip-hugger bell bottoms, let alone our bare feet.
Yes, sir, I tell him in my sweetest voice; but all I want is for him to get back in his truck so we can scarf the jellies first, then the glazes—we’ve had lots of experience and decided it’s best to eat them in that order if we’re lucky enough to get both kinds.
He sifts through the change in Shirley’s open palm and takes some. We wait, shifting from foot to foot, holding tight to our bags as he slides the drawer closed, shuts the double doors and turns the latch, climbs back in the driver seat and blows the whistle.
We wave goodbye and wait until he curves around the end of the cul-de-sac and drives by on the other side of the street. We keep waving and smiling ‘til his truck’s past our house and nearly crash into each other running back up the driveway and into the house to share our very special munchies treat.