Get your TMN Headlines Mondays–Saturdays.

Subscribe to get your TMN Headlines Mondays through Saturdays. Sign up for our daily dozen-plus links!


The Fudgy-Wudgy Guy

Epistemology may seem pleasantly bewildering, but wait until it begins to mess with your childhood memories. MICHAEL BARRISH reports from under the beach.

I can well understand why children love sand.
—Ludwig Wittgenstein

MUFFIN AND I HAD ANOTHER FIGHT LAST NIGHT. Or rather a difference of opinion. A difference of opinion that snowballed into a fight. When you hear what our fight was about, you will no doubt conclude that it was ridiculous, that Muffin and I are ridiculous people who fight about ridiculous things. I myself am coming to this opinion. Indeed, while we were fighting, in a moment of clarity, I realized that if the people downstairs could hear what we were fighting about—and at times they probably could—they would have no choice but to conclude that we were ridiculous, that they, the people downstairs, were living in a building with ridiculous people.

However, having said this, I’m not so certain that my fight with Muffin was really quite so ridiculous. That is, it was a ridiculous fight, I don’t mean to claim otherwise, but what I’m saying is that maybe it wasn’t really so ridiculous, that maybe it was the kind of fight that seems ridiculous on the surface but that on closer inspection turns out to be not so ridiculous.

So which was it, ridiculous or not so ridiculous? This is what I ask myself and frankly I don’t know if I really want to know the answer. That is, I do want to know the answer, I wouldn’t want to not know the answer, although at the same time I’m a little afraid of knowing, of the consequences of knowing, whatever knowing might mean in this case.

* * *

As to the subject of my fight with Muffin, my fight with Muffin was about this time when I was a kid and I happen to find the fudgy-wudgy guy’s freezer under the boardwalk. Or that’s what prompted the fight, my recollection of this incident from my childhood involving the fudgy-wudgy guy, this guy who when I was kid would sell ice cream out of a metal freezer he would lug up and down the beach on his back.

It’s true, when I was a kid, there was this guy, the fudgy-wudgy guy, who would come marching down the beach in a white t-shirt and white cap and for some reason long white pants, and who as he approached, hunched under the weight of his freezer, would call out or bark out something to the effect of, ‘Fudgy-wudgies! Fudgy-wudgies! Get your fudgy-wudgies here!’

Except now that I think about it, there may have been more than one fudgy-wudgy guy. I don’t know, I can’t say for certain, but something tells me that there may have been different guys at different times, or maybe even different guys at the same time, only the way I remember it, the fudgy-wudgy guy was always the same guy and there was always only ever one, namely the one I remember, the one whose freezer I found.

Although as I say, I was just a kid at the time, and there’s this way that you remember things from when you were a kid where you only remember one thing but you make it seem as though this one thing was the way it always was, when really things may have been many different ways, only you’ve pretty much forgotten every way but this one, which itself may not be a way that things ever even were.

In any case please bracket that, as Muffin always says, please put that in brackets, because if anything can ever be said to be true, I’m willing to swear to the fact that when I was a kid there was definitely at least one fudgy-wudgy guy who would definitely come marching down the beach with this huge freezer on his back.

Which itself was a pretty crazy to do, when you think about it. I mean, think about it, think about lugging a freezer up and down the beach in the middle of summer. This is crazy, this is insane. If you think about it, you can see how crazy it is, how insane. For one thing there’s the freezer, which believe me was not a light freezer, you could tell by the way that the fudgy-wudgy guy had to swing that freezer onto his back that it was definitely not the type of freezer that one would call light, and then there was the sand, the fact of the sand, which suffice it to say was not the best possible surface on which to march, and naturally it was summer and for that reason insufferably hot, a regular furnace, as they say, and so that’s three things, three crazy things—the freezer, the sand, and the heat—not to mention four, the pants, the long white pants, which looking back seem even crazier, even more insane than the rest.

Certainly I can understand that the man was trying to earn a living, everyone needs to earn a living, everyone needs to survive, to eat, to pay for food, all of which is perfectly understandable, but why the pants, why the long white pants? All day long he’s parading up and down a beach, he has a freezer on his back, why make the situation any worse than it already was?

This has always bothered me. In fact I remember wondering—this is when I was just a kid, just five or six-years-old—if maybe the fudgy-wudgy guy was hiding something under those pants, if maybe his legs were deformed, or his skin discolored or pus-y; all of which seems so amazing to me today, the fact that I understood that people feel ashamed like this. You wouldn’t think that I would already know about this sort of thing, a kid of five or six, and yet I did, already at five or six I’m wondering what shameful thing the fudgy-wudgy guy is hiding beneath his pants.

In any case I should probably say here, just to set the record straight, that the fudgy-wudgy guy carried more than just fudgy-wudgies in his freezer. Much more. You see, fudgy-wudgies were basically a ‘kid’ item, basically kids were the ones who liked them or got them, I suppose because of the name fudgy-wudgy, which is basically the kind of name that appeals to kids, whereas people’s parents preferred more dignified-sounding names such as ice cream sandwich or creamsicle or even fudgsicle—which was another name for a fudgy-wudgy, a fudgsicle. In fact my father always asked for a fudgsicle, despite the fact that the fudgy-wudgy guy himself never used the word fudgsicle; he used fudgy-wudgy.

It’s funny too, because my father and I would get the same thing in a sense, while in another sense we would get something very different. I mean, I know my father and there’s no way that he would have gotten a fudgy-wudgy, it would have embarrassed him too much to even say the word fudgy-wudgy, to be the kind of person who ate things with names like fudgy-wudgy. All of which makes him sound like an idiot, which in truth he was, although that’s not at all what I’m trying to say. What I’m trying to say is that my father was just like me, or that I was just like him, that were we both just like everyone else, which is to say that the name fudgy-wudgy probably had a lot to do with why I chose fudgy-wudgies over, say, creamsicles. Because let’s face it, had the fudgy-wudgy guy come down the beach calling out, ‘Creamy-weamies! Creamy-weamies! Get your creamy-weamies here!’ I’m not so sure that I would been so crazy about fudgy-wudgies, that I would have been such a fudgy-wudgy fanatic. In fact I consider it likely—admittedly this is that kind of thing you can never really know for sure—but I consider it likely that had the fudgy-wudgy guy come down the beach calling out nothing but ‘Creamy-weamies! Creamy-weamies! Et cetera!’ that I would been a creamy-weamy fanatic, that creamy weamies not fudgy-wudgies would have been my ice cream of choice—which believe me seems weird considering how I almost never chose creamy-weamies, given the choice. But of course the point is that I never had that choice—creamy-weamies didn’t exist back then, I made them up just now to explain something about fudgy-wudgies.

Naturally I realize I’ve made this point several times now, but as it turns out it’s a rather important point, because you see Muffin views the whole thing in a totally different way. Not that Muffin and I have ever discussed creamy-weamies, we haven’t, I just happen know how Muffin thinks, and how Muffin thinks is that a creamsicle is a creamsicle, whatever name we give it, that things have a certain reality independent of our thoughts about them.

Thus Muffin would say that I didn’t really make up creamy-weamies just now, that creamy-weamies have always existed, that they were just called creamsicles before, and so anyone who has had a creamsicle has had a creamy-weamy, meaning me, she would be saying in so many words that since I’ve had a creamsicle, I know what a creamy-weamy tastes like, it tastes just like a creamsicle, to which I would say, ‘No, Muffin, I’ve never had a creamy-weamy, I’ve only had creamsicles,’ the point being that a creamsicle, being a much more dignified-sounding thing than a creamy-weamy, would have a more dignified taste, that we would expect it taste this way and so it would, despite the fact that the two things are really the exact same thing with the exact same ingredients. I mean, I would never claim that the molecules of a creamy-weamy are any different than the molecules of a creamsicle—they’re the exact same molecules arranged in the exact same way and I would never claim otherwise.

But still, this just drives Muffin crazy, my insistence that I’ve never had a creamy-weamy. Or rather she would be driven crazy by it, given the opportunity, I know that. Which in turn would drive me crazy, I know that too. And you know, when it gets like this, what I end up thinking is, I don’t want it, I don’t want it and I don’t need it, so please just get it away from me.

Which is pretty much what happened last night, I finally had enough and just threw up my hands in disgust, I just threw up my hands and said something I shouldn’t have said, which is that I wished I could just crawl under the boardwalk, the boardwalk beneath which I found the fudgy-wudgy guy’s freezer, that I wished I could return to that boardwalk and crawl beneath that boardwalk because it would better, I said, than listening to what Muffin was telling me.

I was upset. It was an upsetting experience. I’m still upset. When I was a kid, I loved crawling under the boardwalk. Whenever we went to the beach, I would spend hours under the boardwalk, crawling around on my hands and knees and thinking the sort of thoughts I would think under the boardwalk, my under-the-boardwalk thoughts.

For some reason not many kids ever went under the boardwalk, don’t ask me why—maybe it was because of how cold the sand was there. Personally I preferred this sand a million times over the sand you stepped on when you first stepped on the beach, which became so hot sometimes that you had to walk as fast you could so that your feet didn’t spend too much time on the ground at any one time. I even thought of the sand under the boardwalk as a different kind of sand from regular beach sand, which admittedly was an idiotic thing to think—the sand was the same everywhere, I knew that—and yet when I was under the boardwalk, thinking my under-the-boardwalk thoughts, I liked to think that the sand under the boardwalk was somehow different. Of course I knew it was the same, of course I knew if you put some regular beach sand in a bucket and poured it under the boardwalk, it would get just as cool as the under-the-boardwalk sand, and yet knowing this, I liked to imagine that somehow the two kinds of sand were like two kinds of grass, that each kind was where it was because that was where that kind of sand grew.

Not that I believed that sand grew. I mean, I knew that sand was really little pieces of stone worn down by the water, but even so, when I was under the boardwalk, I liked to tell myself that certain things were different from how they were and then try to figure out how these things might really be this different way.

And then one day, as I say, I was just crawling along, the same as always, when I happened to find the fudgy-wudgy guy’s freezer in the very place I was crawling. It was sitting in a place where the sand sank down a little, a place from which it couldn’t be seen from the beach.

At first I couldn’t believe it. Or I could, I could believe it, because when something is there like that, right in front of you like that, you have to believe it, you have no choice but to believe it. Although at the same time it was so unbelievable I didn’t know what to think.

To put this in perspective, you have to understand that although I loved fudgy-wudgies, although I was a fudgy-wudgy fanatic, my parents would allow me only one fudgy-wudgy a day—in fact, just one ice cream total—and on this particular day I had already had my quota. But now here, presumably, was a whole freezer full of ice cream, including, presumably, several entire boxes of fudgy-wudgies.

I say presumably because I hadn’t yet opened the freezer, I hadn’t yet checked to see if the freezer actually contained any ice cream. For in my way of doing of things, I didn’t actually open the freezer at first but rather let myself think about opening the freezer, I let myself think about what I might find in the freezer once I let myself open it, and then I let myself think about what I might do assuming I did indeed find what I hoped to find inside.

What it came to, assuming I found any fudgy-wudgies in that freezer, was whether I would eat any, and if so, how many. Or who’s kidding whom, the real question was not whether I would eat any but how many—both how many I could eat and how many I would eat.

Although when you really take it apart and you really examine the situation, it’s clear that the ‘would eat’ question really referred back to the ‘could eat’ question. Yes, the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became that given the opportunity, as apparently I had been, I would simply eat to my limit. Would equaled could. Which means that all my thoughts about what was in the freezer were completely beside the point and that there was no need any longer to sit there and think these thoughts, that basically I had already thought all the thoughts I needed to think and so any additional thoughts I might think would be icing on the cake, as it were, the cake in this case being the prospective fudgy-wudgies.

Having settled the matter to my satisfaction, I reached out and grasped the right-hand door of the freezer—the freezer had this clever double-sided door thing on top and this door thing had a hinge in the middle so that you could reach inside from either side without opening the whole thing—only just as I was about to swing open the door and peer inside, I heard a strange sound. This sound sounded to me like the sound of someone gasping, although maybe it didn’t really sound that way at the time; that is, maybe I’ve turned it into a gasping sound after the fact, knowing after the fact what it was.

However, regardless of whatever sound I thought I heard, I definitely heard something, that’s without question, and so I looked up from the freezer and saw, not ten feet away, in a kind of trough in the sand, on a blanket, a blanket I immediately recognized, though I could see but a small portion of it, the fudgy-wudgy guy having sex with my sister.

I haven’t mentioned my sister, have I? I have a sister. She’s 12 years older than me. At this point she was probably 17 or 18, while the fudgy-wudgy guy was no older than 20.

Of course seeing them having sex, I didn’t understand what I was seeing because I was only five or six at the time and didn’t know about sex yet.

So in a sense I didn’t really see them having sex because sex was something I was not yet able to see. Instead what I saw was this weird game in which the fudgy-wudgy guy was lying on top of my sister, who for some reason was naked and holding her legs apart in the air, while he, the fudgy-wudgy guy, had his pants bunched down at the bottom of one leg and was repeatedly bumping against her between her legs—which had to be the weirdest thing I had ever seen, especially considering that they were both completely naked in the place where all this bumping was occurring.

You could not for a million dollars have gotten me to do such a thing, particularly with my sister.

Of course Muffin disagreed. Muffin said that I saw them having sex, even though I didn’t know at the time what sex was.

This is what our fight was about, it was about whether or not I saw the fudgy-wudgy guy fucking my sister. I said I didn’t, Muffin said I did. I don’t deny that they were fucking—they were fucking, fine—what I deny is that I actually saw them doing it.

I mean, I saw them doing it, I don’t deny that, I just didn’t happen to see it in this way. Instead I saw what I knew, which was the playing of a game, albeit a game I’d never seen before.

My sister on the other hand knew exactly what she was doing and therefore what I was seeing her do. Not I’m not entirely certain that she saw me see her. That is, I assume she did, it would have been hard not to see me there, and yet she never actually looked in my direction or in any way acknowledged my presence.

Of course it’s possible that she saw me contemplating the freezer and decided then that the best strategy was to just ignore me, to just pretend I wasn’t there.

Still, I find it hard to believe that a person, my sister, could be in the middle of fucking the fudgy-wudgy guy like that and have her little brother show up like that and not completely lose it. Certainly no one would have blamed her for losing it, assuming she had seen me, which I have to assume she had.

In any case all this speculation is beside the point because my fight with Muffin wasn’t about my sister—with whom, by the way, I have never discussed this incident, neither of us has ever said a word about it, assuming that her silence on the subject is in fact intentional; I mean, assuming that she knows the truth, both that I saw her and that I remember seeing her, although I didn’t understand at the time what I was seeing—but rather our fight was about… what? What was it about?

I am haunted by this question. Because, you see, if I knew for certain what we were fighting about, I would know for certain how ridiculous it was. Or perhaps how ridiculous it wasn’t.

This is clear now, I’ve made this clear, haven’t I?

What haunts me is the thought that Muffin and I were fighting about something I’m not yet able to see, something I may not be able to see for another five or 10 or I don’t know how many years. Something I may never be able to see. It’s crazy, right? It’s lunacy.

I’ll tell you one other crazy thing: I never had another fudgy-wudgy. Not one. The day after I found the fudgy-wudgy guy’s freezer, I switched to ice cream sandwiches.

I don’t think anyone noticed. I mean, kids do that all the time, don’t they, they go through stages. So that’s what I did, I ended my fudgy-wudgy stage and began my ice cream sandwich stage—a stage I’m still in, I suppose, because I still love ice cream sandwiches, I still eat ice cream sandwiches all the time, I’m still an ice cream sandwich fanatic.