Uppermost House: The apple pie butterfly effect

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

I have only a few regrets from fifth grade.

One is sitting too close to Lisa Evans who, of course, threw up on me in the cafeteria during lunch. To this day, whenever I think about this tragedy I have to pinch my nose.

Another is more of a “lost opportunity” regret, the kind of tiny alignment of coincidences that could have changed the course of a 10-year-old boy’s life forever — a pastry-based version of the Butterfly Effect, if you will.

In 1968, Litton Cochran, an entrepreneur and the owner of a McDonald’s franchise in Knoxville, Tenn., took a chance and started selling little deep-fried pies just like his mother used to make. Within two years, Macdonald’s Hot Apple Pies were available from coast to coast.

And so, on an early winter day in 1970, I sat at our local Golden Arches on Whalley Avenue in New Haven, Conn. Dad and I opposite each other in a booth made from yellow, molded plastic, me holding one of the new-fangled hot apple pies (HAP) by its cardboard sleeve and contemplating it, because it wasn’t obvious how one ate such a contraption.

While it technically was a piece of pie, it had also just come out of a fryolator and had been delivered to me sans fork, hence I was a confused. But, I was also a clever boy and soon concocted a scheme just a few fries short of brilliant. Unfortunately, like many of the hasty contrivances of prepubescent males (e.g., arena football, the 1971 Ford Pinto), I had not considered all the angles — or should I say trajectories.

The main problem was the HAP was too hot to eat, so I needed to cool it off. Since the filling was encased in a pastry sleeve about the dimensions of the cardboard tube that holds a roll of toilet paper, I ciphered that I could just nibble off each end and then blow some air through the tunnel, cooling the contents down enough so I could enjoy the thing like a hot dog.

So I nibbled both ends, aimed the sleeve randomly toward the street, and gave a little blow. Meeting surprising resistance (due to inertia and friction, my father would later explain to me), I blew harder. Then, much harder.

And my pneumatic efforts produced an astonishing effect: one moment I was holding a fully-loaded, too-hot-to-eat, nutritionally-bereft dessert product, and the next moment I was holding the empty, smoking barrel of a Granny Smith bazooka.

I can still see the plug of molten apple filling blazing out over the table, steam streaming behind it like a comet trail. The glob just missed my startled father (who deftly tipped his head to the east) and then the bubbling and tumbling mass slapped against the skull of the bald man sitting with his back to us in the adjoining booth.

(If you want to know what the impact sounded like, defrost a boneless chicken breast, dip it in paint, and then throw it as hard as you can against the back of a very firm leather couch.)

The viscous scalding glob of fruit and liquefied igneous sugar hesitated for a moment, then slid off the bald man’s occipital lobe, down his neck, and disappeared in a puff of smoke behind his shirt collar.

Then, the bald man screamed.

Then, the bald man stood up.

Then, the bald man flapped his arms like an albatross trying to take off out of a vat of pudding.

Then, the bald man’s wife yelled something that cannot be printed in its entirety here, but which began with, “Why you little…”

Then, my dad and I left.

I still remember sitting in the cab of dad’s 1965 International pickup, staring bewildered through that empty pastry tube and smelling burning rubber.

At the time it happened, I regretted (in order): 1.) that my cooling experiment had failed; 2.) that I never got to eat my dessert; 3.) that I had badly burned the bald man; and, 4.) that the bald man’s wife may have gotten our license plate number. Now, however, after years of reflection, my real regret is that I didn’t have a GoPro video camera strapped to my baseball cap. Talk about going viral…

Please follow and like us: