Memories From A Strawberry Shortcake Roll

Forgive me, Dear Readers, if this post is the teeniest bit unusual. As I am writing tonight, I am working under a haze of heavy doses of Benadryl and a bunch of other weirdo drugs–just your average trip to the Emergency Room. So, knowing that, let us proceed with the post:

I was at Wal-Mart the other day with my mother; in fact, I believe it was yesterday–who can know with this scrabbled mind? We were getting food and more food…and more food, and we had made it to the checkout aisle when this little girl came into the aisle with us.

At first I thought she was lost, since she had that mystified glaze over her eyes, the type of look kids give you when they’re pondering some of the greatest mysteries of the universe. She would stick her thumb in her mouth, glance over the various impulse purchases beside us, then take out the thumb and do that little “kid stretch,” where they bend slightly backwards until it looks like they’re about to fall over; however, they always stand right side up again within a moment, a new curiosity about them. Did anyone see me, they think. Am I the focal point of attention yet?

Her mother came into the aisle a minute later, a stressed look over her face. It was the kind of face you see on a mother who is quite obviously fed up with their kid’s crazy antics. It’s like if in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, we got to see the parents’ reactions to Ferris’s antics–let me tell ya, they’d be wide-mouthed gapes and the slightest irritated wrinkles beneath the eyes.

I smiled at the little girl, who was giving me the who-the-hell-is-this-stranger look; and then, while the mother was herself perusing the impulse shelves, I glanced at their cart.

Then I saw it. The box of Little Debbie Strawberry Shortcake Rolls.

Images of the clamshell hat wearing Strawberry Shortcake from that cartoon back in the late 90’s filled my thoughts. That show was the bane of me, as well as a pleasant memory of a time revisited–but it wasn’t just the show that came out of nowhere.

In the early 2000’s, our family lived on Maelstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana. Nice area. Friendly neighbors. Happy times. I was a young kid who had no idea of what life or the world meant, so, in simple terms, inexperienced and more innocent than I am now.

What I remembered then, in that Wal-Mart aisle, were trips to the Commissary–a military-only form of Wal-Mart–with my mom and my sister. We’d go on any old day in this sweet minivan to go buy groceries and–can you guess?–boxes of Little Debbie Strawberry Shortcake Rolls.

Back then, I think Little Debbie was printing the picture of 90’s Strawberry Shortcake ; so, when we saw those boxes, we always thought of the cartoon and pleaded to our mom to buy them for us.

See, it wasn’t the taste of them that made us so eager. Trust me, as an eighteen year old who has eaten his fair share of healthy foods, Little Debbie is not always your best friend; rather, it can lead to a shitload of indigestion and a sour feeling on your tongue. We wanted the Shortcake Rolls because they reminded us of a happy time.

I admit to watching Strawberry Shortcake prance around with her little desert-named friends–and this weird dog thing that wasn’t quite a dog. There were days when my sister and I would just binge-watch the only episodes we had for hours at a time; and we loved the stuff, couldn’t get enough of it.

I knew some of the lines. She knew most of the lines.

I liked this episode. She liked that episode.

It was a varied experience for both of us, but it was enjoyable.

There in Wal-Mart, I was taking a pleasant journey down Memory Lane, and it wasn’t just the Commissary or Strawberry Shortcake, it was–Blockbuster and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures and a brand-new game of Operation, or Chutes and Ladders.

It was being a child and having the whole world at your fingertips to mold, to build, to destroy–all of it at your whim; that, or how many tears you could muster out of your chest when you didn’t get whatever you wanted.

Let me tell you about Blockbuster, this pre-Netflix Shangri La of movies and imagination–at least, for a kid. It had movies, movies everywhere, specifically, movies I didn’t think existed.

One time I can remember strolling through the aisles on a nice Friday night, feeling like I was King of the World, and I came across a movie called A Nightmare on Elm Street. Well, of course, I looked at the back of the case, and I saw some terrifying images for a child at the age of seven. A man with a razor glove. That same razor glove rising out of a bathtub, between a girl’s legs for that matter–mind you, around then, I was enrolled in this strange Christian pre-school, where we watched Bible Veggie Tales and ate chicken tortillas all day.

I didn’t even ask my parents about Elm Street, just threw it back on the shelf and hurried back to the Disney films. Unfortunately, about a month later, when I was home alone and flipping channels on the box television in the basement, I came to a channel playing the beginning of A Nightmare on Elm Street TV show; think it’s called Freddie’s Nightmares.

I, uh–well, I saw a man, maybe good ol’ Freddie himself, getting burned alive and screaming.

Then I threw my hands up over my eyes and tried frantically to forget what I had just seen.

Ah, they were good times, though, despite how I might phrase them here.

Seeing that little girl and her personal box of Strawberry Shortcake Rolls brought out  a lot of nostalgia, and I have loved every second of reliving those many, many moments.

So, Little Girl in the Wal-Mart Aisle, if you ever read this, take pleasure in those Strawberry Shortcake Rolls and just remember that life can go faster than you think.

It has for me.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

The Blockbuster: A Casual Sketch

Currently I am reading Timeline by Michael Crichton, the author of Jurassic Park and the Lost World; and as of today I have read most of the book in enjoyment and distress. Enjoyment, because I’m a sucker for a fast thriller and action sequences get my adrenaline pumping; and distress, because I savor thoughtful character development and scene description, such as in my recent reading of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. While reading Timeline, however I have realized a blockbuster has its place in literature–they are difficult books to write–and they acquire so much popularity among readers because of these specially chosen factors:


  • The definition of a blockbuster is “something notably effective or successful,” and when I hear the words “effective” my mind springs to formulaic thinking, which is how most blockbusters and consistently adrenaline-fueled thrillers are constructed. It usually starts with a simple plot sketch of the rising conflicts–these are tense scenes for the purpose of hooking the reader without divulging deeply into character motivation and backstory–then throughout the first chapters characters are hastily introduced as defined outlines of their personalities (sometimes these can be stereotypical personalities but more on that later…). And soon the story comes to an explosive conclusion in the final chapters–this is the release of the carefully balanced tension throughout the novel.


  • In blockbusters characters are mere outlines of themselves–what they lack in psychological development they contribute to with repetition of names, like “Hank climbed the tree” and “Hank waved to Judy and Jack at Steven’s house,” and quirky traits which they repeat constantly in the story: say the protagonist is a fireman who hates touching water and is always carrying a pair of gloves with him– maybe he says “got to get ’em dry” before tugging them on at the hydrant. His actions will be repetitive and predictable; and likely you will feel comforted by the repetition…perhaps annoyed as well.


  • This is a blockbuster sentence. Short and to the point; and ridding a paragraph of all unnecessary descriptions and words. Blockbuster sentences focus on the action at hand–if the antagonist rifleman is preparing to fire a shot at the heroine cowering in the house, then by God the next few paragraphs will center around his aim and his fingers and his mind; how each of them result in his squeezing the trigger on that sweet 22′ caliber. The impact sentences–“The bullet shot from the barrel, whistling. It pegged Katelyn in the forehead, and blood flecked her shining hair. She stiffened and tumbled sideways down the stairs.” By the way that is not an exceptional blockbuster paragraph in any form, merely an amateur writing.

Those three elements are key to a blockbuster…but if you want a successful story, then you need to have an intriguing premise that knows how to scoop up the action on a hot platter and maintain the heat while serving slices of itself to the readers on consistently sized plates. Then it is all up to you on how you personally spice the dish.

Think daily, 

A Southpaw