Purse Candy

By Cora Waring

February 15, 2021

Purse Candy

There’s a single, beat-up black jack bobbing around my purse, its wrapper feathered from accidental collisions with lipstick tubes and wallet, the once-bright stripes gone gray. The taffy inside is stone hard but still offers up a spicy licorice warmth. My mother handed me the candy a couple years ago—at a family Christmas party—and I vowed to never eat it.

In the fifties, she’d buy black jacks for pennies at the local five-and-dime.

In the eighties, she taught me to love them too.

There are rules for maximal enjoyment. Things like, black jacks should be unfurled with a pop and devoured in their softest, freshest state. Things like, a pile of black jacks on a bed pillow will acknowledge a broken heart and a fat envelope’s worth mailed to a dorm room will comfort a homesick girl.

She had to stop chewing them a while back—bad teeth. Now my mother can only suck the sweetness out or eagerly pass the candies on to me whenever I’m in town. I’ve rushed back twice in recent years because she hasn’t been well. Each time I find her grayer and more worn, insides quietly going to stone.

I like to imagine placing my mother at the bottom of my purse, where she might endure despite failing health and pandemic, guarded like a talisman by a daughter who’ll never quite manage to peel the wrapper and work her teeth over the ending.


Cora Waring lives in Brookline, MA. Her work has previously appeared in Catapult and Blunt Moms, and is forthcoming in Santa Clara Review and Train River. Read and listen at www.corawaring.com.


Image by Pixabay courtesy of Pexels

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