Standing here picking it out of my daughter's curly locks, I remember why I banned gum from our house in the first place.
On a family movie night some time back, my husband and I found ourselves unenthusiastically viewing Scooby Doo meets the Stay-puffed Marshmallow Man.
"Who picked this one," my better half asked, rhetorically.
A toothless seven year-old popped his head up from a pillow on the floor, less than twelve inches from the television, smiled widely, and blurted, "I knew you'd like it daddy!"
But, by three quarters of the way through the movie, Velma had lost her glasses, again, and again, Daphne and that hunk of a blond guy wandered off in the dark, alone (which I would argue constitutes a more aggressive rating, like X), and Shaggy ate enough dog food to choke a Great Dane. (Scooby really needs to contract rabies, and get more territorial about his snacks.)
Suddenly, the frames stopped moving. A still image of the gang, about to pull the mask off the Stay-puffed Marshmallow Man, sent us surfing the wave of suspense. Did those meddling kids manage to crack the case?
Realizing he may never know, our five year-old began to perform a dramatic, irritating whine. The rest of us sat there with our mouths open, stupidly waiting . . .
Finally, a wise voice, emanating from a body so close to the tube that for a moment we thought the movie had resumed, said, "I think the DVD is stuck."
"Why do you think that," came a gruff, sarcastic reply.
"Because I think someone put gum in the DVD slot," a child confidently said.
"What do you mean you think?"
"Well, I saw it in there."
Now the kids had gone and done it. As I pealed out and flew up the stairs, in search of surgical cotton swabs, I heard my spouse begin his "Why can't we ever have anything nice" lecture. In an effort to shorten the sermon, I yelled down the stairs, "It wasn't nice. We bought it for ten bucks at a yard sale. We can't even be sure the gum belongs to us."
Finding a cotton swab, that looked like it had a perm and a color job, in the back crease of a drawer in the bathroom, I returned to the den. On the sofa sat four children, in a neat little row, all claiming ignorance of the crime.
The night ticked by at a scared hare's hop, however, and my mission, to get the screen moving again, drove me to overlook a couch crawling with feigned blamelessness. I dug out a pink blob and the movie recommenced.
Those crazy kids pulled the mask off the marshmallow man to reveal "Mr. . . ." It stopped again. Another wail went up.
I poked the Q-tip deep into the mouth of the DVD player for a second time, and extracted more sticky, masticated, by the scent of it, Bubblicious
". . . Dolinger?" The movie only had a few more minutes. Please, I prayed, with eyes squinched, let the DVD player live, just to the end of this movie. Nonetheless, mid-meditation, weeping swept the room, for a third time.
"Go get the peanut butter," my spouse sternly instructed. "Peanut butter removes gum."
"From DVD players," I asked, incredulously.
Would the annoyed father's peanut butter plan work? Or would we all go to bed wondering what motivated Mr. Dolinger to terrify the town?
If you are a woman, you know what happened next. If you're a man, you probably have Jiff in your DVD player, too.