I continue to stumble upon stories that refer to a study done several years ago that apparently determines how children will fare in later life. Young subjects are seated in a room and offered a single marshmallow. If they can wait fifteen minutes before eating the marshmallow, they’ll be rewarded with a second marshmallow. The results of this study suggest that children who resist instant gratification tend to experience a greater level of success as adults.
I’ve been thinking about this study and wonder how I would have responded as a child. Of course I like to believe I’d have the discipline to wait for a doubly good reward…
At exactly twelve o’clock the woman stands. She smells like roses. She smells like his grandmother. She has red lipstick on one of her front teeth. He watches her gather a few papers, a clipboard and a pen. She smooths her woolen skirt, pulls a cream-colored cardigan around her shoulders, smiles and leaves the room.
Sure, I can wait fifteen minutes. Easy peasy. Who cares anyways? It’s just a stupid marshmallow.
A minute passes. He looks around the room. Out the window. At the bookshelf. At his shoes. It is 12:04.
I’ll sit on my hands.
Pete can hear the bell for recess, the crack of the baseball bat, the girls drawing hopscotch courts with chalk on the macadam.
I can’t believe I skipped recess for two stinkin’ marshmallows.
His legs swing, the leather soles of his Oxfords brushing the green shag carpet.
I’ll close my eyes.
He closes his eyes. Two more minutes pass.
I’ll open my eyes.
He opens his eyes.
Geez it’s warm in here. Hey wait a cotton pickin’ second. Holy moly that thing is huge.
The marshmallow has indeed begun to grow. He laughs at his luck.
I could make a whole lotta ‘smores with that…
Pete remembers last summer’s campfire night at Boy Scout Camp and conspires with himself.
Who needs two marshmallows when I’ve got one right here that’s a ginormous! I just need to figure out how to get it outta here…
He looks for a bag – no – a box. The marshmallow is spreading, oozing, changing shape. Pete stands and heads toward a utility closet but a viscous white arm drips over the edge of the desk and wraps around Pete’s ankle.
Pete is dragged toward the desk. It is now ten minutes past the hour of twelve. He tries to free himself but his only recourse is to swallow the very thing that is trying to swallow him. Pete reaches into the fluffy goo but the sticky mallow clings and pulls him closer. He struggles but his efforts are no match. He is pulled closer and tries to scream but is smothered by the gelatinous spun sugar.
At quarter past the hour the woman who smells of roses returns to the room. The lipstick has been wiped from her tooth. Her papers are neatly filed and tucked in the clipboard.
She sees one marshmallow centered on a small white paper plate.
Her notes read, “in order to resist temptation the subject seems to have left the room.”
She has failed to notice the single brown and tan leather Oxford on its side under the desk and dripping with the melted mess of Pete’s sweet destiny.