First, they bought all the cookies they could lay their hands on.
Then, they ran off a call for volunteers. The flyer had little strips along the bottom with the Doctor’s phone number. Soon as they posted the flyer at the college, students immediately started calling.
“Eat cookies?” they would ask. “Be in Meeting Hall 3 by 10 a.m. Tuesday,” Mr. Flannagan would say.
On Tuesday morning at 9:50 Meeting Hall 3 was filled to capacity.
Aspiring volunteers crammed the gallery. The Doctor chose the first four subjects, motioning them to please step forward to the table at the front of the hall and be seated. Then both he and Mr. Flannagan retired behind the lecture podium. The Doctor called the experiment to order.
“This is a test,” he explained. “It is rumored that the confections in these boxes,” Mr. Flannagan gestured to cartons of cookies lining the back wall, “will cause uncontrollable cursing including enraged expletives and swears of a hair-curling variety.”
“It remains to be seen,” continued Mr. Flannagan addressing the crowd, “if these unconfirmed reports are true. The young people here will find out.”
“So brave,” murmured the Doctor.
Mr. Flannagan reached into a carton and withdrew a box of cookies. With scientific preciseness, he grasped the cardboard tear strip and tore. The strip released smoothly unlocking the baked goods inside. Scooping up a handful, Mr. Flannagan tossed cookies to the volunteers, one to a subject.
Karen was from a Methodist family in Iowa. Her choice of undergraduate school and course of study had not pleased her immediate family, much less her relatives. A city college was rife with nonstop temptation and the study of philosophy was guaranteed to put an end to her belief in the Lord and the Evils of Sin. So when Karen saw the flyer, still smelling of ditto ink, she knew she must participate in the experiment. If anyone was less likely to swear under the circumstances, it would be a conscientious Methodist, she thought.
When Barbara heard of the experiment, she immediately called her ex-boyfriend. “When I start cursing,“ she sneered over the phone, “your ears are gonna fall off. You’ll know you lousy crumb, that it will be meant for you, you two-timing creep.“
If there was anyone less likely to participate in the experiment in the first place it would have been Nancy. She had lived in the suburbs all her life and had gone to the kind of private girl’s academy where white gloves at
school assemblies were de rigueur. The annual cotillion saw Nancy, in pink with a carnation corsage bracelet on her wrist, escorted by a skinny gentleman whose persona extended about as far as the tips of his shoes. Nancy, incredibly enough, was able to honestly say she knew not one single colorful curse word. She was in the experiment as part of an independent study course. (In fact, Nancy had heard people swearing on several occasions, but she thought they were speaking a foreign language.)
Larry was stoned. He figured he would write the whole experience up for the alternative college newspaper “The Poop”. A wimpy fellow longing for attention, Larry wanted the limelight. The cookie curse experiment was just the ticket to notoriety.
With cookies distributed to the subjects, the Doctor began. “Now, “ he said pointing to Karen, “if you would listen closely. I will signal you and you will ingest the sweet. At the same time, I will start the watch. When you feel any changes, or when we, Mr. Flannagan and myself, observe any of same, we will stop the watch and turn this on,” he pointed to an elaborate tape recorder at his side. “Is that clear?” Karen nodded.
With the sureness born of faith in higher powers, Karen popped the cookie into her mouth whole. A hush fell over the assembly. The other subjects sat in tense expectation.
It was a chocolate chip cookie. An incredibly fresh chocolate chip cookie. The morsels inside were still melty and the cookie dough chewy. Karen smiled.
“Thish coughkie ish delishoush,“ she said.
Mr. Flannagan sighed. He loved sweets. His eyes had misted over when the aroma of that first box of cookies filled his nostrils. He looked longingly at the four subjects and wished he had volunteered. Realizing that all eyes were on Karen and the open box of cookies lay invitingly before him, Mr. Flannagan reached in, took a cookie and ate it.
A full minute went by. Karen had thoroughly chewed and swallowed the cookie, run her tongue around her mouth for leftovers and now sat waiting for something to happen. The silence in the room was almost audible.
At the end of five long minutes, the Doctor cleared his throat, stopped the watch and turned off the tape recorder which, in his excitement, he had turned on despite his own instructions.
“Ahem. Well,” he said. He paused and looked at Mr. Flannagan, who innocently looked back the taste of cookie lingering in his mouth. Mr. Flannagan has managed to eat three cookies while waiting for Karen’s reaction. He had discovered the box contained an assortment of cookies rather than just one kind. Curiosity about what other delights the box contained caused his to state profoundly, “We must go on to the next subject, Doctor.”
Karen was pleased. The power of Methodism had more far reaching effects than she had thought. She mentally praised the Lord for enabling her to withstand the onslaughts of bad language. She caught up her books and arrived early to her 11:10 class, “Designs in Negative Thinking Processes Among Aboriginal Natives.”
After his first feelings of confusion, the Doctor drew on his scientific training and began to busily make notes on his clipboard, as if there were something to write about. He motioned to Barbara to wait. When he felt the crowd was ready to witness another attempt, he nodded to her.
Barbara would have been just as glad to eat a whole box of cookies instead of just one. Not to be outdone by Karen, she too popped the whole thing into her mouth giving the toss a little loft for effect.
The cookie landed square in the back of her throat. She gagged and began to choke. Coughing violently, she spewed cookie all over. Larry rose to her assistance, slapping her back. Nancy queried over and over, “Are you all right? Gosh, are you all right?” The crowd shouted advice. “Slap her harder!” “Tell her to breathe deeply!” Lift your arms over your head!”
In the confusion, Mr. Flannagan finished off his first box of cookies. As far as he could determine they were all different, every one. Mint leaves, lace cookies, sugar cookies with pink icing, chocolate filled coconut – the variety was quite credible, he thought.
Meanwhile Larry was getting anxious. The experiment was turning into a disaster. There was no point in sticking around; nothing was going to happen. Larry had it planned that he would be the only subject to withstand the cookie curse. That surely was not working out.
“Lookit, Doctor,” he spoke up suddenly. “I’ve had it with this so-called test. Count me out, okay?” With a dispirited nod from the Doctor, Larry exited the meeting hall.
Now Nancy sat alone at the long table. Cookie crumbs, wet and dry littered her left, Larry’s abandoned cookie on her right and her own challenge before her. She gulped.
The Doctor, watching his experiment disintegrate before his eyes, signed and said quietly, “Please go ahead.”
As Nancy timidly sampled her cookies, Mr. Flannagan finished off his second box. He felt satiated and oddly satisfied. He leaned back in his chair watching Nancy nibble daintily as the crowd watched hungrily.
“Eat faster, you dumb c—-!”
Nancy looked around wonderingly but continued to eat.
“Don’t you got no f—–g teeth?”
The crowd murmured. Nancy looked so sweet all alone there in her flowered dress.
The Doctor, preoccupied with the failure of his test hadn’t paid attention until he heard this last remark. He turned to Mr. Flannagan, who in repose with a slight smile on his face was saying, “Can’t you swallow, you b—–?”
The Doctor’s eyes widened. He clicked his stopwatch, grabbed his clipboard and turned on the tape recorder, fumbling for his pen.
“Scratch your a—, you dumb broad!” Flannagan called, beginning to chuckle.
Nancy finished her cookie and sat quietly, hands folded carefully on her lap. Facing the gallery, she looked inquiringly at the Doctor, who was beside himself scribbling notes, and Flannagan, who was saying “Take it and stick it, if you can’t eat it!”
A voice from the gallery called, “Hey! Leave her alone!” “You’re full of s—–!” Flannagan said amiably. Other voices joined in. “Hey, shut up!” “He’s crazy!”
“Pump your own!” said Flannagan with a broad smile.
Then one voice said, “Get him!” And the crowd surged forward over the lecture desks with a roar and stormed the podium. Buffeted by the crowd, Nancy sought refuge beneath the table. A blond fellow punched Flannagan soundly. A curly-haired girl brought her history textbook down hard on a heavyset fellow in glasses. Rather than strike a woman, the heavyset fellow gave a powerful-looking guy in a varsity seater a hard one in the gut.
Chairs, tables, shouts, cries, and general bedlam ensued.
Someone kicked over the Doctor’s tape recorder — still grinding away — and someone else tore the tape from the machine unreeling it. A hulking young man tripped on the tape and losing his balance lunged forward into the cartons of cookies.
“The cookies!” came a shout. Boxes were ripped from cartons, cookies from boxes. Crumbs were mashed into faces, down clothing and into the rug. Above the melee Flannagan could be heard to say, “F— b—, stick it to your mother!”
After Philosophy class, Karen was to meet the Dean of Students, Mrs. Crawford, a special friend of hers. As she and Mrs. Crawford walked towards Meeting Room 3, they became aware of a tremendous ruckus in progress. One peek through the door and Mrs. Crawford was on the phone to Campus Security.
Security, with bullhorns, regained a measure of control and disbursed the students. “Come on. This is Security. Get out of here before you get into trouble!”
Like morning mist, suddenly there wasn’t a student to be found.
But there were cookie crumbs everywhere. Under overturned tables, mashed into the chairs, the walls, the tape recorder. Groaning, the Doctor rolled over on some empty boxes, a cookie falling from inside his lab coat. Getting on his hands and knees, he hoisted himself up to his feet and stood swaying, cookie crumbs in his hair.
His papers were shredded, recorder ruined, valuable tape unwound and in knots on the floor, and 14 cartons of cookies strewn around the room. The Doctor sighed and looked around for Mr. Flannagan.
Flannagan was thoroughly unconscious, a cardboard carton jammed over his head. Security shook him. He opened his eyes and smiled. “F—- you!” he said dreamily.
Together, he and the Doctor were escorted to headquarters.
As the last footsteps crunched across the room, Nancy poked a bewildered head out from under the table. Standing up, smoothing her flowered dress, she stared at the wreckage.
“G—d—,” she said. “If that don’t f—g beat all!”
Story by Caroline Meyers, ©1979
Friehofer’s Chocolate Chip Cookies – Freihofer Baking Company