Find Them at Fred’s

Sometimes things just work out.

With candy on my mind as Halloween draws near, I’d been lamenting the fact that my favorite sweet treat is so hard to find. A while back, I wrote a column about how thrilled I was that Dollar General Store packaged genuine Ferrara Pan Candy Company Atomic Fireballs and sold them in the “Sweet Smiles” section of their candy aisle.

But alas, back in early 2017 they began substituting a weak imitation called Tongue Torchers. They’re the same size, shape and color as real Fireballs, but the minute I popped one into my mouth, I knew I’d been hoodwinked. The “fire” that makes you wonder how long you can suck on a genuine Fireball was missing. This was nothing more than a bland and boring piece of hard candy. A travesty for those of us with a sophisticated palate that demands the real thing.

After I wrote the column about Tongue Torchers, something wonderful happened. Friends began bringing me real Atomic Fireballs. One handed me a two-pound gift-wrapped bag from Mast General Store in Knoxville. Another gave me giant plastic container, purchased at Sam’s Club, that contained hundreds of fireballs. Such gestures of friendship were welcome, indeed, and I remain grateful to those friends.

But there was one problem. The fireballs gifted to me were the large-size ones, which we kids used to call “nickel” Fireballs because they cost five cents apiece. They’re so big and so strongly flavored that I have to take them out of my mouth after a few seconds just to catch my breath and cool my tongue off. What I really longed for were the small (“three cent” Fireballs) that Dollar General Store had abandoned.

Where, oh where, might I find them?

The answer came from an unexpected place. A friend who lives in White County and who, though he’s not a Fireball fan himself, has long commiserated with my plight sent me a text message. FRED’S HAS REAL FIREBALLS!!! it said in all capital letters. Wow. Problem solved. Except that we don’t have a Fred’s in Cookeville. Would I have to drive all the way to Sparta to feed my habit? The answer was an unequivocal yes.

There they were, just as I’d hoped, threaded onto a long metal hook in the “Yum Bees” section of the candy aisle. I slid a sack off the hook and scanned the writing on the back. “Atomic Fireballs is a registered trademark of the Ferrara Pan Candy Company” it said. I gleefully tossed nine packages (all they had) into my shopping basket and headed for the check-out. It was the best nine dollars I’d spent in a long, long time. The even better news is that there’s a brand-new Fred’s on East Stratton Avenue in Monterey–just a hop, skip and jump from where I live.

Sometimes things just work out.

(October 21, 2018)