“Bobby, eat your breakfast or you’ll be late for school.”
He looked down in the bowl of cereal, listlessly stirring the soggy flakes with his spoon and pushing them beneath the surface of the milk. Every morning it was the same thing – a bowl of Cornflakes in a half a cup of milk. His friends got to sprinkle sugar on theirs, but his mother insisted that they were sweet enough and didn’t need any more sugar. Without fail, summer or winter, he started his day with a bowl of cold bland tasteless yellowish mush. Never bacon and eggs, never toast, never a different kind cereal. It was always Kellogg’s Cornflakes. He had tried to rebel when he was younger and not eat them, but his mom had made him sit at the table until the bowl was empty. He had sat there until 11:30 before he finally relented and finished the now warm, almost paste-like cereal. He had come to hate Cornflakes and the irritating multi-coloured rooster on the box. He swore that when he grew up he would never again eat another bowl of this cruddy cereal.
“Bobby, you’ll be late for your hockey game. Hurry up and eat your breakfast.”
He was tired, almost too tired for hockey, but his teammates needed him today and he wouldn't let them down. As fast as he could, he shovelled down his second bowl of Cornflakes. They crunched slightly in the micro-second they were in his mouth before he swallowed them. He was eating so quickly that they did not even have time to get soggy. As he scooped up another spoonful, he thought he saw her face reflected back from the surface of the milk. The images churned up his stomach, causing him to feel nauseous and ill. He had barely slept after their date last night when she had dumped him for sleeping with her best friend. He loved her so very much and hadn’t meant to get drunk and fool around with Cathy. She just didn’t realise what she meant to him and now she was heading off to college and he would never have the chance to see her again. Angrily he jammed his spoon in the cereal out of frustration for the entire situation. Stupid cereal, it was just like his relationship, unsatisfying and gone much too fast.
“Bobby, get a move on. You know you’ll lose your job if you’re late again!”
He scooped up another spoonful of his cereal, watching the flakes float about on the milk. Aimlessly floating along, nowhere really to go, just sitting on the milk until finally their life is over. It pretty much described his life. He would work at the mill for the rest of his life, protected by the union, and possibly rising to be a foreman by the time he was 50. But he knew that without a college degree even that was a bit of an optimistic hope. He swallowed a mouthful of the mushy flakes as his pregnant wife walked by to warm a bottle in the microwave. She was pretty enough, though she had never really lost the weight after their second child. Why didn't he get that vasectomy like she had asked? A third child was going to stress their meagre finances to the limit. As he swallowed a mouthful of Cornflakes, he realised that a decent breakfast of steak and eggs wouldn't be affordable for a long long time to come.
“Dad! Hurry up and finish your lunch or I’ll be late for rehearsal.”
Muttering an obscenity to himself he swallowed another spoonful of the soggy flakes. Why did they have to be so tasteless and bland? The burning in his stomach flared briefly as he swallowed but was nothing like it would have been if he had dared eat a sandwich. It seemed like Cornflakes was all he ate these days. Almost anything else irritated his ulcer, gave him heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion. Meat seemed to make him constipated for days until his bowels writhed in agony. The stress of raising his children, of burying his wife, losing the house, and the endless search for temporary jobs after the mill had closed had just been too much. Somehow his health had failed him along the way and now he was reduced to a diet of Cornflakes and vitamin pills. If he ground up the vitamins into some sugar and sprinkled them on his cereal, he could get them down without a lot of difficult. He silently prayed to the cereal gods and thanked them for inventing Cornflakes. Without them he doubted he'd eat anything at all.
“Mr. Sanders, the dining hall will close in a few more minutes. Please try and finish your dinner.”
He looked down into the bowl of mushy cereal. He used to remember what kind of cereal this was, but lately it had seemed to slip his mind. Cornpaste or something like that, maybe. Well, the cereal was cool and soothing and easy to gum. There was also something comforting and safe about it. The dietitian had tried to get him to eat something else: boiled eggs, oatmeal, creamed corn, and apple sauce had all been put in front of him lately. But none of these had the satisfying familiarity of his cereal. In the twilight of his life, after all that he had done and been through, a man deserved to enjoy his meals. If he wanted cereal, he was going to have it no matter what anyone said. Savouring another spoonful of the mushy flakes, he smiled and closed his eyes. Suddenly he remembered, Kellogg's Cornflakes - that was it, his favourite food.