DeLillo’s Count Chocula
We think Bram Stoker, Bela Legosi, Transylvania. Dark, foreboding castles. Coffins, fangs, mirrors without reflections. Bats flying in moonlight, creating archetypal shadows. Punctured necks and heaving bosoms. The townspeople assemble, demand vengeance.
“To kill the vampire,” the mayor says. “To return to normal.”
“Humans versus monsters,” agrees the blacksmith.
A bar wench says, “The destruction the different. The restoration of the status quo.”
The burlapped mob, moving as one body, winds up the mountain. A crowd, a mass, a flock. They arrive armed with pitchforks and burning torches; garlic and holy water; crosses and sharpened stakes. Talismans of a long dead science.
The monster is defeated, as monsters are. Screams, curses, blood. The sad, victorious dawn.
And now this chocolately cereal. Crunchy, with marshmallows.
DeLillo’s Fruity Pebbles
Cars powered by feet. Birds used as record needles. Diving boards made of stone.
“Yabba-Dabba-Doo,” says a disembodied voice.
You live in a world where breakfast is named after the fictional daughters of cavemen. Yet the cereal exists. Neon flakes, sugary dandruff containing the colors of the rainbow. Blues, reds, yellows. Primary colors. Roy G Biv Colors.
The ingredients are cryptic, foreign. Exotic substances, nutrition of the future. Red 40. Yellow 6. Blue 2. Numbers as breakfast, the breakfast of numbers. The square root of taste.
And at the bottom, submerged in foodstuff, a toy. Maybe a decoder ring. A two-way wristwatch. An erasable tattoo.
Or a razor blade. A plastic explosive. A rabid lemur with cruel eyes.
The thrill of not knowing.
DeLillo’s Fiber One
Regular bowel movements. Sturdy, substantive. One thinks of unclogged drains, opened tunnels.
Your wife asks, “How do you feel now?”
“I’m blinking nervously, ashamed to answer.”
“Relieved. Light. Clean.”
“Did you look into the bowl?”
“It’s difficult to say.”
“That means ‘yes.’ Was there a sense of pride, a feeling of accomplishment?”
“Definitely, without question.”
She smiles. “It’s the Fiber One.”
Champions, the breakfast of. We recall the Giants beating the Dodgers in ‘51; the U.S. hockey team defeating the Soviets in ‘80; women’s soccer winning the World Cup in ‘99.
Or the bombing of Hiroshima, ‘42. The Bay of Pigs ‘61. Kennedy in Dallas, ‘63. Oswald in the Book Depository, the limousine’s seat cushions Zapruder red.
The editor now stands behind my shoulder. I return to the cereal. Bland, inoffensive flakes. Mediocrity as victory. Carbohydrates as conquest.
The editor slaps his forehead, a gesture of frustration. The anger and incomprehension of the inartistic.
“Just type the catchphrase, DeLillo,” he says.
Be a Wheaties kid.
DeLillo’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran
This product may prevent heart disease.
Super Bowl Sunday. The family and friends gathered around the Sony, eating potato chips and pretzel rods; diet sodas and beer; Kooko Treats and Goony Bars. Bean dip, salsa, guacamole, chili con carne.
A touchdown arrives. The announcer says,
“Touchdowwwwwn.” The more consonants, the greater the achievement. Language as victory.
Screams, hugs, high-fives. Chest pain.
You think about the words. Chest pain. You say them aloud.
You fall on the floor. Commotion, panic, prayers. Someone reaches for the phone, says, “It’s an emergency.”
An address is spoken.
“I’m inconsolable,” a relative weeps.
“Devastated,” says a cousin.
“A sense of anxiety, a loss of control.”
The EMT’s arrive overeager, over-caffeinated. You think about your life, the mistakes you made. Regrets and remembrances.
A doctor knowingly says, “Triglycerides.” He likes the way it rolls off the tongue. To him it means a new deck on his house. A weekend getaway to Bermuda. Keeping his mistress at the Four Seasons.
“Oat Bran would have helped,” the doctor says. The admonition feels pre-packaged, tardy.
“Oat Bran always helps,” the nurse agrees. “That’s what oat bran does. It helps.”
Death comes, as it must. A plot of ground, a name on granite. Speeches, cries, silence.
Eat the cereal.