The kids at school used to make fun of my son because he had a favorite spoon. We went through five gallons of milk a week and bought a trash compactor to deal with the empty boxes. Janie used to glare at me while she balanced the checkbooks, but the “World’s Best Dad” coffee mug on my desk made it all worthwhile. Some mornings he’d take an extra bowl. Or two. Or three. Anything to get to that toy inside. He’d write “Billy” on the top of ’em in big block letters so everyone knew who it belonged to, then tuck it safely into the drawer with the rest of ’em. His heart stopped beating before it was six years old.
His piss was red one morning. Like a bowl of strawberries, I told myself at the time, I’ve told myself every night. The doctor just shook his head. A million tiny cuts all through his insides, nothing they could do. Maybe something he ate, the doc whispered, scratching his chin. The nurses brought him a big bowl of Sugar Puffs. At least he didn’t die hungry. It was that last bowl that gave them their answer at the autopsy.
Scarlet Dichromate. Or “now with red sugarberries!” as the guy who makes the box calls it. Red, shiny and flavorless, guaranteed to turn your drab cereal fab! Only downside is, sometimes you eat a bowl and it cuts up your mouth. Sometimes you eat a couple bowls and you get a tummy ache. Sometimes it’s all you eat for months and the World’s Best Dad has to sell all your little racecars to give you a nice going-away party. Then mommy takes half of what’s left and leaves daddy the cold side of the bed and all the memories. Three lives ruined because the men at the factory thought people would appreciate a little more color in their breakfast.
Do they have trouble sleeping at night? No, no. Of course not. After all, Sugar Puffs are only part of a healthy breakfast.