I wrote this piece for Jubilare, who figured out a way to redeem her awesome points. She gave me a writing challenge. The prompt: “The Mysterious Case of the Marshmallow Mushroom Forest.” No other stipulations. This is what I came up with. I hope you like it, Anne!
The story you are about to read is fiction. The names have been made up to protect no one, because none of the characters actually exist.
The Mysterious Case of the Marshmallow Mushroom Forest
This is the kitchen. Suburbia, USA. A canvas of bacon grease, Kool Aid stains, and Cheerio dust. A place where juveniles come to sneak M&Ms and adults come to swig whiskey when one too many episodes of Spongebob has made them forget they never bought any. A place for cooks, Pinterest addicts, and me.
I carry a bowl.
It’s Tuesday, March 15. It’s a sunny day, I’m working the breakfast shift out of the Your Turn division. My partner’s the Mrs. My name’s Daddy.
8:02 a.m., I pull in at the door just like any other morning. It takes me six steps to get to the pantry. When I arrive, the cereal box is waiting for me. It’s open.
Warily, I pour a little into the bowl. I don’t see any bugs, but something else isn’t right.
The Mrs. arrives on the scene, yawning.
“You were up late last night.”
“He kept begging for one more chapter.”
“Carroll. He’ll be drawing white rabbits for weeks.”
I glance at the refrigerator. It’s plastered with a construction paper panorama of a factory. Cotton balls stream out of the smoke stacks, and at the front gate, little men drawn with orange crayon are carting out magazine clippings of candy bars. For a moment, I consider the difficulty of adding a top coat of grinning cats and smoking caterpillars over the three-dimensional collage, but the Mrs. interrupts my thoughts.
“These Cheerios are deformed.”
“They’re Lucky Charms.”
We both look in the bowl. Then we look at each other. It strikes us at the same moment.
8:05 a.m.. We call the suspect into the dining room. We place the Lucky Charms box and the half-filled bowl on the table in front of him. We stare at him: Me. the Mrs. The cartoon man in the green top hat.
“Ben. Did you eat all of the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms again?”
We glance at each other.
“I dedn’t eat the mushrellows!”
“Then what happened to them?”
“I glueded them.”
“Glued them? To what?”
The suspect jumps from his chair and runs out of the room. We chase him down the hall, and arrive in his bedroom at 8:06 a.m.. He is at his drawing table, holding a sheet of paper.
“I glueded them to the forest.”
We look at the paper. It is spattered with hard sugar hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers and blue moons. A fat worm is outlined with green marker, and a girl in a blue dress towers over him.
“See?” says the suspect. “These ones make you grow big and tall. But thoses makes you get shrunk.”
“All we want are the facts, Ben. Why did you glue marshmallows to the paper?”
“I think they’re mushrooms, Joe.”
“Mushrellows. I couldn’t find any musher-rooms. This is a subs-ta-toot.”
“I guess they do sound alike.”
“No, silly Mommy.” He pats her arm.
“No? Then why did you use marshmallows?”
“Becuzzz. The Hatter says they’re magically delicious.”
Upon closer inspection of the cereal box, the Mrs. finds that the cartoon man indeed bears a striking resemblance to the character known as “the Mad Hatter.”
On March 15, at 8:09 a.m. the suspect appears in court before a jury of his parents. The jury finds the defendant guilty of cereal killing and sentences him to a stern reprimand.
This is the kitchen. Suburbia, USA. It’s a wasteland of lopsided art projects encrusted with peanut-butter-and-jelly stains. It’s a den of thievery, now made just a little bit safer. It’s a place for breakfast – maybe not cereal; maybe eggs this time – breakfast for the Mrs. And the munchkin. And me.
I carry a skillet.