Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Wonder Bread Gorging and the Ceiling Toaster Distraction

I want to mount a toaster on the ceiling.  It’s a really tall ceiling, seventeen feet or some shit like that, and there’s a thin pipe with a metal box on one end, one of those electrical boxes with four plugs on it, just staring down at me when I sit on the couch.  There’s a ceiling fan installed on the same piece of conduit, this ever-spinning thing that’s supposed to look old or antique or industrial, but it really cost something like $800 when I bought the place, which means it cost the builder 27 cents, and it’s going to cost me $14,000 by the time I make my last payment 30 years from now, except the fucking thing will be 22 years dead by then, rotting in a landfill while I make some fucker at CitiBank that much richer every month.

I stare up at this junction box, and wonder what the fuck it’s used for.  I mean, I guess if I didn’t have the ceiling fan, I’d get a big a-frame ladder and plug in one of those chain lights, the dangling ball with a bulb in it that hangs from a chain or a stay or a pull or whatever the fucking word is.  But I have this fan up there, so I can’t do that.  The cord from the light would get shredded the first time I turned on the fan, unless I creatively duct taped it and ran it down a wall.

I thought about a toaster.  I could sit on the couch and throw bread up at the ceiling.  Eventually, some of it would catch.  Then it would bake, or toast, or roast, whatever the fucking word is, and then I would put a plate under it and it would shoot a piece of toast down seventeen feet onto my plate.  I’d need to keep a catcher’s glove handy, and trap the toast so it wouldn’t ricochet away.  All of this involves a toaster with some kind of positive retention system, and careful aim, of which I have neither.

I don’t even eat toast anymore.  I used to eat it fairly often; we’d go through at least a loaf a bread a week, minus those two end pieces, “heels”, which we’d never touch, except my mom would throw the usual fit, “YOU GUYS NEED TO EAT THAT GOD DAMNED END PIECE, WHAT THE SHIT, IT’S PERFECTLY GOOD BREAD.”  Except it wasn’t.  I don’t know if I was pro-crust or anti-crust at the time, but I probably fucking hated crust when I was seven, and when you think about it, the heel of a loaf of bread is an entire side of crust.

Aside: we once visited the Wonder Bread factory, in the first grade.  It was when I lived in Edwardsburg, and I think we drove to Elkhart, although it’s possible we drove to Niles, because that’s the time of my life when I didn’t know left from right and north from south, and I assumed any drive anywhere was a drive to Elkhart, unless it was a drive to Florida or Kosovo.  Anyway, we went to the Wonder bread factory, and I now know that there are a thousand Wonder bread factories all over the country, and every different store also has its own brands, and there are regional brands, and some stores only have four kinds of bread, and others have like fifty.  But I didn’t know shit about regional brands or franchises or anything; I think I assumed that every single town had a Kroger store, and every single Kroger store contained the same damn stuff, so if you went to a Kroger in New York City, you could buy Big K cola, when of course there are no Kroger stores in Manhattan, and an Albertson’s or a Safeway or what have you is going to have different shit.  I also think I assumed that the one bakery we visited was the one place that made all of the Wonder bread in the entire country, because I had no knowledge of industrial operational scale or how hard it is to transport and ship perishables cross-country.  I just saw the big robot machines stamping out loaves of white bread, and stared in awe.

And at the end of the tour, the plant foreman or supervisor or whatever the fuck gave each of us a loaf of white bread to take home.  And I started eating that goddamn loaf of bread on the bus ride home, and it was so fresh, it tasted almost as good as eating a fresh slab of angel food cake.  (It’s also possible I was on the brink of starvation from not eating our shit school lunch.)  I must have eaten four or five slices of bread before that yellow Bluebird bus got me back to my mom’s house.  And maybe she was pissed off that I ate all of this damn bread, or maybe not, I don’t remember.  In retrospect, I think she was pissed off at everything.  Or maybe nothing.

I also remember some exercise where we all had breakfast in the first grade, like in the afternoon.  Maybe it was to teach us how important breakfast was, or it was because this was Michigan, and Kellogg’s is in Michigan, so they had an upstart cereal indoctrination program that programmed young kids into thinking they had to buy five damn boxes of cereal a week, and the same evil executives knew they’d eventually jack up the prices to seven or eight bucks a box and gradually make the boxes thinner and smaller and more full of air until eventually that $7 box of Life cereal only actually contained like twelve of those little cereal squares.  (And yes, we all believed that kid Mikey died of coke and pop rocks, or maybe it was cocaine.  We didn’t have Snopes back then.)

So everyone in the class had to vote on what cereal they wanted, and there were maybe a dozen choices, and everyone chose frankenberry or fruity pebbles or one of those cereals that’s 100% sugar and is basically a candy you’d eat at a movie theater, except you added milk and ate it with a spoon.  Nobody chose cheerios, because cheerios are basically inedible unless you added fourteen tablespoons of sugar and turned the milk into a sugary mud, which is what I had to do on a regular basis, because my mom always bought cheerios.  But on that day, I voted for frosted mini wheats.  I don’t know why.  But I think six people voted for it, including the teacher, who was some ancient woman, although ancient probably meant 24.  She seemed to agree with my choice though, saying “these are good.”

Some people had to settle for other cereals, because they lost the vote.  This one kid, I think his name was Skip, wanted some cereal we didn’t even vote on, like count chocula.  I think he did it as a write-in, and it got one vote, so no count chocula.  But on the day of the big breakfast, as the teacher poured out bowls of cereal, there was no count chocula, and Skip threw a fit, cried and bawled until tears and snot ran down his red face, screaming “I want count chocula!  I have count choclula!  I voted for count chocula!”  And the teacher tried to appease him with some boo-berry or fruity pebbles, but he wasn’t having it.  The whole thing reminded me of when someone votes for Ross Perot or some fringe libertarian.  Well, maybe not.  But I bet Skip ended up voting for Ron Paul or Ralph Nader or something.