Yabba Dabba Do

David Tromblay

Commodities are not a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee. Commodities are why you stand in line at the community center on the first Saturday of every month. There you receive blocks of pasteurized process cheddar cheese that comes in the same sort of flimsy cardboard box the government uses for rounds of M16 ammunition. There are also the gallon tubs of peanut butter,

      boxes of instant nonfat dry milk

      egg mix

      seedless raisins

corn flakes cereal—all of which comes in nondescript white waxy cardboard packaging, lined with aluminum, or something silver-colored. Then there’s the rusted cans of carrots and green beans along with the ones featuring the silhouettes of the animal supposedly inside:

      BEEF with juices

      PORK with juices

      One Whole Chicken with Broth without Giblets.

There is bag after bag of sugar and flour. But being handed sticks of butter or tubs of margarine is not something there’s a memory of, but neither is ever being out of Crisco.

If you’re lucky, the local grocery stores pitch in boxes of macaroni and cheese. Not Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, but the kind that doesn’t have a T.V. commercial.

Sometimes there is a twenty pound sack of potatoes, a five pound bag of Apples too. Sometimes they already feel soft, but there is always that bread that has to go straight into the freezer so it won’t go bad. Grandma can turn that into French toast easily enough.

That’s not to forget the farina: the flavorless, generic, knockoff Cream of Wheat. Thankfully, there is always a big bowl of sugar on the table to fix its flavorlessness. Grandma takes her coffee black, no cream, no sugar, so she doesn’t care how much you put on your cereal, so there was always a little white crystallized island rising from the sea of milk in your cereal bowl. When the farina and fake corn flakes run out, there is a bowl of rice with milk and cinnamon to get you through until school serves something for lunch. It’s hard to eat after it turns cold. It’s harder to eat once you see the kids you can help for just sixteen cents a day eating the same thing on the television set.

The Saturday morning after Halloween is when Grandma starts making Christmas cookies, and thanks to her Betty Crocker cookbook looking like the collected works of Dickens’ with dozens of dozens of recipes she’s scissored out of the newspaper sticking out of the pages, half serving as bookmarks, you never know what she’s going to make until it’s time to lick the beaters, or roll the dough, or climb the step stool to grab something Grandpa put on too high a shelf. Saturday morning is always one of solitude. It’s when you wake to watch your cartoons before the rest of the house starts to stir.

Friday night is when Grandma Audrey and Grandpa Bub spend the entire evening at the Moose Lodge doing their damndest to outdrink one another, but that’s after they go to the grocery store. It’s winter, which means it’s too cold to take you and leave you out in the parking lot with the dogs, but because it is winter it also means they can leave the food in the car and not worry about anything melting in the back of the station wagon. They just put the bags where your feet go when you ride in the rear-facing seat. The metal floor keeps everything cold, and laying the rear facing seat down flat turns it into something of a makeshift cooler. But not bringing you with means Grandpa will have to bring in all the bags by himself. It also means that you won’t know what all they bought, so the joy of finding a box of Fruity Pebbles in the Tupperware cabinet the next morning is nothing if not worthy of note. It’s not the generic bag of stuff that kind of looks like Fruity Pebbles, the stuff that goes stale halfway through the bag despite Grandma putting it into a Tupperware pitcher. It’s not that stuff you find, but Fruity-fucking-Pebbles. Your favorite of all the cereals. Not the puffed rice cereal Grandma always gets, that shit that is so bad the manufacturer doesn’t even bother naming it. Not the shit that has the consistency of week-old popcorn—but Fruity-fucking-pebbles.

Opening that cabinet, and seeing that box is akin to discovering El Dorado.

You pour a bowl and drizzle ice-cold milk over the top, foregoing the spoonfuls of sugar. It is, after all, wholesome, sweetened rice cereal, it says so right there on the box. So you savor every spoonful until every orange

      Red

      Yellow

      Purple

      Green

And berry blue flake is gone. The shitstorm that is the second-grade fades away when the fruit-flavored tie-dyed milk splashes across the two thousand or so taste buds on your tongue. Chickadees sing their songs for you from their perches on the crabapple tree in the backyard while you drink down the last drop of milk. It’s that good.

When grandma comes downstairs, you spring to your feet ignoring your cartoons, not even waiting for a commercial break, and you wrap your arms around her, hugging her, thanking her, reminding her Fruity Pebbles is your favorite.

Your words stop her patting the top of your head and cause her to head to the Tupperware cabinet where she sees you did indeed help yourself to a heaping bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Except they weren’t for you and now she can’t make her Christmas bars, but she still reaches for the rolling pin. Not the wooden one. The marble one. The one that has no other use than being ornamental, until the very second she uses it to crack your sacrum. The doctor calls it a sacrum, everyone else calls it your tailbone. And Grandma says it wouldn’t have happened if you’d just slow down and walk down the stairs, rather than run.

Author Portrait

David Tromblay lives in Duluth, Minnesota. He served for 10 years in the U.S. Armed Forces, deploying to Iraq, Eastern Europe, and Africa. He earned a BA in English Literature and Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and is currently a graduate student in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. His essays and short stories have appeared in The Nemadji Review, Yellow Medicine Review, [Insert Title Here], Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and forthcoming in Red Ink, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.