POP HAZMAT QUESTIONABLE CHILDHOOD CANDY HALL OF FAME: “STARBURST” by Jonathan Kieran
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HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME: LOVABLY QUESTIONABLE CANDY FROM CHILDHOOD! by JONATHAN KIERAN
TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: STARBURST FRUIT CHEWS!
RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: What follows is a (verbatim) “flashback scene” from one of my elementary school classes.
During this class, our halitosis-stricken teacher, Miss Marion “Spaghetti Legs” McGrady, was attempting to gauge local nutritional values from an informal survey of our confused and disenchanted brains. During the course of the lesson, she asked various students questions about their own “healthy food choices and experiences” at home. Unfortunately, she chose to petition our obese and somewhat oily classmate, Ronald Frakey, in this regard. Ronald’s mother, Lurlene Frakey, was well-known for spending entire mornings and afternoons sitting on her dilapidated front porch in curlers, a bathrobe and tatty pink bedroom slippers, sipping regularly from a bottle of Jack Daniels and often complaining to her deaf, one-eyed cat, Boogers, about the rising cost of menthol cigarettes.
Spaghetti Legs McGrady, however, was apparently unaware that the Frakey household was a less-than-ideal source from which to extract useful information about the Four Food Groups. On this particular day, Spaghetti Legs was fixated on the importance of fruit in the human diet. The rest of us were breathless with anticipation as she focused her powers of inquisition upon Ronald.
MISS McGRADY: “Ronald Frakey. You look like a well-fed little boy. Why, I can tell by your complexion that Crisco is used rather frequently around your house. That means your mother must be a gifted chef de cuisine!”
RONALD FRAKEY: “A what?”
MISS McGRADY: “A good cook.”
RONALD FRAKEY: “Well, she can microwave a plate of Twinkies real good, if that’s what you mean. She’s got it timed real perfect, too, so the creamy fillin’ doesn’t even burn the skin off our tongues anymore!”
MISS McGRADY: “Never mind that, Frakey. Today’s discussion is about the importance of fresh fruit in any balanced diet, especially for growing children like yourself. What role does fruit play in your family’s nutritional infrastructure, Ronald?”
RONALD FRAKEY: “Role? Well, we have rolls every Thanksgiving. Mama hits my sister, Vicki, over the head with one o’ them Pillsbury canisters. See, Vicki’s got sort of a pointed head, like the peak of a roof or somethin’, and the doctors don’t know why, but they say her skull is prolly gonna be thick like that until she turns sixteen. Maybe. Maybe not. We just have to wait and see, you know? I sure dunno why Vicki’s head is shaped like that, but one time I overheard my Aunt Betty say it was ’cause Vicki’s real daddy is some fella what goes by the name of ‘Jack Daniels.’ Now, I dunno if I ever met nobody named ‘Jack Daniels.’ Maybe. Maybe not. But Mama says, ‘Hell, if the girl’s head is gonna be thick as a butcher-block until she’s thirty she might as well make herself useful.” So she clubs her with that Pillsbury can every Thanksgiving and Vicki doesn’t even feel a thing on account of the bone thickness and out pops them rolls, like it was magic. They go real good with our pork chop, too. Uh … does that answer your question ’bout rolls, Mizz McGrady?”
MISS McGRADY: “No, Ronald Frakey. It certainly does not. Excuse me for a moment, class, while I get the small silver flask of homeopathic medicinal liquid that I keep in the bottom drawer of my desk. Don’t be alarmed. You have all seen me utilize this crucial and massage therapist-prescribed treatment on numerous occasions as I guide you to ever-greater heights of scholastic achievement. One day, many of you will also find yourselves taking advantage of cutting-edge herbal remedies to shield yourselves from the relentless horrors and unendingly dark, harrowing terrors of adult life. [Gulp. GULP.] Ah. There. That’s much better. Now, Mr. Frakey, I was not speaking of rolls that one consumes in the manner of puffed pastries and what-not. I was speaking of the role of fruit. The part that it plays in the fortifying bosom of your family’s nutritional regimen. Can you tell us the part that fruit plays in the Frakey domicile? Tell us about fruit, Ronald!”
RONALD FRAKEY: “Aw, heck, Mizz McGrady. I can tell you all ’bout that! Why didn’tcha just come right out and ask me the first time? Fruit’s great and wonderful.”
MIZZ McGRADY: “Now we’re getting somewhere. What is your favorite kind of fruit, Ronald?”
RONALD FRAKEY: “Starburst! Them pink ones. But I suppose I like the other colors just as much, too. Maybe. Maybe not. Why, I can sit down and eat a whole pack in ten minutes, I reckon.”
MIZZ McGRADY: “Mr. Frakey! Starburst is categorically not a fruit.”
RONALD FRAKEY: “Well, now. I dunno ’bout that, Mizz McGrady. It says on the TV in that fun little commercial they do: ‘Starburst fruit chews. A burst o’ refreshin’ fruit flavor for you.’ Now, if that ain’t fruit, then I’d like to know what a galldurned fruit is. I mean, they say the word ‘fruit’ twice in one song. Seems simple to me. You chew it and it bursts with flavor. Fruit flavor. TV don’t lie. They couldn’t say it twice if it weren’t true. And it ain’t just any fruit, it’s fruit for YOU.”
MIZZ McGRADY: “Ronald Frakey! I fear that your nutritional education has been sorely neglected when you consider a processed, tooth-rotting, wax-covered square of solidified corn-syrup to be a member of the FRUIT FAMILY! I can see now that I am going to have to arrange an immediate emergency conference with your mother and father!”
RONALD FRAKEY: “Oh, you can’t do that, Mizz McGrady. See, Daddy fell into that grinder down there to the Potted Meat factory eight years ago, and they still don’t figure they got all the pieces of him to toss in the casket, so he ain’t gonna be much help to anybody. And Mama … well, Mama don’t like to leave Boogers all by hisself in the house. He’s deaf and he’s only got one eye, see, so he tends to get confused and piss all over Mama’s National Enquirer magazines if she ain’t watchin’ him every minute, you know? Mama believes in the importance of readin’ and, you bein’ a teacher and all, Mizz McGrady, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to take my Mama away from literature. Not for one single solitary minute. Not for fruit. Maybe. Maybe not. Besides, Mama hands us all a brand new packet of the Starburst every time she makes a beer-run to the Handy-Grab, and she says to me and Vicki, she says: ‘Here now, you kids take this. This here’s a little packet of good healthy fruit. You both need some vitamins in your system this week and I’ll be damned if I’m wastin’ a food stamp on a bag o’ them overpriced oranges. Let those fools in Florida eat ’em, seein’ as they grow ’em like weeds down there! You won’t catch me peelin’ one of them things. Plus, in this Starburst pack, you get more’n one kind of fruit! See? Look here, it’s got watermelon, strawberry, orange, lemon and mango. I read somewhere in the Enquirer that mangoes is supposed to be extra good for you. Make your bowels spin like a waterwheel durin’ flood-time, mangoes will.’ So, Mizz McGrady, you can call Mama to talk about fruit all you want, but she already knows all about that sort of thing. Why, I bet she can prolly teach you a thing or two. You might even want have the Principal Hickens hire her to replace that Home Economics lady who up and quit to marry the undertaker last month. I don’t expect Mama’s lookin’ for a job, but can it hurt to ask? Maybe. Maybe not.”
MIZZ McGRADY: Class. Uh … please open your history books to the … to the … oh, well … to any chapter you want, really. I don’t care. Just read silently amongst yourselves for about half an hour. I … I need to go to the teacher’s lounge for some important … for some … for a little lie-down. Now … hey. Has anyone seen my small silver receptacle of homeopathic medication? Class? This is not amusing! CLASS! Who in Hell’s Bells swiped that flask of gin?”
DEFINITIVE QUALITY: You heard it from Ronald Frakey and rest assured that millions of satisfied children around the world sing the joyous refrain even today: “Starburst fruit chews! A burst of refreshing fruit flavor for YOU!”
BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: The glory of Starburst is exceeded only by its illustrious progeny … it’s not every candy that can give birth to a SKITTLE.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Starburst is still mesmerizing children from its place of honor atop 7-11 candy displays everywhere. Ronald Frakey has been in and out of jail since murdering Boogers the cat with a can of Pillsbury Thanksgiving rolls. Mrs. Frakey’s liver (which is all that remains of her) is preserved in a jar on a shelf at the Institute of Cirrhosis Research & Prevention in Ottawa, Ontario. Miss Marion McGrady never came back from the teacher’s lounge. Her whereabouts are unknown.
SPRUCE IT UP WITH A COCKTAIL!: Pop one of those beguiling little squares into your next Mango Margarita. It’s good, healthy fruit … and your bowels will move like a waterwheel. Trust Mama Frakey.
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Click here to purchase the Kindle e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.