Pandora’s Cereal Box

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I don’t know if there exists a word for this phenomenon, but when I was younger, I had a horrible habit of “leaving only a little bit of a thing so I wouldn’t have to be the one to deal with it when it ran out.” I always left one square of toilet paper so I wouldn’t have to swap out the roll. I left a splash of juice in the carton so I wasn’t expected to wash it out. And I always left a little bit of cereal at the bottom of the bag, so no one could say “I can’t believe Audrey ate all the cereal again.” Quite often it happened that there were multiple nearly-empty cereal boxes with only thirty or forty pieces left at the bottom; not nearly enough for a full bowl, too much to just throw away. Until it became stale, then it was food for the birds.

In the late 1990s there was a Kellogg’s cereal called Mud & Bugs, a Lion King-themed blend of chocolate corn puffs and chewy marshmallows. It was like if Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms took part in an unholy union and asked Disney to raise the child. My palate was not yet refined enough to taste anything other than sugar, so I loved it.

One morning, I retrieved “the Lion King cereal” from the pantry. When I poured it into the bowl, all manner of unexpected grains greeted me. Out of the box spilled Cheerios, Wheat Chex, Rice Krispies, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, and a couple of dehydrated marshmallows. I recognized them all. These were the cereals I had left in almost-empty containers; my parents had consolidated them all into one box, and I was left to pay the price for my crimes.

I ate the cereal anyway. I couldn’t just pour it back in the box; this meal felt karmically inevitable. I ate my bowl of incompatible textures with grace. After all, I knew my beloved Mud & Bugs was down there somewhere at the bottom, waiting for me.

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