Friday, August 31, 2007

not so cuckoo for mac & cheese

There is a dusty old cuckoo clock hanging on the wall over in the old trailer.

It's been silent for more than a decade.

But during my youth, that was an annoying damn clock!

cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo ——
cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo

The cuckoo clock lived on the wall just down the narrow hall from my bedroom. At least it was facing the living room, in the opposite direction of where I was trying to sleep.

Not even the loud rock-n-roll or the drug and liquor induced shit-talking and laughter of weekend card games could drown out the racket of that infernal bird.

cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo

It would startle me, as I stood, in judgment, in confrontation, in fear, at the end of the hall.

To my left was the kitchen window, the single plant in the house hanging in front of the nicotine clouded glass. It's leaves were covered in the sticky, dusty film that seemed to cover everything else in the house, yet that plant lived in the kitchen window for years.

To my right was the little metal kitchen table. It looked like it belonged in a 50's diner with its yellow top and grooved silver sides. It was a cool table. But above it, hanging directly to my right, was that blasted cuckoo clock.

It would startle me, as I stood there, my mother staring me down from the living room, neither of us speaking because one of us had asked an unanswerable question.

cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo

That stupid ass bird probably saved me once or twice. Sometimes my daddy would get sidetracked on some rant about "that God-damned noisy fucking loudmouth clock."

It was momma's clock. He had given it to her for Christmas or their anniversary or some such gift-giving occasion.

cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo

My seat at the dinner table faced that stupid bird in a box. I'm not really sure why I had a seat at the table, it's not like anyone else usually sat at the table for dinner. I sat watching that clock, eating quickly so I could go back to my room, back to my stories.

I could hear the scrape of forks on their plates and the mindless chatter of the television in the living room behind me. Sometimes all I could hear was that bird.

cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo

My parents loved cheese. They believed that there were very few foods on the earth that couldn't be vastly improved with cheese. They ate cheese on everything. A meal was simply not fit to eat without cheese. And since they were poor and cheese is not cheap, meals often included cheap, "powder and noodles in a box", macaroni and cheese.

It made me gag. The strong smell of the imitation cheese and the noodles that reminded me of those soft plastic grapes I'd chew on at my grandmother's house — all mixed with this gooey, not quite creamy, substance that completely permeated the inside of your mouth. It was disgusting. I absolutely hated it. I would gag, tears welling up in my eyes as I struggled to swallow it down.

Despite the fact that
cheap "powder and noodles in a box" macaroni and cheese has little or no nutritional value, my parents insisted that I eat a substantial portion of it each time it was served, which, as I have said, was often, as my parents were incredibly fond of the nasty shit.

cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo

That damn bird mocked me for hours on the nights we had macaroni and cheese. Because no, I was not allowed to leave the table until I was done eating my healthy portion of that vile concoction. No, I could not have extra green beans instead. I could have both, but I was going to eat that macaroni and cheese because that was a part of the meal that was fixed and I was going to fucking eat it no matter how much I cried and whined about it. Now shut up and eat.

cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo ——
cuck-oooo —— cuck-oooo

One day I decided I wasn't going to eat anymore of that damn macaroni and cheese and figured there wasn't a lot they could do to make me. I started throwing it away. Finally,having grown tired of wasting perfectly delicious "powder and noodles in a box" macaroni and cheese, my parents simply stopped putting it on my plate.

And I started eating my dinner in my bedroom.

The cuckoo bird didn't take my rebellion well. It became erratic, throwing out a random, tired cuck——oooo ———
cuck——oooo every now and then as though it were tired of trying to tell us something we refused to hear. It finally fell silent.

I will always believe my daddy killed that cuckoo clock, even though sometimes late at night I still hear the damn thing.

But I absolutely refuse to eat macaroni and cheese.


  1. missing out, man. missing out.

  2. This was an incredible piece. Thank you for writing it. It was so filled with frustration and loathing that it made me cry. I have bad mac & cheese memories as well. There was Spam involved as well.

  3. Oh, Alice. I feel awful for asking you why you hated mac and cheese....

    I went right back there with you to that trailer house. Right there, next to you, eating that powder and cheese.

    I was lucky. I grew up in a home where I was not forced to clean my plate. We were required to take one bite of everything, that was all.

    I liked the tying up of the cuckoo clock and mac and cheese into the total pain that seemed to pour around and through your family. Well, I didn't LIKE it, but I thought it was brilliant.

    Great post, Alice.