“The chocolate bread belongs to John.” My mom would repeat always followed by “you wouldn’t like it.” Even at eight years old, I KNEW that was a lie. John just didn’t want me to have any “chocolate” bread.
Mom and John would sometimes go out on Saturday afternoons. He would go golfing and she would go to her ceramics class. I was left alone for about 2-3 hours. Usually, I would be so engrossed in my Legos or drawing that I wouldn’t even notice when they came back.
But Saturday, October 29, 1977, my life was thrown into chaos by three cataclysmic events.
Hallowe’en was Monday. Mom had made me this really cool and creative Queen of Hearts costume from a cardboard chest frame covered in white contact paper. On the front box lid, she had drawn and glued cutout felt and glitter. She had copied the Bicycle playing card design. I had black tights, a scepter and a tiara. Plus the box hid my gut. I actually heard her friend Paulette say this when she was helping cut out the red and black stripes and hearts.
As excited as I was about the costume, being on my own around Hallowe’en was lonely. And the idea of not really being alone was worse. I dreaded the basement. There was a dark patchy corner between the laundry chute and the furnace where the air swirled and wheezed. The film “the Sentinel” had come out in January. To me, the entrance to Hell from that movie had a sister gateway right in that basement corner. I could hear it whispering open in the quiet when there seemed to be no breeze from the outside. Movies playing out in my head where Hell’s inhabitants, grotesque and full of evil intent, came through that corner and up through the laundry chute. Some of them took the stairs to savor their journey of malevolence and meditate on my destruction and how tasty I would be.
To combat the silence and all its devils, I would turn on the WUAB Channel 43 and SuperHost. For 20 years, Marty Sullivan dressed up in blue tights and a red cape, sometimes donning a blonde wig and claiming he was “Rula Lenska”. Short skits and running gags cut in between horror classics. SuperHost was my transitional horror classics mentor bridging the gap between Creature Feature and Chicago’s Son of Svengoolie played by Rich Koz. I can honestly say that I owed nearly all of my happy childhood moments to these shows and my dog Rosie.
So there I was battling basement ghouls, surrounded by my protective circle of scattered Legos, plotting for my chance to taste the chocolate bread when the drums started. Terrifying, definite, sharp, angry. Bump-Bump BUMP! Bump-Bump BUMP! I dashed to the top of the stairs over razor blocks and green shag carpet, all the way up. At the top, heart pounding like a cage animal, I turned to look at the screen. On my television, there was a giant robot with bloody fingers holding a dead man. The camera panned up its body and into its face driven by the visceral deathbeat of those drums. The robot seemed confused, angry, disconnected, sorry, questioning and murderous all at the same time.
I was petrified. Nothing in my life had prepared me for this actual terror. Giant freaking robot gouging the guts out of four men with this square robot fingers. This manmade nephelim caused blood and death no apparent understanding that he was the cause. And the men in their frilly shirts and tight white pants reclining lifeless and falling like beautiful empty shells. Those drums hooking into my brain and driving home the image, the story, the fear.
And then simply “Queen: News of The World.”
Then it was over. Commercial ended. I had to pee and catch my breath. When I came back down, SuperHost was back on. I was safe. And I wanted chocolate bread now!
I figured if I took a slice right in the middle of the loaf, no one would know. I was careful to tie the red wire the same way and put it back exactly on top of the fridge as I had found it. One slice of coveted chocolate bread and it was all mine. But what do you do with it? What do you put on it? I decided to maximize the experience and make a sandwich. I cut it in half and opened all the cabinets.
Ok – Peanut butter made sense. And banana. And ooh marshmallow fluff! And why not a sprinkle of cinnamon? And cinnamon sugar. And raisins. Oh yes. It was a skyscraper sugar masterpiece delight. I poured myself a glass of milk and took the largest bite I could manage.
As I started to chew, I immediately felt myself gag. I sat there, eyes wide and watering, absolutely disgusted at the lump of poison-bitter, sickening-sweet lump of fresh hell sitting in my mouth. I spit it out in the trash and continued to heave even after it was all out. I was shaking. Traumatized by the truth that “chocolate” bread was really dark rye. My mom lied about the bread being “chocolate”. But she told the truth, I wouldn’t like it.
I sat on the floor by the trash can, shuddering and hugging myself. This was a horrible day. Eventually, I cleaned up all evidence of my thievery and punishment for said thievery. I lay down on the couch exhausted, planning to nap until they came home. But then, the drums started again.
Queen’s News of The World commercial terrorized me until I bought it with my birthday money three weeks later. I was my first 12” vinyl. I played it all the way through until it was a warped, scratched dysfunctional version of itself. My favorite song from it is still “Sheer Heart Attack”. I played it until somewhere in my head the robot came apart and couldn’t hurt anyone. “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” got the most radio play. But every time those drums start, I still fight a phantom twinge of nausea from “chocolate bread.”