The whole sorry predicament

On this particular Sunday morning he was eating Cornflakes while reading, the book held precariously open by a jar of marmalade on the thick right-hand to-be-read side, and an empty wine bottle on the thin left-hand having-been-read side, offering him satisfactory hands free operation, but at the same time threatening at any moment to eject the improvised paperweights and flip shut, the bungled attempts to prevent this violent loss of place inevitably resulting in flapping and mess.

He had recently become disproportionately exercised by the problem of the limpness of the flakes in the latter stages of any regular serving of Cornflakes. As he preferred his Cornflakes both crunchy and well-milked (the contrast in textures generated, along with the subtle flavour, was to him the very point of the product), the fact that the closing stages of his breakfast experience were so unsatisfactory seemed unjust and wrong. He had then settled upon the not altogether complicated idea of simply having two half portions, ensuring crunch and taste to the last bowl-tilted, catch-that-flake spoonful.

The problem, and he was himself all too aware of how tragically typical this was of him, how this so neatly summed him – and indeed the whole sorry predicament that was his life – up, was that he was incapable of executing even this most simple of strategies, always and without fail over-flaking the first bowl, and then pathetically trying to compensate by adding a tiny amount of milk. It was not so much this common ineptitude that aroused in him such self-loathing, but rather the doublethink by which he allowed himself to carry the delusion that the breakfast bowl was adequately prepared all the way to the table. Only once he had sat himself down and begun comforting himself with televised drivel or newsprint or spring-loaded literature would he stop, usually on about the third or fourth dessicated mouthful, and confront the reality that his breakfast cereal was, again, moronically undermilked, and that something would have to be done.

And there, at that exact point, he would feel the abdominal sink of the new dilemma: to bring the milk to the bowl, or the bowl to the milk? And always the futile calculation of each strategy. The milk-to-bowl option entailed a frustrating double round-trip, one to fetch the milk from the fridge and apply it to the flakes, and the second to return it to the fridge (pride ruling out the option of simply leaving it on the table: the bottle standing over the bowl, looking on scornfully, mockingly aloof, like Matron, as the increasingly soggy breakfast is consumed: can’t you even put milk in a bowl?. Futile because it was always the short-term attraction of the single round-trip that won, no matter how predictable the result.

And so he carried the bowl, now with the correct milk to flake ratio, but due to the initial overflaking dangerously full, through the swing door of his kitchen and turned, sidestepping the kitchen door as it swung back out into the hallway, his momentum carrying him through into the living room, and as he entered he caught his arm just above the left elbow against the frame of the living-room door, jolting him slightly, and with him the bowl, causing a small amount of milk and three individual Cornflakes to squirt and fall with a quiet splat on the laminated floor. He swore, at his misfortune and stupidity in equal measure, put down the bowl, the bottom of which would leave an opaque ring on the table when he lifted it later, and returned to deal with the slick, pausing only briefly to decide whether to save trees and use the dishcloth, before baulking at the hygiene implications of the floor-to-dish contact, and using 2 sheets of kitchen paper on what was clearly a three-sheet spill.