I. Mythic Birth of Gelatine
Gelatine was born on a ripe and weary day in Spring, falling out of the womb straight onto her mother’s checkered kitchen floor. She was a fat baby with a cupid face and two bright eyes that squished to make room for her other features—a plum-shaped nose and tiny, red ears. She was baptized in a slouching church, one very thin with each brick older than the one atop of it. The day of her baptism, her mother, who had a croaking voice with a likeness to the rusty church gate, said to the priest: “You shall baptize my daughter with the name Geraldine.” When the time came for the sprinkling of holy water and blessing the old priest said, (and to make clear, this name was created equally by the mother’s corroded voice and his own inability to hear) “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I name thee Gelatine.”
And that was that. From that day on, Gelatine would eat nothing but jell-o.
Nothing could satisfy Gelatine’s cravings like jell-o. She even refused her own mother’s milk. Her mother had tried to feed her mashed sweet potatoes and peas, but Gelatine just pointed to the dusty old jell-o packet in the cupboard until her mother made, for the first time, the dessert she would eat incessantly. When her mother tried to give her other food, she wrenched her mouth shut until her face became red and sticky, like a softening apple, and she would be forced to feed the dessert to her.
Gelatine wanted only the cold metallic taste of a spoon mixed with the lukewarm softness of gelatin. She delighted in the way she could break the dessert down into smaller and smaller shapes until it could be swallowed. Her teeth had never felt solid food, and were perpetually clay-soft and filled with cavities. She grew in size every time she sat down for another meal—a ritual that included watching the powder dissolve into water and bleed the bright, artificial colors (her insides, too, were painted these colors). Her mother realized one day with sorrowful eyes that her daughter now resembled the very food she ate—soft and jiggling, and something to be ogled.
“You’re encouraging her indulgences.” said one doctor. “Try giving her broccoli or spinach, and her health will improve greatly.”
Gelatine’s mother, however, did not listen, as she believed that the day her daughter stopped eating jell-o was the day the world would halt and the sky would fall and crush them all. And so, Gelatine continued to dip her spoon into mixtures of the stuff until her stomach hurt and she could not speak, save for the same words she would yell at her mother morning, noon, and night: “More jell-o, jell-o, jell-o!”
Gelatine’s mother eventually became frantically embarrassed of her ways. When they went to the grocery store and roamed the linoleum-floored aisles together, everyone squirmed at the sight of her daughter, at her wriggling body and filmy skin. It became increasingly obvious to the neighbors that Gelatine’s favorite foods were not like other kids’, who ate strawberry pops and salted chips on their porches in the summertime. Gelatine’s selections were the same, sticky flavors: black cherry, apricot, lime, and piña colada.
“Gelatine, you’re not lean, you’re so round like a tangerine! Gelatine, you’re obscene, you would be better off unseen!” the children chanted mechanically on the playground at recess, while their teacher took a smoke break outside. In those five minutes of bitter freedom, they threw rocks and spiders at her until she stood at the center of the horde and pivoted like a top. They cackled and clucked at the sight of her skin flapping as she spun and spun, tears dancing down her face. Her tears tasted sweet, and that was her only comfort in those marred days.
When Gelatine told her mother this, she suddenly cried fat tears of joy. “One day they will love you, my dear Gelatine.” her mother said hysterically. “The world will love you.”
Gelatine didn’t speak, but she clasped her mother’s pulpy hands and kissed her on the cheek.
The next day Gelatine was taken to the county circus.
III. The Circus
“Now presenting—the stout, the corpulent, the big-boned, roly-poly Miss Jell-o herself—Gelatine!”
The naked lights jerked on, spotlights protruding from the ceiling and reflecting her tainted smile. The audience, submerged in darkness, guffawed at the sight before them: a sculpture of gelatin that seemed comically small in comparison to Gelatine’s vast body. The room was still as she looked up at them, wide-eyed. She gave an exaggerated gasp to the audience and began shoveling the food through her thin lips, taking care to cover her whole mouth and front—a white, frill-laced bib—in the pungent red.
“Look at her go! Yup, that’s right folks, the rumors are true. What does Miss Gelatine here eat allll day? Well, let’s ask her!”
Gelatine, who was now digging at the bowl with her hands, looked up and gave a rehearsed look of surprise before yapping, “Jell-o! Jell-o! Jell-o!”
The audience howled, tears bubbling at the edge of their eyes. They watched, astonished, as another plate of the stuff arrived, then another, driven out by a monkey holding silver platters.
The laughing faded, replaced by a painful silence. She just kept eating, kept covering her cupid-shaped face and arms and hair, and her body became one big mass of gum.
This is boring!” someone said. “Make her eat something else! It’s all the same.”
The sound of the spectators became a blur of boos and yelps, but poor Gelatine only ate faster, as she thought they were not satisfied with her eating abilities. Eventually the sounds rose to the ceiling and filled to the brim of the circus tent. The announcer tried to quiet them. Gelatine violently swayed and said over and over again the only words she knew. “Jell-o! Jell-o! Jell-o!”
The audience screeched and started throwing things at her—popcorn kernels and soda straws, and it began a wicked flashback of those moments on the playground with rocks and spiders and the children’s sadistic lullaby—“Gelatine, you’re obscene, you would be better off unseen,” resounded in her ears. She got up against the uproar, she sprang nimble legs and began to twirl, faster and faster, until the roar of the tent had subsided and she had melted away.