In a simpler time, back when men drove Stewart trucks and women didn’t drive, when children ran barefoot through empty lots, grease was good, and canned meat came with a key, back when flags stood up straight when baseball players doffed their caps—back when Norman Rockwell painted from life—everyone knew that three things were forever: God, America, and Twinkies.
In the present day, we’ve seen the first two dwindle down to nothingness. Whether our parsimony, the demands of modernity, or merely our distracted disinterest, god is gone and America is free diving off a high fiscal cliff, and we have painfully accommodated ourselves to the world coming without them.
We can go on, we’ve told ourselves as though we were characters from a Corman McCarthy novel, without the first and the second. Life will continue, however blighted, however bleak. We will learn to love each other in that godless future though it be dominated not by American ideals but by zombies, cannibals, talking gorillas, and Jane Fonda with a ray gun. In that desperate love, we knew, we could re-form god’s grace and the noble aspirations of the grand experiment.
We can do it, we cried to keep the demons of the Apocalypse at bay. We can survive god’s going and America’s demise, as long as we still have Twinkies. Whatever the plague, affliction, or calamity, wherever god and democracy might go, we knew the old world would survive in the new inside of golden sponge cake with creamy filling. We were as sure as saints.
Now, we face the fruits of our long folly. Or, rather, the fruit pies of our long folly. Like a thief in the night, the days of Revelation have come upon us in our sleep. Our past has become the past and we confront what our greed and myopia have made.
As of this writing, the official Web site of Twinkies displays the following: “Hostess brands is closed.”
Oh, we laughed at the nuts, didn’t we? In our days of plenty we pointed and jeered at the wackos who’ve been stockpiling Ho-Ho’s and Ding Dongs in their sunken concrete shelters, and crying from their rooftops that domestically operated mass baking was coming to an end. We smirked and consumed, and we made jokes that likened Hostess’ signature confection to the pyramids and Dick Clark. But who’s crying now?
The prayers of the faithful that someone will ransom us—a savior like Bimbo or Metropoulos or Little Debbie—will be little more than ravings, as evident in the mad delusion of this past Monday that all would be righted by mediation. Like wolves as sheep, the private equity and management firms are only circling for an opportunity to tear the assets of the pure. And the den of thieves that are the competing brands will make their father’s house a house of merchandise.
No doubt some serpent or other is already at work on an imitation. Down the tree he’ll slide in our dystopian future with a cellophane packet painted with red, white, and blue, and with a familiar heart above the brand. Take, he’ll hiss. Eat. Naive and simple-minded, longing for some high-fructose content to fill the void in our bellies and minds, we will partake. And then we’ll know evil. In the bite of stale cake and in the filling that smells of TBHQ and slides unnervingly on the tongue we’ll know we have sold our birthright for a mess of partially hydrogenated pottage.
Vanity of vanities. We have thought that some things abideth forever, and thus we have lived. But all things are as grass. Sweet, spongy, cream-filled grass.
David Mason is an associate professor at Rhodes College in Memphis. He is the author of “Theatre and Religion on Krishna’s Stage” and “My Mormonism: a primer for non-Mormons and Mormons, alike.” Follow him on Twitter at @fatsodoctor .