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Oliver Zarandi | Electric Cereal

Author: Oliver Zarandi

Oliver Zarandi is from London. He has been published by Hobart, Keep This Bag Away From Children, and the Londonist. He can also be found on Twitter.


We found the body just off the main train track. It was purely by chance. I got this field diary. Look at the first page:

In the woods. Partially clothed and every limb was intact. (Do I tell dad? No don’t tell dad). Slight skin discoloration. Body on its front. No signs of violation. Plain grey t-shirt on back to front. Trainer and a white sock on the left foot and no sock and no trainer on the right.

I’m 15. Some people say I look older. Like a withered vegetable, Dad says. Says I got old features like the wrinkles on my forehead and these hairy hands here.

I looked for the missing shoe. Clement is a month younger than me and he was just looking at the body. Clement said the body had really nice hair. It was true. The body had this thick hair and Clement rubbed it like he was petting a dog.

Clement was weird and wouldn’t stop touching the body in places you shouldn’t touch a dead body.

I found the shoe 100 yards from the body and showed Clement. It was a size 10 trainer and there was soil inside of it. Clement asked me how old this guy was and I said check his pants, maybe he’s got hair down there.

Correct. Loads of black pubes. I was pretty sure the body wasn’t a child but it wasn’t a man either. You could say maybe the body was around 21, maybe 22, but no older than 23 and dad told me that the dead don’t get any older.

Clement asked if the body had been murdered and I said we’d come back the next day and find out.

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Ivan the Terrible

Ivan can’t use his hands, so he says: Peel me a grape, Chaplin. I look after Ivan every day and have done so for the past ten years.

I came here because of something that happened in my past but I do not remember what.

He lives in a Harlem brownstone. It is so big I play tennis in the living room with some of his African ‘slaves’. A young Botswana-born lad called Nathan is particularly good at the game of tennis.

There are hundreds of rooms, rooms I can’t even begin to describe. There is a whole room dedicated only to sugar. Other rooms are modeled on different eras from American history.

One room is a room of mirrors from the Orson Welles noir The Lady From Shanghai. The film was made in 1947. 1947 is a favourite year for Ivan. It was the year that House of Un-American Activities Committee cracked down on commies in Hollywood.

There is a rumour that we are all Hollywood actors who sought refuge from the committee. I am, apparently, Charlie Chaplin. Nathan is apparently Sidney Poitier.

But the reality is, he does not use any of these rooms. He lives in his wheelchair. He is paralysed from the neck down. His legs are withered, atrophied. He can use his head well enough and his mouth is ‘a weapon, used for cruelty’, says his eighth wife, Maria.

She sometimes resides in the sugar room.

He is a sickening man, yes. He is a terrible man. The doors have no locks here but none of us can leave.

Ivan knows something we do not.

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A List of Books I Have Eaten

Freeze-frame the actor chewing and then swallowing. Food or air? Consider the theatre of cinematic chewing and swallowing.

The obsession of watching silent films to capture pictures of silver-screen actors chewing in slapstick fast-forward.

Consider making a booklet of images. The fetish of food and throat muscles and swallowing in pre-talkie cinema.

Consider two university students you read about who ate 35mm film to see how their digestive system handles the film. Rumours of damaged colons.

Consider the bordering-on-racist short film of two black men taking part in a watermelon eating contest.

Look at my research:

silent filmsThen write down notes about the theatre of our throat and stomach muscles digesting the food into our system.

Think about all of this as you eat your dinner, staring out the window. Watch the way she walks from her front door and down the street.

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My father, not yet in his grave. He gives me one last request. To go in search of a woman who may or may not be my mother.

My father said my mother disappeared one evening, many years ago. One minute she was there, the next she was gone.

My father sits in bed wearing a stovepipe hat. His chest has a caved in quality, his rib cage the image of a whale carcass upon the beach.

His moustachioed is all whale, too: straight and yellow like baleen hair.

I say ok, sure.

It is 1871.

One cannot be sure. It could, equally, be 1971.

Time moves differently here. Time where you are from is often represented as sand in an hourglass.

Time here is measured in the falling of the rain upon the land; the filling of ditches and watching it sink into the bronchioles of the soil.


I set out from our shack. We live shrouded by pecan trees, far from God. Nobody visited us anymore.

I was bullied at school. We learnt funny old things. We got lessons in Negro Jests. And the sciences.

The children said I was dropped on my head. They said my coronal suture had parted and that my brains and thoughts and good sense had leaked out.

I threatened to use a hammer on the children.

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