Originally written in 1994. I was 19. Kids going hungry is a huge soft spot for me. Please take time to support the organizations listed at the end of this write up, which could easily be written today about so many children.
The short, rusty-brown nylon carpet was worn smoke-gray in a narrow traffic pattern in front of the refrigerator, which looked oddly out of place squeezed into the corner of the tiny 6’x6′ kitchen.
The color of the fridge in our home was that mix between lime and olive green that came straight out of the sixties. I think they called it avocado, but I would never eat one if it were that color. I believe puke-green is the most common name for it. Kenmore probably only manufactured three colors that year, and they were burnt-orange, mustard, and that green. I guess those were the colors because our stove was mustard, which went well with our burnt-orange sink.
My mother had ‘saved’ the rest of our tiny kitchen by painting it bright sunshine-yellow with white trim and wallpapering over the matching burnt-orange cabinets with a trellis and strawberries pattern. This not only made the little dungeon look larger but allowed us once again to have suitable appetites.
On the refrigerator were sticky fingerprints in a mosaic of four and five, giving that timeless Neolithic look; these were, of course, accompanied by my mother’s hand-made ceramic magnets of butterflies and kittens, clippings of the Far Side, and drawings from my five-year-old brother and me. On top of the huge steel box was a basket full of silk tiger-lilies, daisies, and dried wheat which were limp, faded and covered with dust.
I had been pacing this diminutive area of our equally cramped trailer all evening, intermittently peeking into the refrigerator for food. I do not know why I did this, or why people do this. At eight, I was old enough to logically conclude that unless someone restocked the fridge, or raided it, its contents would be the same; and since my parents were both gone and my five-year-old brother was in his room eating paper–the answers were obvious.
Yet I peeked again and again, reaching for the sticky chrome handle, and tugging until I heard the seal pop. My eyes would then eagerly drift up, my stomach would turn, and my mouth would grow moist as the seemingly warm light poured down upon me with a shower of hope–SLAP–then the stale cold hit my face. The inside was bare, white, and hard, except for a few blobs of flavored high-fructose corn syrup, that was once jelly, glued to the bottom of the door, the deep purple now replaced by a light crystallized lavender sprinkled over black. A few weeks ago, it would have been scrapeable; however, now it was just some disgusting sugar substance that could keep telephone poles in the ground.
The remnants of ketchup were now rubber, and the mustard flaked off onto the carpet to match the stove. The only container left was full of hydrogenated oil and salt, sometimes referred to as margarine, and I was sick of salt, as well as Seasonal and ice-cubes. No, the FDA would not approve of the daily allowances in this home.
If there had been crackers in the house, along with the margarine, it would have been din-din, but I had eaten them all the day before. Now the question was, to spoon it or not to spoon it.
There were breadcrumbs in the bottom of one of the drawers. I could combine them with the cholesterol death mix. Or I could join my little brother in his room eating his Ducktale comics.
I decided to scan the cabinets again, even though I knew there was only rice, Lima beans, and liquor, which would not be so bad if I knew how to cook. However, since the only thing in the kitchen I could operate without setting off the smoke alarm was the fridge, the choices were overwhelming.
I climbed the white counters speckled with gold glitter and reached for the yellow knob. Inside was bright orange, yellow, green, and pink contact-paper with butterflies and mushrooms. Mom must have run out of the strawberry design.
As I had suspected, there was a jar of beans, covered in dust, a bag of rice, half spilt and more than likely infested with ants, and bottles of Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort, Absolute Vodka, and some other various liquors which were either stuck to the contact paper from leakage or unsealed.
Finally, I went for the spoon, not wanting to bother my little brother in his Ducktale digestive bliss. Snatching up the container from the fridge, I grabbed a utensil and plopped down in front of the television.
As I opened the plastic yellow IGA top, the creamy cold hit my face with the aroma of sour milk. I sniffed again to validate my senses: yes, sour milk, YUCK! Staring at the smooth golden surface, I thought it actually looked good, like its cousins, whipped cream, and frosting. The texture appeared flawless and slick, like plastic, and as I ran my spoon through it, it seemed a perfect substance for a sculpture of a flower, or something delicate and tranquil.
I lifted the spoon to my lips, the stainless steel as cold as the margarine, and my mouth filled with saliva, as my tongue licked the tip. It was sweet and a bit pungent, not sour, or bitter at all. It tasted nothing like its light appearance; it was rich and heavy, and made my tastebuds yearn for more.
When I was full, and slightly ill, I went back to the fridge for the last time that evening. I pulled at the door until it gave in, throwing me back a few steps, and threw the half-empty container on the goo-ridden shelf. Then, with a last glance at the bright fuchsia juice stain on the white seal, I closed the door.
In 2018, 15 million children went hungry in the US. In Washington state, where I live, 1 in 4 kids go without adequate food. Globally, an estimated 8,500 children per day die of malnutrition. These three links take you to websites to educate yourself and possibly take action. Having enough food to eat is a basic need and I believe, human right.