The prompt for this month’s contest was “A World Without Fear.”
Florie Kohn’s “On Top Of Spaghetti” came in third place.
by Florie Kohn
“Mom, are you tired?” asked Jimmy.
The boy fidgeted. Rhythmically, he kicked his sneakers against the rung of the kitchen chair. A fork clattered to the floor.
“Yes, Jimmy, I’m tired,” said Angie. No sooner are prayers said and already the boy has dropped a spoon, she thought.
She bent to retrieve the spoon from the scuffed, cracked linoleum. She handed a clean fork to Jimmy. Lord knows, some sorrows can’t be redeemed, but must be swallowed, she thought.
“Bobby says that when his mom is tired, they go out to eat,” said Jimmy
He turned his fork into a bulldozer and pushed steaming hot spaghetti to one side of his plate.
“We eat what the Lord brings,” said Angie. “He delivers food to eat at home. And I like eating at home, the two of us together. Eat your spaghetti.”
With knife and fork, Angie expertly sliced her spaghetti first horizontal and then vertical. She sprinkled pepper on it. Jimmy pretend-sprinkled pepper on his spaghetti.
“Pepper makes me sneeze,” he declared.
Angie eyed him and then prayed an extra prayer for patience. Silently, she began to eat. Jimmy pushed at the noodles coated in thick tomato sauce.
“Mom, it’s like yesterday, with my hamburger!” shouted Jimmy. “I found another nail! It’s orange, like the color Daddy’s friend used to wear. It’s right here on top.
Jimmy pointed at a sharp thin triangle sticking up from the spaghetti.
“That’s gristle,” said Angie. “Set it to the edge of your plate. Boy, quit your talking and eat.”
For a moment, Jimmy’s voice stilled. A fork clanked against a plate. A drinking glass knocked against the wooden surface of the table. The kitchen faucet dripped. Jimmy thumped his sneakers.
The wall clock, hung slightly askew, ticked. Its minute-hand shook as it pushed from one minute to the next. Angie noticed that a slight stain still marked the wall, midway between the clock and where the knife block used to be on the counter.
Almost nine o’clock, thought Angie.
“Remember when Daddy’s friend painted my toenails?” asked Jimmy. “They were the same color as that gris…What did you call it?”
“Gristle,” said Angie. “Quit playing with your food. Eat.”
Jimmy gazed at her as he divided a spaghetti mountain into hills.
“You got mad when she painted my toenails,” he said.
“A four-year old boy is too old for nail polish.”
“I’m five now.”
“Yes, you are.”
Jimmy hummed, and then drubbed his sneakers harder. He manipulated spaghetti hills into a pool. Angie ignored him. She pushed her long black hair behind her shoulders. The boy, she noticed, looked a lot more like her than his daddy. Thank God, she thought.
Jimmy poured a tiny bit of milk from his glass into the center of the spaghetti pool. He sneaked a glance toward his mother.
“Yesterday at recess, Bobby told me he can’t eat at our house. His mom said your red velvet cake—the one you made for church—had a mess of hair in it. And it was yellow hair. Bobby said, his mom laughed about it and said you must not mind sharing.”
Angie pushed her plate to the side. “Jimmy. Stop it. Bobby is making that up.”
“She didn’t say it to Bobby,” clarified Jimmy. “He heard her whispering on the phone. I didn’t understand the sharing part, but I almost pushed Bobby, anyway. I told him I like your cake and I would eat all of it—even if it did have hair. But she did tell Bobby not to eat here.”
Angie stared at Jimmy, and then looked toward the ceiling. Two out of three light bulbs were dead. Another thing to fix, she thought.
“Why are you playing with that kid anyway?” she asked.
“’Cause Bobby is nine,” said Jimmy.
“If you’re not going to eat your spaghetti, at least drink your milk,” said Angie.
Jimmy took a tiny sip. With his shirt sleeve, he wiped milk from his chin. He poured the rest of his milk into the spaghetti. “Look, it’s a swamp, ” he said. Then he added, “Bobby knows all the best places to treasure hunt in the woods. And I passed the test.”
“What test?” asked Angie. She began clearing their plates.
“I bringed him something funny.”
“The word is brought, not bringed. And what do you mean funny?” she asked.
“I took a jar of pickled pigs feet from the basement,” said Jimmy.”We laughed. Pig toes and people toes look the same—ugly.”
Angie set the dishes into the sink. She began to run the water, and then turned off the faucet. She looked at Jimmy. “It’s wrong to take without asking,” she said. “You know that.”
“Sorry. Are you mad?” asked Jimmy. He got up from the table and hugged his mother around the waist. “But now I get to hang out with Bobby. That’s good, right?”
“Did you eat them?” asked Angie.
“Pigs feet? No! They’re our buried treasure.”
Angie knelt next to Jimmy. She grabbed his arm. “You be careful in the woods. What if a wolf grabbed you? What if you vanished? No one might know.
“I’ve got Bobby,” assured Jimmy. He patted his mother softly on the arm. “He has super powers and is stronger than anything. He is never scared. But that’s a secret.”
“You think you and Bobby could show me your treasure?” asked Angie.
“I don’t know if moms are allowed. But we can ask Bobby,” said Jimmy. “I’ll tell him good things about you. And you don’t have to be scared.”
He gestured for his mother to move closer. He whispered, “Bobby can protect you from wolves and I’ll protect you, too, cause when I’m with Bobby I’m not scared of anything either.”
Angie hugged him tightly.
“Mom, you know what?” he said.
“You’re the best mom in the whole world.”
Check out our past contest prompts and winners on the Contest page.