The Suffering of Food by Jp King
The Suffering of Food is an excerpt from Jp’s forthcoming novella Cookie Crumbs Lead to Ovens.
Follow Jp at www.blog.paperpusher.ca and see his work at www.jpking.ca
The Suffering of Food
Something was getting in the way of me putting food in my mouth. The baker was supposed to give me
a cookie as long as I was polite. I’d never visited a baker, let alone a grocery store before, but my foster
mother said not to worry. When I was introduced I smiled and he held out a cookie which instinctively I
swatted from his hand, crumbs falling everywhere. She gave me a stern look and dragged me away, no
apologies. The baker looked stunned. We headed for frozen wieners and cake. To keep things sane the old
lady lumped everyone’s birthday together into one sorry party, but because my birthday landed on the leap
year I wasn’t included, which I meant I could help organize without ruining any surprise.
Sometime after that trip I began to have real difficulty eating. It was awhile before I knew what it was.
I became convinced that food was a delicate instrument and chewing it caused the food much pain and
anguish. Mealtime began to appear entirely savage to me. The apples screamed when I bit into them and
the milk cried as it slid down my throat. My stomach hurt and I had a vision of it as a hidden geography of
chaos. It was a wasteland in which disorganized and mangled heaps rotted in bile, and as long as my torso
survived so did the torment.
Before I stopped eating altogether I requested that my food no longer be cooked. At least I could save it a
witch hunt. I watched in horror as my fat foster mother plucked burnt wieners from a bowl, and the other
children dug their hands into potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw. I started hiding knives and forks,
but the drawers replenished themselves with more tarnished cutlery. I dulled the wood-handled steak
knives by stabbing them into the sandbox, but soon they grew sharp again. These were the necessary tools
of survival and our house wouldn’t let them go. I developed an austere respect for dried, canned, and boxed
foods that were rumoured to live for years, unmoving, in the lightless kitchen cupboards.
For a short while I became convinced that the fridge was the only safe space for food. I pressed packages of
chicken breasts or blocks of cheese against my cheeks and felt their cool, calm nature. They spoke to me.
They told me about their lives, their losses, their loves. Some food made love while no one watched and
sometimes they shared a little mold and got sick. I hated that jelly came in a jar so I had to spread it, give it
freedom, but the dry shrieks of the toast under the scrape of knife were too unbearable and so I chose
other things which jelly was more fond of. I spread it on the couch, between the mattresses, and on the bathmat.
One afternoon I awoke on the kitchen floor, grit pressed into my damp forehead. I felt confused and light,
like a blimp, and my hands and feet were numb. As I got up I remembered that I had just witnessed the
final melt of a popsicle, watched the last sticky drip hit the floor. I questioned all the members of the house
as to who let the popsicle melt, but no one confessed. I grew confused. Had I, in a fit of rebellion,
euthanized the popsicle? Or had the popsicle liberated itself of its earthly form? The fridge grew to be
a more sacred space, the only place food could live on before being savagely devoured. I had to keep the
family from getting in and the food from escaping. I struggled to lift my foster dad’s drill to the fridge door.
A handful of screws ensured complete and utter safety.
The Great Era of the Calm Fridge didn’t last long before angry shouts and selfish hungry desires led the
family to mutiny and insurgent actions were taken to return the fridge to a smelly infirmary for the Kitchen
War. I was soon captured and tortured. I protested by threatening to remove all my teeth, but the first one
bashed out on the edge of a chair proved so excruciating that I forfeited under the pain. My Foster family
forced a tube down my throat. My stomach expanded with the pulp of cuisine and I felt it crawl through
me, finally escaping in the most putrid state. I laid it to honorable rest in porcelain and realized that for as
long as I was alive food would suffer.
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