Joanne Faries

Dirt poor. I knew we were poor, but as I walked up the lane barefoot, dust clouds shadowed my steps. A farmer's pickup truck rattled by. With a jeer the kids in the back threw a tomato at me. A few years ago I would have retrieved it, heaved it back with a resounding splat. Now, 1937, I waited until the vehicle rounded the curve, then I found that tomato, brushed it off, and devoured it. The tomato was sour and mushy, but I was ravenous.

Continued home, my stomach hurt and I was mad. I stopped to lean on Murphy's fence, gave up, bent over and threw up that rotten tomato. I wiped my face on my sleeve, then, trotted up the driveway. Chores awaited me. Perhaps I could persuade Elias to help so I'd have time to read before dark. It was my birthday. Doubt anyone remembered since Ma passed. No cake, no ice cream. Another day.

Angry, I banged the screen door. Sure enough, no handmade banner to greet me, no colorful streamers hung from the rafters, and no Ma playing the piano. She loved celebrations and birthdays were extra special. I set down my books and went in the bathroom to wash my face. A hissing sound from the pipes announced the lack of water. Damn. I glared into the mirror. A vein throbbed. Wished I'd chunked back that tomato. Furious. Hungry. Thirteen years old.

First published: August, 2007
comments to the writer: knob'