CHOCOLATE

by Nomi Liron

It’s his grandpa, Eileen decided, looking at the man’s grey hair and bearded face. He’ll buy him candy. She turned away from the old man and the boy, fingering the tomatoes reflectively. A salad! She would make a salad for supper! A little lettuce, a teaspoon of light dressing, tomatoes and sliced baby carrots in a large white and blue flowered salad bowl. That would brighten up her life! One of the man’s arms lingered across the boy’s slender shoulders. With the other he softly stroked the boy’s short, curly hair. The boy looked pale and a little uncertain.

He must be ill, Eileen thought. That’s probably why he isn’t in school. He looks old enough for it. She pushed her cart around the corner and paused before the next aisle. Bread. Crackers. Cookies. And down at the end, candy. No. She had promised herself not to even go down that aisle. It seemed the best way to deal with it.

Food. A lifelong struggle, begun when she was small. Too small to remember, exactly, but it had been there in that old box of photographs Daddy had sent last year. There she was. A three year old with round brown eyes and chocolate smeared across her enormous cheeks. Next to her sat Mikey with his BB gun, smiling impishly into the air. She looked so unhappy! Probably she had thought, sighing over the snapshot, because they had dragged her away from her treat to take the photo.

Why couldn’t she stop eating? How she hated to look at herself in the mirror! Here she was. A gigantic, old pear. All those years of weight management programs had not helped. She still woke up every morning recounting the list of foods she could not let herself eat before the pounds rolled away. Yet, somehow, before each day ended, she had eaten them all. Eileen heard a slight scuffle. She turned around. The old man and the boy were only a few steps behind her. The boy had broken away as if to run, but his grandfather had caught his arm. He pulled him close and began to whisper lovingly in his ear.

She leaned over and picked up a loaf of bread. Which kind? Cracked wheat? Oat Bran? Molasses? They made so many different types these days. She eyed one of the darker colored loafs. SUPER LIGHT! ONLY 45 CALORIES! was written in large, bold letters across the yellow and white plastic wrapper. In smaller letters the company which produced it supplemented its allure. No trans fat. No cholesterol. Eileen picked it up and put it in her cart. Well, she hadn’t intended to buy bread. It made her binge and was on her list of foods to avoid. But this kind would be alright. It was sliced extra thin.

The old man and the boy passed by her and went further down the aisle. They stopped in front of several rows of candy bars. Eileen nodded. Somehow she had known he would buy him candy.

But still, she needed a protein. Fish would be good. Low in calories and high in protein. She could buy some cod, haddock, or even, if she could afford it, salmon.

And fruit! She needed some fruit. She could have it for desert. Peaches would be great and cantaloupe even better. Both were in season.

Eileen pushed her cart in the direction of the grandfather and the boy. Intent upon the candy, neither saw her draw near. As she watched, the man’s hand drifted down the boy’s pants and reached his crotch. Briefly he let it linger there. A look of alarm crossed the youngster’s face. Then it became vacant. His eyes seemed to disappear. The man slid his hand back toward the boy’s shoulders. Smiling, he tweaked the boy’s ear.

Eileen reached over to the shelf, swept up a bag of chocolate kisses and dumped it into her cart. She ripped open the bag of candy before she had even checked out. Using her teeth she tore through the silver coverings of the chocolate pieces. Stop! She pleaded with herself as she bolted down one piece of candy after the other. Stop! Stop!

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Nomi Liron lives in the Bay Area of California. She primarily writes flash fiction but is also working on a novel. Her stories have appeared in Powder Burn Flash, Dew on the Kudzu, The Linnet’s Wings, Clever Magazine, Bicycle Review, Flashshot, Soft Whispers, Shoots and Vines, Joyful, and Breadcrumb Sins.