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
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,
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!
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.
2nd Place: $100