Sanctuary

lc3a5ngholmen_1910 public domain photo

There was love in the way she poured milk on my cereal. The plastic jug tilted by a fragile hand, filling the bowl halfway. Just how I liked it. A motherly wink when she prodded me to eat the banana slices sitting atop the sugary concoction like fibrous wafers of a solidified disease. I ate them for her.

The first of the month was our food jamboree. The bologna and tuna casserole were replaced by fresh ground beef, homemade tacos with a dollop of sour cream, and an unhealthy dose of raspberry sherbet. Food stamp nirvana, she called it, before vanishing for the graveyard shift. When she cooked, she seemed happy, like she was making up for lost time. Our kitchen was her aromatic church.

When dad was released from prison, mom changed. The kitchen changed. Pop would smolder at the table, chain-smoking unfiltered cigarettes, while accusing her of cheating when he was gone. The neighbor, a coworker, anyone with testosterone. Eventually, she retreated to the bedroom, forcing us to survive on cheese and uncooked hot dogs.

She dissolved after that. My father’s insecurities turned her into a human stew of anxiety. But, decades later, I can still picture her in our kitchen, her luminous smile a bursting peppermint star.

****************************************

My entry in this week’s Flash! Friday competition. The picture above was the prompt and the setting of your story had to be a kitchen of some kind. Word count between 190-210. I was chosen the winner this week which came as complete shock to be honest. This is my third win in this weekly contest, one that always draws a plethora of stories written by some truly talented writers. It’s quite an honor to be on podium again. A huge thank you is in order for the judges this week, Carlos Orozco and Eric Martell. Their comment about my story is below.

Judges comment:This story did the best at fulfilling the required story element. At first, we are shown a kitchen in which there is not much, but it is a happy kitchen nonetheless. Then the father gets there and the once happy kitchen changes into something ugly. It’s almost as if we hit a daily double with the setting, getting two settings in one.

Describing the times of plenty as “Foodstamp Nirvana” really strikes a chord showing us how little these characters have. Also the description of the bananas as “fibrous wafers of a solidified disease” and the fragile hand pouring milk seems to hint at some underlying problem. We get another hint of a problem when we read that “She dissolved” toward the end of the story. The fact that the main character never fully states a problem helps set up a certain mood. We get the feeling that something’s wrong and it pulses at the back of our minds. This was good writing and it was well executed.

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6 thoughts on “Sanctuary

  1. Foy S. Iver

    Wonderful as always, Chris. 🙂
    It reminded me somewhat of when Mom was away and Dad had to cook for us. He doesn’t do cooking so we’d survive on PB&J and cereal. Dad would try and convince us the Kipper Snacks were good. Thankfully, he was not the father in this story!

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