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The Dinnertime Wars

(by JP Sebastian)

Mother is crying. This upsets me, but it doesn’t make me any more likely to eat the brownish gray slab quivering on my plate in a puddle of congealed gravy. I try to mollify her; I take the smallest piece of the vile thing on my fork and attempt to chew it. I spit it out on the plate. I can’t make myself swallow. I’m utterly convinced this is not food. My four-year-old brain cannot comprehend why my darling mother; whom I love and adore, would pull such a mean joke on me, making me eat this…this thing, that is clearly not food. It might be shoe leather but it isn’t food. This is the sort of prank my older brother would try, but not Mom. Why would she do this? I just didn’t get it, but the joke played out each night at the dinner table.

Most nights, the cats assembled hopefully under my chair, eager to rescue me from this awful punchline. There was always a moment of distraction when I could dump the vile stuff onto the floor. Brothers are great at creating distractions, especially at dinner. Some nights, alas, my brother was well behaved, and Mom had a few seconds to notice that I wasn’t falling for her joke. Then the pleading would begin, followed by stern warnings and the ultimate: “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t