Updated: Feb 29
(by Meliora Dockery)
The bench on the front porch feels hard and cold, and the chipped paint of the latticework, where roses climb in the summer, stands out in a supernatural blue. At nine years old, I know I’m in trouble. I’ve missed the first bus to school, and I’m in danger of missing the second, but I feel rooted to the spot. I just want to sit here for 100 years and never move.
It’s a Tuesday. It’s always bacon and eggs on a Tuesday–my favorite. Oh, the joyful smell wafting up to the room that I share with my older sister. But I’m not hungry. I’m never hungry these days.My mother, edgy and nervous over my behavior, has packed me up in my winter coat, beret, gloves, and satchel strung across my shoulder. But once out on that porch, I can’t move on.
I just sit there. I don’t even know why I just sit there. I don’t even know why I’m not hungry. My mother is a fabulous cook, eclectic in her choices, cooking vegetarian dishes she learned from her mother, the anti-vivisectionist (nut cutlets with a tomato sauce, flaky vegetable pie), or delving into her own recipes, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on a Sunday, and even managing to make that British staple, beans on toast, into something exotic and exciting. But lately I take one bite, and food just seems stuck in my throat. My stomach says no. My mother has variously cajoled, remonstrated, chastised, and hugged, but the food gets stuck every time.
Eventually the front door opens, and my mother comes out, dismayed to see me still sitting there. She drags me back in and divests me of my satchel, still strung across my chest, my coat, beret, and gloves. I stand disconsolately staring at my reflection in the bright shine of the dining room table, watching as she cleans the ashes out of the grate. Neither of us knows what to say. Clouds of dust are emanating from her vigorous sweeping, and she says, in time to the brush, more to herself than to me, “I’ve tried everything. I’ve cooked your favorites, I’ve asked what’s wrong, I’ve given extra love. I don’t know what else to do.” And then to my horror, she adds, “I’m going to starve you. That’s what I’m going to do. No more food. You’re cut off from sustenance.”
(I'm the one eating a large sandwich)
I think of the starving Chinese children. Those children, I’ve been told, who deserve my uneaten food. Those children I imagine receiving my leftovers, neatly packaged in a brown paper parcel and tied with string like Christmas. The parcel sailing over the ocean for months so that by the time they open it, there is nothing but disappointment and a moldy lump of nut cutlet. Will my mother begin packaging up food to save for the day I decide to eat?
I do not want to be one of those starving children. I regain my appetite, and to my regret, I have never lost again it to this day.
Meliora Dockery grew up in Kent in southeast England. She was a corporate trainer for financial institutions and is now a monologist on the autobiographical storytelling circuit. She will soon be featured in three indie films. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
1 oz. butter, plus additional for frying
1 T. grated onion
1 t. flour
6 oz. milk
4 oz. shelled walnuts, ground
1 t. lemon juice
1/2 t. Marmite, optional
pinch of ground mace
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. dry bread crumbs
Melt 1 oz. butter, and fry onion for 5 minutes without browning.
Stir in flour, then add milk, and stir until the mixture thickens.
Add nuts, seasonings, and 1 egg.
Mix well and set aside to cool.
Beat remaining egg.
Shape mixture into cutlets, dip in beaten egg, and roll in bread crumbs.
Fry in additional butter until golden brown on both sides.