I come down to the Food Bank to find Jack Sprat chanting Hi-De-Ho over the last banana. Miasma, no getting around it, August funk. Nobody’s got a spare 600 bucks though Ed keeps asking. He’s wearing those electric green shoes and plaid neon Bermudas and a shortage of teeth. First thing, he tucks away favorites, for himself and for the clients. The Ant Man’s with the Pink Lady and they still seem happily-ever-after. The teddy bear girl’s got her comfort cat squashed in a Snugli.
The cat looks confused or humiliated or perhaps it’s just workplace ennui. The vet makes no eye contact and carries a hard Hep C belly. God bless, he murmurs, shuffling down the line.
Two onions per household and all the potatoes you’d like. One loaf of bread per three people. I let them take more, whispering, don’t tell Ed. Were you in the military? I asked him once, surprised when he answered no. He likes things his way, will only handle desserts. I don’t have the stamina to tease out his story.
The bouquets of flowers are just on the verge of soft stink but isn’t it nice in this sea of hunger, to see the bright colors drooping over the heads of people trying desperately to read the sell-by dates? Ed tries to unload a huge sheet cake, smeared with “Congratulations” in radioactive blue icing. No takers. Outside, on several tall racks, sits the old, take-what-you-want bread. After we close, we dump what remains in compost bins, madly ripping off plastic, hundreds of loaves and buns and rolls, brick-hard or spongy with streaks of blue-green, some of it still good. What a waste, the first-timers remark. But eventually, they won’t think twice, just toss the bread with flair, as if it’s a game and points will be awarded.
Mercedes Lawry previously published short fiction in several journals including: Gravel, Blotterature, Cleaver, Gambling the Aisle and Thrice Fiction. She was a semi-finalist in The Best Small Fictions 2016. For many years, she’s been publishing poetry in journals such as Poetry, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner and others. Additionally, she’s published stories and poems for children.