Hot and Sour
by Kristy Gherlone
My sister and I are hungry. Our father is cramming bread and meat into his mouth as we wait at the table for our mother to give us something to eat.
“Two sandwiches for yourself and nothing for the children!” she cries when she spies the empty bread wrapper in front of him. She snatches it and turns it upside down. A sprinkling of crumbs fall out and pepper the table. My sister and I lick our fingers, press them to the crumbs, and pop them into our mouths. “You never think of anyone but yourself,” she says. Our father does not spare us a glance as he rises and tosses his wadded-up napkin into the trash.
“Sorry, girls, but thanks to your father, you’ll go hungry today,” she says.
My tummy grumbles. My sister wails.
“Oh, hush,” our mother says. She opens the fridge and peers inside, but it, too, is empty. “Do you have any money?” she asks.
“Nope. I’m strapped,” our father says. He grabs his boots and sits back down at the table to lace them.
“That’s just great,” she utters. She stalks off down the hall and returns with a small container of soup. “I was saving this for later.”
“Saving or hiding?” our father asks, shooting her a hateful look.
She doesn’t answer as she opens it, dumps the contents into a pan, and begins to cook it on the stove. When the soup is hot, she divides it in half and places two steaming bowls in front of us. “I wouldn’t have to hide things if you weren’t such a selfish pig,” she finally says.
Our father slams his fist on the table. My sister jumps, overturning her bowl. Scalding soup spreads out in front of us and cascades onto her bare legs. She howls in pain, but quickly scrapes what is left back into her bowl. Red welts erupt on her skin as we lift our spoons to our mouths. Our father reaches out to steal a stray noodle. He tosses it into the air and captures it with his teeth. It shimmies, glistening on his lips as he heads for the door.
*This story originally appeared online in Down in the Dirt Magazine and went on to appear in print in Aurora Volume 168 on February 20, 2020, which is available for purchase on Amazon.
**No part of this story may be copied or reproduced without consent from the author