Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Munchtime

the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth
from Worthless Word for the Day


  1. Mary Sue stopped amidst the milling crowd when she saw the half-dozen boys stuffing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into their mouths. She remembered what had happened years ago while people, a dark mass to her preoccupied senses, jostled past her. She'd been fourteen at a similar planet fair watching her brother from the stands as he crammed his face full of sandwiches. Her heart skipped a beat, even ten years later, at the way his face had turned blue and his chair tipped over. His hair had flopped like a mop as his body arced through the air. She'd raced to the stage, skinning her knee on its edge, and grasped his still twitching arms. His eyes, frantic, stared at the Martian dome.

    Mary Sue pushed on his chest in a mimicry of the CPR she'd seen in soaps on the holos, but that hadn't helped. It just made him grimace as half-chewed soy stained his lips. Bits of bread and soy butter filled his mouth. Her mother tried to pull the peanut butter crumbs out but it was glued in tight. She remembered the sirens that came from everywhere as the sirens echoed off the dome. Phantom echoes had haunted her for days afterward. Her brother had never been the same. Neither had Mary Sue. She decided she never wanted to have soy butter again. One of her friends told her that was wracked by arachibutyrophobia. She was fine with that.

    Mary Sue squeezed through the crowd. She had things to do, important things. She couldn't let herself get stuck in the past.

  2. (1/2)

    The story below contains content that is very dark and disturbing, and may make many readers uncomfortable. Please do not read if such content might bother you. I apologize if I did not manage to avoid being exploitative.


    Beyond belief. That's what it was. There's no other way to look at it. Beyond fricking belief.

    I wiped my hands on my apron and brushed a stray lock of hair from my face, and then wipe the sweat from my eyes on the back of my hand. I checked the stove. The cake was fine. I then looked back at my daughter. She was anything but fine.

    “I don't understand you, Heather.” Exasperation strained my voice, but I managed not to swear at her. She was only eleven, after all. “I don't understand how you can keep doing these things. Why you keep making these stupid – stupid! – choices.”

    Heather leaned against the wall and said nothing. Her heavily lined eyes were down-turned. Her glossy red lips were pouting. Her arms were crosses across her chest, not tightly enough to hold her blouse closed.

    “How many times have we had this conversation, Heather? Seriously. Four? Five? Eight? I'm not counting anymore, but we've had it enough times that I'm not sure what else to say.”

    My daughter sneared at me. “Then don't say anything, mom.”

    “Don't talk take that attitude with me,” I snapped, untying my apron and tossing it in the corner of the room. “My god, Heather, you're only eleven. What are you going to be when you're a teenager?”

    “Last time we talked,” Heather said, meeting my eyes steadily, “you said I was going to be a slut when I was a teenager.”

    “That was a prediction, not a recommendation!”

    “Guess you were right.” She dropped her hands and started to walk out of the kitchen.

    Beyond belief.

    I grabbed my daughter's arm and whirled her around, shoving her into a chair. My hands and arms quivering, I grabbed the buckles I had fastened to the chair a few years ago and fastened her arms tightly enough to control their squirming. If I didn't, she would lash out at me, or worse yet at herself.

    “I didn't even know what a slut was,” Heather told me, trying to hold her chin up proudly. “PJ was trying to show me, so I knew what you wanted me to be.”

    The back of my hand whipped across her face. “Beyond belief,” I finally said out loud. “You are going to end up in a very bad place, honey . . . If – if – if – you don't learn. You have to change the way you think.”


  3. (2/2)

    I grabbed a jar and a spoon, and I watched Heather's eyes widen. Her squirming stopped. The swagger was gone.

    “It's called re-association, I think,” I explained, unscrewing the lid from the jar slowly. “I have to help you link this behavior to something scary, so that this behavior becomes scary for you.” I set the life down. “It's psychology, really.”

    Heather shook her head tensely side to side. “No, please. No.”

    “I'm sorry, Heather, but you've left me no choice.” I took spoon and scooped it through the jar, coming up with a huge glob of peanut butter. I moved the spoon toward her mouth. “This is what happens when you act like that, honey.”

    “Please.” She was whispering through clenched teeth. Her hands clutched the arms of the chair. I should see her muscles bulging.

    I slid the spoon into her mouth and smeared it along the roof of her mouth. My daughter shook her head from to side, coughing and gagging. The sticky mass triggered some primal fear in her. It always had. She was fine. She could still breathe; she just thought she couldn't. No harm done. Just fear. Re-association.

    She tried to breathe through her nose. Her nostrils were flared. Her pupils dilated. I could see the blood pumping through the arteries in her arms. She twitched from side to side, as if to escape a smothering pillow.

    But she could breathe. She was just scared.

    “You're not old old enough to get naked with boys,” I explained, my voice soft and soothing. “Do you understand that?”

    Her eyes closed. She nodded rapidly. She breathing was fast and rough. Shallow.

    “It's not fun to act like a bad girl, is it? It's scary, isn't it?”

    She nodded again. Her neck was having trouble supporting her head. She began to lose color.

    She was afraid. That was enough. I reached in to her mouth, thick with saliva, and used my own maternal fingers to swipe the peanut butter off the roof of her mouth.

    Tears flowed as her chest heaved with new breath and her face flushed with oxygen. I smiled and ran my clean hand through her hair. “My baby,” I said softly. “Mommy just needs to keep you safe, that's all.”

    Her eyes turning red as her face became smeared with her obscene makeup, Heather strained to speak, the muscles of her cheek tense and trembling. She only managed to get out two words. “Beyond belief.”


  4. I sincerely hope the story is not in bad taste. If it is, I will gladly remove it.