This story gets brought up a lot at family gatherings or when my mom is feeling particularly nostalgic.
I remember one time my brother's best friend William Gilmer and I sat in silence across the table for about an hour or two. We each stared hard into a bowl of dad's famous chili. Do we eat it and risk death or do we ride it out? I didn't mind so much though. William Gilmer was dreamy.
But I wised up to my folks. I was a sly little bee. They didn't put me in elementary gifted for nothin'! All of a sudden, out of the blue, by the end of each meal, my vegetables were gone. Shazam! My mom was proud of my newfound love for veggies. And most importantly, it allowed more time spent with my Barbies.
My brother was stumped. I knew he suspected. But that didn't matter. Vegetables were my arch nemesis. They were going down!
Weeks went by. Months. Veggies = gone. And then we had the unexpected guests.
I remember that fateful night like it was yesterday. We all sat at the dinner table. My brother on my left, dad on the right and mom straight ahead. Everything was going great. Conversation was flowing, smiles and laughter all around and then ... a palmetto bug fell in my mom's lap. (Let me stop for a second. If you've never seen a palmetto bug, they're basically roaches, but they're gigantic roaches. Of epic proportions. And they're infamous in Florida. Oh yeah, they fly. Roaches that fly.)
"Oh lord". I knew at that very moment, the shit was about to hit the fan. My mom screamed, my dad and brother backed away from the table. I sat there, quietly with a fake confused/scared look on my face.
My dad and brother pried the top of the table from its base. As they lifted it up and put it back down against the wall, a synchronous gasp filled the room. My gig was up. For a long time, I'd formulated a system. When mom/dad weren't looking, I'd cough or wipe my face and spit the veggies into my hand. The hand went under the table and on to a little ledge. It was brilliant. I just had to make sure to switch my seating position every so often to make more room. I probably made it all the way around the table over the course of a few months.
So what did they see? Why the screams of terror? Piles and piles of molded, blue, green, fuzzy, yellow, furry, brown, and even black rotting vegetables all around the edges of the entire table. The roaches were feasting like kings! They loved me. Trust me, it was a sight.
It was the first and only time my dad ever hit me. I saw his face go red like a cherry tomato. No words, no nothing. Just a swift hand pulling me from my seat and hitting my little bottom. It hurt. Bad. But what stung the most wasn't the spanking. It was his disappointment.
I was sent to my room for the rest of the night. I was supposed to think about what I'd done. I thought about it. That took like two seconds. But I sat there for a long time. I figured dad would be in any second to talk to me. So I waited. I waited and I waited. And waited. I thought surely he'd come say something. Anything. But he never did. Mom tucked me in that night.
Needless to say, they watched me like a hawk after that. The dinner table was no longer about conversation or fun times. Those days were over. They made sure those veggies went into my mouth and stayed in my mouth. They eyed my chubby cheeks as I chewed painfully, tears in the corner of my eyes. And then they watched the veggies go down my throat and into my belly.
Damn you green beans!
Green Beans = 1, Kathleen = 0.