Kinsey knew she would stop eating and she blamed the children. Their little boy fingers were always reaching for cookies at the grocery store, then at home when they screamed, Kinsey hid in the kitchen, in the corner by the stove, with the open package on the counter and cookies in her hand. The louder they screamed, the more she ate and when dinner time came, she had to eat then, too.

After they went to bed at night and the only sound was air moving through the snot in their noses, Kinsey went into the basement. High impact aerobics. Stair climber. Treadmill. Sit ups. Two hours later, she wiped the equipment down with a can of Lysol and a roll of fresh paper towels. A steamy shower, then all the clothes and towels went into the washer.

During the day, she watched them run outside and back in again, the aluminum door banging against the side of the house. They played in the camper trailer she had converted into a clubhouse for them and when she followed them out there and peeked into the window, she saw mud caked in her old pots and pans. They boys dug their fingers into it and laughed as one of them crunched a sun-dried worm in his teeth.

She began to notice how often they put their fingers into their mouths and the sound of that crunching found its way to her ears as she stood in front of the stove stirring that evening's dinner. The boys ran into the kitchen, shouting with their noses running, fingers wiping, their teeth bared in grins and they saw the cookies she forgot to put away. They giggled and shoved each other and reached into the package. Kinsey slapped their hands away and, as they ran laughing back into the living room, Kinsey washed her hands of the mud and snot and worms she saw on theirs. As they wrestled on the living room floor, crashing legs and arms into furniture, she picked up the cookie package with a fresh paper towel and washed her hands again.

She pulled bowls and spoons from the dishwasher, inspected them, and filled them with chili. Tall glasses of milk and a package of saltines were placed on the table near the bowls and when the boys came rushing into the room, she winced at their screeching laughter and table bumping elbows. Their fingers grabbing at the cracker package, crumbling the saltines into their bowls, leaving invisible smudges of snot behind. Chewing, crunching, laughing, and Kinsey sat with her chili steaming into her face and she could not move.

About the author:

Tammy R. Kitchen lives in Michigan where she writes and takes care of children. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Apollo's Lyre, Ascent Aspirations, Prairie Dog 13, Ululations, Wild Violet, and Word Riot.