Columbia, Maryland April 3rd, 2019 11:45 am
Jack stood in line, anxiously waiting for his cheesy breadsticks with marinara sauce. It was Wednesday. Cheesy breadsticks were always on Wednesday’s menu. Others complained that the lunch ladies at Columbia Middle School lacked creativity when it came to food, but he did not care. He loved those cheesy breadsticks.
His classmates pushed and shoved each other as the line slowly moved through the kitchen, “I’m so hungry; I could eat the whole kitchen,” Charlie complained.
“Not as hungry as me,” Ava argued. “I could eat the whole school!”
Jack picked up his blue plastic tray and lined up in front of Mrs. Shaw so she could drop the cheesy breadsticks on it. He picked up a small Styrofoam cup of sauce and a small plastic bag of baby carrots and placed them in different compartments on his platter. Then Jack scooped up some mandarin-orange, and hurried to the fridge and grabbed a small carton of chocolate milk. He quickly typed in his five-digit code, paying for his meal. He went to sit at his usual table, which was already being populated with Mrs. Miller’s seventh-grade class. He clunked his tray on the top and sat down. His stomach rumbled.
Mogadishu, Somalia April 3rd, 2019 11:45 am
Beydaan rushed through the thronging market place. If he didn’t hurry, he would not make it to “The Brothers Mission” in time, then he would have to wait until tomorrow to have another chance to eat.
In the middle of the day, when the sun was high, the Brothers always gave out hot bowls of rice and beans with clear cups of water. If he didn’t get there a little before the Brothers brought out the steaming pots of food, then the line would be too long, and he would be greeted by empty ladles when he reached the tables. Hundreds lined up for food every day. Boys and girls who either lived on the streets or weren’t luckly enough to go to school.
When he came to the line, there were already so many anxiously waiting. He lined up behind one of his friends who had beaten him to the Mission. Cawo turned to him and whispered, “Do you think we’ll have food today?”
Baydaan shrugged, “You’re more likely to than I.” A hush fell over the children as the Brothers carried out the large metal pots. Each child knew that if they fought or made a ruckus, the Brothers would pull them from the line, and send them away hungry. It was too high a risk to talk.
The line moved slowly along as each child was served one scoop of sticky rice and beans, and handed one cup of the sweet water.
He held his breath as he shuffled closer to the food. As he came near, his heart began to pound in his chest. When only three boys were between him and the food, he could hear the spoon and laddle scraping the metal of the last pot.
He bit his lip hard. Finally, it was his turn. One of the Brothers picked up a bowl and began scraping the bottom as Beydaan reached the table. After a long moment, the man brought his spoon out of the pot and dumped its contents into a bowl, “You were lucky today,” the Brother smiled. “That’s the last of it.”
Beydaan smiled and hurried away from the line. He didn’t look at the little girl behind him. It was every child for themselves. That day, he would eat. He took his water and walked to the sitting group of boys and girls already devouring their food.
He sat next to Cawo with a grin. His stomach rumbled.
Abigail Lind Henson earned an MFA from Cedar Crest College’s Pan European Program in August 2018 and a BA in English from Millersville University in December 2014. She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her adorable basset hound named Daisy Mae