All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
House of Hunger
Father left when I was eight. It was in the middle of the night, and I don’t think he knew that I was awake, because he left quietly, as if he didn’t want anyone to know he was gone. I think I blew his cover, though, because I started weeping as soon as the door closed. Carter was only one at the time. He doesn’t even remember Father anymore, which is no surprise. It affected Mother the most. She stayed in her room for long periods of time, weeping, only emerging if I begged for food or if Carter needed attention. I felt bad for her. I still do.
“Mother!” I called, running into the kitchen. “Hurry up or we’re going to be late!” I grabbed a piece of bread from the kitchen counter and quickly spread some butter across it. Carter ran into the room, backpack on, and snatched another piece of bread from the counter, stuffing it into his mouth.
“I’m coming Rosie,” I heard her holler back. “Let me just put my hair up.” A few minutes later, Mother came out of her room. Her head was covered with a hairnet and she wore a long white apron over her clothes.
Things were better now. Mother got a job at Carter’s elementary school as a cafeteria attendant to help with payments. Every month, most of Mother’s paycheck went towards the rent, and we used the little that was left to buy other necessities. Financially, we were still having trouble. Father used to be responsible for that around here, but after five years, we were quite certain that our family was on our own.
“Did you both eat?” Mother asked as she entered the kitchen. Carter and I nodded. “Good, let’s go then. We were late last week and we don’t want that to happen again.”
“What about you, Mother?” Carter interrupted, tugging on her apron. “Aren’t you going to eat some bread?”
“Oh that’s all right, baby,” she answered, smiling. “I’ll have my slice later.” I glanced at her, ready to protest, but she waved me away, as if telling me to let it go. As we walked out the door towards school, I could still feel the taste of fresh bread on my tongue. I savored it, knowing that it wouldn’t last very long. Carter asked if he could have another piece when he got home, and Mother, of course, said yes, he could have hers. Mother didn’t have any bread that day.
A smile spread across my face as Mother brought in the chocolate cake, coated in vanilla frosting. She splurged and bought two slices so we could celebrate my fourteenth birthday.
“Happy birthday to you, my darling,” she said, setting a slice down in front of both me and Carter. “Make a wish as you eat this, and know that I love you very, very much.” Mother bent down and pressed a kiss to my forehead, then she sat down beside us at the dining table, eyeing us as we ate the cake. When I swallowed my first bite, I felt an explosion of sweet flavors. I grinned sheepishly. Looking at Carter, I knew that he had experienced the same thing. He was already gobbling down the rest of his slice. Stupid boy, I thought. I decided to eat slowly, so that I could feel each flavor against my tongue. This cake; it was a one-time thing. I knew that.
“I want more!” Carter suddenly exclaimed, banging on the dining table.
“We don’t have any more, baby,” Mother calmly stated.
“I want more!” He said again. “I’m still hungry!”
“Here Carter,” I said, hesitantly sliding my slice over to him. “You can have mine.” I tried to smile. After all, Carter was only seven. He didn’t understand.
“No!” He yelled. “You already started that piece. I want my own!”
“We only have bread -” Mother began, reaching towards Carter.
“I want cake!” He screamed. “I want cake!” Tears began to form in Mother’s eyes, and she set her head down in her hands.
“Carter we don’t have cake,” I tried to calm him down, but he stood up from the table and stormed away, shouting, “I want cake!”
September was a bad month for us. The school lowered Mother’s pay because they hired more teachers, and we couldn’t buy everything we needed with the money we had left. One night, Mother snuck us home some chicken and rice from her job at the cafeteria. It was delicious. Carter and I stuffed it down, making sure to save some for Mother. A few hours later, though, we were hunched over, clutching our stomachs and retching. I guess our bodies weren’t used to anything that fancy.
Despite the reaction from our bodies, Mother kept bringing home the food she could get from work. It lasted for a while, filling our stomachs with food so good that we almost got used to it. That is, until Mother got caught. The school fired her, saying that it was against the law to steal from them like that. Mother had to find a new job, and Carter and I didn’t get any more chicken or rice.
It was Carter’s tenth birthday, but there was no celebration and there was no cake. There was just me and Carter laying in his bed, reading from his favorite book. He hugged me as I read, his frail body wrapped around my own.
“Rosie,” he interrupted me.
“We don’t have any food, do we?” He said it as more of a statement that a question.
“Mother will be back soon. She’ll have food -” I began.
“Rosie, you don’t have to lie to me.”
I glanced down at him. He finally understood, but I wished that he didn’t. Carter looked up at me, tears in his eyes. Mother was out, desperately trying to earn any sort of money. We barely had enough for our rent now.
“I just wish that someone would help us, or that I could help Mother,” he said. “Mother eats less than either of us. Maybe if we weren’t here then she would be okay.”
“Don’t say that Carter!” I sat up, wide-eyed. “This isn’t our fault. Maybe if Father was here…” I trailed off, knowing that I couldn’t blame him for everything. I wished I could. Carter stayed quiet for a while, as if he was thinking of what to say next.
“I’m just hungry,” he finally said.
“I know, Carter. I know.”