Hey, do you remember Vanessa from Benedict Elementary, with her Instagram full of vegan this and organic that and My amazing children who chose ALL ON THEIR OWN WITHOUT ANY INFLUENCE FROM ME not to be evil and heartless and consume animal products, hashtag-blessed? Well, she showed up in my line this morning, and when she got to the counter she smiled and said, Hi, I hear there’s food? And I smiled back and said, Yes, but nothing vegan, and definitely nothing organic, sorry, and she said, Whatever you’ve got is fine, and I said, Oh, but I know how super important it is for you guys to stay clean, let me just check, maybe there’s a can of organic corn or something. And I went to the back and stood there for a minute, just stood there – Carrie looked at me funny as she passed with a few cans of ravioli – and then I went back out and said, I’m so sorry, Vanessa, but there’s nothing here for you. She said, Really, anything’s fine, we’re hungry. Carrie was piling cans in a box for the McDonald family, weighing to make sure it wasn’t over the ten-pound limit, and I saw Vanessa looking it over, Chef Boyardee and Dinty Moore and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, all the labels blaring red with the blood of murdered animals or whatever, and she swallowed and said again, Anything’s fine. I was always so impressed with your commitment, I told her. My kids are hungry, she said, and I said, Oh, I’m sure, but it would be wrong to undermine their decision all on their own not to eat animal products, I respect that so much, especially the way you guys were so generous to share that knowledge with all of us, all the time. I said, I remember when Kyle came home from third grade crying his eyes out because he had chicken tenders for lunch and your Zachary called him a murderer and everyone joined in, for weeks, that was such a great lesson, thank you for that, and she said, How is Kyle? and I said, He’s dead – you were right, meat kills! She stared and I said, Haha, no, he was shot protecting the cache when a transient group raided us, everyone wants food, right? even if all that’s left is this unclean canned crap. And she said, Please. And I leaned closer and said, Tell you what. I saw some dandelions behind the old post office, why don’t you go back there and gather them – hey, get your kids to help, hashtag-foragingisfun! – and you can make the greens into a stew or a stir-fry or maybe a cake, a beautiful vegan cake, and sprinkle the yellow petals on top, how pretty would that be? That’s what I told her. And it’s too bad we lost Instagram along with electricity and the internet because I swear I’d heart the shit out of that fucking cake.
Didi Wood’s stories appear in Smokelong Quarterly, Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, Cotton Xenomorph, and other publications. She’s fond of the serial comma, board games, and creepy dolls. Often she is festooned with cats. Find her on Twitter @DidiWood.