Lunch

Bethanie always got Ho-Hos in her lunch. Brendon got Lunchables. Adam got fruit roll-ups. I got oxidized apples and smashed PB&J.

But I'm not complaining. I saved that for when my dad made lunch. In the morning he would be stifling laughs as he stood at the kitchen counter assembling the most creative, disgusting sandwich possible. One of them involved coconut on a bed of mustard—with raisins to cut the tartness. I cried when I tasted it.

I'd say, "Dad!" and he'd say, "What?!" Then he'd list the ingredients and say, "You like mustard. You like coconut. You like raisins. What's the problem?" I'd say, "You taste it!". "Ohhhhh ..." he'd reply. Then I told Bethanie I liked her outfit and she gave me one of her Ho-Hos.


I definitely coveted the lunches of others ... and their cool lunch boxes with matching thermoses. My best friend Annie and I commiserated: her mom didn't believe in sugar, or maybe she believed in making her children sad. At any rate, her lunches were mainly weird hippie food, and one time I saw Annie resort to eating raw pasta noodles to avoid the stuff her mom packed. She also chewed a lot of ice, but not to sharpen her teeth; it was to fool her stomach into thinking it was eating. This would tide her over until after school, when we would walk to the pharmacy to eat Swedish fish and tootsie rolls.

The worst combination of food I ever had was in 3rd grade. It happened at snack time. I had a mini applejuice box and some pretzels ... or rather, they had me. I almost threw up, but then I swallowed it. Then I put my head down on my desk.

Now I'll tell you about "hot lunch." "Hot lunch" happened every Friday. It was something to look forward to all week. Parents volunteered to come in on those days to make "hot lunch" for the school: a small private school of 150-200 students. Then we stood in line in the gym (a cafeteria from 12-1pm) to pay the principal's wife, who set up a cash box near the 3-point line. She'd say, "Hot lunch?" and we'd say, "Yes," and she'd say, "Milk?" and we'd say, "Yes, chocolate," or, "Yes, regular," or, "No." Then we'd pay her and go up to the kitchen window to pick up our tray of "hot lunch." It was funny to see dads in hairnets and moms frazzled that the spatula wasn't in the same drawer as in their kitchen.

The best "hot lunches" involved tomato soup. No one except Justin finished theirs because it's not very good. (One time he finished lunch early and started kicking a ball as high as he could at the other end of the gym. He busted a big hanging light and got a whistle blown at him.) So about five minutes before lunch period was over, a couple strong boys would go around to the tables with "soup buckets" that we'd pour our excess soup into. This was fun because it was gross. We'd make vomiting sounds as we poured it in. I don't know what they did with the excess soup; maybe it got frozen for the next "hot lunch."

I know what I'd do with that much soup. I'd fill my bathtub with it. Then my mom would come in and scream, and then I'd scream, "Mom, what's wrong!?" And then she'd scream and point to the tub. Then I'd say, "Oh my! The water has turned to blood! A plague is upon us!" And then I'd start laughing and tell her it was just old soup. Then I'd get grounded.

The long tables we sat at had spinny stool seats, and some were totally loose and could spin around 360° without stopping. We rushed for those seats. I was fast, so I often got one. Then we'd spin the seats as fast as possible. I was fast, so I would spin them faster than the other kids. Sometimes I'd laugh so hard that I got in trouble. One time I laughed so hard that I farted and then laughed even harder to cover up my fart.

Sometimes lunch wasn't fun, though.

One year the other kids didn't like me at all, so I'd pretend that I had to go to the bathroom and I just wouldn't come out. I'd eat my lunch in there. I don't think anyone noticed.

I didn't like school. I'd often fake being sick so I didn't have to go. "I don't feel good," I'd moan. I got really good at it and could drain the color from my face on command. One year I faked so many times that I gave myself Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Some doctor examined me in a very unfunny way, then prescribed bran muffins. Well, the experience of being examined (and the taste of bran muffins) cured me, and I had to come up with another disease to psychosomatically induce.

For a season it worked to eat Slush Puppies so fast that I'd get sent home with acute brain freeze. But after a couple brain freezes, my mom drew up a contract that said I promised to not buy slushies anymore. I had to sign it. In cursive. Eventually I dropped out of school, one of the best decisions of my life.