The Hungry Game

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Hungry Game

Julie was going to win.  It was that simple.  She could feel the urge building up inside of her.  The competition was fierce; they were all motivated to win.  But Julie was going to come out on top.  Victory would be hers.  She wasn’t above inflicting a little injury here or there to take the coveted prize. 

Things in the Sholm household had gotten a little intense over the years.  In retrospect, Susan Sholm never should have created pie-night each Sunday.  It had all started out so benign.  Jeremy, the oldest was on his way to college.  He only had a few months left as a high school student and his parents had run out of ways to get him to eat meals with them.  Jeremy was always making plans with his girlfriend or taking drives in one of his friends’ cars.  It wasn’t until Susan had been taking a pie out of the oven one opportune Sunday evening when Jeremy’s olfactory senses won out over his desire for independence. 

“Is that… pie?” Jeremy had cautiously asked.

“Yes it is”, Susan replied, an idea had already started forming itself in her head.  “Why don’t you stay and have some with us?”

“I don’t know”, he hesitated.  The plans he had tempted him.  But were they better than pie?

“Say, look at that”, said Roger as he hugged his wife.  “Is that strawberry rhubarb?”

“Uh huh”, Susan quietly affirmed as her face beamed.  She could see from the look on Jeremy’s face that she had won the battle.  It had been so long since she had made the pie that she had forgotten her mother’s old truism; there’s no beating strawberry rhubarb.

“I guess I could stay for a bit”, Jeremy said as he shrugged off his letterman’s jacket.  No sooner had the back of his t-shirt been laid bare when his little brother Joe ran and jumped on. 

“Piggy back ride!”, Joe demanded.

“Get off your brother, Joe”, Susan said.  She tried to pretend that she was upset at her youngest for clinging onto his older brother.  Still, part of her cherished the way the two boys played together so happily even though they were seven years apart.  She watched as Jeremy plucked his brother off his back and carried him, wiggling and laughing, under his arm and to the dinner table.  Julie, the middle child and the only daughter, sat down at the table and sighed at her brothers.  She slowly and reluctantly pulled off her headphones but didn’t stop her music that was blaring out of the speakers.

“Mom”, Julie asked, “What’s that?”

“It’s strawberry rhubarb pie.”

“But we never have pie”.

“I’ve been making that complaint for years”, Roger added.

“Don’t you like pie?”, Susan asked.

“I can’t remember the last time we had any”, she said with wide eyes.  She flicked the power to her music player off, her fingers fumbling with the switch while her saucer-like gaze remained fixed on the pastry. 

And thus, pie night was born.  Each and every Sunday there was a different kind of pie waiting to be ravenously consumed by the Sholm clan.  It had all started out so innocently.  Then, as always seems to happen, things got interesting. 

Joe had gone to a week-long camp over break and had returned with a new activity.  “Spoons” had been quite the craze around the log cabin table and Joe had taken right to it.  Everyone sat around a circular table at a pile of spoons lay at the center.  The catch was, there was always one less spoon than there were kids.  Each time the call was made, the kids scrambled to grab the spoon.  With each round played, the kids and spoons dwindled down until there were only two left fighting for the one spoon.  And that spoon had power.  The person holding that spoon got their first pick at dessert.

Susan had been wary when Joe excitedly regaled the family with how the game was played.  She thought it was a recipe for injuries, but Roger had suggested that they could all use a little reckless fun in their lives. 

Soon, every member of the family had their strategies.  Roger was the sneaky one.  He would often acquire a spoon in the first few rounds as he quietly and stealthily palmed a spoon when no one was looking.  Joe’s plan was quite frantic.  He would pull himself up onto the table so his belly was rubbing against the edge and flail about until he got his hand on a spoon.  Sometimes he would end up with two or three and he would do his best to hold on to as many as possible.  Jeremy was the quiet show of force.  He shot his arm out with all its muscles and tight skin and seized the spoon that he wanted and brought it home.  It was this single-minded, powerful move that almost always assured him the dessert of his choice. 

Julie was no slouch.  She was the schemer.  If she saw someone fumble a spoon or if she thought she could sneak her dad’s spoon away from him, she would strike quickly and efficiently.  Like a coiled cat, she sprang out of nowhere and pounced on the stray.  Susan, her daughter’s mother, was also after any spoon that happened to come her way.  Typically it was a spoon that got accidently sent sliding to the floor in all the chaotic rushing around.  Most nights Susan would tell herself that having her family around was enough for her.  If she had wanted pie that badly, she would have just made her own and not told anyone.  (Susan was actually not obsessed with pie.  Happily for her, no one had yet to discover the secret compartment in her breadbox that always hid a dozen or so baked chocolate chip cookies.)

Susan liked seeing her family huddled around the table, even if their attack modes were set to “annihilate”.  At least we’re all gathered together.  We’re having fun as a family; that counts for something.  I hope.  She assessed the crowd around her recklessly scratched up dining table.  Joe, naturally, was climbing all over Jeremy.  Tonight it was holding onto Jeremy’s wrist while his massive older brother lifted Joe up and down with one arm.  Roger was finishing up some article that he was reading on his phone’s screen.  Julie was the one that seemed a bit odd. 

For one thing, Julie wasn’t wearing her headphones.   She had taken them off earlier and earlier on pie night so as not to damage them in the tussle, but this was early even for her.  Julie looked like she was staring at the pie a little too intently.  Susan was about to say something when her husband’s voice broke the silence.

“Okay, what say we get this pie night started?”  All eyes quickly turned to Susan expectantly.  She tried to put her concern for Julie aside as they resumed their weekly ritual.

“Tonight we’re having apple cinnamon”.

A agreeable chatter filled the air and the three serious competitors rubbed their hands together (Julie wondered for the umpteenth time if they consciously knew that they all did that) while Joe ran to get four spoons. 

“I had an idea”, Julie offered.  Joe took his hand out of the silverware drawer and looked to his sister with a confused face.  “What if”, she continued, “the five of us all just went after one spoon?”

“You don’t think that would be a bit too challenging?  I mean, all those limbs in there; Julie I think it might be a little much”, Roger offered.

“Oh, well Dad, if you’re afraid you’ll lose then we don’t’ have to.”

“Afraid, Julie?  I taught you how to drive, that should prove I fear nothing.”

“Not even being beaten by your only daughter?  I know those other pie nights you’ve been trying to wear us down; maybe you just know you couldn’t take us when we’re all in peak condition?”

“You, young lady, have just talked yourself into a world of trouble.”  Roger cleared his throat and adopted his father-knows-best- voice.  “There shall be one spoon tonight, and the number of spoons shall be one.”

“Roger, maybe we should…”

“Mom”, Julie interrupted.  “If Dad thinks he can handle this, why don’t we give him a shot?”

Susan looked around to the other sets of eyes gathered at the table and saw the hunger building up.  They were already pushing their chairs away and leaning towards the table. 

“All right”, she said.  “But I’m not playing this round.  I’ll just to get the pie.”

“Fine, then you can be the one to call ‘Go’.”

Susan sighed.  “Go”.

No sooner had the word left her mouth than Julie leapt forth.  Her body half glided, half flopped onto the table.  Susan hoped that the table would hold her, and it did.  Susan shook her head at all the rough-housing her furniture had undertaken. 

The rest of her family grabbed and clamored to acquire the spoon from Julie’s grip.  But her nights of coming in second to the rough-housing men of her family had toughened her up.  She tucked the spoon into her stomach, rolled up in the fetal position, and felt herself fall to the ground.

She squeaked a sort of “oorf” noise as her body bounced of the cold linoleum, but she held fast to her trophy.  She had fought and planned for this symbol of power and wasn’t about to give it up for anyone.  Eventually, after Jeremy had tried prying her arms loose and Joe had tried tickling, the men conceded defeat.  Julie scrolled her eyes back and forth, saw that everyone had granted her victory, and stood up with her smile broad and cheerful.

“I won!”, she exclaimed.  “You are all slow.  I, am fast.  Like speed in human form.  This is me.  You are slow.  Simple.”

“Uh huh”, Roger commented as he tried not to laugh.  “The first pick of pie is yours.  Quite the plan you had there.”

Julie smiled as Susan set the pie in front of her.  She rubbed her hands together but stopped when Susan put a compass and ruler by the knife. 

“What’s this?” Julie asked, quite confused.

“Oh, I just thought we’d cut the pie into five pieces of the exact same size.  That way you get to pick, but we all get the same amount.”

“Uuuuuuuhhhh”, Julie exclaimed exasperated.  Her planning had given her victory, but Susan had still thwarted her.  Julie was the reckless one, but both of them were capable of planning ahead.  It was no surprise that Julie had schemed up a way to win.  She was, quite simply, her mother’s daughter.

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About anecdotaltales
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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