There Once Was a Girl

By D. S. Levy

Her grandmother always said, “Eat, you need to eat.”

At night the girl dreamt the craziest things and in the morning she’d eat them for breakfast. These nocturnal bon-bons, these phantasmagorical sticky buns with caramel glazing, went down so easily, digested so well she couldn’t wait to wake up. After breakfast she greeted the day and all it held forth with open arms and an ever-widening smile. Nutrition-wise, dreams weren’t exactly the Breakfast of Champions, and the AMA and Weight Watchers refused their seals of approval, but the girl could have done worse.

She could have eaten her worries, like her mother, who was gaunt and aged before her years, and who complained about every last trouble she’d ever put to her lips. “Yes,” the girl said to her sullen mother one morning, “I’ve heard that worries are foul-tasting, every bit as tough as shoe leather and have no real nutritional value. No wonder you’re not putting any weight on.” But her mother wouldn’t listen and continued to eat every worry that came her way because, as she said, worries were all she had to eat — and besides which, she added, she’d never dreamt but that it wasn’t a nightmare and nightmares left a terrible aftertaste.

And then there was the girl’s father who feasted on reality, which sometimes was quite delectable (although rarely) but mostly quite dismal. His face was ashen and his shoulders stooped from holding realities as he nibbled them like ears of corn he thought were sweet but actually were field corn. Even when he ate them with a little butter — not margarine, the mother had eaten all the worries about that imitation spread and kept in the pantry nothing but real butter churned out from the farmer down the road — they still didn’t satisfy, he said, still didn’t fill the bill.

After some time the mother grew so thin that when she turned sideways the girl and her father couldn’t see her. And the father became so bent over and his skin so pale the girl and her mother didn’t think he had any blood left in him. But the little girl was flourishing. She couldn’t wait to go to bed when the sun went down and rise when it came up again.

And mention really should be made of the family dog who ate nothing but dried kibble and bones, which the family occasionally tossed him as a little treat.

As for me, I’ve been living off of words for a very long time and I’ll tell you that some have sustained me when I might have starved. Others, not so much. Some were tasty, others despicable. So many words, so many combinations, so little time — and these arthritic fingers plink-plinking across the keyboard. What can I say? We all feed ourselves with what we have.

D.S. Levy has had fiction published in 101 Words, Boston Literary Magazine, Columbia, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Little Fiction, and soon in Brilliant Flash Fiction and the Corvus Review.

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