Alphabet Soup

Jackie tried to spell out the word “zbambabar” in their soup while waiting in their hotel room for their mother to return from the gelado shop. Jackie couldn’t tell time, & didn’t know where to find a clock; but it felt like it had been many hours. All o’ the windows were covered by drapes so well that Jackie couldn’t tell what the time o’ the day ’twas, & they didn’t dare open them. Now that they remembered, ’twas all gray out, anyway, so that you couldn’t see the sun when they were sure ’twas morn.

Jackie stared down @ the letters becoming soggy in the sickly tomato swamp, like blood from someone with the kind o’ obscure disease that changes the color o’ their blood slightly somehow. They wondered if dehydration changes the color o’ your blood. They had heard their mother tell them that blood is truly blue when inside your body; some chemical reaction turns it red when it leaves your body, to tell you this blood was dangerous, while the blood inside was good. Their mother told them that the body was good @ telling you something was wrong — that was why pain exists, or why your nose becomes runny or you become feverish when sick. Your body is doing that on purpose to protect you from the real evils that you don’t e’en know ’bout.

Jackie thought ’bout turning on the TV, but didn’t feel like it. Last night while lying in bed, they had heard their mother watching a news story ’bout “climate change” & how scientists were predicting all kinds o’ complicated reactions the world’s body would go through if we didn’t keep its temperature under 1.5° — things like polar bears going extinct, more natural disasters, coral reefs disappearing, & food shortages. Jackie had a nightmare ’bout a world where the sky became red & rain & lightning struck everywhere, ’causing cities to fall apart & people running round screaming like zombies, thin from hunger. Things like that only happen in movies; but their mother told them reality was much crazier than fiction. ’Twas mo’ complicated & confusing, just like how germs work. Jackie remembered someone @ their school who was bald from cancer & their mother told them cancer was when you had zombielike cells that took up room in your body & pushed the important cells out o’ the way. Jackie had trouble imagining exactly how it worked, ’cause cells were just that sly. Jackie was pretty sure they didn’t know how cancer worked in the middle ages, or e’en if it existed, but they couldn’t remember where they learned that. Then ’gain, they couldn’t e’en understand how the “Black Plague” worked or why so many people were just seemingly mutating & falling dead, just like that.

Jackie continued to stare down @ their alphabet soup. But Jackie didn’t dare move to move their spoon to pick a letter up. That would cause too many chemical reactions Jackie didn’t understand.


childhood, soup, hotel