TITLE: Please Eat, Pete!
By Nancy Bucca
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Pete frowned at his hole-ridden shoes, his only shoes, which he had worn for eighteen months straight. The shoes that pinched his toes, blistered his feet, and punctured his status as a star reporter. The shoes that labeled him a loser.
"Another 'holic, Just like his old man. From booze-a-holic to hate-a-holic. Or shall we say stumble-holic?"
"He walks like a drunkard and sounds like one too."
"A regular bumble-holic. A chip off the old blockhead."
Would they never stop? Not that Pete minded cracks like "hater" so much. But anything that sounded like "alcoholic" was a nail to his shoes.
And the fact that his mom kept running circles around the same old rat race didn't help matters.
"Oh, come on, Lenny!" came her voice over the cell phone. "It takes more than an occasional boxing match to make a man... Well, what about me? I fight all day to knock out deadlines, navigate a stream of rapids, survive a zoo of predators... blast my way through traffic twisters, scrounge a half-way decent dinner, dispatch my job as homework warden without landing in the nut house... and hope at the end of the day to have a few dollars left for paying bills... For crying out loud, can't anybody spare a dime?!"
Another dead-end chat.
Wham! With a yelp she dropped the bowl on the table, her pained cry announcing its premature slippage from her fingers. A pile of noodles and spaghetti sauce made its mark upon the delicate white lace table cloth, even as a cherished antique ladle clattered to the floor.
Causing Pete's appetite to sail out the window just in time for supper.
He rushed into the bathroom to purge his Clark shirt of its brand new stain before the notorious incident hit the front page of the daily news.
Meanwhile his one-handed caregiver, ear glued to the phone, yanked a towel from a drawer and leaped upon the dripping mess. But missed.
So much for ducking that one. Another cry for help required Pete's immediate assistance. And so with battered feet and shattered nerves the crippled hero half-flew, half-hobbled to the table, feeling like a fattened calf sent to the slaughterhouse. He helped his handicapped mother scoop the gooey mess into the waiting dish, then sat down to feed her eating expectations.
Like a skater juggling three balls, his mother strained to fetch a mop, talk on her cell, and monitor Pete's table manners at the same time. Every few seconds she would interrupt her phone conversation to tell him, "Eat, eat!"
Pete twirled a clump of spaghetti on his fork and toyed with the idea of pushing it in his mouth. But his mixer hand refused to budge from its position. It just spun around in a vicious cycle, orbiting an apple core of confusion. His mother's eagle eye caught the discrepancy between her orders and Pete's unwilling muscles and mistook it for a hand-eye coordination problem. With her free hand she attempted to guide his.
Pete recoiled as if a snake had bit him. "Come on, Mom!" he cried. "I can feed myself!"
"Well, I don't see you doing it!" she snapped, angered by his uncanny lack of self control. "What's the matter? Don't you like my cooking?"
Her words hit Pete's mouth like hot bacon drippings, scalding his lips and frying his senses. Too late to halt the sting, every taste bud on his tongue screamed "Danger!" But the boiling molecules, ignoring those pleas, bounced about like Mexican jumping beans, scalding as they hopped, finally stopping at the edge of his esophagus. Here they hesitated, awaiting a cue from his burned-out brain.
His resolve faltering in the heat of his Mom's accusation, Pete wondered what brand of speech would cool his aching mouth. As he well knew, Defense Torts (or retorts) would only increase the pain. And Silent Treat mints would make his mother gag. Disliking both options, he resumed his pasta twirl.
Meanwhile his mom darted back and forth between two conversations, getting more flustered by the moment. Ten minutes later she hung up the receiver, let out a sigh, and frowned.
"Pete, you worry me," she said. "Just look at you! You're skinny as a rail. And after all the time I spent slaving over a hot stove to fix a healthy dinner! Why won't you eat it?"
The ever-sticky question stretched its arms from the tip of Pete's epiglottis into the depths of his throat, then bungeed back up. Down and up, then up and down it yo-yoed, like a gooey string of melted cheese being sucked into a straw. Pete choked, trying to eject it, but the vacuum was too strong. In the end he finally swallowed it, too feeble to resist.
"It's not the food," he finally admitted. "It's just that..."
"Is it something I said?"
Thud! The extra-heavy weight attached to those words formed a painful lump in Pete's throat.
Splash! The lump sank to the bottom of his gastric cauldron, setting off an acid reflux warning system, which in turn caused a stream of furious chemicals to flood his mouth.
"Don't tell the truth! You'll make her mad!" Pete's fleshly screams drowned every bit of Spirit-whispered wisdom.
"It was something I said, wasn't it?" Her question came a second time, filled with soul-wrenching heartache.
To soothe his mother's eggshell feelings, Pete spat out the usual temporary pain relief capsule, saying, "No, of course not. I'm just not feeling good."
She nodded. Half-and-half. The customary compromise. Never made things better, but what more could she expect? Guilt dribbled down her chin, landing on a jar of acetaminophen. Like a zombie she screwed it open, handed him a tablet, and sent him upstairs to his room.
Halfway up the steps Pete's stomach growled for food. But Pete growled, "No! Return to your abyss and starve! I'm too upset to eat a thing."
It's not that Pete wasn't hungry. He simply couldn't concentrate on eating while his soul was starved for love. Supposedly God's Word contained all the food he needed for life and godliness. But he felt so worthless, he didn't see much hope of finding comfort in those pages. With his luck he'd find nothing but a few crumbs of condemnation.
Might as well crawl into his shell and dwindle into nothing.
Relevant scriptures: Proverbs 15:17; Matthew 13:4,19 & 15:26; Mark 7:27; Luke 4:4; II Timothy 2:15; James 3:17
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