Friday, 25 March 2011

Second class citizen

John looked at the brown and gold box on the counter. Tim Hortons. His mouth watered at the thought of the fluffy pink icing. They were not for him. He knew this. They were never for him. Still, he imagined biting into one.
The front door opened and his foster-sister ran in.

"Mama, did you get me the Double Strawberry Dips?"
"Yes, sweetie, the pink ones." replied Janice.

"With the sprinkles? Last time they didn't have sprinkles."

"I made sure." John's foster mother looked at him and gestured to the kitchen.

He'd been sidetracked by the donuts. Quickly he set to work cleaning up the morning dishes as  he did every day after school.

"Can I eat one now?" Claire asked jumping up and down, her pink tutu swishing in tandem.

Janice opened the box and cut one in half. She handed it to Claire. John's stomach rumbled. The ten year old busied himself rinsing the cereal bowls just the way his foster mother liked, before stacking them into the dishwasher, forcing himself not to look at the open box.

"We'll save this half for after dinner, okay?"

"What about the other two Mama? Can Johnny have one?" Claire always asked on donut days. John had liked the six year old immediately. In the little over a year since he'd been placed with Janice, Claire was the only bright spot; she was nothing like her mother.

"No honey, we don't want John to get cavities. You know that. He didn't go to the dentist like  you always have." Her voice light and airy for Claire's sake. John flinched remembering the quick hard slap he'd received the week before when she caught him eating a piece of Claire's Double Pink Dip. 

"You little thief!" She'd accused. Her ring had hit the bone on the side of his face, and he'd yelped out. He tried to explain through the tears that Claire had given it to him but Janice gripped his shoulder cutting him off.

"I have done enough for you -do you hear me?" He tried not to blink away her angry spit that had landed in his right eye.

"You're not to touch anything that doesn't belong to you while you're here." Her ice blue eyes narrowed and pierced through her frameless glasses. He'd never felt so frightened of a woman in his life.

This was the third foster home he'd been sent to since his own mother had been arrested. "Nobody wants boys." He'd overheard Joy, his social worker confide to someone on the phone. She was looking out the window when he came back from the washroom; didn't hear him walk in.
That was right before he came to Janice's, right about the time he'd decided to be on his best behaviour moving forward.

"You'll brush your teeth won't you Johnny?" Claire wasn't letting up.

Janice walked to the fridge, ignoring the girl. She grabbed a package of chicken, a small brick of cheese and the remaining half head of Iceberg. She reached into the cupboard under the sink and grabbed a thick wooden cutting board.
On Tuesdays they always ate Chicken tacos with avocados. And Claire and Janice ate Double Pink Dips for dessert.

This is my entry for the Red Dress Clubs picture prompt of this donut. It is a work of fiction pulled out of the rough draft novel I completed for National Novel Writing Month back in November. If you're interested in reading a few other very rough excerpts go here and here. Sorry for any inconsistencies - I'm still working out the details, believe me, I have a lot of work to do!


  1. Oh kim, this is heart wrenching... so so heart wrenching. I am in tears reading this. that poor innocent child, how much of his innocence would be lost every single moment. poor John.

  2. Excellent story. I loved how you showed the difference between the view of the child not understanding why she can't share and the view of the mother.

    I got lost a little bit simply because I didn't know what a "double dip" was, but after re-reading I figured it out. It's heartbreaking to know that this might be fiction but for a lot of kids it's their reality.

  3. This first part of this is so, so strong. Every single word a brick of foundation for the story. I loved that our first glimpse into Janice's cruelty was indirect.

    '"No honey, we don't want John to get cavities. You know that. He didn't go to the dentist like you always have." Her voice light and airy for Claire's sake. John flinched remembering the quick hard slap he'd received the week before when she caught him eating a piece of Claire's Double Pink Dip.'

    This so nicely highlights the subtext of Johnny's reality versus what Claire sees.

    I was confused by this transition,
    "You'll brush your teeth won't you Johnny?" Claire wasnt letting up."
    Upon the reread I realize that it was a continuation of the original conversation, but felt because so much had happened in between that it broke the flow for me. Note: typo; wasnt should be wasn't.

    I also found, 'Janice walked to the fridge, ignoring the girl.' confusing because she was just talking to her. I think that you can just just drop , 'ignoring the girl' so the sentence would read, ' Janice walked to the fridge, grabbed a package of chicken..."

    Overall, I thought this was a great piece.

  4. This fiction is reality for too many kids. You did a wonderful job, showing Johnnys need to please so he can stay, even when it's not a kind place. That is heartbreaking.
    I liked that you made Claire innocent...still untarnished by her mom.
    Lovely story!
    I did the same prompt...different twist! :)

  5. You're so good Kim...I think I went through every emotinon...
    Excitement-because we just talked a bit about your love of Tim Hortons
    Desire-because the donut sounds so yummy
    Anticipation-because I felt things were turning sad but not so sure
    Digust and Pity-for the ignorant foster Mom
    Love-for the little Claire who wanted to help Johnny
    Sadness-for little Johnny who must feel confused, hurt, and rejected.
    Well done, you are a great writer. ;)

  6. I've had many patients who were in horrifying, abusive foster situations. It's a broken system.

  7. I know this happens in real life. It makes you wonder why people take in foster children if they're not going to be nice to them?

  8. Foster kids are so in need of love, and the little girl gets that; the mother does not. It made me sad.

    There were a few areas where it seemed like you did a u-turn in the middle of the sentence, but you said that you had pulled part of it from another place, so that may explain it.

  9. A lovely story, and well told.


  10. Bravo to you for using dialogue! I find it such a wonderful way to keep the pacing crisp and to show character at the same time.

    Your use of flashback is also compelling...the bone against cheek line really drew me in...sadly for the boy.

    I would read this novel for sure...

  11. Oh, this is such wonderful writing! For some reason I am picturing Harry Potter and his cousin Dudley!!

    What a rotten woman. So mean spirited.

    You set the seen perfectly.

    Can't wait to read more!

  12. Oh, honey -- I've said it before, and I'm saying it again: your writing cuts to the bone. It's raw and full of emotions. Beautifully descriptive and heart-breakingly sad. Your words paint a scene, leaving me feeling like a fly on the wall in that kitchen, hurting for Johnny, wanting to hug him and give him all of the Double Pink Dips he can eat.

  13. Bravo!!! My heart aches for Johnny. You capture the scene so vividly with your words and the unstated as well. Keep writing my friend. You have an exceptional talent. Once again, BRAVO!!


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