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Eat Up

Tim Knuck was born in Texas and promptly moved to the blistering deserts of Arizona. He spent most of his youth reading fantasy and science fiction, playing video games, and watching Big Trouble in Little China. When his brain isn't being fried by the Arizona heat, he's usually brewing his own beer, writing, or spending time with his family. He lives with his girlfriend and their diabetic dog.

We ate meatloaf with carrots, celery, and a layer of ketchup that peeled like a second skin. It was reheated and dry and smelled of warmed lettuce.
"Eat up," my dad said.
My mom grunted in approval.
I ate, imagining it was pizza.
We dined on canned peaches and soup; Mom heated it with the portable propane stove. The gassy stench hovered in the kitchen and found a way into my clothes. I asked why we couldn't get fresh fruit from outside.
"Eat up," my mom said.
My dad stifled a cough.
I ate, longing for the meatloaf's flavor and warmth. The cloying texture of the peaches formed a film on my teeth--I picked at it with my fingernail to get rid of it.
We shared a can of tomato soup. It had long expired. Dad gave me an extra spoon of his and smiled, one of his front teeth had gone missing.
"Eat up," he said.
My mom didn't say anything, just stared at her portion and stirred it with her spoon.
I ate, letting the soup linger on my tongue for almost a minute before swallowing it down. The acidity of the tomato stuck to the back of my teeth--I'd push my tongue against them and squeeze every last bit of flavor out of the soup.
Dad had been sick for a while, sleeping at least fourteen hours a day. Mom took him back to their room earlier today.
"Your father still isn't well," she said. "He ate in his room."
She worked at the propane stove and threw some meat onto the hot plate. It sizzled and smelled of bacon. She didn't serve herself a portion.
"Eat up," she said.
I ate. The flavor was similar to bacon but somewhat sweeter, although it was tough like jerky. I hope my dad didn't have trouble eating it.
Today I ate alone. The meat was room temperature and the amount of blood gave it a metallic flavor. I had trouble keeping it down.
I can't do this anymore.
"Eat up," I said loud enough that maybe someone could hear.
No one heard me.
I chewed at the tough meat, thinking it was pizza.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Author Comments

I wrote this story because it's a phrase that most have heard growing up. It was always the same kind of meal that prompted it, too--something entirely too spongy that squeaked on your teeth, felt like a mouthful of sand, and tested your gag reflexes as you tried to force it down. I thought it would be fun to explore that feeling that we've all had at one point in our lives.

- Timothy R. Knuck
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