By Branden Veale
Yesterday was my brother’s birthday. Mom got him a big cake from Clay’s Bakery, my family’s favorite place. That’s where we get all our cakes from. She ordered it with extra balloons on top, and there was extra frosting too, just how we like. I had three pieces, my brother had four. My babysitter Kim was there too; she loves to celebrate our birthdays with us. She’s my favorite babysitter. I kept telling her to try some, but she didn’t even have a bite. She said she’s on a diet. My Mom is too, but she still had a piece. Mom said she thought it was weird. I did too, but I didn’t mind. That means I get to eat the leftovers right now.
Kim is in the kitchen with me, washing dishes and taking sips of her protein drink. I asked her once why she always drinks that stuff, and she said it’s because it keeps her full. Kim let me try some the other day; it tasted like chocolate but felt like chalk. It’s her and her boyfriend’s favorite, she said. I told her those things are gross; she thinks my sodas are gross and my waffles are too. “They’re full of sugar,” she told me, “and sugar is high in calories.”
Every time she drinks one of her shakes, she writes down all these numbers in a book she brings with her…. Something in the drink is very important to her. It might have something to do with that challenge her boyfriend had them enter.
“Is there anything else I can get for you?” she asks, drying her hands on a towel. A ray of sun is shining through the window and lighting up her cheek. Her brown hair almost looks gold. I like her face.
“Maybe another snack?”
“How about an apple?” she suggests, tapping her fingers.
Once Kim told me even though apples have a lot of sugar, they’re still low in calories. I thought sugar was bad, but I don’t know. I know this cake has a lot of sugar, but I like it. I take another bite.
“I might just want cake.”
“Ok then,” she says. “Would you like to go down to the creek after you’re done? Escape the house for a bit?”
“Yes!” I say through a mouth full of cake.
The creek is our favorite spot. There we can feed the fish, hunt for crayfish, and sometimes swim when it’s deep enough. When Kim comes, she likes to play too, or pick raspberries from the raspberry bushes. She usually only has a couple.
“Can we bring the nets?”
“Of course.” She goes to get the nets. As she rummages through the closet, I eat faster. I cut myself a big piece, and I’m not finished yet. I kind of want some of my mom’s cookies too. I love my mom’s food, especially her cookies, but I know Kim doesn’t. She never lets me have any and definitely doesn’t eat them either. I even caught her lying one time when my mom came home and asked Kim if she tried her brownies, and she told her they were delicious. I saw her try one bite and throw the rest into the trash. If it was so delicious, why throw it away? I don’t like liars. I got into trouble at school because someone lied about me. I do like Kim though.
“I’ll use the blue one,” Kim says back in the kitchen. Before handing me my green net, she pokes me in the stomach with the handle. Little pebbles are in the net, caught in the mesh, swaying back and forth. “I’ll take your cake too.”
She takes the plate from my hands, scrapes my cake into the trash, and puts it in the sink. I turn the green net in my fingers, watching the little pebbles sway. I can still feel the pain of the poke in my stomach.
“Maybe at the creek we can fill up on raspberries instead,” she says, heading for the door. “After we work off the cake you just ate!”
I put down the net and try to rub away the feeling in my tummy. Along my waist is a big roll. I’m sitting down and my skin, my body, is covering the waistband of my shorts. The skin feels different, like there’s jelly in there. It still hurts where Kim poked me. I lift my shirt and watch the rolls squeeze together. I didn’t know I had such a big stomach.