SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 40: In Which We Get Serious About Food.

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager


“Look,” I declared, fixing Miss Carol T. Cat in a steely gaze. “We gotta talk.”

Miss Carol T. Cat opened one green eye, sized up my gaze, and found it wanting. I would not be dissuaded.

“Look,” I repeated, “we gotta talk. About food.”

I said the secret word, but no duck came down to give me $100. (Kids, ask grandma what that means.) Too bad, I could use $100 right now. But be that as it may, my pronunciation of that monosyllable was sufficient to snap Miss Carol to full attention. Her eyes glistened, and I could see her muscles tensing, the better to make an immediate leap off the saggy cushion of the big blue chair and scramble rapidly to her kitchen bowl. And she seemed a bit perturbed that I made no move in that direction myself.

Nor did I intend to. This was serious.

“Have you ever,” I began, “gone to bed hungry? Do you know what that feels like?”

Miss Carol toyed with a sarcastic reply, but something about my unsmiling mien restrained her. That doesn’t happen often, so she knew I *must* be serious.

“I *do* know what that feels like,” I continued. “I *have* gone to bed hungry in my life, and more than once. I *have* scrambled for whatever resources I could find just to buy something to eat. I *have* had to decide between eating and paying the bills. I *have* turned the heat down to 50 degrees in the middle of winter because it’s the only way to make the money stretch out a little further. And let me tell you something, it’s not something you ever forget, no matter how long ago it was. Even when you’ve got enough to eat, for the rest of your life it’ll be in the back of your head that it could happen again someday --  all it would take is a stretch of bad luck, like losing your job to a pandemic. And when you see someone else in that position, well – it’s time to do something about it.”

Miss Carol returned my gaze.

“So here’s what’s gonna happen,” I said. “The Strand is cooperating the with Area Interfaith Outreach and their Food and Energy Assistance Drive – they help people around the community who are really up against it, people who can’t pay the bills and feed the kids on sympathetic talk and good wishes and Facebook likes. On Monday January 18th, they’ll have volunteers at the Strand to take donations of groceries, and the idea is to fill every seat in the Strand with a bagful. That’s three hundred and fifty seats, and we can even squeeze in some portable chairs down in the orchestra pit if we have to. Any kind of non-perishable food will help – pop-topped canned goods, packaged goods, cereals, shelf-stable or powdered milk – all that kind of stuff, anything that ISN’T EXPIRED, and anything that isn’t packaged in glass. Or, a $25 cash donation will sponsor a bagful. However you do it, this is a time, especially now, with people losing jobs to the pandemic, and the winter here, when AIO really needs help. I’m gonna be down there that day doing my bit, and I hope everybody else out there who read us every week will do their bit too.”

Miss Carol looked on intently, obviously in deep thought. “I was unaware,” she finally replied, “of the depths of the present situation. I entirely approve of this decision, and this evening I shall help you make the rounds of our own kitchen in order to collect for the cause. This is no time for repartee or pointed jests. The situation demands action.”

“Thank you,” I said. And, might I add, Miss Carol wasn’t just talking to me.

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