“Cinnamon, eat your vegetables,” said Gran, nodding toward the vegetables remaining on Cinnamon’s plate. “You have to eat your vegetables if you want dessert.”
Gran had a rule about wasting food. The rule was, NEVER waste food. If it landed on your plate, you were expected to eat it up to the last crumb.
Cinnamon sighed and glanced toward the pyramid of cupcakes waiting on a small tray table next to the counter. The frosting looked creamy and bright sprinkles sat on top like colorful stars. Cinnamon made a bet with herself that each color of sprinkle tasted different. Red would taste like sweet strawberries, she figured. Green would be tart lime and yellow would be pineapple. She wanted to taste them all just to be sure.
Cinnamon rearranged her carrots to better resemble a house. Two broccoli trees lined the zucchini slice path, and the red ball she’d grabbed rolled away from her fork.
“What is this, anyway?” she muttered.
She’d chosen it because it was bright and red, and her experience with candy told her that a bright red ball ought to taste sweet, like cherries. Now that she had it on her plate, though, and Gran had referred to it as a vegetable, she wasn’t so sure. Her fork wouldn’t pierce it, and it didn’t fit with her house and trees and path. The more she thought about it, the more suspicious it seemed.
“It’s a radish,” offered Aunt Tracy. “I was impressed by your choice. The radish is spicy, as are those who eat it. It takes a certain personality to eat radishes.” She nodded sagely and nibbled on her carrots.
Spicy? Cinnamon gazed at the red ball in horror. The last spicy thing she’d eaten had made tears spring from her eyes in front of all of her friends. Her nose hadn’t stopped running for an hour. In Cinnamon’s life there hadn’t been many events that counted as catastrophes, but that was one of them to be sure. She rolled the spicy radish around the rim of her plate. The grownups were clearing their plates. She was running out of time. She needed to eat her vegetables, and soon, or she’d never be able to eat any of those enticing cupcakes and their flavorful sprinkles. She wolfed down her zucchini path and broccoli trees so fast that she nearly choked.
“Woah there, killer,” laughed Rissa. “Try to breathe between bites. Gran, I think someone’s excited about your cupcakes.”
Cinnamon nodded enthusiastically, but inside she was losing confidence. There were still four carrots on her plate, and that spicy radish, and she wasn’t sure she could suffer another bite. Her last bite felt like it was stuck at the back of her throat. Certainly several limbs from her broccoli trees had stayed between her teeth and no amount of swishing with her tongue would free them. The carrots seemed to be growing the longer she looked at them.
Cinnamon stared at her vegetables as the grownups chatted their way to clean plates. She began to cry.
“Cinnamon, what’s wrong?” asked Gran.
“I c-can’t eat any more,” cried Cinnamon.
Gran studied her for a while. “You know I don’t like it when you take more than you can eat,” she said, “but you did a good job eating the rest. You may be excused.”
Cinnamon blinked at Gran in surprise. She’d never noticed how, seen in a certain light, Gran was actually kind of pretty. She had a kind crinkle at the corners of her eyes. Aunt Rissa must have been right about this being Gran’s birthday. She’d never let Cinnamon break the wasting food rule otherwise.
“Can I pick the first cupcake?” asked Cinnamon, nearly bouncing out of her seat with excitement.
“I thought you said you didn’t have room to eat any more,” said Gran. “If you don’t have room for a few carrots and a radish, surely there’s no room for a cupcake.”
Tricky Gran. She wasn’t bending her rule at all. She was going to be mean, and eat all of the cupcakes in front of Cinnamon, making her watch! Cinnamon began to cry again.
“But I have room for a cupcake,” she sniffed. “I just don’t have room left for vegetables.”
“Surely, vegetables take less room than a big cupcake,” said Gran.
“Come on, Cinnamon,” encouraged Aunt Rissa, “surely you can eat a carrot and a radish.”
Cinnamon glanced back at her plate and saw that only one carrot and the spicy radish remained. Aunt Rissa was chewing through a devious smile. Cinnamon ate the carrot, but eyed the radish with concern. How did one go about eating a radish, anyway?
“I can’t,” whimpered Cinnamon. “Can I just have a cupcake now?” She searched her mind for anything that might improve her chances of getting Gran to say yes. “Please?” she added.
Just give it a bite,” said Gran, “and I’ll eat the rest.”
Cinnamon remembered the snickers of the other children when she’d eaten the spicy pepper, and as if on cue, her eyes and nose grew wet.
“I can’t,” she said, wiping her nose on her sleeve.
“You know, eating radishes is a sport in some countries,” said Aunt Rissa.
“Oh Rissa,” said Gran, “I wish you wouldn’t fill her head with your stories. I don’t know where you think up these things.”
Cinnamon studied the radish. Cinnamon knew that Rissa’s stories were true. Rissa knew everything about everything, even though Gran doubted. Gran just didn’t know the world like Rissa did. Cinnamon envisioned herself an international radish eating star.
“How do you eat those radishes so amazingly?” the reporters would ask.
“It just comes naturally,” she’d say.
Cinnamon brushed her hair away from her face, like a famous radish eating sports star would. She picked up her fork, and stabbed.
The radish sprang away from the table with surprising speed. Gran’s cat, Mr. Claws, went skittering after it, his back legs sprawling across the linoleum as he slid out of control. Gran’s china vase went spinning across the floor as Mr. Claws used it to stop his progress and launch into the living room after the radish.
Cinnamon exhaled in relief. Only a few chips had come off the vase this time. It would glue back together in no time flat. She cringed at the crashing sound that came from the living room. That had sounded like glass. A few bumps and scrambles later, Cinnamon spotted the little red radish as it careened back into the dining room, and rolled across the kitchen floor. A second later, Mr. Claws followed.
“Ow!” cried Gran as Mr. Claws sped across her foot, claws extended.
“Oh!” cried Rissa as the radish bounced behind the tray table holding the cupcakes.
“No!” cried Cinnamon, as Mr. Claws dove into the complicated angles of the tray table’s supporting legs.
Tray table, cupcakes and cat tumbled to the linoleum floor together. A small red radish rolled idly away from the scene.
Gran had the bridge of her nose pinched between her fingers. Cinnamon knew that this meant Gran was silently counting to ten. Cinnamon also knew that Gran could count much higher than ten, and wasn’t sure why Gran needed to practice her counting so frequently, but Gran did her silent count to ten quite a lot. It was probably one of those sayings Gran had, like ‘practice makes perfect.’ Cinnamon waited patiently for Gran to finish her count and take a deep breath. The cupcakes were ruined, but that red radish had her thinking of things cherry flavored.
“Gran,” she said, “My plate is clean. Can I have some candy?”
Written by W. C. McClure www.wcmcclure.com. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. Oh, and if you want to show your support, tell your friends – and pick up a copy of “The Statues of Azminan” by W. C. McClure. Thanks!