8 comments

Funny Kids

Amy started fourth grade at a new school six weeks ago, and she has yet to tell anybody about her deathly gluten allergy. Every single birthday, which seems to be literally every day at this school--do Catholic kids have birthdays every day? Is that a Jesus thing?--she kept her lips sealed. Every single day, it seemed, she was being offered a birthday cupcake that Jennica or Kyler or whoever brought a treat for the entire class. Someone’s mom probably worked really hard on those cupcakes, and Amy didn’t want them to hear that they almost killed a kid and feel bad. She also didn’t want to have to explain the nuances of her allergy to someone failing fourth grade science (Ryan) and have them jokingly sneak her some gluten. All in all, it’s better to just not say anything. 

It was already stressful enough at this new weird school minus the allergy. One time, Amy’s pen exploded in her hand in math, but she didn’t want to interrupt the long division unit (Ryan definitely needed it) so she sat quietly, hand sopping in purple ink, for the sixteen minutes that the teacher prattled on. The class times at her old school were much shorter, so she didn’t anticipate having to sit for so long. She took 4.5 minutes to clean it up in the single stall bathroom, just making it in time to Spanish for the gifted kids. She was in the middle of drawing a really cool lizard in her notebook, but had to finish it out in blue ink instead of purple. It was really tragic. 

The kids at this school all seem to have additionally learned a set of prayers at a young age, which they did not make Amy privy to before enrolling. Every morning, before every lunch, after every lunch, and right before school ended, all of the kids put their hands together (or during the “Father” one, they put their hands out???) and said a variety of chants in unison. They all also ate some sort of bread at the weekly religious ceremony, and Amy didn’t have the heart to ask what the bread was made of. Luckily, she wasn’t granted permission to eat the bread because she missed some sort of ceremony in second grade. That was the only bit of respite she had. 

Amy struggled the most during the school’s history unit on US segregation-era life. They handed out orange and purple pins, and the orange kids would get special privileges for the week while the purple kids had to use separate water fountains and line up for the bus later than the oranges. Needless to say, a public school would probably not let that stuff fly. Anyways, Amy was sure they’d given her orange because she was one of three Black kids at the whole school--the teachers probably figured it would be mean to give her purple. She doesn’t know people super well, but she knew that’s what it was. Nevertheless, all the orange kids got buffet lunches every. day. for. a. week. Cookies, cake, bread with butter, everything you can imagine that has gluten in it was going into these kids’ mouths. And Amy had to sit there hungry.

She also had to sit at an assigned seat at lunch during the week--is that a segregation-era thing? Seems inaccurate!--and was next to Ryan. Ryan Mussarra and Amy Middleton. Ryan, Amy discovered, loves talking to anybody she can. She once appeared on a now-cancelled Nickelodeon game show where contestants have to perform increasingly dangerous physical acts so they could obtain a crystal or something. Ryan came in 3rd, won $10,000, and kind of uses it as a jumping off point for any conversation she’s in. Her tiny glasses frame her weird head and she’s--can’t emphasize this enough--bad at school; but everyone seems to like her anyway. 

On Monday, they talked mostly about Ryan. On Tuesday, Amy discovered that Ryan has three brothers--so does Amy--and that they both like Ariana Grande. Ryan thought it was weird that Amy likes grilled chicken and called her “like 40.” They both laughed. On Wednesday, Ryan and Amy didn’t talk because there was some big presentation the entire lunch about protests during segregation. On Thursday, they talked about fish and also Frozen and how it would be cool to drive. On Friday, Ryan and her big stupid mouth offered Amy some of her double chocolate crunch cookie, and Amy said “No thanks, I’m actually allergic to gluten.” Her face got really hot. Ryan kinda shrugged, but before she could react, Amy excused herself to the single stall bathroom to cry. 

Amy’s mom said she wouldn’t let her transfer schools again--she’s already spending enough money sending her to Cornerstone Catholic. There can’t be another incident where Amy almost dies, or where Amy gets a panic attack after school every day, or where Amy boycotts going to class over unethical lunch-lady-paying practices: eventually, she’ll have to adapt to the world as it is. So, she has to figure out a way to buck up and keep going to school. 

Over the weekend, Amy could hardly focus on her homework or feeding her fish, Tilapia. The scenarios ran through her head over and over of how she’d get the fifth degree about this allergy. All of the kids would laugh at her, and then she wouldn’t be able to participate in class anymore, and then she would flunk out, and then she would never be able to become an astronaut or become a remarkable saxophonist or invent cutting-edge elderly assistance technology. Her head was spinning, so she sat down and wrote all the words that rhyme with gluten, and resolved that on Monday she’d maybe try to use one of them in an attempt at damage control. 

Monday happened to be Ryan’s birthday, and since segregation week was over, everybody got to have the birthday treat. Something weird happened, though. Ryan brought a bunch of Fruit-By-The-Foots for the class in all different colors, which were really a hit with everybody who liked to fling food around--so, everybody. She handed one to Amy. 

“They’re gluten-free, my mom said.”

Amy smiled, and she took a Fruit-By-the-Foot. It was delicious.

September 16, 2020 23:19

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8 comments

Tessa Takzikab
12:48 Sep 25, 2020

I saw this story while scrolling through the 'kids' tagged stories, and, being that I am still getting over accidentally poisoning myself with gluten last week,(Thank G-d, my problem is not life threatening) the title drew me in right away. I'm honestly shocked that Amy was so self-conscious about being gluten free, but it does seem reasonable when I remember she's in fourth grade. Nine years old makes sense for kids not getting the difference between funny and dangerous. I don't really have much to say in the way of critique, I guess the...

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Niveeidha Palani
12:26 Sep 20, 2020

Hi Christian, I think you really incorporated the message on how sad it is for people allergic to gluten. No doughnuts, no cookies, no birthday cakes. Wow. You took a nice take on the prompt and a lovely ending. Looking forward to reading more!

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Tessa Takzikab
14:08 Sep 25, 2020

In today's world, it's not so bad. There are a lot of companies dedicated to making gluten-free baked goods, and there are companies that make various blends of gluten-free flour so we can make our own. There are gluten-free snacks, both 'naturally' (corn chips) and not (pretzels), and gluten-free pastas. So sure, it's a bit more complicated, but it's not as hard as it probably used to be now that the awareness is going up.

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Niveeidha Palani
21:55 Sep 25, 2020

Yes, my friend is allergic as well, but I usually bring gluten-free stuff for her to eat, but they don't taste and good as the ones that are really gluten.

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Tessa Takzikab
01:11 Sep 27, 2020

I usually bake from scratch instead of buying ready made foods, and I adapt my family's recipes except for breads or yeast doughs, which I use an already gluten-free recipe, and some of my little siblings prefer mine, but I get what you mean. There is definitely a flavor given by the flour used, and I do miss being able to use whole wheat.

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Niveeidha Palani
05:30 Sep 27, 2020

Yes, we buy the ready-made gluten-free flour, so every time we need to bake pastries, we use that. We've been literally like searching for someone who bakes gluten-free stuff, but normally no one really does that because the flour is expensive, so we bake ourselves, but it doesn't taste as good as whole wheat. Yes, I miss whole wheat too. We went six months off for a trial, and it was really bad, not being able to eat pastries.

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Tessa Takzikab
17:42 Sep 27, 2020

If you get whole grain oat flour, it's closer, just be careful because oats come in both contaminated and gluten-free form. Also, I just noticed you have your first comment directed at me, and as much as I love this story, I didn't write it. Christian Borkey did.

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