Contemporary Fiction

The battle lines had been drawn at breakfast. William had woken up late and was in a rush to get to work. Noah had used the last bit of milk on his breakfast. Sarah nervously straightened her husband's tie as she tried to distract him from Noah launching cereal projectiles across the kitchen. The house heaved a sigh of relief once the door swung shut behind William. The boys were off to school soon after. 

"Is it Fish Friday today, Mum?" asked Isaac as they narrowly dodged a speeding child on a scooter.

"Yes it's Friday. No it's not fish. I got some lamb out, we're having casserole. Maybe it will be fish for school dinner."

"They don't do proper fish," said Noah, kicking a puddle, "It's all about Healthy School now, you know."

"Have you remembered Grandma's coming to stay tonight? Isaac, you need to make sure your room is tidy after school because she's sleeping in there."

"I'm going to play my ukelele for her," Isaac answered.

"We can make a den in my room tonight," said Noah.

Perhaps Noah was spoiling for a fight by dinner. The preliminary skirmishes took place on the stairs as Noah skidded down, too fast and dishevelled.

"You come to dinner when you're asked. And tuck your shirt in properly."

"Alright Dad."

"Watch your tone!"

William's watchful eye was still on Noah as he led the family in grace, giving thanks for the casserole Sarah had prepared. Grandma Bridget was in her usual good mood though, asking the boys about school and what they had planned for the weekend. 

"Painting. Can we do papier-mâché Mum? It wasn't fish, Mum, it was omelette. I told you."

"Well I like omelette," Sarah replied, deciding it was safer to avoid the question of papier-mâché and hope they forgot about it. "Noah, don't leave all the beans till the end, eat some now."

"But I don't like beans, they're disgusting." Noah had crossed the line, put his head above the parapet. 

"We don't say food is disgusting," chided his mother, a gentle reply of fire, things were starting to warm up.

"But they are disgusting," shot back Noah, "I don't like this dinner at all."

"How dare you disrespect your mother!" A detonation from William, the pent up pressure of the day finally exploding. Isaac caught his Grandmother's eye, and quickly put his head down, quietly getting on with eating the casserole. Sarah tried to pacify things.

"It's about eating a good dinner Noah, and not being rude."

"But I can't eat them, because I really don't like them." Noah was digging in to his position. 

"Well, eat the lamb and potatoes, love," chipped in his Grandmother.

"He's still got to eat the beans," muttered William.

There was a lull in the hostilities while everyone else got on with eating. Sarah tried to load up a forkful for Noah with a bean sneaked in, but he spotted it and removed the offending item. As plates were cleared, Noah was left with a pile of beans, being pushed around the plate like model troops in an operations room.

"Well you can't have any pudding until you've eaten it," said William.

Noah eyed the rhubarb crumble enviously, and started to cry.

"But I can't eat them, they make me feel sick!"

Isaac looked at Noah apologetically as he poured his custard. "You're out on a limb," his eyes seemed to say. "I can't help you now." 

"That's the next thing you'll eat," said William. "No puddings, no nothing until you've eaten your dinner."

Noah was still crying noisily as Isaac got ready for bed. His face was a blotchy, snotty mess. Sarah was attempting diplomacy, but Noah wasn't backing down. 

"Look," she said, "How about one bean. If you eat one bean, then you can finish."

William didn't look happy about the compromise, but stayed silent for now. Noah continued to cry. 

"I don't like beans! I don't want to eat it. I'm not hungry!"

"Well if you're not hungry, then you can go straight to bed," said William. Noah's head shot up. Was this a reprieve? "But you'll be eating the bean for breakfast."

Overnight, new alliances formed. Isaac came down in the morning saying it wasn't fair, and it was just one lousy bean anyway, so could they just forget about it? 

"It's the principle, Isaac, not the bean," said William. "Anyway, it's nothing to do with you."

The bean was brought out on the plate, but Noah would not eat.

"Oh come on, Noah," said his mother, "Just eat it, and then you can enjoy a croissant like the rest of us."

But Noah was making a stand. He pushed the plate away and folded his arms. Checkmate. 

By lunch, he was getting hungry, and looked hopefully at the sandwiches Grandma Bridget brought to the table. But William followed behind with the bean on a plate, and a steely look in his eye. 

"I said this is the next thing you would eat, and I meant it."

A clenched jaw was Noah's response.

In the afternoon, a lacklustre game of football was played in the no-man's land of the park. Grandma tried to slip Noah a mint, but William noticed.

"He needs to learn this lesson, Mum," he said, "Don't interfere."

When they got back from the park, the house smelled of pizza. Sarah came through from the kitchen, smiling.

"I've cooked your favourite dinner Noah."

"You just have to eat the bean," said his Dad.

Noah held the doorframe, poised on the threshold as he weighed up his options. The smell of pizza was an assault on his senses. He could withstand it no longer.

"I'll eat the bean."

"Well," said William to his mother as they loaded the dishwasher, "I think I taught him a lesson about stubbornness."

"Oh, you certainly did that," she chuckled, "but perhaps not the one you intended!"

William stopped, frowning, plate in hand, fork hovering over the dishwasher.

"What lesson do you mean?"

Bridget smiled.

"That stubbornness is fine - but only once you're a parent."

May 21, 2021 22:22

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