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      "Hadn’t you better get working on those peas?” Mildred advised her son, Michael. “No television tonight unless you’re a member of the ‘Clean Plate Club’. Look at how well your sister is doing. Her peas are gone!”

          Michael knew that his younger sister had tricks up her sleeve, and a few peas in her pocket, as well. Kathy had become an early master of the art. Why, she might grow up to be a magician! As big as they are, Kathy could make sliced carrots go away with effortless ease. On this Friday night, there would be no homework to get done, and television was the motivator. Michael managed to force-feed himself the innocuous little green balls. A second grader needs his dose of television!

         Mildred, mom of the house, returned from the refrigerator with the wobbling cups of Jell-O.

          Now we’re in business, Michael had thought. The tables had turned, as well!

          “I don’t like Jell-O,” Kathy had asserted. “And, it’s orange!”

  “But you like orange juice, don’t you?” Mildred justified.

          Michael visibly smiled. Bill, dad of the house, smiled inside, as well. Anything more than that and he would go to the doghouse.

         “Kathy, eat your Jell-O,” Mildred said firmly. “You want to have strong fingernails, don’t you?”

         Parents of young children inadvertently become highly skilled in psychology.

        No way out for Kathy this time. Jell-O could just get too messy, too fast. There was no such thing as a ‘Clean Dessert Cup Club,’ and as so, Kathy felt that voicing her objections were worth the effort.

        As they sat eating their Jell-O, Bill let go with a sudden moan.

    Michael looked to the other side of the table to assess the situation.

    His dad looked strange. He dropped his spoon to press his stomach, and he moaned again.

       “The Jell-O is hurting Daddy!” Kathy cried.

     Michael realized that his dad had bigger amounts of Jell-O each time on his spoon. He was clearly the closest to the bottom of the cup. Michael put down his spoon in a flash. His mom and Kathy gave him no attention.

    “It’s been two days now, and I think you’re getting worse,” Mildred implored.

        “You’re right. I’ll go see a doctor tomorrow.”

        As Michael and Kathy sat on the floor watching television, the doorbell rang. Maureen walked through the doorway and Mildred motioned for her to come into the kitchen. She explained to Maureen further, and thanked her for babysitting overnight at the last minute. Maureen noticed a few peas on the floor under the table. Now at age 15, it hadn’t been long ago that peas would occasionally be found under the table in her house. Maureen smiled.

          “I’ll take good care. No worries,” Maureen assured Mildred.

         Mildred told Kathy and Michael to behave. Bill came out of the bedroom with a brown tote bag. Mildred and Bill went out the front door in brisk fashion.

      “I’ll let you stay up ten minutes past bedtime if whoever dropped the peas under the table gets them and puts them in the garbage,” Maureen offered as she winked.

          Kathy was on her feet immediately. She was too young yet to realize her admission of guilt.

          Bill was released from the hospital three days later following his surgery for acute appendicitis. He was bedridden for another three days while the stitches were holding his gut closed. He used Michael’s bedroom, as it was closest to the bathroom.

          Each day, Michael would visit with his dad, and was shocked to see the long rolls of gauze wrapped around his abdomen.

          Michael’s best friend, Richie, lived in the next house.

    “Richie, my dad could have been stitched back together backwards after his top half was cut off from the bottom half,” Michael said with horror.

          “Really think so?” Richie said incredulously.

          “Yep, the bandages go all the way around his stomach! I saw it!” Michael continued in awe.

          Michael would go fifteen years without ever eating Jell-O again! He could never relive the source of his warped fear. He knew it was ridiculous. Jell-Ophobia had instilled itself in his brain at a very young age. This irrational fear could be carried for a lifetime. The grip was often merciless.

          College is a time for new challenges, new experiences and new friends. College students are explorers. One day while in the dining hall, Michael watched as his friend Valerie finished her dinner with Jell-O. He liked Jell-O, but . . .

          “Is it cherry or strawberry?” he asked.

          “Cherry, and it’s good!”

          It was time to take the bull by the horns!

       Michael returned to the table with a Jell-O cup. The Jell-O was delicious. He had won, or had he?

          “You left half of your Jell-O. Don’t you like it?” Valerie asked.

          “It tastes great,” Michael replied with a smile. “I loved it!”

         However, Michael couldn’t dare chance eating the Jell-O in the bottom of the cup.

         It would always be the same for the course of his lifetime.

     Three days later, Michael, Valerie and fellow friends sat for dinner in the dining hall.

         “What? No Jell-O today?” Valerie asked.

         She pointed to her dessert cup.

      “It’s orange. It’ll be great. Go get yourself some,” Valerie


       “Yes, it’s orange. Will have to pass,” Michael said forlornly.

  It would always be the same for the course of his lifetime.

  Two weeks later a hawker at a local nightclub, roamed with his ‘Jell-O Balls’.

  “Care for one?” the hawker asked.

  “What flavor are they?” Michael replied.

  “Orange,” the hawker replied. “Want one?”

  “No thanks!” Michael quipped.

  Now, in his late twenties, Michael just couldn’t muster up any more additional courage. It would just be too much for him.

  And, it would always be the same for the rest of his life.



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October 18, 2019 18:00

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1 comment

Athina Antoniou
15:00 Oct 27, 2019

This was a lovely story to read and it's true that some of our childhood fears follow us into adulthood, even though they may be irrational. I got a bit confused at one stage with all the names, but all in all, it was a well-written story.


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