LOREAL is the top winner of this week's writing contest.


Here is the story she submitted:

You Are What You Eat

It was Jenna who started it. It was Jenna coming over, her health-food-fanatic ravings taking up the kitchen and weaving their way into her brain. The ravings overtook her consciousness. They dribbled their way down her spinal cord and wrapped themselves around her upper thigh. And they turned electric and sparked their way to her brain.

Jenna with her dark hair and perfect body. A body she had shaped with tofu and organic salads. Her nails were wonderful, no cracks or waves. Her nails came from the gelatin she kept in her fridge and added to her foods. Jenna; a best friend who was also a prophet and foreseer of future harms. Didn’t she bring her the daily horoscope and other such lunatic bits? She came every day, thinking repetition would change Kalina’s life and health.

Oh, yes, her health. She needed her health. Josh would never be able to raise the children alone. Imagine the trouble they would get into! Imagine the fires they would set in the house because they wouldn’t be watched properly. They would end up with child protective services because Josh, although a wonderful husband, had no idea how to raise a child. He had no clue about saving the child from him or herself.

Jenna left, finally, but the ravings didn’t. They sat within her through the day. And Kalina knew they would stay there forever. Just a feeling she had at that moment. And a feeling she didn’t usually have when Jenna left after a session of organic purity.

Kalina left the house, went into the garden. It was a beautiful garden and filled with flowers she had lovingly placed there. She just read some library books about how to grow them correctly. She could always grow vegetables. It was flowers she had the hardest time with. But the vegetables… Like this beautiful carrot. She picked it out of the ground. It was fully ripe (if carrots are considered ripe) and ready to eat.

Kalina walked over to the hose draped over the water faucet at the side of the house. She was glad Jenna was gone and wished her ravings were gone. But they were still there, clinging inside her like an alien priest. And they formed an electric fence along her bones.

She washed the carrot and felt its long thin orangeness. She touched the tiny fibers that grew outwards from the skin. She licked the tip, feeling it like a limp pin on her tongue. She took a bite. She felt the orangeness with more than her fingers, absorbing it into her organs. She became the fibers, letting tiny hairs emit from her skin. She touched the rough skin again and became the slightly brown indentations. She hardened.

She no longer had hair but only a thin wispy tip for her head. With no legs (they were bushy fern-like leaves), she fell flat onto the grass and the water wet her as it continued pouring forth from the end of the hose.

She would have cried had she owned eyes. She would have gone back into the house had she had legs. She would have driven to Denny’s and had a cup of coffee had she had lips, hands, face, a purse.

What of her husband returning from work and expecting a dinner of canned spinach and fried meat? What of her children coming from school any moment, walking in the door, expecting Hostess Twinkies with chocolate milk? What of the promise of this weekend at Lake Tahoe and stopping off at MacDonald’s on the way down the mountain?

Would Josh hunt for her here in the garden? Would he find her and be shocked? Would he pick her up and make a snack of her?

Would Samantha and Petey wander outside and find her in the dirt? Would they munch on her as they turned off the water making a puddle in the yard? Would they simply be unaware and step on her?

Why couldn’t she have been a duck, with legs and a beak so she could quack to her children, charm them and be taken in as a pet?

Perhaps it was only because she had not eaten a duck dinner last night. Perhaps it was only because of Jenna and her favorite phrases and urgings to only be the best mother you can, only fix the best dinners. Only swear by the most natural.

Now Kalina was no doubt a perfect thing, of perfect shape and of perfect texture. She was good at being a mother now. That was the magic of this. And the voodoo of that.

The children arrived. They went in the front door, not noticing the water running, making a puddle around their mother and settling around her like a cold bath. She could hear them inside, despite the fact she had no ears. They called out for her. They found she was gone. They planned games she could not stop. They were going to have some cereal, the kind she only let them eat for special treats. They directed each other to the normal scenarios, like the chocolate syrup, the cookies on the top shelf. She could hear them giggling. She knew their pleasure.

Josh came home. He told the children their mother must be out for the evening and forgot to leave him a note. He said they could go to get a burger for dinner. Where would they go? Burger King? Would they get fries?

Oh, Jenna and her insanity. It was all her fault.


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