“I hate celery!” Maggie stated. “Loathe it. Detest it! Abhor it!”
Her mother sighed, not even turning around to look at her. “You’re always so dramatic, Maggie.” She continued packing her daughter’s lunchbox, ignoring the impassioned outburst against that particular vegetable. Maggie’s likes and dislikes changed almost daily, and she’d given up trying to keep track of them. If Maggie was hungry, she’d eat her lunch.
“I won’t eat it,” Maggie declared, stamping her foot on the scratched linoleum.
“Fine. Don’t.” The lunchbox slammed shut with a metallic clang.
All the way to school, Maggie fumed. Didn’t her mother care about her? If she cared she wouldn’t be filling her lunchbox with such poison. She stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and pulled the offending lunchbox from her backpack. She opened it and saw the package of celery sticks wrapped in plastic just sitting there, in between the ham sandwich and the tiny package of rice crackers. Maggie made a face as she pulled the offending vegetables from the box, ready to fling them into the bushes and out of sight.
Maggie hesitated, her arm still raised to toss the plastic-wrapped things away. She turned and found no one in sight. Pursing her lips suspiciously, she gave another quick glance around then chucked her celery into the holly at the side of the road. She shoved her lunchbox back into her bag and ran, hoping she wouldn’t be late.
When the bell rang, signalling morning break, Maggie dove into her lunchbox. Without looking she rummaged around, hand closing over a small plastic-wrapped parcel. Her face crumpled in confusion as she pulled out the same package of celery sticks she’d thrown into the bushes on her way to school.
“How…?” she muttered to herself. Checking that nobody saw her, she buried the celery in the nearest trashcan before running out to play in the playground.
How had the celery gotten into her lunchbox again? That was the question that whirled around Maggie’s head throughout the rest of the morning. She barely heard the teacher as she explained the intricacies of dividing fractions. Maybe she hadn’t really thrown them away at all. Perhaps she’d imagined that, had some kind of vivid daydream. But Maggie knew this wasn’t true. She could remember tossing the package into the bushes, recalled hearing the swishing sound it made as it tumbled through the branches before becoming lodged somewhere deep in the prickly plant. Thoughts whirled through her mind, nothing to do with division or fractions, but no answers were forthcoming.
At lunch, Maggie was slow to open her lunchbox. And when she did, an unpleasant surprise awaited her. There, entombed neatly in plastic wrap, were the celery sticks. They were back where they had always been: nestled between sandwich and crackers, seeming to smile innocently up at her.
“What!” Maggie shoved her chair back from her desk and stood up, staring at her lunch in horror. “How…?”
She ran to the back of the room and dug through the trash in the trashcan, certain she’d uncover the celery she’d thrown away at break time. But there was nothing but crumpled tissues, several plastic sandwich bags and a few browning apple cores. After washing her hands in the sink, Maggie returned to her seat where she glared at the vegetables, hatred burning from her dark blue eyes. Pointedly ignoring them, she ate the rest of her lunch, then took the package of celery out to the playground.
Behind the jungle gym was a small stand of pine trees. Using her yellow plastic ruler to help dig, Maggie scratched a small hole into the soft soil under the tallest tree. When it was about five inches deep, she deposited the celery into the hole and hurriedly covered it with dirt, stamping it firmly down and scattering pine needles on top of it.
“There!” she said defiantly. “Let’s see you get out of that!”
Maggie walked home slowly, stopping at the holly-hedge to see if she could see the celery still suspended somewhere in its length. She was not surprised when she didn’t and trudged the rest of the way home.
“Maggie?” her mother’s voice drifted down the stairs to her, “Is that you?”
“Yes, Mom. It’s me.” Maggie tossed her backpack into a corner and kicked off her shoes as her mother came into the hallway.
“How was school?”
“Okay, I guess.” Maggie shrugged and sloped off towards the kitchen. Her mother followed, finding her in front of the fridge, searching for a snack.
“Did you eat your lunch?” she asked, shaking the lunchbox that she’d excavated from Maggie’s backpack.
“Yes,” was Maggie’s sullen reply.
“I don’t think so….” Maggies mother heard something rattling within the lunchbox and opened it, pulling out the celery sticks. “Here, eat these. Then you can have something else if you’re still hungry.”
Maggie threw herself down into a chair at the kitchen table, a look of defeat crossing her face as she unwrapped the plastic and bit into the first of six celery sticks.
Let me know what you think, okay?