Johnny America


Or­gan­i­cal­ly Red


My broth­er Paul on­ly eats red food. Think ap­ples, cher­ries, toma­to soup. It has to be or­gan­i­cal­ly red, he says. My moth­er tried dye­ing his food but that on­ly led to scar­let noo­dles down the garbage dis­pos­al, limp and sad that they couldn’t fool him. It’s been about two years of red. Be­fore that it was round food and be­fore that every­thing had to be bar­be­qued. He’s leav­ing for col­lege to­mor­row and I’m a lit­tle worried.

It all start­ed when our Dad would go on long busi­ness trips. Paul would al­ways eat the same thing while he was gone, a strange protest that nev­er got Dad’s at­ten­tion any­way. End­less days of wheat thins with a slice of swiss cheese. He tried starv­ing him­self but it seems I got the anorex­ic gene and Paul got the fast me­tab­o­lism. At first I tried to join him in his ed­i­ble quest for Dad’s re­turn to us but soon I grew tired of eat­ing at all.

I eat now, if that’s what you’re won­der­ing. Not much, but enough to get my pe­ri­od again and to stop my moth­er from plac­ing m&ms in my mouth while I sleep.

I love Paul, I re­al­ly do. I was the on­ly one to join him for his cir­cu­lar Thanks­giv­ing in nine­ty nine and I even helped him think of his cur­rent fix­a­tion. I sug­gest­ed he pick a col­or and run with it. I was wear­ing red at the mo­ment and I thank God every day I wasn’t wear­ing laven­der or chartreuse.

Our par­ents most­ly leave us alone these days. Some­times my fa­ther will look at us with what looks like pride. I imag­ine him think­ing, look at that Paul chomp­ing on a radish at nine in the morn­ing, now that’s com­mit­ment. Oc­ca­sion­al­ly my fa­ther will of­fer me a bite of his cheese­cake or tiramisu and I hap­pi­ly slide it off his fork. Good girl, he says al­though I know he is se­cret­ly hap­py I’m not fat like our mother.

I told Paul to pick a new ob­ses­sion to kick off his col­le­giate ca­reer but he said he wasn’t quite fin­ished with red yet, as if he is hav­ing a hard time quit­ting a lover. It does seem to suit you, I said and he smiled.

I told him I’d dri­ve him to­mor­row and he said al­right, sounds good. I’m think­ing I’ll stay for awhile. High school doesn’t start for three weeks and I can’t bear him eat­ing red skit­tles for break­fast. I have a fold­er filled with recipes and I think we can sneak in a hot plate. He has a sin­gle and while the guys on his floor might mock him for hav­ing his lit­tle sis­ter stay, they might sing a dif­fer­ent tune when they taste my red pep­per and corn enchiladas.

It doesn’t take long to pack his things and I re­gret yelling at him yes­ter­day to get a move on. I for­got that boys need lit­tle to noth­ing to ex­ist com­fort­ably. All Paul re­al­ly needs to sur­vive is his wacky, wacky brain.

Take care of your­self, our moth­er says as she hands Paul a jar of mono­chro­mat­ic jelly­beans. She looked old as she stood there wav­ing from the dri­ve­way, won­der­ing why her chil­dren were so peculiar.

Filed under Fiction on May 26th, 2007

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