THIRTEEN‘s characters try to celebrate Christmas in an occupation zone.
Click to go to – Part 1 – The Crawlspace
Part 7 – The Food
The line up of people stretched around the building filled with people who looked like they’d been there waiting all night. Tired, cold, and defeated were the words that popped into Jack’s mind as he walked past them with his mom.
It was shopping day.
Jack pushed a small cart that he and Nick had made from bike parts and an old cabinet from the garage wall. He slipped a side glance at the people in line as he past them with their strollers, wheel barrows, and wagons waiting to be filled with their bi-weekly rations.
It had rained last night and those at the front of the line were wet, their carts filled with their soaked blankets, coats, and umbrellas. They had come early to ensure they would get the best of what the soldiers had to offer. Those at the back of the line, those who came late, would get what was left. If there was anything left.
“Collaborator.” An accusing voice said.
“Traitors.” Another voice joined in.
This was the worst part of shopping day. His body automatically hunched itself forward as if to deflect the words and the hatred that went with them.
“Ignore them.” His mother had told him time and time again. Ignore them. Easier said than done. He wished his mom would stand in line instead of using the token.
The token was part of a keychain. It was a small round silver medallion with a red star on one side and a black Korean symbol on the other. It was given to people who worked for the soldiers and gave them certain privileges and made it easier for them to move around in their allocated territories.
“Card.” A soldier was asking his mom for her ration card. “You go in.”
Jack followed his mom into the big box store.
Behind a long counter were shelves stacked with boxes and food. Women were moving amongst them organizing the food hampers they would be distributing. Soldiers stood on guard, their weapons ready watching the women and those who came to collect their meals.
“Hello.” Jack’s mom said to a thin sad looking woman
“Hello, your card?” Asked the woman not making eye contact. His mom handed her the card and showed her the medallion. “Oh. OK.” The woman turned around to two woman behind her. “VIP package.” She told them.
Soon the counter was filled with rice, milk, dried beans, a couple cans of meat, vegetables and fruit. Christmas dinner Jack thought as he put the food into the cart.
“Canned ham? What no turkey?” Jack joked.
The woman in front of them glared at him as he reached for the cans. He glanced at her food on the counter, there were no cans. No cans in the stroller either. Just rice and dried beans. Guilt tickled at Jack’s chest.
He reached out with a can of peaches towards her an impish guilty grin manifesting itself on his face. He could feel it and it made him feel self conscious.
“NO SHARE.” A soldier stepped between Jack and the woman.
“Sorry sir.” He could hear his mom saying. “He didn’t didn’t know. It won’t happen again. I promise.”
“No Share.” The soldier said again.
“Alright. No sharing. I understand.” She put the rest of their food into the cart. “Come on Jack lets go.”
They walked out of the store towards home and then his mom stopped.
“Jack, you have that can?” He nodded. “Give it to me and stay here.”
She walked towards the woman from the store who was behind them. Jack watched as his mom handed her the can and then heard the woman scream.
“I don’t want any collaborator food. You disgust me.”
The walk home was quiet. He’d seen the tears flowing down his mom’s face and a deep regret was being dug inside him. His stomach rolled and heat flared through him.
“Mom that lady was wrong. She should have taken the can.”
His mom just smiled slightly at him and nodded.
Occupied Christmas Part 8 – Coming Soon
Shannon Peel is the author of THIRTEEN and is currently working on Book 2 in the series about a boy, his mom, a cop, and an invading army. She has brought war to a North American town to answer the question, what if it happened here?