The Quesadilla Moon
“That looks like a lollypop!” Jack said, pointing to a stop sign.
“One point for you, Jack,” his brother David said.
They continued to walk the mile to school, going past Prairie Rock Park. David looked around and saw a man throwing a Frisbee to his dog who jumped high in the air and caught it in his mouth.
“That looks like a pancake!” David said.
“Breakfast,” Jack said, “two points!”
David smiled. “Two points, Jack, very good. I’m winning. Look around, what do you see?”
Jack pointed to a new tree that had been planted in the park. Just taller than Jack, with a bushy green top and skinny trunk, it looked a little like him too.
“What does it look like, Jack?” David asked.
“Broccoli!” Jack said. “Yuck!”
“Vegetables are three points, Jack, that was a big one,” David said. “Who is winning now?”
“Me! Me!” Jack said. He jumped up and down and his empty backpack slipped from his shoulders.
“How do you know? I might be winning,” David said. “I have two points!”
Jack looked at his tiny fingers and closed them into a fist. He opened one finger and said, “Lollypop.”
“Yes, one point for the lollypop,” David agreed.
Jack slowly opened three more fingers. “Broccoli, yuck,” Jack said.
“How many is three plus one?” David asked.
“Four,” Jack replied confidently. “I have four points and you have two points, so I am winning!”
“I guess you are,” David said as they got to Parker Miller Elementary School.
They waited with the other kids at the corner as the crossing guard directed traffic. When she blew the whistle and waived them on, David took Jack’s hand and they crossed the street.
“Hi, Mrs. Bruno,” Jack said, waiving with his free hand.
“Hi, Jack,” Mrs. Bruno said. “How many points did you get today?”
“Four!” Jack said proudly. “I got a vegetable!”
“Good for you, Jack,” Mrs. Bruno said. “I’ll see you after school.”
David walked Jack to his kindergarten class and dropped him off with Miss Natalie, the teacher’s aide. Jack waved to David, and he walked to his own fifth grade class where Ms. Chong stood by the classroom high-fiving the students as they walked through the door.
“Hi, David, how are you today?” Ms. Chong asked.
“Great, Ms. Chong. How are you?” David asked.
“If I was any better, I’d have to be twins!” she replied.
David smelled the maple syrup coming from the cafeteria. Trying to ignore the sweet smell, he went into the classroom, unpacked his backpack, and got ready for class. His stomach growled loudly, and he patted it to make it stop.
David had a hard time focusing on math. He was very hungry, and he didn’t like math. When music came along, he quickly forgot his uncooperative stomach and played the drums, the piano, and the cymbal, making up his own song.
When lunchtime came around, Ms. Chong quieted the class. “Put your instruments away and grab your lunches. After lunch we will play a short game I learned over the weekend. More math fun!”
The students groaned loudly. They tossed their instruments into the bins and bumped into each other as they grabbed for their shiny lunchboxes or their Meal Cards for lunch in the cafeteria.
David got up to walk outside with the other students.
“David,” Ms. Chong asked, “where is your lunch today?”
“I was hungry so I ate it on the way to school,” David said. “I am not hungry now.”
“Growing boys,” Ms. Chong said. “I guess you are most hungry in the morning,”
“Yes, ma’am.” David turned to follow the last student out of the classroom.
Ms. Chong waved at David and his stomach let out a loud growl. He blushed and quickly walked outside.
After school, David went to the bike rack and waited for Jack. Jack skipped out the door and smiled when he saw David.
“How was your day, bud?” David asked.
“Great! I got this,” Jack replied as he held up a tiny lollypop, “for winning the Spelling Bee in class today.”
“What word did you spell?” David asked.
“I spelled BUG, and GET, and HOT, but I won with WATCH. Ms. Bruno said that is a first-grade word.”
“That’s great, bud, congratulations,” David said.
“Can I eat it now?” Jack asked.
“You sure can, but do you think you can play while you eat it?” David asked. “I might win.”
“I can play and eat,” Jack said. “And walk,” Jack added, laughing.
“OK, then, let’s go,” David said.
When they got to the corner, Ms. Bruno held out her hand with her palm toward the boys and her whistle in her mouth. The boys waited until she flipped her hand over and motioned for them to cross.
“Thanks for the sucker, Mrs. Bruno!” Jack yelled.
“Great job spelling WATCH,” Mrs. Bruno said.
The boys collected points as they walked past Prairie Rock Park and to their house at the far end of the block.
David helped Jack take off his backpack and they walked inside.
“Let’s get your homework done,” David said.
“Can I have a snack first?” Jack said.
David went to the refrigerator and opened the door. He saw a milk jug with about half a cup of milk, left-over Chinese food from a long time ago, and an old apple in the bottom drawer. That was it.
David took the apple from the drawer and the milk from shelf and closed the door. He poured the milk into a small cup and sliced the apple, cutting off the bad parts, and put it in a bowl.
“Here you go, champ,” David said.
“Do we have any peanut butter?” Jack asked.
“Not today, bud, it’s all gone,” David said.
“OK,” Jack said.
After the apple and milk, they sat down and Jack did his homework with David’s help. Jack practiced writing the letter G. Then he colored the letter G, along with a green tree, and a green leaf, and a green bug.
When he was done, David turned on the TV for Jack and started his own homework. “Math, I hate math,” David said.
“What?” Jack asked.
“Nothing, bud. I just have to do math for homework. Dividing fractions,” David said.
“Is it hard?” Jack asked.
“It’s not hard once you know how to do it. It’s just a lot. I have to do twenty problems. Can you count to twenty?” David asked.
“Yes,” Jack said. “One, two, three…”
“I was just kidding, I know you can count to twenty,” David said.
“OK.” Jack turned back to watch TV.
As David was finishing with his math, the front door opened.
“I’m home,” Mom said, “and I have dinner.”
“Yes!” David said. “What’s for dinner?”
Mom unpacked the single plastic bag from the grocery store: One loaf of bread, one jar of peanut butter, and one gallon of milk.
David went to the cupboard and got three plates and one knife, while his mom got the jelly from the pantry and three cups.
Mom poured the milk and David made the sandwiches, cutting each one into four pieces.
“Feels like more when you have four of them,” he said to his mom.
“True.” Mom smiled and tousled David’s hair. She picked up the three plates and put them on the kitchen table, and David set a cup of milk at each plate.
Jack was already up and walking to the table. “I’m starving,” Jack said as he sat down.
Mom extended a hand to each boy and they made a small circle.
“Lord,” Mom began with her head bowed, “thank you for this food. Thank you for our family and this time we have together,”
“And thank you that I won the spelling bee,” Jack interrupted, “and got a sucker.”
Mom opened one eye and looked at Jack, smiling. “You won the spelling bee?” she whispered, still looking at him through one eye. Jack nodded his head proudly.
“And thank you that Jack won the spelling bee and got a sucker. Amen,” Mom said.
“Amen,” echoed the boys.
“How was work, Mom?” David asked.
“It was good. I have to go back tonight for the late shift,” she said.
“Again?” David said.
“I have to, David. It’s overtime and we need the money.”
“I know.” David looked at his empty plate.
“Can you get Jack to bed?” Mom asked.
“Yes, I can,” David replied.
“Thanks, David. You’re a great kid, you know that?” She lifted David’s chin with her finger. Looking him in the eyes, she continued, “God blessed me when he gave me such a great kid.”
“Thanks, Mom,” David said.
“OK, I gotta go,” Mom said. “Jackie, give me a kiss, I have to go back to work. David will put you to bed.”
Jack ran over and threw two arms around his mom and squeezed with all his might.
“You are getting so strong, Jack!” Mom said, as she hugged him back.
“I love you, Mom” Jack said into her stomach, still holding on to her.
“I love you, too. Be good for David,” Mom said.
“Bye, Mom, I love you. I’ll handle everything here,” David said.
“I know you will. Thank you. I love you,” Mom said.
Mom rushed out the door and David heard the car drive slowly down the gravel driveway.
After some cartoons, a bath, and fresh pajamas, David put Jack in bed.
“Can I have another sandwich?” Jack asked.
“Sorry, bud, we have to save that for tomorrow,” David said.
“OK,” Jack said.
“Can you lay with me until I fall asleep?” Jack said, yawning.
“Sure, bud.” David lay down next to Jack. “Hey Jack,” David said, “do you see that?” David pointed out the window to the full moon.
“Looks like a quesadilla,” David said. “Dinner, five points,”
“Yum,” Jack said. “That is worth ten points.”
“Five for you, and five for me,” David said. When he looked at Jack, he saw his little brother fast asleep.
The next morning the alarm went off and David heard his mom yelling from the other room, “Rise and shine, boys. Time to wake up and greet the day.”
David rubbed the sleep from his eyes and went to the twin bed on the other side of the room where his little brother lay tangled in blankets, looking like a sausage. David lifted the blanket and Jack rolled out. “Pigs in a blanket,” David said, “two points.”
“No fair.” Jack yawned. “I was still sleeping.”
“You’ll just have to catch up,” David said.
The boys dressed for school and Mom stood by the door, keys in hand, ready to kiss the boys as she left for work. “Come on, boys, I have to go or I’ll be late,” Mom said.
She pulled a smashed granola bar from her purse. “Share this for breakfast,” she said and handed it to David.
David looked at the small, chocolate peanut butter chip granola bar and sighed. “Thanks, Mom,” David said. Mom kissed both boys on the head and walked out the door.
David got Jack ready for the walk to school: hat, jacket, backpack, and lunchbox. He put the granola bar in the lunchbox and put it in Jack’s backpack with the other school supplies.
On the way to school, Jack got six points. It had started to snow lightly and Jack got one point for calling the snow powdered sugar. Then he pointed to leaves that a neighbor had raked into a pile. “Spaghetti,” Jack said, “five points!”
David didn’t want to argue that leaves looked nothing like noodles, so he gave in. “Five points,” he said.
As they approached the corner, Jack said, “I’m winning. I have six points and you have zero.”
“Yep, you are winning today,” David said.
There was a different crossing guard today. Someone David did not know. They used the same hand motions to hold them on the corner, and then, when the school bus had passed, motion for them to safely cross the street. When they got to the other side, Mrs. Bruno and Ms. Chong were waiting for them and they each had a bag in their hand.
“We have something for you,” Ms. Chong said to David, and she handed the bag to him while Mrs. Bruno handed a bag to Jack.
Jack opened the bag right away. “Chips!” Jack said. “And a sandwich, and an apple, three cookies, and a juice box! This must be like a hundred points!”
David smiled, afraid to look in his bag.
“Go ahead, “Ms. Chong said. “It won’t bite.”
David opened the bag and saw two pieces of pepperoni pizza, an apple sauce, three cookies, and a juice box. David couldn’t help himself. He jumped forward and hugged Ms. Chong. “Thank you, Ms. Chong. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome, David,” Ms. Chong said. “We have arranged for you to have breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria each day.”
“Oh,” David said, looking embarrassed, “we can’t afford that.”
“You don’t have to pay for it,” said Mrs. Bruno. “The school wants to help out, and it’s for you and your brother every day, free of charge.”
“We can eat there every day?” David asked, shocked.
“Yes,” Ms. Chong said, “but there is more. Each Friday, the school will send you home with a box of food so you have extra food over the weekend too. Today is Friday, so the box will be at the cafeteria waiting for you when school is over.”
“Why is the school doing this for us?” David asked.
“They do it for a lot of kids,” said Mrs. Bruno. “Once we know that a student needs help, we can arrange it for the school year.”
“Thank you,” David said. “That’s really nice, I can’t wait to tell my mom.”
“Well, we don’t want to be late to class. Your mom wouldn’t be happy about that!” Ms. Chong said.
“No, ma’am,” David said, “she wouldn’t.”
That day the boys both had a hot school lunch and finished the school day with full bellies. After school, David waited by the bike rake for Jack.
“Let’s go get our present!” David said to Jack.
“Let’s go!” Jack said.
They walked together to the cafeteria and stood in a line with many other kids.
“There are so many kids here,” David said.
“Twenty-one,” Jack said proudly.
David gave Jack a funny look.
“What?” Jack laughed. “I told you I could count to twenty.”
“You sure can, bud,” David said.
When they got to the front of the line, a smiling person handed David a box and checked his name off a list. David and Jack walked outside and set the box on the ground. Inside was more food than David had seen at home in the last two weeks. There were a granola bars, a bag of apples, three boxes of mac ’n’ cheese, three cans of pears, a box of pancake mix, a bottle of maple syrup, three cans of mixed vegetables, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a bottle of jelly, and…
“Girl Scout Cookies!” Jack yelled.
“Thin Mints,” David said, smiling.
“Can we open them now?” Jack asked. “Please?”
“Let’s wait for Mom,” David said. “She will be so excited. Thin Mints are her favorite.”
David put all the food back into the box and picked it up. It was heavy, but it was like carrying a treasure. He walked the whole mile home and didn’t even think about finding points for things that looked like food. He had real food right here in his hands.
Food Desert: A food desert is an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food, in contrast to an area with higher access to supermarkets or fresh vegetables or other healthy foods, which is called a food oasis.
During the school year, approximately 30 million students receive free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch program. This program is a vital source of food for these children. But when schools are not receiving enough support, charities must step in to fill the gap.
No Kid Hungry is committed ending childhood hunger in the United States.
From their website:
Lack of food isn’t the problem here in the United States. The problem is ensuring that children have reliable access to the food they need.
For over a decade, No Kid Hungry has been monitoring and analyzing data for these programs. They can help provide up to 10 meals for every $1 spent. They are a registered 501 © (3) nonprofit organization and the federal tax identification number (employer identification number) is 52–1367538.
I am going to make this story available on Amazon in April. For every book sold, we will donate $1 to No Kid Hungry. Our goal is to provide 100,000 meals to hungry children.