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The Real Hunger Games
Trying to Find a Balance between Reading, Writing, and Feeding a Four Year Old.
by Sleepless Cook N. Clean
I am in District 1, the kitchen. I am alone. Often, because I spend so much time by myself, I feel as if I am in control. In reality, President Mud (insert your child’s name here) is in charge. He lets me know he is the leader at every opportunity.
I turn to the stove. I am heating chicken marsala. The perfectly cooked, tender mushrooms sink into the succulent gravy. The velvety brown sauce will cover the pasta nicely. No, ‘pasta’ is a lie. ‘Pasta’ is word given to us in District 1 to make us believe that what we are doing is creating cuisine and—that is not the case; I am simply making macaroni. It is hard to escape the scourge of elbow noodles in District 1 and I wouldn’t try, President Mud has a keen eye.
I divide the large pieces of chicken with my hunting knife. This is as close as I will come to the woods today and in my mind, I thank Grocer Sue, the gourmet chef who prepared the marsala so I wouldn’t have to. No, I can barely call what I am doing work. I sneak a peek at the Suzanne Collins book on the counter. Another thing to be grateful for; this is the closest I will come to stealing today.
But it is a mistake, bringing the book into District 1! I find myself wishing I could bring the book to the table; ignore President Mud, something I have done far too often since he turned four, and I hit a wall with The Games.
Ah, The Games. When did they start to tire me so?
Four years as crowned Victor Mother and then, exhaustion set in. That, and a love affair with YA are what account for my criminal behavior: writing.
Yes, I write. Why? Because my mind is starved and that is the real crime; the real hunger.
Writing is my talent. Writing, certainly not design; my stylist would be disappointed if he saw me standing at the stove in my jeans and hoodie. The one thing that might garner his approval is my hair. I have stayed true to myself in this area. I have not cut my wavy brown locks, which are at this moment tamed in a braid that trails down my back. Tied to the schedule of the President’s demanding lifestyle, it is the easiest thing.
The toast is ready; fresh-baked bread dotted with sesame seeds. I close the book, but before I can even finish preparing the plates of savory steaming stew and cutting the slices of cool juicy watermelon which I will artfully arrange upon the silver platter laden with the green grapes that carry the taste of summer beneath their delicate skins, my characters are here!
Suzanne’s vanish like ghosts. It will be bedtime before I see them again.
A handsome dark-haired man enters District 1. He is dressed for the Capitol, but I sense this is an act. Still, I call him my husband and place a kiss upon his lips. Upstairs in District 3 where the Industry is Imagination, his blonde alter ego creates dramatic oil paintings and writes poetry as he puts the finishing touches on the pile of presents that he has prepared in my honor.
Why do I need two suitors you ask? Why two?
Because this is YA, I hiss, that’s why.
In this country called My House—a place somewhere in the dystopian future where Vampires are the norm and werewolves are taken for granted—there are always two. That is because Love is a four-letter word and although it reigns, Love Triangles Reign supreme!
Two, because everything around the country I call My House is part of a pair.
I am a Mommy, and I am a Writer. A mismatch yes, but there it is.
Worse, I am a writer who has recently rediscovered the joys—and consequences—of staying up until one a.m. reading! Reading, and watching previous episodes of Mad Men, The Vampire Diaries, and Glee! If the Capitol discovers my offense, they will not just send a team of local Peachkeepers to slap my wrists, they will execute me! I sigh and roll my eyes.
All at once my suitor from District 3 appears, all jutting cheekbones and sculpted muscles, low chuckles and smirks. He glowers at me with smoldering eyes, lifting his dark brows suggestively, his lips quirking in a crooked smile. Forget about the fact that we can never consummate our relationship—why? Because . . . well, just because—I only need to look at him to know, we are a pair.
Ah yes, back to the topic of pairs. I have two pairs of friends. My writing friends, and my ‘real’ friends, who need to visit the link below immediately. Read this article (yes, I am aware that it is not recent, but that does not lessen its value!) and rest assured, although I had a child and dropped off the face of the earth, I am still alive and well. The real reason you have not seen me lately is because I am walking down the dark road of YA literature.
For those who venture to the Link District, tell them Sleepless Cook N. Clean sent you, and remember—the hair on the back of my neck stands up. The President is here!
Let the Games begin!
My husband and my lover vanish in a flash of light—
Out beyond District 1 the Arena awaits.
I have trained with Legos of course, and the toy house with its miniature furniture. Blocks, balls, the trucks and cars—I know them well; I could play with them in my sleep, and most days, I feel as if I am doing just that.
But wait, something new.
I gasp. It’s. Not. New. At all! It’s . . . Mousetrap!
The word echoes through my brain and my past hurtles towards me as I see the shiny metal marble shoot down the plastic steps; I feel faint, and have to look away. The President is done with survivor style games, he’s on to psychological warfare; I flash back to my parents’ basement . . .
Suddenly, I hear a piercing sound coming from District 1!
I vault over two strategically planted ridearounds as I rush to the source of the sound—
The timer! My index finger flies forward like an arrow shot from a bow and I hit cancel.
Sweat beads on my brow and I gasp for breath. My hoodie is torn and blood gushes from a gash on my ankle yet somehow, I manage a dazzling smile as The President enters.
But—they’ve done something to his face in the Capitol! Yes, it has been altered! He, he looks like a small child! He looks . . . like my son.
“Mom,” he says.
“Who is Mom?” I ask quickly.
“Mommy,” he says. He has recognized me! I will have to serve him now.
In the role of the Avox, I say nothing; I don’t have to. My son begins to speak, and does not stop . . ..
Later, the President is in bed. My House is quiet, my two suitors sleep. Ah! Freedom!
Freedom. I suck in a breath; will I ever return to the world of Jonathan Franzen?
The Corrections . . . so much family dysfunction . . . the writing is so . . . real . . . so much scarier than any vampire, or werewolf, or fallen angel. Or—zombie? I can’t go there.
No, no Freedom for me. I’ll take the bonds of a first kiss anytime. YA lit. Sigh.