by Christine Jarvis, Learner, Writing Workshops

The war was going badly and I tried even harder to be invisible. I ate as little as possible and never even thought about asking for more. I knew every bite of food I took was a bite of food Beppe would not have.

Beppe had one brother. His name was Albertus and he lived somewhere in the south. Beppe was secretive about just where, but then, Beppe was secretive about just about everything.

One day—I guess Beppe had forgotten that school finished early on Wednesdays—I came to the back of the house to go through the kitchen door as usual. I opened the door on Beppe and her brother. I knew it was Albertus from the picture of him that Beppe kept on the shelf over the stove.

My early arrival surprised them. As I opened the kitchen door, I saw Beppe and Albertus quickly slip their soup bowls into the cabinet beside the table. There hadn’t been beef for months so I must have been remembering an old smell that was filling the tiny, dark kitchen.

I felt guilty for coming back to Beppe’s house at the wrong time and opening the kitchen door without warning. Guilty for interrupting their lunch. Guilty that I couldn’t stop the war. Guilty for being alive. I was embarrassed that they were embarrassed at hiding the soup so they didn’t have to share it with me. I wanted to tell them to go ahead and for heaven’s sake eat the soup, but I would first have to know that there was soup to tell them that. And I was old enough to know what I was not supposed to know.

I didn’t look at the cabinet. I didn’t look at my grandmother or at Albertus sitting head-down at the table. If I didn’t see them, they wouldn’t see me. I was invisible, like the soup I smelled.

About Christine Jarvis:

Christine Jarvis is a contributing writer at Suite101.com, volunteer-in-training at Hospice Toronto and distance learner (currently enrolled in a Palliative Care certificate program at Ontario’s Loyalist College). Christine was primary caregiver to her mother Jannie, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007 and died in 2010. Favourite writing themes include individual and social justice, strong women, successful aging, dementia, and lifelong learning.

Christine is currently working on a description of her journey on and beyond the Alzheimer’s path (working title No Longer at the Bedside) and on a YA novel (Wilhe’s War).

Christine lives in Toronto with her cat CFH.

Christine’s piece was written for Ann Ireland’s workshop introducing short fiction writing: ‘Short Fiction Writing – Level I’ (CWWR 410).

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