Blue Ribbon – Anthony Statham

When I was five I had three goldfish. My dad took me to soccer practice while my brother stayed home with my mom. When we got home my brother was hunched over the toilet, my mom beating on his back with open palms. The three fish came up no longer resembling fish. Mom and dad blamed themselves, but they shouldn’t. My brother eats everything

My brother eats my homework so often my mom insists on sending me to school everyday with a note blaming the dog. We don’t have a dog. My brother would try to eat it.

My brother ate all my teddy bears and my Halloween costume from last year. I went as Elsa from the movie Frozen and it was awesome. He ate my dad’s baseball glove and the leather jacket he’d had since college, my mom’s yoga pants and winter coat; he ate all the laces from all the shoes in our closets, and he ate every scrap of ribbon and Christmas wrapping paper my parents keep in the attic.

We don’t have a TV in our house. We used to, but not anymore. At first it started with remote controls disappearing. My brother ate them. Then he opened up the back of our old TV and munched on all the insides. There was a flat screen in the living room until my brother smashed it and ate all the pieces like crispy flat bread. Our house is pretty quiet now. Mom and dad read a lot of books and when they’re ready for sleep at night they have to remember to tuck them under their pillows. If they forget my brother will sneak in during the night and eat them. Sometimes during breakfast he burps up little passages from Steinbeck or Toni Morrison.

My brother runs flattened boxes and torn apart books through dad’s industrial strength shredder when my parents aren’t home so he can eat them more easily. They’re a good snack, he says.

I’m not allowed to have friends over – not since my last birthday sleepover. My brother ate all my friend’s backpacks and changes of clothes. He tried to eat Ruthie’s sleeping bag but she woke up screaming. Ruthie doesn’t talk to me much at school anymore. But it’s okay. Mom made me invite her to my party. She gave me a book I already had. She knew I had it too because I took it to school all the time. I gave it to my brother to eat.

A late night snack for my brother is anything he finds on the floor in his bedroom. He eats textbooks and comic books, action figures and model cars. He’s eaten entire Lego fleets of Star Wars spaceships. Rolled up t-shirts are churros; a balled up sock is a beignet. I’ve seen him pour ranch dressing on old sneakers. He says Reebok is the best tasting sneakers but during the summer he prefers the sweet and sour flavor of loafers after he’s worn them in for a few month with no socks. I’ve never seen my brother in loafers so I don’t know what he’s talking about. Dad keeps pennies in his.

My brother eats everything. Overloading on extra fruit and vegetables has never cut it. It doesn’t matter how stocked the pantry is, no amount of canned soups and boxes of frozen dinners makes a difference – he devours it all and move on to the wooden spoons, ladles, Tupperware, cups, and grandma’s cutlery. Then he’ll try to eat the kitchen counter.

After finishing off all the stuff in his drawers and closet my brother used to eat a lot of my clothes, and my parent’s too. Now we have locks to keep him out. My dad did the research and found the most reliable locks in the world. Sometimes I check over my shoulder and make sure my brother isn’t spying. He caught the combination to my mom’s closet one time, and it was “Goodbye wedding dress and dad’s best suit,” “See ya later old family photos.”

Along with the things no normal person would ever eat my brother eats whatever is in the refrigerator, the pantry, and the cupboards too. Our fridge is stainless steel because my brother tried to eat the old one. My brother never opens a bag of chips like a normal person. Instead he unhinges his jaw like a boa constrictor, shoves the bag in and slowly swallows. He eats boxes of Pop tarts, crackers and cookies – literally, the boxes and all. He eats pies, even the tins they come in. He enjoys all the lone ingredients that make a cake – flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, chocolate, cream cheese by the brick, butter and even that ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ stuff. He once drank an oversized bulk jug of olive oil.

Neighbors brought casseroles over full of all kinds of yummy stuff when my dad broke his leg skiing. They never got their casserole dishes back. My brother ate them. Our neighbors don’t bring us food anymore.Two years ago he needed some serious dental work after a failed attempt to eat the lock protecting dad’s sock drawer. During the recovery he ate a lot of wet paper and most of the sheets in the house. He is kind of like one of those magicians that swallow those really long ribbons and knotted handkerchiefs. Except it’s never a fun trick when mom or dad tries to yank it back out.

Everyone in the house has a secret stash of toilet paper and has to be creative in hiding it. My brother can’t visit the commode without eating just about everything in the bathroom. He eats Q-tips, drinks hand lotion, and can guzzle liquid soap without so much as a gag. All the faucet handles are metal now. He chewed through the old plastic ones like a Rottweiler. Most kids might enjoy a soda with dinner – my brother excuses himself between plates to go chug laundry detergent and munch on packing peanuts.

We take weekly trips to Costco. My parents like to shop in bulk to stay ahead of my brother’s insatiable appetite. Bulk everything – that’s my mom’s motto. After we loaded everything in the car my mom started crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said it was nothing and called me her little Angel. She let me choose the music for the drive home.

We love him a lot, my brother, and that’s why we put up with what we do. All the neighbors call us nuts and bonkers and loony. My parent’s friends think we’re crazy, and my friends do too. But I think my brother is pretty interesting. He won the talent show at school last year. My parents signed a waiver allowing him to eat thirty Nathan’s hotdogs in two minutes but wouldn’t let him eat whatever the audience volunteered like he initially wanted. I think maybe he thought he could impress girls if he ate their parent’s cell phones and purses. Before the awards ceremony was over he chewed his first place trophy to a pulp and swallowed the blue ribbon our principal placed around his neck. Most of the parents dragged their children out of the auditorium in disgust, but nothing bothers my brother. He stacked all the leftover programs and consumed them like a flimsy tiramisu in the car on the drive home.

I hear the word enabler all the time. I should ask mom or dad what that means.My classmates complain about their parent’s high expectations and how they want to be as cool as their older siblings. I don’t think I could handle being like my brother, and besides – mom and dad have to bribe me with sweets just so I’ll eat my carrots and peas at dinner.

Dad took me for ice cream the other day, just the two of us. We’d been shopping all afternoon. Our car was full of all kinds of stuff my brother would eventually eat. Dad watched me eat my ice cream cone and started laughing at me, so I asked him if I had ice cream on my nose. He just smiled and held my hand while I threw away the paper the cone was served in. On the way to the car he said he’d won the lottery when him and mom had me. He called me his little Angel.

 

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