I went upstairs and had a little snack while waiting for Mandy to regain consciousness. It occurred to me that perhaps he needed some food. He hadn’t eaten for a couple of days but I had no interest in feeding him well. I still had nearly a dozen cans of Grandma’s sardines in my cabinet. The master sushi-eater and foodie-extraordinaire was about chow down on one of the nastiest foods in history. I couldn’t wait.
I snatched the smelling salts and nearly had to shove it up Mandy’s nostrils before he came around, thrashing his head and groaning.
“Ugh, what is that hideous smell?”
“You pissed yourself, loser.”
“No, something smells like low tide on the Jersey shore.”
“Ah, that’s your lunch. Sardines.”
Mandy’s face turned the color of old oatmeal and I thought he was going to vomit. He regained his faculties and flatly refused to eat the food I’d provided. When I was a child I was raised that you ate whatever food was placed before you and if not, it would sit there until you ate it. I was forced to eat peas for breakfast once because I’d refused to eat them at dinner. It doesn’t matter how many bowlfuls of Lucky Charms you eat after that…breakfast is ruined.
I decided to embrace the same concept for my bratty houseguest. I left the opened can sitting out on the shelf, far from Mandy’s reach. He’d have to smell it every minute until he finally ate it. There would be nothing else. But since he had been so rude I decided to complete my experiment. Between the two, alcohol seemed to sting more initially but iodine offered a long lasting burn.
While the stench inside the root cellar festered, I went about my business. I finally did a load of laundry and ironed my work clothes. Work, for the first time since I’d met Mandy I was actually looking forward to going to work. I knew my coworkers would feel the same way. Even those sycophantic suck-ups who cackled like hens whenever Mandy cut up on Cory or Sherry; I knew they secretly hated their ringleader. They only did it to keep themselves out of the crosshairs. That only fueled my hatred and there was only one way to diffuse my rage.
“Did you miss me, you miserable sack of shit?”
To stir up Mandy’s hunger, I carried my dinner plate down to the root cellar with me. Take out from one of his favorite restaurants and it was succulent. I set the tin of sardines away from me so I could only smell the heavenly aroma of my gourmet food.
“No wonder you always order from these guys. Their food is so…”
I took a huge bite and ended my sentence with the nearly orgasmic sigh we are all prone to make when enraptured by truly exquisite food. Mandy was literally drooling as we watched me savor each morsel.
“I’m guessing you were probably one of those spoiled little brats whose mommy made him a special meal if he didn’t like what was being served for dinner but in my house, you ate what was put in front of you. If you didn’t, it was there waiting for you for the next meal and the one after that…and so on. Understand that no matter how disgusting you think these sardines are now, they will only get worse as time passes. Got it?”
Mandy’s lower lip quivered as nodded acceptance. I slid the tin toward him and he accepted it. Already past the expiration date, the slimy little fishes weren’t faring well in the open air but Mandy picked one up, trying to remain dignified. The first bite made his body heave but he recovered. Overtaken by hunger, he no longer cared how vile the food tasted. It was sustenance. To a man who had never known true hunger, it consumed his every thought. In the past, “starving” meant he didn’t have a snack to eat on a break. He’d never gone more than a few hours without a meal, or at least something to nibble. The tragedy is that, even now, he didn’t really know what starving meant. He hadn’t even gone a full forty-eight hours without food and he was scarfing down rotted fish like it had been weeks since he’d eaten.
I’m not sure if it was the dodgy fish or the realization that he was licking the tin clean with his tongue but Mandy’s stomach started to revolt. Without thinking things through, he ran to his toilet bucket and heaved. The violence of the projectile was such that Mandy’s face was covered with every sort of vile sludge imaginable. I had to leave before my food made a return appearance too.