by Tommy Dean

The children get greedy by Friday. It’s the only day we eat meat. A reverse of them Catholics. We mostly live off of pasta and day old bread, the produce the supermarket throws away. I taught them kids to be scavengers. Waste not, want not, except we’re always hungry.

Meat on Fridays because that’s when the meat locker gets rid of its scraps and the clearance items that don’t sell. Nobody wants clearance meat, you see. Just us Runkins and the flies.

Me and Mr. Donough got a deal, but I teach the kids to be real sly, have to stay in the shadows, can’t be seen nosing around the dumpsters. Bad for business, that Mr. Donough says to me one time, shaking his head, my toes curling under his pity.

It’s Tanner’s turn to go diving. I look him over in the rearview mirror, his stomach starting to get that hard ridge, his arms and legs so skinny they’s barely three dimensional.

“You ready boy? Remember, ain’t no shame in covering your nose, but grab all you can with your free hand. Only shame in a man’s life is coming home empty handed.”

A light rain drizzles onto the broken street, each crack a new path for the rivets of water. I wish we were all small enough to ride one down into the earth, ants each one of us, finally the right size to gorge on what nature offered us. Soon these boys will be old enough to eat like men. Already their eyes marble over with hope (a father’s lie), more like anger, flexing to get a job, thinking that’s all they’ll ever need to eat like fussy business men.

Mr. Donough drops his cigarette and Tanner’s out of the van before I can give him any more advice. The twins fog up the windows, the spit bubbling on their lips, minds half-rabid for food nobody else would eat. “Runkins,” I say out loud, hoping this time they won’t respond, but their voices grow louder than the rain.

“Eat like kings, eat like kings, eat like kings.”

Tommy Dean is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. A graduate of the Queens University of Charlotte MFA program, he has been previously published in the Watershed Review, TINGE Magazine, Split Lip Magazine, Spartan, Hawaii Pacific Review, and New World Writing. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter.

Photo by: Ana Prundaru