A Chicken-Noodle-Soup Day

A Chicken-Noodle-Soup Day

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

A Chicken-Noodle-Soup Day

Lying is done with words and also with silence.

Adrienne Rich

“I think I should stay home from school today, Mom. I’m sick. Really, I am.”

I don’t believe my fifteen-year-old sister for a minute. She hates school. This is just another one of her excuses to stay home. Again.

Mom isn’t as sure as I am. She’s a working mom who struggles with guilt for not being home for us. She gives Sandy the benefit of the doubt. Again.

“You can stay home,” she says, “but you have to stay in bed. And I want you to eat chicken noodle soup for lunch.”

We always eat canned chicken noodle soup when we’re sick. It’s the only time either of us likes it.

Mom feels Sandy’s forehead as she kisses her good-bye.

“You don’t feel warm,” she says. “Are you sure you need to stay home?”

My dramatic sister lays one hand across her forehead. “I feel dizzy,” she says, “and my head hurts. I must have that bug that’s going around.”

Mom reluctantly leaves for work.

“I’ll call you later, Dear,” she says as she closes the door.

I have to catch the bus for school.

“Enjoy your day, Sister Dear,” I holler over my shoulder, “and get well.”

Sandy waves to me from the kitchen window and grins.

She tries her best to look pathetic when I come home from school, loaded down with homework. I hear her scurry into the bedroom we share as I open the door.

“Mom will be home soon. You’d better get your act together,” I warn.

Sandy peers at me through drooping eyes.

“I’m feeling a bit better,” she sighs.

“Then why are you still in bed?”

“Paying my dues for a day off,” she replies.

“Well, save it for Mom,” I say. “You’re going to need it. I need a snack. What’s in the cupboard?”

“Well, I found some donuts, and there’s popcorn, and Mom hid a package of candy bars on the top shelf.”

“Got you, you little faker. Wait until Mom comes home. This was a chicken-noodle-soup day, remember?”

“Oh, she’ll never know.”

Famous last words.

When Mom comes home, I’m at my desk doing homework. I open the door a crack so I won’t miss anything. Sandy is on the couch, pressing a cool washcloth to her forehead.

“How are you feeling tonight?” Mom begins, in a tone of proper concern.

“Better,” Sandy says with only an edge of brightness to her voice. “I think I can go to school tomorrow.”

Smart move, Sister, I think.

“The chicken noodle soup must have made you better,” Mom says. “Did it taste good to you?”

“Soup always tastes good when I’m sick,” Sandy says sweetly.

Liar, I think. Watch out. You have become an unsuspecting prey.

“Well, Dear,” says Mom, “you just lie there while I get supper. I don’t want you to overexert yourself. Are you up to eating your favorite pizza?”

Probably not, I think, after a day of junk food.

Sandy manages to say, “I think I could eat a little.”

Mom rattles around in the kitchen, stretching pizza dough and filling it with our favorite toppings. I hear her open the trashcan.

I know what’s coming next. I think I’ll stay right here in my room.

“Sandy, I don’t see your soup can in the trash. Where is it?”

If I were you, Sister, I’d confess now. Otherwise, you’re done for. But my cornered sister attempts a getaway move.

“I pushed the can to the bottom, so I wouldn’t smell the chicken. It was upsetting my stomach.”

That’s a good one, I have to admit. But Mom’s not buying it.

“Poor dear,” clucks my predator mother. “I’ll get rid of it for you.”

“That’s okay, Mom. I’m feeling better now. Why don’t I empty the trash while you get dinner?”

“No need, Dear. Just relax.”

I hear a clatter of cans and bottles in the kitchen.

“Oops,” says Mom. “I dropped the trash.”

I could help her clean up, but think I’ll stay here and begin my essay for English class. I have my topic, thanks to Sandy. I think I’ll call it, “What a Tangled Web We Weave.”

Mom’s voice remains calm and pleasant. Too pleasant.

“That’s strange, Sandy. I can’t find the chicken noodle soup can anywhere.”

There is a long silence. Sandy makes one last attempt to get out of the trap, but she is definitely the weaker one in this predator/prey game.

“I forgot, Mom. I put the can in the bag on the porch.”

I know that there are at least four bags on the porch, all tied up, waiting for trash day—just as I know that Mom and Sandy will play this game to the death.

I have finished a draft about the complications of lying by the time Mom calls me to dinner. We sit at the table in silence. Four bags of trash are strewn on the floor.

Mom and I eat pizza, made just the way I like it, and drink soda. There is a special treat in the oven for dessert.

In front of Sandy sits one solitary mug of chicken noodle soup.

Donna Beveridge

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