by Michal Reiben
cocoa made with water and no sugar
It’s seven-thirty and as none of us are tired, we are standing on the landing outside our dormitory. Instead of pajamas, we are all dressed in underpants. It’s one of Matron’s ways of saving on laundry since most of us wet our beds. I scrutinize my roommates; Doppy, is clumsy and has a big head, Matchstick Legs is skinny, Chompy hardly ever talks, Ginger Nut has bright ginger curly hair, Little Pat’s face is speckled with freckles, and as for me, Maggie, I’ve always got scabs on my knees and splinters in my hands. As usual, we are all feeling hungry and so our talk naturally turns to the subject of food.
“We, Chompy and me, managed to break into the basement store-room by way of its tiny window. We were so disappointed to discover it was full of apples, nothing else. We gorged on apples until eventually, we began to throw up!” reveals Ginger Nut.
“The older boys found some rusty sardine tins on a rubbish heap. Later they all became sick because the sardines had gone off and they ended up in a hospital,” pipes up Doppy.
“What treatment were they given in hospital?” asks Little Pat.
“They had to have their stomachs pumped!”
The image of the older boys ‘having their stomachs pumped’ in our young minds is so awful that it completely dries up our conversation.
We are close to the small back staircase; whenever one of the boys feels the urge to pee he swaggers over to the staircase and pees down the banisters then as he returns he gives a gleeful guffaw!
We all come from broken homes however this is a subject we never discuss. Mouths begin to gape in yawning. Gradually as each child becomes so drowsy that their eyes begin to close and open like elevator doors, they shuffle off into the dormitory, topple into bed, and succumb to the call of sleep.