BOOKS IRELAND FLASH FICTION
The Food Truck, By Terry Kerins
The first bite is molten, stripping a layer of skin from the roof of her mouth. The pain is good, vinegar stinging the rawness like a small whip, making it all the sweeter.
The chips, like fat fingers poke out of the carton. Margo takes a handful and stuffs them into her mouth, the crispy exterior gives way to a pillow of potato underneath. She pushes in the next fist-full then the urgency subsides.
Now she can chew and swallow without the drumming of emptiness against the wall of her stomach. She lowers the front windows, bringing a cross breeze, straight from the river, through the car. Tim might get the smell, best to air the car before getting home.
The cola is made from proper syrup and the Maxi-Gulp cup feels heavy and steady in her hand. The ice-cubes make their distinctive clanking sound as they swirl together in their fizzy dance. Sugar hits her tongue and together with the salt keeps bringing her back to the food truck; always open in the service station concourse, a friendly light when things feel wrong in the world. She sucks deeply on the straw, Why does this cola taste so much better?
She remembered going to Fiona’s ninth birthday party. One of the presents was a Soda-Stream; a fizzy-drink maker. It came in a big red and white box and had little coloured bottles of syrup, lined up ready and waiting to make “sodas”. Margo’s eight-year-old eyes lit up at the glamour of it, the thrill of the bubbles. But Fiona pushed it aside in favour of Barbie and Ken. “We’ll put it here for safe-keeping,” her Mam said, putting it on the tall fridge-freezer.
Margo imagined owning the Soda-Stream and making fizzy drinks for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She was in the milk scheme at school; milk that was lukewarm, never snow-white, that blended in a bland menu with her white bread sandwich which she gulped the minute the bell rang so there was no time for Fiona and the others to see that it was a fake: two slices of bread glued shut with margarine.
She digs her hand into the chip carton to get the crispy ends, her fingers come out glittering with salt crystals, their beauty shocks her. She puts her whole hand into her mouth and sucks.
A muzz of rain blurs the lights of the food truck and a spit of drizzle hits the side of her face. The clock on the dashboard blinks at her: 16:47. Time to get home to Tim and the boys and to start dinner.
Glad of the dark evening, Margo opens the door and swings her legs out. As she stands and shakes the evidence away, the elastic around her waist tugs. She stuffs the rubbish and her shame through the too narrow opening of the bin and without looking back, sits in and faces the car for home.
Terry Kerins was runner up in the Michael Mullen Charity Fund Flash Fiction Competition in 2021. In 2022 she won The Bournemouth Writing Short Story Prize and was also short-listed in From the Well. Terry lives in Cork city with her daughter.