Craving

My childhood was far from ideal. This isn’t to try and get your pity it’s just a statement of a fact; just like saying water is wet.

So yes, my childhood was awful. It wasn’t my parents fault, they tried their hardest.

My mum was a kind and soft woman; I could still sing you the song she soothed us with when we woke up in the dead of night with hunger pains.

My father was the same as most fathers to their sons. He was tough and stern and only said he loved me once but I still have plenty of memories of the times we had together; like when he took us to the Pirate Café.

The reason my childhood sucked so bad was because of poverty. We were always poor. All of my clothes coming from charity shops and then handed down to my little brother. No matter how poor we were though, my parents always made sure we had enough to eat — there was always meat between the bread when we had sandwiches for dinner.

In short, it was hard to grow up with nothing, always worried about money but I knew it could’ve been worse.

That changed when I was eight and my younger brother was seven. Our father got arrested. Apparently he had been systematically stealing from the small shop he was managing. When he was caught he tried explaining that he was sorry but it wasn’t out of greed or spite. It was because once they’d paid the bills there was nothing left for food, and he couldn’t let us go hungry. But that didn’t matter, and it seemed like at every stop they wanted to make an example out of him, which is why he ended up spending three years in prison.

Three years was a long time, especially for little old me. Our mum got two jobs and was always tired, always on the verge of tears. We would often hear her every night in the kitchen crying over the piles of bills which we couldn’t pay.

All of that was only exasperated by my brother.

Little Jackson.

As soon as Dad went to prison it was like he changed. He just became naughtier and naughtier. Destroying the already tatty furniture in the house. Getting in fights everywhere he went.

It seemed like each month he became worse and worse. But each time he did something else which drive our mother to tears my resolve to be the best son I could became stronger. Each time my brother threw the stale bread we had for dinner on the floor and cussed up a storm about how awful his life was, I became more polite; I complained less and cleaned up his mess.

By the time our Father came out of prison my mother was at the end of her rope. Although because of his record he couldn’t get a job you could see the stress melt off my mother and things became almost like what they were.

Not good.

But not as bad.

The major difference to our lives was Jackson’s behaviour; it showed no signs of improvement. He was still rude, getting sent home from school every day for getting in fights. We all walked on eggshells around him, not wanting to trigger a fight with him.

Except one day when I came out of school he was gone. All of his stuff, any record of him having ever lived in the house was gone and my mother quickly explained that they sent him away to live at a special school because of his behaviour. I put on a sad face, pretending like my mother that I would miss him but secretly I was happy. No more punches to the back of the head from him if I didn’t move quick enough. No more rude names thrown at me when I was home. The quiet was bliss.

The next few days passed in a quiet haze of routine. School, homework, eat the meagre dinner, sleep and repeat. That’s the thing about hunger, eventually it’s all you can think about.

When I came home from school on that third day I was greeted to the laughter of my parents, each of them had a glass of wine in their hand and was smiling and the smell. Oh god I can still smell it now. It was so good, the first time I’d smelt cooking meat since my Father got arrested.

That night was marvellous, it was just hot meat and slightly stale bread but I had never been so happy. It was the best thing I’d ever had in my life; we had that for two more days before they took my parents away.

And I was alone.

I moved around in foster care, but my refusal to talk, especially to lying therapists, meant no one wanted to adopt me.

I did well for myself though.

I got a good job in an office after school, married, had two kids and made sure we always had enough money.

It was then I started listening to the therapists; Jackson didn’t run away.

My parents got sick of his behaviour and killed him, carving the meat from his bones and feeding it to me.

I’m glad I listened now though, because I had such a craving. I used to fantasize about that smell and that taste, nothing can compare to it. It melts in your mouth and is superior to anything else.

I smiled down at my two daughters as I served their stew for dinner, telling them their mother was running late from work.

I felt bad but I had such a craving it was starting to consume me. And once I began cutting my wife up I knew I couldn’t leave my darlings out.