‘There they go again; bicker, bicker, bicker.’ Jamie hated teatime. ‘Why can’t grown-ups behave like it?’ She pushed her peas around with her fork, shrinking low in the forlorn hope of being ignored. ‘It’s not like they’re arguing about anything important. Who cares if the bed-sheets should have been changed today anyway?’
A pea rolled into the carrots. Jamie stabbed it viciously. ‘Oh no you don’t’ she growled silently, eating the pea in punishment. The mince gravy was trying to sneak across to spoil the peas, but Jamie was onto it. Carefully using the side of the fork, she cut slices off her mound of mashed potato, placing the carvings in a row to form a great wall designed to guard the peas and carrots from the gravy’s advance. Slowly she pushed the wall across her plate, forcing the gravy back to its starting line, and then further. The base of the wall started to discolour as the gravy infiltrated weak spots, but Jamie cut the offending pieces out and ate them, as a warning to the rest.
The peas and carrots, thinking they could use the extra space left behind the wall, spilled out of their spots, only to find themselves speared unmercifully, eaten one by one. The potato wall advanced further into the mince, consuming its enemy piece by piece, not caring that the gravy had surrendered already.
Jamie couldn’t abide peas. They looked like giant caterpillar eggs, but she knew from sad experience that there was no dessert if she didn’t finish everything on her plate. Stupid rules. She longed for the time when she chose what to eat. Chocolate and peaches; big juicy peaches that dribbled down your chin leaving your blouse in a stained mess. Jamie made sure the peas had misbehaved badly enough to get finished first. The carrots begged for mercy, and she sympathised. Their orange brightness glowed with hope, but her mouth watered for their sweetness, so they were soon gone.
She pushed the now-thin potato wall against the cornered mince once more, but this time just a little too hard, and a blob made a run for it over the edge of the plate, landing successfully on the tablecloth.
Knowing the trouble that lay ahead if it was discovered, her shaking fingers hastily steered the knife to collect the blob, but it was too late.
‘Nurse! Nurse!’ One of her dining companions called gleefully. ‘Mrs Grey has made a mess.’
A nurse bustled over. ‘Oh, dear me, Mrs Grey. We have made a mess. Playing with our food again, were we? Here, I’ll clean it up.’
The nurse wiped away the offending blob, spreading the stain across the tablecloth. She then took Jamie’s knife and pushed the mince and potato back into the middle of the plate.
‘Now eat up dear. We don’t want to miss out on dessert, do we?’
Jamie glared at her table companions, who were grinning in celebration at having gotten her into trouble. She knew she would exact revenge, sooner rather than later. Bickering old fools.
She poked at the mince, then started to rebuild the potato wall, unceremoniously sending any tainted spud to its rightful end. The mince was a hundred nurses. The potato wall, advancing, menacing, pushing them back to where there was no escape.
‘Treating me like that?’ the potato thundered down to the cowering mince, ignoring its imminent surrender. ‘Just you remember, I’m not a bloody child!’