Friday, August 31, 2012

Health Studies First Short Story Contest: Entry from Brieanna Casey

Our first Health Studies short story contest has officially come to a close! We are pleased to share with you Brieanna Casey's short story entry on healthy eating!

What Could Have Bean 
So here we were again—another super long, annoying night at the dinner table. It was nine o’clock, and I had just barely managed to swallow my last half of a half of cold, soggy, stinky, green beans. But at least this time I won! Andrew had to stay at the table, in the dark, with only the light of the TV in the living room, because he wasn’t done yet. Dad even made him turn around to face the wall, while we watched. I always hated when Dad did that, because he knew very well that we could still here the TV from the kitchen, but every time we tried turning around, he’d see our reflection in the screen, and bark at us to “Turn back around!”
I think my record is four hours at the table, Andrew’s is like nine! I hated sitting at that table, staring at the wood circles for hours, but I hated green beans even worse! One time Mom made beets, these awful red vegetables, and they made me gag and spit up red for like an hour! Although the best story was when Mom and Dad said we could go roller-skating after dinner, so they only gave us half as much beans, and we started dinner an hour early. They said we couldn’t go until we finished dinner—our whole dinner—but I figured out that Mom just gave us less so we’d just take one big bite and get to go out for once.
See green beans are real hard to get rid of. Grapes and broccoli were easy because there was this big plant with a huge pot of dirt sitting right next to me, and when Mom and Dad weren’t looking, it was pretty easy to throw them in the under the big leaves. Sometimes Andy would even bribe me to pass his to me under the table and have me throw it away!
This was only plan B though, because one time Dad found Andrew’s stash of Flintstones vitamins in there, and now he keeps checking now and then. The best plan was to give it to the dog, ‘cause he’d eat it, and they’d never know! Except that Jake didn’t really like vegetables either, and as it turns out, especially not green beans. But who could blame him?
Oh, so the time we were going to the roller-skating rink, we’d been sitting there for like an hour; I guess Mom didn’t plan ahead so good after all. Finally, he said he was done (I had finished way earlier), and he began to get down from the table.
            “Lemme see! Open your mouth” Mom said. Andy opened wide enough for Mom to see that his tongue was clean, and we jumped in the car and left. Only when we got to the rink, and Dad started asking him stuff, and we noticed he wasn’t talking right. Mom went over, and already knew. “You still got green beans in your mouth, don’t you?!” I knew she was right, Andy had been practicing stuffing the beans in his cheek so his mouth looked empty when he opened for Mom. I guess that one was blown now though. “Let me see, open that mouth all the way! Oh my God, Andrew! Go spit that out!” You should’ve seen Mom’s face! I heard her say to Dad that those green beans looked like an alien! That’s what he liked to do, keep one bite in his mouth, after chewing, but not swallow. Me, I preferred just swallowing a whole bite without chewing, hoping it wouldn’t get on my tongue and I’d have to taste it! I’m twelve now, so I’m much smarter than Andrew now, he’s only eight.
Well, after watching us sitting at the table all night for months, Mom decided to teach Andy a lesson, but I had figured it out! I heard Mom and Dad talking in their bedroom about him not eating right when I went to ask them if we could open up another of Andy’s birthday presents, but their door was shut. That always means bad things, so I just listened, but I didn’t tell Andy, ‘cause Mom’s pretty smart too, and I wanted to see how she was gonna trick Andy into eating his vegetables!
The next night at dinner, Andy and I still sat for hours staring at our green beans, except only half way through the night, Mom said we could get down. We both looked up kinda surprised.
“Yep, just get down. I don’t know what to do with y’all anymore. I thought you could just eat your food because I had taken the time to make it for you, after working all day, but I guess I was wrong. So I guess we’re just gonna have to go to the doctor instead.” She didn’t even look up, (she was pretty good at foolin), but I looked over at Andy, and he was petrified!
“The doctor?!”
“Yep, I guess she’s the only one who can help you to eat right.” She still hadn’t looked up, just kept on clearing the table. “You know, I thought if I told you how important it was to eat healthy, to eat your fruits and vegetables, you would listen. Well I’m not going to let you kids get sick, just because you don’t like to listen. So we’re going to the doctor right after school, so she can give you your vitamins.” Now Andy also looked a little confused.
“How she gonna do that?”
“How do you think?” Mom replied, as she walked off outta the kitchen. I thought, this is gonna be great! She’s gonna just scare the crap outta him ‘cause he knows going to the doctor always means getting shots!
The next day, sure enough, she picked us up and we went. We didn’t say much when we got in the car, but then Mom started asking about our days, and we thought she’d forgotten. But then we passed our street and kept driving—you should’ve seen the look on Andy’s face!—he looked like he was gonna pass out!
He finally got up the nerve to ask, “Was that our street?”
“Yep!” Mom had a way of answering with cold, quick ‘yeps’ and ‘nopes’ that usually meant she was mad, and this was one of those kinds.
We drove all the way to the doctor’s office, except it wasn’t the one we usually go to. It was in a different part of town from the one we went to last time. When we got there, Andy’s hands were slapping the sides of his legs as he walked, and opening and closing his fingers. Mom told us to zip up our jackets good and tight, and we walked in. The place certainly wasn’t as nice as our other doctor’s office, it was clean, with white and tan walls, and other kids and parents, but there was only sad looking people on dirty and broken chairs here.
“Why’d we come to this doctor, Mom?” I asked. Andy looked over too, I don’t think he realized this wasn’t the one we came to last time until I said, he was probably too scared to notice.
“This is the doctor for people who aren’t going to get better.”
“What do you mean, ‘aren’t going to get better’? Andy asked. I was pretty confused too.
            She sat down in the one seat that wasn’t taken, and so we had to stand while other sick people went by, and sometimes they bumped into us. There were a lot of people in the small room. They didn’t look very nice either. Some were big or dirty, or old, and there was really loud coughing the whole time we were there. And it smelled too. There was only one family with a lot of kids in the other corner, but they were real quiet, they didn’t even look up.
I was staring at them when Mom answered. She kind of pulled us closer so she could talk in our inside voice and said, “This where you come when you’re always sick, and you have to keep coming back because you didn’t do what the nicer doctors said to. When the nice doctors tell you to do stuff, and you don’t do it, they make you come here, ‘cause they don’t like telling people to do stuff over and over.” She kind of pointed her head toward the door we came in at the other side of the waiting room, “See those people?” We were both staring at her now. I thought she was just joking with Andy, but she wasn’t foolin with this place, these people really were sick. “These people didn’t eat right when they were kids. You remember I tried telling you that good foods keep you from getting sick? Well these people didn’t eat good foods, and they got sicker and sicker when they got older, and now they have to come here all the time.”
“All the time?” I asked.
“Yep. Go ask that guy over there if you don’t believe me.” She pointed to a creepy looking guy standing by the door with a tank sitting next to him, and a plastic cup over his mouth.
“That’s okay.” I answered. We waited in silence after that for a long time. Then she got up suddenly. “Where you going!?” I asked again, and grabbed her jacket.
She looked down at me and said, “I have to go check in.”
“Well you can’t just check in as soon as you get here, you gotta wait after everyone else who was here before you! Don’t you think that’s fair?”
“Yeah,” I said.
She went up to the window, and talked to the lady there for a few minutes. Then another older lady came wearing the doctor’s coat, and they talked for a while. I thought I saw the older lady look over at us while they talked, but I quickly just put my head back down. Then Mom wrote something on the clipboard on the counter, and came back with some sheets of paper and those crayon bags the restaurants give you at dinner.
“Here.” She gave us each a coloring sheet and made us share the crayons. Andy suddenly grabbed my sheet outta my hand. I grabbed it back, and then Mom picked them both up, “Hey! You either share nice, or no one has one! Here, let Andrew have the monkey, you take this one, he’s cooler anyway.” She handed me the leprechaun one instead.
“Yeah. Mine is cooler, and yours is better for you, ‘cause you’re more like a monkey anyway!”
“Hey, none of that now!” said Mom. But I knew I was right, I’d heard Dad call Andrew a monkey before, ‘cause he has a lot of energy. I hear them say sometimes it’s ‘cause he has a dee-dee, whatever that means, but I didn’t care to ask.
We were finally feeling a little better when we were coloring, even though there was a lot of coughing still, when the nurse called me and Andrew by name. They never do that, they usually call Mom’s name. We took our papers and our crayons with us, but Mom took them up and stuffed them into our backpacks. The younger lady walked us down the dark, skinny hallway, and into a really small room, with a bed and a couple chairs. She told us to wait here for the doctor, and then shut the door behind her. Finally Andrew had enough, I guess he finally got too scared, because his voiced started to shake.
“Can we go now? I’ll eat my vegetables, I promise! Pleeeeeease!?”
“Nope.” He started crying now, and even I was getting kind of worried for him, this place didn’t seem like Mom was messin’ around, maybe I didn’t really hear what they said last night after all. “No, Andrew. You had your chance to eat right, but you didn’t want to.”
“But I will, I will, I promise!”
            Mom came over, and took his hands in hers, and said sweetly, “Andrew. Do you want to be sick like those people we just saw?”
            “Nooo-oooh,” he said, through his crying.
            “Well I don’t want you to be sick either, that’s why we’re here, so you can get your vitamins with the doctor.” He started crying harder again, when Mom, continued, “Now, Andy, it’s not gonna be bad, just a little shot, and then we’ll go, and we’ll see if you can’t eat some vegetables at home this week.” He continued crying, although he tried to stop, but then he just started breathing real funny instead. “Marian, what are you crying about?”
            I hadn’t even realized I was crying until Mom asked me. “I was just watching Andy, he looks scared Mom, you sure we can’t go?” Andy stopped crying for a second and looked up at me both surprised and hopeful, but he started again when Mom answered.
            “Well, I’m sorry he’s scared, but it scares me when you kids don’t eat right, and I think you’re going to get sick.”
            Suddenly the doctor came in. She was the same older lady from behind the counter, with long, curly gray and gold hair, and kinda big too.
            “Soooo. Who do we have here? Andrew?” Andrew didn’t speak, he just looked at her, and back at Mom, still crying pretty bad. “Hey there, what’s wrong with you?” Mom pulled him off her jacket and turned him to stand facing the doctor. I heard him mumble something. “Sorry what was that?”
            Mom gave him a little swat on his bottom and then he said, “Mommy brought us here, but I wanna go home, I don’t like it here.”
            “Well why did your mother bring you here then, didn’t you guys go to the nice doctor first?”
            Mom spoke up, “Yes doctor. We’ve already been to the nice doctor, but when I called for an appointment today they said we couldn’t come anymore.”
            “Oh. I see. Well why’d they say that?”
            “Tell the doctor why we came here Andrew.” He grumbled again, and after another urging from Mom he spoke again.
            “Because we didn’t eat our vegetables like she said last time, so now we can’t come back because we didn’t listen the first time.”
            “Oooh.” The doctor answered. “Well yes, I’ve seen a lot of little boys and girls who have to come here for that.” Then she looked over at me, “And you? Do you eat all your vegetables,” she stopped to look back down at her papers, and then back up at me, “Marian?”
“Well, I eat most of them,” I said. But then I felt Mom swat the back of me too.
“Marian.” Mom said loudly. Mom also had a way of just saying your name that also meant you were this close from being in trouble. I looked at Mom, and when I looked back,  the doctor was staring back at me. She looked almost happy about us having to be here.
“How old are you know Marian?” She asked.
She flipped through some more papers on her clipboard, “Twelve,” she repeated slowly, “It says here that twelve-year-old girls should be eating at least two cups of vegetables every day. You think you eat that much, Marian?” I looked back to Mom, but she only shook her head, while looking down, with her lips curled over to the side, like she does when she’s not happy.
“I guess not,” I answered.
“Well!” the doctor said almost happily, “luckily, we have an easy way to help the both of you here!” And as she said that, she pulled out a huge needle, with green liquid vegetables in the middle. Andrew let out a scream so loud it hurt my ears! I was pretty much bawling by then too. Mom had her hand over her mouth, but I could see she was probably upset now too, ‘cause I could see her eyes were squinting up, and her shoulders were shaking like was crying. Mom started pulling Andrew up onto the bed, and he was screaming and screaming. Then the doctor spoke again, but she was yelling so Mom could hear over Andrew, “You know Mrs. Vaughn, usually kids at this age are old enough to eat their vegetables without getting shots!’
“WE ARE!” I shouted before Mom could answer.
            “Well Marian, you both don’t seem very grown up, in here crying and screaming like this!” Andrew heard this, and tried to sit better, and cry quieter, even though he was still shaking a whole lot, now up on the blue plastic bed.
“We are old enough, we just don’t like shots!” I continued.
“Well we usually only use shots for kids who don’t have families that can afford good healthy food. I don’t like wasting shots on kids who just don’t like to eat them for no reason!”
Andrew perked up at this, just as the doctor went to draw the sleeve of his shirt up, and pleaded, “You shouldn’t waste them, we can eat right, we’ll eat whatever Mommy gives us,” then he jerked his head back toward Mom, “pleeeeease Mommyyyy, pleeeeeease?!”
The doctor set down the needle, and looked mad back to Mom too. “Mrs. Vaughn. Do you think we could speak for a moment in private?”
Mom looked down at us, looking a little mad, and kind of confused too, “Kids, could you please wait outside while I talk to the doctor?” Andrew jumped off that bed so fast, and ran to the door, but I was afraid Mom was going to get yelled at by the doctor, because she didn’t look very happy with her.
They were in that room for a long time, and we could only hear raised voices now and then; I kinda started feeling bad for Mom now too. Me and Andrew were sitting on the floor just outside. He was holding my hand, and wiping his face on his jacket sleeve. Finally Mom came out. She didn’t look too happy either.
“Come on, let’s go.” She headed out around the hallway, and we had to run to catch up. We walked carefully past all the people still in the waiting room, and got in the car as fast as we could. There was dead silence for a while.
Andrew finally asked, “Mommy?”
“Yes, Andrew?”
“What the doctor want to say about us?”
“Well,” she began, (just like she’d say the ‘yeps’ and ‘nopes’) the doctor was mad at me!”
“Yep. She said that I should be ashamed of myself for not raising kids who ate their vegetables, and then make such a big scene in the doctor’s office. She said that as a doctor, she’s allowed to give us all one more chance to all eat our vegetables, or next time we come back, she’s gonna have the nurses come in and hold the both of you down because she’s too old to put up with unruly children! See there? You got me in trouble too!”
“So we don’t have to come back here again?” I asked.
“I don’t know. She said she talked to our other doctor, and told her to expect us back there in a month to see if we’ve been eating all our fruits and vegetables!”
“How she gonna know, Mommy?” Andrew asked.
“Is that what you’re thinking about, huh Andrew? How to get away with not eating good again?”
“No, I just—”
“Don’t you think doctors have ways of knowing whether you ate your fruits and vegetables or not?!”
Well the drive home was a long, quiet one after that. We got home, and waited for dinner. Dad asked us how it went, if the doctor gave us our shots, and we told him what happened.
Before we finished he shouted, “Mom!? These kids didn’t get their shots?”
“No! The doctor got mad at us, and told us we had one more chance before we had to come back again in a month,” she yelled back over the kitchen wall.
Dad looked back down at us, “Hmmph. Yeah, like you guys are just going to start eating all your food, huh?
“We are,” Andrew started.
“Uh huh. I bet you’ll be right back at the other doctor’s office, and this time your mother will make sure you actually get your shot!”
“No, we’re gonna eat good now, Dad” I answered.
“Yeah, well, I guess we’ll see, won’t we.”
At dinner an hour later, Andy and I made it down in time to watch TV with Mom and Dad. It was nice, we watched some cartoons this time! I hated eating green beans, but I hated getting shots even worse!
*          *          *
“That was fifteen years ago, but needless to say, I never forgot it. When I had finally found out what Mom and Dad, and Dr. Brown, and even that receptionist had plotted for us just to get us to eat better—I thanked them. It was later discovered that our grandfather contracted diabetes, due to his own poor eating habits. I often wonder what my brother and I would have been like today if Mom had not been clever enough to keep us healthy. He sadly did not live many years after his diagnosis; after years of over-eating, his attempts at dieting and exercise just were not enough, not that he was motivated quite like we were. That threat of diabetes still looms over our family, but the constant reminder of that consequence, is a far better persuasive tool now that I am an adult, than shots would have been. However, today I understand why it really did upset Mother so; if we had not grown to learn the importance of health, and developed those healthy eating habits as children, it would have been much harder, perhaps impossible, to make the necessary healthy changes as adults. I still hate green beans though.”     --Marian Vaughn 

Author’s Note: This story is a fiction, but like all fiction, contains elements of truth. I hope that in whatever manner the TWU Health Studies chooses to display this work, that it serves to encourage parents of young children to never give up on building those healthy eating habits at an early age. Although I certainly suggest using the far more effective and enjoyable, (and potentially less traumatic strategies than those described herein), which are available from a variety of print and online sources. Thank you for your consideration. --Brieanna Casey, 01 August 2012

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