“Sammy"

Fiction by Abby Lane

This time she chose aquamarine. It was her favorite color, and the tastiest, she thought. She chewed at the pointed end of the crayon like a chicken wing. She liked how the wax stuck between her teeth and held them together momentarily. Dr. Philips told her mother last week that her teeth weren’t as strong as they could be, that she needed to eat harder foods. So she ate crayon tips instead of the looseleaf paper her brother did his multiplication tables on. 

Sammy’s mother didn’t understand what was happening to her daughter. She was mad when Sammy ate the paper towels because they were on a budget and paper towels weren’t cheap. She was spanked. But Sammy couldn’t help it, she liked how the paper disintegrated on her tongue. Other kids had Ovaltine. Sammy had dish soap, paint, and glue. 

Sammy was in the first grade. Her teacher knew about her appetites and so there were safeguards on the trash can in case she went digging for lunch. Her friends knew to keep their crayons in their backpacks once they noticed they were missing colors. 

Dylan was upset on Friday. “I can’t make a rainbow because Sammy ate the yellow.” Miss Baker gave him the classroom set. Sammy opened her own box, the interstices riddled with paper shreds. Her friends didn’t think it was weird. They knew this was how she was. 

Sammy’s mother had started the day by pounding on her door and yelling, “Y’all get the hell up, I’m going to be late for work.” Sammy shared the room with her brother Michael, who was two years older. He walked over to Sammy and kicked the side of her mattress. “Wake up, dummy.” Sammy threw her teddy at him, a brown rag with hard plastic eyes. She managed to extract and eat all the fluff through a small hole on the teddy’s abdomen. She remembered how mad her mom was when she threw up fluff on the living room floor. That teddy was seven dollars and she sure as hell wasn’t getting a new one. 

“What’s the matter with you, Sammy? It’s got to taste like shit.”

“It doesn’t.”

“Don’t I feed you enough?”

“Yeah.”

“You know that ain’t food.”

Sammy shifted her eyes.

“Are you hungry now?”

Sammy looked at her.

“Dammit, Sammy. You want something to eat?”

Sammy looked away, her eyes settling on the teddy.

They lived in a small town outside of Macon, Georgia. They lived off a dirt road in a one-story ranch with a broken rocking chair rattling on the front porch. Spanish moss draped the house and Sammy liked to jump up and grab some, tasting its earthiness and feeling its bristles trail down her throat. As she walked down the steps she jumped and grabbed a big handful.

Her mother yelled, “Knock it off, Sammy. Get in the truck.” Michael was already in the front seat with his Nintendo gripped in his hands, the Tetris theme ringing out the open window. Sammy’s mom ripped the moss out of her hand and threw it out the window. Sammy watched it fly into the distance. Dust plumed as they drove the five miles to school.

Sammy’s mom pulled up in front of the elementary school. Sammy saw her teacher, Miss Baker, waiting by the fence with the other teachers. 

“Now Sammy, eat the mac and cheese today and that’s it. I don’t wanna be coming here for another meeting with that tub of lard principal.”

“Yes, Mama.”

“All right, your dad is coming to get you today, it’s his weekend. Love y’all.”

“Mama, can I take my Nintendo today?” Michael asked.

“Do I ever let you take it? No, I don’t. And I’m not starting today.”

“Ugh, ok.” Michael opened the door and hopped out, reluctantly leaving his Tetris behind. He helped Sammy out, then ran ahead to meet his teacher. 

“Now remember what I said, Sammy. I love you but you got to stop eating things that ain’t your food.”

“Yes, Mama.”

“Good girl.” She revved the engine of the old Bronco and left. Sammy walked over to Miss Baker and gave Margaret Anne a hug. 

Sammy didn’t like Fridays at school because it was nutrition day. Mrs. Fields the gym teacher would come in and show the children an image of the food pyramid and then do a food sorting task. Toy strawberries in one basket, french fries in the other. 

At her desk she squeezed the end of her mechanical pencil. The delicate lead sticks fell to the table and formed a small pile. One by one she ate the sticks, feeling the crunch against her molars. Hard foods. 

Mrs. Fields stomped into the classroom, shorts hiked and pony tied. Sammy wiped the lead pieces off of her desk and smiled as Mrs. Fields taped the food pyramid to the blackboard. 

“Now what side of the graph would we put the cheeseburger, kids?”

“Unhealthy,” chimed a choir of children. The bell rang for lunch. Sammy’s class shoved their workbooks and crayons in their desk cubbies and got in line. Miss Baker stood in front with her right hand up.

“Children. Quiet Coyote has his mouth shut. What does that mean?” The class grew silent. “Very good. Quiet feet down the hallway. Say thank you to Mrs. Fields.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Fields.” 

“Now y’all make good choices today at lunch.” Mrs. Fields ripped the pyramid off the blackboard and marched ahead of the classroom to the cafeteria.

Sammy’s stomach was hurting from the lead sticks. She knew that a paper towel would settle nicely in her stomach. She grabbed a napkin from the stack in the lunch line and ripped off a corner, swallowing it.

“Mac and cheese, please, ma’am.” Sammy responded to the lunch lady, remembering the promise to her mother. 

The mac and cheese was served in a styrofoam bowl. Sammy grabbed a plastic fork and broke off a tine. She chewed on it until it broke stubbornly between her teeth. She sat with Margaret Ann, who had already finished her bowl, and asked Sammy for hers. Sammy slid the bowl to her left and continued breaking her fork tine by tine.

The dismissal bell rang and Sammy jumped out of her seat, grabbed her backpack and ran to the front of the line. She grabbed Miss Baker’s hand and the class exited the school and lined up by the fence to wait for parents and babysitters. It wasn’t until 4:45 when Sammy heard the rumble of her dad’s truck.

“Hey kids! I know I’m a little late. Get over here and give your dad a big squeeze.”

Michael latched around his father’s waist. 

“Wowzers Mikey, ease up. Got to protect the family jewels. Sammy, get over here.” 

Sammy gave Miss Baker a hug and ran over to her father. She was excited because he usually brought her a treat.

“There’s my girl. Y’all look even bigger since the last time I came by.”

“We are bigger, Daddy, look, I went up a shoe size.” Michael pointed at his blue and white Nikes.

“Well hell. I’m glad y’all look so good. Hop in the truck. Like it? I just had it painted.”

Sammy admired the orange and red flames that stained the side of his old pickup truck. She could smell the fresh paint.

“Michael, give Sammy the front today. I have a present for you there on the back seat. Y’all buckle up.”

Michael picked up the Superman comic and thanked his father. He leafed through it, and put it back down. Sammy knew he wanted his Nintendo.

She liked riding in the front seat. Her mom never let her ride shotgun but her father didn’t mind. She smiled at him and he smiled back, shaking out a Bic pen from a fresh box. He popped it in his mouth and began sucking on the cap. He shook the box at Sammy.

“Want one? I’m quitting the snuff.”

Sammy’s mouth watered. “Yes.”


Abby Lane graduated from the State University at Purchase with a degree in the psychology of child development. Her writing focuses on children and families. She resides in Montauk.