Imagine a backpack, flung off the shoulder of a ten-year-old-boy and kicked under his writing desk, straps slouching onto the carpet stained with sharpie streaks and spilled soda. This is where it will remain, abandoned until the end of the school break.
Imagine a banana. Wedged between the pencil case and a textbook, it lies forgotten at the bottom of that backpack. A leftover from lunch, packed by the boy’s mother on the last day of school. If not for the break, it would have been found the next morning—a happy discovery of an extra snack—but, as it is, the banana remains abandoned in the soft, textile darkness. During school break, there is nothing a ten-year-old boy could possibly want in his backpack.
Imagine the weeks fly by while the banana at the bottom of the backpack goes through a series of unavoidable changes. Its bright yellow skin becomes porous and pliable, dull. A few more nights in its hiding place and the first soaking brown spots appear, spread over the softening flesh.
Imagine a mother. It’s always the mother who picks up the backpack from the floor on the day her ten-year-old boy goes back to school. She is always the one to stick her hand inside, checking for pens, pencils, an errant lunchbox. Inevitably, her fingers find the banana, plunge through its distended skin and into the soft mush, meet the gooey vulnerability at its core.
Imagine the mother, as she stands in the kitchen, wiping her fingers on a soft crumpled napkin, her nose wrinkled in disgust and pity, watching the yellow school bus roll past the window and take a turn, leaving the cul-de-sac.
Imagine her thinking of the way her husband pecked her on the cheek before leaving for work, casually brushing aside her querying hands. She wonders and worries if this is how he feels about her now—the recoil of pity and disgust—when his fingers meet the soft skin of her belly, the dimpled flesh of her thighs.
Imagine her leaning against the countertop, and the birds outside the kitchen window bob their heads, yellow plumage bright against the barren branches, in mockery or in compassion, she cannot tell.
LAILA AMADO — Laila writes in her second language, lives in her fourth country, and cooks decent paella. Her stories have been published or are forthcoming in Best Small Fictions 2022, Rejection Letters, Milk Candy Review, Café Irreal, No Contact, and other publications. In her free time, she can be found staring at the Mediterranean Sea. Occasionally, the sea stares back. Follow her on Twitter at @onbonbon7.
Art by KATIE CONRAD — Katie is an LA based illustrator. By day she creates art for graphic tees, by night she enjoys drawing anything with a narrative (book covers, character sketches, board game art, etc). When not doing art, she mostly watches bad horror movies and is occasionally talked into watching an actually good one. Her portfolio can be viewed at kconrad.myportfolio.com. As for social media, you can find her at instagram.com/see_katie_c, but be prepared for a lot of insufferable cat pics.