Crackers with Holes
“Mommy, why do crackers have holes?” Little Jack asked, peering over the big red box of Ritz’s at his mother, who was washing dishes in their small kitchen.
“Because, Jack, crackers need to breathe too,” she said nonchalantly, her gaze directed out the window instead of at her inquisitive child.
“They do?” He asked, eyes wide in wonder.
“Yes, sweety, and they use those holes to breathe… And to scream. They scream when you eat them, did you know?” She continued to gaze out the window, scrubbing the same plate she’d been scrubbing for five minutes now.
Little Jack gave a petrified look towards the Ritz in his hand and dropped it onto the countertop.
“Mommy…?” he said in his smallest voice. When his mother didn’t answer, he walked over to her, and tugged at the hem of her skirt. This seemed to break the spell over her. She dropped the dish into the soapy water, sloshing some over the side of the sink. Grabbing a towel from her apron to dry her hands, she turned around to look at her small son.
And as she looked down upon him, he realized in bone-chilling fear that her face had turned into the very thing that was now frightening him… an oversized cracker!
Jack awoke suddenly, drenched in sweat. He flung the sweat-soaked covers from his body and threw his hands over his face. Another cracker nightmare… he was having these nightmares more and more frequently now. What kind of a grown man had such an immobilizing fear of stale squares of bread? Even his psychiatrist was starting to think he was crazy.
Beards, sure. Who didn’t think beards could be scary? Small spaces? Why not be afraid of those? The number thirteen? That was a definite biggie in the world of phobias. But crackers? He’d never met another person in his life who shared his fear of all things salteen.
It was becoming a particularly powerful hindrance in his life. Just last week, his little 3 year old niece Elizabeth had offered him a bowl of Gold Fish, and he had knocked them away screaming obscenities of the worst kind. He’d probably scarred the child for life!
He rubbed the palms of his hands against his eyes, trying to rub away the memory of the nightmare from his mind. It had all started when he was a little child.
His favorite food had been Cream Cheese N Chives cracker sandwiches. He would take a package everywhere he went: to school, on the bus, and even to his secret hiding place behind his house. It was there in the darkness of the shade of the big tree that was his secret place that he ripped open that fateful package. A sinister dog bark had rung through the air as he placed his little fingers around that first crisp crackery sandwich. As soon as the smell of chives hit his nose, he could no longer hold back, and he had shoved the whole thing into his mouth. He had felt his mouth dry around the thick crackers, felt the smallest crumb slip down his throat and lodge itself over his windpipe. He had sat under that tree, in the shade of his secret place, and choked on that cracker til he turned blue and passed out. It wasn’t until his mother found him and removed the piece a mere minute later that he had come to in her arms, coughing and sputtering and crying in terror at the world he feared he had been forced from.
Jack sighed noisily as he made his body move from the bed. It wouldn’t do to allow his phobia to take such a serious grip on his life and sanity. He went about his morning routine as usual. He took his shower, he ate his breakfast, and he began to dress. As he tied his tie, though, he realized just how lonely he was. His apartment was quiet except for the morning news coming from his TV. Only one half of his bed was unmade and rumpled. The other side lay untouched, as it did every night, and he realized that deep in his conscience he was hoping for someone to fill it.
His mind was still thinking of finding that special someone as he pedaled his bike to work. The sun was shining, and it felt so nice out that he decided to cut through the park on his way. As he pedaled over the little bridge into the park, a lovely voice came to his ears… saying some very rotten things.
“God dammit, Cracker, get back here! Cracker! If you don’t come back, I’ll beat you with my shoe!” He looked cautiously around for the body the lovely voice belonged to. However, his fears began to creep up into his mind. What could she be yelling about?
It was then that a fast blonde thing shot out in front of his bike. He swerved to miss it, not even seeing if it were animal, vegetable, or mineral.
“Cracker, watch out!” Screamed the voice.
Apparently it was none of the above, Jack thought, as his bike hit the loose gravel at a bad angle, sending him flying feet over head into the nearest rose bush. He found himself suspended by thorns, an piercing scent of crushed blooms filling the air.
“Oh no! Cracker, stop that!” She yelled again, as Jack felt a wet stream of something hit him square in the face. He opened his eyes to a golden yellow crotch, and he threw himself out of the bush, sputtering and cursing as he went.
“I’m so sorry!” She yelled to me, grabbing her dog by the collar. “Bad Cracker! Bad boy!” The dog gave an ashamed look and lay on the ground as low as he could get. His flat ears and absent tail showed he knew she meant business.
“Can’t you keep your dog on a leash?!” Jack yelled, using his now tattered sleeve to mop the pee from his face and eyes. Once dry, he opened his eyes to look his tormentor in the face.
“That’s a cracker?” He asked, eying the dog suspiciously.
“Well, he’s actually a yellow lab mixed with a dachshund. I got him from the pound, and they told me he wouldn’t get very big, but now I have this 100lb behemoth with the legs of a dachshund,” she pointed to the dog as he stood up warily.
“Okay, but why Cracker?” He was still curious about the name, but now his interest had been peaked by the lovely woman standing in front of him.
“Well, that’s the name they gave him at the pound. I tried other names, but he wouldn’t come to anything but Cracker,” she said, lifting her arms in defeat.
“Apparently he won’t even come to that,” thought Jack aloud.
At that, they both began to laugh, and the woman reached down to grab the dog’s leash. “I’m so sorry about him; he just got away from me. He’s really a strong dog for such stubby legs.”
Jack nodded as the dog swung his big tail from side to side. He was rather odd looking, indeed. But the thing really catching Jack’s eye was the way this woman’s mouth moved as she spoke. The gentle way she reached down to stroke the dog behind the ears.
“I’m Lucy, by the way. Is there anything I can do for you? I just feel so bad about Cracker,” she looked at him, her large blue eyes glowing with sincerity.
“Well, Lucy, my name is Jack. And there is actually something you could do for me,” She seemed to perk up a little at his honesty, moving closer to him.
“How about dinner and a movie?” He blurted out, surprised a little by his own bravery.
“Sure, I’m free tonight, if you don’t have any plans,” She gazed at him thoughtfully now, assessing him in that girly sort of way.
And with that, the feelings of fear that had held onto him so tightly for so many years began to melt away, like butter on a hot piece of toast. Something about this innocent flirtation left him feeling lighter, more alive. Maybe he didn’t need someone for the other side of the bed just yet, but he knew now that he had found someone who could fill that longtime void in his life.
Someone who could make his cracker whole.