From Stone Soup
Written and illustrated by Jessye Holmgren-Sidell, 13
I sat alone in the dark, feeling the boat rock from side to side. The hollow sounds the boat made as the waves hit it told me how deep the water was beneath us.
What was that noise?
“It’s nothing,” I told myself. “It’s nothing.”
But it is something: the sound of a woman, starving in the hills, begging by the road for a coffin for her dead child. The sound of a man pulling blackened potatoes from the ground.
No, that was in Ireland. We weren’t in Ireland anymore. We were thousands of miles away, in the middle of the ocean. Ireland was where Ma, Da, and Nealy were. They were definitely not here.
“Creaak, Creaak.” Ireland was where there was no food, where people were starving. I shifted slightly. Where my family is, I thought.
I got up on my knees. “Good God, help me, I’m so hungry.” I grabbed my empty dinner plate and threw up into it. The boat swayed violently back and forth and I leaned back against the hull, feeling my stomach twist like a blade of grass in the wind. “Oh,” I moaned.
I threw up again, this time on the floor. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand.
I remembered when I ate grass once. It was on the way to the boat when I had been so hungry. I had taken a handful of grass and shoved it into my mouth, trying to push it down my throat. As I chewed, I was crying. If I had been home I would have eaten potatoes around the fire with my family. We would never have eaten grass.
But that was gone now. The potatoes had died and Ma, Da, and Nealy were buried in the empty harvest field outside the house. My brothers were gone, too. They had left for America before me and I didn’t know exactly where they were.
“I miss them,” I whispered. “I wish they were here.”
I left Ma, Da, and Nealy behind when I closed the door to the house. I walked along the path, past fields of dead potatoes, past families taking refuge in the shadow of stones and dirt dugouts.
I began to cry. I remembered how this had all started the night the potatoes had died, how the wind moaned softly through the fields as we all got down on our knees to start an early harvest. …/more