It was the third time this week Benji was forced to go without his dinner and he was getting tired of stealing other kids’ lunches at school. He didn’t take any pleasure in being a bully, but sometimes it was necessary.
It was after midnight now and his rumbling stomach was keeping him awake. He had to eat something, and soon, otherwise he was certain he wouldn’t survive the night. His mother had been in her bedroom for hours. He listened for signs that his stepfather had gone to bed, too. He could still hear the television in the other room, but the old man may have just passed out in his chair again. Even broken homes have their patterns.
Benji listened carefully. It had been awhile since he’d heard the old man crack open a beer, but he wasn’t exactly sure how long. If he tried to sneak out of his room and the old man was still conscious, he was going to get a beating.
He listened harder, trying to hear what was playing on the television. He could only make out about one word in five—appears... continues... the week... Middle East... the President. It had switched over to late-night news. There was no way his stepfather was willingly listening to current events.
Benji carefully slid out of bed and, very slowly, opened his door. He crept into the hall and peered into the living room. As he suspected, his step father was passed out in his La-Z-Boy, spent cans of beer strewn about the base like sacrificial offerings. Benji relaxed a bit. He tiptoed to the kitchen.
He stared down the refrigerator. It hummed with the promise of relief to his growling stomach. The cold white glow of the inner light baptized him when he opened the door and exposed the salvation within: leftover fried chicken, a nearly-full jar of Cheez Whiz, 2-liter bottles of store brand soda, cranberry juice, a package of bologna, and a jar of whole dill pickles.
After careful deliberation, he grabbed two slices of bologna, spread some Cheez Whiz on each with his finger and rolled them around a couple of pickles. After he scarfed those down, he peeled back the skin on the largest chicken breast and strategically picked out a few pieces of juicy white meat. He replaced the skin so the missing meat would go more or less undetected. He took a few swigs of cola straight from the bottle; a glass would be too risky.
He still wasn’t anywhere near full, but it was all he dared take. Besides, the satisfaction of a successful mission would tide him over until breakfast. He closed the refrigerator silently and grabbed a single chocolate chip cookie and three jumbo marshmallows from the bags on the counter. On the way back to his room, he took a moment to gloat over the pathetic old man passed out in the chair. No matter what, Benji would never let the bastard keep him down.