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Porridge \


'm a good eater. I like my food. You won't find me leaving polite morsels


onmy plate. I'mthe samewaywith people. I'm too old now to pretend liking when I don't. Take Mr. Percival. He's our acting


Director. Sprinkle him with whatever you like and he'll still be mutton dressed as lamb. I'msurprised the Board ofGovernors hasn't chewed him up and spat him out. The man carries a clipboard around full


of spidery notes. Last week he had the pantry padlocked because old Mr. Johnson


As if we're a bunch of kids. I'm turning my hearing aid off. Fran is on dining roomduty today. She's


my favourite. Since I've finished eating and she knows I'm not above heckling Mr. Percival, she'll be over in a jiffy to take me back tomy room. I can'twalk anymore, but don't feel sorry for me. I can see and talk and knit-one-pearl-onewith the best of 'em. I go everywhere with my knitting bag. Fran saysMr. Percivalwill be appointed


full-time next week. We have about as much say in this as trying to get our old-age


it."


"Right away?" I ask anxiously. "Right away," she assures me. I rock back and forth, kneading my


hands, waiting for her return. She's not long. "Are you carrying books around in


there?" she asks with a smile, placing the bag on my knees. I'mso relieved to have it back; I clapmy


hands and give her a big grin. Just then there's a loud yell and an almighty crash in the corridor. "What on earth's that?" Fran says.


Aquick pat on my arm and off she goes. "Don't be alarmed, Emma. I'll be back in a minute." I wait until she's well gone then I


manoeuvre my chair into the bathroom and position myself in front of the toilet bowl. I open my knitting bag. It feels lighter than I remember. Fromone compartment I remove some wool, needles, a pair of scissors and a book. The other compartment is lined in plastic. Somehowthe scissors have ripped a sizable hole in it. I grip the bag and tip it until a gooey mess of oatmeal slithers into the porcelain bowl. I've been doing something like


this on and off since Iwas six years old. That'swhen Iwent to boarding school. There, in true Percival fashion, Matron also extolled the virtues of porridge. The sour


was found looking for cookies. Now it's rumoured he's going to stop pet visits. “Dander and dog hair are unhealthy,” he says. Doesn't he know that by the time we've all arrived here, the feel of a pet on our laps and a bit of energy trotting about far outweighs a sneeze or two? Tuesdays and Thursdays—porridge mornings—he comes to see us. Such a thin man he is, fattened with unctuous sayings, but never a morsel of concern backing up his saccharine voice. He's standing at the front of the dining


roomright nowwith his usual buttery smile plastered on his face. "Eat your porridge, it's good for you," he's saying. The nerve.


pensions tagged to inflation. I don't see how we'll ever be rid of him. Still, I have a private room, my own television and a wonderful window from which I can admire the garden. In my room, Fran plumps up my


cushion, flips on the television and gets me some water. "Emma, where's your knitting bag?"she


asks. I look down on my lap and worry


swamps my insides. "It must still be in the dining room. What if someone takes it?" I clamp a hand tomy heart. "Oh, Fran, if they open it, my knitting will come undone. Whatwill I do?" The look of concern on the


26 • Bread ‘ n Molasses September/October 2010


yeasty smell of it made my noise wrinkle and I could never get its thickness downmy gullet. It clogged my mouth and made me heave. One morning I discovered a small drawer beneath the tablecloth. I thought of it as a gift from the fairies. Into it I spilled congealed spoonfuls of my breakfast. Matron never caught me. I would creep back later and empty the drawer out, just as I'm doing now with my kitting bag. I shake the last mutinous lump free,


wipe the bag clean and flush the evidence away. From the size of the hole, I know it's a new bag I'll be needing or a good repair job. I'm only just back in my room when Fran reappears.


by Linda Diver


poor girl's face almost makes me ashamed. "Don't be fretting Emma. I'll go fetch


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