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Missing From The List

A flash fiction story that is all-together too real, Ms. Cartwright attempts to teach her first-grade class as a face appears that is not listed on her classroom roster.

In the rear of the classroom a face appeared that was not listed on Ms. Cartwright’s first-grade roster. Not entirely an unusual occurrence in August, she nevertheless blanched more than a little once the recognition registered.

Ambiguous and unassuming, his countenance appeared so ordinary that he had been often overlooked. Yes, there were times when the adjectives of quiet and reserved would apply, but the tales of this well-known interloper and his history preceded him. He was not new to first-grade or Ivy Elementary. Ms. Cartwright, a seasoned teacher, came prepared and well-equipped to manage any situation he may present.

Lethargic and silent at first, he began drifting from table to table. He easily made acquaintance after acquaintance, regardless of gender. By mid-morning he developed into a full-blown distraction affecting a quarter of the class. Redirection proved woefully inadequate for the emerging behavior and discipline issues that would inevitably continue.

The relief of lunch provided a welcome respite. Truly, this marked the only time of day when he was satiated and his influence over others diminished noticeably.

Ms. Cartwright took a moment out of her allocated lunchtime to check on her online order that should have arrived yesterday. The status update now reflected a delivery of tomorrow. Putting her head in her hands, she now had to make another stop before going home.

Class time resumed and she utilized engaging and interactive activities. But unbeknownst to others, she made a mental list of exactly which children he affected. The total number came to six out of her class of twenty-five, evenly split with three girls and three boys. She would need to reach out to their parents or guardians.

Overhead announcements, dismissal time. Leaving in clusters of randomly called numbers, the students filtered out until only Ms. Cartwright remained. Hastily she scrawled the list of six children she had memorized earlier. Hopefully, their contact information was up to date and communication would be successful.

She checked her online order status again in the hopes of an expedited delivery time. No luck, the granola bars and shelf stable foods were still scheduled for tomorrow. Distribution would be delayed until the day after delivery.

These children could not be deprived for another day, so she scribbled a quick list of items to pick up from the grocery store on the way home.

Before she left, she planned to call all numbers on file for the six to share information about food programs and community resources. Her trip tonight would ensure a modest snack for tomorrow, while the delivery would provide added nutrition for dinner and over the weekend.

She intended to neutralize the spread of dire outcomes of those afflicted by his presence. He represented an immediate threat to their promise and opportunity. Though he did not appear on the attendance list, he was no stranger.

His name was Hunger.

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