Lunchbox Shell Game

I’m going back in time for this entry, way back to third grade of Colton Elementary School, which was the first year I didn’t carry a brown paper sack. This was the year when I had a plastic yellow Garfield lunchbox, purchased from Caldor during the back to school shopping spree. Back then my love of Garfield surpassed my feelings for Snoopy. I was also getting better at drawing Garfield, which somehow made him more accessible. Much to her dismay, I would borrow from my sister’s collection of Garfield books, only half understanding the sarcasm and more complicated storylines. Garfield was the It cat back then, which meant I wasn’t the only one in the class with that lunchbox. Michael Bulger had the same exact one. I did my best to memorize the marks and scratches on my lunchbox in case I chose his by mistake. If I opened it up and the lunch looked completely different from my mom’s usual fare, then I would figure it out and make the switch, no harm, no foul, no germ-swapping.

One day we took a break for snacks in the classroom. I went to the shelf above the coat rack, grabbed the yellow lunchbox, checked it briefly and headed towards my desk. The sandwich inside the plastic baggie? Yeah, that was totally something my mom would have made. The banana on the side? And lack of cookies or chips? That was just her style. I unscrewed the top of the matching Thermos bottle and took a sip from the straw. Hm, chocolate milk! I thought, and then, Man, this could use a few more squirts of Hershey’s syrup.

It was then when I looked up and saw Michael approaching, holding my lunchbox.


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