You are six years old, sitting at the battered dining table, watching your mother kneading bread in the little ramshackle kitchen. Once the dough rises, she looks over and calls you to inspect it. You press your finger into the smooth perfectly-curved dome, make an indent and watch it spring back into shape.
You are ten years old and opening your lunchbox at school. Your friend peers over and then the swapping commences – apples for chocolate bars, kia-ora for yoghurt. You keep the sandwich your mother made for you. The bread is thick and crusty and smells like home.
You are twelve years old. It is the summer holidays. Your mother is out at work and you have to make your own lunch. Smoky sunlight catches lazy dust motes in the kitchen. You position the bread knife further and further down the loaf then turn it lengthwise and cut it right down the middle. Next, you have to butter it.
You smear the knife across the bread. You go and stare in the fridge. What sort of sandwich is this to be? Cheese? Ham? Peanut butter? Jam?
An idea hits you.
You take one of each thing you can find, be it in a block, slice, or jar, and head over to the counter. You add or spread one of each across the bread. You call it “The Impossible Sandwich”.
You take a bite. It is revolting.
Your mother returns home and tells you off for wasting food.
You are nineteen and living in university halls. One of your favourite dinner “recipes” is a ham sandwich.
- Cheap white bread that flattens to thin dough if your press too hard,
- Cheap thin processed ham,
Make into sandwich.
It is terrible and wonderful at the same time. It tastes like freedom.
You are twenty-two and working as an admin assistant. You buy a tuna sandwich for lunch.
You are twenty-five and at the edge of a field of tents looking over to the main stage in the distance. You hear the roar of the crowd and music drifting over on the air but you would rather be here, sitting at a picnic table by a food van, sharing the most amazing bacon sandwich with the woman you love. The bacon is thick and organic, “locally sourced”. The bread is crusty with a sprinkling of flour.
She takes a bite and smiles.
You are thirty-five and have returned from a trip to France. You had your first croque-monsieur in a little Parisian café. She tries to recreate it at home. You say it is not as good.
You are forty-five and have decided to bake bread like your mother used to make for you. You look across the dining table and the empty chair stares back.
About the Author:
James C. Holland is based in the UK and has recently concluded his series of alien invasion gardening columns for Bear Creek Gazette. He has also been published in Bureau of Complaint, Spare Parts Lit and The Story Nook. Previously he worked with artist, Chris Hagan on a story for Brighton: The Graphic Novel by QueenSpark books. He has performed at the Edinburgh Festival in “Choose Your Own Edventure,” an interactive storytelling show and “Shoegazing,” a stand-up show about shoes. He has long covid which is exhausting but has given him time to discover the joys of flash fiction.