Tell A Tale in 500 Words

SUGAR By Diana Cambridge


Hot chocolate with whipped cream, a bacon sandwich, a croissant with raspberry jam.

She’s been up since 4.

By 5, she was scouring loos, collecting up discarded tissues and paper towels, emptying bins, pouring bleach, spraying polish in city offices.

She needs that sugar.

On the TV above the counter, a glossy, slim young woman with a blank face is reading the local news.

Last night’s demonstration against new Government “healthy eating” proposals saw three people from the self-styled Supersize tribe taken to casualty.

They were protesting against a Government plan to axe benefits unless obese people attend gyms and therapy.

Her next cleaning job was a private house nearby.

The woman she works for, Jane, is the one on medication, not her.

Jane has an eating problem – orthorexia, it’s called, she Googled it – an unhealthy obsession with eating “healthily”.

She’s seen Jane’s white face, her close inspection of every label, seen her discard perfectly good food because it wasn’t “organic”, “artisan”, or was “over-processed” or – the major crime – contained sugar.

And she’s seen the bottles of tablets.

She knows that Jane hardly ever goes out, everything is delivered.

Stepping up Queens Road, she thinks about what she heard on TV.

She’s sure it doesn’t take much energy reading the news.

After a day cleaning, she never feels like cooking.

It’s much easier – and cheaper – to pick up McDonald’s.

Jane trusts her, she’s been working there for eight years. She has her own key.

“Hello! Only me!” she calls softly.

Usually Jane comes down to meet her.

But Jane doesn’t come down.

She calls again.

She sees Jane’s keys on the floor.

That’s odd, but the kitchen is worse – cupboards and table covered with an angry litter of foods, opened packages and broken jars, some spilling their contents to the floor – so unlike Jane’s usual clinical neatness.

It’s no good – she has to go upstairs, to enter her employer’s bedroom, knocking first even though she feels, knows…that something’s wrong…terribly wrong…

When the ambulance arrives, the para medic checks the lines of pills, frowning, and tips them into his bag. They load Jane into the ambulance.

“Would they have…healthy eating options for her?” she says nervously.

“The doctors will deal with that, don’t you worry.” They reply, kindly enough. They’re in a hurry.

When they’ve gone, she’s exhausted.

A text comes through from The Tribe.

They’re going to boycott the gyms and make “robust” protests at Job Banks, asking for positive discrimination for jobs for the overweight – and they’re calling again for an end to “before-and-after” diet ads.

They believe the three Tribe members taken to casualty last night were roughed up by the police. They’ll make official complaints. They’ll poster the city and harass the MP. They’ll lobby the support of likely Tribe members in other cities. They’ll form a Party. They’ve been given a free office near College Green.

It’s time, now, to really show their hand.

They’ve had enough.

She bites into the caramel shortbread.



see more submissions for the Tell A Tale in 500 Words click here