WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Hunger Pangs" by Matt Tompkins

Hunger Pangs

By Matt Tompkins

I came home hungry and he had already started cooking. He was hungry too, he said. He made a feast: rack of lamb, whipped potatoes, braised greens. We ate it all. We ate it fast. And we washed it down with a nice pinot noir. Feeling festive and restless, and still hungry, we made a pot roast. I chopped the carrots and onions and garlic while he salted and seared the meat. When that was done and gone, we pulled cheese and grapes from the fridge. Water crackers from the pantry and a second bottle of wine, a halfway-decent Sauvignon blanc. We made short work of that, then moved on to some single-barrel bourbon and Salvadoran cigars—his boss gave him the bottle and the box with his last bonus. He wondered aloud what he had been saving them for. It was only ten and we were wakeful and we were hungry and so we kept on. A half-carton of orange juice, extra pulp, we passed back and forth, alternating with swigs from a gallon of sweet tea; a punch bowl full of corn flakes with two serving spoons between us. We found things in corners of kitchen cabinets we didn’t know existed. Things we must have bought, but who knows when. A tub of chocolate frosting. A tin of dried sardines. A few packets of ramen, chicken flavor, reduced sodium. Before long we were scraping bottom. Scooping baking soda from the box. I emptied the salt shaker into the back of my throat and he knocked back the last of the almond extract and he looked at me like, OK, what next? Nothing was left, the shelves were empty. The kitchen was unkempt. The litter of boxes and jars left us up to our ankles in drift. So we ordered some pizzas and Buffalo wings and pad kee mao and saag paneer, and when the bell rang we waded toward the door. We didn’t waste time with plates or forks, we just tore open the cartons and gulped it all down. When we’d called all the restaurant numbers we knew, when we’d finished the takeout and tossed down the boxes, we wiped at our mouths with our fists and went on. We slipped off our shoes and gnawed at the leather. Tore off our shirts and shredded the cotton, which pilled in our teeth and got stuck in our throats. Swallowed the buttons like vitamin pills. Then we took to the bathroom and bedroom and den: ripped white feathers from pillows, tan sheets from the bed, pulled out coils and batting and memory foam, digested the lampshades and lightbulbs alike. And from under the bed—where the bed had been—we grabbed the dust bunnies that hid. Squeezed out tubes of toothpaste, shook vials of mouthwash, and shampoo and hand soap and painkiller capsules. When the faucets and fixtures and fittings were finished, we paused for a moment, then dug further in. We pulled up the carpet and splintered the floor. Picked our teeth and kept picking. We stripped off the paint from the walls and dissolved it in water and drank by the pitcher and still we were hungry, still we weren’t full. We dug into the walls and munched hunks of plaster, slurped wires like spaghetti and ground down the pipes. Our teeth were half-wrecked and our eardrums were ringing but neither of us had an endgame in sight. When even the blocks of the concrete foundation were dust in our stomachs, we went for the cars. We twisted off pieces of headlights and bumpers and stretched out our jaws and jammed it all in. Then we turned our sights out to the houses around us and thought of the people inside, and we looked at each other and knew without speaking that, yes, we were thinking the same.


About the Author:

Matt Tompkins is the author of Odsburg (Ooligan Press, Fall 2019) as well as several fiction chapbooks. His stories have appeared in the New Haven Review, Post Road, and online at the Carolina Quarterly and Puerto del Sol. He works as a copy editor and lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit