“It’s a date,” Ellen took her eyes off the road and smiled at him. He noticed a patch of freckles on her nose that looked like the Big Dipper. “I wanted to get there early too.
School, even with the fancy name of college, was still school. Ellen attended the four-year university while Jack attended the two-year community college but being freshmen their classes were almost identical. The first week left them both smothered in pages to read and with a long list of papers that would be due. On the rides to and from Bakersfield Ellen sat in the middle of the pick-up’s bench seat and Jack found the power steering to only require one of his arms, the other rested on the back of the seat behind Ellen. Eating may have offered the principal, although unnoticed at first, change. Breakfast, in their individual homes remained as it had always been but lunch had to be gleaned from the small shops surrounding the two campuses and they were always hungry for a snack on the drive home, which had the effect of making dinner a smaller meal. Overall, for the first time in their lives, they consumed less of the red grain. Wednesday was the day their weekend supply of the grain that grew on the blue stock started to deplete. Thursday would be the day they would debate any topic that came up on the way home and Fridays they sat in silence eager for the weekend. Being home filled them with feelings of security and confidence, homework was completed, plans were made; even with Jack working for The Uncle on Saturdays Jack and Ellen spent more time together on the weekends and enjoyed that time more. They had both been raised with the red grain as a normal everyday part of their lives. The wheat was commonplace “a good red bread” was something you said to your host when finishing a Sunday meal, but it meant nothing more than “thank you for the meal”.
Driving home after just over three weeks of class the pick-up was silent after a heated discussion over nothing at all when Jack pulled the pick-up over and shut off the engine.
“What now!” Ellen asked, about ready to give up on this guy.
“I know what the problem is!” Jack was all smiles and that confused Ellen.
“It was a stupid thing to say in the first place,” Ellen said trying to end the debate.
“No, not that. You’re right though. It’s the red wheat.” He sat back smugly knowing he had solved a major problem in their relationship.
“I going to need more words,” Ellen said hoping this was not the beginning of another disagreement.
“We are eating less of the wheat during the week and the effects start to wear off by mid week. That’s why we feel so uncomfortable and everything seems wrong.” Jack paused and waited for her to process this information.
She sat for a full minute adding things together and placing them into place using this new information and then agreed.
“So are we like drug addicts?” she asked.
“We must be. But everything effects everything, I mean when I eat a Snickers bar it kind of lights up my brain – it doesn’t just taste good, it feels good. That’s like a drug.”
“So what do we do about it?” she asked.
“Pack a good lunch that includes a wheat filled afternoon snack.”
“Simple as that? We find out we’re addicted to a drug and we just keep taking it?” Ellen was having a little more trouble with this than Jack.
“What’s wrong with it? I doesn’t make us mean when we don’t eat it. We don’t get sick, do we?”
Ellen went into thought mode again for a few seconds, “I thought we were better than the other people. We were the good secure country people, they were the high strung city folks.” She looked down at her hands like they had failed her. “We eat red wheat, they don’t – that’s what makes us hard working, even tempered, confident people. Wheat.”
Jack started the pick-up’s engine and pulled back onto the two-lane road. “We have goals and beliefs too, it’s not all the wheat.” They sat in a thoughtful silence for the rest of the drive home. In their own homes they both toasted a slice of red bread and thought some more about what they had been born into while the grain found it’s way into their blood streams and throughout their bodies.