The note had been typed out, folded over two times. It had been pinned to the child’s chest. It could not be missed. And like all the other notes that went home with the child, her mother removed the pin and threw it away. If the contents were important, a phone call would be made to the home. And there had been no such call.
The family lived in a small apartment with two rooms. On the wall of the main room was a tiny painting with a brown bend at the centre. That brown bend was supposed to be a bridge, and the blots of red and orange brushed in around it were supposed to be trees. It was her father who had painted this. Now he doesn’t paint anything like that, not since he started at the print shop, smelling like the paint thinner he was around all day. That smell, like lady nail polish, never left him, not even after he’d had a shower. When he came home, first thing he always did was kick off his shoes. Then, he’d hand over a roll of newspaper to the child, who unfolded sheets on the floor, forming a square, and around that square they sat down to have dinner.
For dinner, it was cabbage and chitterlings. The butcher either threw the stuff away or had it out on display for cheap so her mother bought bags and bags from him and put them in the fridge. There were so many ways to cook these: in a broth with ginger and noodles, grilled over charcoal fire, stewed with the bits that came from the discards, or the way the child liked them best – baked in the oven with lemongrass and salt. When the child took these items to school, other children would tease her about the smell. What that smell was that was so bad, the child had no idea. ‘You all don’t know what a delicacy is. You wouldn’t know a good thing even if it came five hundred pounds and sat on your face! Fools, you are.’