I volunteered for canteen duties at the primary school, thinking some brownie points wouldn’t go astray after the last episode with the principal.
I was imagining canteen ladies like when I was at school – big smiles, flappy arms and floral dresses. I wasn’t prepared for heavy make-up, impeccable dress senses and an intolerance for all things sugary.
“Uh, where might I find the junk food?” I asked.
One lady pointed to a tray behind me and went back to talking with her friend about the excellent fundraiser for homeless quad-bikes or something that they were organising. I turned to see a mound of skewer-impaled fruit bracketed with half a marshmallow.
“Um? Excuse me?”
The two women turned to me and flared their nostrils in unison.
“These fruit sticks? Um, is that all the kids have for the sweet option? What’s the savoury option – a liver sandwich? Heh, heh.”
One of them made a disgusted sound and pointed to the fridge. “We don’t let it all sit out and go off, you know.”
My stomach fluttered and my cheeks burned. I turned to the fridge to hide myself from further scrutiny.
The fridge contained eggplant-wrapped mince rolls, eggplant dip and a weird curry-smelling thing that I could see a bit of purple in. I know we need healthy options, but I did wonder if all this eggplant was taking it a bit far.
I turned back to say something of the sort when my arm caught on the corner of the bench. In trying to extricate myself, I jerked my arm upward, tore my sleeve and punched myself in the face. I staggered back into the tray of fruit sticks – which of course went flying and landed on the ground, the bench, and on me.
The women stared at me until the vibrations of the metal tray faded to silence.
“Oh dear. I’m sorry about the fruit sticks.” I said. “And the dip.”
“The dip?” said one. “There’s nothing wrong with the dip. It’s perfectly fine.”
“If you say so,” I said.
“Now that you’ve destroyed the Rainbow Rockets,” said the other, “we don’t have any dessert options for the kids.”
I cleared my throat. “We could give them my baking?”
“I doubt they’ll touch it, but we don’t seem to have a choice, do we now?”
My face moved from frying-pan-hot to thermo-nuclear-meltdown. But then, as the lunch rush began, I discovered my sense of failure had disappeared. Within seven minutes I found I was enjoying myself immensely – exactly the time it took to sell out of the jam fairy cakes I had baked.
I haven’t been asked back to serve in the canteen, but a few mums have asked for my jam fairy cake recipe.