A kindly grocery store owner donated to our family huge gunny sacks of beets. Mom had begged him. They were red-purple vegetables that Mom said were the roots from a plant. We first had them for supper. Dad’s other wife placed the sliced beets we were eager to eat, on our plates, alongside soft-boiled eggs, and we dug in. We kids were ecstatic as we took our first bites. The beets were springy like raw carrots, and had a sweet flavor.
We were still at the table when Dad woke up from his nap, wandered into the dining room, took a look around, had some words with his other wife, and announced that there were so many beets we’d be eating them with every meal. This was great news. Dad’s other wife’s imagination was the limit as the next day she served us beets with breakfast, lunch, and supper in raw chunks, in soup, or mixed with other vegetables. We crammed them into our mouths alongside soy, beans, or fish cookies. They left a red stain around our mouths.
It was the early morning when one of us shouted,“Hey you, guys! Come see my doo doo!” Several of us kids ran towards the bathroom and gathered around. We peered into the toilet to see what appeared to be bloody stools. Thus it began.
Each time one of us emptied our bowels we’d alert the others. With little in the way of entertainment this was as good a hobby as any. “My pee was redder than yours!” “No, mine was redder!” Maria and I bickered. “No, mine was SUPER red.” “Naw, MINE was!” The fight went on till Dad’s other wife told us to quit our bickering, hurry up and get our lazy butts out of the bathroom, and do our chores. We did. But at the next opportunity I resumed my gaze at the red poop or pee.
After what felt like months of being given a ration of beets with each meal, Dad’s other wife announced that we kids could go into the small maid’s room adjacent to the outside sink, where the beets were kept, and eat as many beets as we wanted. There were still a ton of them left and if we didn’t eat them today, they were to spoil. “Just make sure you wash them in the sink first,” Dad’s other wife added.
We didn’t need to be told twice. Though the flavor of beets had begun to slightly repulse us, we were starving hungry and not about to miss out on the one opportunity we were given to eat to our heart’s content. All of us kids streamed out the back door as quickly as we could. Situating ourselves on the brick red tile of the room, Taurug, Maria, Star, Moses, Lily, Arthur, Ruby, Richard, and I grabbed beet after beet, biting and chewing. We ate beets till we were sickened.
Our bellies were full when we walked back inside the house. Mom happened to be in the kitchen, making coffee with her back to us. Dad’s other wife sat on a bench in the dining room, nursing a baby. “LOOK AT YOU GUYS!” Dad’s other wife shouted, alarmed. Mom turned around and caught sight of us, our hands, arms, chests, and clothing, dripping with red liquid.