Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Figs During the Hunger Walk

Figs During the Hunger Walk

Photograph via Flickr by Jonny Hat

Editor’s note: Once a week, Laura Morton will use personal history to put a Craigslist ad into perspective.

The Story

Growing up, my mother was a social activist. Some might go so far as to call her a hippie. She knew and supported every uprising in Central America, knew and supported every boycott to end child labor in third-world countries, and every protest, sit-in, walk, walk-out, march, and sing-along.

When I was thirteen, my family attended one of these protests, a “hunger walk” across our home state to bring attention to the situation in Nicaragua. The walk began at a small community center at the western part of the state, and after a quick breakfast of halved muffins, toast, and coffee, we set out to walk east to another small community center some hundred miles away. It’s impossible to walk that in one day, so the midpoint to stop for the night was a sympathetic convent.

We walked along the sides of state highways. Some carried signs, or listened to music on fancy Walkmans. Every once in a while, one of the leaders walked backward and led a chant. We responded mightily.

As the day progressed, it turned into survival of the fittest, with everyone teetering off into small groups. Somehow, I ended up on my own. I tried to join in other groups to talk about Janis Joplin or politics, but I had little to say and got detached. I remember the constant whoosh of passing traffic.

The walk wasn’t supposed to be torturous. There was a huge rusty, metallic orange van that kept up with the group to provide water (washed-out milk cartons filled from the tap) and snacks (granola made from tree bark).

Not so much exhausted as bored, I decided to take a break and ride in the “comfort” of the van. As I waved it down, Joe, the driver and possible owner, tipped his faded trucker hat.

“Go on and hop in the back,” he said. He was a bearded loud-talker who rhythmically tapped the beat to music that wasn’t playing.

I opened the back doors to greetings from Tess and Gerard. Tess was a college student studying sociology. She had a half-shaved head of dirty-blonde hair and hoop earrings up her ear. Gerard was smothered in extensive body hair. His dark glasses steamed up a bit. He wore worn dress pants, a Mexican dress shirt, and old, worn New Balances. Tess wore her Birkenstocks. With the van seats removed, they sat on boxes of donated food.

I hopped in, eager to make new friends who would doubtless inform me of cool music I could share with friends when I returned to school on Monday.

I found an available space on the floor and squeezed between a spare tire and the milk jugs of water. As the van shook, I breathed in the strange sweetness I usually attribute to carsickness—and then I found its source.

“You want a fig?” Tess asked.

From the depths of the donated food, she extracted a large and dusty black garbage bag and opened it.

“They’re really delightful,” Gerard said. He bit into one and smiled.

I peered through the shadows, to the bottom of the bag, where a pile of figs awaited my hand.

I reached in and touched what felt like hard, powdery wrinkled stones. I pulled one out. It looked about the same.

Tess pulled out a handful and gave another to Gerard. They both gorged themselves and smiled and nodded at the taste.

“Load me up with some of those!” Joe shouted from the front and held his open hand back, as he kept his eyes on the road. Tess complied with a handful.

I didn’t like Fig Newtons, so I don’t know what I was expecting. When I took a bite and yanked away a small fold of the skin, the taste was much worse than a Fig Newton. I smiled to hide my disgust and palmed the remainder of the fruit.

As the conversation lingered on the fruit in the bag, and not toward cool music or coffee shops in town, I asked to get out and walk with the others.

Joe stopped the van, and I hopped out and walked down the highway.

When the van pulled away, I threw the fig into the street and watched it get squished under a passing car.

The Ad

CL > raleigh > all personals > rants & raves

God Hates Fags… or Figs…. (Raleigh)

God definitely hates fags…. wait I mean figs. Check it out for your self! God (or at least Jesus) does hate figs, look it up: Mark 11:12-14.

The Response

Actually, I think God loves them both.