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RIP McDonald's

when food=love

By Penelope JanePublished 2 months ago โ€ข 3 min read
Top Story - February 2024
created with MEE6 AI

Hot, hot, Florida summer. The air is so thick you are basically swimming in it. The river is only a half mile away at most, the gulf a few miles further, but it's not the kind of water you jump into to cool down. It's a different kind altogether.

Back then you thought McDonald's McChicken sandwiches were something we convinced mom to get. You didn't realize that they were a treat for her too. A treat in the form of no dirty dishes to wash - and no decisions to make - packaged in yellow and handed to her in a bag. All for $.99 each.

You didn't realize that we all needed it, McDonald's. But the years had crept by and would continue creeping, and you would spend more time than you realize in the drive through. A habit that would stick, and continue sticking.

The feeling of hair sticking to the back of your neck and a drop of sweat, dripping down the side. You breathe in more moisture. The feeling of lifting the weight off your shoulders and throwing it into a sloppy bun. Such relief.

Sometimes mom would take the car out for a spin at night, and take you with her, to fetch the treat. Windows down, both hands on the wheel, her hair scattered in the wind.

The air was better at night. Somehow more breathable, and carrying the sound of cicada bugs and frogs, the song of the south. At night you felt awake. At night the sky was beautiful and the world was big and small at the same time. The night called to you, and so did the car, and together they formed a magical space.

The conversations that old car would hear, in time, and the joy and fear it would contain. The long night drives to a McDonald's in another town so that you could see the person you loved, all of them. In time.

But today it is probably 2007, and that time has not come yet. It is not night and the air is hard to breathe. You are throwing your hair into a sloppy bun while you wait for the teenager working the drive-through to take the order, and wait to hand a $10 bill to the cashier, and wait to see the bag appear out of the window.

Mom always noticed the man sitting on the sidewalk, and she always bought him a treat too.

"Hey, take it easy."

That feeling.

The man was out of place, because most of his kind - the kind that had nowhere else to go - stayed elsewhere, begging near other McDonalds. But somehow this one was his and his alone. He didn't beg, he sat there and waited patiently. He didn't say a word or move a muscle. Despite this he was a little scary anyway, and you didn't know why.

But mom wasn't afraid of him, and so you knew you didn't have to be either. As she drives away she says that his eyes were too red.

You don't think anything of it because you are a child, even though you think you aren't. She knows you won't think of it, but she will. His red eyes will linger in her mind and she will know that it means something.

The next time you wait in the drive-through she will notice that he's not there. And suddenly you will notice too. A few days later a story in the paper will confirm that his eyes were indeed too red, a reflection of a losing battle. You will never stop thinking about it. His red eyes will linger in your mind even though you never saw them.

For a while you will still want the McChicken. For a while the comfort is enough to dismiss the memory. For a while, nothing will seem to matter except who you are sitting in the car with as you wait.

But his eyes will still linger and they will continue lingering even after the price of no dishes to wash or decisions to make rises to a level you refuse to pay. The treat in yellow paper is not a treat anymore, just another addiction. Waiting in the drive through, with your mini-me at your side, even at night, even in the car that you love, will not be worth it anymore. Something you could have never even imagined before.

And every time you drive past the golden arches the craving will hit and you will miss your mom and want to taste that feeling. You will still think about him and the hot, hot, Florida summers, and keep driving.

Stream of ConsciousnessCONTENT WARNINGhumanityfamily

About the Creator

Penelope Jane

come to the dark side with me

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  4. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  5. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

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Comments (18)

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  • olymoolla2 months ago

    You write very well please visit my vocal id and leave a comment about how I write stories and how I write stories

  • Manisha Dhalani2 months ago

    Nostalgic! Congrats on top story!

  • sleepy drafts2 months ago

    Oh, my heart. This is so moving, nostalgic, and deeply profound. Gorgeous. Congratulations on Top Story - this is a remarkable piece. ๐Ÿ’—

  • Anna 2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!๐Ÿฅณ

  • Test2 months ago

    Your dedication shows in your workโ€”keep it going, congratulations!

  • What a remarkable story! This touched a place in my heart from my own childhood. Very well done and congrats on the Top Story!

  • Daphsam2 months ago

    Wonderful writing, congratulations on top story. ๏ฟผ

  • L.C. Schรคfer2 months ago

    No wonder this got T.S. Wonderful writing!

  • This is powerfully and beautifully written, Penelope! Superb writing. It is amazing how certain vivid memories can manifest themselves in a single sight or smell and transport us back to those events. You describe these memories with remarkable imagery and clarity. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Leslie Writes2 months ago

    Wow - this piece stirred up so many feelings ๐Ÿฅบ

  • Chloe Gilholy2 months ago

    It had a futuristic feel to it. Great story.

  • Rachel Deeming2 months ago

    I'll think about this story when I see the golden arches too. The memories that we have wrapped up in the everyday around us. Poignant stuff.

  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    Great work! And congrats on top story!

  • This was one of the rare stories that I read entirely on Vocal. my favorite line was this one: The feeling of lifting the weight off your shoulders and throwing it into a sloppy bun. quite a successful description, very acute. It took me several re-reads to understand: "You are throwing your hair into a sloppy bun" I was like: they already have a burger bun? but why are they sprinkling it with hair!? - Admittedly, it was a long day for me. :) Very good writing, thank you for the vivid visuals

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ’–๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ’–๐ŸŽŠ

  • JBaz2 months ago

    Wow, you told such a sad tale in a down to earth way. We understood because we have all seen it. Congratulations

  • This was just so sad. His red eyes broke my heart. Was this based on a true story?

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