Banana Republic

Banana Republic

My daughter Jenny is staring at her bowl of cornflakes as if it is a bowl of worms. It is ten minutes past eight on a gloomy Sunday morning and she wants chocolate ice cream. I tell her she can’t have chocolate ice cream.

“Why not?” she asks.

“Because no one eats chocolate ice cream for breakfast.”

This is the first time Jenny has stayed with me since I split with my wife Sandrine, and there is less compliance to Jenny’s behaviour than there was before. Yesterday evening, she refused to brush her teeth. This morning, she had a tantrum because I wouldn’t allow her to wear her dinosaur hoodie.

Now, she is pressing every ounce of her frustration through her pouting lips, and I wonder if it is just the situation between myself and Sandrine that has caused her behaviour or if it is something more than this.

She is glaring now, so I tell her that chocolate ice cream is full of E-numbers. I tell her that E-numbers are nasty chemicals. I tell her the E stands for European. Then I go on a mini tirade about the bloody Europeans who’ve foisted us with rules for everything from the correct number of toothbrush bristles to the acceptable curvature of bananas.

I tell her I could slice a banana on top of her cornflakes. I tell her about Honduras (banana, banana republic, Honduras, honeymoon—my thoughts are tumbling over themselves), how her mother and I saw children in Honduras who would have killed for a bowl of cornflakes with a banana sliced on top. They were ribs and bellies. I’d let Sandrine pick our destination for the day and the place she’d picked—she liked the sound of it—turned out to be a slum.

When we got back to our hotel room later that evening, Sandrine burst into tears about the children’s suffering and the man who’d taken my wallet. She said she was sorry, that maybe it would be better if I made all the decisions from that point onwards. She meant in relation to our honeymoon, but it soon became a thing that I soloed decisions all over the shop. What colour to paint the kitchen (Stardust Highway blue). Whether to get a dog (we wouldn’t). When to have sex (Monday morning, Wednesday evening, and Sunday afternoon).

Sandrine’s friends found it strange—I could see that—but it was an arrangement that worked for us. Sandrine wasn’t good at making decisions, and she was genuinely grateful for my assistance. We were happy. I decided a baby would make us happier still. So, we started having sex more often, and eventually Sandrine got pregnant. After Jenny was born and Sandrine became mired in post-partum depression, she needed help with more personal things like what to wear and what to eat, and suddenly I was deciding everything, every small detail of both our lives.

One evening, I decided we’d go to a bar. It was just the two of us for once, and Sandrine looked dazzling in a little black dress. It was me who picked the dress, of course, me who picked her perfume (Jean Paul Gautier Classique) and her lipstick (Amethyst Shimmer). What I’d decided was that Sandrine should try and re-embody an earlier version of herself, the version I’d fallen in love with.

And there she was. She was standing at the bar, sipping a Cosmopolitan, me with a San Miguel. It had been a while since I’d gone out drinking and maybe I was a little tipsy or maybe it was the inevitable conclusion of having so much control over another person’s life, but I did something then which I’d come to regret.

I said, “You see that guy over there.”

The guy was by himself, every so often running a hand through his grizzly-bear hair.

Sandrine asked, “What about him?”

“I think you should buy him a drink.”


“Why don’t you ask him to dance?”

Even in my tipsiness, even in the fuzzy yellow light, I could see how much she fought against the idea, her eyes flicking from side to side, her lips pulled in tight. But she still went over there. She still did everything I’d suggested. And as I watched, I knew I could get her to do anything at all. I could tell her to rob a bank and she would pull a balaclava over her anxious face. I could tell her to run naked through the streets. I could tell her to throw herself from the highest tower block in town.

“Daddy?” Jenny is still staring at her bowl of cornflakes, but she has her spoon in her hand now, and all it will take—I am sure of this—is one little nudge.

I could say, “Eat.”

I could say, “If you don’t eat your cornflakes, I won’t let you have chocolate ice cream ever again.”

But I see now where that might lead. One small and harmless decision today; one bigger and more problematic decision tomorrow. So, when Jenny asks for a third time if she can have chocolate ice cream, I tell her she is old enough to make that sort of decision for herself. “It’s important to know your own mind,” I say. But as I watch her scooping the ice cream from the tub, I can’t help adding that it would be healthier if she had a non-standard banana sliced or mashed on top.



About the Author

Matt Kendrick is a writer, editor and teacher based in the East Midlands, UK. His work has been featured in various journals and anthologies including Craft Literary, Best Microfiction, and Best Small Fictions.

Website: | BlueSky: | Twitter: @MkenWrites


Photo by Arwan Sutanto on Unsplash